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the beginning of the gospel. The same phrase is used in this sense in another part of this gospel; as when Jesus says, John xv. 27. " And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.'
And the word was with God*:
To explain what is meant by this language, we are referred to the eighteenth verse of this chapter, where Christ is said to be in the bosom of the Father, and to John vi. 46, where he says that he is the only one who hath seen the Father: for by being in the bosom of the Father, and seeing the Father, no more is meant than being intimately acquainted with the divine counsels and designs; and if these phrases signify no more than this, to be with God may, agreeably to this language, be considered as meaning the same thing: so that by saying the word was with God, the apostle may be understood to assert that he fully comprehended his most secret counsels and designs, and was hereby prepared to reveal them to the world; just as a companion and friend is better qualified to give an account of a man's purposes than a stranger.
And the word was [a] God.
That is, on account of the knowledge and power communicated to him by Almighty God, he may have been said to have been a God on earth, just in the same manner as God was pleased to say to Moses, Exodus vii. 1. "I have made thee a God to Pharaoh;" and as magistrates are called Gods, Psalm lxxxii. 1. 6. "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty, he judgeth among the Gods. I have said ye are Gods;" which last verse our Saviour cites, John x. 34. in vindication of himself against the Jews, who stoned him, because, as they said, "Thou, being a man, makest thyself a God." Agreeably to the language here made use of, it is said in another place, that Christ, being in
*If to come forth from God, is to be sent upon his service, to be with God, is to have such previous intercourse, to be so with him, really or metaphorically, as to be instructed or qualified for that service. With God Christ received his errand; in the world he published it.
the form of God, or in the form of a God, took upon himself the form of a servant. In this manner has the above declaration of the evangelist been explained, by those who maintain that the translation may be altered in the manner in which I have exhibited it. But if it should be insisted that this alteration is not countenanced by the idiom of the original, and the common translation be retained, viz. " and the word was God," still this language may be understood to intimate no more than a complete union of counsels and designs between the word of life and God; so that the authority of the one might be considered as the same as that of the other; just in the same sense as Christ says, "I and my Father are one;" and "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father."
2. The same was in the beginning with God.
Here the apostle, in order to impress it more strongly upon the mind, repeats the assertion which he had made in the preceding verse, and which has been already explained.
3. All things were done by him, and without him was not any thing done which was done.
That is, All things relating to the Christian dispensation were done or transacted by Christ. It was he who sent the apostles out to preach, who endowed them with miraculous powers, and commissioned them to teach all nations. It is not the creation of the world, we are told, which is here spoken of: for when that is described, another term is used; but all things which were transacted under the gospel. Many passages might be produced from scripture, in which the phrase, all things, must be understood in a limited sense, and confined, as it is supposed to be here, to the particular objects of which the writer is treating. Thus Paul says, 2. Cor. v. 17, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new;" where all
things does not mean the heavens and the earth, but every thing relating to the temper or manners of an individual.
4. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
By life we are here to understand eternal life, the certain knowledge of which was communicated to mankind by Jesus Christ, and which laid the best foundation for comfort and joy, which are often represented in scripture by light. The meaning of the evangelist in this verse is completely illustrated by what he says in his epistle, 1 John v. 11, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son;" as well as by what he says in another part of his gospel, John v. 26, "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself."
And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
In regard to this verse both interpretations coincide. Darkness is here put for men of dark and prejudiced minds, in the same manner as in Ephes. v. 8, "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." The observation of the apostle John, in this verse, primarily respected the bulk of the Jewish nation, who rejected Jesus, the light of the world, because they did not understand the nature of his mis
6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
This verse affords us an example, as was observed before, of what we are to understand by being sent from God that it signifies not coming down from heaven, but receiving an extraordinary divine commission: for no one supposes that John came down from heaven into the world; and it will help us to explain the same and similar phrases when applied to Christ.
7. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of that light, that all men through him might believe.
8. He was not that light, as many supposed him to be, but was sent to bear witness of that light.
The three last verses are to be considered as a parenthesis in the apostle's discourse: he now returns to the subject of which he had been before speaking, the word of life whom he had called light in the fifth
9. He, that is, the word of life, was the true light, which, coming into the world enlighteneth every man.
Here that is said to be done, which was only intended to be done: for we have already learnt that the darkness, that is, men of dark and prejudiced minds, did not comprehend the light; but it was designed by Providence for the benefit of all, Gentiles as well as Jews.
10. He was in the world, and the world by him by him was, was, and, "yet," the world knew him not *.
Though the greatest part of his life was spent with God, that is, in privacy, and he is now with the Father, no longer personally resident among us, yet he came forth into the world, and was for some time freely and publicly conversant among his countrymen, preaching the word of God, with every evidence of divine authority attending him: yet, though the Jewish dispensation was calculated to excite the expectation of him at this time, to reveal him, and to lead him to their notice and their reverence; though the law and the prophets spake of him; though the world had been further prepared for his appearing by the ministry of his expected harbinger; that world, the subjects of the Jewish dispensation, to whom such advantages in this respect had been vouchsafed, knew him not. According to this explanation, which is that of the late Mr. Cappe, the world is not the globe on which we live, or the general body of mankind, but the Jewish world or people.
Cappe's Critical Dissertations, vol. 1. p. 10.
In order to understand the evangelist in this verse, it is necessary to observe that that new and more advantageous state of being into which the children of Israel were brought by the Mosaic dispensation, is spoken of in the Old Testament as a creation. "Thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel." Isaiah xliii. 1. When a better state of things was afterwards introduced by the gospel, of which Gentiles as well as Jews were permitted to be partakers, this was called the new creation, and the individuals who enjoyed the benefit of it, new creatures; they are also said to be quickened and made alive, and to be, while others, who are out of this state, are said to be dead, and not to be. The instrument of this new creation is Jesus Christ. Hence God is said, by the apostle Paul, to have created all things by Jesus Christ; that is, to have brought all men, Jews as well as Gentiles, into this new and more advantageous state of being. It is also to be observed, that to be created of God by Christ Jesus, and to be of God by him, are phrases of the same import, one being the natural consequence of the other: for by whom we are created, by him also we are*. Hence it is that the same writers who teach that all things are created by Christ Jesus, likewise teach that all things are by him. "To us," says the apostle, "there is but one God, even the Father, of whom all things are; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things are, and we by him.' That this language does not relate to our original production, but to a moral renovation, is evident from what Paul says in another place, 1 Cor. i. 30, "Ye Gentiles," says he, "are of God by Jesus Christ, who of him is made unto us sanctification and redemption;" so that it appears that this new existence or creation, is produced by sanctification and redemption. Having, from these examples, seen what the language of the Old Testament is, we are prepared for understanding what the apostle intends in this verse, and for perceiving that however new the translation which has been given of it may sound, it accords very well with the language of the other sacred writers."
• Commentaries and Essays, vol. ii. p. 13.