The Prologue (Chapter One, verses one through eighteen) to the Gospel of St. John is a mystical reflection on the Divinity and Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. The Prologue of John is one of the most significant theological passages in the New Testament of the Bible. This beautiful passage is often found in anthologies of world literature, for it is truly poetic and profound in nature. The Prologue begins and ends in eternity, which effectively emphasizes the Word entering time and history through the Incarnation in verse fourteen.
In the Prologue, John identifies Jesus as the logos - λóγος, the Word or reason, the philosophical concept of God's unifying principle for all of creation. The opening line parallels the opening line of Genesis 1:1, "in the beginning;" the Word was with God from the beginning. The Prologue clearly asserts the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Themes introduced in the Prologue such as light, life, darkness, witness, faith, glory, and truth are more fully developed throughout the Gospel of John.
An interlinear translation is provided for the complete Prologue of John, verses one through eighteen. In order to understand the original language, the following translation closely follows the Greek, in which word order is primarily used for emphasis. You can find a fluent English translation in the Gospel of St. John, and you can receive help from the text and references on the Greek alphabet.
The verb ἦν means "was," and is the imperfect of the verb ἐιμί, "to be." In the latter part of the first verse, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, ὁ λόγος has the article and is the subject, so Θεὸς is the predicate nominative, and thus the phrase is translated as "and the Word was God." John uses the terms light - φῶς and darkness - σκοτία to express the eternal struggle between good and evil. Ιn verse five, σκοτία has the article and is the subject, and the pronoun αὐτὸ (it) refers to the light and is the object of the verb, and thus the phrase is translated as "the darkness did not overcome it."
The Koine Greek verb γίνομαι is the same word as the Classical Greek γίγνομαι, and means "I become, am, originate, happen, take place." The verb is a deponent verb, for it is middle or passive in form, but active in meaning. Please note in verse three above that there are two different tenses to the verb. The first verb is ἐγένετο, which is the second aorist; the second verb is γέγονεν, which is the perfect tense. ἐγένετο is derived from the third principal part, the aorist active, and γέγονεν is from the fourth principal part, the perfect active. As the verb is deponent, both the aorist active and passive are active in meaning; the same is true of the perfect active and middle/passive. Here are the six principal parts or tense forms for the Greek verb γίνομαι:
|Principal Part||Present Active||Future Active/Middle||Aorist Active/Middle||Perfect Active||Perfect Middle/Passive||Aorist Passive|
|Translation||I become||I will become||I became||I have become||I have become||I became|
|Example||Mark 2:15||Matthew 21:21||Colossians 1:25||John 5:14||Daniel 12:1||l Corinthians 1:30|
The middle portion of the Prologue introduces John the Baptist, a man sent from God, who came as a witness (v. 6-8) to the true Light, which enlightens every man, coming into the world (v. 9-13). Jesus Christ identifies himself as the Light of the world in John 9:5. Verse twelve conveys man can become children of God through the Light. Becoming children of God through Christ Jesus is also expressed in the writings of St. Paul.
The conclusion of the Prologue (v. 14-18) opens with the dramatic moment of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as the Word became Flesh, full of grace and truth, the only Son from the Father (verse 14). In verse 15, John the Baptist, referring to the Incarnation of the Son, recognizes the pre-existence of the Son when he specifies "The one after me coming before me has become - γέγονεν, for he was before me." Verse seventeen reveals the subject of the Prologue, Jesus Christ. The Prologue returns to eternity in the final verse, as the Son reveals the Father. An important theological principle is expressed in verse eighteen by ὤν, the present active participle, nominative singular masculine, of the verb ἐιμί, I am, which expresses continuous action and refers to the Son. Thus the phrase ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς means being in the bosom of the Father, and indicates an eternal presence proper to the Son.
John reiterates that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ in 1:17. The principle of the Incarnation introduced in the Prologue became the guiding theme for John's entire Gospel, so that we must distinguish throughout the life of Jesus of Nazareth his human nature and the mystery of "the Son who comes from the Father," a mystery that reveals itself in Christ Jesus the man.