"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1 KJV)
Generally, individuals who believe in the Deity of Christ will initially take a person to John 1:1 in hopes of persuading others to such a belief. I've often asked people why they believe that "Jesus is God" and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, "Well, look at John 1:1." I have a good friend of mine who once held a conversation with a Pastor from a prominent Christian denomination. My friend was discussing the person of Christ with this Pastor and remarked to him that he could use a text of his own choosing for them to discuss. What was the first text the Pastor went to? None other than John 1:1.
Now, I do not make these comments to "downplay" John 1:1, I love the verse of Scripture with all my heart. My reason for this post is not to diminish from Scripture, but to examine the commonly held concept of the first sentence in the Gospel of John, that is, that it teaches the Deity of Christ; in other words that Yeshua as to His nature is God Almighty, yet distinct from the Father. I personally do not believe the verse of Scripture teaches such, and I do hope to explain why in this series of posts.
Let me begin by saying that just because a person uses a text of Scripture in attempts to prove what they believe doesn't necessarily mean that the text actually does so. It is rare that I have seen an in-depth exegesis of John 1:1 as well as verses 2-3 and verse 14. Most people are prone to a quick quote of the passage as if it solves all problems that others may have with believing that Yeshua is God, the second person of the Trinity. In this brief posting, I would just like to begin to deal with the verse by looking at the phrase, "In the beginning".
A student of Scripture, upon reading this phrase, should have his mind sort of race to the beginning of his Bible to the familiar Genesis 1:1 where the words "In the beginning" occur. We might also think of a somewhat less quoted passage of Scripture, yet still pertinent, in Hebrews 1:10 where we read, "And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands." Although it is not the scope of this discussion, Hebrews 1:10 is a reference to Yahweh the Father, and not to the Son as many theologians claim and believe.
Proverbs 8:1-31 also uses the phrase in reference to the creation, specifically in verse 22: "Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." Some believe that the wisdom personified here in Proverbs 8 is none other than Yeshua himself, but such cannot be the case. Both Proverbs 8:1 and 9:1 speak of wisdom as a female and Yeshua is most certainly not a female. What is occurring here is a personfication of wisdom. Yahweh used His great and awesom wisdom in the beginning, to create the world; it was as a worker at His side. We might compare the personfication of the attribute "charity" in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 where charity is said to "not seek her own". This doesn't mean that the "charity" mentioned by Paul is a woman in the faith that always seeks after the good of others, Paul is simply personifying "charity" or love as not being selfish, but caring for the welfare of others.
In conclusion to the phrase, "In the beginning" when we look at all the Biblical texts that mention the phrase we see a common strand. What is meant by this phrase is the creation or foundations of the world. Thus John 1:1's time reference dates far back, before the world existed, at a time when there was only the self-existing One; Almighty Yahweh.
I've heard it said many times before, "Blood is thicker than water." Those using such a statement are making reference to their bond with their family. In other words, in a "sticky situation" they are always going to side with family. I do not believe in this concept. I rather believe that "Covenant is thicker than blood."
Basically stated, our relationship with Yahweh comes first and foremost, before friends, and yes, before even our most immediate family. I'm one of those people who really does not like upsetting another person. I like for people to like me, desiring to love my neighbor as myself and give a soft answer to turn away the anger of another. As much as I like to be a "people person" I refuse to cave in to another persons whims while at the same time giving up a conviction that I have before the heavenly Father. If push comes to shove then I choose to upset the feelings of my friends and/or family instead of upsetting Yahweh.
Yeshua the Messiah taught this in Matthew 12:46-50:
"While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (KJV)"
See, Yeshua believed that covenant was indeed thicker than blood. He recognized that his true family were those who were obedient to his Father in heaven. This was stated plainly by him also in Matthew 7:21 where he taught that it wouldn't be those who called him Lord or Master that would enter the kingdom of heaven, but rather those that performed the will of his Father.
I recently spoke with a gentleman over the telephone concerning his being put out of an assembly. This man was told he was not welcome in the assembly he had been attending because of his belief in a certain doctrine. The Elder or Pastor of this assembly explained to this man that he was causing division amongst members in the assembly, and even division amongst long time friends and family members. I told my friend that this Pastor was correct; my friend was causing division in this assembly, but there is good division and bad division. The Bible warns us to mark those which cause division amongst brethren (Romans 16:17) but this division is speaking of false doctrine dividing the assembly, not true doctrine.
I was once accused by a group of men who told me I was causing division amongst people in a church over the doctrine of our heavenly Father's name. I was seeing that our heavenly Father has a name and this name was and is not God or Lord or even Jehovah. I wanted to make this known to other people so that they could share in this glorious truth and begin to call upon the name of Yahweh (Joel 2:32). One Pastor told me, "Matthew, it will cause division in the church." I thought about this and responded by explaining that this man had already agreed with me that our heavenly Fathers name is Yahweh so the division I would be causing would not be division about false doctrine, but rather division over true doctrine; i.e. seeing who would follow the truth instead of fables.
Yeshua taught this in Luke 12:51-53:
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (KJV)"
John 7:41-43 states that there was a division amongst the people because of what Yeshua taught; in John 10:6-19 Yeshua caused division amongst the Jews because of his words. These passages show clearly that Yeshua believed in causing division amongst the true believers and the false "believers". It is put very plain in Matthew 10:34-39:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (KJV)"
Here Yeshua explains that one of his missions upon earth is to send the sword, or in other words, division. He says that a man's enemies will be those of his own household, or his own family. Many times the truth will divide, and divide sharply it does. As it states in Matthew 25:32-33, Yeshua will divide the sheep from the goats on judgment day. There will be a division that takes place; the "sheep" will have eternal life, and the goats will have eternal destruction (also see Luke 6:22; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Exodus 8:23).
Yeshua was only teaching exactly what his Father taught in the law, as he always did. Yeshua spoke the words of Yahweh always and fully. Yahweh was not bashful in telling the Israelites that covenant was thicker than blood. He told them in the plainest of terms who they were to love more.
"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Yahweh thy Mighty One, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you. (Deuteronomy 13:6-11 KJV).
What shall we say to these things? Well, sometimes division can be a bad thing, in stirring up discord among brethren by gossip (Proverbs 6:14-19), in spreading false doctrine amongst people (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10), and in just seeking to cause division and strife (1 Corinthians 3:3). However there is such a thing as good division, and we must recognize this so as to not always think that division is a "work of the devil."
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.