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Hermeneutics of the Gospel of John

  • September 7, 2020
  • By Ben van Noort
Hermeneutics of the Gospel of John

Hermeneutics of the Gospel of John

A biblical book and each book in general is revealed (in some way) in the first sentence of the book.

John 1:1
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This is the first sentence of the Gospel of John. This is a strange opening verse through the last clause: and the Word was God. Everything what John had learned from his childhood was different from this clause. It sounded as a hammer-blow for Jewish ears.

Yes, in the beginning of creation, there was the creating word of God. Everything alright. Then came, “and the word was with God.” This also is acceptable. The spoken Word that created came from God and so it was in essence “with God”, that is “near God” and “in line with God”.

The Hammer-Blow
And then the hammer-blow: “and the Word was God”. What is this? And how could John say this? Was this a result of a long journey of theological thinking? No, out of his own experience John could never have dared to say this. It would have been acceptable if he had said for the last clause “and the Word fulfilled the will of God,” or “and the Word broke out in power.” But no, nothing of that. He said “and the Word was God.”

Thomas’ Creed
Later in v. 14 the Word is explained as Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” What in the world brought him to this conviction and the courage to say that Jesus was divine?  He had seen how Jesus had lived, had died, had resurrected and had appeared to them. And he had heard Thomas saying to Jesus resurrected “My Lord and my God”. And Jesus had praised Thomas for it.

Then John began to understand. In all its simplicity Thomas had spoken a creed with which Christianity has lived ever since. And which John put in words as “The Word was God.” That is: the Word was already living with God, and always had been. He was not created, he was there always with God.

The Word was God
John used this clause as an hermeneutical statement. He wanted to make clear that it is not possible to understand his gospel without the knowledge who Jesus was, is and always will be. Jesus himself was also aware of his specific descent despite his human existence. He came from God and he knew it. He did not claim it, that was not necessary. He was not Lord and God as a result of his personal belief, as neither a zebra has black and white stripes through his belief.

Peace of Mind
The miracle of Jesus was not only his wonders, but also his peace of mind in the midst of the powers of evil that came unto him. From opponents, from good willing but not understanding disciples. Jesus did not need anyone to encourage him—apart from his heavenly Father—because he was the Word for all those who were spiritually seeking for a real contact with God. Jesus could stand the test because he always remained the unblemished lamb due to his origin.

Qualities of a Bible Writer
All the activities of Jesus—described by John—the smallest and the greatest deeds can only be understood from his origin. And that was necessary for John to stress at the very beginning of his gospel. Here we see the Holy Spirit through the Bible writers at work. Bible writers were not only trained in writing but also in faith, to put into words things that can only be understood spiritually.

By Ben van Noort, September 7, 2020