07 November 2023


John 1.4-9.

I brought up the apostle John’s use of “word” in John 1, and of course the other metaphor he uses a whole bunch in this passage is light.

John 1.4-9 KWL
4 What came to be through the word, is life.
Life’s the light of humanity.
5 Light shines in darkness,
and darkness can’t get hold of it.
6 A person came who’d been sent by God;
his name is John.
7 This person came as a witness,
so he might witness about the light,
so through him, everyone might believe.
8 This person isn’t the light,
but he came so he might witness about the light.
9 The actual light, who lights up every person,
is coming into the world.

The word of God—i.e. the second person of the trinity, whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ—created life in verse 4, and John immediately started calling this life “light.” Then said Jesus is the actual light coming into the world in verse 9. As Jesus himself claimed later in this gospel, twice: “I’m the light of the world.” Jn 8.12, 9.5 He comes to give us life. Abundant life in this age; eternal life in the next.

Now lemme remind you the bible is not a series of codes for clever Christians to crack. “Light” is a metaphor for life in this passage. It doesn’t mean life in every passage. When other writers of the bible refer to light, they mean other things. Even when the apostle John refers to light in his first letter, and says God is light, 1Jn 1.5 he’s not using this metaphor anymore. He’s using a different one; in that passage light means truth. And yet various Christians will insist the “truth” of 1 John isn’t simply a metaphor; it’s a definition of the secret bible codeword φῶς/fos, “light”—and so is “life,” so let’s blend the two concepts together to create some freakish gnostic chimera and claim it’s bible knowledge. And turn the light into darkness.

Oh I’m not done ranting yet. Don’t forget the monkey wrench Matthew throws into the mix, when in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us the world’s light. Mt 5.14 Fortunately most Christians who are looking to decode the bible, aren’t gonna go full-bore heretic and claim we’re God. But Jesus’s statement in Matthew really does confuse them; I’ve heard the sermons.

Jesus likewise had his Sermon on the Mount idea in mind when he called John the baptist a lamp, giving off light. Jn 5.35 (And not even reflected light, as we Christians so often like to describe ourselves as: “God’s like the sun, and we’re like the moon, reflecting his light…” etc. Seems God empowers us more than we think.)

Still, wanna have fun with a literalist sometime? Show ’em John 1.8 and John 5.35… then watch ’em flop around like a fish in a boat, as they try to figure out why the bible took a interpretive left turn on ’em. (“Well, chapter 1 says he wasn't the light, but chapter 5 says he was a light…” Yeah, nice try English-speaker; ancient Greek doesn’t do definite and indefinite articles like that.) After you’ve had your evil fun, point out it’s not a contradiction when we interpret the bible properly. Do it passage by passage, metaphor by metaphor.

Jesus’s light, versus ours.

In John 1’s metaphor, the author wanted it clear there’s a vast difference between the light of life, i.e. Jesus, and the sort of light John the baptist was. And the sort of light we Christians are.

Unlike Jesus, we don’t create life. We might think we do, when we make kids, but obviously we didn’t make it from scratch. Even scientists in a lab don’t make it from scratch. And whatever life we “make,” has limitations, and an expiration date. It’s not abundant, infinite life. And it’s always made out of existing life.

John the baptist isn’t that kind of light. He wasn’t trying to be! His job—which he understood correctly and perfectly—was to point to the light and say, “There he is.” His job was to get people ready for the light coming into the world. He says so later in this very gospel:

John 3.28-30 KJV
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

We don’t know, ’cause the gospels don’t say, how long John had been prophesying before Jesus stepped forth to minister. Unlike Jesus, John could’ve started as a teenager, and probably had. Could’ve been preaching 20 full years before Jesus finally came to him for baptism.

Or, like the movies tend to depict it, it could’ve been a few months… and suddenly here’s the guy he’s been foretelling, and his job’s over already. After all the time he spent in the wilderness eating bugs and syrup. But whatever; John rejoiced greatly because his Lord had arrived.

Since Revelation is a bunch of apocalyptic metaphors, arguably this light of life is what Jesus is giving off in New Earth; it’s not literal light. (Not that anybody can really say for certain.)

Revelation 21.23-25 KJV
23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.

Jesus’s light, and our light, are two different metaphors, and let’s not mix them up. John was a light, as Jesus said, ’cause he testified to the truth. Jn 5.32-35 So are we, when we do as John did. Light is truth. But that’s a different metaphor than we find in this chapter, so don’t mix ’em up. We have no business saying the light that is Jesus, is the same as our light. Life and truth are related, but not the same. Keep it straight. We now have John’s job: Get people ready for the greater light’s return.

As for the light coming into the world—well, it’s in the world now. Jesus already gives us life. We still have to wait for eternal life, which’ll come after he returns, but we don’t have to wait at all for abundant life.