God’s embodied Word – an Excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John

The following is an excerpt from Love in the Gospel of John, by Francis Moloney.


The Gospel of John opens by claiming that in “the beginning” the Word was already turned in loving union toward God, a union so intense that what God was, the Word also was (1:1–2). But this Word is, like all words, directed to others. Salvation is impossible without the Word, the light and life of humankind (vv. 3–4). This is a biblical way of saying that only in the Word can humankind find the answer to its hopes and deepest desires.

Cover ArtHowever, powers of darkness oppose the revelation of the Word of God. They attempt to overcome the light he comes to bring, but they fail (v. 5). Although only a hint at this stage, a Johannine theology of the cross already begins to appear.

The argument next shifts into history, through the intervention of John the Baptist. The Baptist points away from himself toward the true light (vv. 6–8). The light the Word brings is neither recognized nor accepted, but to those who do receive it, a unique salvation is possible: they will become the children of God (vv. 9–13).

The Word to be heard and accepted as the light and the truth is not an abstract notion. The Word that is one with God has entered our history; he has dwelt among us, the fullness of the gifts of God. The revelation of God himself, “the glory of God,” in the Word who has become flesh, has been gazed upon (v. 14).

But who is he? The Baptist reenters, calling out in his own words that the one who may come after him chronologically is greater than he is because this coming one has existed before all time (v. 15, recalling vv. 1–2). Israel regarded the gift of the law as the greatest of all God’s gifts. From the fullness of God we have all received a new gift that takes the place of a former gift (v. 16). The gift of the law to the Jewish people came through Moses, and it was a great gift. But now the perfect gift has been given: the gift of the revelation of the truth given to us through a man whose name was Jesus Christ (v. 17).

No one has ever seen God, but Jesus’ story that now follows is about God. Jesus makes God known (v. 18). “The prologue prepares readers to see the whole story of Jesus as God’s act of communication through his embodied word.”

©2013 by Francis J. Moloney SDB. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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