RE: John 1:1

From: Peter Phillips (
Date: Mon Feb 02 1998 - 07:26:57 EST

I fully agree with Carl's sagacious remarks. The gospel does indeed seem
to be a commentary on the prologue rather than the prologue tacked onto the
gospel - I suppose when you write a book you draft out the introduction and
then come back to it to polish it off. But it seems the wrong way round to
suggest that John (or a group/person we now know as John) wrote the gospel
and then decided it needed a flowery opening.
As for the Proverbs 8 and Wisdom of Solomon references - certainly there
are elements within the SOPHIA/HOKHMAH tradition which are carried over
into Philo and also into John. However, notice that the language changes.
 Philo could and did in places talk of Sophia. However it is John who
specifically changes the SOPHIA language into LOGOS language - presumably
because of the gender of SOPHIA (but that seems ever so prosaic).
 Moreover, it is one things to take up themes another entirely to blow
these themes out of the water - SOPHIA/HOKHMAH is only a co-creator with
God and is in fact a created being herself in Proverbs and Wisdom of
Solomon - the Logos is around before anything is created - see the past
discussions on the difference between EGENETO and HN.
The point stands I think that the first readers would have heard a concept
rather than a person. In the next eighteen verses John gradually puts
flesh on the bones, as it were.

Pete Phillips

From: Carl W. Conrad []
Sent: 02 February 1998 11:57
To: Peter Phillips
Cc: Ron J Macy; 'Jonathan Robie';
Subject: RE: John 1:1

At 2:14 AM -0600 2/2/98, Peter Phillips wrote:
>I wonder whether we can rescue this from theology and return to Greek.
> There is little evidence whatsoever that the actual Greek word LOGOS was
>ever used prior to the Johannine material to refer to a person. Philo
>evidently used it as a title or theological concept but nowhere else (OK,
>qualify that, nowhere that I know of and you all know better...) is it
>used as a person. Therefore for those reading/listening to the prologue
>the first conceptual idea must surely have been a-personal. This would
>stand wherever the Prologue comes in John's traditionsgeschichte and
>whether or not John's readers knew the rest of the gospel.

This may be so, but some would argue that Hellenistic Jewish notions of
HOKKMA/SOFIA which appears in allegorical personalization in Proverbs 8 and
in the Wisdom of Solomon are antecedents of the LOGOS conception in both
John's prologue and Philo--and if this is so, that might incline the first
readers of the Johannine prologue to understand the prologue in a
personalized manner.

It must be conceded that all we have to say about the first interpretations
of the Johannine prologue is deeply speculative. What is harder to argue,
however, is that the gospel itself is anything OTHER than a commentary on
the Prologue.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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