Re: Johannine ARCH (was Jn.1:1b word order)

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Feb 10 1998 - 14:30:09 EST

In the Johannine writings, there are only two times that ARCH is used with
the preposition EN. In fact, these are also the only two times that ARCH is
used in the dative in the Johannine writings; that is, these are the only
two times that it can occur with a locative sense. Therefore, there are
only two times that it is used in the sense "in the beginning" in John.
These two uses occur in John 1:1 and John 1:2.

Outside the Johannine writings, EN ARCHi also occurs in Acts 11:15, where
it clearly refers to Pentecost, and in Philippians 4:15, where it seems to
refer to the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel. Outside of the New
Testament, EN ARCHi is both to refer to the absolute beginning (e.g. in
Genesis 1:1, which John 1:1 seems to echo) and to refer to other kinds of
beginnings, e.g. the beginning of the barley harvest in Ruth 1:22.

In the rest of John's writings, ARCH often occurs with other prepositions,
where it is used differently: especially AP ARCHS, also EX ARCHS. Just as
the English "in the beginning" conveys an absolute sense of beginning, but
the phrase "from the beginning" is much less absolute, the phrase AP ARCHS
frequently seems to convey the meaning "all along" or "right from the
start", without necessarily indicating the beginning of all time.

So I think that it is probably true that ARCH does not always mean the
absolute beginning, and that even EN ARCH may refer to things like "in the
beginning of the barley harvest", as well as the absolute beginning. The
context of John 1:1 gives us more hints as to what is intended: all things
were made through the LOGOS, and nothing that was made was made without
him. So the LOGOS seems to have existed before all things were created,
just as God seems to have existed before he created the heavens and the
earth in Genesis 1:1. John 1:1-2 does not tell us that Jesus was created
first, then all other things things were created through him; it says that
Jesus was in the beginning, and all things were created through him. When I
compare this to passages where EN ARCH does NOT refer to the absolute
beginning, these other passages clearly indicate which other beginning is
intended. In John 1:1, like Genesis 1:1, there is no such indication.

Texcel Research

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