Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ramblings and Ruminations on John (3)

03.Ramblings and Ruminations in John

John 1:1-5 (cont’d)

This Word is both co-source (identity, v.1) and agent of creation (v.3). John is emphatic about the Word’s agency in creation. It, the Word, is not a “mere” Creator, however. “Life” (another of John’s theological key-words), the animating power of God’s own presence, is imprinted or embedded in the creation by the Word. And this light was to enlighten humanity (v.4).

All is not well within the creation, alas. There is a “darkness” loose within it that is no part of the Word’s creative work. John will finger human disbelief as one source of this darkness in a few verses. Later on, he reveals the devil as another, even more powerful source of darkness. Even with this, however, ambiguity shrouds this darkness. For the devil too is but a created being, under the authority and certainty of defeat by the incarnate Word. The Whence and reality of this darkness remains shrouded in primal shadows.

Whatever the case with that, this darkness does battle with the Light seeking to “comprehend,” or “overcome,” or perhaps even “extinguish” it. The Greek word katalambanō can bear any of these senses. At any rate, the darkness strives to get the upper hand on the Light and somehow thwart its illumination from shining out. That means this non-created darkness is anti-creation, always using its power to defuse, diminish, and defeat the purpose and work of the Light, the Word, God’s agent in creation. This suggests that the integrity of creation, in every aspect, is always at issue in this contest between the darkness and the Light. This entails a concern for the environment and all that enhances or subverts its proper functioning. I suggest that John’s gospel is “proto-green,” an intuition that seems confirmed by John’s resurrection story in ch.20. But we’ll wait till then to spell this out!
John’s verb tenses highlight the Light’s defeat of the darkness. V.5 could be translated, “The Light keeps on shining (present tense) in the darkness, and the darkness was not able to comprehend/overcome/extinguish it (past tense).” The alternation of tenses suggests that darkness has given Light its best shot and that naught came of it. John nuances this summary judgment in the course of his story, but nonetheless, this is the non-negotiable good news of John’s story announced right here at the outset!


No comments: