Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1.a)

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This is Koine, or common, Greek, of the first century, and in English it translates to, “In the beginning was the word”–it is the initial independent clause of the first sentence of the Gospel of John, and it is very much more full of meaning than its pitiful six words in English can indicate.  (As a side note about this “independent clause”, we must not take the idea of independence too far, since there are two other independent clauses in this first sentence, and they are in no means to be understood as standing independently or alone; in fact they are completely inter-dependent upon each other for a complete understanding of this first sentence; they are only “independent” in the sense that they can stand alone as complete units of thought, each containing a subject and a predicate.)  Let’s take this clause apart, parse it, and see if we can discover some, or a lot, of the meaning, not hidden in, but revealed by these five words in Greek.

“Ἐν”.  Translates to English “in”, “at”, “with”, or “by”, each of which would serve fairly well in the context here, but I will choose “in”, as the context is clearly dependent on the idea of a “beginning” of some kind, based on the very next word.

ἀρχῇ”, or “beginning”, which has so much greater depth than that word, the context now being, “In the beginning, the very beginning of every beginning, before anything happened, before time existed and certainly before time passed, during that eternity which in fact did exist before there was any time or any thing, for all that time the text speaks of “in and throughout that beginning” here.  But about what does this text speak?  This is a most crucial question, answered by the following word.

“ἦν”, or “already was”, already existed, from before there was any time during which to exist, yet there was something existing “out of time”, without the “passage” of any time, for time had not yet been created, therefore had not passed, during all of this preexistent eternity. The next word begins to answer the inevitable question, “What was it that existed before and apart from time?”

“ὁ”, or “the”, a definite article showing that the subject of this clause is not “a” something, without definite particularity, but that the subject is “the” one definitely particular thing that it is, and it is not anything that it is not.   The next word tells the reader what, or Who, this subject is, and was (and, incidentally, ever will be).

“λόγος”, the source of English words such as “logic”, any word ending in “-ology”, which is a word denoting “knowledge” or “expertise” or the ability to converse about a thing.  But this is the thing itself, not merely knowledge and so on about that thing.  We might say that this subject is “The Real Deal”.

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CC BY 4.0 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1.a) by Dennis Glover is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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