In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.…
The claims of Philo to be regarded as the source of St. John's doctrine have been largely advocated. But —
I. IT IS NOT CERTAIN THAT JOHN WAS ACQUAINTED WITH PHILO OR THE ALEXANDRINE GNOSIS.
1. The relations which existed between Ephesus and Alexandria.
2. The assumption that carried over the Philonian doctrines.
3. The statement that drew the germs of his doctrine from an Alexandrian source. And
4. The circumstance that had spread widely amongst the Hellenistic Jews only make it probable that John was acquainted with Philo, but cannot be regarded as establishing it.
II. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE TERM LOGOS, THE GOSPEL CONTAINS NOT A TRACE OF PHILONISM, which is remarkable if John began its composition under the influence of that celebrated master. The number of parallels between the philosopher and the evangelist are at the most four, and these are confined exclusively to the prologue.
III. THE LOGOS OF PHILO IS ESSENTIALLY DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF JOHN.
1. It is impossible to determine whether the former is a person or an attribute, or a personification, whereas the latter is distinctly personal.
2. The former is not Divine in the sense that the latter is. Philo gives the name of δεύτερος θεὸς to the Loges only metaphorically, whereas John calls Him θεὸς in the strictest didactic sense.
3. The former is a metaphysical conception; the latter an object of religious contemplation.
4. The former has no real connection with human history and salvation such as the latter has.
IV. IT WAS UNNECESSARY FOR JOHN TO HAVE RECOURSE TO PHILO FOR THIS PECULIAR EXPRESSION.
1. In the Hebrew Scriptures we have the germs of the doctrine.
(1) In Genesis 1. creation is attributed to so many separate voices or spoken words of Elohim. What if John purposed to represent the uncreated Loges as the personal Being by whom these creative words were altered?
(2) The Maleach Jehovah who appeared as God's messenger, who announced His will (Genesis 15:1), and who, if distinguished from Him (Genesis 16:11), was identified with Him (Genesis 16:13; Genesis 19:16; Genesis 32:30), would unquestionably prepare the way for such a conception as John's.
(3) The creative activity assigned to the Word of Jehovah (Psalm 33:6-9) would tend to foster the notion.
(4) The personification of wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-.31) would further serve to develop the idea.
2. In the Chochmah writings of the Post-Exilian Period, which carried on and perfected the tendency already begun, John would find another contributory source to the doctrine. In these the transition from an impersonal to a personal Sophia is an accomplished fact (Wisdom of Sirach, Sirach 1:1, 4; 24:3, 9; Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom 7:25, 26, 22); and the Chaldee Targumists substitute for Elohim and Jehovah Memra da Yeya, a personal being who served as the permanent agent or representative of God, and who was identified with the Shekinah and the Messiah.
3. While Christ never employed the term, an examination of His utterances concerning His person might easily suggest the propriety of using it. Without alluding to John 5:38; John 14:24; John 17:14, the aspect m which Christ's person, character, and work are here contemplated is that of one who has come with the Divine words of truth and life, and the transition must have seemed natural and easy from Christ as the speaker of God's words to Him as God's spoken Word Himself.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.