... and a translation of Jn 1:1-18 to go with it.

In the beginning was Wisdom, and Wisdom lived to God, and Wisdom was divine -- it lived first in relationship to God. Because of it, everything happened; not a single event took place without it. In it is life. Life was the light of humanity; that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not surpass it.

And there was a person sent from God, and a word for him: Johanan, "God is gracious". This one came to report, to testify about the light so that everyone would trust because of him.

He was not the light; he lived to testify about the light. The true light that lights every person was coming into the world. It was in the world, and the world happened because of it, and the world did not know it. The light came to its own, and its own did not receive it.

It gave the right to become children of God to those who did accept it, to those who trust in his word. These come to be children not because of kinship, flesh, or husband, but because of God.

And Wisdom became flesh and took up residence among us, and we observed its character, the dignity of a father's only kin, fully invested with grace and truth.

John testified about him and shouted, saying "This is the one of whom I said, 'What is coming after me has happened before me'!" and "He was my better," and "From his fullness all of us have thankfully accepted grace," and "Moses was the means by which God gave Torah, but Jesus Christ is the means by which grace and truth happen."

No one had ever seen God; this only son, being in the confidence of the Father, explained him.


  1. Translator's note: I have trouble with how much John actually says in 1:15-18 -- but so does the whole tradition! We have verbs of John's speech twice, the orator using λέγων to introduce John speaking, and the character using εἶπον to introduce his earlier statement. And then we have three objective clauses introduced by ὅτι, which among other things introduces direct speech.

    What ὅτι really does is mark the object-status of a clause or phrase, because you can't just put the whole thing in the accusative. So: these next three clauses are the object of what verb? Whose verb? Working backward from John's self-citation, the last four verbs are λέγω, λέγω, κράζω, and μαρτυρέω.

    One way or another, the audience is going to hear three ὅτι-clauses in a row, bullet points noted after a verbally-introduced speech. So the real question is, which verb? Is the orator giving his own bullet points after presenting John's speech, or is the character giving his own bullet points after presenting his own speech?

    Because the first one keeps the "me" of John's speech, it doesn't feel right to say that we pop immediately out of character. But then, because the other two are still ὅτι-clauses like the first, they ought to follow. Which makes sense -- the orator has stepped into character, and speeches in character are perfectly normal, whether or not John actually said them! Only verse 18 really seems to pop back out of character, returning to the μονογενής of 1:14.

  2. Further translator's note: no, "wisdom" isn't an appropriate gloss for logos. Not in general. It means many things in the Hellenistic context, and in the LXX is most often a translation of dabar and 'amar. But unlike onoma and rhema, which are "noun" and "verb" respectively in Greek, logos doesn't so much imply a grammatical unit of language, as it does a sense unit. A logos conveys meaning. Logia are sayings.

    So where does the gloss "wisdom" come in, here? Proverbs. It is certain that John is making allusions to Genesis 1 -- but by personifying the logos in relationship to God, he is also making an allusion to the personified Wisdom, sofia, in Proverbs.

    There's a pattern I see in these verses and John's allusions, and it suggests a sort of metonymy of results for causes. Genesis begins b'reshit bara', in Greek en arche epoiesen. In fact, what God does in Gn 1 happens with three main verbs: lego, to say, poieo, to do, and kaleo, to call. But when John speaks of the creation, he speaks of it in terms of becoming, happening, the result of these active verbs: ginomai.

    While it is possible to derive the connection of logos to the verb eipon in Genesis as a derivative of lego, it makes more sense to me out of Proverbs. And in proverbs, it is sofia, wisdom, who speaks and teaches, and to whose logoi we are called to attend. So I'm treating logos here as the same sort of metonymy of result, personified for Wisdom just as becoming is presented for God's actions.


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