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In Genesis 1, light is first (1:3), then there is life (1:11).

In John 1, life seems to come first (1:4a), but that life then is the light of men (1:4b).

How do those who hold to a Genesis beginning for John 1:1's 'beginning' explain the 'light' coming after 'life'?

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  • john 1:1 is speaking of our creator who is the word. Most Christians interpret the word (the light of this world) as being the one who took on human flesh and lived among us...ie Jesus christ. It (john1:1) does not speak of the order of the creation process. You are completely missing the point of the John 1:1 text. Also, to dispense with a second conspiracy in addition to the triune God inference in your question...this is not a text that supports theistic evolution.
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 20:10
  • @Adam sounds like the start a good answer! Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 21:01
  • Could it simply be the use of chiasmus (stacking and unstacking concepts)? Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 23:38
  • Nothing in John 1:4 indicates a temporal relation with either John 1:1 or Genesis 1.
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 23:45
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    The Life, the eternal, 1 John 1:2, which was with the Father (from the beginning) . . . . was manifested. That Life was, in the beginning. And God said (out of divine Life) Let there be Light. Life is first in Genesis 1:1. Light is second in Genesis 1:3.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 29, 2022 at 1:39

2 Answers 2

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I think you're inventing a contradiction that doesn't exist.

In Genesis 1, light is first (1:3), then there is life (1:11).

This, first off, is not strictly true. There is life in God (and/or in Christ; a Trinitarian would of course say that God and Christ are the same, so both are true), but this is an eternal attribute of God/Christ. There is not a beginning of "life". The creation of plants represents a manifestation of life, yes, but to say that there was not life is on par with saying there is no love, or goodness, or anything else that is a defining attribute of God. This in effect means the God Himself cannot exist without Creation, which is of course nonsense.

In John 1, life seems to come first (1:4a), but that life then is the light of men (1:4b).

John 1:4 is certainly talking about a metaphorical "light". In particular, v5 is metaphorical; the "darkness" is sin, which did not exist before Creation, while the light is eternal. (Note however there is a difference between God 'being' light and allowing that to manifest in Creation.) Note also the parallel with Revelation 21:23; I (and I think many) would argue that the "light" is the same in both locations.

Revelation may or may not also indicate a literal, physical light. Similarly, the "light" of Genesis 1:3 may or may not be, in some literal sense, God's glory being allowed to enter Creation. While an argument for that has been made, and it certainly strengthens the claim that the "light" of Genesis 1:3 and John 1:4 is the same, I don't claim that this is necessary to an understanding of John 1:1-3 as referring to the Genesis 1 Creation.

In any case, we've already established that the "life" is an eternal attribute of God/Christ which preexists Creation. Moreover, "the life was the light of men" does not establish the supposed chronological relation.

Consider a light in a room. Consider also a potter who turns on the light and makes a pot. One can say that the light is "the light shining on the pot", but this does not mean that the light didn't exist before the pot. Similarly, even if we accept the claim that "life" as used in John 1 didn't exist until the third day of Creation, the "light of men" can't exist as a concept until men exist (on day six). But this does not mean "light" didn't exist before then, merely that it didn't take on the specific of being "the light of men" until later.

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A brief answer, to a brief question, perhaps better suited for Hermeneutics.SE:

  • Christ's life embodied the light of his own teachings.

  • Seeing the way he lived his own life, became a light unto those witnessing its sanctifying power.

Many other rabbis also preached, but, as Christ's own brother so beautifully puts it:

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Similar concepts are also echoed in the following pasages:

Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Luke 8:16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed; but sets it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

Luke 11:33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, puts it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. 34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thy eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thy eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. 35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. 36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.

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  • +1 for bringing in various quotes re light. But what does this have to do with Genesis? Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:06
  • What does the reversion of the two terms from Genesis have to do with Genesis itself ? Nothing. The order seems primarily dependent upon the way in which they are employed in the message of the gospel. There are many other parallel passages within scripture, alluding to the same events or ideas, but without necessarily employing the same (key)words, and/or the same order.
    – user46876
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:22
  • But do you think the light of Genesis the same sort of thing as the light here? Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:23
  • No. The former is literal, while the latter is spiritual. What does this have to do with the two terms being reversed ?
    – user46876
    Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:25
  • OK, thanks for this. So just want to be clear on this - on your reading, would you say 'in the beginning' situates us in Genesis, but 1:4 then switches to a non-Genesis use of light, and so only 1:1-3 parallels Genesis? Commented Sep 6, 2022 at 17:27

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