Did Jesus Create the World? Or did God?
In John 1, we are told, God tells how he used Jesus to create the world. But, why does Genesis not mention this? That is what I always wondered, until just recently.
You see, John 1 doesn’t actually say that “Jesus” helped God create the world. It says “the word” did. “Word” is from the Greek “logos”, which means “spoken word”, “message”, “thought”, etc. Also note that the pronouns used here (“he”,”his”,etc) are generic, and can just as easily mean “it” or “he”.
After some consideration, here is my translation:
In the beginning was the spoken word (of God), and the spoken words came from God, and the spoken words were (part of) God. They were in the beginning with God. All things were made through them, and nothing exists without them. In them was life, and the life was the light of humans.
And the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
…And the spoken word (of God) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of a unique son of the father, full of grace and truth.
Forgive the clumsy and unfamiliar translation. I believe this conveys some of the essence of the passage, without mangling it too much.
Notice that this brings out the Genesis parallels very well. John is not contradicting Genesis, he is expanding upon it. God spoke the world into existence: “let there be light” and there was light. It was God’s spoken words that were used to create the world, and it is “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” which gives life and light to humanity. The word (the message) of God became flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, an individual who fully embodied God’s message to humanity.
Our simplistic traditional reading typically just substitutes “Jesus” for “Word”, and gives Jesus the title “The Word” with no further thought. John’s intent is deeper here. John is drawing out the concept of the powerful utterances of God which formed the world, which guide humanity, and which have now formed into a human individual through whom God utters his complete revelation.
Jesus, John says, is God’s most complete utterance. John is not even addressing pre-existence here, as the most common applications would have it. John is addressing the role, power, and importance of Jesus; God’s words were powerful when he spoke the worlds into existence, now God has spoken, and that speech is Jesus. Neglecting Jesus is neglecting God’s voice.
It is interesting that the spoken words/message/thought/utterance of God is called “God”. Typically, we just take this as a statement of Jesus’ divinity. But that’s reading the text backwards, from the bottom up. John intends his readers to work FORWARDS through the text. So he starts off reminding his readers of Genesis, and how God spoke in the beginning. The words went out from God, BUT (John interjects) the words WERE God.
How is this? What is John saying?
John is saying that the words of God are his very essence, that they convey his true nature. As such, God’s words are simply extensions of himself. They convey his thought, his mind. Throughout the bible, we are impressed with the concept of the powerful words of God, words that are so powerful, they are alive. When God speaks, it is as if he is sending out his very spirit.
Then John reminds us that the words of God formed the worlds. All things were created through the spoken words of God, and nothing exists apart from them. And as Jesus pointed out, the words of God are the source of life both physical and spiritual for all humanity. The words of God are life and light to mankind.
And though God has spoken into the darkness (both in sending his spiritual message to darkened humanity and in saying “let there be light” in the darkness of Genesis 1) the darkness of humanity has not comprehended his teachings.
BUT NOW, John says, God’s words have become flesh. God’s words, the very essence of God, have become incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth.