In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1–5)
John’s emphasis on Jesus as the Word of God incarnated is indebted both to Greek philosophy and to his Jewish heritage. The Greeks developed the concept of a divine force governing the balance between binary opposites in the universe. They called this force Logos, best translated as “Word” or “Reason.” In many Greek conceptions, it is Logos that determines the balance between light and darkness, flesh and spirit. A world without Logos, the Greeks believed, would be chaos. The influence of the concept of the Logos was felt strongly by the Jewish sect knows as the Essenes, ascetics who believed that the world was shaped by struggles between opposing forces. John takes his philosophical inspiration, which manifests itself through his Christology and theology, from the Greeks via the Essenes. Jesus is the Word, the Logos, who is the instrument of total victory of light over darkness, its binary opposite: “What has come into being in him was life. And the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4). John’s reference to the Essene and Greek systems of philosophy to explain Jesus’s origin and significance is reflective of his Gospel’s careful pedagogical style. More than the authors of the other Gospels, John is concerned with explaining significance rather than recording facts.