The Bible

Abstraction in John

In the first 18 lines of John, the story of Jesus is introduced with a jarringly brief and emphatic summary of history from the beginning of time to the birth of Christ. This passage formalizes the concept, suggested more subtly in Genesis, that language precedes nature. Though in our everyday lives we consider words to be human intellectual inventions, John requires us to take a leap of faith and believe that the Word existed before the physical universe, that names of objects existed before the objects themselves. His assertion that "the Word was God" shows that at the center of his perception of religion lies the ultimate abstraction. The opening passage of John serves to distance God from nature. It creates a clear division between the abstract realm of the spirit and the physical world. Before beginning the story of Christ, John establishes that the realm of abstraction was the original state of the universe. When Jesus introduces the idea that it is with thoughts of this world that we should live our lives, his statement has already been legitimized by this assertion.

John's description of the birth of Christ is simply "And the Word became flesh" [1.14]. Jesus is the incarnation of his own...

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