|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-5 The plainest reason why the Son of God is called the Word, seems to be, that as our words explain our minds to others, so was the Son of God sent in order to reveal his Father's mind to the world. What the evangelist says of Christ proves that he is God. He asserts, His existence in the beginning; His coexistence with the Father. The Word was with God. All things were made by him, and not as an instrument. Without him was not any thing made that was made, from the highest angel to the meanest worm. This shows how well qualified he was for the work of our redemption and salvation. The light of reason, as well as the life of sense, is derived from him, and depends upon him. This eternal Word, this true Light shines, but the darkness comprehends it not. Let us pray without ceasing, that our eyes may be opened to behold this Light, that we may walk in it; and thus be made wise unto salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ.
Verses 3, 4. -
(2) The creation of all things through the Logos, as the instrument of the eternal counsel and activity of God. Verse 3. - All things (Πάντα, not τὰ πάντα) taken one by one, rather than all things regarded in their totality - "all things," i.e. all beings and elements of things visible or invisible, in heaven, earth, and under the earth (see Colossians 1:16, etc.), came into being through him, through the Logos, who was in the beginning with God, and was God. The Logos is the organ or instrument by which everything, one by one, was made. Two other words are used in the New Testament to denote "creation" - κτίζειν, used in Revelation 4:11 and Colossians 1:16, a word indicating the mind and act of the Creator; and ποιεῖν, which, as in Mark 10:6, points generally to the thing made. The parts of the verb γίγνεσθαι indicate the progress of the work, the process of some creative order, the occurrence of some event in the evolution of Divine providence. This word does not by one solitary expression dogmatically convey the creative act, but the fact of the "becoming," from, it may be, the region of pure thought to that of existence, or from non-observation into prominence, or from an inchoate to a perfect development, or from nothing to something. The context must determine the fulness of its meaning. Occasionally, as in John 8:58, it is powerfully contrasted with existence: "Before Abraham was [had come into being] I am." The context here does not allow us to affirm that St. John repudiated the prior existence of the υ}λη, stuff, of which πάντα were made. He does not affirm nor deny such a prior existency or condition, but by referring the universe in all its parts and items to the Logos, he absolutely ignores the Platonic notion of eternal matter. He could scarcely be ignorant of the speculation as it entered into the Philonic interpretation and formed the basis of the Gnostic speculations which were beginning to infest the early Church. By giving, however, a Divine origin and instrument to the "becoming" of πάντα, and strengthening his statement by the negative coassurance, he absolutely excludes the dualism of Philo and of Gnostic tendency. In asserting that the Logos is he or that through whom all things were made, the writer does not lower the dignity of the Logos by regarding him merely as the ὄργανον of the Father, because the same preposition is used of the relation of the Father to the world or to his servants (Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:1; Hebrews 2:10). Elsewhere St. Paul powerfully affirms the same application of διά (1 Corinthians 8:6) to Christ's part in the Creation, reserving for the One God, the Father, the preposition ἐκ. From God and by or through God are all things, still "all things" derive their existence "through" the activity, the will, the thought, of the Logos. "The sphere contracts as the blessing enlarges [query, 'intensifies']: existence for everything; life for vegetable and animal world; light for men" (Plummer). The same idea is made more explicit by the negative form in which it is restated: and without him - that is, independently of his cooperation and volition (cf. John 15:5) - not even one thing came into being. The ὕλη could hardly be spoken of as "one thing," seeing, according to the theory, it was not a unit as opposed to a multiplicity, but the condition of all things. The ἐγένετο would drive harder against any recognition of the ὕλη than would the ἕν. There is not the faintest approach to any supposition on John's part of the existence of such a primeval entity or eternal reality. The γέγονεν gives the student of the text and of the meaning grave difficulty. From very early times the Alexandrine Fathers and numerous uncial manuscripts, and an immense group of quotations and versions, unquestionably close the sentence we have just considered with ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν, and consider the ὅγέγονεν as the subject of the following clause, translating it either, That which has come into being in him was life; or, that which has come into being was (or is) life in him - for one manuscript, א, has rendered the text more grammatical by reading ἔστι instead of η΅ν. This, adopting the supposed early punctuation, Tregelles and Westcott and Hort have introduced into the text; but R.T. has coincided with T.R. Dr. Westcott has an elaborate note affirming the deep thought involved in the "ancient punctuation," to the effect that the ὅγέγονεν refers, not merely to the original creation, ἐγένετο, but to the continued existence of that which has come into being. Of this, it is said, it derives its life, has its life in the Logos, and that this idea is expressed in a profounder way than by saying ἔχει ζωὴν; that it was life (before it was called into being, or became) in him. This profound and mysterious statement is affirmed by Dr. Moulton and Dr. Westcott to find different but clear expression in Revelation 4:11, "Thou art worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive glory, etc.; for thou didst create all things, and for thy pleasure they were [η΅σαν, the reading preferred by Tisehendorf (8th edit.) and Westcott and Herr, instead of εϊσι, 'they are'] and were created." Dr. Westcott thinks that "life" here represents "the Divine element in creation, that in virtue of which things 'are' each according to the fulness of its being." What has been created represents the eternal thought, the life that it had in the Logos before the world was. Unless one were compelled to take this thought by the exigencies of the textual criticism, we should hesitate to affirm that this can be the author's intention. To us the common punctuation is far more satisfactory m meaning: Apart from him there came into existence not one thing which has come into existence. This, in its grand comprehensiveness and individualizing of every molecule and every force, brings the mind of the reader down from eternity to time, from the creation to the preservation and providence of the world, and it prepares the way for the great assertion of the following verse.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
All things were made by him,.... Which is a proof at once of all that is said before; as that he was in the beginning; and that he was with God the Father in the beginning; and that he was God; otherwise all things could not have been made by him, had either of these been untrue: which is to be understood, not of the new creation; for this would be a restraining "all" things to a "few" persons only; nor is it any where said, that all things are new made, but made; and it is false, that all were converted, that have been converted, by the ministry of Christ, as man: all men are not renewed, regenerated, nor reformed; and the greater part of those that were renewed, were renewed before Christ existed, as man; and therefore could not be renewed by him, as such: though indeed, could this sense be established, it would not answer the end for which it is coined; namely, to destroy the proof of Christ's deity, and of his existence before his incarnation; for in all ages, from the beginning of the world, some have been renewed; and the new creation is a work of God, and of almighty power, equally with the old; for who can create spiritual light, infuse a principle of spiritual life, take away the heart of stone, and give an heart of flesh, or produce faith, but God? Regeneration is denied to be of man, and is always ascribed to God; nor would Christ's being the author of the new creation, be any contradiction to his being the author of the old creation, which is intended here: by "all things", are meant the heaven, and all its created inhabitants, the airy, starry, and third heavens, and the earth, and all therein, the sea, and every thing that is in that; and the word, or Son of God, is the efficient cause of all these, not a bare instrument of the formation of them; for the preposition by does not always denote an instrument, but sometimes an efficient, as in 1 Corinthians 1:9 and so here, though not to the exclusion of the Father, and of the Spirit:
and without him was not any thing made that was made: in which may be observed the conjunct operation of the word, or Son, with the Father, and Spirit, in creation; and the extent of his concern in it to every thing that is made; for without him there was not one single thing in the whole compass of the creation made; and the limitation of it to things that are made; and so excludes the uncreated being, Father, Son, and Spirit; and sin also, which is not a principle made by God, and which has no efficient, but a deficient cause. So the Jews ascribe the creation of all things to the word. The Targumists attribute the creation of man, in particular, to the word of God: it is said in Genesis 1:27. "God created man in his own image": the Jerusalem Targum of it is,
"and the word of the Lord created man in his likeness.
And Genesis 3:22 "and the Lord God said, behold the man is become as one of us", the same Targum paraphrases thus,
"and the word of the Lord God said, behold the man whom I have created, is the only one in the world.
Also in the same writings, the creation of all things in general is ascribed to the word: the passage in Deuteronomy 33:27 "the eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms", is paraphrased by Onkelos,
"the eternal God is an habitation, by whose word the world was made.
In Isaiah 48:13 it is said, "mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth". The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziah on it is,
"yea, by my word I have founded the earth:
which agrees with what is said in Hebrews 11:3, and the same says Philo the Jew, who not only calls him the archetype, and exemplar of the world, but the power that made it: he often ascribes the creation of the heavens, and the earth unto him, and likewise the creation of man after whose image, he says, he was made (t). The Ethiopic version adds, at the end of this verse, "and also that which is made is for himself",
(t) De Mundi Opificio, p. 4, 5, 31, 32. De Alleg. l. 1. p. 44. De Sacrificiis Abel & Cain, p. 131. De Profugis, p. 464. & de Monarch. p. 823.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. All things, &c.—all things absolutely (as is evident from Joh 1:10; 1Co 8:6; Col 1:16, 17; but put beyond question by what follows).
without Him was not any thing—not one thing.
made—brought into being.
that was made—This is a denial of the eternity and non-creation of matter, which was held by the whole thinking world outside of Judaism and Christianity: or rather, its proper creation was never so much as dreamt of save by the children of revealed religion.
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