The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics

By George H. Van Kooten | Go to book overview

THE 'TRUE LIGHT WHICH
ENLIGHTENS EVERYONE'(JOHN 1:9):
JOHN, GENESIS, THE PLATONIC NOTION OF THE
'TRUE, NOETIC LIGHT,'AND THE ALLEGORY OF
THE CAVE IN PLATO'S REPUBLIC

GEORGE H. VAN KOOTEN


Introduction1

It has long been noted by scholars that the opening of the Prologue to John's Gospel runs parallel to the opening of Genesis. John's wellknown statement that 'in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God'(1:1) resembles and summarizes the choice of words in Genesis: 'In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth (…) and God said …'(1:1–3a). This speaking of God is now rendered abstract and conceptualized as the activity of God's Word, his Logos. Plenty of attention has been paid to the GraecoRoman background of this conceptualization. Generally, this concept of divine Logos has been understood as a Stoic notion, though it is in fact attested in ancient philosophy at large, whether in Stoic, Middle Platonist or other traditions.

However, the similarities between John's Prologue and the start of Genesis do not end here. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that John also draws on what Genesis tells about the light, and this issue will be the central focus in this paper.2 According to Genesis, 'God said: Let there be

1 I gratefully acknowledge and thank the participants of the TBN conference for
their constructive criticism and suggestions, in particular Prof. J. Dillon, who sug-
gested I should elaborate on the availability of Greek paideia to Jews, including those
in Palestine. Furthermore, I profited much from the discussion of this paper with
Prof. M. Frede (Oxford) in which he underlined the importance of the Platonic doc-
trine of the 'double Helios.'I am also very grateful for comments received at the 2003
British New Testament Conference at Birmingham, as well as for those made by Prof.
R. Roukema (Kampen). I wish to thank Dr Maria Sherwood Smith (Leiden) for her
corrections to the English of this paper.

2 On the congruity of the light imagery of John's Prologue and the beginning of
Genesis, see also M. Endo, Creation and Christology: A Study on the Johannine Prologue in the
Light of Early Jewish Creation Accounts
(Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen

-149-

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