New Doctrine in the Book of John

John 1:4-5 WEB

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it.

This is a difficult passage. It’s difficult to understand what the author means when he says the “light of men.” Do you recall from a previous blog I shared that the Book of John incorporates modern ideas into Christian thinking? And here we are, only four verses in, and we get our first example. This passage’s language comes from Zoroastrianism, a popular religious philosophy of John’s time.

Zoroastrianism has as its main concern the human moral struggle between good and evil (John 5:26-29). The concept of light and dark comes directly from the language of Zoroastrianism. The language of light and dark is something that John’s readers would have been familiar with and so he incorporates these ideas into his gospel (John 3:19, 8:12, 12:35, 12:46). However, John was not the first one to incorporate these ideas into their writings (Gen 1:4). The concept of light and dark is first introduced in the Bible by God in the 1st chapter of the Bible. There are passages that refer to the dualism of light and dark in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the War scroll in particular.

The dualistic ideas of Zoroastrianism go back to about 200 BC and they were ideas that were salient among the population. It makes sense that John would use this language to connect to his audience. But what’s really important for us as modern Christians to notice is that God used modern ideas and incorporated them into his Holy Word.

The concept of light versus dark is sprinkled throughout the Bible. However, it was not prevalent in the religious thinking of Christianity prior to John reintroducing them. Paul the Apostle only briefly mentions light and dark in his writings (Ro 13:12). And remember, these are ideas that would have been salient to Paul as well as John. If Christ could be compared to light, why did Paul not do that more?

Paul thought of himself as a servant of Christ (Ro 1:1). John, on the other hand, thought of himself as a friend of Christ (John 13:23). And from this lens of relationship, we get the idea of Christ as the light of men. It’s the writer of the Gospel of John that fully introduces us to the doctrine of Christ as the light of men.

Lord Jesus, help me always walk in your light. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.

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