Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον
This supplements my previous post about Christ as the incarnate Logos …. But why have I quoted the verse in the original Greek? Because that is what John actually wrote and regrettably it is often poorly translated, particularly in more modern versions of the Bible. An example of a valid translation is as follows:
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world (New King James Version)
Other suitable translations are provided in the King James Version, 1599 Geneva, Vulgate (in unambiguous Latin!), Wycliffe, Douay-Rheims, indeed any translation that links “coming into the world” with “every man” rather than with Christ or the Light. Most modern versions have re-jigged the translation so that it means something quite different. Typical of such is the New American Standard Bible which reads:
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
Whilst Biblical Greek can be ambiguous in view of the word ordering and lack of punctuation, in this case we can be quite specific, thanks to the parsing of the word ἐρχόμενον meaning (in this instance) “coming”. More precisely ἐρχόμενον is a present participle in the middle or passive voice but the key point is it is accusative in case; that is it pertains to the object of the sentence not the subject, the subject being “that or “there” as the NASB has it, referring to “the Light” – the object being “every man”. I am not relying on my Greek studies at Bible college 20 years ago for this analysis, that is distinctly rusty, but if you go to the Greek interlinear HERE it does most of the hard work for you – providing you have some understanding of English grammar (verbs, participles, cases, tenses etc.)
Yet no one is denying that the true Light in persona has indeed come into the world, least of all gospel-writer John – he affirms it a couple of chapters later where he writes: “And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (Jn3:19). This time the verb “to come” is in the perfect tense (i.e. a completed action) indicative mood and active voice. But Jn1:9 refers to the fact that Christ has (to a degree) enlightened the soul/spirit of every human being entering the world. That should be no surprise, at least for those (creationists) who accept that the soul is provided by God, not in some way transmitted from its parents, a doctrine known as traducianism – follow link for the background to the doctrine. For all things were created through Christ and for Christ and there can be no created entity that is more important to God than that which has been created in His own image such as the human soul. So why should not the Cosmic Christ through Whom all things were created not wish innately to enlighten all men (cf. 1Tim2:4), knowing as He does that only a minority would come to know Christ in person or receive a faithful account concerning Himself, His Truth and His Life?
You can judge for yourself (via the above link) but I suggest the concept of traducianism opposes both reason and Scripture – the idea that that which is pure spirit and immortal can be derived from human sperm. And as Thomas Aquinas expressed it – “the human soul has activities beyond the capacity of matter and the existence of these activities shows that the human soul is both immaterial and immortal—but not independent of God’s causality.” The Roman Catholic Church has long taught that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents, and also it is immortal..” – to which I concur, but the problem for the creationist is how and why would God (through Christ) re-create something that is inherently evil if that is what one believes the human soul to be?
There is a solution and it is provided by the Apostle Paul if only he were better understood. It pertains to what he describes as “the body of this death” (somatos tou thanatou toutou Rom7:24) which the soul inhabits during its earthly existence. Now that fleshly part of man is progenerated from our human parents, ultimately from Adam. It is not directly created by God – Adam (ultimately Satan as tempter) is responsible for it, not God. God creates what is holy – man unavoidably procreates what is unholy and the two are combined resulting in the form of moral dualism that Paul expresses in Rom7:15-25, desiring in his innermost being to do what is lawful and right but constantly opposed by his fleshly senses – unless and until he is aided by the grace of the Gospel.
Paul does indeed affirm that “through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned (Rom5:12); and likewise “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor15:22). But these texts are not making the case for traducianism: the source of the problem is not man’s soul, which has been created and enlightened by Christ and is governed by the conscience; it is the procreated intellectual vessel (i.e. body and brain) that it temporally inhabits that causes man to sin. “O wretched man that I am; who can deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God it is through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom7:25). And for the Christian that deliverance has already begun, such that in Paul’s words he or she is given the spiritual resources to “possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour” (1Thes4:4).
There is great deal more that could be said on this subject and it has been in “The Little Book of Providence”, a free PDF of which is available HERE