Notes on John (Pt. 9): Two Beginnings

[Notes on John (Pt. 8 )]

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

– Revelation 21:1-5

“In the Beginning…”/”This Beginning…”

In the prologue to his gospel,[1] the apostle John draws upon the structure of Genesis 1, utilizing the phrase “In the beginning” and the constant refrain “the next day” (which curiously lacks any reference to “evening”), thereby presenting Christ to us as the Creator of the world who has come to “make all things new,”[2] and as the Light of the world which the darkness did not overcome.[3] [For more on this, see my previous post on John 1.] John 2 makes what is implicit to John 1 – i.e. the Creation/Redemption parallel intimated by John’s allusion to Genesis 1 – more explicit, it seems, in v. 11. The NKJV renders verse 11 as follows:

11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

The NIV and ESV translations differ, translating “beginning” as “first,” which smoothes over what appears to be an otherwise strange manner of phrasing. However, John’s structure seems to insist on the NKJV’s translation, for there are a few themes that this verse shares with the prologue of John 1, as listed below.

John 1:1-18 John 2:11
“In the beginning…” (Creation Work)

Seven Days of Creation (implied)

“We beheld His glory…”[4]

“This beginning…” (Miraculous-Redemptive Work)

Seven Miracles (here unfolding)

“…[He]…manifested His glory…”[5]

Whereas “the beginning” in John 1:1 speaks of the creative work of Christ, this “beginning” speaks of the miraculous-redemptive work of Christ. What is significant to note is that this is the first of seven signs recorded by John to prove that Jesus is “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth”[6] the Son of God, paralleling, it seems, the seven the days of creation.[7]

Dr. John Fesko’s interpretation of the chronology of this first miracle, moreover, further underscores this Creation/Redemption theme by understanding the phrase “On the third day…”[8] to mean “three days after the last day recorded” (i.e. the fourth day) in John 1. This would make “the third day” the seventh day, and would point us to the rest offered to us by Christ, who replaces ritual with the wine of the New Covenant, and thereby announces the coming of God’s Kingdom and the beginning of the Messianic era.[9] Perhaps one may also see in the Lord’s provision of wine for the married couple an echo of Genesis 2?

-h.

[Notes on John (Pt. 10)]


[1] John 1:1-18

[2] Revelation 21:5

[3] John 1:5

[4] 1:14

[5] 2:11

[6] 1:45

[7] This seems to be further underscored by John’s usage of the same term in 1:1 and 2:11, ἀρχή (archē).

[8] John 2:1

[9] Dr. Fesko’s sermon on the first miracle of the Lord can be listened to here. Click here to listen to the entire series.

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