John’s Prologue (1 Jno. 1:1-4)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 Jno. 1:1-4
What if I said, “OK students, diagram the opening sentence of the first epistle of John. You’ve got five minutes.” First, do you think this is what John wanted his readers to do (assuming a form of this exercise was current back then)? Second, assuming John’s grammatical structure is difficult here, would a diagram exercise really help us?
Most commentaries begin their analysis by wrestling with the grammatical structure of this passage. In some cases their analysis is more complicated than the text. So here’s what helps me. I go into this knowing what John wrote in the gospel of John, and knowing what he wrote after verse 4. That’s the best help I’ve found in navigating his prologue here.
The result is my paraphrase: Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood person. Yet, He has a real existence beyond and before His earthly stay and is eternal. This truth was proclaimed by men who heard Him, saw Him and touched Him. As they gave their testimony and people responded, fellowship with God and the joy of that fellowship became real.