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J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, Eerdmans, 2010.

(Reviewed by Jim West)

I. Preamble: The Light (1:1-5)

Michaels’ exegesis and exposition follow immediately his introduction and he straightway
launches into ‘controversial’ territory.

In identifying the first five verses of John as ‘preamble,’ rather

than the first eighteen as ‘prologue,’ we are breaking with
tradition, and within these five verses we break with tradition again
by accenting ‘the light’ rather than ‘the Word’ as their major theme
(p. 45).

Many may find his argument unimpressive but if given a chance it is in fact very persuasive. As
Michaels points out

… Logos, as a title for Jesus, real as it is, must be kept in

perspective. It appears only four times in the Gospel, three times
in the very first verse, once in verse 14, and never again in the rest
of John. ‘Light,’ on the other hand, is a dominant image
throughout at least the first half of the Gospel (p. 46).

Isn’t it simply amazing that texts we have all read dozens and dozens of times contain things that
we miss and when someone points out the obvious we say ‘duh’ to ourselves and then ask ‘why
didn’t I notice that before?’

That, however, is not the only interesting observation Michaels makes. Further on he notes that

Jesus …is first ‘the Word’, then ‘the Light’, then the ‘One and
Only’ and finally, in much of the rest of the Gospel, ‘the Son’ (p.

I see this as a very important insight into something like a slow but steady revelation of who it is
exactly the author of the Gospel perceives Jesus to be. He’s the word, and then he’s seen as the
light, and then he’s seen more specifically as the one and only, and finally he’s perceived to be
the Son himself. John, it seems, intentionally ‘unfolds’ Jesus this way to drive home the point.
It’s the building towards a crescendo that makes an even greater impact.

Michaels in this section also shows himself, again, to be a fine theologian and not merely an

Right from the start it is clear that a confrontation between light and darkness has taken place
once and for all, and that the light has emerged victorious. The light shines on in the darkness,
and the writer will now proceed to narrate how this all came about (p. 57).
When we return, we will next look at Michaels’ treatment of John 2:13-22- Jesus in the Temple
at Passover.