The Light Shines in Darkness: John 1:3–5

Light shines in darkness

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b) John 1:3–5: John wrote, “Everything through him was made, and apart from him was made nothing which had been made.”

He asserted that creation occurred through the Word (John 1:1–2; Col 1:15–17; Rev 3:14).[1] By that activity God revealed himself to humanity for the first time (Heb 1:1–4).[2]

The apostle specified that the Father did not first create Christ and then permit him to create the universe. Instead, the Word always existed.[3]

John implied that only the Son created, for the Father made everything “through him” (cf. 1 Cor 8:6). Yet both remain at work in our world (John 5:17–19).[4]

What God does, the Word does, making every act of Jesus a divine enterprise (John 14:10).[5]



He wrote, “In him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. And the light in the darkness shines, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John narrowed his scope from Jesus’s work in all creation to his formation of life.[6]

Then he asserted that Christ’s activity expanded to include the new creation.[7]

Thus, “life” (zōē) carries a double meaning, referring to both physical and spiritual realms (John 5:24–26; John 10:10, 28–29).[8]

In the book of Isaiah, light accompanies the messiah (Isa 9:1–7; Isa 42:5–7; Isa 49:5–6).[9] Not only does Jesus confer light and life, he embodies them (John 11:23–27; John 14:6; John 8:12; John 9:5).[10] In fact, all the light we enjoy derives from the Word.[11]

The apostle’s statement, “And the light in the darkness shines” encompasses the past (Gen 1:1–3), when the Logos was shining in the primordial darkness; John’s era, when the glory of the Word made flesh dwelt among them (John 12:35–36); and the present time, through the work of the Spirit (John 16:7–14; Matt 5:14–16).[12]

In John’s vision of the new Jerusalem, he noted, “And the city has no need of the sun nor the moon, that it might shine, for the glory of the Lord lit it, and its lamp [is] the Lamb” (Rev 21:23).

The natural antithesis of light is darkness, which the presence of light dispels in both the physical and spiritual arenas.[13] In this instance, spiritual darkness refers to evil (1 John 2:8–11).[14]

The verb John chose to describe what the darkness failed to do (katalambanō) has several meanings, including “to make something one’s own,” “to grasp or comprehend,” “to gain control by seizing,” and “to surprise by coming upon.”[15]

Thus, he employed a double meaning: those in darkness do not accept the light; yet, despite their efforts, they cannot overcome it.[16]



The Essenes, a Jewish sect which thrived from the mid-second century BC until 70 AD,[17] also saw its adherents as “the sons of light” engaged in mortal combat with forces of darkness but destined to prevail.[18]

They asserted:

[God] has created man to govern the world and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of His visitation: the spirits of truth and injustice.

Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light, but those born of injustice spring from a source of darkness. All the children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in the ways of light, but all the children of injustice are ruled by the Angel of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness…

But the God of Israel and His Angel of Truth will succor (help) all the sons of light.[19]



Throughout John’s writings, he imparts a sense of division between those experiencing authentic life with God and those existing without him.[20]

Perpetual conflict between darkness and light emerges as a major theme of Jesus’s mission (John 12:46; 1 John 1:5–7).[21]

Although Christ experienced severe opposition—even causing his death—his crucifixion and resurrection enabled him to overcome the darkness (John 12:27–33; John 16:32–33; Col 2:13–15).[22]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read John 1:3–5. What themes did John employ which were likely familiar to his original audience? How does this passage affect your understanding of Gen 1:1–3?  Why can we have confidence as we go through the struggles of life?




Go to God Separates the Waters (Gen 1:6–8)

[Related posts include In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1–2); In the Beginning of God’s Creating (Gen 1:1–2); and Let There Be Light (Gen 1:3–5); The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: God Establishes His Cosmic Temple through Creation (Genesis 1:1–13)]


[1]Beasley-Murray, John, 11.

[2]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 70.

[3]Burge, John, 55–6.

[4]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 71.

[5]Burge, John, 56.

[6]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 73.

[7]Beasley-Murray, John, 11.

[8]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 73–4.

[9]Andreas J. Köstenberger, “John,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 421.

[10]Carson, The Gospel According to John, 118–9.

[11]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 75.

[12]Beasley-Murray, John, 11.

[13]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 75.

[14]Carson, The Gospel According to John, 119.

[15]Danker, et al., “καταλαμβανω” (katalambanō), BDAG, 519–20.

[16]Burge, John, 56.

[17]John J. Collins, “Essenes,” ABD 2:619–26, 619.

[18]Craig S. Keener, InterVarsity Press Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (IVPBBCNT) (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), John 1:5.

[19]Geza Vermes, trans., The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 4th Ed (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic, 1995), 1QS 3, 73,

[20]Robert Kysar, “John, The Gospel of,” ABD 3:912–31, 926.

[21]Morris, The Gospel According to John, 76.

[22]Burge, John, 56.