“In the Beginning”: Genesis 1:1-5 and John 1:1-5

It cannot be an accident that the Gospel of John starts with the phrase “In the beginning” — just as Genesis does.  The first two words (in koine Greek) of both John and the Septuagint are, En arche.  This invites a comparison.

One could analyze the entire first chapters of the two books, but I’ll limit myself in this post to looking at just the first five verses in each.  Here they are, Genesis 1:1-5 followed by John 1:1-5:

1 In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth.
2 But the earth was unsightly and unfurnished, and darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the water.
3 And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.
4 And God saw the light that it was good, and God divided between the light and the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night, and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
¶So, what do we see?
¶Well, each is of course about the Creation — “In the beginning,” duh — of everything from nothing by a very powerful God.  The prominent common words are “God,” most obviously, but also “light” and “darkness.”  Of those last two, in both the former seems to be preferable to the latter (in Genesis, God sees the light is good, but we are not told that he sees the darkness is good, and in addition the darkness over the deep is linked with the earth’s being unsightly and unfurnished; in John, light is equated with life, which has to be a good thing, and we are told that darkness has not overcome light).  It’s intriguing to think about why it might be important for a faith to exalt light over darkness, and what a faith that did not do so would be like.
¶The differences in the two passages are that in Genesis there seems to be, besides God, something called “the Spirit of God,” while in John there is most definitely something besides God called “the Word.”  And in Genesis the emphasis on what’s being created is heaven and earth, while in John it’s life and men.
¶Well, sure.  The two passages are entirely consistent and both are dealing with the Biggest Things.  But first the Jews (and God inspiring them) had to explain who God was and how the show is all his; John (and God inspiring him) was out to explain who Jesus Christ (“the Word”) was and how He is the Savior of and way to eternal life for all us humans — or can be, if we listen.