Aug 26

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The world, the world, and the world. This is where we stopped in the last article on the subject: “The World and The Earth.” The words come from “The Gospel According to John,” when he wrote of Jesus: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). Each time the word “world” is used, it is the Greek “kosmos.” The general rule is, that if a writer uses the same word, in the same context, it will have the same meaning. However, there are exceptions to the general rule. Long ago, I remember my English teacher telling the class, the rules about the English language as it is written. Then, after a long list of rules, she said, “except!” My question was, “How do I know when the exception is used and how am I to know when not to use the exception?” It was here that English became a mystery and those who read my writings, will testify that it is still a mystery to me!
So, what about John’s use of the same word, “world,” three times in the verse addressing Jesus. How was Jesus: 1) “in the world;” 2) then the “world was made by him;” and 3) “the world knew him not.” Let us first recall, the word “world” is not the same as the word “earth!” In the days of Noah, the “world” was destroyed save eight souls, and the “earth” was forever changed; as Peter wrote: “Whereby the world (kosmos) that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Pet. 3:6); therefore, we know that the word “world” (kosmos) can and does refer to the inhabitants of the earth, while not referring to the “earth.” However, this does not answer our question: “How is the word “world” used in John 1:10 but it sure does help! If we understand the words, Jesus “was in the world,” to mean that Jesus lived and died among the inhabitants of the Jewish nation, then, we have made a major step in the right direction! Keep in mind, John is writing in the past tense, after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus! Therefore, Jesus “was,” at one time “in the world.”
Now, this moves us to the second phrase: ““world was made by him;” here attention is called once more the past tense of the word “was.” Keep in mind, the “world” is not the same as the “earth;” therefore, the words do not refer to the opening statement of the Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The word “God” as used here is referring to the “Godhead,” which includes: God the Father, God the Son (Word) and God the Holy Spirit. It appears that many commentaries have varying opinions on this verse; thus, there are verging degrees of understanding and some miss the real meaning all together! It would be worth our time to note some of the views of the different commentaries, but space and time will not allow us to do so. If we are going to follow the general rule about the use of the same word in a text, that it is used in the same way; then, by the words: “the world was made by him (Jesus),” John is saying that Jesus “made” the Jewish nation, “world.” The words, “was made,” is the Greek “ginomai” and means: “to come into existence.” It was God who created the Jewish nation by calling them out of Egypt, baptizing them in the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-2), and giving them the law of Moses; thus, they became a “world,” the Jewish nation. Remember, of course, that the home land was just waiting for them to take. Thus, the second member of the “God” includes the God the Word” of John 1:1-2; 14). Therefore, the words, “the world was made by him,” more than likely means the Jewish world as in the first case: Jesus” was “in the world.” He was in the same “world” he “made.”
The third phrase, “the world knew him not,” is used in the same way as the first two phrases: “the Jewish world.” The Greek word, “ginōskō,” our English word “knew,” refers to a very intimate, essential; innermost, relationship. The Jews were very aware of the person named Jesus, they knew his “hometown,” they knew of his father, and his mother, but they still “knew him not! They did not “know” him as the “Word,” which “was made flesh, and dwelt among” them (John 1:14), they did not “know” him as the “Son of God;” they knew him only as Jesus who came from Nazareth. Therefore, they crucified him!
It does appear to this writer that the “world” in John 1:10 is used the same way in all three phrases! Finally, verse 11: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The words, “his own,” once more refers to the Jewish nation. And it appears the word “world” has no reference to the word “earth” in verse ten.

Frank R. Williams

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