The UK Bible Students Website
Question: In the King James Version of John 1: 9 it is said of Jesus that He is ‘[T]he true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ Does this mean that Jesus will give the Gospel truth to everyone?
Answer: This text follows a description in vs. 6-8 of John the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming of Jesus. With reference to the Baptist, v. 8 says plainly that ‘he was not that Light’ (see also, vs. 20, 21, 27).
One can look at v. 9 in at least two ways, depending on the particular translation employed and the emphasis inherent in each:
The emphasis here is on those who ‘come into the world’. Verse 10 says, ‘[Jesus] was in the world and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not’. Each occurrence of ‘world’ here is a translation of the Greek, kosmos, which denotes the created or settled order. In other words, the ‘world’ is the physical state of existence. So, from the standpoint of the KJV, the emphasis is on (a) Jesus as the Light and (b) those who ‘cometh into the world’, that is, all the born – past, present and future.
Some maintain that the KJV rendering of v. 9 incidentally proves that the human condition begins at birth, when baby’s first independent breath is taken (‘. . . that cometh into the world’). This view imputes a meaning which may be redundant to understanding the text. For it is not reasonable, in any case, to suppose that Jesus could be the Light for an unborn person. Nor is this a natural reading of the text. Furthermore, it is an unfortunate one: it could be invoked as biblical support for the contemporary idea that abortion is relatively insignificant, on the tenuous grounds that a foetus at any stage of development is not ‘human’. The thrust of John 1: 9 is on the awarding of life through the Light, not the preventing of it.
2. Other Translations
Other versions associate the ‘coming into the world’, not with persons in general, but with Jesus in particular. For example:
Commenting on John 1: 9, the Wycliffe Bible Commentary says:
‘The syntax of the verse in the Greek is difficult. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world (Revised Standard Version) is the most probable rendering.’
Regardless of the translation, it is evident in each one that Jesus is the Light. The principle difference between the KJV and the translations cited here is that the later ones emphasise the fact that the Light is a new thing – a contrast between before (‘darkness’, v. 5) and after. See 2 Timothy 1: 10, in which Paul says the Church’s calling ‘is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.’
Each translation has in common the notion that ‘every’ person will at some point be enlightened by Jesus. For some it is in this life (through faith); for the vast majority it will be in the next, at the general resurrection (the Millennium). This does not mean automatic eternal salvation for all, but it does mean that all be offered an opportunity – through faith in Christ – to get eternal life. We cover these aspects of Election and Free Grace elsewhere on our site.
Copyright May 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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