In a recent article entitled “Prologues and Epilogues”, fellow author David A. Reinstein ponders the effects of prologues upon the understanding of written materials. This educated and talented author suggests that, had we unearthed some “lost book” that came before the words of Genesis, our ideas concerning sin could have been altered, and our Christian theology might be greatly changed.
In response to David’s excellent article, I made the comment that there was indeed a prologue to the book of Genesis, and that it did affect our view of sin and our Christian theology. In response to my post, David sent me a very respectful private email in which he asked me to explain how a prologue can be written after the fact, even centuries after the fact.
Defining A Prologue
Since most modern dictionaries agree in content, I will, for the sake of this message pull my definition of the word “prologue” from a random Internet dictionary site. So let us use The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Thus we find the following information:
prologueoften US, prolog [ˈprəʊlɒg]
1. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms)
a. the prefatory lines introducing a play or speech
b. the actor speaking these lines
2. a preliminary act or event
3. (Music / Classical Music) (in early opera)
a. an introductory scene in which a narrator summarizes the main action of the work
b. a brief independent play preceding the opera, esp one in honour of a patron
vb-logues, -loguing, -loguedUS, -logs-loging, -loged
(tr) to introduce or preface with or as if with a prologue
[from Latin prologus, from Greek prologos, from pro-2 + logos discourse]
For the purposes of this message, I chose to focus on the definition that describes a prologue as an introductory scene that provides a summary of the main action of a work. However, I believe that the definition of a prologue must also be established by the relationships of the following two factors:
- Is a prologue bound to the text by a physical location within the material?
- Is the established relative connection of a prologue to the summarized materials based more upon the position in time and space of its contents, or is it established merely by the physical location of the information?
Common usages, and the implications contained in the definition of prologue, indicate that both of these statements may found the normal application of a prologue. However, I ask that you accept that a time and space relationship holds preeminence over any condition of physical location. Thus I establish the following two criteria:
- A prologue, in at least some contexts, must include a summary of the main action of a body of written work.
- A prologue, in many methods of application, will establish information that precedes the main body of work in both time and space.
The Words of Scripture That Come Before Genesis
Through common acceptance, we understand that the book of Job is the oldest book in scripture. Therefore we must conceive that the books of the bible are not ordered by conventional time and space. Rather, they are ordered according to the wisdom of the author, the Holy Spirit of God:
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Now if the order of the bible is not based upon that which came first in physical time, it must be order according to a deeper measure of time, perhaps even a measure of time that is outside of the realm of man’s touching. Genesis begins with the creation of the earth. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1). The gospel according to John, composed by the same Spirit who inspired the Old Testament, begins before the creation of the earth:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men,” (John 1:1-4).
We see in the context of these words a clear statement that Jesus Christ was here before God spoke the words of creation. Indeed, these words inform us that the very creation that is recorded in Genesis 1:1 is the work of the preexisting, eternally existing, God in the person of Jesus Christ. In conclusion, I believe that the words in these first four verses of the gospel according to John satisfy the requirements of a prologue in that:
- They fully summarize the primary purpose, principle, and action of the full body of the bible.
- They speak of a time and space that exceeds the boundaries that are provided in Genesis 1:1.
Yet it matters not that you agree with me concerning the issue of prologues and their place in written materials. What matters above all else is that you understand that Jesus Christ was here before the beginning, that Jesus Christ was at work during the beginning of creation, and that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh as the life and the light of men.
Yes, this “not”, lost book, does indeed shape our understanding of sin, and our Christian theology.