The first verses of the prologue of the gospel of John speak about the creation of the world through the Word: The world and all things in it came into being through the Logos, “and of all things that came into being not even one came into being without him.” Then, in the sixth verse, there appears Ioannes (as John is called in the gospel): “There was a man…” This is a rather poor translation. For in the Greek text it is striking that the word that speaks of the coming into being of all things and the word that speaks of the appearance of Ioannes is exactly the same, egeneto: contained in it is “genesis”.
“There came into being a human being (anthropos)” There began the becoming of a human being who is able to lift up his gaze to the world above, “anthropos” suggests this meaning. His name is Ioannes. What does a name express, a “name that is written in the heavens”? (Luke 10:20) Doesn’t it proclaim the mission, the mandate of the one who bears it? “Ioannes” has a great content: it is something like “the divine I pours out his grace.”
This name directs our gaze to John the Baptist. The prologue speaks about him, and at the same time it goes beyond the historical personality who appears at the turning point of time. He is the son of the priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, his mission is to prepare the way for Christ’s incarnation. But the prologue sees him in a greater context: his origin is in God who sent him, the being of Ioannes-John is connected with the very beginning of the world’s and mankind’s becoming. Indeed, Rudolf Steiner speaks of the first human being, of Adam, as the same who at the turning point of time appears as John the Baptist.
His call for a change of mind comes from the depth of his consciousness of mankind’s distance from God. He has this deep consciousness because he himself went through the fall as Adam. (According to Christ, John was Elijah in a previous incarnation (Mt 11:11-15). Why then does John deny that he is Elijah? Could it be that he had to focus exclusively on his present incarnation in order to be the preparer of Christ’s way?)
John bears in himself all becoming of mankind since the beginning until his time. He is the culmination of humanity. After the baptism of Jesus, John “stands” as he sees Jesus “walking”. (Jn 1:35-36) The climax of human becoming has been reached; with Christ’s coming a new movement begins. Because the entire past is present in John, he is able to direct his gaze to that which comes, graciously, toward mankind from the future.
The faculty to place oneself, while fully conscious of the past, into the service of the new impulse – we can call this historical conscience.