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 came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Translation: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. This (Word) was in the beginning with God. All came into being through him, and apart from him nothing happened in that which begins. In him was life and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.
It happened, a man named John sent from alongside God. This man came to witness in order that he might witness concerning the light so that all might trust through him. He was not that light, but in order that he might witness concerning the light. The true light which enlightens all humanity was coming into the universe. He was in the universe, and the universe became through him, but the universe did not perceive him. He came into his own, and his own did not receive him. But as many as received him, he gave them power to become children of God, the ones trusting into his name, who were born not of bloodshed nor out of flesh-will, nor out of man-will, but out of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived in us and we have beheld his glory, glory as only-born from alongside the Father, full of grace and truth. John witnessed about him and he cried out, saying, "This is he whom I said the one coming after me happened before me because he was first of me." For out of his plentitude we all have received, grace against grace, for the law through Moses was given, the grace and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, only-begotten God, the one into the bosom of the father, he has translated.
Background and situation: The text reverberates with well-known Johannine themes--Word (logos), light, life, witness--and also some that are less well-known, such as "cosmos," "faithing," "all humanity," and the Greek word ginomai, in its various forms, a word whose fundamental meaning is "to bring into being," and which can be legitimately translated in a variety of ways.
This is not surprising, of course, considering that the fourth gospel has many affinities with the book of Genesis and the original story of creation. (For a detailed sketch of John 1 compared with Genesis 1, see here.)
One of the more obvious of these is the opener: "In the beginning." In the beginning, the Word--logos--was fully equal with God. In fact, the creation itself came into being through the Word. This is indeed the highest of high Christologies, and the basis for much of the trinitarian theology which would later be formulated in the third and fourth centuries.
Compare the various New Testament writers on this question: When and how was Jesus the Son of God? Paul, the earliest New Testament writer, seems not terribly interested in this question, but sometimes gives the impression that it was in his resurrection that Jesus became Son of God. Mark, writing about twenty years after Paul, seems to say that Jesus became Son of God at his baptism. Matthew and Luke, writing about ten to fifteen years after Mark, roll this back to the birth of Jesus.
Just after Matthew and Luke, the later Pauline writings--Ephesians, Colossians--accent the cosmic sweep of God's work in Christ, just as does the fourth gospel. The fourth gospel goes them one better though. Where, for Colossians, Christ the "first-born of all creation," he is not born at all in the fourth gospel. The Word was always with God even before creation began.