The first chapter of the Gospel of John seems to contrast with the rest of the book, in style and purpose. It seems very abstract and poetic, while the rest of John seems to be a more traditional narrative.
Are there other passages that parallel the content of this chapter, or have a similar writing style? How should it be interpreted in light of the fact that none of the other Gospels have a similar passage?
The first chapter of the Gospel of John seems to contrast with the rest of the book, in style and purpose.
John 1:1-18 is different from the rest of the book in the way that a preface is different than the rest of any book. On the other hand, it also has cohesion with the rest of the book the way that a preface has cohesion with the rest of any book. There is some difference in style (though perhaps not as great as implied in the question). I would suggest that if you find the purpose of the rest of the book to be different than the preface, you have misunderstood the rest of the book.
As confirmation of this, consider his statement of purpose at the end of the book:
These things have been written so you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you would have life in his name.
But this is surely the purpose of introduction as well. John is a book about who Christ is as God and man; his humility, compassion and glory; his relationship to the Father, the Spirit, and the church; and his work of redemption. If you study John closely, you will find that the themes introduced in the first eighteen verses resonate throughout the book (for example, verse 18: Christ as the revelation of the Father).
It seems very abstract and poetic
This is not entirely true. For one, John is introduced in verse 6, and his testimony is given as historical fact and not as abstract poetry (7-8, 15).
while the rest of John seems to be a more traditional narrative.
This is not entirely true either. Much of it is discourse and prayer which is heavily theological in nature—in-depth Trinitarian theology, much of it. John is much less event-based than the other Gospels (especially Mark).
Moreover, a study of John's epistles reveals many of the same themes and concerns as in the Gospel, and as in the first chapter (light and darkness, Christ's relationship to the Father, our relationship to Christ, remaining in him, keeping his commandments...). This lends further credence to the cohesion of all of John's writing.
John 1:1-8 should be interpreted as an introduction to the rest of the book which sheds light on John's purpose in the entirety of the Gospel account.Tweet