JESUS IS THE LOGOS, THE WORD OF GOD
I tapped into one of my Bible apps, Logos, to see what they had to say about the apostle John’s use of Logos in John 1:1. A question begs to be asked, why did John call Jesus “the Logos”? The question is complex and has been debated for many years and has created considerable debate, puzzling biblical scholars for millennia. John created a debate that has not been easy to settle.
Theological words and their definitions are important for us to gain correct understanding biblical concepts. For instance the Johannine use of logos, which in its most basic root meaning is word, speech, or message. In the beginning, was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Those are the words of John in John 1:1.
My view is that John took the use of the word logos from Greek philosophy. This is not a consensus position, as theologians throughout history, starting with Irenaeus and into modern times, have opposed thisview. The typical argument against the use of Greek thought, even though the concept of logos was huge in Greek philosophy, is that it would be beneath the apostle to adapt Greek ideology forsuch a profound theological point.
My dispute over the lack of biblical dignity and Greek thought is there is biblical precedence for the adaptation ofGreek philosophicalideology in the New Testament. Acts 17:28 records Paul quoting a Greek poet Aratus, as he makes a theological point. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring. Knowing the profound Greek influence on the Roman world, including Israel, it is not a stretch to assume John was doing the same thing Paul would do years later.
It is unquestionable that John was fascinated with the concept of Logos. John uses the term twice, here in the beginning of John’s Gospel, and then later in The Revelation of Jesus Christ. So, how did the Greek philosophers define the use of Logos?
As I mentioned earlier, logos means, “word.” But like word usage in multiple languages and instances, words can take other meaning based on use, understanding, and applications. Logos is like this, as logos took on a metaphysical and metaphorical meaning in Greek. Pythagoras the mathematician elevated the meaning of logos to the law that makes math workable. Heraclitus and Aristotle, both famous Greek philosophers, and Hellenist and Stoic philosophers, identified logos as the ‘divine principle’ that served as the creator and sustainer of the world.
The importance that the Greeks on the Logos carried over through the use of English words like ecology, psychology, and theology, among other -ology- words. The suffix “ology” uses the root logos. Greek philosophy viewed the Logos the Reason that upholds all reason.
Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher, used logos in an almost identical way to John. It is debatable that they were cognizant of each other’s ideas. Philo identified the Logos as the governing begotten son of God, overseeing creation, mediating creature and creator. John had a similar idea with a distinctly Christian Twist.
Paul alludes to Greek philosophy and understanding in Acts 17 when Paul addresses “the unknown God” of the Athenians. Paul transposed their altar onto Yahweh, the missing element of their temple. Both John and Paul freely adapted Greek ideas and concepts as vehicles to convey biblical truth about God and His only begotten Son, Jesus.
If the camp I belong to is right, John borrowed his understanding of the Logos from Greek philosophers. But John went further, taking prisoner the idea of Logos for Christ. By using the Greek concept of logos in his opening statement about Jesus, John ingeniously makes a transcendent attachment that would be widely understood in his day.
Everyone who read Greek and understood the Greek thought process, which would have been most people, would easily understand john’s use of Logos, as he wrote, “In the beginning was the Logos.” The Greek mind readily accepted the transcendent entity of logos . They would understand John’s point. John was proclaiming Jesus as the embodiment of Logos.
The genius of John’s adaptation goes beyond Greek thought however, as every Jewish reader would quickly understand John’s words about the Logos as a reference to Genesis 1:1, where Moses penned, “In the beginning.” Jewish readers would have understood John’s point clearly. John clearly is saying Jesus is both God and creator.
Holy Spirit breathed a few succinct words into the inspired and infallible Word of God, our Bible, to capture our attention, even as Holy Spirit instructs the Jew and the Greek based readers of his Gospel. As we read John’s Gospel, it becomes abundantly clear that he is providing with indisputable evidence that John was addressing both audiences, the Jew and the Greek. And John redeemed a profound Greek philosophical idea, attaching the Logos to the Savior.
By connecting Logos to Jesus, the two primary ways salvation is used in Scripture attaches Jesus to the Word of God from creation forward. The implications of this revelation are profound, as John identifies Jesus as preexisting and as the orchestrator of everything that is contained in Scripture, regardless of whether or not we like what Jesus says about creation and Scripture.
You see, Jesus is God’s universal revelation. The writer to the Hebrews tells that Jesus is God’s Word, and that His Word has spoken to us through the law and prophets, which is a Jewish idiomatic way of saying the Scriptures. This is why Hebrews opens with, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews1:1-3).
God used a formulaic term when speaking to us through the prophets, “And the word of the Lord came to,” or, “Thus says the Lord.” The formulas were Word/Logos based revelation, as they presented a previously unknown revelation from God. Why the prophetic injunctions are important to this thread of thought is this, God spoke through Jesus like He did though the prophets, with one caveat, Jesus is a superior point of revelation, as Jesus is THE WORD, from eternity past to eternity future.
Looping back to John 1:1, when John wrote “In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word (logos) was with God and the word (logos) was God,” we can understand what John meant.
We garnish our understanding through the dynamic of semantics and context. According to John 1:1-3, the Logos (Jesus), was in the beginning, existing as He always has, Jesus existed with God as He always has, Jesus is equal with God, as He “was God,” Jesus Is a “Him, (v. 2), He is the Word, Jesus was in the beginning with God, Jesus is He through whom all things were made. In other words, John’s “logos” is fundamental to the universe.
Nijay K. Gupta comments in Logos Bible Software on the use of logos and John 1:1-4 where he writes: “The reader is meant to reflect on texts like Genesis 1, where God spoke creation into existence with His powerful voice, and Isaiah 55, where the great word of the Lord regarding deliverance and hope “goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Although the image of Jesus as Logos/Word does not reappear after John 1, John confirms his own use of the Word-agent as a point of identification in the recording of Jesus’ teaching and proclamation concerning His ministry in John 4:50 and 8:31. Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
Friends, Jesus is the “word of God.” Jesus is the author and sustainer of all creation, including the new creation. Jesus has orchestrated the Bible, from start to finish, as the infallible, inerrant, complete revelation of everything God has meant for us to know about Him. Jesus as God’s word, “has made Him known” even as He had “declared him,” according to John 1:18.
John masterfully combined the revelation of Jesus as the ordering principle, the force behind the universe, according to the Greeks with YHWH’s perfect Word found in the Bible.