John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 1:1, The Logos

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

//This post may be most interesting to those Christians who don’t picture Jesus as divine. Or, at least, do not equate Jesus with God.

Most of the evidence in the Bible for Jesus’ divinity comes from the Gospel of John. In this Gospel, the Jews prepare to stone Jesus for claiming to be God. Thomas, upon seeing the risen Christ, proclaims “My Lord and my God.” A number of more subtle hints exist throughout the Gospel. But the most direct claim is obtained by combining verse 1:1 with verse 1:14. First, we read that the Word was God. Now we read that the Word means Jesus:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here, the word translated into “Word” is the Greek word logos, a word used nowhere else in the New Testament. It is the name stoics gave to the order of the universe, and the term Philo used to reconcile Stoicism and Judaism. John appears to have adapted this word to the Old Testament mystery of Wisdom, which appears often in personified form, especially in the Wisdom literature. Logos is the mind of God controlling this world, the force changing it from chaos to order, and since the time of Heraclitus in the sixth century B.C., it portrayed a philosophical line of thought known well by all learned men in the Hellenistic world, much as scholars might today discuss evolution or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

This logos is Jesus, John says. Is he being purposefully mysterious? Whatever he means by “logos”—and Johannine scholars will probably never agree—John clearly calls upon us to understand Jesus, and his relation to God the Father, in a new way.

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