John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 1:1, the Logos (Part I of V)

In the beginning was the Logos.

//John’s Gospel is a fascinating and complex theological work, painting Christianity (which was itself an offshoot of Judaism) with a Hellenistic brush. I thought it might be enlightening to discuss the Logos, John’s word for the pre-existing Christ. In most all Bible versions, the Greek word Logos has been translated to Word.

But what is a Logos? Why does John use this word to describe Christ?

Logos is the mind of God controlling this world, the force changing it from chaos to order, and for hundreds of years before Jesus came, it portrayed a philosophical line of thought known well by all learned men in the Hellenistic world, much as scholars today might discuss evolution or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Plato (remember him?) reportedly once said to his followers, “It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Logos, who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.” The idea of the Logos, or Word, began back in the sixth century BCE among the Greeks, in the very city in which John’s Gospel was supposedly written (Ephesus). Its roots go deep into Stoicism, where it is perceived as a sort of cosmic reason, giving order and structure to the universe. In Stoic thought, Logos was Reason, the impersonal, rational principle governing the universe. This principle was thought to pervade the entire universe and was indeed the only god recognized by the Stoics.

If Plato really uttered these words, it turns out he was right. This Logos, says John, is what came from God to visit us on earth in the first century.

In the beginning was the Logos,

and the Logos was with God,

and the Logos was God.

Continued tomorrow.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Lee, I’m hoping you can help me with something…

    I’ve seen the quote attributed to Plato in various sermons – most notably James Montgomery Boice – but have yet to find an original source. My cursory web search has only turned up Christian sermons, which doesn’t bode well for the validity of the quote. I’ve used it in a sermon before but I’m hoping to find an actual reference outside of the Christian community (ideally in Plato’s own writings) before I use it again.

    Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks for your help!


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