John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 1:14, the Logos (Part II of V)

And the Logos became flesh,

and dwelt among us,

and we saw his glory

//Yesterday, I repeated a statement attributed to the philosopher Plato, long before Jesus lived, suggesting that one day God might send forth a Logos, who would reveal all mysteries and make everything plain.

Hundreds of years later, John wrote about this Logos in his Gospel. But before John wrote, Philo of Alexandria (a Hellenized Jew) also used the term Logos to reconcile Stoicism and Judaism. Philo spoke of the knowledge of God as eternal life, and identified the Logos as the firstborn Son of God—a phrase which, until New Testament times, had always been understood metaphorically. Philo never pictured the Logos as a personal being.

But John, in his Gospel, turned this line of thought on its head. In an astounding claim, John alleges that this Logos has arrived … and that it came in the flesh! Literally, as written in Greek, John’s opening verses tell how God came and “tabernacled” with mortals, choosing a temporary dwelling place among his people. This language evokes an image of the portable tabernacle of the Hebrew nation as they traveled through the wilderness.

Until verse 14 (today’s verse), John’s Hellenistic audience would have never imagined he was speaking about a historical character, or describing the events of a historical life. His readers already knew all about the Logos, but now John drops a bombshell: he is writing about the glory of the Jewish Messiah, a flesh-and-blood person!

Where is this line of philosophical thought leading us? More tomorrow.

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.