Jump to content


Photo

The Logos


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
5 replies to this topic

#1 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 01:52 AM

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
This one was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being thata has come into being.


John 1:1-3 alludes to the natural creation of Genesis, echoing the creative process in the earliest verses (‘God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light!’; ‘God said, 'Let there be an expanse’; ‘God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered’).

This motif continues through Scripture into the NT; note Psalm 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19, Hebrews 11:3 (compare Jeremiah 10:12, 13:5); also II Peter 3:5,7: ‘For they deliberately suppress this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water... But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, by being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.’

The connection between God's spoken word and His work of creation is transparent. God gave a divine command; His will was done. His Word caused the act of creation.

The Old Testament therefore provides explicit information on the creation process, telling us (a) only one person was responsible for creation, (b) this person was God, the Father, © God created directly and personally, without divine agency or proxy. The consistent singular pronouns leave no possible doubt creation was performed by only one person, who took sole credit for creating alone.

Several verses make this explicit:

  • Job 35:10, ‘But no one says, 'Where is God, my Creator'‘
  • Isaiah 64:8, ‘Yet LORD, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the product of your labor’
  • Isaiah 44:24, ‘This is what the LORD, your protector, says, the one who formed you in the womb: 'I am the LORD, who made everything, who alone stretched out the sky, who fashioned the earth all by myself'‘
  • Jeremiah 27:5, ‘'I made the earth and the people and animals on it by my mighty power and great strength, and I give it to whomever I see fit'‘

These passages inform our understanding of John 1:1-3, where the Greek word 'logos' (meaning 'word') is found.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 02:02 AM

The word ‘logos‘ simply means ‘word’ (whether spoken, written or thought) but can also mean something more abstract, like ‘reason’. We must allow John to use it naturally, without imposing theological meanings on his text. The natural connection here is to Proverbs 8, with its language of personified wisdom. John most likely has this in mind when he speaks of the logos as being ‘with God... in the beginning.’

Trinitarian translators have traditionally referred to the logos as ‘he’ in John 1:1-3, despite there being no reason to assume literal personality. The word translated ‘he’ is the Greek pronoun ‘autos‘, having three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. In John 1: 1-3 it is masculine, agreeing with logos, a masculine noun. This is grammatical gender, not personal gender. It does not tell us the logos is a person, so we can read ‘autos‘ as ‘it’, as it appeared in at least five 16th Century Protestant Bibles (e.g. Tyndale's).

Of course Jesus is later called ‘the Word of God’ in Revelation 19:13, but this is a prophetic reference not in the same context as John's gospel. Elsewhere in Revelation Jesus is distinguished from the Word of God, particularly in 20:4 (‘those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God‘).

The phrase ‘...and the word was God’ is usually claimed to suggest the logos is a person. However, ‘theos‘ (‘God’) here can be taken in a qualitative sense; thus Paul M. Dixon (The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John, Dallas Seminary, 1975) and Daniel B. Wallace (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Zondervan, 1997).

Wallace's ‘qualitative logos‘ argument is motivated primarily by his own Christology, assuming the logos is Christ pre-existent. Thus, rather than ‘the logos was divine’, as some translators (e.g. Moffatt New Translation, 1922; Original New Testament, 1985) Wallace prefers ‘the word was fully God’, as in the NET Bible.

Wallace aims to preclude an Arian reading, since ‘divine’ rather than ‘deity’ may imply the logos (which he believes to be the pre-existent Jesus) is less than God. But the statement that God's word is divine does not suggest God's word is also a person, and the statement God's word was ‘with Him’ is no different to saying that we ‘have an idea’ when referring to our own thoughts.

This is a point modern commentators make, and has been acknowledged for many centuries. As early as the 3rd Century, Tertullian wrote in Chapter 5 of Adversus Praxean:

Whatever you think there is a word, whatever you conceive there is reason. You must needs speak it in your mind, and while you are speaking you admit speech as an interlocutor with you, involved in which is this very reason whereby, while in thought you are holding converse with your word, you are producing thought by means of that converse with your word.

Thus, in a certain sense, the word is a second with you. Now how much more fully is all this transacted in God, whose image and likeness even you are regarded as being, inasmuch as He has Reason within Himself even while He is silent, and involved in that Reason His Word.


Tertullian notes the ‘logos‘ can be ‘with’ a person whether spoken aloud or retained in one's thoughts. I do not share Tertullian's Christology (he believed in a pre-existent Jesus who was created by God and subsequently agent of the Genesis creation) but I concur with his explanation of the way in which God's logos was ‘with Him’ in the beginning.

The relevant scholarly literature reveals standard authorities also share this position. Dr Colin Brown, systematic theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary writes in Ex Auditu (7, 1991):

It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said: ‘In the beginning was the Son and the Son was with God and the Son was God’ (John 1:1). What has happened here is the substitution of the Son for Word (Greek logos), and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning. Following carefully the thought of John’s prologue, it is the Word that pre-existed eternally with God and is God.


(My emphasis).

This agrees with the Second Temple Judaism environment, in which we find God's word (‘memra‘) consistently distinguished from Him as His agent but not considered anything more than His literal word, even when personified and anthropomorphised in the Palestinian Targum, where God's word has ‘a voice’, speaks, and ‘goes up’ (Genesis 3:8-10, Exodus 33:1, Numbers 7:89).
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 02:20 AM

These points being clarified, let us see how John's narrative compares with the Old Testament account:

  • Genesis 1:3, ‘God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light!’
  • Psalm 33:6, ‘By the LORD's decree the heavens were made; by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.’
  • John 1:1-3, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created through it, and apart from it not one thing was created that has been created.’

I quote the NET Bible without alteration except in the opening of John 1, where theological spin is removed, providing a Christologically neutral reading. Most translations say that all things were created ‘by’ the logos, but the Greek word here (dia) actually means ‘through’ or ‘by means of’; it is not the word ‘ek‘, meaning ‘by’ or ‘from’.

Recognition of this point helps us to interpret the text more accurately. John is telling us that the logos itself was the agent of creation (e.g. the method) but not the origin of creation (e.g. the creator).

This is the same message we found in Genesis 1: God created all things through His divine Word ('logos'). The language is slightly personified, but it does not speak of a literal person. Crucially, John makes no mention of Jesus in verses 1-3. There is no suggestion that Jesus is the logos.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 03:00 AM

In verses 3-14 John refers to ‘the light’. The light is equated with the ‘life’ which John describes as being ‘in’ the logos (verse 4: ‘In it was life, and the life was the light of mankind’). This life/light is definitely a person: Jesus Christ. We know this from verses 6-9, describing the light in terms leaving no room for doubt (John the Baptist was not the light; John bore witness to the light; the light was coming into the world). Jesus himself announced ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12) and ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25).

Verse 10 tells us ‘the world was created by him’ (NET Bible). The Greek for ‘created’ here is ginomai, meaning anything from ‘came into existence’ to ‘appeared’ or ‘became’ (in the sense of one thing becoming another). The earliest verses of John 1 use ginomai to describe the creation (‘all things were ginomai through it...’) but in verse 14 the meaning is completely different (more later).

However, ginomai can also mean ‘split’ or ‘divided’, as Revelation 16:19 (‘The great city was split [ginomai] into three parts’, NET; definition, full semantic range). This is rare, since we typically expect to find more specific Greek words such as ‘merizō‘ or ‘diamerizō‘ (perhaps John uses ginomai to express more fully the impact of this sudden, radical consequence, as he does in Revelation 16). Yet it matches the context and is perfectly consistent with Jesus' warning about the cost of accepting his message:

  • Matthew 10:35-36, ‘'For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his household.'‘
  • Luke 11:23, ‘'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.'‘
  • Luke 12:51, ‘'Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!'‘

A series of statements thus describe Jesus' life and mission during his time on Earth: he was in the world; the world was divided through him; he came to his own people; was not recognised; was rejected; made it possible for us to become sons and daughters of God - unquestionably Jesus. Notice every statement here describes events after Jesus entered the world.

Nothing implies or requires pre-existence; not once is Jesus equated with the logos of verses 1-3.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 03:24 AM

John reaches his pinnacle in verse 14, where ‘ logos became flesh.’ Again the choice of language is very deliberate. John does not say ‘God became flesh’ or ‘God the Son became flesh’; Jesus is not a pre-existent divine being become flesh, but God's pre-existent logos become flesh. Jesus is not God incarnate; he is God's logos incarnate.

So what does ‘made flesh’ mean here? It means to become a real flesh and blood person; to become a human being. The logos did not merely ‘take on’ flesh or ‘add human nature to himself’ as Trinitarianism teaches, and as John does not say; the logos became flesh.

Nowhere are we told that God ‘added’ human nature to divine. A ‘dual nature’ is precluded; ‘the logos became flesh’ = ‘X became Y.’ When noun ‘X’ becomes noun ‘Y’, it is no longer noun ‘X.’ At Cana, the water ginomai wine; it did not ‘add wine nature to itself’ or ‘assume a dual water/wine nature.’ It became wine and ceased to be water.

J. D. G. Dunn emphasises the distinction repeatedly (Christology in the Making, Grand Rapids, 1989), exposing the fallacy of uncritically interchanging ‘Jesus’ with ‘logos‘:

The conclusion which seems to emerge is that it is only with verse 14 that we can begin to speak of the personal logos. The poem uses rather impersonal language (became flesh), but no Christian would fail to recognize here a reference to Jesus Christ - the Word became not flesh in general but Jesus Christ.

Prior to verse 14 we are in the same realm as pre-Christian talk of Wisdom and logos, the same language and ideas that we find in the Wisdom tradition and in Philo, where, as we have seen, we are dealing with personifications rather than persons, personified actions of God rather than an individual divine being as such.

The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine logos as 'he' throughout the poem. But if we translated logos as God's utterance instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend logos in vv.1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being.

In other words, the revolutionary significance of v. 14 may well be that it marks not only the transition in the thought of the poem from pre-existence to incarnation, but also the transition from impersonal personification to actual person.


(My emphasis).
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 09 August 2012 - 03:40 AM

William Barclay (The Gospel of John, 1955) agrees with this view, describing Jesus as the mind of God ('logos'; 'reason') made human:

[John] said to the Greeks, ‘All your lives you have been fascinated by this great, guiding, controlling mind of God. The mind of God has come to earth in the man Jesus. Look at him and you will see what the mind and thought of God are like. John had discovered a new category in which Greeks might think of Jesus, a category in which Jesus was presented as nothing less than God acting in human form. ...

By calling Jesus the logos, John said two things about Jesus:

(a) Jesus is the creating power of God come to men. He does not only speak the word of knowledge; he is the word of power. He did not come so much to say things to us, as to do things for us.
(b) Jesus is the incarnate mind of God. We might well translate John's words, 'The mind of God became a man'. A word is always 'the expression of a thought' and Jesus is the perfect expression of God's thoughts for men.


John tells us that Jesus 'made his dwelling among us' (perhaps a reference to the tabernacle in the wilderness which housed the divine glory of God). His point is that Jesus has brought God to us by living with us as His Son; His ambassador; His image; His chief agent and representative.

Jesus revealed the invisible God to us, living a life which perfectly reflected his Father's character. In Jesus, the unapproachable God is made approachable.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users