THROUGH THE LOGOS
The Logos is the communication of the heart, mind and will of God – what Phillips calls his “Personal expression” and his revelation; all of God in all of man. Logos has roots in the Old Testament, where the personification of the Word can be seen, for example in Psalm 107:19, 20: “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.” Compare further: Genesis 1:3ff, Psalm 33:6, Jeremiah 1:4, Isaiah 9:8, Ezekiel 33:7, Amos 3:1,8 and many others.
The Logos is the wisdom of God as highly personified in the Old Testament, and the mysterious feminine figure of Wisdom found in Proverbs appears in John’s Gospel as the masculine Logos, according to Ashton. The connection between Wisdom and Logos is traced by Ashton through the Wisdom and Solomon, and he asserts that this is the true background of the Prologue and that it is a mistake to see to regard it as a creation hymn. There are remarkable similarities in theme between the Prologue and passages in the Wisdom literature, those Dodd explores in depth.
The Logos was God, “which is the translation demanded by the Greek structure theos en ho logos” according to Carson, who discusses the Greek structure in detail and sees no other possible translation, while Brown also explores this. The Logos is the pre-existent Christ who created everything, and that is a common New Testament theme.
The Logos was with God, and the Greek word translated as ‘with’ is pros which means ‘to’ or ‘toward’, but may carry the sense of face-to-face intimacy “like lovers perpetually running toward each other in a beach scene from a sentimental film” says Carson, while MacGregor describes a “Nearness combined with the sense of movement towards God’.
The Logos is the Light of the World. As the word of the Lord in Genesis created light and separated darkness to its place, so Beasley-Murray declares that “The authentic Light is affirmed to be the Word who illumines the existence” of every person. Apart from the Logos, the world is shrouded in darkness; the Logos is not a source of light, but the source of light, which the darkness has not overcome. Does John refer to a specific attempt of the darkness to overcome the light? Or is it about sin? The Greek verb katalambanein is hard to translate according to Brown, and he explores this issue in depth.
The Logos gives authority (not power, according to Dodd) to those who receive him to become God’s children, which speaks of adoption and regeneration. To become God’s children is wholly a work of God through the authority of the Logos and the work of the Spirit.
The Logos was full of grace and truth, and we have shared in his fullness, grace after grace. While not a feature by language in John’s gospel, the theme of grace permeates his book as the Logos of God reveals the heart of God’s grace to a people who had forgotten what grace was like. The salvation brought by the Logos is “Defined in terms of inexhaustible grace” as made known through Jesus, according to Beasley-Murray.
In verse fourteen, which is the climax of the Prologue, John writes ‘and we have seen his glory’ and he was possibly directing his readers back to Exodus (33-34) where Moses asks to see the glory of God. The glory revealed to Moses is the same glory that was revealed in and through the Logos. Where John uses ‘grace and truth’ he may well be recalling the Hebrew words hesed and emet (Steadfast covenant love and faithful truth) and thereby summing up in the Logos the same ideas.
The Logos gives life, and this is made clear a little later in the Gospel (John 5:19-29) when Jesus says, “Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” What comes into being through the Logos has life and it is the Logos who gives life.
Verse four cause some difficulty in translation, for the aorist egeneto shifts to a perfect gegonen, and ‘what came to be’ becomes ‘has come into being’. Brown considers that the author had in mind a subtle difference in meaning from meaning not all of creation, but only living creatures, or even only people. See Brown for further discussion.
The Logos is the Mediator of creation, not an intermediary according to Beasley-Murray, though Bultmann argues at length over this point. The Logos is not only mediator in the act of creation, but also in its maintenance. Brown argues that being mediator should be widened to include all of God’s external actions including salvation history, “because the Fourth Gospel in not interested in cosmology.” Bultmann argues that everything “without exception” has been made by the Logos for the Logos brings light and life just as the word in Genesis brought light and life.
The Logos became flesh. The Logos came into the “sphere of time, history, tangibility” according to Carson. The Logos entered the new condition of flesh and blood, he “pitched his tent” (Beasley-Murray) he “tabernacled” (Carson) – in our midst; and we have seen through the “penetrating vision of enlightened faith” (MacGregor) this “real, human person” who revealed God’s glory. Beasley-Murray would have us compare shekinah which has the same consonants as the Greek noun.
The Logos is concerned with the personal revelation of God, and the Word of God is not just language to be heard, but a person to be received. God’s revelation took flesh and lived among the people, and in a community of which John himself was part.
LOGOS WITHOUT END
It is clear that John held the Logos as supreme in his writings (not just his gospel, but his first epistle also features what many regard as a Prologue), and that the Logos who loved him in a special way was the highest revelation of God known to humanity. The Logos is the ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ of God, the Logos is the Alpha and Omega; in the Logos we live and move and have our being. The Logos is God made known.
What was incredible, was that this Logos should die, and die the way he did. Yet the author writes declaring the victorious Logos, the one who rose from the dead and is at the right hand of YHWH.
The Logos is Truth, and so he speaks the word of truth. The Logos is life, and so he gives life. The Logos is grace, and so he gives grace. The Logos is light, and so he sheds light. The Logos always was, always is and always will be.
General Editor: Colin Brown, Dictionary of New Testament Theology, (Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1976)
John Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1991)
William Barclay, Jesus As They Saw Him, (London, SCM Press, 1962)
George R Beasley-Murray, John, (Waco, Word Books, 1987)
Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John, (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1971)
F F Bruce, The Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, William B Eerdmans, 1983)
Raymond E Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, (New York, Doubleday, 1966)
D A Carson, The Gospel According to John, (Leicester, Apollos, 1991)
C H Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1953)
E Earle Ellis, The World of St John, (London, Lutterworth Press, 1965)
W F Howard, Christianity According to St John, (London, Duckworth, 1943)
John McConnachie, The Gospel of Life, (Edinburgh, Church of Scotland, 1957)
G H C MacGregor, The Gospel of John, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1928)
Graham N Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1989)