The Universal Appeal of the Logos, the Word
Jackson Snyder, December 17, 1996 updated December 16, 2002, July 14, 2004
“Heraclitus (6th century B.C.), in one of the earliest definitions of the Logos, said that Logos is that which holds contradictions and opposites together. He used Apollo’s instruments to explain. A stick is but a stick, Heraclitus said. But triangulate that stick’s extremities, and one has the lyre and the bow. Extremes, when strung under the power of the Divine Logos, produces harmony and balance. Our logo is the Logos: Jesus the Christ, the triangulation of God and the Holy Spirit, the unity of opposites – ‘omnipotent in bonds,’ as someone has called him.” Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami, 163.
My translation (full translation at end of passage):
1. In [the] beginning was the Word (logoV) and the Word was close by the Elohim* and elohim** was the Word. 2. This [Word] was close by the Elohim in (the) beginning. 3. All came to be through him and apart from him not a [thing] came to be that had become. 4. In him was life and the life was the light of humanity. 5. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overtaken him.
The Revised Standard Version:
1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. He was in the beginning with God; 3. all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
1) The Evangelist Appeals to Pagans Through the Word
The Word (Logos) was a well-known concept in the thought-world of the pagan Greeks of Jesus' day. Though the identity of the Word was a matter of speculation among pagans, the function of the Word was to be the intermediary between the supreme god and humans. The Word (in their way of thinking) was both the messenger of god sent from the heavens to Earth, and that part of god that resided within the immortal soul. As speech is the manifestation of thought, the Word goes forth as the manifestation of the will of God to life on earth, indwells life, and brings forth the gods’ will in life. Such was the understanding of the pagans of Jesus' time concerning the Word. Remember, this concept is written in Greek (for Greeks) rather than Aramaic (for Hebrews).
In his Gospel, the Evangelist is first of all trying to convince pagans that the Word is not a separate entity from the supreme god, but that the Word is an indivisible part of god. The Word is not a mere messenger of God, or a subordinate of God, but the Word "was with the god, and god was the Word."
Throughout the Gospel, the Evangelist makes the point that Yahweh (John 1:23, “the LORD”) and his Word are unified:
So, over and over, the Evangelist appeals to pagans in their own religious language, identifying the Word as god (qeoV), drawing pagans into the mystery of the one who came to save sinners of all stripes, be they Jews or pagans.
2) The Evangelist Appeals to Educated Hebrews (Rabbis and others) Through the Word
The Word was taught also in some rabbinical schools (seminaries) in Jesus' time along these lines:
However, like the Greeks and pagans, the Jewish religious teachers believed that
The Evangelist tries to correct this conception by pointing out in verse 14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Almighty by his Word has indeed descended from his throne of timelessness to the temporal realm of the Earth. Yahweh has not spared anything of himself to form a relationship with his creation. Yahweh has actually dwelt with us (Emmanuel) in the form of the Word-made-flesh.
The phrase in verse 14, "made his dwelling," can be translated literally as "pitched his tent." "The Word became flesh and “pitched his tent” among us." If you've ever camped, you've pitched your tent. And when we go camping, we no longer enjoy some of the conveniences of home. Camping is rough, dirty, and often exhausting.
The idea of pitching tent means that the Word came to Earth to encamp among us as we camp, "in tents" (eskhnwsen: skhnw = skin). But as tents were made of skin, he also pitched his tent of the flesh - skin and bone - and dwelt in the same physical form (or tent) as human beings, with all the limitations, weaknesses, and inconveniences that accompany tenting in the flesh. Furthermore, this Word of Yahweh Tsaviot came to us from a woman's womb, helpless and wordless. The Word lived the life of a child and grew up to be a man; he looked like a man, worked like a man, suffered like a man. The Word was a man - a man that "was in all points tested as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Pitching tent in this context has to do with “tabernacling,” which means to set up the tent of presence – the holy place that followed the Israelites around in their journeys. The glory of Yahweh inhabited the tabernacle. For this reason, John shows the rabbinical schools that, “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw his shekinah (doxan Exodus 24:16, et al.), glory as of a father's only born, full of grace and truth.” So the tabernacle of the flesh body, or skin, or tent, of the word was infused with the glory of Yahweh, just as it was perceived in the days of Moses.
The Evangelist tells us in verses 10 & 11 that (my translation):
10. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, yet the world knew him not. 11. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
It was the educated, high-placed Jews that had the most to lose by the advent of the Word. For the Word to come as a destitute child absolutely condemned their affluent, godless lifestyles. So they dealt him his greatest rejection. For though the Word was with Abraham and formed Israel, when the Word came to dwell in Israel, the great ones of Israel refused to recognize HIM, nor does Israel yet recognize him.
3) The Evangelist Appeals to Religious Jews and Jew-types Through the Word
The Evangelist portrays the Word to religious Jews as the agent through which YHWH created the heavens and the earth. Compare our text with the creation story in Genesis 1:1-4.
1. In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. 2. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3. And Elohim said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4. And Elohim saw that the light was good; and Elohim separated the light from the darkness.
To lead off the Evangelist's Gospel we also find the words "In the beginning...." In both we find Elohim. We find the tension of light and darkness, and its separation. We find the Almighty speaking forth the creative Word. In John 1:3 it says, “All came to be through him and apart from him not a [thing] came to be that had become.” The verb “came to be” (or "made" in some translations) is the same word as "created" in Genesis 1:1 (ginoskw: "become"), from which the title of the first Bible book, "Genesis," is derived. The Evangelist is linking the creative power of the Word with our most foundational story of faith so that religious Jew-types might read and believe.
The Word goes forth, descending from Heaven to create, and the Word returns, ascending back from whence he came. It was the Word who said in John 16:28,
"I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."
For religious Jews-types, the Evangelist uses the concept of the Word as hovering over the waters in creation and coming forth to Earth for salvation in order to convince them to believe in the Word, and receive life and light in his name.
4) The Evangelist Appeals to Christian-types Through the Word
In his short epistle of First John, the Evangelist claims to have witnessed the Word-made-flesh personally. Notice again how similar the language is in 1 John 1:1-3 to that of our text:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
Christian-types today know the person called the Word through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. But there was a short period in history when the Word-in-flesh dwelt among people just like us, people who testified to seeing him, touching him and hearing him. Their testimony has stood the test of time, and we read that testimony today.
And the Word has touched us and recreated us in the image of Elohim, which is the Word's own likeness. He has taken our lives, which were "without form and void," and caused us to spring forth in life -- and to life more abundantly because we become elohim. The Evangelist insists that "in him is life, and the life is the light of humanity." Such ethereal light has transformed us, for, as it is written in verses 12 - 13:
But he gave to as many as would receive him, believing in his name, permission to become children of elohim, born not out of bloodlines nor out of desire of [the] flesh nor of a man's will, but of elohim.
And we can witness to the light and the life it brings in our own lives, for, like the Evangelist (vss 14,16,17
We saw his shekinah (doxan), glory as of a father's only born, full of grace and truth. ... From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
And finally the Evangelist reveals who the Word is - Jesus Christ (Yahshua Messiah), full of grace and truth. And it is through Jesus from whom we too have also received our blessings, our graces, our truths: the Word of Yahweh, united with Yahweh, the light of Elohim, the life from Elohim, the only begotten of Elohim - Jesus Christ Messiah our Savior and Master. The Word has come and has tented with us, and we have seen him, and heard his voice, and have touched his heart.
Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by the Word, who humbly descended from his first dwelling place to bring light and life into the world. And the darkness of the world has not dimmed the light nor diminished the life. And it is this same Word, the Bible tells us, that is near you, even on your lips and in your heart to keep his commandments. Imagine! Such creative power is now a part of you! You are born of Elohim and children of Elohim!
1. In [the] beginning was the Word (logoV) and the Word was close by the Elohim* and elohim** was the Word.
2. This [Word] was close by the Elohim in (the) beginning.
3. All came to be through him and apart from him not a [thing] came to be that had become.
4. In him was life and the life was the light of humanity.
5. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overtaken him.
9. He was the true light, which lights all humanity, coming into the world.
10. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, yet the world knew him not.
11. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
12. But he gave to as many as would receive him, believing in his name, permission to become children of elohim,
13. born not out of bloodlines nor out of desire of [the] flesh nor of a man's will, but of elohim.
14. And the Word became flesh and tented among us, and we saw his shekinah (doxan), glory as of a father's only born, full of grace and truth.
18. Elohim no one has ever seen; [but the] only born elohim, being within the Father's heart, declared him.
* “Elohim” = The Almighty God, Yahweh (to qeoV)
** “elohim” = of the family of spiritual beings related to the Almighty (qeoV with no article)