By Richfield A. Cudal
Genuine appreciation for the logos, the person of the Lord Jesus, requires a good understanding of the developed philosophies of ancient times. These philosophies belong to the eras which have exerted the most prevalent cultural influences and are those which have persisted through generations of learning. The “logos” was one significant philosophical concept in the ancient world.
-Heraclitus (c. 500 BC), one of the original Greek thinkers, introduced the logos as a god-like force that permeated everything, a stable force in a constantly changing world.
-Anaxagoras (c. 500 BC) understood this god-force to be transcendent rather than immanent and attributed to it a mediatorial function.
-Plato (c. 400 BC) conceived the logos as pantheistic, identifying it with nature. Thus, nature, as an ordered universe, was expressed as and identified with reason.
-The Stoics pictured not a single logos but “logoi spermatekoi,” a multitude of seminal and ethereal forces responsible for originating and continuing the creative cycles of nature. The Stoics’ logos or lόgoi maintained a structure in the universe by which men could order their lives.
-Philo (c. 10 AD), the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher, allegorized the logos, merging secular Greek and Jewish philosophies with Old Testament Scripture. Philo classified the logos as an idea. To him, the logos did not have distinct personality, but acted as presbeutes, God’s ambassador, as paracletos, man’s advocate, and as archereus, high priest.
Although Philo’s logos had interesting parallels with the Apostle John’s Logos (cf. John 1:1), it had critical dissimilarities. Philo’s logos did not possess an attribute of “pre-existence,” whereas the Logos according to John’s Gospel was present before creation. Philo’s logos could not be spoken of in personal terms, nor could it become incarnate – a concept alien to Greek thought. While Philo’s logos possessed eternality, it was not the “Light and Life” of which the Apostle John spoke. Although Philo’s logos was capable of mediating between the transcendent God and the world, it could never be personalized like the Logos of John’s Gospel, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon (cf. 18:15-16) spoke of the logos as the all-powerful word that leapt down from heaven. Depicted as a warrior, this logos was personified but not personalized. While the apocryphal logos could be spoken of in personal terms, it could not be spoken of as a person.
The Jewish rabbinic idea of logos was the Torah. The Torah was considered an intermediary between God and the world – paralleling the Logos of John’s Gospel. The rabbinic vision mirrored John’s Logos as Creator; the Torah did attribute creative power to the Word of God. The Torah evinced a monotheistic Logos in terms of ethical and eschatological considerations which paralleled John’s doctrine. However, there, the similarities between the Torah and John’s Logos end.
By the inter-Testament period (1st Century BC), the logos came to be identified with wisdom. But this concept of the true Logos, or Wisdom, of which Job alludes, was already spoken of in the Bible. Here, Wisdom’s existence is alluded to, its discovery the prize of man’s quest:
But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. Neither gold nor crystal can equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold (Jb 28:12-19).
Proverbs personifies this Wisdom, who speaks of having been present at the creation of the world:
When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight (Prv 8:26-30).
Thus, in John’s Gospel, the Logos is purposefully introduced at the beginning.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1).
The concept of the true Logos was key to the subsequent account of the Lord Jesus Christ. By starting with a philosophical concept which was already familiar, John engaged his readers and advanced the concept further into new revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. This Person, Jesus Christ, was “in the beginning with God,” and through Him “all things were made.”
He was in the beginning with God. All things were
made through Him, and without Him nothing was
made that was made (Jn 1:2-4).
The Apostle John, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose the words and its placement carefully in order to properly articulate the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The placement of the phrase “In the beginning” at the head of the verse in his Gospel attests to a pre-existent Logos who was above creation, and outside of time, space, and matter.
“In the beginning,” (εν ἀρχῇ/ en archee), is written in the dative. The dative “εν” (English “in”), indicates that as the ‘beginning’ was commenced, the Word already was. The Word was before creation and was there to witness the creation; the Word was outside matter brought into existence. The Word inhabited eternity. John declared, “…and the Word was with God.” This expression employs the preposition “with” (πρὸς/pros), which also means “by,” “at,” or “near.” Not only did the Logos pre-exist time, space and creation, but He was in intimate fellowship with God. He was “by” God, or “at” God’s presence, “near” God, and in “company” with God.
“The Word was with God” connotes the deity and divine nature of the Logos yet without confusing the distinction between the Father and the Son. The Father and the Logos (Son) are co-equal and co-eternal in dignity, honor, power, life, attribute, and essence, but yet distinct in personalities.
John also writes, “…and the Word was God” (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος) which is also a declaration of the Lord Jesus’ deity. The word-for-word translation of the Greek sentence is: “and God was the Word.” This is the second time the word “God” is used in the same verse. “God” is the second word in the nominative case, the first nominative being “the Word.” Whenever two nominatives appear in a Greek sentence, the first nominative is the subject and the other the predicate. The predicate describes or relates something about the first nominative.
The subject nominative, “Word,” is preceded by the article “the.” Thus, the second word “God” without the article “the” is the predicate nominative. “The Word” describes “God” which means that the Logos is in essence, God. Moreover, “God” and “the Word” are connected by the linking verb “to be,” which is translatable “was.” “God” and “the Word” refer to the same entity. Thus, the Lord Jesus could say, “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30). The meaning of the Lord Jesus’ declaration was unmistakable and incredulous to the Jews. He had claimed equality with God in nature and essence.
John presents the Logos as “with God” (Jn 1:2). In verse one, the antecedent of “He” is “Word” reiterating that the Logos already pre-existed. In this ‘beginning,’ another distinct person of the Godhead existed. These distinct persons of the Godhead do not constitute two gods. John’s declaration indicates that these persons are one in nature, essence, and attribute. There is only one God.
Next in John 1:3, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John affirms the creative power of the Logos. The Logos is omnipotent, not merely a powerful guide for the universe, but all-powerful Creator. He is the pre-existent One who brought all things into existence, creating something out of nothing. “All things were made through Him….” John states, and emphasizes his point by restating it conversely, “…and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
In the Torah and the Te’hillim, Moses and David affirm that the true Logos is the creator of the universe…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Gn 1:1-3).
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses (Ps 33:6-7).
Here, David and Isaiah depict the Logos as personal, and vested with divine authority, sustaining power, and providential care.
He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow (Ps 147:14-18).
Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word (Ps 148:8).
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Is 55:11).
Hosea declaims that this personalized Logos executes judgment.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth (Hos 6:5).
Jeremiah and Ezekiel testify that the Logos is a powerful agent of God. His Word is God’s revelation and prophets were His mouthpieces.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not (Jer 20:9).
So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me (Ez 33:7-8).
Thence, the Logos is God’s message to man: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Ps 119:9). It is spoken of as a guide, emphasizing the Law as God’s revelation: “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).
The Greeks, assuming that John’s Logos spoke of the rational principle of the universe, would have been amazed at John’s assertion that the principle would become both personalized and incarnate. The Jews would also have been amazed at Wisdom’s personalization and incarnation.
John presented the Lord Jesus Christ as the genuine Logos, as a personalized Logos. As the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ was presented as the Logos personified.
The prophet Isaiah said,
“For unto us a Child is born…And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father…” (Is 9:6).
The phrase “Everlasting Father” is properly translated “Father of Eternity,” meaning above, outside, and before eternity.
Moreover, the prophet Micah prophesied the coming of Israel’s Messiah as One who was from eternity past, “…out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting…” (Mi 5:2).
Scripture shows the Logos as the self-existent and pre-existent Son of God, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus himself asserted His pre-existence when He confronted His religious rivals, saying
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM. (Jn 8:56-58)
By declaring “…before Abraham was, I AM,” the Lord Jesus Christ was asserting that He pre-existed time.
The Logos whom John presents is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul expounds this concept in a paean of praise in Colossians,
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Col 1:15-18).
According to Paul, the Lord Jesus Christ is superlative to all. He is “the firstborn over all creation.” The word πρωτότοκος/prototokos, or firstborn in this context pertains to “existing prior to something else, existing first, existing before.” In Colossians, “For by Him all things were created” (1:15), emphasizes that all things owe their creation to Christ’s mediation. The point is not that Christ is the first creature – for this would demand a stress on the tokos/tokos, and would also bring into conflict the concept of ‘firstborn’ of creation; rather the term πρωτότοκος/pro-totokos is employed for its ‘supremacy of rank’, meaning ‘of Christ’s supremacy over creation’.
Moreover, John informs us that the Logos is the personal fountain of life. John says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn 1:4-5).
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life – the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us –that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:1-3).
The Lord Jesus himself declared this truth, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself” (Jn 5:26-27). The Lord Jesus is life, able to give life to all He wills. He said again, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will” (Jn 5:20-22).
Our Lord Jesus pre-existed time, space and creation, and is the self-existent One, the Logos who brought all these things into existence. He is the Father of eternity, whose ‘goings forth is from everlasting to everlasting.’ In Him is the light of life, in “Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3).
This Logos, this supreme Creator, revealed himself in word, was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Ti 3:16). Realization and appreciation of this mystery; in becoming incarnate, in commencing a plan of redemption, and in belief in this wisdom is not only that God had revealed himself, it is key to one’s salvation. In the Christian’s life, spiritual vitality depends on knowledge and application of the Logos. The Logos, therefore, is critical to establishing a personal relationship with God the Father. It is the only means of connecting us with God. This Logos, incarnate and personalized, did say in John’s Gospel,
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn 5:11-13).
The Logos Himself says,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).
From The Incomparable Lord Jesus Christ by Richfield A. Cudal (HARK, 2012)