Monday, 26 April 2010


In John chapter 1...

"John is seen to be revealing Jesus Christ in all his cosmic glory; the Son of God from the beginning, the present and the future. You can't get a "bigger picture" than that. Jesus is revealed as the Logos of God; the Reason God created all things, the Reason all things exist, the Reason we have been formed if only we will be formed in him. In other words, John 1 is a Creation story that, like all good creations stories, starts from the beginning and explains everything.

We benefit by using the word Logos in the full philosophical context of the day, which John supersedes in a similar way to the Genesis supersession of the Ancient Near East myths. The term Logos was widely used in the Greco-Roman culture and in Judaism. And although it has many everyday meanings (such as word, speech, statement, discourse, refutation, ratio, account, explanation, reason), through most schools of Greek philosophy the term was used to designate a rational, intelligent and thus enlivening principle of the universe. To ancient people every phenomenon had to have an underlying factor, agent, or principle responsible for its occurrence; hence demons, principalities and power and the pantheon of the gods. The Logos was deduced from thinking about the universe as a living creature.

The 6th-century BC Greek philosopher Heraclitus was the first to use the term Logos in a metaphysical sense. Heraclitius asserted that the world is governed by a firelike Logos, a divine force that produces the order and pattern discernible in the flux of nature. The Logos accounts for how things are put together, and how they interact. He believed that this force is similar to human reason and that his own thought partook of the divine Logos.

What soul, then, has skill and knowledge? Even that which knoweth beginning and end, and the reason [logos] that informs all Substance, and governs the Whole from ordered cycle to cycle through all eternity. (Marcus Aurelius, V, 21 pp. 124-125)

Perhaps the most extensive accounting of The Logos was by Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jew who lived around the time of Christ. Philo wrote allegories of Old Testament books authored by Moses, interpreting them in the light of Greek philosophy. He used the term, logos, more than 1300 times in his writings, in many varied ways. Of particular note are his references to The Logos as the Divine Reason, by participation in which humans are rational; the model of the universe; the superintendent or governor of the universe; and the first-born son of God. Although there is no direct evidence that John ever read Philo (and it doesn't matter either way), its pretty obvious that the concepts he articulated were firmly in the mind of John when he wrote his gospel.

As therefore the city, when previously shadowed out in the mind of the man of architectural skill had no external place, but was stamped solely in the mind of the workman, so in the same manner neither can the world which existed in ideas have had any other local position except the divine reason [logos] which made them ... (Philo, On the Creation V20 p. 4)

...for God, like a shepherd and king, governs (as if they were a flock of sheep) the earth, and the water, and the fire, and the air and all the plants, and living creatures that are in them, whether mortal or divine; and he regulates the nature of the heaven, and the periodical revolutions of the sun and moon, and the variations and harmonious movements of the other stars, ruling them according to law and justice; appointing as their immediate superintendent, his own right reason [logos], his first-born son, who is to receive the charge of this sacred company, as the lieutenant of the great king; ... (Philo, On Husbandry XII 45 p. 178)

So in Greek thought we can boil Logos down like this:-

a conception or idea
the plan or model of the universe
the source of order in the universe, that by which all things come into being and all things come to pass
the source of human reason and intelligence
universal all-pervading enlivening force

John takes the Greek Logos on in the same way that Paul takes on the Unknown God and Moses takes on the ANE myths; John rewrites the script and elevates Jesus Christ as Stephen Hawking's "fire in the equations," and God's own reason "why the Universe goes to all the bother of existing." Its ultimate big picture language, and John's embrace of it shows that Christianity really does have all the answers."

By J Pogson

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