By Jerry C. Ray
In the prologue of the gospel according to John, the Logos is presented without definition or introduction. Such was unnecessary since the idea of the Logos was not foreign to the Jewish or Greek mind. The Jews, from the study of the Old Testament and contact with the Greek outline of the Roman Empire, along with the Greeks, were familiar with the term, Logos.
In the evolution of the Philosophies of Greek culture the Logos had come to mean (1) Idea, (2) The Intelligence be hind the Idea, and (3) The Expression of the Idea. In the blind searchings of philosophers for the secret of the riddle of the Universe, i.e., origin, purpose, destiny, the term Logos was used to designate the unknown factor-the great First Cause of all things. To the Jewish mind Logos represented the wisdom and power of God.
And so John took this expression, familiar to Jew and Greek alike, and declared that Jesus Christ was the unknown factor revealed, the wisdom and power of God incarnate.
Let us observe the evolution of the Logos concept among the Greek philosophers.
Heraclitus is credited with being the first philosopher to “search for some unitary principle to explain the diversity of the universe” (Archibald Alexander, “Logos,” ISBE, III, 1912 ) . Heraclitus observed the process of constant change and sought for some primary element from which all others have their rise. He selected fire. He saw mutations as changes according to law. This law he called “Justice”, “Logos” or “Reason”, and in two passages “God”, but “it is not probable that he attached to it ally definite idea of consciousness” (Ibid.). This was the Greek philosophers’ first feeble gropings for an answer to the riddle of the universe.
Later Anaxagoras introduced the idea of a supreme intellectual principle which, while independent of the world, governed it (Ibid.). Anaxagoras was the first to perceive some kind of distinction between mind and matter and to suggest a teleological explanation of the universe (Ibid.).
Plato added to this development by making a distinction between “the world of sense and the world of thought, to the latter of which God belonged” (Ibid.). True reality or absolute being consisted, according to Plato, of the “Ideas” which resided in the Divine Mind.
The Stoics were the first with a systematic exposition .of the Logos. The “Divine Worldpower which contains within itself the conditions and processes of all things” they called Logos, or God.
Philo (a contemporary of Christ) sought to fuse the Jewish and Greek concepts, and hence, seems to waver between the two, presenting the Logos.
“. . . Under two relations: As the reason of God, lying in Him-the divine thought; and as the outspoken word, preceding from Him, and manifest in the world. The former is, in reality, one with God’s hidden being; the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations o f God in the world, affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld, and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation; unoriginated, like God, nor made, like the world, but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God’s image; the creator of the world; the mediator between God and it; the highest Angel; the second God; the high priest and reconciler” (“Logos”, McClintock and Strong, V, p. 491).
We can see in Philo’s conception much truth and some error, but any attempt to show ”doctrinal dependence upon Philo by John in writing the gospel is absurd. ‘There are too many and too wide divergences between the two concepts. (See McClintock and Strong, V, pp. 491-492 for a good discussion of this).
Among the Jews, the idea of Logos, as found in the Old Testament, involved (1) The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. The Word is a healer (Ps. 33:4); a messenger (Ps. 147:15); the agent of the divine decrees (Isa. 55:11). (2) The personified wisdom (Job 2 8 :12, Prov. 8, 9) . (3) The Angel of Jehovah. “The messenger of God who serves as His agent in the world of sense, and is sometimes distinguished from Jehovah and sometimes identical with him (Gen. 15 : 713; 32.24-28; Hos. 12:4-5; Exod.
23:20-21; Mal. 3:1)” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, II, pp. 2627).
After the Babylonian captivity the Jewish doctors combined all the revelations and manifestations of God in a conception of one permanent agent of God-the word, or Logos, of Jehovah (Ibid., p. 28).
This brings us to John’s usage of the term, Logos. Marcus Dods has stated this aptly:
“The term Logos appears as early as Heraclitus to denote the principle which maintains order in the world. Among the Stoics the word was similarly used, as the equivalent o f the anima mundi. Marcus Aurelius (4:14-21) uses the spermatikos logos to express the generative principle or creative force in nature. The term was familiar to Greek Philosophy. In Hebrew thought there was fell the need for some term to express God, not in His absolute being, but in His manifestation and active connection with the world. In the O. T. “The Angel of the Lord” and “The Wisdom of God” are used for this purpose. In the Apocryphal books and the Targums “The word of Jehovah” is similarly used. These two streams of thought were combined by Philo, who has a fairly full and explicit doctrine of the Logos as the expression of God or God in expression. The word being thus already in use and aiding thoughtful men in their efforts to conceive God’s connection with the world, John takes it and uses it to denote the Revealer of the incomprehensible and invisible God. Irrespective of all speculations which had gathered around the term, John now proceeds to make known the true nature o f the Logos” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament, 1, pp. 683-684).
John reveals the Logos as:
- A person, not just an impersonal force or abstraction (John 1:3, 4, 14a).
- Personally distinct from God, but essentially one with God (John 1:1) .
- Deity Incarnate (John 1:1-4, 14a).
- The creator of the worlds (John 1:3).
- Life and light to the moral world (John 1:4).
- The conqueror of darkness (John 1:4-5).
- The Savior of the world (John 1:11-13) .
- The Revealer of the Father: Jesus declared Him (John 1:18).
Jesus is the Logos of the Greeks. The answer to the riddle of the universe.
Jesus is the Logos of the Jews: The wisdom and power of God unto the salvation of the human family.
Truth Magazine, V:8, pp. 21-23