Who is the LOGOS of John's Gospel? (Sabbath)


Who is the LOGOS of John’s Gospel?

Jesus and His FatherHaving seen for themselves that the belief in the Trinity does not square with the Hebrew Bible at all, every thinking individual I have encountered so far in my teaching ministry, almost without an exception, desires to know “what to do with Jesus Christ.” One of the most persistent questions people ask at that point is: “How does Jesus relate to God the Father?” Even though questions like these are of vital importance in our spiritual growth, they stem from the millennia-old falsehoods perpetrated by the Church. They are part and parcel of the many theological distortions and false interpretations of the Scriptures! We have exposed quite a few of these deceptions already and will continue to do so, be the Good LORD willing. Today, we would like to touch upon one of the most crucial texts within the Canon of the New Testament, the understanding of which can either make or break much of what the Trinitarian Christianity stands for!

If there is one verse that is absolutely central to the Christian faith and known far and wide in the Church’s circles, it is the one coming from the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word (LOGOS) and the Word (LOGOS) was with God and the Word (LOGOS) was God. . . The Word (LOGOS) became flesh and made its dwelling among us. . .” (John 1:1, 18) – Obviously, the author of John’s narrative sets out to create a new understanding of “the beginnings," quite in contradistinction to what the Hebrew Bible states: “In the beginning God created. . .” (Gen. 1:1)

John's TrinityIf you are of the opinion that the text of the New Testament was inspired by the same God that produced the scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”), then one of the most logical conclusions you can arrive at is that Jesus (the LOGOS or Word) is truly the Second Person of the Divine Trio, whom, perhaps, the Hebrew text mistakenly omitted from its original portrayal of “the beginnings.” The author of the Gospel, then, adds some absolutely crucial details concerning the very nature of our God, which had been missing from both the sacred text and human understanding of One God for more than 3000 years! The thought of that is staggering, indeed! Does the text of John 1 prove its points beyond a possibility for doubt? Let us examine the facts of the matter!

One does not have to be an astute theological observer to notice that the Gospel of John assumes a radically different philosophical tenor form its predecessors, the Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. John does not bother his readers with Jesus’ Jewish ancestry, his genealogies or human side of his life, as do the preceding Gospels. The answer, commonly given to explain these dichotomies of approach to Jesus’ personality and mission, is: “Whereas Mark portrays Jesus as “a Son of man,” Matthew pictures him as “the King of the Jews," and Luke shows him to be “the Servant of all,” the Gospel of John reveals Jesus Christ as nothing less than "God in flesh Himself.” Thus, the Fourth Gospel has very few traces of Jesus as a truly Jewish Messiah, anointed by YHWH to deliver Israel and save the world from their idolatry and degradation. He now looks more like a Cosmic Christ, whose portrait was first sketched out by the Apostle Paul in his theological discourses. John’s Gospel, therefore, is among the key documents that helped shape the Church’s formulation of the Doctrine of Trinity.

Greco-Roman Influence

Greek godsIt is a well-known historical fact that Jesus’ ministry and the subsequent writing of the New Testament occurred during the times when the Middle East was under the overwhelming dominance and continuous influence of the Greco-Roman world. Hellenistic culture and traditions, mentality and philosophy, beliefs and practices had been exerting some steady and unyielding influence on a geographical region that included Israel for a long time both prior to Jesus’ arrival at the scene and long after his ascension up to heaven as well. As a case in point, you may recall together with me the Maccabean uprising in 168 BCE. It was triggered by the attempts to Hellenize (paganize) the Jewish faith in One God. The revolt was successful; the Temple was re-consecrated, with the Jewish ethical monotheism restored in Israel! By the time when John’s Gospel was being composed in the years between 90 and 120 CE, the great majority of the Jews living outside of their ancestral home in Israel were thoroughly Hellenistic in their attitudes and morality. This fact brings up our next point of discussion, namely the Greek ideas, skillfully incorporated by John into his riveting narrative about Jesus, the Son of God.

Since John’s Gospel was composed in the second century CE, its major concern was about how to present the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, to some rapidly growing numbers of the non-Jewish constituents of the Church. Borrowing from the imagery and language of his apt predecessor, the Apostle Paul, the author of Johanine Gospel uses the terminology and philosophical ideas known to and understood by the Greek-speaking majority of his audience. The fact that the author uses centuries-old philosophical notion of “Logos” to convey the idea of Christ to his listeners is a striking testimony to the author’s Hellenistic mind and his ingenuity with Greek notions and its words!

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 – 475 BCE)

Bust of HeraclitusThe philosophical idea of “Logos” was coined hundreds of years before the Christianity emerged from the religious soup of Gentile nations surrounding the Jewish monotheists. It had been at least six or even seven centuries old by the moment the author of the “Gospel According to John” employed it to explain the origins and nature of Jesus. The Greek thinker Heraclitus (c.535 – 475 BCE) was among the first pagans to have used the term in his philosophical discourses: “ . . . This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. . . .” [1]

Have you noticed that Heraclitus’s idea that all things exist and are in accordance with this Logos, thought up six hundred years before John’s own time, was borrowed almost wholesale by the writer of John’s Gospel: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3) - Heraclitus of Ephesus used the word Logos around 500 BCE to describe his concept of the precision, order and regularity with which the universe seems to operate. He understood the universe as a divine machine, with the Logos (literally the reason) as the ultimate rationale, which secretly operated the universe and the heavens above.

Another extant fragment of Heraclitus’ writings showcases that the New Age's idea, postulating that all religions ultimately lead to the same deity, is nothing new at all: “Listening not to me but to the LOGOS it is wise to agree that all things are one." [2] Remember the prayer that John puts in Jesus’ mouth? “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. . . My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. . .”(John 17:11,20-21)

Zeno of Citium (c. 334 – c. 262 BCE)

Zeno of CitiumIn Stoic philosophy, which began with Zeno of Citium circa 300 BCE, the Logos was the “active reason” pervading and animating the universe. It was usually identified with the concept of “god” or conceived of as “Nature.” The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos, ("logos spermatikos") or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans were also believed to possess a portion of the divine Logos. The Stoics attributed all activity to the life-giving Logos, or spiritual principle of the Cosmos. "To them, as the operative principle of the world, the Logos was “anima mundi” (life of the world), a concept which later influenced Philo of Alexandria, although he derived the contents of the term from Plato." [3] Once again, you can easily observe the closeness of concepts, such as “the animating (life-giving) principle,” “generation of the universe,” etc, that exists between the philosophy of Stoics and what the Johanine Gospel expresses as well: “ . . . without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

The Cult of Hermes

Hermes with a lambThe ancient Greek cult of Hermes, with its origins dating back to the 7th century BCE, made use of the Logos concept to express ideas strikingly similar to those found in John’s Gospel. Here is what the author of “Religion in Greece and Rome,” H.J. Rose writes about the cult of Hermes: “The [Poimandres] writer fell into a deep and heavy trance, in which there appeared to him a being who introduced himself as Poimandres (Shepherd of Men), "the Mind of Authority." Poimandres then shows the mystic a vision, in which he sees a great light and a great darkness, respectively reality and matter. From the light comes "a Holy Logos," ...the "shining Son of God," who proceeds from Mind itself...” [4]

More than six hundred years before Christ appeared in Israel as their Messiah, the notion of “the Holy Logos as the shining Son of God” had enjoyed a wide-spread popularity in the pagan world! It was nowhere to be found in the Jewish thought, though! Since the Greek philosophical idea of the Logos as some second person of the divine pantheon was repugnant to the Jewish monotheists, and rightly so, the world was waiting for a man, who would bridge this theosophical chasm between the biblical claims of One God and the Greco-Roman belief in multiple deities. The man who more than rose to that occasion was a thoroughly Hellenized Jewish intellectual, called Philo of Alexandria!

Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 45 CE)

Philo's WorksEven as Philo’s life span intersects two different eras in human existence, namely the era called BCE (before common era) and the one termed CE (common era), so his ideas and philosophy bridge the gap between the pagan Greek philosophy and the thinking of the emerging Gentile Church in the first and second centuries CE. Philo of Alexandria introduced the concept of Logos as an allegorical force of the God of the Bible, YHWH. As a Jew of the dispersion (Diaspora), Philo’s person and views presented a curious mixture of Jewish faith and Greek philosophy. He frequented Jewish synagogues, studied the Torah and observed the mitzvoth (commandments). Yet, like a lot of other cosmopolitan Alexandrians of the time, he worshipped the “gods” of the Greek as well.

In that sense, Philo stood in harmony with a long line of Jewish syncretists, who had always tried to combine the worship of the God of Israel (YHWH) with serving other deities as well. (As you may recall together with me, Baals and Astartes were never far away from the devotional thoughts of idolaters in the Bible). Christianity today, in my studied opinion, represents a modern version of the ancient phenomenon of syncretism. The Church loves to make pretense that they still worship and obey the God of the Bible, all the while worshiping a new and strange deity of Trinity! According to the Bible, however, the Creator of the Universe truly abhors that very idea! We also know that what He abhors will eventually cease to exist, - it will be destroyed! Please, examine yourself to see where you stand before HaShem (The Holy One of Jacob) today!

Philo believed that the two worlds were not irreconcilable and so used the Greek concept of the Logos in an attempt to meld the biblical vision of YHWH as Uniquely One with the Greek visions of God. The Greeks, armed with the powerful philosophy of Plato, and later Aristotle, believed that God was inherently "unknowable." He was beyond human understanding and all attempts to describe God would end in failure. However, they believed a glimpse of God could be attained through rational thinking and deep meditation. If one could achieve the Hermetic level of mystical awareness as chronicled in the Poimandres, one will be able to experience God. The idea of some divine Logos that would bring the glory of God into the very midst of humanity was simply irresistible!

Our Hellenized friend, Philo of Alexandria, used the term Logos to speak of an intermediary divine being, or demiurge (semi-god). Philo followed the Platonic notion of dualism or distinction between imperfect matter and perfect idea. In his mind, therefore, intermediary beings were necessary to bridge the enormous gap between God and the material world. The Logos was explained to be the highest of these intermediary beings, and was called by Philo "the first-born of God." Philo also wrote that "the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated." [5]

In conjunction with what we have just quoted from Philo, what do you think about the following text, coming straight from the New Testament: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)- The text of the Epistle to Colossians sounds astonishingly identical to what Philo expressed in his theosophical writings, doesn’t it! It should not be too surprising, though, for the text of the New Testament was the work of the same Greek-speaking world as the writings of Philo and others before him.

Philo never explained clearly what his Logos was, but, in his thought, the Logos often took on the form of the essence or divine nature of God. He compared Logos to God’s visible emanation and suggested that “the Angel of the LORD” that appears frequently in the Hebrew Scriptures, was the Logos of the Greeks. Philo's teachings were extremely popular among his Jewish and non-Jewish followers alike, successfully splitting God into multiple personifications that pagan Church worshippers would then further refine, first into the “Bi-headed” (Father and Son) and later on the Tri-headed (Trinity) concepts that we are so familiar with today.

Conclusion of the Matter:

While the position of Christianity concerning John’s Logos is abundantly clear, the question to all the seekers for truth and holiness, desiring to remain true to the One Living God of Heaven and Earth, is as follows: “What are we to do with the New Testament message in general and the case of John’s unabashed borrowing of a thoroughly Greek idea in particular?” How do we reconcile the ancient pagan idea of Logos with what the Hebrew Bible had been teaching concerning God and His Word for thousands of years prior to the arrival of that new “revelation”?

Concerning the New Testament . . .

New Testament Fly LeafWhen all is said and done, there are two straightforward approaches to this dilemma. On the one hand, through unquestioning faith, we can choose to accept the New Testament and its Greek idea of Logos as the divinely inspired Word of God, believing that it reveals to its readers some Second Person of the “Blessed Trinity.” If we choose to go this route, we will stand in harmony and perfect accord with the great majority of Christian thinkers, philosophers and lay people; we will truly be part of the Church Universal, be it the Roman Catholic or Seventh-day Adventist! I do believe, however, that this approach would cut us off from the Only Fountain of Life according to the Bible, the LORD God of Israel: “I have a message from God in my heart . . . Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. . . For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:1,5,9) - This refers to the LORD God of Israel, with “the LORD” being the covenantal Name of YHWH!

On the other hand, we can apply a simple rule of logic coupled with some careful biblical thinking. Knowing that the God of the Bible neither changes, nor lies to His people, and understanding that His Word cannot contradict itself, we should compare the message of the Hebrew Scriptures, quoted extensively by Jesus Christ himself as the Word of God, with what the New Testament seems to proclaim. Here is a very simple and yet profound statement of fact: just as the New Testament does not stand on its own without the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures, so its content and its message cannot be taken to be some new and different revelation from what the Jewish Bible declares! It is that simple, beloved! In light of this, the New Testament books cease to be a pile of “the inspired documents” that contradict the Hebrew Bible quite often. Instead, they become an inspired human endeavor at explaining the mysteries of faith to those who search for answers, something akin to our modern commentaries on the Bible. This way, every doctrine and every word is measured, first and foremost, by the content of the trusted Hebrew Scriptures!

Concerning the LOGOS . . .

Apostle Paul WritingThere is also a good biblical way to reconcile the Greek philosophical notion of Logos with the divinely inspired Hebrew concepts of the Bible! One of the primary meanings of this Gentile term is the idea of “word and speech.” As “the Word” of God, the idea of Logos would not be perceived as the Second Person of a Pagan Pantheon; it would be rightly understood as God’s creative agency, through which He and He alone made the heavens and the earth. Taken this way, the notion of Logos in Johanine Gospel would correspond well to the Word of the LORD that we encounter on the pages of the Jewish Sacred Writings: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3) – He created by speaking! In addition to that, on more than one occasion, the Jewish prophets declare that “the Word of the LORD came to me. . .” None of them, however, ever dreamed of creating the belief in the “god” with multiple personalities, such as Christian Trinity!

The Bible also adds: “This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself . . .” (Isaiah 44:24) – Did you catch the emphasis on “alone” and “by myself” in the LORD’s words? As you can see, the text is clear that the Christian, or rather pagan, idea of three gods running around to carry out each other’s orders in creating the world is ridiculous, to say the least! It never ceases to amaze me how creative the pagans of the world are at inventing their own gods and doctrines! What do you believe in your heart?

If the author of Johanine Gospel employs the Greek idea of Logos to attract the Gentile audience to the LORD God of Israel by presenting the Jewish Messiah in terms familiar to their pagan minds, all is well and good! This way the integrity of the Fourth Gospel is preserved as being in harmony with the Jewish Scriptures! If, on the other hand, we assume that the writer of John’s narrative purports to reveal to us an entirely new concept of the LOGOS as the second Person of a multi-headed god, then the Gospel according to John belongs in the great trash basket of the world’s heathenism and false religions. In that case, its text leads its readers away from the One True Source of Life and Blessedness, - the Holy One of Jacob! Which approach do you embrace? As for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD [God of Israel]!

Shofar BlowingShalom to you and Happy Sabbath!




Notes:
________________________________________

[1] Fragment “Diels –Kranz,” 22B1(DK22B1) - (Translations from Richard D. McKirahan, "Philosophy before Socrates," Hackett, 1994.)

[2] Fragment "Diels-Kranz," 22B50 (DK22B50) (Translations from Richard D. McKirahan, "Philosophy before Socrates," Hackett, 1994.)

[3] Tripolitis, A., "Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age," pp. 37–38. And Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. “Studies in European Philosophy, by James Lindsay, 2006, ISBN 1406701734, page 53)

[4] Rose, H.J. "Religion in Greece and Rome." New York: Harper, 1959, pp. 131-133)

[5] Frederick Copleston, "A History of Philosophy," Volume 1, Continuum, 2003, pp. 458–462. And Philo, De Profugis, cited in Gerald Friedlander, "Hellenism and Christianity," P. Vallentine, 1912, pp. 114–115)