The Right Word

The reason things seem so divisive these days, and it seems to be so difficult to accomplish common understanding, has to do with words.  if a Democrat talks about “helping the middle class” it usually means something very different from what a Republican means by those same words.  It is very difficult to draw people together from very different ways of seeing the world when the words used are “heard” in such different ways.

That’s what makes the first line of the Gospel of John so masterful.  John wrote:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 (NIV84))

John was setting out to tell two very different kinds of people, with distinctly different views of the world, about Jesus.  So he called Him “the Word.”

  • When the Jewish people read that word (the Greek word, logos), they immediately associated it with God.  Jews believed it was sacrilegious to pronounce or write the Name of God.  In those days, sometimes they substituted the word, Logos, or Word.  The first line of their scripture read, “In the beginning, G-d….”   So when they read John’s opening phrase they naturally thought, “God.”
  • The people in the Greek culture who read John’s letter, however, interpreted logos in a very different way.  Following the ideas of some of their famous philosophers, they used logos, or word, to refer to the divine active principle that governed all of reality.  Kind of like how the “operating system” in a computer controls how all the programs work, people in the Greek culture thought of the logos as the overarching “operating system” for the universe.  In short, the mind of God.

So, with one word, logos, John drew those two, very different, groups together in understanding the identity of Jesus.  Next, he used a strong word to say Jesus was “with” God, not just nearby, but in close, intimate association and correspondence with God.  Lest anyone miss the point, John followed up with, “He was God.”  Jesus existed as God “in the beginning,” before time and space were created.

Today, when someone says, “Jesus,” he might be expressing disgust or frustration.  Someone else might be talking about a “good man” or a “prophet.”  But John?  He was talking about a Man he knew as a friend, Who had revealed Himself to be Almighty God.

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