The Importance of the Logos Christology in the Gospel of John John wrote the immortal words of the Prologue into a desperately troubled world. The Romans held most of the known world in their political grasp. The Greeks had infiltrated every part of Jewish life with their philosophies and ways for over 500 years; the Jewish obsession with ethnic purity divided the race even from itself. One key issue Jew and Greek could agree on was the existence of the Logos, though not in the same way. To the Greek, the logos meant thought, reason, and order in the universe. To the Jew, it meant the spoken word; personal, a real being, the Supreme Mediator. Logos philosophy permeated just about every philosophical conversation as an argument for one side or the other. However, John’s logos-inspired Prologue defined succinctly the entire logos from a uniquely Christian perspective: the creative force and reason in the universe that had become flesh in the form of Jesus Christ for the purpose of redeeming mankind back into relationship with the Creator. John, in essence, defines Christ as God’s supreme mind embodied in flesh. John’s high Christology reveals a crucial gospel in Graeco-roman times, bringing coherence between the philosophies of both internal (Greek) and external (Jewish) logos functions. In addition, John’s presentation represents a clear statement on the pre-existence of Christ, supporting Jesus' preeminent position in the first century as Messiah.
The Logos Christology: Connecting Jew & Greek
The concept of logos is not a simple one but this essay will attempt to simplify it under the constraint of space. Depending on viewpoint (either as a Gentile/Greek or a Jew) it would vary greatly in definition but, interestingly, have the same functional ability –creation. The Greeks held that thought was creative, the Jews that the spoken word was creative. The Jews acknowledged that even Pagan philosophers and poets had the “seeds of truth” generally understood to be the logos. Philo defined it as “inherent in God – corresponding to reason in man. Logos emanates from God – corresponding the spoken Word as the revelation of thought. Ultimately, it is the rational order manifested in the visible world” (International Bible Encyclopedia). Philo “…was not an isolated phenomenon, but a spokesman for other like-minded men of his race” (Beasley-Murray, p. liv). Keener, in his commentary on John, states that there were problems with the universally present Logos; it led to pantheism which was intolerable to John as a Christian Jew. The Stoic Logos “permeated the world, the Johannine Logos is opposed by the world (John 1:10).” Certain writers recognize the Jewishness of John’s thought process but suggest he employed Greek philosophical terminology to express it to his “implied audience.” The implied audience being the Jews; however, John showed great wisdom in his use of logos because he asserts the deity of Christ to the Hellenized Jewish society (Keener, p.342-343). One must take at least a cursory look at the Graeco-Roman world and some of the more prominent aspects in order to gain a better grasp of John’s audience. The culture emphasizes a disposition to the arts, using the goddess Isis as a frequent subject for frescoes in home-art. Isis was often portrayed as a savior and the subject of Greek and Roman hymns humanizing her, for “the destiny of every man then depended on the goddess who, in her love for the suffering, oppressed, imprisoned, and imperiled, became a succor and a savior of mankind.” It was the Hellenized portrayal of Isis that “conquered the Mediterranean world.” (Brenk, quoted in Balch, p 48-49). Graeco-roman society subtly indicated their propensity for a real savior and unknowingly made themselves candidates for receiving Jesus. The unbelieving world displayed their desires and ideals openly on the walls of their halls and homes. The Jewish dispersion lasted for several hundred years....
Cited: Bates, Matthew W. "Justin Martyr 's logocentric hermeneutical transformation of Isaiah 's vision of the nations." Journal of Theological Studies 60.(2009): 538-555. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. EBSCO. Web. 9 Oct. 2010.
Beasley-Murray, George, R. “John.” Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 36. Word Books, Waco, TX. 1987.
Brown, Raymond E. “The Gospel According to John” The Anchor Bible. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY. 1966.
Gundry, Robert. Survey of the New Testament. Zondervan. 2004
McHugh, John. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on John 1-4. T & T Clark International Publishers, New York, NY. 2009.
Keener, Craig S. “The Gospel of John” A Commentary. Vol 1. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA. 2003
“Logos.” http://bibleencyclopedia.com/logos.htm. International Bible Encyclopedia, n.d. Web.
October 9, 2010
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