Jesus of the κοσμος: Helpful, Scintillating Notes on the Λογος (Logos) of John 1:1

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Philo Sofee
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Jesus of the κοσμος: Helpful, Scintillating Notes on the Λογος (Logos) of John 1:1

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Jesus of the κοσμος: Helpful, Scintillating Notes on the Λογος (Logos) of John 1:1

The Gospel of John is not much like the other three Gospels in the New Testament (the Synoptics - as they pretty much look alike and are similar), and my surmise is due to the underlying thinking of John from theological if not philosophical thought with the λογος (Logos) as the background to everything about John’s view of Jesus, which gives us the difference in tone, chronology, theology, etc. in the Gospel of John. It is truly in a class of its own.[1]

One of the truly great English scholars of the scriptures, C. H. Dodd, in his discussion worked mainly within the range of the Stoics two aspects of λογος, namely the λογος ένδιαθετος and λογος προφορικος - which is the λογος in the mind and that of the actual uttered λογος - i.e., “thought” and “word.”[2]

Many scholars through the last few centuries, since the rise of critical exegesis of the Bible from the Renaissance era have looked to the Stoics, as well as the Old Testament itself, Plato, Heraclitus, Philo, and other areas and people’s use of this word with its myriads of meanings, the full range of which perhaps has not been measured yet to our day.

“In Gnosticism the logos is a mythological intermediary being between God and man. He is not the creator of the world, but above all revealer, and as revealer also redeemer.”[3] This emphasis is different from the Stoic which leads us to “that which is rationally ordered, such as proposition in mathematics or what we call ‘law’ in nature.”[4] Philo says the logos can be considered, actually called “God” since that is the form the logos, that God chose to reveal himself.[5] Interestingly, Max Pulver in his analysis of the Round Dance of Jesus in the Acts of St. John shows how this “gnostic” work separated the logos from Jesus so they could not be the same thing or person. Yet St. John says in this “Acts” work that “according to the essence and the selfhood, speaking to us, it is the delimitation of all things. And the vast elevation of the stable from the unstable, and the harmony of wisdom - of the wisdom that is in harmony.”[6]

Dodd contends “the divine λογος is not simply the uttered words. It is άληθεια [eternal truth]. That is to say, it is a rational content of thought corresponding to the ultimate reality of the universe… hence, while the λογος of God is rational content of thought, it is always in some sense uttered, and because it is uttered becomes a life-giving power for men.”[7] The divine δυνάμεις [power, being able, capability][8] Philo calls λογος. Yet, the German scholar of the Bible, the well known in his day, Dr. Augustus Tholuck, (ca. 1850’s) also noted how Philo “denominates this λογος as ό πρεσβυτατος υίός του Θεου (the eldest son of God) ό προτογονος (the first born) and even ό δευτερος Θεός (the second God)... he sometimes uses σοφία (sophia) too, in the same sense as λογος.”[9]

The dogma contained in the doctrine of the Logos by the end of the 17th century was as Tholuck presented a litany of scholars advocating the λογος to be “but a personification of the divine reason… God as object of himself is the Word, for in the Word (that is, regarded as an internal thing) the spirit becomes objective to itself. The Word is consequently the principle through which God is revealed to himself… as he now contemplates himself in the Word, he beholds the fullness of his own essence, and in this the archetypes of the world, for the works of God, which, according to Romans 1:20, mirror ‘the eternal power of the Godhead’ of God, must have been the thoughts of God.”[10]

John, according to the classical scholar David Fideler, “...describes the nature of the ‘Word’ as a cosmic forming principle.” He continues, “Logos designates the power of ‘reason’ the pattern or order of things, the principle of relationships, and an articulated organized of something… it has the same meaning as both the Latin words ratio and oratio… as in continued geometrical proportion… the natural order of things, the principle of reason, relation and harmony, which exists both within the natural fabric of the universe, and within the human mind. It is the faculty whereby one thing is related to another through analogy, or the power of ‘proportional insight.’ The heart of the cosmic pattern and the source of existence, its emblem is the sun, the source of life and light.”[11] It is this sense then, that perhaps Philo meant that the λογος and the powers give us the summation of God’s emanations. “The λογος, the sum of all the powers.”[12]

Dodd explains “Its order and meaning express the mind of a transcendent creator… his thought which is the principle of reality in the universe. His thought however is not merely a meaning or plan visible in the universe; it is also the creative power by which the universe came into being and is sustained.”[13] The λογος did not merely descend upon Jesus, enter into Him, or abide in Him. The λογος became the σαρξ[14] or human nature which he bore.”[15]

“He is the Reason and Mind of the cosmos… there was an analogy between the Logos of God, which had become incarnate in Jesus, and the logos of humanity, which was incarnate in each person and perceptible to each person from within… this name [Logos] was given to him because he exists in all things that are...thus the cosmos was reliably knowable and at the same time it remained mysterious, both of these because the Logos was the Mind and Reason of God. Because the Logos incarnate in Jesus was the Reason of God, it was also possible to see the Logos as the very structure of the universe… that harmony, binding together the atom and the galaxy, was expressed in cosmic systema, all of it brought about by the magnificence of the Creator-Logos...the identification of the Creator-Logos in Jesus as the foundation for the very structure of the universe and the belief that the Logos of God is in the whole universe...the Logos, as the Savior of the cosmos, became incarnate in Jesus becoming incarnate in Jesus, the Logos had enabled human beings to transcend themselves and, in a pregnant phrase of the New Testament, ‘to become partakers in the divine nature.’ (2 Peter 1:4).”[16]

1. John Shelby Spong, “Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus,” HarperSanFrancisco, 1992: 167. “More than any other biblical writer, the author of the fourth Gospel seems to warn against, inveigh against, and show the absurdity of that all-too-human tendency to seek to capture divine mystery in literalized propositional statements.”
2. C. H. Dodd, “The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel,” Cambridge University Press, 13th reprint, 1988: 263. Hereafter cited as “Interpretation.”
3. Oscar Cullman, “Die Christologie des Neuen Testaments,” Translated as “The Christology of the New Testament,” by Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A. M. Hall, The Westminister Press, Revised, 1963: 252.
4. Dodd, “Interpretation,” p. 263.
5. Alan F. Segal, “Two Powers in Heaven,” Brill, 2002: 163.
6. Max Pulver, “Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St. John,” in “The Mysteries, edited by Joseph Campbell, Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1955: 181. Cf. Elaine Pagels, “The Gnostic Gospels,” Vintage Books, 1981: 88-89; Also Cf. Frederick H. Borsch, “The Christian and Gnostic Son of Man,” Studies in Biblical Theology, Second Series, SCM Press, 1970: 82, where the Son of Man theme and Jesus is “conceived of as a cosmic figure who has been endowed with God’s own creative power (we may think of John 1:1ff).” The logos and Son of Man related to Jesus is snug.
7. Dodd, “Interpretation,” p. 267.
8. Spiros Zodhiates, “The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary New Testament,” World Bible Publishers, 1992: 485-486. Cf. “Greek-English Lexicon,” Liddell & Scott, New edition Supplement, 1968, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Reprint, 1983: 452, indicating force, influence, authority, sometimes of bodily physical strength also, depending on the context.
9. Dr, Augustus Tholuck, “Commentary on the Gospel of John,” translated from the German by Charles P. Krauth, T & T Clark, 1859: 62-63. I got this very fine, erudite and scholarly tome in a used book store for $7.58! For whatever reason, I knew the name and reputation, how or when I learned of Tholuck, I have no idea, so when I saw it, I immediately grabbed it and purchased it. I was also fortunate enough to nab his gigantic commentary on the Psalms also.
10. Tholuck, “Commentary,” p. 67, 69.
11. David Fideler, “Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism,” Quest Books, 1993: 37-39.
12. Alan F. Segal, “The Two Powers,” p. 177.
13. Dodd, “Interpretation,” p. 277.
14. “Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” Royal Publishers, 1952: 437 - “Sarx the holy humanity of the Lord Jesus, in the totality of all that is essential to manhood, i.e., spirit, soul, and body.”
15. Dodd, “Interpretation,” p. 284.
16. Jaroslav Pelikan, “Jesus Through the Centuries,” Yale University, 1985: 63-68.
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