What's caused this surge of interest in "words?" Well, I've been going through John's Gospel slowly and carefully, trying to absorb as much (or more than usual) I can. The opening passage has always seemed powerful, but I've never investigated it deeply.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." John 1:1-3
To someone who maybe didn't grow up in Sunday School culture, this would be a weird thing to read. The Word? Just tell us the guy's name. So, for as long as I can remember, I've known that "the Word" in this passage is Jesus Christ. And I still believe that. But why "the Word" I've always wondered. I've heard bits and pieces about this Greek word logos, but have never understood it fully (and still don't!). This is a summary of some of what I've discovered recently from studying this passage, in particular from William Barclay:
John wrote his gospel after the other three gospel accounts. The basic problem at the beginning of the church was that it began within Judaism. Greeks had never heard of a “Messiah” or even had an expectation of one. Jesus’ ministry primarily took place in Jewish areas. The task of the early church was to create a predisposition in the Greeks to receive the Christian message. In 100 AD, John was living in a Greek city (
1) To Jews, a word had independent existence-it did things. For that reason, Hebrew had few words (10,000) compared to 200,000 in Greek.
2) The OT is full of examples. Jacob receives his Father’s verbal blessing and it can’t be taken back. God creates the universe through his words. Isaiah 55:11, God’s words accomplish the purpose for which they were sent out.
3) From 100 years before Jesus until his day, Hebrew was no longer spoken, except by scholars. Instead, Aramaic, a development of Hebrew, was spoken by the common people. Targums were the Aramaic translations of the OT and they did not use anthropomorphisms in reference to God, e.g. instead of saying “to meet God” they said “to meet the word of God.” And thus, the “word of God” (the Memra) became a common expression.
4) In Greek, “word” is Logos and it means word and reason. Wisdom and reason are very much the same thing and wisdom is God’s agent in enlightenment and in creation (Prov 3:18-20 – The Lord by wisdom founded the earth…). The most important is Prov 8:1-9:2, in which wisdom appears to have had an eternal existence, in a similar way to how John describes the existence of the Word.
6) Additionally, Philo, a Jew living in
So essentially, John came to the Greeks saying, “This Logos which you say is the wisdom, reason and power of God from the beginning of all time, this Logos became flesh…the mind of God became a person.” And similarly, the Word directly spoke to the Hebrews, because of their predisposition to believing in the power of God's words.
Now, how's that for some wordiness :)