VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
PREVIOUS - NEXT CHAPTER - INDEX
Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
The Word (o logov): Logos. This expression is the keynote and theme of the entire gospel. Logov is from the root leg, appearing in legw, the primitive meaning of which is to lay: then, to pick out, gather, pick up: hence to gather or put words together, and so, to speak. Hence logov is, first of all, a collecting or collection both of things in the mind, and of words by which they are expressed. It therefore signifies both the outward form by which the inward thought is expressed, and the inward thought itself, the Latin oratio and ratio: compare the Italian ragionare, "to think" and "to speak."
As signifying the outward form it is never used in the merely grammatical sense, as simply the name of a thing or act (epov, onoma, rJhma), but means a word as the thing referred to: the material, not the formal part: a word as embodying a conception or idea. See, for instance, Matthew xxii. 46; 1 Cor. xiv. 9, 19. Hence it signifies a saying, of God, or of man (Matt. xix. 21, 22; Mark v. 35, 36): a decree, a precept (Romans ix. 28; Mark vii. 13). The ten commandments are called in the Septuagint, oiJ deka logoi, "the ten words" (Exod. xxxiv. 28), and hence the familiar term decalogue. It is further used of discourse: either of the act of speaking (Acts xiv. 12), of skill and practice in speaking (Acts xviii. 15; 2 Timothy iv. 15), specifically the doctrine of salvation through Christ (Matthew xiii. 20-23; Philip. i. 14); of narrative, both the relation and the thing related (Acts i. 1; John xxi. 23; Mark i. 45); of matter under discussion, an affair, a case in law (Acts xv. 6; xix. 38).
As signifying the inward thought, it denotes the faculty of thinking and reasoning (Heb. iv. 12); regard or consideration (Acts xx. 24); reckoning, account (Philip. iv. 15, 17; Heb. iv. 13); cause or reason (Acts x. 29).
John uses the word in a peculiar sense, here, and in ver. 14; and, in this sense, in these two passages only. The nearest approach to it is in Apoc. xix. 13, where the conqueror is called the Word of God; and it is recalled in the phrases Word of Life, and the Life was manifested (1 John i. 1, 2). Compare Heb. iv. 12. It was a familiar and current theological term when John wrote, and therefore he uses it without explanation.
OLD TESTAMENT USAGE OF THE TERM
The word here points directly to Gen. i, where the act of creation is effected by God speaking (compare Ps. xxxiii. 6). The idea of God, who is in his own nature hidden, revealing himself in creation, is the root of the Logos-idea, in contrast with all materialistic or pantheistic conceptions of creation. This idea develops itself in the Old Testament on three lines. (1) The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. Consequently divine attributes are predicated of it as being the continuous revelation of God in law and prophecy (Ps. iii. 4; Isa. xl. 8; Psalms cxix. 105). The Word is a healer in Psalms. cvii. 20; a messenger in Psalms cxlvii. 15; the agent of the divine decrees in Isa. lv. 11.
(2) The personified wisdom (Job xxviii. 12 sq.; Proverbs 8, 9.). Here also is the idea of the revelation of that which is hidden. For wisdom is concealed from man: "he knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me; and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air" (Job 28.). Even Death, which unlocks so many secrets, and the underworld, know it only as a rumor (ver. 22). It is only God who knows its way and its place (ver. 23). He made the world, made the winds and the waters, made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder (vv. 25, 26). He who possessed wisdom in the beginning of his way, before His works of old, before the earth with its depths and springs and mountains, with whom was wisdom as one brought up With Him (Prov. viii. 26-31), declared it. "It became, as it were, objective, so that He beheld it" (Job xxviii. 27) and embodied it in His creative work. This personification, therefore, is based on the thought that wisdom is not shut up at rest in God, but is active and manifest in the world. "She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors" (Proverbs viii. 2, 3). She builds a palace and prepares a banquet, and issues a general invitation to the simple and to him that wanteth understanding (Proverbs ix. 1-6). It is viewed as the one guide to salvation, comprehending all revelations of God, and as an attribute embracing and combining all His other attributes.
(3) The Angel of Jehovah. The messenger of God who serves as His agent in the world of sense, and is sometimes distinguished from Jehovah and sometimes identical with him (Gen. xvi. 7-13; xxxii. 24-28; Hos. xii. 4, 5; Exod. xxiii. 20, 21; Mal. iii. l).
In the Apocryphal writings this mediative element is more distinctly apprehended, but with a tendency to pantheism. In the Wisdom of Solomon (at least 100 B.C.), where wisdom seems to be viewed as another name for the whole divine nature, while nowhere connected with the Messiah, it is described as a being of light, proceeding essentially from God; a true image of God, co-occupant of the divine throne; a real and independent principle, revealing God in the world and mediating between it and Him, after having created it as his organ - in association with a spirit which is called monogenv, only begotten (vii. 22). "She is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness" (see chapter 7, throughout). Again: "Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth she order all things. In that she is conversant with God, she magnifieth her nobility: yea, the Lord of all things Himself loved her. For she is privy to the mysteries of the knowledge of God, and a lover of His works."
Moreover, by the means of her I shall obtain immortality, and leave behind me an everlasting memorial to them that come after me" (chapter 9.). In chapter xvi. 12, it is said, "Thy word, O Lord, healeth all things" (compare Ps. cvii. 20); and in chapter xviii. 15, 16, "Thine almighty word leaped from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and, standing up, filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth." See also Wisdom of Sirach, chapters 1, 24, and Baruch 3, iv. 1-4.
LATER JEWISH USAGE
After the Babylonish captivity the Jewish doctors combined into one view the theophanies, prophetic revelations and manifestations of Jehovah generally, and united them in one single conception, that of a permanent agent of Jehovah in the sensible world, whom they designated by the name Memra (word, logov) of Jehovah. The learned Jews introduced the idea into the Targurns, or Aramaean paraphrases of the Old Testament, which were publicly read in the synagogues, substituting the name the word of Jehovah for that of Jehovah, each time that God manifested himself. Thus in Gen. xxxix. 91, they paraphrase, "The Memra was with Joseph in prison." In Psalms 110 Jehovah addresses the first verse to the Memra. The Memra is the angel that destroyed the first-born of Egypt, and it was the Memra that led the Israelites in the cloudy pillar.
USAGE IN THE JUDAEO-ALEXANDRINE PHILOSOPHY
From the time of Ptolemy i. (323-285 B.C.), there were Jews in great numbers in Egypt. Philo (A.D. 50) estimates them at a million in his time. Alexandria was their headquarters. They had their own senate and magistrates, and possessed the same privileges as the Greeks. The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (B.C. 280-150) was the beginning of a literary movement among them, the key-note of which was the reconciliation of Western culture and Judaism, the establishment of a connection between the Old Testament faith and the Greek philosophy. Hence they interpreted the facts of sacred history allegorically, and made them symbols of certain speculative principles, alleging that the Greek philosophers had borrowed their wisdom from Moses. Aristobulus (about 150 B.C.) asserted the existence of a previous and much older translation of the law, and dedicated to Ptolemy 6 an allegorical exposition of the Pentateuch, in which he tried to show that the doctrines of the Peripatetic or Aristotelian school were derived from the Old Testament. Most of the schools of Greek philosophy were represented among the Alexandrian Jews, but the favorite one was the Platonic. The effort at reconciliation culminated in Philo, a contemporary of Christ. Philo was intimately acquainted with the Platonic philosophy, and made it the fundamental feature of his own doctrines, while availing himself likewise of ideas belonging to the Peripatetic and Stoic schools. Unable to discern the difference in the points of view from which these different doctrines severally proceeded, he jumbled together not merely discordant doctrines of the Greek schools, but also those of the East, regarding the wisdom of the Greeks as having originated in the legislation and writings of Moses. He gathered together from East and West every element that could help to shape his conception of a vicegerent of God, "a mediator between the eternal and the ephemeral. His Logos reflects light from countless facets."
According to Philo, God is the absolute Being. He calls God "that which is:" "the One and the All." God alone exists for himself, without multiplicity and without mixture. No name can properly be ascribed to Him: He simply is. Hence, in His nature, He is unknowable.
Outside of God there exists eternal matter, without form and void, and essentially evil; but the perfect Being could not come into direct contact with the senseless and corruptible; so that the world could not have been created by His direct agency. Hence the doctrine of a mediating principle between God and matter - the divine Reason, the Logos, in whom are comprised all the ideas of finite things, and who created the sensible world by causing these ideas to penetrate into matter.
The absolute God is surrounded by his powers (dunameiv) as a king by his servants. These powers are, in Platonic language, ideas; in Jewish, angels; but all are essentially one, and their unity, as they exist in God, as they emanate from him, as they are disseminated in the world, is expressed by Logos. Hence the Logos appears under a twofold aspect:
(1) As the immanent reason of God, containing within itself the world-ideal, which, while not outwardly existing, is like the immanent reason in man. This is styled Logov ejndiaqetov, i.e., the Logos conceived and residing in the mind. This was the aspect emphasized by the Alexandrians, and which tended to the recognition of a twofold personality in the divine essence.
(2) As the outspoken word, proceeding from God and manifest in the world. This, when it has issued from God in creating the world, is the Logov proforikov, i.e., the Logos uttered, even as in man the spoken word is the manifestation of thought. This aspect prevailed in Palestine, where the Word appears like the angel of the Pentateuch, as the medium of the outward communication of God with men, and tends toward the recognition of a divine person subordinate to God. Under the former aspect, the Logos is, really, one with God's hidden being: the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations of God in the world; affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld; and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation, not inaugurated, like God, nor made, like the world; but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God's image; the mediator between God and the world; the highest angel; the second God.
Philo's conception of the Logos, therefore, is: the sum-total and free exercise of the divine energies; so that God, so far as he reveals himself, is called Logos; while the Logos, so far as he reveals God, is called God. John's doctrine and terms are colored by these preceding influences. During his residence at Ephesus he must have become familiar with the forms and terms of the Alexandrian theology. Nor is it improbable that he used the term Logos with an intent to facilitate the passage from the current theories of his time to the pure gospel which he proclaimed. "To those Hellenists and Hellenistic Jews, on the one hand, who were vainly philosophizing on the relations of the finite and infinite; to those investigators of the letter of the Scriptures, on the other, who speculated about the theocratic revelations, John said, by giving this name Logos to Jesus: 'The unknown Mediator between God and the world, the knowledge of whom you are striving after, we have seen, heard, and touched. Your philosophical speculations and your scriptural subtleties will never raise you to Him. Believe as we do in Jesus, and you will possess in Him that divine Revealer who engages your thoughts'" (Godet). But John's doctrine is not Philo's, and does not depend upon it. The differences between the two are pronounced. Though both use the term Logos, they use it with utterly different meanings. In John it signifies word, as in Holy Scripture generally; in Philo, reason; and that so distinctly that when Philo wishes to give it the meaning of word, he adds to it by way of explanation, the term rJhma, word.
The nature of the being described by Logos is conceived by each in an entirely different spirit. John's Logos is a person, with a consciousness of personal distinction; Philo's is impersonal. His notion is indeterminate and fluctuating, shaped by the influence which happens to be operating at the time. Under the influence of Jewish documents he styles the Logos an "archangel;" under the influence of Plato, "the Idea of Ideas;" of the Stoics, "the impersonal Reason." It is doubtful whether Philo ever meant to represent the Logos formally as a person. All the titles he gives it may be explained by supposing it to mean the ideal world on which the actual is modeled.
In Philo, moreover, the function of the Logos is confined to the creation and preservation of the universe. He does not identify or connect him with the Messiah. His doctrine was, to a great degree, a philosophical substitute for Messianic hopes. He may have conceived of the Word as acting through the Messiah, but not as one with him. He is a universal principle. In John the Messiah is the Logos himself, uniting himself with humanity, and clothing himself with a body in order to save the world.
The two notions differ as to origin. The impersonal God of Philo cannot pass to the finite creation without contamination of his divine essence. Hence an inferior agent must be interposed. John's God, on the other hand, is personal, and a loving personality. He is a Father (i. 18); His essence is love (iii. 16; 1 John iv. 8, 16). He is in direct relation with the world which He desires to save, and the Logos is He Himself, manifest in the flesh. According to Philo, the Logos is not coexistent with the eternal God. Eternal matter is before him in time. According to John, the Logos is essentially with the Father from all eternity (i. 2), and it is He who creates all things, matter included (i. 3).
Philo misses the moral energy of the Hebrew religion as expressed in its emphasis upon the holiness of Jehovah, and therefore fails to perceive the necessity of a divine teacher and Savior. He forgets the wide distinction between God and the world, and declares that, were the universe to end, God would die of loneliness and inactivity.
THE MEANING OF LOGOS IN JOHN
As Logos has the double meaning of thought and speech, so Christ is related to God as the word to the idea, the word being not merely a name for the idea, but the idea itself expressed. The thought is the inward word (Dr. Schaff compares the Hebrew expression "I speak in my heart" for "I think").
The Logos of John is the real, personal God (i. 1), the Word, who was originally before the creation with God. and was God, one in essence and nature, yet personally distinct (i. 1, 18); the revealer and interpreter of the hidden being of God; the reflection and visible image of God, and the organ of all His manifestations to the world. Compare Heb. i. 3. He made all things, proceeding personally from God for the accomplishment of the act of creation (i. 3), and became man in the person of Jesus Christ, accomplishing the redemption of the world. Compare Philip. ii. 6. The following is from William Austin, "Meditation for Christmas Day," cited by Ford on John:
"The name Word is most excellently given to our Savior; for it expresses His nature in one, more than in any others. Therefore St. John, when he names the Person in the Trinity (1 John v. 7), 8 chooses rather to call Him Word than Son; for word is a phrase more communicable than son. Son hath only reference to the Father that begot Him; but word may refer to him that conceives it; to him that speaks it; to that which is spoken by it; to the voice that it is clad in; and to the effects it raises in him that hears it. So Christ, as He is the Word, not only refers to His Father that begot Him, and from whom He comes forth, but to all the creatures that were made by Him; to the flesh that He took to clothe Him; and to the doctrine He brought and taught, and, which lives yet in the hearts of all them that obediently do hear it. He it is that is this Word; and any other, prophet or preacher, he is but a voice (Luke iii. 4). Word is an inward conception of the mind; and voice 9 is but a sign of intention. St. John was but a sign, a voice; not worthy to untie the shoe-latchet of this Word. Christ is the inner conception 'in the bosom of His Father;' and that is properly the Word. And yet the Word is the intention uttered forth, as well as conceived within; for Christ was no less the Word in the womb of the Virgin, or in the cradle of the manger, or on the altar of the cross, than he was in the beginning, 'in the bosom of his Father.' For as the intention departs not from the mind when the word is uttered, so Christ, proceeding from the Father by eternal generation, and after here by birth and incarnation, remains still in Him and with Him in essence; as the intention, which is conceived and born in the mind, remains still with it and in it, though the word be spoken. He is therefore rightly called the Word, both by His coming from, and yet remaining still in, the Father."
And the Word. A repetition of the great subject, with solemn emphasis. Was with God (hn pov ton Qeon). Anglo-Saxon vers., mid Gode. Wyc., at God. With (prov) does not convey the full meaning, that there is no single English word which will give it better. The preposition prov, which, with the accusative case, denotes motion towards, or direction, is also often used in the New Testament in the sense of with; and that not merely as being near or beside, but as a living union and communion; implying the active notion of intercourse. Thus: "Are not his sisters here with us" (prov hmav), i.e., in social relations with us (Mark vi. 3; Matt. xiii. 56). "How long shall I be with you" (prov uJmav, Mark ix. 16). "I sat daily with you" (Matt. xxvi. 55). "To be present with the Lord" (prov ton Kurion, 2 Cor. v. 8). "Abide and winter with you" (1 Corinthians xvi. 6). "The eternal life which was with the Father" (prov ton patera, 1 John i. 2). Thus John's statement is that the divine Word not only abode with the Father from all eternity, but was in the living, active relation of communion with Him.
And the Word was God (kai Qeov hn o logov). In the Greek order, and God was the Word, which is followed by Anglo-Saxon, Wyc., and Tynd. But qeov, God, is the predicate and not the subject of the proposition. The subject must be the Word; for John is not trying to show who is God, but who is the Word. Notice that Qeov is without the article, which could not have been omitted if he had meant to designate the word as God; because, in that event, Qeov would have been ambiguous; perhaps a God.
Moreover, if he had said God was the Word, he would have contradicted his previous statement by which he had distinguished (hypostatically) 10 God from the word, and logov (Logos) would, further, have signified only an attribute of God. The predicate is emphatically placed in the proposition before the subject, because of the progress of the thought; this being the third and highest statement respecting the Word - the climax of the two preceding propositions. The word God, used attributively, maintains the personal distinction between God and the Word, but makes the unity of essence and nature to follow the distinction of person, and ascribes to the Word all the attributes of the divine essence. "There is something majestic in the way in which the description of the Logos, in the three brief but great propositions of ver. 1, is unfolded with increasing fullness" (Meyer).
Were made (egeneto). Literally, came into being, or became. Expressing the passage from nothingness into being, and the unfolding of a divine order. Compare. vv. 14, 17. Three words are used in the New Testament to express the act of creation: ktizein, to create (Apoc. iv. 11.; x. 6; Col. i. 16); poiein, to make (Apoc. xiv. 7; Mark x. 6), both of which refer to the Creator; and gignesqai, to become, which refers to that which is created. In Mark x. 6, both words occur. "From the beginning of the creation (ktisewv) God made" (epoihsen). So in Eph. ii. 10: "We are His workmanship (poihma), created (ktisqentev) in Christ Jesus." Here the distinction is between the absolute being expressed by hn (see on ver. 1), and the coming into being of creation (egeneto). The same contrast occurs in vv. 6, 9. "A man sent from God came into being" (egeneto); "the true Light was" (hn).
"The main conception of creation which is present in the writings of St. John is expressed by the first notice which he makes of it: All things came into being through the Word. This statement sets aside the notions of eternal matter and of inherent evil in matter. 'There was when' the world 'was not' (John xvii. 5, 24); and, by implication, all things as made were good. The agency of the Word, 'who was God,' again excludes both the idea of a Creator essentially inferior to God, and the idea of an abstract Monotheism in which there is no living relation between the creature and the Creator; for as all things come into being 'through' the Word, so they are supported 'in' Him (John i. 3; compare Col. i. 16 sq.; Hebrews i. 3). And yet more, the use of the term ejgeneto, came into being, as distinguished from ejktisqh, were created, suggests the thought that creation is to be regarded (according to our apprehension) as a manifestation of a divine law of love. Thus creation (all things came into being through Him) answers to the Incarnation (the Word became flesh). All the unfolding and infolding of finite being to the last issue lies in the fulfillment of His will who is love" (Westcott, on 1 John ii. 17).
By Him (di autou). Literally, through him. The preposition dia is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as dia tou profhtou, through the prophet (Matt. i. 22, on which see note). 11 It is the preposition by which the relation of Christ to creation is usually expressed (see 1 Cor. viii. 6; Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2), though it is occasionally used of the Father (Heb. ii. 10; Rom. xi. 36, and Gal. i. 1, where it is used of both). Hence, as Godet remarks, it "does not lower the Word to the rank of a simple instrument," but merely implies a different relation to creation on the part of the Father and the Son.
Without (cwriv). Literally, apart from. Compare xv. 5.
Was not anything made that was made (egeneto oude en o gegonen). Many authorities place the period after en, and join oJ genonen with what follows, rendering, "without Him was not anything made. That which hath been made was life in Him." 12 Made (egeneto), as before, came into being.
Not anything (oude en). Literally, not even one thing. Compare on panta (all things) at the beginning of this verse.
That was made (o gegonen). Rev., more correctly, that hath been made, observing the force of the perfect tense as distinguished from the aorist (egeneto). The latter tense points back to the work of creation considered as a definite act or series of acts in the beginning of time. The perfect tense indicates the continuance of things created; so that the full idea is, that which hath been made and exists. The combination of a positive and negative clause (compare ver. 20) is characteristic of John's style, as also of James'. See note on "wanting nothing," James. i. 4.