Why Is Jesus Christ Called The Word?

Updated on February 7, 2018

Introduction

The prologue to John’s Gospel is a stirring passage. It declares that the one through whom all things were made, the light and life of the world, has become flesh and dwelt among us. But a portion of the text can seem almost cryptic to modern readers - seeming to hold some deeper, more mysterious meaning. It does not speak of Jesus Christ as merely “The Son,” or as “The Messiah,” but rather John names him Ho Logos – the Word.

John's use of the Word to describe Jesus does indeed have a deeper meaning, but it was not one intended to be shrouded in mystery, but rather one that clearly illuminated the nature of the Son of God to John’s readers. But to understand the author's intentions, we must first understand his intended audience.

Who Read John's Gospel?

The Gospel of John was not written in the Judaea, rather it was likely penned in Roman Asia – possibly Ephesus, to a mixed audience of Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews1. While many of its intended readers would have been well versed in the Mosaic Law, virtually all of them would be acquainted with Greek Philosophy. Among the non-believing gentiles, philosophy was the source of moral-codes and personal conduct, rather than religion2. While at least a number of Hellenistic Jews sought to show that their Scriptures were compatible to the Wisdom of the Greeks by demonstrating that the two could be interpreted to agree substantially with one another – this was championed by the early first century Jewish writer, Philo3. It was to this audience that John was trying to convey his Gospel. The prologue, which would frame the whole narrative to come, was written to speak to polytheistic Greeks as to the nature of God, while also emphasizing the oneness and eternal unity of the Father and the Son to the Jews.

“In the beginning was the Word

And the Word was with God

And the Word was God.*

The meaning for Jewish audiences is intrinsically clear; the Word – Jesus – existed from eternity past, he was with God, and he is God. Similarly, this conveyed to the Gentiles that Jesus Christ is not a separate being or second god, but rather he was and is The God.

Ho Logos: The Word in Greek Philosophy

But John wanted to convey something more about the nature and function (if one can use such a term!) of the eternal Son. To this aim, he dubbed him “Ho Logos.”

Ho Logos does indeed literally mean “the word,” but to the Greek mind it also represented “Reason” – particularly in the Ideal sense. To understand the Greek philosophy of the Logos, let us briefly consider its history.

Perhaps the first man to contemplate an ultimate “knowledge,” or “reason” which could be described as Ho Logos, was Heraclitus, c. 500B.C.. Heraclitus saw the Logos as a “message” which the world (Kosmos) had to offer. This was not an ethereal message, but rather could be loosely thought of as “the reason things are as they are.” This was a message which could be perceived – at least in part – by the senses, because all mankind were partakers of this Logos5.

Heraclitus’ teachings were later taken and refined by Stoic philosophers of the last few centuries B.C.. The Stoic’s saw the universe as being made up of two component; a passive, physical portion (matter) and a second rational, motivating aspect which they called the Logos. In short, the Stoics considered the Logos to be the impersonal force that ordered the universe and caused all things to function as they did. If there was no Logos, then there could be no logic, no reason, indeed there would be nothing to enervate matter. All things held together and functioned because of the Logos6.

To the Stoics, The Word was an impersonal force that ordered and enervated the universe
To the Stoics, The Word was an impersonal force that ordered and enervated the universe

Philo: Bridging the Gap Between Jew and Greek

The Stoic school of thought popularized philosophy by placing an emphasis on the practical applications of their teachings7. Although there remained other, competing, schools of thought in the Roman world come the first century A.D., Stoic thought was the most influential and widespread.

In this environment, some among the Hellenistic Jews – Jews who had begun to adopt Greek culture – sought to bridge the gap between their traditions (and the faith on which they were founded) and that of the Greeks. The champion of this cause, was Philo.

Philo sought to demonstrate that the prophets of the Old Testament and the Philosophers of ancient Greece were compatible. To this aim, he undertook to demonstrate how the ancient Philosophers, by way of their intellectual reason, had come to the principle truths expressed in the Jewish Scriptures. Among these truths, was that of the Logos.

Philo considered the Logos – this impersonal ordering force of the universe – to be none other than God’s own Reason. The universe was so ordered because God’s infinite reason ordered it. Philo even went so far as to personify Logos as God’s appointed lieutenant over his creation, and even calls Logos God’s “firstborn son!8** But ultimately, in keeping with both Jewish monotheism and the Stoic view of the Logos, Philo stops short of speaking of the Logos as a “personal” being. To him, the Logos is still nothing more than an aspect of God’s reason.

The Logos in John's Gospel

It was with this understanding of The Logos that John applies the name to the Son of God. But John was not merely borrowing the term, he was making what could only have been a radical claim to Stoic-minded Hellenists; that the very thing that orders and enervates the universe has taken on human form and dwelt among men!

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.9

The Logos John was describing was not the impersonal force of the Greeks, but a true person, one with God and yet capable of walking as a man among men. John was writing a Gospel that declared he had seen the one who orders all the universe, and that one is Jesus Christ.

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.10

Epilogue

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” - Colossians 1:15-17

Footnotes

* All biblical texts are cited from the English Standard Version

** It should be noted that there is no evidence John read Philo, nor does this seem likely. However, though John was almost certainly not intentionally making use of Philo’s work directly, it is very likely he was using the concepts that Philo’s influence had lent to Hellenistic Jews to communicate with them. http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~funkk/Personal/logos.html

1. Reformation Study Bible, introduction to John, Edt. R.C. Sproul

2. Larry Hurtado, lecture: “Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb96kYfk628

3. Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. I

4. John 1:1

5. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heraclitus/

6. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/stoicism/

7. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/

8. Philo, On Husbandry, http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book11.html

9. John 1:14

10. John 1:18

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I have a degree in philosophy (Philo) and preached for a bit.

      Buddhism, Philosophy must always remain a work of how we us words, and in that sense how we think. But to me, love of God and others is rooted in Christ's words of plain meaning like the two greatest commandments.

    • Peopleofthebook profile image
      Author

      B A Johnson 2 weeks ago

      Ericdierker,

      I am glad you found this article useful!

      Not that i am condoning Philo's approach!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I think this is the point - Charlie says that God has two most important servants. His son and the Holy Ghost -- or what charlie says is his guide. Either the Holy Spirit that guides Charlie is a part of God or a Servant. Certainly Christ cannot be a mere servant but the Holy Spirit is God that only talks to Charlie. Theological Bankruptcy.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 2 weeks ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      baj - it is not my interpretation it is what scripture says, not your bible quite apparently.

      You clearly read my explanation with your interpretation in your forefront as you neglected what I said. How could he say a mere man was in the likeness of His father, well if your Jesus is a mere man and not a perfect man filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, then He is not the firstborn son of God. Jesus said if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. That is because He was of the same Spirit as His Father which to be a son of God, a real disciple of Christ, all must be or they are not of Christ or God. You cannot walk in your flesh here and see truth that is only available by being of and following the one Spirit with Jesus and His Father.

      Thomas clearly knew what he was saying, he understood that Jesus is standing in the Place of God during this age. That makes Him Lord and God by delegation.

      John DID NOT say Jesus was in the beginning, he correctly said the word of God was in the beginning which it was , and before the beginning and forever, the word of God is the words of God, not Christ. If instead of picking verses out of context to meet your beliefs, you would use the entire context you would be able to see truth. Don't believe me , I am not looking for followers, My only purpose is to make disciples of Christ as He commands us to do. But lay down your beliefs for a few minutes, get with the Holy Spirit of God and ask to see the truth, then believe the Spirit, not me or any other man and learn to follow Christ alone. Scripture says the head of man is CHRIST. Churchmen say they are the head, they are liars.

      The correct interpretation of John 1:14-on as found in a word for word translation of scripture without the words and doctrine and punctuation added by mere men translators is this;

      John 1:14 cannot stand alone.

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

      2. It was in the beginning with God. 3,All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; 5 and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. 6 There was a man sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came for a witness, that he might witness concerning the Light, that all might believe through Him. 8 He was not that Light, but that he might witness concerning the Light. 9 He was the true Light; He enlightens every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to the ones believing into His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. And we beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten from the Father, full of grace and of truth. 15 John witnesses concerning Him, and has cried out, saying, This One was He of whom I said, He coming after me has been before me, for He was preceding me. 16 And out of His fullness we all received, and grace on top of grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

      Verses 1& 2 makes it clear it is talking about God not Jesus. In verse 3 Him is clearly God.

      Verse 4 speaks of the beginning and God was the one who breathed life into man. Verse 5 is speaking of the Holy Spirit of God which was also in Christ. Verses 6 &7 say that John was sent by God to witness who the Christ is. Verse 8 again says John is a witness not He that was to come. Verse 9 says

      Christ is the bearer of the Holy Spirit, the real light that enlightens every man coming into the world

      that will believe on and follow Him. 10 is saying the Holy Spirit has always been in the world but the world does not know It. Verse 11 He jesus came to His own (the jews) to enlighten them through the Holy Spirit but they rejected Him ,Jesus. Verse 12 as many as received Him, Jesus, to them He gave the Holy Spirit ( enlightened them). Only He could enlighten them with the Holy Spirit because at that time he was the delegated authority of God Acting as God for this age having been given ALL of the authority of God til the end of this age. Note only those believing in Him were enightened (given the Holy Spirit) through which they were born of the Spirit, brought into the Kingdom of God as sons. Verse 13 only they filled with the Holy Spirit became sons as the Holy Spirit is the power of God which allows a man to become a son and understand the things of God, as the Holy Spirit is sent to teach us all things which it alone possesses. Verse 14 When Jesus began doing His appointed and anointed work, He then became “the word became flesh” living among them as the fulfillment of the prophesies in the word of God. Verse 15 John confirms Jesus came after He did, not before and that Jesus is the Primary one, the one of the word. Verse 16 Out of the fullness of Christ, the Holy Spirit that Jesus is filled with and gives to us we that receive the Holy Spirit and become sons of God receive of the Goodness and Mercy of GOD.

      unfortunately most people have been indoctrinated by following man, not Christ and have been led away from the truths of scripture which discredit the false doctrines and the men that promote them.

      Scripture is clear Jesus Christ is the head of man. No man can serve two masters. The scripture warn us many times “DO NOT BE DECEIVED”. If you read the warning the ones that will deceive and how they will do it are clear. According to scripture God says there CAN BE NO DIVISIONS IN HIS CHURCH. All of the church system is built on DIVISION by men for their own selfish reason, men not willing to believe Christ and do it His way. How can something that scripture says can not be of God be accepted by so many. Scripture explains it, just read who will the deceivers be and how they will do it.

    • Peopleofthebook profile image
      Author

      B A Johnson 2 weeks ago

      Celafoe,

      While you did well enough explaining your own theology, you seem to have failed to interact with the passage I cited. Philippians 2 is not perplexing, unless you bring to the passage a preexisting assumption - namely that Christ is not God.

      How can it be said of a mere man, "He was in the likeness of God?"

      Or how can Thomas have cried, "My Lord and my God?" (John 20:28)

      Your interpretation of the Prologue to John's gospel is innovative, but disregards the clear teaching for the sake of your own theology. How could John have more clearly stated "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God, HE was in the beginning (not it or they, but He)." John was clearly speaking of an individual who was with God from the beginning, and as John 1:14-18 make abundantly clear, that individual is Jesus Christ.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 2 weeks ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      OJ- your last comment is confirmation of what I just wrote.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 2 weeks ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      BAJ- certainly. First you must understand who Jesus really is. He says He is the son of God, never says He is God( though many falsely teach and some bibles falsely say He is) but scripture shows He is God's delegated authority for this final age of man. The book of revelation clearly states that it is "The revelation of Jesus Christ" . That is the first thing that must be understood. It tells of the things that must happen before the final revealing of Christ as the son of God and God as all in all for eternity. The passage you quote is one of the most perplexing to the theologians because they have not the Spirit. They like all that follow man do not understand the Spirit world and see things in their carnal flesh. ALL false and misleading doctrines are the fruit of carnal thinking. We must be able to think in the Spirit of God that possesses only the true disciples of Christ, and is only available through Christ though many many men teach they can impart it by laying hands on people. It clearly is ONLY available. as are ALL things of the Spirit in this age, through the only man that is a mediator between man and God, Jesus Christ the son of God.

      Jesus says that ALL authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him for THIS AGE and at the end of this age He will return it to God and sit down in subjection to God,With all His other sons.

      You must also see and understand that this is the final age of man, if the judgment of God follows at the end of this age that means we are already in the final age of man, the age of Christ's rule. Which is evidenced by His declaring He is God's delegated authority (in other word He is acting as God) for THIS CURRENT AGE. You must also understand what delegated authority is to see this . If ALL authority on heaven and earth, which belongs solely to God is given Him for this age then He is equal to God DURING THIS AGE. But He RETURNS ALL AUTHORITY TO GOD at the end of this age, so He is only equal to God during the time in which He is acting as God with ALL the authority OF GOD.. At the end of this age HE HAS NO AUTHORITY as ALL authority has been returned to God and scripture says THEN God is once again AND FOR ETERENITY ALL IN ALL. The God who was and is and is to come has come.

      Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. 9 Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world.

      1Co 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead; He became the firstfruit of those having fallen asleep. 21 For since death is through man, also through a Man is a resurrection of the dead; 22 for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruit; afterward those of Christ at His coming.24 Then is the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He makes to cease all rule and all authority and power. 25 For it is right for Him to reign until He puts all the hostile ones under His feet; 26 the last hostile thing made to cease is death. 27 For "He subjected all things under His feet;" but when He says that all things have been subjected, it is plain that it excepts Him who has subjected all things to Him. 28 But when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who has subjected all things to Him, that God may be all things in all.

      So for this age Jesus is equal to God because HE has ALL of the authority of God and is acting as God until the end of this final age of man, the judgment, when HE Returns ALL authority to God and submits as all sons must do to God for eternity. He did not exist, only the words of God telling about His coming existed before he was born to Mary. He became the fulfillment of the word, not actually the word at His birth. And scripture says “He is the word made flesh” which is correct.

      The churches of man do not teach or understand that we are in the very final age of man, they are waiting for things that have already happened to happen. The end of ALL things of the flesh is at the judgment seat which is the next big event and the end of man. They that are sons through Christ (the only way to become a son) will inherit the earth, then the new earth, and live on it with God and all His

      sons for eternity.

      There is no way that the sons can inherit the earth as scripture declares if they are removed, as it was in the day of Noah ALL the UNRIGHTEOUS will be destroyed from the face of the earth and the sons of God will again inherit the earth as did Noah, but this time is the last cleansing and they will be given a new pure (unpolluted by man) earth to live on with God and His sons for eternity

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      This is quite interesting. I could not remember Philo's name, thank you.

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 2 weeks ago from South Alabama

      Jehovah jehoshuah christos. God is my savior , my jesus my christ...jude 25. Now unto the only wise God our savior be glory and honor now and ever, amen. Jesus was the role of God appearing in flesh. II tim 2

      3:16 to wit, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. That was what was revealed to saul, is why he converted. Amen!

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 2 weeks ago from South Alabama

      Amen!

    • Peopleofthebook profile image
      Author

      B A Johnson 2 weeks ago

      Would you care to explain this passage in light of your theology?

      "(Jesus Christ) Who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:6-11

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 2 weeks ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      absolutely NOT TRUE. Jesus did not exist in the beginning, the word of God is simply the words of God, all of His words from the beginning of God. Jesus was not even mentioned in scripture until Abraham. Jesus did become the fulfillment of the word of God or as scripture explains it " the word made flesh" but that was after His Birth 2000 yrs ago when He first appears and then He goes on and fulfills the law and prophecies making Him the word which has become flesh because all that was spoken of Him He did. But He is not God and He is not the word of God. but part of the word of God that was given to prepare us for His arrival.

      You are repeating the false doctines of apostate men (the scriptures say that men without the Spirit have taught and repeat these satanic lies), men anointed by themselves, or other men but ultimately by satan because they are repeating his lies..

    • Peopleofthebook profile image
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      B A Johnson 2 weeks ago

      Thank you very much, It is certainly a pleasure!

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      Richard Parr 2 weeks ago from Oz

      Enlightening. Thank you.

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