The Logos in the Gospel of John

The location of the authorship of the Gospel of John is debated to be among Ephesus, Patmos, or some smaller place in Asia Minor. Its time of authorship is estimated at around 90 AD. As this time is later than the dispersion of the Jews it is not unreasonable to think that many Jews and the sect of Judaism called Christianity were now more affected by Greek culture than Jewish. No matter whether you believe that the gospel of John was divinely inspired and written, or a human memoir of a first-century disciple also named John, there is no doubt that that the prologue to the gospel was culturally relevant, and as such presented Jesus in relation to the very popular Greek philosophical concept of the Logos.

As we have seen in previous articles, Stoicism was the most popular of the philosophies at that time and presented the Logos as the energizing framework of the universe, the Divine Reason. Before the Stoics, philosophers like Plato and Heraclitus had written about the Logos as the divine reason or plan.

Philo was a Jewish writer writing at the same time as some of the events of the Book of Acts and before the gospels were penned. He was an influential Jew living in perhaps the intellectual center of the world at that time, Alexandria. Philo wrote extensively about the theology of the Old Testament being the greatest of the philosophies. He also focused heavily on the Word of God as the “Logos” and heavily integrated this concept with Judaism.

The Logos was, therefore, a controversial topic of the first century much like evolution, communism, and hate crimes are controversial topics today.

In the first 14 verses of the Gospel of John, we have a cultural link between Christianity and Greek philosophy.

In the following verses I have substituted “Logos” for “word”:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The Logos was in the beginning with God. All things were made through the Logos; and without the Logos was not anything made that hath been made. In the Logos was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.

There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Logos became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

As a result of this prologue I see the first-century conversation going something like this:

You Stoics, Platonists, and many others of you philosophers talk about the Logos. Yes, God, in an instant, planned as only he could plan. And in that instant, that plan, that divine reasoning, that Logos, created all that ever was, is and will be. True life exists in knowing and walking in the Logos. And that Logos, in the fullness of times, generated a man, born of flesh, but a perfect living fulfillment of the Logos. Just as the Logos is the light, so this man is the living light of the world. Many cannot see that he is the living manifestation of the Logos, the light of the world. But to those of you who do, you will become the children of God.

So the Logos that you have been talking about, the Divine Reason, exists, and the perfect form of the Logos exists in the person of Jesus Christ.

© copyright 2011-2020 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

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