The Johannine equation

September 16, 2016 (Kampala):

The last couple of days I’ve been reading a lot about the λóγος from articles I’ve downloaded from the internet. A picture is forming in my mind. It looks like the usage of λóγος in John’s prologue is not immediately clarified by looking at the normal, non-philosophical uses of the root λóγ- in the New Testament, although its etymology in Attic Greek is probably relevant. By the time John used the term λóγος, it was already marked by considerable conceptual growth beyond the bare etymological sense.

Secondly, there has been scholarly debate on the sources of John’s usage. Was it Greek influence? Jewish, Hellenistic, Hermetic, Stoic…? If I could summarize the picture emerging in my mind, it would be thus:

Heraclitus adopted a common Greek word (λóγος) as a philosophical concept, circa 500 B.C. By the time of John, the concept had developed through Stoicism and was part of Greek intellectual culture. Both John and Philo used the term for their own different purposes and in different ways. John was likely familiar with the Hebrew word /dabar/ of the Old Testament and /memra/ of the Aramaic Targums, and λóγος was the obvious near-equivalent to these terms in Koiné Greek. He knew the term would have deep resonances in contemporary Hellenistic culture and that it would be an intriguing segue into his account of how the Word of God became a historical human figure. John was not likely interested in philosophy per se (and doesn’t use the term in reference to Jesus beyond the prologue) but employed it to make a connection with the cosmopolitan society. As one commentator suggested, John was not interpreting Jesus in terms of a Greek metaphysical theorem but was rather giving a new understanding of a theorem based on concrete experience of the man Jesus of Nazareth. This classic distinction is well illustrated in the contrast between Philo and John and the meanings they attribute to λóγος. Almost all the commentators I read seemed bent on minimizing any identity between the Greek λóγος and Jesus, which I found interesting. This would seem to be a wonderful opportunity horribly missed.

In short: the Greek cosmic intermediary, the λóγος, was explicitly identified with Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity has since done a commendable job focusing on and maintaining the emphasis on Jesus as God-in-the-flesh but has sadly ignored the other half of the Johannine equation, namely that the λóγος was cosmic and rational BEFORE being incarnated as a man. To wit: ‘Jesus’ is a universal cosmogonic principle as well as a historical person.

From God comes the λóγος. The λóγος is cosmic. The λóγος became a person.

Here we have, again, the COSMOTHEANTHROPIC nexus – the Mystery.

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