More on LOGOS

GregStffrd at GregStffrd at
Wed Oct 28 10:38:55 EST 1998

I suppose we should attempt a discussion of this term's meaning and use by
John. though some of you have rightly pointed out the difficulties associated
with this term.

In the first century C. E. there were Jews who had imbibed of Middle Platonist
and Stoic thought. These, then, were in all likelihood calling Jehovah's chief
angel by the title LOGOS, as did Philo, and they would not have found John's
reference to the LOGOS as something unintelligible. But the fact that some
Jews in the first century C. E. were using the title for the Angel of Jehovah
(though not accurately) cannot alone suffice for the use of the title in
John's writings. 

In literature written by Jews it is first used in sectarian literature as a
referent for what they considered to be the chief agent (or agency) of
Jehovah--at least it is ostensibly given as such a referent. Though LOGOS is
not a term used first in the LXX or the canonical NT, the Bible supports the
concept that God has available to himself a chief agent, though this is not
the same concept found in Jewish sectarian usage of LOGOS. The Christian
presentation of Jesus is that he is God's Son and the foretold Son of Man,
that he is the chief agent for revealing the Father's mind (see John 7:16, 17;
8:24-28; 12:49-50).

Also, it seems that much of John's Gospel can be seen as a polemic against
Jewish interpretations of Moses, as Moses had been deified in certain circles
of Jewry, and, particularly after 70 C. E., Moses came to be identified in
some sense with the LOGOS (see Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early
Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism [Leiden: Brill, 1977],

It may be that John either used the term to combat an erroneous identification
of Moses as the LOGOS, or he may have used it to correct some other
inappropriate use of the term by certain Jewish sects (the Tannaim,
Hermetists, etc.) who in articulating a cosmology/soteriology not grounded in
the OT may have misused the term to such an extent that John feared it might
seduce some Christians into apostasy. 

In this light, John clearly identifies the LOGOS as one who was with the God
of the OT "in the beginning" (1:1), who "became flesh" (1:14), dwelt among us,
and revealed to us the Father's mind.--John 1:18; 1 John 5:19-20.

Greg Stafford


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