In the beginning was ( ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν )
With evident allusion to the first word of Genesis. But John elevates the phrase from its reference to a point of time, the beginning of creation, to the time of absolute pre-existence before any creation, which is not mentioned until John 1:3. This beginning had no beginning (compare John 1:3; John 17:5; 1 John 1:1; Ephesians 1:4; Proverbs 8:23; Psalms 90:2). This heightening of the conception, however, appears not so much in ἀρχή , beginning, which simply leaves room for it, as in the use of ἦν , was, denoting absolute existence (compare εἰμί , I am, John 8:58) instead of ἐγένετο , came into being, or began to be, which is used in John 1:3, John 1:14, of the coming into being of creation and of the Word becoming flesh. Note also the contrast between ἀρχή , in the beginning, and the expression ἀπ ' ἀρχῆς , from the beginning, which is common in John's writings (John 8:44; 1 John 2:7, 1 John 2:24; 1 John 3:8) and which leaves no room for the idea of eternal pre-existence. “In Genesis 1:1, the sacred historian starts from the beginning and comes downward, thus keeping us in the course of time. Here he starts from the same point, but goes upward, thus taking us into the eternity preceding time” (Milligan and Moulton). See on Colossians 1:15. This notion of “beginning” is still further heightened by the subsequent statement of the relation of the Logos to the eternal God. The ἀρχή must refer to the creation - the primal beginning of things; but if, in this beginning, the Logos already was, then he belonged to the order of eternity. “The Logos was not merely existent, however, in the beginning, but was also the efficient principle, the beginning of the beginning. The ἀρχή (beginning ), in itself and in its operation dark, chaotic, was, in its idea and its principle, comprised in one single luminous word, which was the Logos. And when it is said the Logos was in this beginning, His eternal existence is already expressed, and His eternal position in the Godhead already indicated thereby” (Lange). “Eight times in the narrative of creation (in Genesis) there occur, like the refrain of a hymn, the words, And God said. John gathers up all those sayings of God into a single saying, living and endowed with activity and intelligence, from which all divine orders emanate: he finds as the basis of all spoken words, the speaking Word ” (Godet).
The Word ( ὁ λόγος )
Logos. This expression is the keynote and theme of the entire gospel. Λόγος is from the root λεγ , appearing in λέγω , 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 λόγος 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 ( ἔπος, ὄνομα, ῥῆμα ), but means a word as the thing referred to:
, not the formal
part: a word as embodying a conception or idea. See, for instance, Matthew 22:46
; 1 Corinthians 14:9
, 1 Corinthians 14:19
. Hence it signifies a saying
, of God, or of man (Matthew 19:21
, Matthew 19:22
; Mark 5:35
, Mark 5:36
): a decree
, a precept
; Mark 7:13
). The ten commandments are called in the Septuagint, οἱ δέκα λόγοι , “the ten words
” (Exodus 34:28
), and hence the familiar term decalogue
. It is further used of discourse:
either of the act
of speaking (Acts 14:12
), of skill and practice
in speaking (Acts 18:15
; 2 Timothy 4:15
), specifically the doctrine of salvation through Christ (Matthew 13:20-23
; Philemon 1:14
); of narrative
, both the relation and the thing related (Acts 1:1
; John 21:23
; Mark 1:45
); of matter under discussion
, an affair, a case in law (Acts 15:6
; Acts 19:38
As signifying the inward thought
, it denotes the faculty of thinking and reasoning
(Philemon 4:15, Philemon 4:17; Hebrews 4:13
John uses the word in a peculiar sense, here, and in John 1:14
; and, in this sense, in these two passages only. The nearest approach to it is in Revelation 19:13
, 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 1:1
, 1 John 1:2
). Compare Hebrews 4:12
. 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 Psalms href="/desk/?q=ps+33:6&sr=1">Psalms 33:6). 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 (Psalms 3:4; Isaiah 40:8; Psalms 119:105). The Word is a healer in Psalms 107:20; a messenger in Psalms 147:15; the agent of the divine decrees in Isaiah 55:11.
(2) The personified wisdom
sq.; Job 28
). Even Death, which unlocks so many secrets, and the underworld, know it only as a rumor (Job href="/desk/?q=job+28:22&sr=1">Job 28:22). It is only God who knows its way and its place (Job 28:23
). 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 (Job 28:25
, Job 28:26
). 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 (Proverbs 8:26-31
), declared it. “It became, as it were, objective, so that He beheld it” (Job 28:27
) 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 8:2
, Proverbs 8:3
). She builds a palace and prepares a banquet, and issues a general invitation to the simple and to him that wanteth understanding (Proverbs 9:1-6
). 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 (Genesis 16:7-13
; Genesis 32:24-28
; Hosea 12:4
, Hosea 12:5
; Exodus 23:20
, Exodus 23:21
; Malachi 3:1
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 μονογενές , only begotten (7:22). “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 16:12, it is said, “Thy word, O Lord, healeth all things” (compare Psalms 107:20); and in 18:15,16, “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 Genesis href="/desk/?q=ge+39:21&sr=1">Genesis 39:21, they paraphrase, “The Memra was with Joseph in prison.” In Psalms 110:1-7Jehovah 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 VI 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
( δυνάμεις ) 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 Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος , 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 Λόγος προφορικός , 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 ῥῆμα , 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 (John 1:18
); His essence is love (John 3:16
; 1 John 4:8
, 1 John 4:16
). 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 (John 1:2
), and it is He who creates all things, matter included (John 1:3
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 (John 1:1
), the Word, who was
originally before the creation with God. and was
God, one in essence and nature, yet personally distinct (John 1:1
, John 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 Hebrews 1:3
. He made all things, proceeding personally from God for the accomplishment of the act of creation (Hebrews 1:3
), and became man in the person of Jesus Christ, accomplishing the redemption of the world. Compare Philemon 2:6.
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 5:7
), chooses rather to call Him Word
is a phrase more communicable than 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
is an inward conception of the mind;
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 ( ἦν πὸς τὸν Θεὸν )
Anglo-Saxon vers., mid Gode. Wyc., at God. With ( πρός ) does not convey the full meaning, that there is no single English word which will give it better. The preposition πρός , 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 ” ( πρὸς ἡμᾶς ), i.e., in social relations with us (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:56). “How long shall I be with you ” ( πρὸς ὑμᾶς , Mark 9:16). “I sat daily with you ” (Matthew 26:55). “To be present with the Lord ” ( πρὸς τὸν Κύριον , 2 Corinthians 5:8). “Abide and winter with you ” (1 Corinthians 16:6). “The eternal life which was with the Father ” ( πρὸς τὸν πατέρα , 1 John 1:2). 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 ( καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος )
In the Greek order, and God was the Word, which is followed by Anglo-Saxon, Wyc., and Tynd. But θεὸς , 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 Θεὸς is without the article, which could not have been omitted if he had meant to designate the word as God; because, in that event, Θεὸς 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) God from the word, and λόγος (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 John 1:1, is unfolded with increasing fullness” (Meyer).