It’s story time.
We talk about “the Word of God” a lot today… but usually we don’t have a lick of knowledge about what the phrase would have meant to the average person in the 1st century.
Strap in for a history lesson.
When we read about “the Word” (logos) in scriptures we’ve been conditioned to think about a book, or more accurately a collection of books, that is, the Bible.
But the early readers of the New Testament wouldn’t have had the same bias.
Thats not to say they didn’t have a biased way to approach the phrase “the word.” It just wouldn’t have been the same one we have 2000 years later.
The word “logos” is heavily steeped in meaning for the world at that time. It was a time in which philosophical thinking was rife… The ideas of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and so many others were spreading throughout the known world. Their views weren’t just in the immediate region surrounding Greece. Not now the Roman roads connecting the region better than ever before.
It’s important we know this because of a specific group of philosophers.
The Stoics were a philosophical group who followed Aristotle’s line of reasoning.
Aristotle’s philosophical and scientific influence on the modern world cannot be understated – we still were heavily Aristotelian in the scientific community almost 2000 years later!
He was known as one who reasoned everything by what he saw. It had to have a physical expression. He trained under Plato for 20years from the age of 17/18. Plato in turn was the “philosophical son” of Socrates… Considered one of the founders of western philosophy.
Why am I saying all this… Trust me I’m going somewhere.
So the Stoics believed, like Aristotle, that to believe something you needed physical proof – this was the ultimate logical reasoning.
They called this connection the logos. That is what we translate “the word”.
(the were not the first to do this – it’s use as a technical term in Philosophy actually traces back to Heraclitus back ~500BC)
To the stoics – when something that was unknown became known through something that could be observed in physical expression it was know as “the word”, “logos”
This isn’t a theory or idea I’ve dreamt up. Study the philosophy of the world around the time of the New Testament. Do some historical reading.
OK so let’s get back to Jesus’ day…
The thing that makes all this Greek philosophy relevant is that in the time of Jesus is it wasn’t just people up in Greece using this language.
The Romans have taking over the world!
It’s not that Rome created the routes between Greece and Israel, those already existed (although they were massively improved). But the significant change was in the Roman cities established around the world. For example Sepphoris would have been the city closest to Jesus that became a major Roman hub in the district.
Roman citizens, and other people groups, that wanted a more “sophisticated” culture than that of the Jews would have lived in such a city. After all, they required proper education, art (remember to Israeli’s graven images were illegal but Romans and Greeks loved statues), religion, philosophy, etc.
So these Roman cities ended up having resident philosophical voices from various factions in Greece come and take up shop. They were there preaching day and night their philosophical views in the town center.
Now who did all labour in these cities? Romans? Hahaha no chance.
Mostly slaves but also Jewish labourers…
That’s right. Every day the Jews would be walking into these Roman cities (filled with disgusting abominations like naked statues of Zeus and Pan (one of Pan’s statues is literally him having sex with a goat.. can you imagine how mad a Jew would feel looking at that every day on their way to work!))
Sorry… Jews… Wandering… Roman cities.
But as they wandered around these cities, back and forth to their homes in the neighbouring Jewish cities they would no doubt hear these philosophical principles. We know this because Jewish writings of the times (including our Bible) quote Greek poems and philosophical thoughts.
So most people would have had a concept of logos, albeit loosely.
Not only that but a good chunk of educated men (sorry women, no education for you!) would have heard these teachings and possibly even incorporated some of their concepts.
In fact, the most famous Jewish philosopher was largely influenced by the Stoics. He was a man called Philo, who lived at the same time as Jesus and went to great lengths to harmonise the Jewish scriptures with Greek Philosophy.
Either way when John rocks up several decades later and says Jesus is the LOGOS of God. What he was NOT saying is “Jesus is a form of the Bible.”
When John says that Jesus is the logos of God he’s saying Jesus is the physical expression of God!
He’s the proof for the unseen!
(Sounds a lot like Hebrews and Colossians doesn’t it?)
You see when Jesus did everything He did, when He said everything He said, He was physically manifesting the invisible realm. Or the spiritual realm.
I could go on. But let’s stop for now.
All that to say.
The “Logos” or the “Word of God” are not the Bible.
The Bible does not give perfect physical representation to the “invisible” God… Jesus does!
So join with me in saying… The Bible is NOT the Word of God!
Great now we can start enjoying the Bible for what it IS.
More on that to come!
(If you can’t wait for some of the upcoming blogs I have a whole section on The Bible over at The Grace Course you can watch for free.