Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“In the beginning, the Word [logos] was there . . .”
The height of the educational system in our country is a “doctorate”, or a PhD. That was not the case in the ancient world. The height of education for them was what is called “oratory”. Oratory was much more than just making a fancy speech. It was the ability to persuade or move an audience. The best orators were not merely fast talkers; they possessed substantial knowledge of science, mathematics, philosophy (or, logic), history, and other subjects, so that they could employ those disciplines as support for their speeches. Oratory required the mastery of languages so that one might be able to “turn a phrase” and to make points succinctly and clearly, not only instructing but entertaining the ears of the listeners. It required a man to have possession of himself so that he knew how to present himself, with neither false modesty nor pretentiousness, to present himself as someone of value to the nation, and even to all mankind. It required a life governed by superior morals so that the listeners would have confidence in the speaker as a man of sincere interest in their well-being and as someone competent to guide them to a better life. The best orator was the man who embodied the hopes and the potential of the human race. Oratory was the height of education because it was the sum of one’s education and character put to practical, beneficial use.
When the Son of God is referred to as “the Word of God”, we should understand him in this ancient context. Being “the Word of God” means more than merely representing the words of God. We should understand “the Word” in the context of the ancient world’s view of oratory, in which oratory was the height of civilized accomplishment. “The Word of God” should speak to us of the sum of God’s knowledge and wisdom and goodness, presented to us with confidence and beauty so as to persuade us of a higher plane of life.
Paul called Jesus Christ “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1Cor. 1:24), and “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3), and “for in him dwells all the fulness of the divine nature bodily” (Col. 2:9). The “Word of God” is the embodiment of all that God is; the very image of the Father; “the brightness of His glory”; the model being, compelling us to a higher plane of living.
The Greek logos, translated “Word” in John 1:1, refers to so much more than what we mean by “word”. The English word “logic” owes its existence to logos, and that fact can help us understand that logos encompasses all the reasoning power, all the capacity to discern, all the knowledge, and the ability to function as a thinking being. There was nothing in the ancient Greek vocabulary that could better represent the genius and character of God than logos, but when we read logos as meaning “word” in a modern sense, we miss John’s point. At least one translator refused to translate logos as “word” because he knew that English readers would not understand all that logos really encompasses. However, his translation of John 1:1 did not improve on the situation. He translated John 1:1 thus: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” I appreciate this translator’s intention and sympathize with his feelings, but how does his translation make John’s meaning clearer? Perhaps this translator was simply trying to show us that logos cannot be translated into English, and that is true. There is no way to translate logos in its fulness for English readers. The best we can do is to try to comprehend (1) the place of oratory in the ancient world as the pinnacle of intellectual effort and moral duty, and (2) be aware that what the apostle John meant by logos is very much more than what we normally understand “word” to mean, and (3) ask Jesus, “the Logos of God”, to help us. Without Jesus guiding us, no man, whether Greek or otherwise, will ever come to know God. That, too, is part of what his being “the Logos of God” means.