18 July, 2008

A Study of John 1 - Part 1

God Speaks, and His Will is Performed - the Basic Message of John's Prologue

John 1:1-3 is known amongst Christians as “the battleground of the Trinity” – and it is not hard to see why. At first glance, this passage may appear to show irrefutable evidence for the deity and pre-existence of Christ. But a careful analysis will show that the entire Trinitarian case turns upon a spurious translation of John 1:1-3, by means of which the Greek word ”logos” is subjected to the most astonishing abuse.

As with any other proof text, the most effective way to refute the Trinitarian claim is to build up a counter-argument on the basis of first principles, in addition to the socio-historical context of John’s Gospel. But before we do anything else, we must establish that the logos is not a person, but rather the outworking of God's purpose and plan. This is even clearer when we read the Genesis record, in which:
God said… and it was so.
Even a cursory glance at Scripture is enough to show that the Old Testament creation account never uses the language that Trinitarianism requires. Not once does Genesis attempt to persuade us that this spoken word was a divine person. Not once is this spoken word referred to as a distinct entity. It is always described as “the word” of God – never as God Himself.

Thus, in the words of Psalm 33:6 & 9...
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth... For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
See also Psalm 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19, Hebrews 11:3 (compare with Jeremiah 10:12, 13:5) and II Peter 3:5,7:
. . . by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water . . . But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Ignoring the fact that the message of the New Testament is necessarily founded upon the old (and therefore cannot contradict it) Trinitarians place great emphasis on the alleged significance of the word logos in the Johannine prologue, which they claim is a direct reference to the pre-existent Christ.

The superficial nature of this argument is easily exposed.

In the KJV, for example, logos is translated by more than twenty different English words and is used for utterances of men (e.g., John 17:20) as well as those of God (John 5:38). The Bible, as we have already seen, informs us that there was no creation without the word; no creation without God speaking and causing it to occur. Nothing occurring without a direct expression of the Divine will.

That is the context in which the word "word" is used, both in the OT and the NT. This means that even if we accept the KJV reading (“…he was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him… by him was not anything made that was made…”) at face value, it must still be proved that a literal, personal being is here referred to. The very most that a Trinitarian can claim (on the basis of the KJV rendition) is that the logos has simply been personified.

Hence the following observations from a standard authority:
Prior to verse 14 we are in the same realm as pre-Christian talk of wisdom and logos, the same language that we find in the wisdom tradition and in Philo, where as we have seen we are dealing with personifications rather than persons, personified actions of God rather than an individual divine being as such. The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine "logos" as "He" throughout the poem.

But if we translated "logos" as "God's utterance" instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend the "logos" in verses 1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being. In other words the revolutionary significance of verse 14 may well be that it marks . . . the transition from impersonal personification to actual person. [1]
Christ was certainly God's spoken word in action – and therefore His representative on Earth – but that was all. He did not pre-exist as some sort of supernatural thing called "The Word."

This point is confirmed by the Old Testament, where we see that angels and prophets have also been vehicles by which God has transmitted His logos.

In most instances, Scripture describes this event in the following way:
The word [dabar] of Yahweh came to…
At some point however, we must address the fact that there are a couple of passages in which Christ is called “the logos of God.” What do we make of them? What are they telling us, and how might they be explained to our interested friends?

The answer is found in the principle of God manifestation.

Christ is the complete manifestation ("revelation") of the logos, for "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9.) This same logos was “in the beginning with God”, before the existence of Christ.

When the "word was made flesh" (John 1:14) then, and only then, did Christ come into existence as “the logos made flesh.” Christ is called the logos (Revelation 19:13, compare with I John 1:1; Luke 1:2) because he constitutes the outworking of God’s logos; the physical reality of a plan which had previously existed in the mind of God.

Was there is a pre-existence of that which was and is Jesus Christ? Not in any literal sense whatsoever. A man might say that he existed as "A twinkle in my father's eye and a knowing look on my mother's face", but this is radically different from literal pre-existence. Could we honestly tell our friends that "That which is me, existed before I was conceived"? Not at all.

Christ came into existence when he was conceived and subsequently begotten. When did this occur? Luke 1:35 tells us that it was some two thousand years ago in Palestine, when the power of God overshadowed Mary, the betrothed of Joseph. (See also Matthew 1:20.)

[1] Dunn, James D. G. (1980), Christology in the Making.

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