The Logos

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

In all of John’s writings, his Gospel, 1, 2 and 3 John and Revelation, this term is found 37 times. In every case, it is translated “Logos.” Let’s examine the background of this powerful term. In the secular world of John’s era, logos had already assumed a central significance in Greek and Roman philosophy. The most primitive definition of the term “logos” meant to gather or pick up thoughts and then to verbalize them. It meant that which was collected by the mind and then spoken aloud. It contained the basic concept of the skill and practice of continual reasoning and then speaking out the results.

“The Big Three,” Socrates (470-399 BC), Plato (428-347 BC), and Aristotle (384-322 BC) all added nothing new to the concept of the term logos. Although philosophers did not invent the term, they used it in its primitive stages of development. In their day, logos referred to the life force of meaningful discourse, dialogue and discussion in their secular attempts to discover the logos of things within man. When you do the math, you find that these great philosophers actually only wrote and spoke over a 138-year period. The latter of these three, Aristotle, investigated all terms associated with the term logos and then redefined it as the conclusion, the proof or the bottom line of an argument. For Aristotle, logos meant that which man could think, then define and then prove. The logos came to mean the eternal continuance of the thought processes of man in his search for the ultimate truth. In the heyday of stoic and Socratic thought, there was a search for truth but never an arrival at truth. If this sounds a lot like New Age theology, it is because it is just as nonsensical. God’s goal is to get His truth to people, not to force them to search aimlessly. 

It is well known that philosophers like to argue. But to express knowledge, I must use rhetoric logically. Through knowledge, logic and rhetoric in the search for truth, one seeks to arrive at logos. The term at that time was ill-defined, but generally meant an utterance, an intellectual, rational, reasonable, eloquent communication. It was often used to refer to a teaching, a discourse or a law that was common to human relationships resulting in appropriate behavior. It also carried the concept of collecting and arranging such information in an orderly sequence. Logos involved the activity of the thought process, referring to everything that man explores within his mind and recognizes as universal inherent laws. In short, logos pointed to everything that was great and significant in life. Therefore, the word logos, in its early stages of formulation as a philosophical term, meant everything that man has created within human thought and reasoning. 

The combined expressions of thought and speech contained in the term logos were perfect for John’s purposes. The idea of logos also came to been seen as that which expresses everything that exists and the regulative principle of the universe. As the philosophic use of the term logos developed, it came to represent more than mere communication of knowledge, but the possible mediator ship that might exist between man and his gods. In fact, the god Zeus had a son named Hermes who was sometimes referred to as “logos”. So it was not an entirely foreign thought that the son of a god could be logos. Thus, John perfected the term instantly when he used it to show that the Logos is the spoken expression of the mind of God as expressed through His living Word—His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

The world was ready for an expression that would describe the mission and character of the Messiah. Though the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke begin with a biographical and historical introduction, John chooses a theological treatise. One might say that the Logos is the theme of John’s gospel. Jesus, as our Logos, is the ultimate fact of the universe.  Since the people of John’s day already knew that logos involved the use of thought and reasoning, it was a short step for him to use the term Logos to refer to all that Jesus was and taught. The concept of logos, for John, was not something that needed to come into existence, for the Logos has always existed in the person of Christ.

The apostle John took this single word and applied it directly to Jesus Christ as the ultimate Logos—the One who joined the thoughts of God with the thoughts of men as our Mediator. In the minds of The Big Three, man alone had logos, but by the first century AD, the human race was ripe for the introduction of the thoughts that John set forth in his new conception of the term. The Son of God, the Messiah was the ultimate and eternal Logos. The Holy Spirit, through John, revealed the Logos as the One who was the intelligence behind, and the expression of, the thoughts of God Himself. The Greeks already thought of logos as the controlling reason of the universe, the combined wisdom of man and his gods. So using the vocabulary of his generation, John took the word and adapted it to his purposes. Since the use of the term up to that time had come to mean “the expression of an opinion,” John crystallized the term to show that Jesus is the perfectly expressed opinion of God.

Logos was now not some abstract, philosophical thought, not an “it” but a “He.” It was not an impersonal principle, but a personal Intelligence, living and active, seeking to bond with the minds of human beings. The Logos brought illumination into the hearts of men, where there was none before. Since philosophic thought had already come to believe that the concept of logos could involve the gods, John brought this term into full fruition. When we read “and the word was God,” it means that the Logos manifested the very nature of God Himself.

Furthermore, the material creation exists because of the Logos, for apart from Jesus, nothing was created (v. 3). For John, the Logos was the One who caused the universe to come into existence, for the Logos has always existed. John assumes the creative activity of God and ties it to the Logos inseparably. God spoke the worlds into being (Genesis 1) and the Son was there with the Father to make it so (John 1:2). By blending the personality of Jesus with the term Logos, John shows Christ to be the Divine Reason that makes all things function. He shows Logos to be the beginning of all history, all creation and the entire reason for life itself.

At His Incarnation, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (v. 14). All previous abstract thoughts about the concept of logos take shape in the personality and form of Jesus Christ Himself.  He was the Logos in Mary’s womb, on the Cross, and He is our Logos now. The Logos expresses perfectly the continuous, timeless existence of God. As Jesus said, “Before Abraham existed, I existed” (John 8:58).

When we review the development of this single word, note its progression. From an utterance to a communication, to a divine communication and finally by the Person who epitomized exactly what Logos is, the Revelation of God to man. John used the term “Logos” eight times in the Revelation and it is the only term for “word” that he uses in this book. In Revelation, for example, John refers to those who bore record of the Logos of God (1:2), those who have kept God’s Logos (3:8) and to the One whose name is called the Logos of God (19:13).  For John, the nature and character of God are perfectly expressed through the Logos, the Person through which God communicates His truth to the human race.

The Holy Spirit provided John with a single word to explain the divine revelation of God through His Son. But in the final analysis, we have no human capacity to fully comprehend, yet alone explain, such a dynamic term. What term could totally explain the mind of God? The ancient philosophers sought their logos and never found it. For you and I to make any sense of the world we live in, we need the true Logos found only in the person of Jesus Christ.

John brought the human race face to face with God through his description of the Logos…but have you met Jesus? Do you know the One who has provided the ultimate sacrifice for sins? If not, take a moment to ask Him into your life right now, to forgive you of all your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. 

Maxim of the Moment

I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. - George Burns