Michael Boling – John’s Description in His Gospel of Jesus as the “Word”

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The depiction of Jesus as the “Word” by John in his prologue has multifarious purposes. It can be argued that John’s chief purpose is to relate Jesus with the Old Testament theology surrounding the words from God as indicative of divine speech and ultimately to creation itself. Throughout his gospel, John consistently refers to Old Testament terminology so any discussion of the reasoning or sources for John’s usage of logos must begin there in order for this concept to be properly understood.

The Old Testament is replete with discussion of the Hebrew expression of word, dabar. Genesis equates this expression initially with the act of creation and later in a depiction of revelation and deliverance [1]. The immediate nature by which the word of the Lord is employed throughout the Old Testament is consistently annotated in the narrative. Additionally, verses such as Psalm 107:20 describe God “sending forth His word” and the resulting action that took place once God spoke. All of these elements are subsumed within the concept of Jesus as the “Word.”

Carson lucidly outlines the connection between the Old Testament usage of word and John’s purpose by stating:

“In short, God’s Word in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation and salvation, and the personification of that Word makes it suitable for John to apply it as a title to God’s ultimate self-disclosure, the person of his own Son” [2].

John is essentially stating that Jesus is God, the Word incarnate. Additionally, throughout his gospel, John utilizes the various elements of the Old Testament understanding of the Word culminating these expressions in the passion narrative. This was more than a mere wordplay on the part of John. It was rather a direct revelation of the nature of Christ and his eternal nature. John clearly sought to relay to his readers, a largely Jewish community that God had revealed Himself to man through His Son Jesus. Just as God had communicated to Israel by His word through the message of the Old Testament, Jesus, being God, would provide that same level of power and authority.

As noted by Kostenberger, “all of Jesus’ works and words flow from the eternal fount of Jesus’ eternal existence as the Word” [3]. This element of John’s usage of logos supersedes any Stoic or Gnostic philosophical beliefs that equated logos with reason an “impartial rational principle governing the universe” [4]. In contrast to these beliefs, “John’s logos acts in history” [4]. John clearly develops the Jewish understanding of God and thus the Christology of his Gospel by employing the word logos in his prologue to describe Christ. Essentially, John sought to parallel the entire Old Testament narrative in order to provide his reader with assurance that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but God incarnate, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

John 1 provides the believer with a number of important aspects by which to discuss the existence and attributes of Jesus as God. The prologue asserts that Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe affirming his preexistent nature. Additionally, the prologue connotes that Jesus is the Son, thus “underscoring the intimacy of Jesus’ relationship with God” [5] and ultimately His relationship with the believer. As noted by Keener, “Jesus is the embodiment of all God’s character revealed in the Mosaic law, but is more accessible to humanity” [7]. As stated in John 14:6, no man can come to the father except through Jesus. He is the Word incarnate which has provided humanity a means, through his death on the cross, of obtaining salvation and access to God. Jesus is the “supreme revelation of God; the Torah gone forth from Zion” [8]. The connection between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament as understand by John’s audience is an important role of the Christology of John that the modern reader of this pericope must fully grasp. Man can have relationship with God through Jesus and only through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the lamb that is depicted throughout the Old Testament narrative that was slain before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:19-20).

References:

[1] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 115.
[2] Ibid, 116.
[3] Andreas Kostenberger, Encountering the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 51.
[4] Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume 1 (Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers), 339.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Keener, 361.
[8] Ibid, 363.

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