Thursday, April 13, 2017

Misunderstandings about Logos Theology

Yung Suk Kim

Usually, the Fourth Gospel is called the Gospel of high Christology, which means that Jesus is God. So much so that the Johannine Prologue (1:1-18) is also read from that perspective of high Christology. That is, God became Jesus, quite literally (1:14: "The Logos became flesh"). The Logos (word) in the Prologue is equated with Jesus, who was with God from the beginning. Jesus is also the preexistent Logos. But this view of high Christology is not well supported by the text, as opposed to a common understanding. First, in John 1:1-13, the Logos does not refer to Jesus. While the Logos is God's word or wisdom or spirit in the Hebrew Bible, it is Reason in Greek philosophy. It may have to do with Jesus implicitly in these verses, but he is not clearly mentioned or explored therein. All things in those verses are about the Logos.

Second, finally, at John 1:14, readers come to think about the Logos and its relation to Jesus because 1:14a says: "The Logos became flesh and lived among us." But even here the meaning of the Logos becoming flesh is not self-evident because this sentence has a metaphoric statement, which must be understood metaphorically, not literally. Interestingly, 1:14a does not say that the Logos became Jesus, but flesh, which evokes the image of flesh as a concrete life in the world or of flesh as a vulnerable world. The point is that the invisible word of God (or the truth of God) became visible and touchable through flesh, which happened to be Jesus and his life. In this regard, Jesus incarnates the Logos; otherwise, these two are not the same. Jesus delivers God's word (17:1-14) and testifies to the truth of God (18:37).

Third, even in 1:14b ("we have seen his glory, the glory like or as of (hos) a father's only son, full of grace and truth"), the Logos is not equated with Jesus. We should take note of "hos" the particle of comparison, which means "like" or "as." John says that "his glory" (ten doxan autou, i.e., the glory of the Logos) is compared to the glory of a father's only son (doxan hos monogenous para patros). The glory of the Logos is seen in Jesus because the Logos is embodied through his life, full of grace and truth. Thus, John 1:14b is the language of comparison, not of equality. The Logos and Jesus are not the same.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pistis christou in Gal 2:16, 20, and Rom 3:22

Yung Suk Kim

Both the NRSV and NIV are united to mislead us about the translation of pistis christou in Gal 2:16, 20, and Rom 3:22. They treat this genitive phrase as an objective genitive. But this translation does not seem to fit Paul's thought and his gospel. In Gal 2:16, one's justification (not in the sense of imputed/imparted righteousness) means that he/she stands in a right/good relationship with God. Paul says that this right relationship with God is possible through Christ's faith (pistis christou). It is not by "faith in Jesus." In other words, if one lives by Christ's faith, he/she is in a good relationship with God. That is what justification (dikaiosyne) means by Paul. The similar idea of this is also found in Rom 1:17 (c.f., Hab 2:4): "The righteous one shall live by faith."

This righteous relationship with God is not by particular law, works, or any tradition, but through living in Christ or following his faith. In this light, justification is not made once and for all. It must be sought and lived out until the end.  

With this above understanding, Gal 2:16 is translated as follows: "yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through Jesus Christ's faith. And we have come to trust Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by Christ's faith, and not by doing the works of the law because no one will be justified by the works of the law."

The importance of Jesus Christ's faith is further emphasized in Gal 2:20 in which Paul says that he wants to live by Jesus Christ's faith. This verse is also translated as follows: "and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Pistis christou is also important in Rom 3:22,  in which Paul summarizes his threefold gospel: God's righteousness, Christ's faith, and Christian participation in his faith.

See this blog for a difference between pistis christou and pistis en christo.

For more about this idea of faith, see this book below:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Jesus means nothing unless ..."

Yung Suk Kim

Jesus means nothing unless there’s something worth to imitate. The name Jesus would be hollow if there is no work to discern to follow. He pointed his finger to God and did the work of God. But sometimes people look at his finger and worship him. That is an idol. Jesus would be nothing more than a shaman if there were no ethics or things to follow. We have to see what he did for God. He makes it clear about this in John 10:37-38:
If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.
Furthermore, Jesus also "said to the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'" (John 8:31-32). 

A mere belief about him is naive. A mere name Jesus is hollow.