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.

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