Most believers are familiar with the words of John 1:1-5: “In the beginning there was the Word.” Today, we understand ‘The Word‘ to mean Jesus, but I fear we have lost a great deal of John’s original meaning. It isn’t so much that this loss has changed anything, but more like it has robbed us of something more. If you have a moment, I’d like to explain.
First, we have to understand that the Scriptures are the Word of God. As such, He will preserve them. This is why, no matter how often skeptics try, no one has yet been able to show that the Scriptures have been altered over time. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, they affirmed that the Scriptures we have today are nearly identical to those from 200 B.C. Other ancient fragments of Scripture have dated to even earlier periods, and they have affirmed the same thing: Scripture has been preserved
[The preservation of God’s Word is actually directly connected to the subject at hand. I hope you will see how by the end of this post.]
Now, Satan (which means adversary, or accuser) cannot change this. God wills that His Word be preserved, so there is nothing Satan can do about that: His Word (i.e. the Scriptures) will be preserved — period! So how can Satan combat this? The same way he always has: through deception. As in the case with Even in the Garden, this deception often comes in the form of perversion, or twisting of the Truth (telling of half-truths, or part of the Truth in a way that produces a false impression or conclusion). Well, I believe this is what has happened in the case of John 1:1-5. Only, in this case, it is not so much that Satan has twisted the meaning of John’s original words as it is that Satan has taken away a great part of their original meaning. Here’s why I say this.
First, read the passage in its original Greek (you will have to follow the link for the original Greek):
John 1: 1-5 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Deity of Jesus Christ
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Notice that the original Greek does not say ‘word,’ but ‘logos.’ Now, you might say that this is the same thing, since ‘logos‘ means ‘word’ (or Word of God). However, that is not what ‘logos‘ meant when John first used the term. Remember, John was written in the 1st Century, and he was using 1st Century Greek. Therefore, we should understand that the meaning of a word then is not necessarily the meaning of that word today. When we look, we discover this is precisely the case here. John actually re-assigned a meaning to the word, ‘logos,’ so that now, today, we understand it to mean ‘the Word of God.’ But what did ‘logos‘ mean in John’s day and how might that original meaning affect our understanding of John’s original message?
Remember, when John is writing, he is in the time when the Greek philosophers were at the height of their influence. John is in a world dominated by Greek culture, and he is writing in Greek. At that time, ‘logos‘ was understood to refer to the controlling principle in the universe. So, why would John use this term? Look at the rest of the verses:
In the beginning was ‘the controlling principle of the universe.’ Paul explains what this ‘controlling principle‘ is in Romans 1 & 2. Paul calls it Natural Law. Today, we think of it as ‘the laws of physics,’ but here is the point of my post: the laws of physics are only part of God’s Natural Law. Which then means, today, we have lost a good part of our understanding of what John meant by “The Word.” That lost part has been taken away.
Now, keep reading. John tells us that ‘logos‘ existed in the beginning. This means before the creation of the universe (keep reading, you’ll see this is what he means). And that ‘logos‘ was not only with ‘Theos‘ (the One True God), but that ‘logos‘ was ‘Theos.’ Therefore, ‘logos‘ is with God and is God. Now, let’s try to put this in more modern terms.
John has just told us that the sum total of all the laws which govern this universe are part of The One True God. This means all the laws of physics, the laws governing logic, mathematics, economics, society — everything: all these laws are part of ‘logos,’ and thus, they are God. Got it so far? Now keep reading.
Next, John tells us that all things were created through this ‘logos.’ The Greek word translated ‘created‘ here is ‘ginomai,’ which means ‘to bring into being.’ So, John is literally telling us that this sum total of governing laws he calls ‘logos‘ is the means by which God created everything that has ever been created. The very first thing we should note is that this excludes God and ‘logos,’ which means they are not ‘created’ beings. But now, let’s put this into more modern terms.
John started by telling us that the ‘governing force‘ which he calls ‘logos‘ is part of The One True God. It is the sum total of all laws which control everything that has ever been created. And that it is through this sum total of governing laws that everything which has ever been was created in the first place. Now think about what that means. We do not doubt that we are using the laws of physics when we create something, so why should it surprise us when John tells us God did the same thing in creating the universe? God, as the author of these governing laws — logos — uses them (logos) to create everything He has ever created. Simple, right? It should be. It just means the Law Giver uses His own laws to work His will. Now, what does this give us so far?
Logos (the governing force of the universe) existed — with God — before anything was ever created.
These governing principles are God (it must be, as it was not created, therefore, it must have always existed, which, by definition, makes it God).
And that it is through this governing set of principles that God created everything He has ever made.
Now, finish the passage. John finishes by telling us that in this ‘governing force‘ (logos) is life, also referred to as the light. The Greek word here for ‘life‘ is ‘zōē.’ This refers to the spiritual life of deliverance from the proper penalty for sin. In other words, this ‘zōē‘ is eternal life — salvation — and refers to all those who will ever be redeemed. Now, let’s wrap up:
In his original Greek, John was telling us that Jesus is much, MUCH more than just God as man. Jesus is the governing principle by which all things that have ever been or ever will be are made. Paul later tells us that it is through Christ (this same governing principle) that all things are also sustained. John tells us that this ‘logos’ is not only with God, but is God. So God and ‘logos‘ are one, but thought of as also being distinct from each other. This is not so difficult to accept. Your thoughts and words are one with you, but they are also separate things. How do you know that to be true? Because you speak of them as being part of you, but also distinctly separate from you in your own speech. So why should John speak of Jesus any differently? Finally, John tells us that it is through this governing principle, logos, that true redemption is found. Thus, Jesus becomes the light of the world, and all those who do not understand and accept Him are lost in darkness.
Now, there is something more I want to share, and it is directly related to John 1: 1-5. However, it is going to have to keep until my next post on this subject. Until then, the point I want to make is this:
Over time, the meaning of ‘logos‘ changed. Today, we understand it to mean ‘The Word,’ or, Jesus. But originally, logos communicated a much deeper understanding of Who Jesus actually is. By stealing this understanding away, Satan has prevented us from grasping this deeper understanding. However, by returning to the original meaning of the word, logos, we do not change our modern understanding of Christ. That remains. Nothing I have just explained changes Who Jesus is in any way. All it does is expand our understanding of Jesus. It makes Him bigger, and that is what Satan wants. He does not want us to understand just how big God actually is, so Satan steal away little pieces of our understanding, or he gets in the way so that we never gain them in the first place.
In my next post on this subject, I will try to explain how the ancient Hebrew’s original concept of God is directly tied to the way John used the term, logos, to describe Jesus, and to the way Jesus described Himself.