Just about every business or church or school or sports team has a logo. There is a whole branch of graphic design that is entirely about the creation of logos. You can play phone games that are basically “Guess the Logo” games. They’re fun. You see a picture of a logo, and you try to identify it. The Nike Swoosh. The McDonalds Arches. The Apple apple.
That word logo is from the Greek word that John uses in John chapter 1, the word that we are studying this week, “The Word”. Logos does not only mean a written or spoken word made of letters in a language. It does mean that, because at its core, think about what a word is. A word is bunch of letters and sounds that refers to something else. A word is a stand-in. A symbol that helps us communicate with one another. That is the same as a logo, right? A logo is a picture that refers to something else. When you see the Apple, you don’t think of the fruit, you think of the technology company.
But we need to go farther than that, because John was using the ancient Greek idea of logos. John wasn’t using a contemporary idea of logos. He was thinking about his readers who were ancient Greeks.
We English speakers 2000 years later give a nod to what John meant when we use our words to describe branches of scientific study. In school you study biology. Biology is a compound word: bio and logos. What is biology? The study of life. I means “life” in Greek. And logos refers to “the study of.” We can do this for numerous fields.
Geology – the study of ge, which is the Greek word for earth.
Psychology – the study of the psyche or mind.
Physiology – The study of the physio or body.
The second part of each of those sciences is the word logos. The Greek mind understood the concept of logos as not just “the study of,” but also “the reason, the meaning.” Logos is the content of God’s revelation, so there is a connection to the idea of logos as the speaking of God, which is fascinating when you remember how God created in Genesis 1. “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And God said, ‘Let there be…’ And God said over and over, and whatever he said, it comes into being.” God speaks and it is created. John reflects that with his use of logos, The Word. In doing so, John makes a genius move, because the Greeks across the Roman Empire would be able to connect with the idea of logos. They knew about the concept of logos, of the meaning of the universe. John, though, is saying that the Word, the logos, is God speaking in a new way.
Notice how John describes this new and unique way that God speaks. In verses 4-5, John says the Word was also life, and he was the light of humanity. In fact, John says that the Word shines light in the darkness. There is a real hope and vitality in the Word. In Genesis, the voice of God speaks life into existence. In John, the Word is life and light.
But there is also darkness in the world, John says.
In verse 5, though, John says that the darkness has not understood the light, or perhaps, as some biblical translations suggest, the darkness has not overcome the light. We will see theme of light vs. dark repeatedly in John. Whatever the Word is, the Word is author of life and light.
Let’s review what John has told us so far about the identity of The Word: 1. The Word is God. 2. The Word was with God in the beginning, creating all things. 3. Through the Word, God is speaking and interacting with humanity in a new way. 4. The Word brings life and light to all.
Do you know the identity of the Word? I will admit that so far, what John has to say about the Word is vague, spiritual or theological.
In the next post, we’ll notice that John will move from the theological to the historical. He’ll give us a name, of a real person. But it might be even more confusing. Check out the next post to learn more!
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