Re: [John_Lit] Still on a "god" - brief follow-up
- Concerning the Logos as God let me add some remarks summarizing a
long way of research:
The Logos of the so-called Prologue of John is indeed the Logos of
Philo that is applied to Jesus. We have to distinguish between the
so-called Prologue which is a very early confessional text of the
Hellenistic Jewish-Christian community familiar with the new and
exciting theology of Philo - and the later interpretation of this
text through the so-called Gospel of John. As for the "Prologue"
there did not yet exist any other pattern than Philo. This pattern is
taken up again as late as by Justin Martyr who calls the Logos a
"second God" and repeats all his activities mentioned already by
Philo - now seen as before his incarnation. Justin quotes frequently
the Prologue but does appreciate the Gospel, which he does not count
among the memories of the Apostles (Mk, Mt, Lk). But in the meantime
the concept of Philonic Logos had already been given up as being
insufficient. Therefore the "Gospel of John" tried to give the Logos
of the Prologue a new interpretation, namely as the spoken word of
Jesus, who is the one God himself existing in the divine unity of the
Son with the Father (cf. "My Lord and my God"). According to the
intention of the Gospel of John we shall now understand the sentence
"In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was by God" in the
sense of: In the beginning of the of the salvation was the word of
revelation and this word was the preached word of God himself, namely
Jesus. The problem of the Logos is not to be solved on the synchronic
level but in the diachronic differentiation.
Thank you! Peter Hofrichter
>I am sure many of you have read all possible material on this very
>issue and I must beg your pardon for my persistence. I find something
>unsettling about the whole discussion and have been unable to put my
>finger on it.
>This issue of the first century's understanding of "god" among the
>philosophers and theologians of that day seems to me to have a clear
>distinction between that which the Scriptures presented and that
>which man presented. By man, I'm including both unorthodox Jews and
>Gentiles (orthodox Jews holding to the view presented in Scripture).
>The OT Scriptures uses "gods" but never in the sense as attributing
>to the referents the same eternal and infinite nature of YHWH. That
>is, in the Scriptures, all "gods" came into being at some point "in
>time." For example, "gods" might refer to judges. But no orthodox Jew
>would have scratched his head asking why these judges are put on the
>same level as YHWH.
>By crude illustration, perhaps I could present a Creation Line. Any
>Being above the line is eternal... or more simply, is YHWH. Any being
>below the line is not eternal. Hence:
> YHWH (+ John's LOGOS??)
> gods + logos + angels + man
>All this to ask my question. What are the indicators in John that
>eliminate John presenting "this" LOGOS as "a YHWH" ?? I am trying to
>distinguish John's LOGOS from Philo's and others' use of LOGOS (or at
>least at this time I am not assuming both to be the same).
>I am also taking into consideration that the historic Jesus mentions
>his being "one" with YHWH (John 10). Hence, at least in his attempted
>presentation, not promoting some polytheism. Granted, what kind of
>monotheism allows for Jesus to say he is "one" with YHWH does not
>readily come to mind, but that is the sense I get from his words.
>Sugar Land, TX
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- Susan Moore Wrote:
> I am also taking into consideration that the historic Jesusmentions
> his being "one" with YHWH (John 10). Hence, at least in hisattempted
> presentation, not promoting some polytheism. Granted, what kind of"In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos... was ___ God"
> monotheism allows for Jesus to say he is "one" with YHWH does not
> readily come to mind, but that is the sense I get from his words.
The exclusion of the definite article to the Greeks did not
infer ">>any<< out of a group", but rather pointed to the essence of
what made the noun uniquely that noun (as opposed to a "the" in front
of the noun which indicated the uniqueness in number or specific
nature of that noun (as in "the Word"). For example, Nicodemus
was ">>the<< teacher of Israel" - a specific one above many). We use
the phrase "she is a beauty" to describe someone who is
quintessentially beautiful - i.e., the embodiment of beauty. This is
the meaning used in John where the Word, is not "the God", but "is
[of the essence of or the embodiment of] God". This meaning is
confirmed just a few verses later when John says "the Word was made
How can Christ be God and God the Father be God at the same time?
This mystery, clearly taught in the scriptures, has defied human
explanation from the beginning of time. It is a wonderful paradox,
nevertheless it is true. A Jewish believer gave me an illustrative
attempt as expressing his understanding of this truth over three
decades ago and it has stuck with me ever since. He held up his
Bible and said, "You can see this book because it is three-in-one: it
has height, breadth, and depth. If you take away any one of the
dimensions you will reduce the book to a shadow. If any two, to a
line. Each dimension is distinct, recognizably separate, and
measurable, but each is also essential for the existence of the
whole." Any human words are limited by the finiteness of our ability
to conceive and express the infinite: however, that can never be seen
as proof that the Infinite cannot exist in ways we cannot understand.
Because of HIM,
- Susan Moore's question is an important one. I think
the whole problem of interpreting John, Philo, Justin
etc. is the fact that since the 3rd century and the
development of a clear doctrine of creatio ex nihilo,
we presume the existence of the dividing line in this
form. However, all the evidence seems to suggest that
in the period in which Philo, John and Justin wrote
the Logos WAS the dividing line, merging into both
sides and yet keeping them 'clearly' distinct. And so
it is that Philo can describe the Logos as 'neither
uncreated as God, nor created as you, but between the
two extremes', while John puts it in terms of the Word
being both 'God' and 'with God'. It is only once a
clearer dividing line is drawn that the Logos must be
firmly placed on one side or the other, and thus it
was that the 'Arians' and the 'Nicenes' had so many
debates, each convinced that they were being faithful
to tradition. In a sense, they both were, and in a
sense, neither was.
First-century Jewish monotheism had room for this
ambiguity. Present-day monotheism for the most part
does not. I suppose the theological question boils
down to how we answer questions that arose only after
John came up with his portrait.
[I think I've written enough. I will, however, direct
anyone interested to my forthcoming book which looks
at this topic: James F. McGrath, John's Apologetic
Christology, SNTS Monograph Series, 111; Cambridge
University Press, 2001. It should be out in September]
Dr. James F. McGrath
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> However, all the evidence seems to suggest thatYes! I quite agree with your observation here. And the reason
> in the period in which Philo, John and Justin wrote
> the Logos WAS the dividing line, merging into both
> sides and yet keeping them 'clearly' distinct. And so
> it is that Philo can describe the Logos as 'neither
> uncreated as God, nor created as you, but between the
> two extremes', while John puts it in terms of the Word
> being both 'God' and 'with God'.
I wanted to asked if John presented Jesus as "a YHWH" (not a god)
was based on this dividing line that John traverses. A god would
have clearly been (on or) "below" the Line, while YHWH was "above"
the only reason many have placed Jesus "below" this line it seems
is because John is approached with a Philonic limitation to the
LOGOS, one John essentially denies.
The reason the LOGOS (not Philo's logos, but John's LOGOS) was
PROS TON QEON (YHWH) is because John's LOGOS was "above" this line
(EN ARCHi), a radical concept in comparison to Philo. And to
distinguish himself from current thought on the logos, John
has "this" LOGOS bringing into existence PANTA, which would include,
at least possibly, Philo's subordinate logos.
The rigid Jewish Monotheism of that day, and today, could not
understand Jesus' claim to be "one" with YHWH (John 10). How John's
LOGOS was "above" this dividing line IN THE BEGINNING may seem
contradictory, unless we can understand in what sense Jesus says he
was "one" with God. On the LOGOS, John's departure from Philo seems
to me at least manifestly there, but more questions are raised than
Sugar Land, TX