John: The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Most scholars believe John was the last of the four gospels to be written. That makes sense to me, for John’s perspective is quite different from that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I can imagine the author having access to the other three books and writing his in attempt to “fill in the blanks” and clarify the meaning of Jesus’s life and teachings. Where the synoptic gospels tell of Jesus’s miracles, John tells of Jesus’s signs, and most of them are different. Where the synoptic gospels record Jesus’s teachings in parables, John uses metaphors. Its theological sophistication and depth makes me think the author had many years to mull over his remembrances of what Jesus said and did, and what those things meant. John is very deliberate in what he chooses to include and exclude, and in his purpose for writing his gospel: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”

The book itself identifies the author only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, which has traditionally thought to have been the John who was one of the twelve disciples. However, some have put forth the intriguing idea that it might have been written by Lazarus, who is also referred to as beloved by Jesus.  That certainly puts a new spin on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, which is included in John, but not in the other three gospels. (And for some reason I’m seguing to this conversation in Star Trek 4.)
McCOY: Umm. Well, I just wanted to say it sure is nice to have your katra back in your head, not mine. What I mean is I may have carried your soul, but I sure couldn’t fill your shoes.
SPOCK: My shoes.
McCOY: Forget it! …Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground? Life, Death, Life. Things of that nature?
SPOCK: I did not have time on Vulcan to review the philosophical disciplines.
McCOY: Come on Spock, it’s me, McCoy! You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can’t you tell me what it felt like?
SPOCK: It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.
McCOY: You’re joking!
SPOCK: A joke is a story with a humorous climax.
McCOY: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?
SPOCK: Forgive me, Doctor, I am receiving a number of distress calls.
McCOY: I don’t doubt it!

The word translated as “word” in the passage above is the Greek word “logos”, which means much more than a symbolic representation used in speech or writing. If John had wanted us to think of “word” in such a literal way, he would have used the Greek word “lexis” instead.  In Greek philosophy, logos was the principle of rationality, logic, and reason, and John’s first readers would have understood that. “Logos” represents the meaning and purpose of not just life, but all creation.  Richard Rohr uses the word “blueprint” in an attempt to clarify its meaning to the modern reader. It also appears that John chose to begin his gospel with a deliberate parallel to Genesis 1:1, where “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”.

I have great respect for the Bible. I love to read and study it, and find that it says something new to me continually. I think that God guided the canonical committees responsible for selecting which books should be in it, and I think every part of it has something important to say. The Bible can lead us into a closer relationship with God. However,  I think it is a mistake to refer to the Bible as “the Word of God” because I think that phrase should be reserved for Jesus. Isn’t that what John is saying here?.”Logos” cannot be put into “lexis”; therefore “logos” took human form in the person of Jesus.  Jesus is the ultimate personification of the teaching mantra “show, don’t tell”. There are some cases where words are too confining to communicate reality, and the nature of God is one of them.The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is not 42: it’s Jesus. If you want to know what God is like and how God would like for us to behave, look at Jesus.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”   God is not absent or distant or uncaring, but present in the form of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The nature of the universe is not random, but inherently rational. The nature of God is not capricious or cruel, but like Jesus. who loved us and gave himself for us. And that’s good news to me!


Author: joantheexpatriatebaptist

Retired high school science teacher and guidance counselor. Sci-fi, fantasy, and theology geek who also enjoys music and gardening.

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