In my last post I pointed out the many instances of the Greek word “logos” in John’s writings, and showed how they demonstrate that, for John, Jesus and his teaching are virtually one. This is logical if Jesus is indeed God’s Word – that which God speaks. Speech is at the heart of the Incarnation.
In the previous post I drew attention to John’s style of writing, which consists of interconnecting related ideas in a kind of network. This is particularly true of the logos concept. It is wrong to think of logos as purely a technical term, for the idea is also covered by a number of other words and concepts in John. These are so common that the theme of John’s prologue is found to pervade the whole gospel (and the letter of 1 John).
One such word is “rhema“, which signifies more the spoken word than the thought behind it, as logos does. But often they are synonyms (“rhema” is often used of the word of God through the prophets in the Greek OT, as logos is). This word is used a dozen times in John, often with as much spiritual meaning as “logos” carries. So for example, in 6.53:
“The rhemata I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”
“The rhemata I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
“I gave them the rhemata you gave me.”
The last is particularly interesting, as it is parallel to v14, “I have given them your logos“, which I suggested in the previous post to indicate, perhaps, the gift to them of Jesus himself.
Another common word (15 instances) is “testimony“, which of course carries the implication of a sworn statement, as in 3.32:
“…the one who comes from heaven testifies to what he has seen and heard.”
“Commandment” is another “serious” speech word (10 instances) which, as any Jew would immediately realise, alludes to the commanments of God’s word in the Torah (Law). Thus in 12.50:
“I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I speak is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Other related words such as “truth“, “message“, “teaching“, “voice“, “speaking“, “letters” (“grammatoi“) are frequent in John, often referring to the same subjects as “logos“. And, perhaps easy to forget, there are some sixteen instances of Jesus’s personal form of emphasis, “Amen, amen” (translated in NIV, “I tell you the truth”), meaning literally “so be it” and so signifying true speech.
All these many words, as well as “logos“, are used to connect the other terms used about the person of Jesus in John, such as “light“, “life“, “truth“, “way“, “resurrection“. Taken together they build a magnificent picture of the centrality of Jesus as the divine Son of God (thus excluding any idea that he is a mere teacher or example), and yet that Jesus is co-terminous with the words he speaks (thus excluding any idea of a Christ without doctrine). To say “he is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn 5.20) is the same as to say “the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”(Jn 6.53).
In the next post I’ll look at just how extensive the “logoi” of the “Logos” are.