The Logos in other times (2)

My last post showed the relationship of Jesus the Logos of God to the Old Testament. But Jesus was also very aware that his ministry in the flesh was of very limited duration. He spoke to his disciples about his continued support for them, despite his impending departure, and this was not in any way vague or mystical teaching.

In the first place, he expected that the words he had already spoken to them would continue to have powerful effects in their lives:

“I say these things so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (17.13: Note here the allusion to Proverbs 8.30-31; more evidence that Wisdom personified in that chapter is part of the “Logos” concept)
“These things I have spoken to you that you may not go astray. I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you them at first because I was with you.” (16.1)

In the latter case he specifically gives them his words because he is not with them. Jesus’s logoi are an adequate substitute for the physical presence of Jesus the Logos.

But the principal thing that Jesus promises is the Holy Spirit, who will dwell in and among his disciples:

“All this I have spoken while still with you; but the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all things I have spoken to you. (14.25)
“The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me.” (15.26)
“The Spirit will guide you into all truth; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you about what is to come.” (16.13)
“I have more to speak to you, more than you can now bear” (17.12)

In John the main role of the Spirit is the verbal role of Logos: to remind Christians of Jesus’s words, to testify to unbelievers, and most significantly to add to Jesus’s teaching in terms of prophetic utterance and all the other aspects of the logoi of Jesus. The last reference specifically shows that Jesus has reserved some of his most important teaching until the disciples are better equipped to receive it. The Spirit will speak as if Jesus is speaking.

It doesn’t stop there. For the Spirit’s role is not just to speak to Jesus’s disciples, but through them:

“If they keep my logos, they will keep yours also.” (15.20)
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their logos.” (17.20)
“The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, will testify about me. And you also must testify.” (15.26)

This is recorded as an historical fact in 1 John:

This is the message which we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all. (1 Jn 1.5)
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does you will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1Jn 2.24)
This is the message you heard from the beginning – we should love one another. Do not be like Cain… (1 Jn 3.11-12)

Note in the last two references how John, once more, alludes back to his “eternal Logos” theme by the phrase “in the beginning”, ambiguously covering both their coming to faith, and the pre-existence of the message they receieved, which message as we saw previously is both the Person of Jesus and his gospel teaching. They can never be separated. In the last quotation, this is further hinted at by the mention of Cain, who living “in the beginning” yet had heard this old, but new, commandment to love his brother.

John says nothing more about exactly how the Spirit’s teaching was to be mediated, and we need to project a little to gain some understanding. The form critics work on the assumption that Jesus was assumed to be present in the Church community by his Spirit, so that stories and sayings of Jesus given as prophecy were accepted as authentic and found their way into the New Testament. This is at best naive: when the prophetic movement of Montanism arose in the 2nd century, it took a very short time to realise how destructive untrammeled prophecy is for doctrine and practice. That has been the experience of the Church ever since, through the Zwickau prophets in Luther’s time to the excesses of the Charismatic movement in our own. The latter has baptized extraordinary nonsense as “the word of God” despite most Charismatic organisations coming from a Fundamentalist background and nominally subordinating everything to Scripture.

John, writing apparently a full generation after Jesus’s glorification, would have surely put in stern warnings if that kind of situation ever occurred in the early Church. We need to remember that all the promises of Jesus were made, in the first instance, to his chosen apostles. There is every indication that both the eye-witness status, and the spiritual authority, of the disciples are assumed here. And so the “apostolic teaching” of the New Testament, largely complete by the publication of John’s gospel, is clearly in prominent view as he passes on this teaching.

The other prevalent contemporary myth is the “Da Vinci Code” idea that there was a mountain of gospels and other literature considered authoritative in the early Church, that was eventually suppressed by (usually) Constantine in favour of the Canical writings. There isn’t space here to refute this tosh, but any proper Bible scholar will help you out there. Yet again, John would have been aware had such a process started, and would have given clear signs for distinguishing what he considered to be the genuine article from the spurious.

I started this series of posts assuming that the reader accepts Jesus to be the Logos of God as claimed by John in his preface. If that is true, then the implication in the views discounted in the previous paragraph is that the Logos who created and sustains the whole Universe, and who came to bring the light to men before being elevated to even higher glory than before, was incapable of delivering on the promise to his disciples that his logos would remain with them.

I doubt that to be possible, and so I rely on the logoi of the New Testament as truly representing the Logos of Jesus Christ. I hope I’ve shown this to be a reasonable position to hold. The effects on ones interpretation of scientific claims is another matter.

NB a complete list of the Johannine references, in suitable categories, is here.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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