Question: Why is Jesus called “the Word” in John 1:1?
John’s Gospel was written with the non-Christian in mind. Listen to his own words:
John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous 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 Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John knew that most of his readers would be non-Jews—gentile citizens—of the Roman Empire. They would be heavily influenced by the popular philosophies of the day. One such prominent philosophy centered around a belief in “the Logos”—a Greek term meaning “the Word.” According to this philosophy, the Word was the spiritual being responsible for creating lesser deities, one of whom brought the material universe into existence. These lesser deities were considered to be something like life sparks emanating from the Logos.
In this worldview the material world is considered evil, unspiritual. The perfect Logos could not be in any way directly linked to the creation of the material universe. And the goal of humanity is to eventually connect spiritually to the Logos by denying the material things of this world, allowing our internal “spark” to ascend and become united with the spiritual energy emanating from the Logos.
Somehow, John needed to create a communication bridge for sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. So he took the name of this deity, the Word, and redefined it in biblical terms. He explained in Genesis-like language that the Logos—the Word—was, and is, actually God. That much the Roman world could grasp well enough. But then John took one huge step forward:
John 1:3-4 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 men.
John used the term “him” three times in describing the Word. For these gentiles to see the Word as directly creating the material world was a real stretch. But John caught their attention with that and pressed the Truth even further by claiming that our spiritual "light" also comes directly from the Word, and the Word was and is personal, not just a spiritual energy.
Led by the Spirit, John then took the final, unimaginable leap (from their worldview), and revealed this startling Truth about the real nature of the Word:
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John set the stage for all Christian witnesses to follow, right up to our own time: Take the ideas of the world and the deities of other religions and redefine them, empty them of what is false, and reveal Jesus Christ to be what the apostle Paul would later demonstrate to the Athenians was the name of their “Unknown God” (Acts 17:23). This is what it takes to “go into all the world and make disciples!”
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