Growing up I was taught two things (among many others): 1. The Bible is the word of God 2. Jesus is the word of God. Both of these statements are true, but my understanding of them was massively confusing. I believe that I am not the only one who has misunderstood these two. I have been told as a response by some KJV-O advocates, when pointed out that it seems they are worshiping a translation of the Bible, that the Bible is the word of God and Jesus is the word of God so somehow the written word and the Living word are one and the same. Here is an example of the confusion.
About a year ago, a friend asked me “Which has preeminence- the written word or the Living Word?” The fact that this question even caused me pause shows a mistake I had in conflating the two. Another friend of mine was asked this question and his response was “They’re the same!”
So, why is this a big deal? As my New Testament professor stated to the class that holding an erroneous view of the meaning of these two truths makes one have a wrong Christology.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word…” later in the same chapter we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is where people like me have misunderstood what John is saying. From a Western, Gentile mindset I equated Jesus being God’s Word along the same lines as the written word of God. Somehow, I didn’t know how, Jesus was the living version of the written thing. But John is not trying to equate Jesus to the penned word of God.
John used the word “Logos” which many of our English translations use “word”. The concept behind logos is not found in our English “word”. Originally, logos did mean “word,” “speech,” “account,” or “reason,” but became a more weighted term philosophically during the time of Heraclitus. He used logos to denote the principle of order and knowledge in the Universe. Those of the stoic mindset used the term to describe the divine animating entity that filled the Universe. Philo, a Jew under Hellenistic influences, used logos to describe an intermediary divine being who mediates between God and the material world. He believed this divine intermediary being was necessary in order to fill the huge gap that existed between God and the material world. Philo used logos to describe the highest of these intermediary beings, even calling the Logos “the first-born of God”. Philo taught that the Logos of God is the glue that holds all things together keeping them from being dissolved. This Logos also acted on behalf of God in the physical realm, thus the Angel of The LORD in the OT as well as God’s instrument in creating the universe.
All of this idea of logos goes into John’s usage of it and more, for John even equates the Logos as the second person of the Trinity. It is incorrect for us to equate “Word” in John 1:1 as the written word, for John is using Logos with all the weight it had in his day.
In the beginning was the Logos (the divine being through Whom God created the world and by which all things are held together), the Logos was with God and the Logos was God.