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In Christology, the conception that the Christ is the Logos (λóγος, the Greek for "word", "wisdom" or "reason") has been important in establishing the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his position as God the Son in the Trinity as set forth in the Chalcedonian Creed.

The conception derives from the opening of the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In the original Greek, Logos is used, and in theological discourse, this is often left untranslated. Word and related terms in earlier Jewish tradition prepared the way for its use here to denote Jesus as revealer of the unseen God (see Wisdom 9:1-4, 9, 17-18; Ecclesiasticus 24:1-12).[1]

Christian theologians to this day still debate whether the Divine Being and logos are analogous, synonymous, or distinct.[2]

The Greek word Logos (λόγος) is traditionally translated as “Word.” French translations sometimes use “Verb” which has a dynamic quality. The English “Message” or “Expression of the Mind” may also be appropriate attempts to convey the nuance of the Greek concept. The Jewish-Alexandrian theologian and philosopher Philo wrote extensively about the Logos in ways that are reminiscent of New Testament theology. For instance, his teaching that “For the Logos of the living God being the bond of every thing, as has been said before, holds all things together, and binds all the parts, and prevents them from being loosened or separated” echoes echoes Colossians 1:17.

Many have seen this as evidence that there was a syncretism between Christology and Platonism. The debate about the nature of Christ from the first century through the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE must be understood in light of the pervasive world view of Platonic dualism. Platonism is normally divided into four periods: Old Academy 347-267 BC, New Academy 267-80 BC, Middle Platonism 80BC-250 AD, and Neoplatonism 250 AD through to the Reformation[3].


Platonism and early schools of thought in Judaism

In contradistinction to a specific religion, Platonism was a basic understanding of the operation of the cosmos, which saw the material world in a dualistic fashion; separated from a transcendent God, but communicated with by the logos (thought, wisdom, creativity).[4] In simple terms: Platonism thought of the spirit world as good and the physical world as evil.

It is now widely believed among Jewish scholars that Phariseeism, Sadduceeism and the Pre-Gnostic cults which appeared in the second century BC were a result of a syncretism of Hellenistic philosophy (in particular Platonism) and various Jewish beliefs [5]. Likewise, it is now widely accepted that even though fully developed Gnosticism did not appear until the beginning of the second century AD, Pre-Gnosticism was present in the second century BC[6]. This syncretism is clearly seen in the parallelism of the Rabbinic writings, the Old Testament apocrypha, Philo, and the writings of the Greco-Roman philosophers[7]. It is further attested to by the Greco-Roman gifts that decorated Herod’s temple which were donated by Caesar, and the Greco-Roman mosaics that decorated the synagogues[8].

Chalcedonian Christology and Platonism

Even though post-apostolic Christian writers struggled with the question of the identity of Jesus and the Logos, the Church’s doctrine that Jesus was the Logos never changed. Each of the first six councils, from the First Council of Nicea (325) to the Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) defined Jesus Christ as fully God and fully human.[9] Christianity did not accept the Platonic argument that the spirit is good and the flesh is evil, and that therefore the man Jesus could not be God. Neither did it accept any of the Platonic beliefs that would have made Jesus something less than fully God and fully human at the same time. The original teaching of John’s gospel is, "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.... And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us."[10] The only development or evolution of doctrine was to condemn as heretical virtually every attempt to explain the how of the incarnation. The final Christology of Chalcedon (confirmed by Constantinople III) was that Jesus Christ is both God and man, and that these two natures are inseparable, indivisible, unconfused and unchangeable.[11]

Contemporary Christian view

The Fourth Gospel may give answers to three groups: Jews, Gnostics, and followers of John the Baptist.

  • Jews. To the rabbis who spoke of the Torah (Law) as preexistent, as God's instrument in creation, and is the source of light and life, John replied that these claims apply rather to the Logos.
  • Gnostics To the Gnostics who would deny a real incarnation, John's answer was most emphatic: "the Word became flesh."[Jn 1:14]
  • Followers of John the Baptist. To those who stopped with John the Baptist, he made it clear that John was not the Light but only witness to the Light. [Jn 1:6ff]
Although the term Logos is not retained as a title beyond the prologue, the whole book of John presses these basic claims. As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation (Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God,[Jn 1:1] and the risen Christ is worshiped by Thomas, who fell at his feet saying, "My Lord and my God."[20:28] Yet the Logos is in some sense distinguishable from God, for "the Logos was with God."[1:1] God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they are also not simply identical. In contrast to the Logos, God can be conceived (in principle at least) also apart from his revelatory action─although we must not forget that the Bible speaks of God only in his revelatory action. The paradox that the Logos is God and yet it is in some sense distinguishable from God is maintained in the body of the Gospel. That God as he acts and as he is revealed does not "exhaust" God as he is, is reflected in sayings attributed to Jesus: I and the Father are one"[Jn 10:30] and also, "the Father is greater than I."[14:28] The Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption. Jesus Christ not only gives God's Word to us humans; he is the Word.[1:14] [14:6] He is the true word─ultimate reality revealed in a Person. The Logos is God, distinguishable and thought yet not separable in fact.

Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology.[12]


  1. ^ The Oxford Study Bible, Suggs et al., editors. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. p. 1365 note to John 1:1.
  2. ^ The Doctrine of the Logos
  3. ^ Edwin Moore: Neoplatonism in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available at [1]. Also see, J.M. Dillion: "Plato/Platonism," in The dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter, (Downers Grove: InterVarsety Press, 2000).
  4. ^ Edwin Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism: A Survey of the Proposed Evidence," (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 15.
  5. ^ Jacob Neusner, From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism, (Providence, R.I.:Brown Univ. 1973), 8-11. Also see "Essays in Greco-Roman and Related Talmudic Literature," ed. by Henry A. Fischel, (New York: KTAV Publishing, 1977). This is a completion of articles written by the leading Jewish scholars today comparing Greek Philosophy with the Talmud. Leiberman has found several hundred parallelisms, many of them being direct quotes.
  6. ^ R. Mcl. Wison, "Gnosis and the New Testament, (Philadelphia: frotress Press, 1968), 3-6. Also see Everett Ferguson, "Backgrounds of Early Christianity, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub.1993), 288-289. Also see Edwin Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism," 16-18.
  7. ^ "Essays in Greco-Roman and Related Talmudic Literature," ed. by Henry A. Fischel, (New York: KTAV Publishing, 1977).
  8. ^ Richard Freund, "Secrets of the Cave of Letters," (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 2004) 142-143. Fine demonstrates that the Second Temple had Greek mythological motifs as a part of its decorations and sacred utensils. Also see "Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World," Ed. by Steven Fine, (New York: Oxford Press, 1996). Fine shows artifacts from Synagogues with Greco-Roman motifs.
  9. ^ New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: The 21 Ecumenical Councils, available at 14388.
  10. ^ John 1:1;14 NIV with Greek inserted.
  11. ^ Donald Macleod: The Person of Christ, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998), 185.
  12. ^ Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, Broadman, 1962. ISBN: 978-0805416138


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See also



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