Sunday, 20 October 2013

In the beginning was Reason

The fourth gospel begins with the famous prolegomenon. It takes a Greek concept (logos) and puts it into a Hebraic sentence (In the beginning...). It sets the stage for Jesus as the new Moses. Time and again in the gospel Jesus is compared to Moses one way or another. It's hard to avoid it, especially since the first sentence is, "In the beginning was the Word."

But "logos" doesn't only mean word, it also means reason. We use logos in plenty of English words today. We use it in logic. Bio-logy. Geo-logy. Theo-logy. They don't just mean life-words, rock-words, and God-words. They are the study of life, the study of rocks, the study of God. Logos is word and reason, and yet the typical translation of John 1:1 uses Word for logos. But what if we use Reason?
"In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God, and the Reason was God. ...And Reason became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth."
John 1:1,14
It can't be denied that this changes our view of Jesus. It might be true that this translation may not be standard exegetical fare, but it adds more depth to the passage. It also throws the reader out of the mindset of Jesus-as-New-Moses and into something different. Now we are confronted by the notion of Jesus as a student, as a logician, as an expositor. We are presented with the incarnation as the enfleshment of the logic of God.

If Jesus is the incarnation of the logic of God then we learn something about God. God's logic is the logic of self-emptying (see Php 2). God's logic is overcoming through weakness. God's logic is not to change the world through the enforcement of rules, it is to change the world through the encounter with God's person. The gospel is not enacted by force and can't be presented with force. God's logic is to present the gospel without the kind of power that Caesar had, but with the power of the divine encounter, the very character of God.

This is the logic that helps to explain the verses in the middle of this passage.
"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God."
John 1:9-13
The encounter with God in the person of Jesus the incarnate Reason is the encounter that changes us, not in the same way that the things of this world (the flesh) change people, but in the way of powerlessness and love.

Translating logos as word and reason opens the way to understand the logic of God as more than the capriciousness of a tribal deity. It presents God as a being who has exemplified God's very message for the world, and who calls us to do the same.
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