The Messiah as Logos
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24 April 2003
John's Logos is not a Hebrew term, it is Greek (John 1:1). This ought to alert the reader that the Hebraic Messiah is being presented to a Greek speaking audience "in Greek imagery," that is, Greek metaphysical concepts have been fused to the Hebraic Messiah.
There are certain beliefs about Christ as the Logos which are "ALIEN" to the Old Testament's notions about God. Logos is rendered in English as "The Word," reflecting the notion of the word having the power to create, recalling God in Genesis speaking and creation happening. For the Greeks Logos was more than the act of speaking and creating, it was also a symbol of a divine rational thought or mind. Under Platonic influence, the Greeks came to understand that there were two gods, a supreme god who was NOT accessible to man and a second or lower god, called by Plato the Demi-urge, who carried out the creation arising in the mind of the superior god (Plato's "The Good").
John makes a "strange" statement about man's relationship with God, he declares that NO man has seen God but the son (John 1:18), meaning that Christ as Logos has seen God the Father, but no one else. This notion CONTRADICTS the Old Testament's presentation of God descending to the earth and revealing himself to mortal men. He appears in the Garden of Eden and speaks to Adam and Eve; he appears before Abraham with two angels before destroying Sodom and Gommorah; he allows Moses to see his back at Mount Sinai; he also allows Nadab and 70 elders to see him and not die at Mt. Sinai.
Other New Testament texts explain that these men did not see God the Father, they beheld the Logos or Christ as the Rock that succored Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai (1 Corinthians 10:4). It would appear that by presenting Christ as The Logos, a problem developed, Greek thought understood that the Supreme God did NOT interact directly with man, he has intermediaries, a Demi-urge, or a Deuteros Theos (Second God) or "The Son." There were also daemons, spirit beings, or messengers (Greek: angeloi, English: Angels) that carried God's wishes to man and who carried man's prayers back to God.
In order to present Christ as The Logos to a Greek audience it was apparently neccessary to deny that man had ever come into direct contact with the Supreme God, the Christian "God the Father." By contrast, Judaism understood God to be called Father and Creator and to be, on occasion, in DIRECT CONTACT with man. God would bestow his Holy Spirit on the whole nation in one fell swoop upon the restoration from Exile- there was no notion that individuals or a nation would be "One in God" because they possessed his Spirit. Nor was there any notion that an "intermediary," a God-son, needed to descend from heaven to make possible the bestowal of this Holy Spirit and then ONLY on an individual case-by-case situation with pre-conditions like acknowledging Christ is the Son of God, and eating his body as bread, drinking his blood as wine, and being baptised into his death.
"The order Father, Word, Spirit is fixed and invariable, as of course it remained for all later Christians. The Logos is pictured in two-fold form, as the Father's immanent Reason and as his outgoing, active and creative word (cf. Isa. 55:11)...We thus find Christians arguing that to give effect to God's purposes, the Logos himself must be a substance, having a permanent life of his own, rather than a mere transient utterance. It seems then to follow that, if a substance, he must be a distinct substance; and so by analogy, the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, therefore, is seen as a triad of three distinct 'hypostases', as Origen calls them, who necessarily differ both in rank and function. God the Father delegates to his Logos tasks which it would be inappropriate for him to perform in his own person- a conception which we have already encountered in Philo...A picturesque analogy found in Eusebius (Dem. Ev. 4.6.4) explains that the Father himself could not become incarnate; his personal presence would be insupportable, just as devastation would result if the sun descended on to the earth. It must be the Logos who comes; he alone can endure the Father's radiance, but transmits it to us in a mild and beneficent form...The Logos might therefore be described as the permanent agent of God's self-limitation and condescension...This hierarchial picture of the Trinity was of course by no means universally accepted. It appealed to well-educated believers; but less thoughtful or less cultivated folk tended to fall for over-simplified views, which were either suspected or denounced as heresies. One such idea was to set aside the Logos doctrine and think of Christ as just a man uniquely inspired by the Spirit. A contrary defect was to conceive him simply as God in human form, suggesting that the Father himself suffered upon earth." (pp.156-7. "Logos and Spirit." Christopher Stead. Philosophy in Christian Antiquity. Cambridge University Press. 1994, 1998)
Professor Brehier (Late Professor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne, Paris, France) comments on Hellenized Judaism employing Greek allegory to draw new spiritual meanings fom biblical texts :
"Clear-cut formulation of Neo-Platonism appear in the writings of Philo of Alexandria (40 BC- AD 40). He was an influential member of the rich and flourishing Jewish community in Alexandria [Egypt]...Here as elsewhere in the Jewish world, however, reading and commenting on the Bible still constituted the basis for specultaion. But the Bible was explained just as Homer had long been explained by the Greeks: by the allegorical method. The result was that everything in the Bible became the history of a soul that moved closer to God or farther away from him as it moved toward or away from the body...Through this method [allegory] Philo brings into his commentary every philosophical theme of his time...From the amalgum it is nevertheless possible to single out a few ideas. Most important is the idea of a transcendent God who deals with the world only through intermediaries. According to Philo the intermediary is characterized less by its nature than by its function: it is by seeing its purpose that one can determine what it is. It follows that the intermediary is separated into a host of different beings: the son of God, the Logos or Word in whom God sees the model of the world and whom he uses as a model to create the world; the whole series of powers ranging from the beneficent or creative power to the power that punishes and chastises; wisdom with which he unites himself through a mysterious union to produce the world; and even the fiery or ethereal angels and daimons that execute divine orders. All these intermediaries are also the means through which the soul returns to God...There is also in his doctrine, the idea of a transcendent God, who shares no relation with man, who is reached only by pure spirits, spirits that have broken loose from the world and themselves and attained a state of ecstasy. Thus we find in the Philonic doctrine the two forms of theology and of transcendence mentioned above...The Stoic theory of the Logos or Word and of God succoring man, which will reappear among the Christians, had little importance among the pagans." (pp.168-170. "The First Two Centuries A.D." Emile Brehier. The History of Philosophy, The Hellenistic and Roman Age. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1965 [originally published in 1931 as Histore de la philosophie" L'Antiqite et le Moyen Age II. Presses Universitaires de France])
"...the intermediary position of the daimones frees the High God of any necessity of becoming directly involved in the affairs of men. The execution of providence can, in effect, be surrendered to intermediate spirits, thus preserving and encouraging the transcendence and remoteness of God." (p.444. F. E. Peters. The Harvest of Hellenism, A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity. New York. Barnes & Noble. 1970, 1996)
"The Philonian Logos is...more personified as something external and inferior to God, a "Second God" and the "Son of God," expressions at first sight destructive of Jewish monotheism..." (p.305. Peters)
"The awkwardness rising out of the conflicting claims of absolute divine transcendence and the immanent operation of divine providence was met by a great variety of solutions...Another can be seen in the appearance of the "Second God" (deuteros theos) as a species of one-and-a-half to bridge the gap between the One and the twos. Plato resorted to just such a figure in his metaphor of the Demi-urge...For the philosophers deuteros theos, or "the son", as he was sometimes called, had all the features of the Aristotelian God-as-Mind and conveniently served to explain both creation and providence. But in more religious contexts the Son had another important function. In Mithraism, Gnosticism and Christianity it was just such an intermediary who played the part of the Savior in the providential plan decreed by the God or gods above, but which, by the very reason of their transcendence, they could not themselves fulfill.
Thus a philosophically induced absolute transcendence created in its own wake a Second God, who had a philosophical necessity of his own. Even Philo...could not resist the cogency of this argument: his Logos was hedged with conditions and disclaimers, but its genealogy is strikingly clear. On this scale an absolute monotheism was impossible; the conflict between transcendence and providence blocked its passage. Theologians solved the conflict with their deuteros theos or the less rigorously argued daimones..." (pp.464-5. Peters)