The Book of John 1-1

John

Let us take a closer look at the Book of John.

Specifically from the very beginning of the book of John chapter 1, verse 1.

In the New International Version of the New Testament, John 1:1-5 reads as:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was with God in the beginning. 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 all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

When I read the first verse, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I read, heard, and understood it as: In the beginning was the “Word.

This was explained to and understood by me as meaning the “Word of God“.  This understanding was reinforced by the rest of the verse:  and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

Even though it didn’t quite make sense, I accepted it.

Why? Well, much of the time when we get our first and often only version of the bible and it’s half written in Old English (Thee, Thou, Shineth, Thine, Begat). The problem with that is nobody speaks Old English and the Bible’s writing in Old English is simply taken as a “Holy language” and we just kind of go with it while not completely understanding it.

Even though we don’t quite understand what we’re reading or hearing, we trust everyone else’s endorsement of it with the assumption that we’ll understand it better later on.
Or we simply don’t understand and just do what everyone else is doing without question. – It happens to the best of us.

So what is the “Word”?

When read in this verse it is capitalized. It written as a noun. It is not “word”, it is “Word”. It’s meaning is not as simple as referencing some uttered word or even words. It is capitalized as Word, which gives it life and a meaning of its own.

To many, the “Word” means “the Word of God”, such as the Ten Commandments and His Laws. And quite frankly, most are good with this translation and meaning. I can’t argue with that, as there’s nothing wrong with that understanding.

The Word is also interpreted as implying and meaning Jesus. This is reinforced when it is indicated in later verses of the same chapter in the Book of John.

Is ‘The Word’ God’s Word or is it Jesus? Or both?

Jesus brought the Word, meaning He brought the Word of God, better known as the Gospel – the Good News.

Is that what it means?

The Bible can be so cryptic and what if these translations just aren’t accurate or precise enough to understand in modern times and thinking? It’s not the translator’s faults. There are words used in various languages which have no meaning or reference in other languages. Translating such words made referencing and direct translating a problem. You step it up to many more translations later in many languages and much of the meaning behind the original words becomes ‘lost in translation’.

We know the New Testament was written in Greek, specifically Koine Greek (also known as Biblical Greek), even though Jesus and the Apostles all spoke Aramaic.

Why?

Well, it was written in Koine Greek (Biblical Greek) by a fluent speaker of both Aramaic and Greek at that time period. The “biblical region of the New Testament” was heavily influenced by what we call the Hellenistic Greek Period. In the area of Jesus and the Apostles, the language was Aramaic, but much was written in either Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Latin. Hebrew was used as a sacred language and Latin was used by the occupying government (Rome). Koine Greek was the common language of the region. This is why the writings are in Koine Greek, the common language and writing of the region.
I realize that was a very brief explanation and there is definitely more to it, but for our current purposes…

The region of the New Testament was heavily influence by Hellenistic Greek writing and philosophy. This would have influenced writings at the time with a common understanding of word meanings used in that day which are not used today.

How were the meanings of some words understood back then?

The original text of the book of John chapter 1, verse 1 reads:

ἐν ἀρχή εἰμί ὁ λόγος, καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί πρός ὁ θεός, καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί θεός.
en archē eimi ho logos, kai ho logos eimi pros ho theos, kai ho logos eimi theos.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (NIV)

Let us directly translate the original writing ourselves.

The first words of John 1:1 are: ἐν ἀρχή εἰμί

The translated meanings of each word are:

ἐν (en) preposition

  1. (location) in, on, at; (with plural) among.
  2. (time) in, at, or during the time of.

ἀρχή (archē) noun

  1. beginning, origin

εἰμί (eimi) verb

  1. To be, exist; (of persons) live
    1. (of events) To happen
    2. To be the case

From these first words, ἐν ἀρχή εἰμί, we get translated variations such as:

  • At (the)Beginning existed
  • During Origins existed
  • At the time of of the beginning of everything, there was
  • In the Beginning was

The next two words, ὁ λόγος

(ho) article

  • the

λόγος (lógos) Noun.

  • That which is said: word, sentence, speech, story, debate, utterance.
  • That which is thought: reason, consideration, computation, reckoning.
  • An account, explanation, or narrative.
  • Subject matter.
  • (Christianity) The word or wisdom of God, identified with Jesus in the New Testament.

That’s the basic definition of λόγος (lógos) and this is the part that gets my attention.  Normally it is translated as “Word” and is interpreted as meaning the Word or Wisdom of God, identified with Jesus in the New Testament.

On a basic understanding I guess that is good enough, but there is a much deeper meaning behind the concept of λόγος (lógos) to the Ancient and Hellenistic Greek Period which influenced the author’s choice in words in their writing.

The word λόγος (lógos) had a deeper meaning in Ancient Greece.

Lógos (Ancient Greek: λόγος, from λέγω lego “I say”) is a term in western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word meaning “ground”, “plea”, “opinion”, “expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “reason”, “proportion”, “discourse”.  It became a technical term in philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c. 535–475 BCE), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.

Lógos is the logic behind an argument. 

Lógos is what you use to persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence. Lógos is a persuasive technique often used in writing and rhetoric.

Ancient Greek philosophers used the term Lógos in different ways.

The sophists used the term to mean ‘discourse’ and Aristotle applied the term to refer to “reasoned discourse” or “the argument” in the field of rhetoric.

The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.

Under Hellenistic Judaism (the time of Jesus and the Apostles), Philo (c. 20 BCE – 50 CE) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies the Lógos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos), and further identifies Jesus Christ as the incarnate Lógos.

Despite the conventional translation as “word”, it is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; in the grammatical sense, the term lexis (λέξις) was used.  So it is not “The Word” or “Word of God”, otherwise the word lexis (λέξις) would have been used in John’s Writing.

He used the word λόγος (lógos), which had a much deeper meaning than simply meaning God’s Word. Had he simply meant ‘God’s Word’, he would have used the word lexis (λέξις) and it would have been written as θεός λέξις (Theós Lexis). The author used the word λόγος (lógos) because it had a much deeper meaning which his fellow Hellenistic Judaism audience understood.

The concept of λόγος (lógos) in Hellenistic Judaism

Hellenistic Judaism was heavily influences by Ancient Greek thinking and philsophy. The concept of lógos would have been understood and discussed in great length by people in that day. 

This must be considered when translating the writing of that area and time period.

The Septuagint (from the Latin septuaginta, “seventy”) is a Koine Greek translation of a Hebraic textual tradition that included certain texts which were later included in the canonical Hebrew Bible and other related texts which were not. As the primary Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is also called the Greek Old Testament.

In the Septuagint the term lógos is used for the word of God in the creation of heaven in Psalm 33:6.

“By the word (lógos) of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”
-Psalm 33:6 (NIV)

Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE) was a Hellenized Jew who used the term lógos to mean an intermediary divine being, or demiurge.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo followed the Platonic distinction between imperfect matter and perfect Form, and therefore intermediary beings were necessary to bridge the enormous gap between God and the material world. The Lógos was the highest of these intermediary beings, and was called by Philo “the first-born of God”. Philo also wrote that “the Lógos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated”.

Plato’s Theory of Forms was located within the Lógos, but the Lógos also acted on behalf of God in the physical world. In particular, the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was identified with the Lógos by Philo, who also said that the Lógos was God’s instrument in the creation of the universe.

So, Lógos isn’t the Word, but closer to the logic or reasoning of the living word. The conscious incarnate. Lógos is a being which exists as part of the self of God. It is the intellectual and conscious Will of God.

The Old Norse had a concept of the “Self” which comprises of three parts;

  • the Body called the Líkami,
  • the Mind or Will called the Munr,
  • and what can be best described as their very being called the Hugr.  It is much like what would be considered a Soul or Spirit in modern thinking.

The mind or will (munr), although a separate concept, is part of the very being called the hugr, which would be best described as a soul or spirit in modern reasoning.  The hugr was the very essence of an individual’s being that could be separated from the body freely at will and return. The mind (munr) stayed with the spirit/soul (hugr) when it left the body (líkami).  The hugr, with the munr attached, left the body upon the death of the body (líkami) as a single free-willed being in Old Norse thinking.

In other words, the ‘conscious’ and ‘spirit or soul’ were merged as one which was the very essence of a being, with or without the body.

This would be the same concept as with the Greek λόγος (lógos).  It is a being’s very thought and will as a conscious essence. The free will of thought and action.

A being’s very conscious and will. Their mind merged with the essence of their very being is what the λόγος (lógos) is in concept.

The λόγος (lógos) is the very essence of God, the Will of God, the very essence of reason.

This changes the meaning behind the very first verse in the Book of John extra substantially. It is more than a mere word or law or God. It is the very conscious being and will of God.

The original text of the book of John chapter 1, verse 1 reads:

ἐν ἀρχή εἰμί ὁ λόγος,
en archē eimi ho logos 

Which is written in the NIV version of the Bible as:
In the beginning was the Word

But now with a deeper understanding behind the meanings of the original text as was written by the author, we read it as:
In the beginning of everything there existed the living essence of thought and reason behind free will,

The rest of the Verse of John 1:1

The next seven words: ,καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί πρός ὁ θεός,

καί (kai) conjunction

  • and
  • even, also
  • both … and … (when used in the construction καί … καί …)

καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί 

εἰμί (eimi) verb

  1. To be, exist; (of persons) live
    1. (of events) To happen
    2. To be the case

And the Logos was

καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί πρός 

πρός (prós)

  1. (of direction) forward to, toward
    1. (with genitive) the side of, pertaining to
    2. (with dative) by the side of, near to
    3. (with accusative) the place, time, occasion, or respect, which is the destination of the relation, or whither or for which it is predicated: about, according to, against, among, at, because of, before, between, ([where-]) by, for, at someone’s house, in, for intent, nigh unto, of, which pertain to, that, to (the end that), together, to ([you]) -ward, unto, with (-in)

And the Logos was with (in the sense of being a part of, not just near)

θεός (theós)

  1. a deity, a god, God
  2. title of a ruler

The next seven words: ,καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί πρός ὁ θεός, 

, and the Word was with God, (NIV)

And the next five words: καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί θεός 

, and the Word was God (NIV) 

The New International Version of the Bible gives us the translation of the original Koine Greek text of John 1:1

ἐν ἀρχή εἰμί ὁ λόγος, καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί πρός ὁ θεός, καί ὁ λόγος εἰμί θεός.
en archē eimi ho logos, kai ho logos eimi pros ho theos, kai ho logos eimi theos.

in English as:

John 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

However, after we’ve translated the meaning of the original Koine Greek text of John 1:1 into modern understanding, we get:

John 1: In the beginning of everything there existed the living essence of thought and reason behind free will, and this living essence was part of God, and this self-conscious living essence of reason and free will was God.

 


It’s a good thing I didn’t translate the bible, it would have been WAY thicker!


Sources:

written by Njord Kane © 2017 Spangenhelm Publishing

 


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