2013-01-01

Logosland

Raphael's Plato
"Logos" is the Greek word translated as "word" in the phrase, "the word made flesh," (John 1:14). Yesterday, Lake Chalice asked what "logos" meant for the "John" who wrote the fourth gospel.

For Heraclitus, 500 years before the Common Era, logos was a principle of order and knowledge.

For the Greek sophists, logos meant discourse.

For Aristotle, logos meant reasoned discourse.

The Stoic school conceived of logos as the divine principle, the active reason, pervading and animating the universe, the operative principle of all activity.

Philo, a Hellenized Jew about 15 years older than Jesus, merged Greek and Jewish philosophy. Philo followed Plato’s distinction between the perfect realm of ideas and the corrupted world of matter. For Philo, logos was the intermediary force that bridged the gap between God and the material world. The logos was God’s instrument in creating the world. Said Philo:
“The logos 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.”
The Logos Made Flesh?
Philo’s work provided the philosophy of logos most directly connected with John’s Gospel, though John takes logos into new territory.
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 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. And the Logos became flesh and dwelt 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)
The Legos Made Flesh?
All in all, in Lake Chalice's humble opinion, Plato’s idea that this world and everything in it is a degraded, dim reflection of the immutable, eternal perfection of the immaterial realm of forms was a bad move – a bad move made worse when Jewish and then Christian thought sought to incorporate that Platonism. Still, Lake Chalice is inclined to regard religious texts as poetry: not science, nor scientific theory, nor history, nor natural history, but poetry. The poetry of John’s Gospel, for Lake Chalice at least, is improved a bit in the translation of Eugene Peterson, adapted slightly by UU minister, Rev. Jack Harris-Bonham:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, like Mother, like Daughter: Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
This word, this logos, that was embodied, that was manifested in flesh and blood, that moved into the house next door, that is your neighbor and mine, that is kind and steadfast as a devoted family member, what is it?

It's love. What else?

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This is part 2 of 5 of "The Word Made Flesh"
Next: Part 3: "Love Becomes Incarnate Many Ways"
Previous: Part 1: "The Word Made Flesh"