When I was in seminary I had Ron Nash, author of Faith and Reason, as my philosophy and apologetics prof. I'm about to disagree with something he said so I'll begin by saying that he is an excellent prof and some of my most profitable studies in seminary came from him. But I do have a point of contention with him about at least one matter.
Nash followed Gordon Clark in believing that as the "logos," John 1:1 implies that Jesus is the "logic" of God. This assumes that the Greek word "logos" depends on Greek ideas and the Greek philosophical tradition for it's meaning.
Toward the end of my seminary career I was preparing for a presbytery licensure exam and one of our NT/Greek profs was kind enough to quiz me to help prepare me and we came to a question about the meaning of John 1:1. So, I told him that this means that Jesus is the logic of God, and this emphasizes the rationality of God. A buzzer was immediately hit and a trap door opened and wooshed me away. He told me that was wrong. He said this view assumes that these uneducated Jewish fishermen sat around reading Plato and Aristotle in their spare time. His point was that, to understand what this means we have to look to it's Jewish context.
His words are wise - when seeking to understand this passage, we need to look at its biblical background.
Here are a few quotes on this from some New Testament scholars.
In his commentary on John in the Word Biblical Commentary series, George R. Beasley Murray says the following:
Where did these ideas emanate from? Their history stretches beyond the confines of Greek culture. The opening words of the prologue give the clue: “In the beginning was the Word. …” The statement recalls the first word of the Hebrew Bible, בּראשׁית (beres̆it ), rendered in the LXX, as in the Gospel, ἐν ἀρχῃ̂. The association was the more evident to the Jews, since they referred to books of the Bible by their opening words, and so “In the beginning” was the Jewish name for “Genesis.” In that beginning God spoke, and the universe was created (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, etc). This representation was entirely comprehensible to Jews, since to them, as to other peoples throughout the ancient Orient, the Word, especially the Word of God, was not so much an expression of thought as a powerful action, a concept not native to Greeks. So we read in Ps 33:6: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.”LXX The Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT
Note that he says we must ground the meaning in it's Hebrew context where "logos" had the connotation of action, over thought. And note that he says this is a concept that was not native to the Greeks.
Further, Beasley-Murray shows that the "logos" can also be identified with "wisdom" in the Hebrew wisdom literature:
It is important to observe that the development of the concept of the Word of God in the OT and later Judaism is similarly related to that among Israel’s neighbors. This applies to the association of Word and Wisdom. The connection of Wisdom with the creative Word is already assumed in Prov 8:22–31 (note especially vv 27–31). In Wisd 9:1 there is an explicit identification of Wisdom and the Word: “God of our fathers, and Lord who keepest mercy, who madest all things by thy word, and by thy wisdom formedst man.…”
Again, notice the emphasis of action over thought, as wisdom is associated with the creative work of God.
Hendriksen speaks similarlly:
Surely, the term as employed by the evangelist cannot derive its meaning from such allegorization. It is rooted not in Greek but in Semitic thought.17 Already in the Old Testament the Word of God is represented as a Person. Note especially Ps. 33:6: “By the Word of Jehovah (LXX: τῷ λὁγῳ τοῦ κυρίου) were the heavens made.” What is probably the best commentary on John 1:1 is found in Prov. 8:27–30:
“When he established the heavens, I was there;
When he set a circle upon the face of the deep.
When he made firm the skies above,
When the fountains of the deep became strong,
When he gave to the deep its bound,
That the waters should not transgress his commandment,
When he marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was by him, as a master workman;
And I was daily his delight,
Rejoicing always before him.”
As a New Testament designation of the Christ, the term Word occurs only in 1:1, 14; I John 1:1; and Rev. 19:13. A word serves two distinct purposes: a. it gives expression to the inner thought, the soul of the man, doing this even though no one else is present to hear what is said or to read what is thought; and b. it reveals this thought (hence, the soul of the speaker) to others. Christ is the Word of God in both respects: he expresses or reflects the mind of God; also, he reveals God to man (1:18; cf. Matt. 11:27; Heb. 1:3).17 Cf. R. Harris, The Origin of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel, Cambridge, 1917, esp. p. 6; W. F. Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity, Baltimore, 1940, p. 285; W. F. Howard, op. cit., p. 47; W. P. Phythian-Adams, “The Logos Doctrine of the Fourth Gospel,” CQR, 139 (1944) 1–23.
In his commentary on John in the Pillar series, D. A. Carson says:
Howver the Greek term is understood, there is a more readily available background than that provided by Philo or the Greek philosophical schools. Considering how frequently John quotes or alludes to the Old Testament, that is the place to begin.
I say all of that to simply say that we need to be careful about reading something into John 1:1 that isn't there. In our efforts to show that Jesus is logical, which He is, let's not use bad arguments to prove our case. We must remember that logic and rationality derives its existence from the character of God and God defines what is rational.
I Corinthians 1:20-25 is the locus classicus for a biblical view of logic:
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
The Greek philosophers demand wisdom the wisdom of the Greeks is foolishness to God. Much of what we do in apologetics is designed to show that belief in God is rational. This is right and true, but we must remember that something is rational, not because it conforms to some logical school of thought, but because it conforms to God's revelation of Himself. God defines what is rational.
In stating my case that we ought to look to the Jewish background rather than the Greek background to understand "logos," I don't want to overstate my case. I'm not saying that Jesus is illogical, I'm simply saying that we need to be careful how we apply this particular verse to this issue.
I would also be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that John 1:1 does speak to Greeks and others outside of 1st century Judaism. For this I will return to the words of Beasley-Murray:
Here one should heed the words of J. B. Skemp, a classicist, regarding the prologue and the Gospel it introduces: “It may be possible as a tour de force to prove that everything in it could stem from pure Hebrew antecedents, but it will never be possible to prove that its hearers heard it with minds and hearts uninfluenced by Hellenistic meanings of the words they heard read to them” (The Greeks and the Gospel [London: Carey Kingsgate, 1964] 56).
Those words provide a wise balance to what I have said. Though it is doubtful that John had Greek philosophy in mind when he wrote these words, this doesn't mean that his audience didn't hear these words through the lens of their own culture.
I'm offering this post as means of sharpening the understanding of those who hear "Jesus is the logic of God" when they read this passage, but I am not offering this to throw cold water on their fire.
I can't imagine that any of the gospel writers had the Sawi tribe of
Papua New Guinea in mind when they wrote their accounts of the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I am quite sure that none of
them believed that the purpose of Christ's death was to be a "Peace
Child" to reconcile warring jungle tribes. Yet, as Don Richardson
showed in his book Peace Child,
the Sawi's cultural understanding of the "Peace Child" became a bridge
to the gospel for their culture. While there was not a one to one
correspondence between the biblical idea of Christ as redeemer and the
peace child, the peace child concept became a means of understanding
the biblical concept of a redeemer.
Similarly,the Greeks ideas of wisdom and logic may not necessarily correspond to the bliblical ideas, yet their love for logic and search for wisdom can be a stepping stone to understanding the true nature of the logos.