Just under a year ago, Apollos and I planned to do a series of articles on the nature of Jesus. Our views diverged at that time about some key elements in our understanding of both his nature and his role. (They still do, though less so.)
We were unaware at the time of the true scope of the task we had set ourselves to—hence the months-long delay in getting this first article out. The breadth, length, height, and depth of the Christ is second in complexity only to that of Jehovah God himself. Our best efforts can only scratch the surface. Still, there can be no better task than striving to know our Lord because though him we can know God.
As time permits, Apollos will also be contributing his thoughtful research on the subject which, I am sure, will provide a fertile ground for much discussion.
No one should think that by these crude attempts we are seeking to establish our thoughts as doctrine. That is not our way. Having freed ourselves from the religious straitjacket of Pharisaical orthodoxy, we have no mind to return to it, nor any desire to constrain others by it. This is not to say we do not accept that there is one truth and one truth only. By definition, there cannot be two or more truths. Nor are we suggesting that understanding the truth is not vital. If we are to find favor with our Father, we must love truth and seek it out because Jehovah is looking for true worshippers who will worship him in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)
It seems that there is something in our very nature that seeks out the approval of one’s parents, in particular, one’s father. For a child orphaned at birth, his lifelong desire is to know what his parents were like. We were all orphans until God called us through Christ to become His children. Now, we want to know all we can about our Father and the way to accomplish that is to know the Son, for “he that has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father”. – John 14:9; Hebrews 1:3
Unlike the ancient Hebrews, we of the West like to approach things chronologically. Therefore, it seems fitting that we start by looking at Jesus’ origin.[i]
Before we get underway, we need to understand one thing. While we usually refer to God’s Son as Jesus, he has only had this name for a very short period of time. If scientists’ estimates are to believed, then the universe is as least 15 billion years old. God’s Son was named Jesus 2,000 years ago—a mere blink of the eye. If we are to be accurate then in referring to him from his point of origin, we need to use another name. It is interesting that only when the Bible was completed was mankind given this name. The apostle John was inspired to record it at John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (John 1:1)
“and he is clothed with an outer garment stained with blood, and he is called by the name The Word of God.” (Re 19:13)
In our publications we equivocate and refer to this as “the name (or, perhaps, title)” given to Jesus.[ii] Let’s not do that here. John clearly states this was his name “in the beginning”. Of course, we are not speaking Greek and the English translation leaves us with a phrase, “the Word of God”, or as John shortens it in John 1:1, “the Word”. To our modern Western mindset this still seems more like a title than a name. To us, a name is a label and a title qualifies the label. “President Obama” tells us that the human going by the moniker of Obama is a President. We can say, “Obama said…”, but we would not say, “President said…” Instead, we would say, “The President said…”. Clearly a title. “The President” is something that “Obama” became. He is now the President, but one day he won’t be. He will always be “Obama”. Before assuming the name Jesus, he was “the Word of God”. Based on what John tells us, he still is and he will continue to be when he returns. It is his name, and to the Hebrew mind, a name defines the person—his whole character.
I feel it is important for us to get this; to get over your modern mental bias that leans toward the idea that a noun preceded by the definite article when applied to a person can only be a title or modifier. To do this, I propose a time-honored tradition of English speakers. We steal from another tongue. Why not? It has stood us in good stead for centuries and given us the richest vocabulary of any language on earth.
In Greek, “the word”, is ho logos. Let’s drop the definite article, drop the italics that identify a foreign language transliteration, capitalize as we would any other name, and refer to him simply by the name “Logos”. Grammatically, this will allow us to build sentences that describe him by his name without forcing us to do a little mental side-step each time to remind ourselves it is not a title. Slowly, we will try to adopt the Hebrew mindset which will enable us to equate his name with all he was, is, and will be to us. (For an analysis of why this name is not only appropriate but unique to Jesus, see the topic, “What Is the Word According to John?”)[iii]
Was Logos Revealed to the Jews in Pre-Christian Times?
The Hebrew Scriptures say nothing specific about God’s Son, Logos; but there is a hint of him in Ps. 2:7
“. . .Let me refer to the decree of Jehovah; He has said to me: “You are my son; I, today, I have become your father.”
Still, who could be expected to guess at the true nature of Logos from that one passage? It could be easily reasoned that this Messianic prophecy pointed only to a specially selected human of the sons of Adam. After all, the Jews claimed God as their Father in some sense. (John 8:41) It is also a fact that they knew Adam to be God’s Son. They did expect the Messiah to come and liberate them, but they saw him more as another Moses or Elijah. The reality of the Messiah when he became manifest was far beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. So much so that his true nature was only revealed gradually. In fact, some of the most astonishing facts about him were only disclosed by the apostle John some 70 years after his resurrection. This is quite understandable, for when Jesus tried to give the Jews a glimmer of his true origin, they took him for a blasphemer and tried to kill him.
Some have suggested that Proverbs 8:22-31 represents Logos as the personification of wisdom. A case can be made for that since wisdom has been defined as the practical application of knowledge.[iv] It is knowledge applied—knowledge in action. Jehovah has all the knowledge. He applied it in a practical way and the universe—spiritual and material—came into existence. Given that, Proverbs 8:22-31 makes sense even if we simply consider the personification of wisdom as a master worker to be metaphorical. On the other hand, if Logos is being represented in these verses as the one ‘by whom and through whom’ all things were created, personifying him as God’s Wisdom still fits. (Col. 1:16) He is wisdom because through him alone God’s knowledge was applied and all things came into being. Undisputedly, the creation of the universe must be considered as the greatest practical application of knowledge ever. Nevertheless, it cannot be proven beyond all doubt that these verses refer to Logos as Wisdom Personified.
Be that as it may, and despite whatever conclusion we each might draw, it has to be acknowledged that no pre-Christian servant of God could deduce from those verses the existence and nature of the being John describes. Logos was still unknown to the writer of Proverbs.
Daniel speaks of two angels, Gabriel and Michael. These are the only angelic names revealed in Scripture. (In fact, the angels seem to be somewhat reticent about revealing their names. – Judges 13:18) Some have suggested that the prehuman Jesus was known as Michael. However, Daniel refers to him as “one of the foremost princes”[v] not “the foremost prince”. Based on John’s description of Logos in the first chapter of his gospel—as well as from other evidence presented by other Christian writers—it is clear that Logos’ role is unique. Logos is depicted as one without peer. That simply does not equate with him as “one of” anything. Indeed, how could he be counted as “one of the foremost” angels if he was the one through whom all the angels were created? (John 1:3)
Whatever argument can be made for either side, it again has to be admitted that Daniel’s reference to Michael and Gabriel would not lead the Jews of his time to deduce the existence of such a being as Logos.
The Son of Man
What about the title, “the Son of man”, which Jesus used to refer to himself on numerous occasions? Daniel did record a vision in which he saw “a son of man”.
“I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. 14 And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” (Da 7:13, 14)
It would seem impossible for us to conclude that Daniel and his contemporaries could have deduced from this one prophetic vision the existence and nature of Logos. After all, God calls his prophet Ezekiel “son of man” over 90 times in that book. All that can be safely deduced from Daniel’s account is that the Messiah would be a man, or like a man, and that he would become a king.
Did Pre-Christian Visions and Divine Encounters Reveal God’s Son?
Likewise, in the visions of heaven that pre-Christian Bible writers were given, no one is depicted that could represent Jesus. In Job’s account, God holds court, but the only two individuals named are Satan and Jehovah. Jehovah is shown addressing Satan directly.[vi] No intermediary or spokesperson is in evidence. We can assume that Logos was there and assume that he was the one actually speaking for God. Spokesperson would seem to tally with one aspect of being Logos—“the Word of God”. Nevertheless, we need to be careful and recognize that these are assumptions. We simply cannot say for sure as Moses wasn’t inspired to give us any indication that Jehovah wasn’t doing the speaking for himself.
What about the encounters Adam had with God prior to the original sin?
We are told that God spoke with him “about the breezy part of the day”. We know that Jehovah did not show himself to Adam, for no man can see God and live. (Ex 33:20) The account says that “they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden”. It later says they “went into hiding from the face of Jehovah God”. Was God accustomed to speaking with Adam as a disembodied voice? (He did this on three occasions that we know of when Christ was present. – Mt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28)
The reference in Genesis to the “face of Jehovah God” might be metaphorical, or it might indicate the presence of an angel such as the one who visited Abraham.[vii] Perhaps it was Logos who visited with Adam. It is all conjecture at this point.[viii]
There is no evidence that God’s Son was used as a spokesman or intermediary in the encounters humans had with God in pre-Christian times. If fact, Hebrews 2:2, 3 reveals that Jehovah used angels for such communications, not his Son. Hints and clues to his true nature are sprinkled throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, but they can only have meaning in hindsight. His true nature, in fact, his very existence, could not have been deduced with the information available at that time to God’s pre-Christian servants. Only in retrospect can those Scriptures round out our understanding of Logos.
Logos was only revealed to us when the final books of the Bible were written. His true nature was hidden from us by God prior to his birth as a human, and only fully revealed[ix] years after his resurrection. This was God’s purpose. It was all part of the Sacred Secret. (Mark 4:11)
In the next article on Logos, we will examine what John, and others Christian writers, have revealed about his origin and nature.
[i] We can learn much about God’s Son simply by accepting what is clearly stated in Scripture. However, that will only take us so far. To go beyond that, we will have to engage in some logical deductive reasoning. The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses—like most organized religions—expects its followers to regard their conclusions as akin to God’s Word. Not so here. In fact, we welcome alternate, respectful viewpoints so that we can improve our understanding of Scripture.
[ii] it-2 Jesus Christ, p. 53, par. 3
[iii] This article was one of my earliest, so you’ll see that I also equivocated between name and title. This is just one small piece of evidence of how the interchange of spiritual insight from many spirit-directed minds and hearts has helped me to a better understanding of God’s inspired Word.
[iv] w84 5/15 p. 11 par. 4
[v] Daniel 10:13
[vi] Job 1:6,7
[vii] Genesis 18:17-33
[viii] Personally, I prefer the thought of a disembodied voice for two reasons. 1) It would mean God was doing the speaking, not some third party. There is, for me, an impersonal element inherent in any dialog relayed by a third party acting as spokesman. This would inhibit the father/son bond in my opinion. 2) The power of visual input is so strong that the face and form of the spokesman would surely come to represent the form of God in the mind of the human. Imagination would be circumvented and the young Adam would have come to see God defined in the form before him.
[ix] I say “fully revealed” in a most subjective sense. In other words, the fullness of the Christ to the extent that Jehovah God wished to reveal him to humans was only made complete through John at the end of the inspired writings. That much more is to be revealed of both Jehovah and Logos is certain and something we can look forward to with eager anticipation.