The Word or Expression of a Thought? plus Arch or arc

The Greek word logos is often rightly translated as word. However, logos implies a greater meaning than that; it means the expression of a thought. So, Jesus is truly the complete expression of God’s thoughts.

People have often wondered why John used such unusual wording to start this, his literary masterpiece. It is obvious he was explaining Genesis 1:1-3. Notice how that scripture reads, ‘In an ancient time (gr. en arche) God created the heavens and the earth. But the earth was unsightly and unfinished, darkness covered its depths, and God’s Breath moved over its waters. Then God spoke (gr. eipen), saying, May there be light, and light came to be.’

So, you can see that God spoke, and the things came into existence by means of some unnamed person or force.

Now, follow John’s opening words (at John 1:1) and notice how they dovetail with and explain Genesis 1:1: ‘In an ancient time (gr. en arche) there was the Word . . . He was with God long ago. Everything came into existence through him. Life came into existence through him and the life was the light of men.’

As you can see, the account in Genesis says that God spoke things into existence, and John is explaining what God said (what the ‘Word’ or the ‘Expression of the thought’ was). In other words, God ‘spoke’ and the ‘Word’ (Jesus in his prehuman existence) did the work.

So, if John 1:1 appears to support the idea of a trinity to some, this is unintentional. John is simply trying to impress on his readers that, although Jesus isn’t mentioned in Genesis 1:1, he was there with God and was himself a powerful god who actually did the work (with God’s power) when God ‘spoke’ the heavens and earth into existence.

Are we to conclude from John’s writing here that Jesus’ heavenly name is ton Logos (the Word or Expression of a thought)? No! Recognize that John was just employing an inspired play on words to draw attention to the phrasing of Genesis 1:1. Jesus’ prehuman name was likely Michael, which means: Who is Like God (not a question but a statement). And John called him ‘the Word’ to point out Jesus’ most ancient high position as a co-worker with God, who created whatever things God spoke.

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Arch or arc: In An Ancient Time

The ancient Hebrews (as well as the early Christians) would have been shocked by the types of words we use today, especially when it comes to words that imply infinity. They viewed everything (and rightly so) as having a beginning and an end. For that reason, you don’t find many words in their writings that imply no beginning or end, although such words were available in Greek.

The word used at John 1:1 and translated as ‘In an ancient time’ here (and as ‘In the beginning,’ in other translations), is arche (ar kay). If you take a look at some of the words that are derived from arche in modern English, you get an idea of the true broad range of meanings of this ancient word, and none of theses meanings implies infinity. Examples include:

·         Arch or arc: A high rounded peak

·         Archangel: The highest angel

·         Archbishop: The highest bishop

·         Archeology: A study of ancient things or beginnings

·         Archaic: Something that is old.

All these applications are similar to the many ways the term is used in the Bible. So, the opening words of Genesis and the book of John, ‘En arche,’ mean ‘In an ancient time,’ a time that had a beginning. And at Revelation 3:14, Jesus is referred to as ‘the earliest creation of God’ (gr. ‘he arche tes ktiseos tou Theou’ – or – ‘the ancient of the creation of the God’) which implies an early (not eternal) time.

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1 In an ancient time there was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was powerful. 2 He was with God long ago 3 and everything came into existence through him. Life came into existence 4 through him and this life was the light of men. 5 The light is shining in darkness and the darkness hasn’t beaten him.

6 Then a man came who was sent by God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light so that everyone might believe through him. 8 He wasn’t the light, however he testified about the light.

9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world – and it was through him that the world began – but the world didn’t know him. 11 He came to his home, but his own people didn’t welcome him. 12 However, he gave everyone who did welcome him (all those who believed in his name) the authority to become children of God. 13 And they weren’t born from blood, or from the will of the flesh, or from the will of man, but from God.

14 So, the Word became flesh and lived among us; and we saw his glory, the glory of the only one born to a Father. And he was filled with kindness and truth.

15 John witnessed about him. He’s the one who said it; he yelled it out loud, ‘The one [who is] coming behind me came before me, because he was first, before I was.’

16 We all received kindness after kindness from his wealth. 17 The Law was given through Moses, but kindness and truth came through Jesus the Anointed One. 18 Nobody has ever seen God. But, the only-created god who is the Father’s favorite [son] has explained him.