Rudy Barnes Jr.
The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the mystical Logos, or Word of God (John 1:1), not as the Jewish rabbi incarnated as the Son of God with a virgin birth in Matthew and Luke. Mark also lacks the virgin birth, and there’s no consensus in the Gospels on the meaning of the resurrection. It could have been God’s sign that His Word, or Logos, would never die.
The Logos, or message of God, is sacred, not its human messengers; and Jesus never asserted that he was divine as God’s only Son, and he never promoted a new religion. That would have been blasphemous for Jesus as a Jew; but Jesus could have been the Logos and a son of God without being the only son of God. God does not favor any religion over others.
The universal Word of God is summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and accepted by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith; and it was affirmed by the new command in John 13:33-34 to love one another.
John’s Gospel was the last of the four Gospels written, and could be said to be the gospel of the Logos or of the Holy Spirit. The unique sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel, such as his “I am” sayings, are consistent with Jesus being a manifestation of Logos, but they vary from the words and style of Jesus in the other three Gospels.
John’s Gospel is less historic and more mystical and symbolic than the other gospels. That was evident when Jesus told his disciples, “God will send you the Counselor or Holy Spirit to remind you of all I have said to you, and give you peace” (John 14:25-27); later he told them, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
John 3:16 and 14:6 should be considered narratives of the evangelist John on the divine message of God as Logos rather than asserting that Jesus was the divine messenger of God. The new command in John’s Gospel to Love one another (John 13:34-35) affirms the greatest commandment in the other three Gospels, with Jesus as the manifestation of the Logos.
Logos is an ancient concept based on logic and reason that has modern relevance. It is consistent with the universal moral teachings of Jesus but not with exclusivist Christian doctrines. Jesus was a universalist Jew who promoted sacrificial love as God’s Word. It was the church that fabricated exclusivist doctrines that limited salvation to Christians.
If the early church had interpreted the resurrection as God’s sign that the teachings of Jesus to love one another was God’s Word (Logos) and would never die, rather than promoting exclusivist beliefs in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation, the world would be a better place. It’s not too late for the Church to promote religious reconciliation based on the Logos.
Logos, (lit. 'word, discourse, or reason') …is a term in Western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a Greek word variously meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "word", "reason", "proportion", and "discourse". it became a technical term in Western philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge. Aristotle applied the term to refer to "reasoned discourse" or "the argument" in the field of rhetoric, and considered it one of the three modes of persuasion alongside ethos and pathos. Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe. Within Hellenistic Judaism, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. See https://www.pbs.org.
Philo [of Alexandria] was a Jew and contemporary of Jesus who saw the cosmos as a great chain of being presided over by the Logos, a term going back to pre-Socratic philosophy, which is the mediator between God and the world, though at one point he identifies the Logos as a second God. In anticipation of Christian doctrine he called the Logos the first-begotten Son of God, the man of God, the image of God, and second to God. Philo was also novel in his exposition of the mystic love of God that God has implanted in man and through which man becomes Godlike. Philo is a major source of knowledge of the doctrines of these mystery cults, notably that of rebirth. Like Plato, Philo regarded the body as the prison house of the soul, and in his dualism of body and soul, and he anticipated much of Gnosticism, a dualistic religion that became important in the 2nd century CE. Philo held that man is completely free to act against all the laws of his own nature. In his ethical theory Philo described two virtues, under the heading of justice, that are otherwise unknown in Greek philosophic literature—religious faith and humanity. For him repentance was a virtue, whereas for other Greek philosophers it was a weakness. Perfect happiness comes, however, not through men’s own efforts to achieve virtue but only through the grace of God. In his political theory Philo often said that the best form of government is democracy. For Philo democracy meant any form of government in which all men are equal before the law, with the ultimate goal of history that the whole world be a single state under a democratic constitution. See https://www.britannica.com/biography/Philo-Judaeus.
Jim McDermott cited Super Bowl ads on Jesus (He gets us) “because they’re less interested in Jesus and more interested in getting us to think about our choices. Jesus had love for everyone, but he also took sides. He defended the woman caught in adultery from the crowd that wanted to murder her. He challenged teachings of the Pharisees that marginalized people and spent time with sinners. These kinds of actions are a big part of why he was killed. Just because he didn’t show up and shout at protests did not mean he wasn’t political. The thing that makes us attractive is not that we “have” Jesus. It’s considering how we choose to spend our lives—who we help, who we forgive, how we show love—our choices. At the Super Bowl, “He Gets Us” got it right, or at least tried to, anyway. The point of being a Christian isn’t to make more Christians. It’s to work toward that kingdom of friendship and mercy that Jesus himself was building. And anything that helps inspire others to do that is worth paying attention to and learning from.” Jim McDermott, S.J., is an associate editor at The America Magazine. See https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2023/02/13/he-gets-us-jesus-super-bowl-244717?utm_source=piano&utm.
For other commentary on Logos and the universal moral teachings of Jesus, see:
On Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html
Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
On The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
On Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.
On Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
On Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.
On Musings on Reconciling the Abrahamic Religions with a Common Word of Faith http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/01/musings-on-reconciling-abrahamic.html.