Why did John choose to represent Christ as “The Word” as in In the beginning was The Word? (Short answer: He was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but we are looking for the long answer).
The word “word” or “logos” in the original, has at least ten possible meanings in the Greek language depending on the context. It can mean, statement, speech, gospel, treatise, account, reason, word, event, appearance, or accusation, and of course here it refers to Christ. Why did John choose this word to reveal Christ? He could have just said, In the beginning was Christ, and Christ was with God, and Christ was God, but he didn’t. He is trying to tell us something.
The United Bible Society language commentary on John points out that the word “logos” had a rich heritage both in the Jewish culture and in the Greek culture. For Greeks who were theists “logos” was the means by which God revealed himself or “spoke” to the world. For Greeks who were pantheists the Word was the principle that held the world together and at the same time endowed men with the wisdom for living.
For the Hebrews, “logos” had a rich meaning because that was how God had created the world. Here is a screenshot of Genesis 1 with “And God said” highlighted so you get a sense of how rich the word “logos” was to the Jews [This time courtesy of Accordance Bible Software – I’m kind of a Bible software junkie]:
God had created the world by speaking, by using words, so while the Jews’ understanding of “logos” differed from the Greeks’, it would have resonated with both type of people.
A couple of comments by commentators will help clarify:
The use of logos implies that John was endeavoring to bring out the full significance of the Incarnation to the Gentile world as well as to the Jewish people. He does not adopt the Greek concept in its entirety, but he uses this term to indicate that Jesus had universal rather than local significance and that he spoke with ultimate authority.
So in using “the Word,” the Logos, John was speaking to both the Jewish and Greek worlds—those two widely divergent cultures. The Greeks were sophisticated, inquisitive, and philosophic; the Jews righteous, traditional, and struggling to be faithful to the Law. How amazing that John could share the Gospel narrative with these two cultures at the same time, using a single, simple concept that carried such profound meaning for both.
John was brilliant, wasn’t he? I wonder from whence he gained that brilliance.