Fracturing The Logos of the Gospel – Part II

logos2In PART I  of this series, I said, “It has become fashionable to sever the (λόγος Logos) into parts and discard the objectionable.” I’d like to continue on that theme, but focus primarily on the relation of the words “gospel” and “logos.” In the book “Scripture As Logos; Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash” The author states: “The logos is simultaneously the instructor and the content of its instruction.” I’ll take that one step further and say that the gospel is both The Logos (Jesus) and The Logois (Jesus’ words) (Luke 23:9) (Luke 4:22) etc. The purpose of this post is to call into question the notion that “The gospel is not a person, it’s the message of a person.”

I’d like to make the following proposition:

The “truth” is a person (John 14:6). The “Word” (logos) is a person (John 1:1) “Truth,” “Word,” (logos) and “Gospel” are sometimes synonymous. Therefore “The Gospel” can and does refer to a person, the person of Jesus Christ.

You may want to disassemble that proposition or identify it as logically invalid, but first, consider the following:

Paul uses the gospel and Jesus synonymously – Paul says “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1 Corinthians 9:23) It’s interesting here that “Partaker” – συνκοινωνὸς ~ synkoinōnos “one who syncs up in fellowship” (co-fellowshipper) and the personal pronoun “auto” – αὐτοu – (with it), is not just referring to a thing, but a relationship with a person.

In Philippians 3:7,8, Paul says “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

These two passage taken together show that Paul “does all things for the sake of the gospel,” in the Corinthians passage and Paul “does all things for the sake of Christ” in the Philippians passage. Therefore since “all things” can not be done for two different things, they must be the same thing. Jesus is both the gospel and relays the gospel. The gospel is simultaneously person and message.

Paul personifies the Gospel – In Ephesians 1:13 it says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Jesus said he was the truth personified and that he was the word (logos) personified. In this passage “the gospel” is also personified and equated with Jesus. In equation form, it might look like this Word = Truth = Gospel = Jesus

The Galatians turned “from Christ” to a “different gospel.” – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” (Galatians 1:6) In verses 6-16 of the same chapter, there’s a unique interplay of gospel as message and gospel as person culminating with, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:16)  Of the words “preach Him,” John Gill had this to say, “Christ was the subject of his ministry; the things respecting his person, as that he was very God, the Son of God, God and man in one person the things respecting his office.”

The gospel does not come simply with words. – “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4) This verse comes from the context of the “hope of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3) The Spirit of the Lord is directly and insuperably connected with the Gospel.

The writer of Hebrews, Peter, and Paul use the same “partaking language” regarding Jesus and the gospel. – “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) These two passage combined with the above (1 Corinthians 9:23) demonstrate a “sharing” in the relayed message and its relayer.

The concept of “Christ Crucified” – “Christ crucified,” (1 Corinthians 1:23) is the Gospel. It’s the who and the what, the medium (person) and message, the Word and His words… it is the statement that begs the question “Who is Christ, and what did He do?” To separate the gospel message from the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5) is to empty the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17) Jesus was God’s message in the flesh.

“One can not separate the relational Jesus from His reasonable gospel

as if they were two completely different things.”

John the Baptizer and Jesus said that King, Kingdom & Message are gospel. – The gospel of the Kingdom loses it’s meaning without the person of the King. Jesus was both message of Kingdom at hand, and King. (John 5:46)

In part III, I hope to further develop this line of thought and explain why it all matters.  For now, a few questions:

 

Is it true then that “The gospel is not the person of Jesus, but simply a message about him?

Why is it potentially harmful to separate the gospel from the person of Jesus?

Why may it be potentially harmful to join them?

0 thoughts on “Fracturing The Logos of the Gospel – Part II

  1. Alan Knox says:

    Miguel,

    I think this is a very important study. I appreciate the work that you’ve put into it.

    I don’t know if I can answer your questions, because I have not studied all uses of the term “gospel” in Scripture (and other literature of the time). Most terms in Greek (and every other language) can refer to different things at different times depending on the context. Is it possible that (like other terms) the term “gospel” can refer to Jesus Christ at times and can also refer to the message about Jesus Christ at other times? We know, for instance, that the term “gospel” was not created by Jesus, Paul, or other Christians. It was in use already in normal Greek literature. So, it would be difficult for me to accept “gospel” as a technical term that only refers to one thing regardless of context.

    -Alan

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks Alan,

      I think it’s very interesting that the New Testament often talks of the gospel in the singular, but in pre-Christian literature the form used is almost always different (it is usually plural and often does not have the definite article attached). Even though Jesus and the first Christians used a word from their culture, they clearly invested it with new meaning and placed an unprecedented emphasis upon it.

      As far as I can tell, the earliest use was in the Septuagint in the 2nd century BC. 2 Samuel 4:10 –

      “when a man told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news [εὐαγγέλια], I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag”

      It’s hard to draw any conclusions from that singular instance in the Greek Old Testament.

  2. Miguel, in Part I you seemed to be arguing against the idea of “Christ is all,” which I have always taken to imply both “medium” and “message.” Here you seem to be arguing for the idea of “Christ is all,” at least by implication and say the Gospel is both medium (King) and message (Kingdom). Am I missing something or did you change your position on “Christ is All?” I do find more agreement with what you are saying in this post.

    To answer your questions:

    1. No

    2. Because Paul didn’t, as you point out.

    3. I don’t see how a robust Christology could be harmful, except to the kingdom of darkness, but it is certainly dangerous.

    • Miguel says:

      Brian, thanks for commenting…

      Actually, in PART I, I said “Some, who’ve had the noble intention of elevating Christ as “All,” have, in some cases inadvertently reduced, severed, or fractured the Logos.”

      When I hear others say, “Christ is all,” it always seems like there’s attempt to limit some part of Him that offends personal sensibilities. That part is usually the scripture which contains and reveals the gospel/logos.

      I’ve heard a number of times and some are recorded as comments in this blog, that “The Gospel is Jesus, not His words.” That’s what inspired this series.

  3. Alan Knox says:

    Miguel,

    Here are a few examples in which “the gospel” does not seem to refer to Jesus Christ, the person:

    Mark 1:1, Mark 10:29, Romans 1:1, Romans 15:16, Romans 15:19, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 9:13.

    There are probably other examples, but I’ll stop there.

    If you are correct that the examples that you list use the term “gospel” to refer to the person of Jesus Christ, and if I’m correct that even one of the examples that I list does not use the term “gospel” to refer to the person of Jesus Christ, then we must conclude that the referent for the term “gospel” changes based on context. This would be normal for almost all terms in any language. Only the strictest technical terms cannot have more than one referent depending on context.

    -Alan

  4. Marshall says:

    Mark 1:1-2 does refer Jesus Christ the man. και [conjunctive used at Mark 10:29] does not require 2 distinct/separate things; etc., etc.

    Miguel, you have written, “You may want to disassemble that proposition or identify it as logically invalid”, and this very thing is easily invited. λογος does not present within contemporary/western logical framework, thus inviting any man to disassemble, or, to break with human logic. Only the Spirit of God would prevent us from grinding the divine into palatable bits (or even to pablum).

    • Miguel says:

      Marshall,

      Thank you for the Mark 1:1-2 / Mark 10:29 reference. It is helpful.

      I think you’re right, when you say “λογος does not present within contemporary/western (the pattern of this world) logical framework.” The concept of λογος (logos) does present within a framework of those whose minds are being renewed and transformed. (Romans 12:2)

      My silly syllogism only serves as a framework for discussion. I’d be interested in any other examples you may offer where “the gospel” refers to the person of Christ.

    • Alan Knox says:

      Marshall,

      As you point out, in Mark 1:1, the genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ can be seen as an appositive to τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, in which case, “Jesus Christ” would further define “the gospel,” i.e., “the good news, which is Jesus Christ.” However, it could just as easily be a genitive of composition/content, i.e., “the good news about Jesus Christ.”

      Similarly, Mark 10:29 has different possibilities. The epexegetical kai, which you propose, is always difficult to prove, either grammatically or from context. In this case, though, the kai joins prepositional phrases, not just nouns. This would lead me to believe the kai is being used as a coordinating conjunction, not epexegitically. But, like I said, either one is possible.

      What about the other cases that I listed?

      -Alan

  5. Jim Wright says:

    I guess I’m just a simple elder seeking to be the church together with those who share a vibrant relationship with the Living Word, in submission to the authority and discipline of His written Word.

    While standing firm in opposition to those who promote a fractured logos – either as legalists who want the written word over the living word, or as existentialists who want the living word but not the written word – beyond that simple formulation, my eyes start glazing over.

    • Marshall says:

      Scholarship cannot serve us well; too many gaps & uncertainties for speculation to be seeping in.
      As jointly partaking, we know by the Spirit the “mystery/secret of Christ” [Ephesians 3:1-4]. By that same Spirit, we could never separate Christ from the well-message of Christ (though formerly we may have been separating/fracturing Christ in ignorance).

  6. Jim Wright says:

    Marshall, I’d love to study what you said, and the Bible verse you quote, to grasp why scripture lacks authority because words are ambiguous. You seem to think that words inherently can not be understood, but then again, you promote your view with words – both your own words and words from the Bible. So what you said and the verse you quote likewise must be un-understandable. Right?

    In fact, your epistemological argument against the knowability of anything through words and in support of mysticism, to the extent you use words to make it, must of necessity be reduced to absurdity.

  7. Marshall says:

    It is a difficult thing to realize that the authority of Scripture is in the Author of its revelation, and not in the words/phonetic per se. A monumental difference, since we will no longer be guided by a myriad of various word associations that depend in the individual hearer’s/reader’s experience or knowledge.
    It is not so much the words “ambiguous”… language is fluid, on the move (like Earth’s magnetic pole) and alway subject to private cognition; consequently, often somewhat misunderstood (even in this forum).

    consider as example: you receive 2 letters: one from a dear friend, and another from someone yet little known to you. Both letters, for cause, passionately address vital & personal matters presumably of significance to you. Of the 2, which memo has the best opportunity to have your thorough and heart-felt comprehension? How much help can scholarship truly be for a girl with a letter of love in her hand?

  8. Jonathan says:

    “We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters around to give the joint “atmosphere”. Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer?” – Nick (Its a Wonderful Life, 1946)

    This topic has been increasingly meaningful to me as I approach my 4th decade of leading/teaching/facilitating small groups. This is especially true as the type of men in my groups are from farther and farther away from what most of us would consider the center of conservative evangelical life in the West. These men bear scars (some visible…the worst are never visible) from squander lives, bad choices (some of their own making, some not), lost opportunities, etc…

    What they need is the Joy equivalent of what Nick is slinging in the above reference from the alternative reality portion of Frank Capra’s Christmas classic..

    Humor me as i make a second, more personal analogy toward Miguel’s point:

    Years ago, as the last romantic relationship that I had prior to meeting my wife was at an end, this girl and I were talking about what had happened and how we both felt about it. I remember saying something like, “Well, I will miss what we had” to which my former girlfriend said, very firmly but softly, “I will not miss what we had, I will miss you!’

    No matter how deeply intellectual or scholarly we sound, it is inescapable that what we lack is not just the relationship with a person but that we lack that person. When the Scriptures refer to the Gospel (and by Gospel, I refer to THE Good News, not usage of a term that refers to a helpful breaking news that will merely lighten one’s day), it most often refers to that surrounding the person of Jesus Christ.

    Hard men who drink hard drink aren’t concerned with the process. They’re concerned with the relief at the end of the time of drinking. Love forlorn kids find the the object of love much more fulfilling than the process of falling in love. Hopeless sinners are not interested in the process. They’re interested in the solution. . The solution is a He not an It. I am not being saved by an It. I am being saved by a Person.

    • Alan Knox says:

      Jonathan,

      It is possible to study Scripture with the best scholarship and miss Jesus Christ. Jesus himself warned about that. It is also possible to study Scripture with the best scholarship in order to know Jesus Christ better. Scholarship per se is never the problem.

      -Alan

      • Jonathan says:

        Agreed. There are entire worlds within the “per se”. Scholarship is necessary. But as we move into a future where the greatest number of people have access to the greatest quantity of study tools and the results of that study compared with any time in history, I don’t see a direct increase in the changing of lives with this scholarship. What I do see is a greater and greater emphasis on scholarship for the sake of scholarship.

  9. Marshall says:

    paleo Hebrew, koine Greek would be no longer with us. Dependence upon scholarship served to buttress the RCC for hundreds of years, and has since terribly muddied the waters of Bible translation, underpinning a plethora of weak & diverse “popular” translation that still to this day fosters division.

    Nevertheless, it was in the wisdom of God that these languages, now extinct, have slipped from man’s honest reach; that no man (no scholar, no cleric, nor his institution) may boast; that we are to walk by faith, as the Good Shepherd’s sheep, to be hearing His voice instead of bowing/worshipping at shrines of academia or sectarian faith. The letters are not enough… we must have Him! (glad for Jonathan to have brought a reminder in this.)

  10. Alan Knox says:

    Marshall,

    You said, “…that no man (no scholar, no cleric, nor his institution) may boast; that we are to walk by faith, as the Good Shepherd’s sheep, to be hearing His voice instead of bowing/worshipping at shrines of academia or sectarian faith. The letters are not enough… we must have Him!”

    This is true for anyone, scholar or not. Believe it or not, the scholar can have pride and trust in his own work, and the non-scholar can have pride and trust is his work as well.

    Again, scholarship per se is not the problem.

    -Alan

  11. Jonathan says:

    This topic of scholarship seems to be everywhere I turn lately.

    I am not a professional theologian but I am a professional engineer closing in on 25 years in my field. Like most budding engineers freshly minted from school, I was eager to use the tools and show the world how innovative I could be. What I learned in my first 5 years shaped everything. I learned that a design, no matter how elegant, had to be able to be produced in the largest possible quantities at the lowest possible cost and the customer had to so enjoy the product so that the company could reap maximum profits and repeat business from all customers.

    Since the mid-1990s, manufacturing entities have largely left North America and moved to regions with lower labor costs but the centers for design have largely remained in North America. Prior to this wave of outsourcing, designers could leave their offices and, within a few minutes or hours, could be on the production line to gain some real time feedback.

    Now, the distance might as well be infinite since deign budgets rarely have a travel component. The result of this is a loss of touch for the supply chain by those responsible for designing. Over the past 5-10 years, an interesting phenomena is occurring. Manufacturing, Quality, and Industrial engineers have quietly been learning to “fix” the designs that cannot be properly manufactured. We’re approaching an era where most major decision making is going to be done on site where products are being produced. And because of the almost immediate feedback, these changes can be very rapid and flexible. Within the next 5-10 years, this may render the era of the remote designer obsolete.

    I see strong parallels regarding the Mission.

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