The LOGOS of John 1:1 – First a Plan, Then a Person

“In the beginning was the Logos…and the Logos was made flesh.” (Jn. 1:1,14)

The Gospel of John starts out by telling us that the Logos became the person of Jesus Christ. But was the Logos a person before that? In the beginning, was the Logos a person, a “word”, or something else? According to Trinitarian theology, the Logos was a person, and then changed dramatically at the incarnation, to become another person, a God/man.

This may come as a surprise, but for the first 150 years of the church’s existence the Logos of John 1:1 was not considered to be a person.

If the earliest church didn’t consider the Logos to be a person, then what on earth (or in heaven) was it, in their minds? Did John ever intend for the Logos to be what it later became in Trinitarian theology – a divine  person who was part of an eternal godhead consisting of three persons?

Just what does this word actually mean? What sources are we going to use to help us drill down on what the author meant by “Logos”? Should we look to a Greek understanding under the influence of Plato, or the Stoics, or the Gnostics? A Greek and Roman point of view as influenced by the Jewish philosopher Philo? A strictly Jewish understanding since the author is Jewish and he wrote to a Jewish audience? Or a contemporary theological approach that insists on a Trinitarian understanding? These are the typical approaches but I submit the answer is much more simple and accessible to us all, even to non-academics.

How about we just look the word up in a dictionary?

Seriously Kirby? It’s really that easy?

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Here it is:

What Does Logos Mean?

The second part of a dictionary definition of Logos (from  – the same can be found in Strong’s Concordance):

  1. Its use as respect to the MIND alone:
    1. reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating
    2.  account, i.e. regard, consideration
    3.  account, i.e. reckoning, scored.
    4.  account, i.e. answer or explanation in reference to judgment
    5.  relation, i.e. with whom as judge we stand in relation
      1.  reason would
    6.  reason, cause, ground

Does that sound like a person, or does that sound like a thought, something in someone’s mind?

This definition of logos as something in one’s mind can be clearly seen in the following usages in other places in the New Testament where logos is translated into the underlined words in all capital letters:

Ac 10:29 – Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what INTENT you have sent for me?

Ac 18:14 – Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to the Jews, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be REASONABLE for me to listen to you.”

Ac 8:21 – You have neither part nor lot in this MATTER: for your heart is not right in the sight of God.

Ac 15:6 – And the apostles and elders came together to consider this MATTER.

Mt 5:32 – But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the CAUSE of fornication, causes her to commit adultery.

Mt 18:23 – The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, which would take ACCOUNT of his servants.

Lu 16:2 – And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of you? Give an ACCOUNT of your stewardship; for you can no longer steward.

Encyclopedia Britannica includes “plan” as one of the English equivalents for Logos, along with “word” and “reason.”

Logos as “thinking” can also be seen in our English word logic which came from the Greek word logos as well as the words biology, from bios, Greek for life, and logos, Greek for thinking, hence, the study of life, as well as anthropology, the study of man, and psychology, the study of the soul, and many other academic disciplines.

Only the scriptures that translate logos as something other than “word” are listed above to illustrate that though this is the second, less frequent use of logos, this usage was common to the Biblical writers and to their audience. If I were to travel back in time to 1st century Palestine with a drawing for a house plan, buy a lot and start building that house and showed that plan to the neighbor next door he might say I had shown him a nice logos, because he would know that the plan on paper is the plan in my head. He might also tell his relatives that the guy who bought the lot next door is making “all things according to it (the logos) and it’s going to be a fine house. I saw his logos, his house will be a good addition to the neighborhood.”

The Logos, the Plan of God

Seeing the Logos as a plan rather than a word or a person helps to explain a number of other concepts in the bible.

From the beginning of creation God created all things with a plan in mind. That shouldn’t surprise us. What should surprise us is if God created all things without a plan but rather just haphazardly threw the whole thing together on a whim. Like some of the omelettes I’ve made when my dear wife was not around to rescue me from my own cooking.

The plan that God had in mind when he created all things John calls a Logos at the beginning of his Gospel.  This Logos was the blueprint for creation, and Jesus Christ is central to that plan.  To paraphrase John, he is saying Jesus is God’s plan. Everything that God did before the time of Jesus was done with Jesus in mind. That’s what is meant by “through him all things were made” two verses later and “through whom he made the worlds” in Heb. 1:2. What was in God’s mind was finally revealed when that plan became flesh, when Jesus was born, walked among us, inspired us to repent of our wickedness and love our neighbors, was crucified and rose again.

That’s how a first century Greek speaking Christian of Jewish descent would read John. He wouldn’t be thinking of the Logos as a person. That kind of thinking came later – in the second century.

One way to understand John chapter 1 is to think in terms of predestination. Not the silly kind of predestination that Calvinists teach, but the ability to plan at one point in time and then being able to follow up at a future point in time.  For example, if I buy green paint for my house, it’s not because I’m predicting that it will end up green, it’s because I am going to make sure it will end up green.  When someone asks what color my house will be in a year (assuming I don’t get lazy and put it off for, uh, five years) I can predestinate what color it will be because I have a certain ability to make it happen.  My logos is to have a green house. It’s through this logos I go to the paint store and buy the paint. If they try to sell me on a special for blue paint I’m going to say, “No thanks, that’s not according to my logos.” Being human,  however (lazy in other words), I might not follow through with my plans, so to say I can predestinate is a bit of a stretch, but with God, that’s not a problem. His plans happen. His Logos is certain.

An example in scripture of a predestined plan with regard to the person of Jesus is when it says in Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Are we to believe that Jesus was actually slain in the Garden of Eden, or during creation?

Of course not.

This is a statement about God’s intention, how God had it in his mind from the beginning, in his Logos, that He would provide His Son to die on the cross for us.  When God has a plan to do something, it’s as good as done so John speaks of it as a done deal from the beginning. He was “slain at the foundation of the world.”

The beauty of the Gospel is that God’s plan as manifest in the person of Jesus involves much more than salvation. That is only the first step of faith in our walk with him.  John 1 is just one of many scriptures that speak of a Logos, or plan beyond our salvation.

God’s plan is also that we would become like Christ.  We are continually being transformed into his likeness, being raised from one stage of glory to another by the power of God (2 Cor. 3:18).  That is what the New Covenant is all about (Jer. 31:33).

Though salvation is a glorious benefit, God’s plan is not that we all get saved. God’s plan is that we all move away from wickedness and toward Christlikeness.

“Through him (the Logos) all things were made.  Without him nothing was made that has been made,” (Jn. 1:3) is saying the same thing Paul said in Col. 1:16: “For in him were all things created, that are in heaven, that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created through him, and into him.” The principalities mentioned here refer to angelic and demonic powers and yes, both were created as part of God’s plan to form Christ-like character. The angels are like the carrot drawing us in that direction while the demons are like the hound chasing us in that direction. That’s a different picture than what we get from the idea that there is this cosmic war going on between the forces of evil and the forces of good – which in my mind is a silly idea if taken literally. There simply is no contest between an omnipotent God and anybody or anything else. It makes much more spiritual sense to think of demonic powers as helpless pawns in God’s grand scheme of forming godly character in his children.

Click to Enlarge

These teachings reinforce the idea that Jesus is the Logos, the Plan of God, and all things are made with that plan in mind. That Plan doesn’t stop with creation or the person of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t stop with our salvation. His Plan includes the formation of godly character in mankind in much the same way godly character was formed in that child born of Mary in Bethlehem. This character was “imprinted” into Jesus’ human character, according to Heb. 1:3, where Jesus’ human nature is likened to soft clay and God’s divine nature is likened to the hard stamp that imprints that clay in a wax seal. The result is seen in Rom. 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow (to submit to his ways), he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn (read that, forerunner) among many brethren.” That is a beautiful promise, often obscured by the Calvinist interpretation which centers on who was chosen instead of to what certain people were chosen. The verse says nothing about God picking who will be saved, it is about God determining the future of those who are saved, and it is a glorious future we enjoy every day today.

The Logos as a Person Originated in the Second Century

How do we know John’s conception of Logos was that of a Plan that became a person, rather than a person who became a person of a different nature, aside from the fact that the common, dictionary meaning was that of something in someone’s mind? We know this because the idea of the Logos being a pre-incarnate person did not exist at the time of John’s writing.

From where did this idea of the Word in John 1:1 being a person originate? To answer that we need to find the first person in history to consider a Logos to be a person rather than a thought because commonly held philosophical and theological ideas generally originate with one influential thinker.

Justin Martyr, writing about 150 AD, would be that guy to introduce this way of thinking into the Christological discussions of the early church.

Justin didn’t call the Logos a person, per se – that wording would come about 50 years later with Tertullian, and even then it wasn’t a person as we think of a person but more a modalistic manifestation of the one God – but he did think of the Logos as “numerically distinct from the Father” rather than being an aspect of the Father. He wrote “through the Word, God has made everything”. He also believed the Logos was “born of the very substance of the Father” and places the genesis of the Logos as a voluntary act of the Father at the beginning of creation. This of course would put him at odds with the later 4th century councils that adopted the Trinitarian idea of an eternal, un-created Son of God. That would make him to be a heretic with ideas closer to the arch-heretic Arius who promoted the idea of a created Son of God at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  Arius and his followers would of course end up getting exiled and banished to Illyricum for this kind of thinking because it didn’t line up with Emperor Constantine’s theology and his quest to get the church to align with it.

The Logos as a Plan Originated in the 6th Century BC

Prior to Justin Martyr in the mid-2nd century the only way people thought of the Logos was as a plan in God’s mind. There were no other options. This way of thinking was established by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who, according to Bible Study Tools on the Web, “first used the term Logos around 600 B.C to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. This word was well suited to John’s purpose in John 1.”

Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher and a contemporary of John who may have influenced John, took Heraclitus a step farther and defined a Logos as God’s creative principle or governing plan.

These concepts had become so ingrained in the collective thinking of the first century Greek speaking world that the word logos could be defined as something in one’s mind only, or a word along with the thought behind the word. By the first century your average Greek or Greek speaking Jewish Christian would have this understanding of the word logos and would read John 1:1 this way:

“In the beginning was the PLAN OF GOD, and the PLAN OF GOD was toward God, and the PLAN OF GOD was divine. This (plan) was in the beginning with God.  All things came into existence through it (the plan), and apart from it (the plan), nothing came into existence. (skipping to verse 14) So the PLAN OF GOD became flesh and resided among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the uniquely-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” – (For the anarthrous use of theos meaning “divine” instead of “God” see W.  E. Vine, Dana & Mantey, and Moffatt’s translation – four Trinitarians who don’t let their own theological conclusions interfere in their scholarship.)

A logos is something in someone’s mind, and is translated in our Bibles as “intent,” “reason,” or “cause”, which is a bit removed from Heraclitus’ original use as a plan in God’s mind, but John is applying the term to God instead of men, so naturally your average Christian of that time would think of the Logos in John 1 as “Divine Intent” or a “Plan of God.”

For John’s audience to think of the Logos as a divine person before he was a human/divine person they would have to be convinced by John himself, given the lack of contemporary influences. When you get past the English wording and drill into the Greek, John isn’t very convincing, except for those unwilling to accept any other alternatives for the meaning of Logos other than a “person.” And yes, there is a fair amount of bias against non-Trinitarian interpretations. There’s no question about that.

John’s audience would not be thinking of the Logos as a person in a godhead. That idea came later, long after John died. John’s Gospel was written at a time when Jewish Christians dominated, even to a fault, the Christian church as can be seen by the problems caused by those who taught that the Gentile Christians should be circumcised. Though they had issues with the Law, these earliest Jewish Christians were solid in their monotheism and would not have entertained the possibility that God was anything other than ONE. When they twice daily recited the Shema: “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is One,” (Dut. 6:4) they never once thought of God as “3 in 1”. Had someone suggested it at the time they would have considered that to be at best an interesting adaptation of pagan polytheism and at worst a strange perversion.

Nobody was suggesting it at the time.

There is no historical evidence that any first century Christian even thought of the Logos of the Gospel of John in terms of it being a separate person apart from the Father, yet that is the common understanding of John 1:1 taught today.

According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Judaism has always been rigorously unitarian.” Unitarian theology does not recognize a plurality in the godhead.

The Encyclopedia of Religion states:

“Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity. In the immediate post New Testament period of the Apostolic Fathers no attempt was made to work out the God-Christ (Father-Son) relationship in ontological terms.”

They didn’t have anything to work out because they weren’t thinking of God being more than one person. Jesus was not in the godhead per later Trinitarian theology, but rather the godhead was in Jesus, according to Col. 2:9: “For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

Regarding New Testament times, the New Catholic Encyclopedia says:

“The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title THE TRINITARIAN DOGMA. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”

The Apostolic Fathers were those who immediately followed the Apostles between 90 and 130 AD. Some of them were trained by the Apostles.

Jesus and all of the apostles were strict Monotheists before Jesus began his ministry.  After Jesus established a following among Jews, and after he was crucified, they were still considered to be a Jewish sect.  They continued to be strict Jewish Monotheists – who followed Christ. When they recited the Shema, they didn’t think in their minds, “The Lord thy God is 3 in 1.” God was not 3 until much later. He was just one. Period.

In order to get to a point in the 4th century when people thought of God as three persons they would first need a developed Logos Christology and think of Jesus as an eternal person of the godhead. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia,

“The Apostolic Fathers do not touch on the theology of the logos; a short notice occurs in St. Ignatius only (Ad Magn. viii, 2).”

Later, by 200 AD, instead of Shema-reciting Jewish Christians dominating the church as was the case for the first 150 years of the church it was non-Jewish Christians dominating who had been quite accustomed to Greek and Roman polytheism. Someone like Tertullian could introduce modalistic ideas of God manifesting himself with three faces, without much objection.

He would have faced a lot of objections in the first century.

Later, his idea of three faces combined with 2nd century ideas of the Logos being a separate person subordinate to God. That morphed into God being three persons in the sense that we understand “person” today, someone having his own will, and not just three different manifestations of the one God as conceived by Tertullian.

It’s interesting to note that Tertullian, the first Christian to describe God with the number 3 around 200 AD and thus popularized the nomenclature for the doctrine of the Trinity, would not be accepted as a bona-fide Trinitarian after Nicaea and is actually considered a heretic by the Catholic Church for some of his other teachings.

It was up to the church councils like the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD to fine tune the implications of a more developed Logos Christology by eliminating the widely accepted Subordinationism of Arius in favor of three co-equal, co-eternal beings, a rather novel concept at the time. Nobody was writing about this in the first or second centuries. This of course would not have been a necessary exercise in the fourth century had they stuck with an earlier, Unitarian conception of God who had a PLAN that was manifest with the advent of his Son. Once you go down that path of elevating the Son to a pre-incarnate person with absolute equality with the Father you then have to have several more councils to hammer out positions regarding the Son being both God and man, positions that are invariably self-contradictory and ultimately contrary to scripture, yet must be accepted if pre-incarnate existence and co-equality are accepted.

By the way, the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD was not trying to come up with a biblical position on the godhead. That shouldn’t be surprising considering there was no Bible at the time. It was just trying to come up with a doctrinal position to please a Roman emperor who demanded one.

All the bishops and Christian thinkers of the first few centuries had their own personal theology and were free to draw from any source to teach and authenticate their positions, and be at odds with anything in our current Bibles with impunity, since there was no canon of scripture until long after Nicaea. The bishops at Nicaea were not Evangelicals trying to figure out what positions were “biblical” long before there was a Bible.

How could they?

As a side note, many people have a wrong understanding about “Greek thinking” as if it’s always “bad” while Jewish thinking is “good” because the Greeks were pagans and God was trying to move these pagans away from paganism and into truth, and because of what Paul says in Colossians 2:8 – “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” but the fact is even Jewish followers of Jesus, such as his very own apostles, borrowed concepts from the pagans if a concept was useful for explaining the one true God to a people wanting to understand more about Him, especially if the audience was pagan. Think of a helpful Greek philosophical concept as just one of many tools a teacher could pull out of his tool bag of ways to understand God. There were certainly Greek ideas Paul wanted his parishioners to avoid, such as the many “isms” like Hedonism, Asceticism, and Gnosticism, but we error in thinking Paul was laying out a general prohibition of all Greek philosophy including the ideas of Heraclitus 600 years earlier. Brad Jersak does a great job of digging into this a bit further in his article Pushing Back: ‘Greek Thinking’ vs. ‘Jewish Thinking’ is a Dualistic Error.

In addition, this blog post lists a number of times when the Apostle Paul used Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, and others in his teachings: Paul and His Use of Greek Philosophy

I also explain how Jesus made use of fables to teach truth in Jesus Used Fiction to Teach Truth.

Jesus and the apostles did not have a problem with borrowing concepts from their secular, pagan culture. It’s similar to how we might use a scene from Star Wars to make a spiritual point in a sermon, as one of our local megachurch pastors likes to do. It is, however, a method that lends itself to people from a different clime and time misunderstanding intentions. It’s easy to grab a fourth century interpretation and read that into a first century text, and miss the point of the author of that text.

Fortunately for us, we don’t really need to be swayed by or dependent on fourth century theologians and church councils or first century Jewish philosophers or sixth century BC Greek philosophers. We can just look up the meaning of Logos in the dictionary and see that a Logos is a plan. We can then read John’s Gospel and know that PLAN became a concrete reality in Bethlehem and even more so as God made him both Lord and Christ and the forerunner of all who would become like him.

The 4th Century bishops that Emperor Constantine had corralled at his summer palace in Nicaea were either Trinitarians (or better, pre-Trinitarians) led by Alexander the Bishop of Alexandria or they were Arians who agreed with the elder from Alexandria named Arius, led by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia. They should have stuck to one question only: Was the Logos a Plan or a person prior to the incarnation? But that question wasn’t even on the table because at that time both parties assumed the Logos was a person prior to the incarnation. The question at hand then was, among other questions: Was the Logos a created person or an uncreated person? What we know now as the dictionary definition of Logos, thanks to Greek scholars like James Strong, was lost on the 4th century bishops.

Imagine this: a group of lawyers from several different countries representing international businessmen co-authoring a legal document to establish a business in America. These lawyers only have a cursory understanding of English. Now imagine them trying to do this without translators or dictionaries explaining the meaning of the English terms they are using. Who would even attempt such a thing? They would all know they all need to be able to have the same understanding of those English terms in that legal document or else the proverbial you-know-what will eventually hit the fan and they will be seeing each other in court.

Such was the case at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Greek was only an international trade language, a first language to only a few. In the Christian Latin West, Greek became associated with “paganism” and regarded as an uncouth foreign language. Translators into Greek were available at the council for some of those who wanted to speak, but to further complicate matters some of the key Greek terms used in whatever biblical and non-biblical writings they were using to validate their positions, such as the Greek words for essence, substance, nature, and person, bore a variety of meanings drawn from pre-Christian philosophers. That can only entail misunderstandings. Then they coined a new term not used in scripture, homoousia, which literally means “same substance”, and could never fully agree on what they meant when they said Jesus was of the same substance as the Father. I don’t think anyone even knows today.

If you’re thinking it was all a big theological mess you would be correct, and we are today barely even recognizing everybody had their reasons for what they believed and these folks should have just told the Emperor, “We’re going to love each other, allow for disagreements and freedom of speech and freedom of conscience, and when we get this stuff figured out and can come to an agreement we’ll get back to you. But don’t hold your breath. In the meantime we’ll pay our taxes and pacify the subjects of your glorious kingdom but we would appreciate it if you would just keep your unsophisticated nose out of our theological business, if you don’t mind, sir.”

But no, the bishops saw in this Emperor an opportunity to further their own political agendas by harnessing the powers of the state at the expense of others and we are still picking up the pieces of the forced unity of their creeds and their anathemas (damnations to Hell), with Christians still at each other for differences of opinion about disputable matters.


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33 comments for “The LOGOS of John 1:1 – First a Plan, Then a Person

  1. Kenny Reid
    March 14, 2016 at 9:58 am

    very good

  2. Greg Logan
    June 15, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    A “Plan” made flesh…

    Pretty awesome picture!

  3. July 3, 2016 at 12:03 am


  4. Katy
    September 21, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Very interesting article! What about the angel of the Lord who appears throughout the Old Testament who is received as God or Lord? Do you not believe that is Jesus? If so, why not?

    • December 11, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Katy the Bible gives me no reason to believe the Angel of the Lord is anything other than what the Bible says it is: the Angel of the Lord.

    • Greg Logan
      December 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm


      Thanks for your question – certainly a common mis-understanding – but a very unfortunate one.

      First, to identify the messenger of the Lord as Jesus would relegate Jesus to being an angel. That is definitely a non-starter.

      Second, Heb10:26ff tells us about the appearances of Jesus – the first was during his ministry – and the second will be His return. There are no other appearances of Jesus.

      Third, 1Pet1:20 tells us plainly that Jesus was foreknown (even as you are foreknown) from before the foundation of the world – but was present in the last times (his earthly ministry). Jesus was simply not around to be an messenger till “these last times”.

      Again – a common and very unfortunate misunderstanding that provides a very incorrect view of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  5. Mark Paul
    October 8, 2017 at 12:38 am

    I do agree upon most of the things but did not get the point that God himself created devil as you suggest . That both angels and devil are there to help us become Christ like. Plz.. elaborate or justify it

    • October 14, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Think of the carrot and the stick to get a rabbit to race around the track. The angels are the carrots, and the demons are the sticks. Both are used to get the rabbit to move in the same direction.

  6. December 12, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Well done! To the Stoic Philosophers (300 BC), λόγος was the active sense of reason pervading and animating the universe. Hellenistic Judaism (a form of Judaism that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture – 4th century BC to 2nd century AD) began to think of λόγος as the connecting force of everything – holding and binding all parts together – preventing them from being dissolved or separated. All of that meaning and more, is contained in John’s understanding of Λόγος.

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven.”

    • January 12, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      Thank you. And the idea of the Logos being a “person” came AFTER the church was founded by Jesus and his apostles. To me that’s a critical piece of information that must be acknowledged.

  7. Rob Berns
    January 23, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Good article! Glad I came across it!

  8. Rico
    April 4, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Kirby,

    You said: Once you go down that path of elevating the Son to a pre-incarnate person with absolute equality with the Father you then have to have several more councils to hammer out positions regarding the Son being both God and man, positions that are invariably self-contradictory and ultimately contrary to scripture, yet must be accepted if pre-incarnate existence and co-equality are accepted.

    My question: How do you explain Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:5-7?

    “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

    Paul clearly reveals certain mysteries here:
    1. Jesus pre-existed in the FORM OF GOD.
    2. He did not regard EQUALITY WITH GOD a thing to be grasped.
    3. He emptied himself of the FORM OF GOD, and took on the form of man.

    If Jesus was only an abstract PLAN in God’s mind, he could not possibly:
    1. Pre-exist in the FORM OF GOD.
    3. EMPTY Himself of his GOD-FORM.

    So what then is your explanation?

    • April 22, 2018 at 9:55 am

      Good question Rico, and one that comes up often. Unitarians, and many Trinitarians as well, put the Kenosis (Emptying) at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Cross. Paul is talking about an attitude of heart – “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,” – and God emptying himself of his divinity can’t possibly serve as an example for humans to follow. It just doesn’t make sense for Paul to use that as an example for humans who don’t have divine attributes to give up in the first place. The man Christ Jesus, emptying himself of the divine abilities God delegated to him so as not to use them for his own benefit, not only fits the text perfectly (as written in Greek that is), but serves as a powerful example for divinely gifted ministers today who are always tempted to use what God has given them in order to amass wealth or power for themselves – like televangelists and megachurch pastors tend to do. One example Jesus gave us was not using the legions of angels at his disposal to get himself off the Cross. He said he could do it, but he chose to go through the suffering for the sake of mankind, showing his love for us all. THAT’S what Php. 2 is about. Sacrificing self for the benefit of others. Agape love, in other words. In the Garden, he emptied himself of his own human will, saying (paraphrasing): “I don’t want the suffering. If it’s your will, Father, let it pass. If it is your will, I’m not going to get myself out of it, even though you’ve given me the ability to do so.” It’s too much to explain in an answer to a question on a blog post how this idea of Emptying fits the Greek text better than Trinitarian views of the incarnation but if you Google “the kenosis of Jesus” you should be able to find it. Hopefully this short answer is helpful in steering you in the right direction.

    • Greg Logan
      April 22, 2018 at 12:21 pm


      Could you also comment re “taking on the form of a man” – I don’t see that in the text either… as well as some other assertions you are making.



  9. Greg Logan
    April 22, 2018 at 12:18 pm


    I am lost on your premise 1 – where is a pre-incarnate person discussed in this text???

    AND what do you mean “in the form of God”?



  10. Richard Johnston
    October 14, 2019 at 2:32 am

    Relying on an interpretation of a dictionary definition is not enough. You need to provide evidence from contemporary (i.e. 1st century AD) documents that shows logos being used to mean a plan in the way you describe. Otherwise the evidence in favour of the C1 logos being a demiurge (NB this is not trinitarianism) is far more compelling.

    • October 14, 2019 at 5:34 pm

      Referencing how the word logos is used about a dozen times in the New Testament writings is not sufficient to establish how it was most likely used by John in the New Testament?

      • Richard Johnston
        October 15, 2019 at 2:57 am

        How the word is being used in the NT and especially by John is the point at issue.

        What I am responding to is your claim that a first century Greek speaking Christian of Jewish descent would read John as referring to a “plan” or “blueprint”. That is a strong claim that needs support, and the support you provide is inadequate, based as it is solely upon your *interpretation* of what logos means. It is not even mentioned in Strong’s definition. As I said, to support that claim you would need to provide documentary evidence from the 1st century AD that this was a normal routine usage of the word. I don’t know of any.

        Even if you succeed in doing that, you also have to explain why the alternatives that you lightly dismiss at the start are less likely to be John’s meaning (and how he was understood by his readers).

        Briefly — The philosophical use of logos had been around since Heraclitus (C6 BC), with a variety of meanings in subsequent philosophical schools. It certainly had reached Hellenistic Judaism through Philo a century or so before John wrote his gospel. Furthermore, the more religious pre-Christian usages of logos already encompassed the idea of the “logos” as being a “son of the father”, with God proper as an old man and the son as a younger one dependent upon the older (and hence a demiurge).

        Since a primary theme of John’s gospel is the nature of the relationship of the Father and the Son, it is therefore far more likely that John has adopted this already widely known model to explain it. And hence its popularity amongst scholars as an explanation.

    • Greg Logan
      October 14, 2019 at 5:42 pm


      While I might take some issue with the definition of logos as “a plan”, the most basal meaning is an “expression” which is exactly how the word is used from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Why would we depart from the clear text and context of scripture?

      In contrast, we find no demiurge in scripture whatsoever.

  11. Richard Johnston
    October 15, 2019 at 3:03 am

    Greg – see my reply to Kirby. I agree the Bible does not directly use the term However, contemporary philosophical, and especially religious usages of logos implied a demiurge.

    • Greg Logan
      October 15, 2019 at 7:40 am


      Would not a CONTRA-to culture definition- as a kingdom response to culture be as or much appropriate – and much more likely…(cf Col 1.15ff)????

      • Richard Johnston
        October 15, 2019 at 8:20 am

        John is writing a gospel, and his objective is made explicit (John 20:31). As he is writing for *outsiders* – unbelievers – he has to use concepts and words that his readers are familiar with. Otherwise he will not communicate at all.

        (Contrary to culture starting points always fail to make any connection, which is why quoting Bible verses that made sense in C1 culture without explanation to a modern unchurched audience does not touch them)

        Paul does exactly the same thing as John in Acts 17:22-31. Paul starts by quoting Greek writers who have understood some truth about reality, and then turns these truths to reveal the fuller truth of the gospel (v29-31).

        John is saying: You people are familiar with this philosophical/religious idea about the logos being the son of the father – well that person is not just a myth – it happened in reality and he is Jesus the Christ – who did these seven signs which prove it, etc.

        Col 1:15 is Paul’s way of making the same point as John with the logos, but to people who are Christians. Hence the expression of the truth is different.

        Sorry, but I fail to see the relevance of 2 Pet 3:5 to this discussion

        • Greg Logan
          October 15, 2019 at 6:21 pm

          You fail to see the relevance of 2Pet3.5???

          Have you read it? In the Greek?? Isn’t the whole issue the nature of ο λογος??

          • Richard Johnston
            October 16, 2019 at 2:12 am

            Please try not to be stroppy. I can see this means a lot to you. I’m not seeking to evade the issues you are raising.

            I’m sorry I missed your point, but you did not state what point you wanted to make about the verse. Because of my background, I tend to think of 2 Pet 3:5 as a verse about unbelief in creation.

            Unfortunately this verse still fails to distinguish the options under discussion.

            Firstly a general point, which I am not going to rely upon in this instance, because words are not always used in scripture (or anywhere else) to have identical meanings – words have a semantic range – and logos has a wide semantic range.

            But here we have various possibilities.

            The simplest is to see this quite simply as a reference back to the various “God said” verses in Genesis 1. A perfectly reasonable interpretation in my view.

            The second is Kirby’s proposal, subject to the reservations I have already expressed.

            The third, which I think most likely, is that the logos described here is the same as I claim to be the case for John 1 – a personal demiurge. My reason for thinking that is the case is found in the description of a personified wisdom and her activities in Proverbs 8, especially v22-31, where wisdom was involved in creation. In contemporary religious philosophy (see especially Philo) logos was firmly identified with sophia (wisdom), notwithstanding the different sexes assigned to them.

            Hope this helps.

  12. Greg Logan
    October 16, 2019 at 6:57 am


    Hmmm…. I am not really sure how to respond to your comment.

    The connection between 2nd Peter 3.5 and John 1.1-3 is so obvious that ….particularly for one such as yourself who is waxing so eloquent…. I just kind of flabbergasted that there was a need to even comment further on the subject…

    Likewise the notion of a demi urge anywhere in any manner anyhow is so foreign to any text of scripture that I don’t know why we are wasting our time. Therefore, as of this comment I will no longer be responding. The only exception will be that if you want to get to know Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to by God, and commit your life to him, I would be happy to interact with you regarding any challenges in doing so. Best wishes, Greg.

    • Richard Johnston
      October 16, 2019 at 8:00 am


      Thanks for your final offer but I have long known him, and also know the power of the Holy Spirit. If you choose not to reply further I shall not be offended.

      I suspect you have not understood me. My third option *does* connect 2 Pet 3:5 and John 1 (and says so), and both sets of verses are capable of being viewed in the same way.

      I admit that what I am trying to explain is intellectually difficult and for any traditional Christian disturbing, at least initially.

      The gospel message did not drop from heaven denuded of connections with what had gone before in the OT, nor was it independent of what the receivers of the message already understood from their background culture.

      What I am doing is seeking an understanding of where the “logos” concept came from as a matter of historical fact (as I have outlined). That pre-Christian history, if you care to investigate it, included having the logos as a son who is a demiurge of the father.

      That forms a basis for understanding how John, particularly, but also other biblical authors like Peter, adapted that pre-existing understanding in the people they were evangelising to explain the mystery of Jesus Christ, who was attested by God, and especially by His being raised from the dead. That John used this preexisting idea shows it *resonated* with what he wanted to say, but the resulting gospel content moves on from that – exactly where is determined by the rest of the content of John’s gospel.

      A particular “mystery” attached to exactly what nature Jesus had – all the gospels and NT writings bear witness that Jesus was very special. John’s gospel is unquestionably making the case that Jesus is more than simply human, and much of the gospel is concerned with teasing out the precise nature of the relationship between the Father (represented in the gospel as unequivocally God) and the Son. They are shown as having things in common, but the Son follows the Father’s leading.

      To suymmarise. The demiurge idea inherent in pre-Christian usage of logos is being used by John as a starting point “model” (in the scientific sense) of a reality which is otherwise inexpressible. (The doctrinally orthodox churches use the (logically unsatisfactory) Trinity “model” as their explanation.) Christ as a demiurge doesn’t quite fit either which is why John goes on to clarify more precisely how Father and son relate, to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Jn 20:31)

      Hope that helps

  13. Greg Logan
    October 16, 2019 at 8:34 am


    With respect, what you’re saying is not “intellectually difficult” – in fact, it’s very simple to understand. I understand it was/is an ideational construct held by some at different times including certain inter testamental Jews – it simply has nothing to do with reality.

    Please be aware that IF (?) this demiurge is the Jesus you worship, you do not worship the man Christ Jesus – who is the only mediator between God and man – and, therefore, naturally would not know the one to whom I am referring. I am always available to interact with any who are interested in the man Christ Jesus.

    My best wishes,


  14. February 19, 2020 at 8:15 am

    This article is fantastically written and extremely well documented. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Dr. Dave Schoch, Th.D.
    June 23, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    In the forefront of your article, you make the following statement; “This may come as a surprise, but for the first 150 years of the church’s existence the Logos of John 1:1 was not considered to be a person.”

    This is not factual in the least bit. The early church fathers (Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, Etc) who all lived during the first and into the second century, all taught that the Logos of John 1:1 was Christ…just as Scripture teaches in many places. Perhaps you have not read any of the period epistles that actual 1st-2nd century church fathers wrote before you made that statement.

    As for the mistake many make today of thinking that logos in John 1:1 doesn’t mean Christ, practically every one of them also has no education on ancient near eastern covenants. In the text, John introduces the Messiah as the prophesied living New Covenant of God, which in Suzerain-Vassal covenants, the covenant in written form offered is introduced in the prologue as “the Word of the Great King ______” John was introducing Christ as the Word of the living new covenant of God, which God told us about in Isa. 42:6 and 49:8.

    So, even if the word logos does not apply to Christ as the definition of the word, it is applied to Him as the living embodiment of the New Covenant of God.

    • June 26, 2020 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks Dave for your thoughtful comment. It’s nice to have a Ph.D on board. From your comment I thought at first that I needed to make it clear that the article is about what the Logos was before the incarnation, but upon reading my first paragraph I do think it’s clear enough:

      The Gospel of John starts out by telling us that the Logos became the person of Jesus Christ. But was the Logos a person before that? In the beginning, was the Logos a person, a “word”, or something else? According to Trinitarian theology, the Logos was a person, and then changed dramatically at the incarnation, to become another person, a God/man.

      This may come as a surprise, but for the first 150 years of the church’s existence the Logos of John 1:1 was not considered to be a person.

      I agree that the early church understood Jesus to be the Logos, but the text in John only indicates that the Logos BECAME Christ – vs. 14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The question then is, and this is the question I’m seeking to answer in the article: What was the Logos before the incarnation?

      I hope this clears up any misunderstanding. If you have any information from that era that either confirms or negates the idea that the Logos was the Plan of God I’d be interested in it.

      As for “the Word of the Great King…” from the earlier covenants I think the Greek word Logos is very fitting as to the dictionary definition #2 which I believe is the one that should be applied to the Logos of John 1. After all, what was in the mind of the Great King was the covenant, and at some point he revealed it to his people. Very apropos.

    • Greg Logan
      June 26, 2020 at 5:16 pm


      What is your Chapter/Verse reference for Clement of Rome of the Logos PRIOR to the “becoming flesh” that states that he understood the logos to either be a person or to be Christ Himself in some sense?

      Also, just curious whether you know the date range of the earliest extant text of Clement of Rome…. I am pretty sure it is not from the early 2nd C.


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