Before any significant studies can be done on the prologue of John’s Gospel, the nature and definition of the Logos must be sketched out. Logos is the Greek word translated as word, account, or statement. In the Greek Septuagint, it translates the Hebrew word davar, which shows up over 1400 times. It carries the same lexical range of meanings that its Greek counterpart does. One thing is abundantly clear when looking at how the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, and the Greek New Testament use their respected phrases for “word” is that in not one of their occurrences does it denote a person in the sense that you or I am a person.
While saying this, it is important to note that during the intertestamental period there was an increasing tendency for Jews to recognize the transcendence of the God whom they worshipped. In various places where the Hebrew Bible described the actions of God, the “word” was said in place. The Jewish Targums contain many of these examples:
Ex. 19:17- Moses brought forth the people to meet with God
Ex. 19:17 Targum- Moses brought forth the people to meet the word of God.
Ex. 31:13- [the Sabbath] is a sign between Me and you.
Ex. 31:13 Targum- is a sign between My word and you.
Deut. 9:3- God is a consuming fire.
Deut. 9:3 Targum- The word is a consuming fire.
Isa. 48:13- By My hand I laid the foundation of the earth.
Isa. 48:13 Targum- By my word I have founded the earth.
It seems rather clear by the evidence that the Jews could use the “word of God” interchangeably with “God,” and yet still be faithful to the meanings they expressed in the Hebrew Bible. The Fourth Evangelist would have been very aware of the Targums from his upbringing in the synagogue where they were quite popular.
Since God’s logos/davar, according to Genesis, is his creative speech, both wisdom literature and various texts from the Second Temple Period started describing the “word” in like manner. Since one’s word is formulated in the mind prior to speaking, the creative word is sometimes nuanced into “understanding,” “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and similar language. Note this phenomenon in these texts:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.
To Him who made the heavens with understanding.
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up.
By his knowledge everything shall come into existence, and all that does not exist he establishes with his calculations and nothing is done outside of him.
By the knowledge of the Lord they were distinguished, and he appointed the different seasons and festivals.
O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy, who have made all things by your word.
Worship the God of heaven, who causes the rain and the dew to descend on the earth and does everything upon the earth, and has created everything by his word.
Wisdom being his mother, through whom the universe arrived at creation.
As we can see, the Jewish view of God’s word (logos) is that it is his speech in action, stemming from the plans of his mind. Just like an architect crafting up the designs for a new building project in his thinking, it will soon be put into fruition in his creative activity. This creative word is often personified but is never actually presented as a distinct person from God. James D. G. Dunn makes the comment that “Nowhere either in the Bible or in extra-canonical literature of the Jews is the word of God a personal agent or on its pay to become such.”
God’s plans, wisdom, and words are often spoken of in way that suggest that they are with him, closely bound to him, or in his mind. Harnack points out that “everything of real value that from time to time appears on earth has its existence in heaven…it exists with God, that is God possesses a knowledge of it.” Various texts bring this fact to light:
Yet these things You have concealed in Your heart; I know that this is with You
For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such decrees are with Him
Wisdom is with you, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world
All wisdom is from the Lord, and with him it remains forever.
There now seems to be enough evidence on the table to adequately approach the prologue of John’s Gospel. Now that we have an understanding of how Jews perceived, spoke of, and described God’s Logos, a quite different reading of the prologue is presented than the traditional reading most are familiar with.
“In the beginning was the word (i.e. God’s creative spoken purpose) and the word was with God (just as we saw the word being with God in Job, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach above), and the word was God (since one’s words are an expression of themselves, it is not too far of a stretch, especially within poetry, to state that their word is an extensions of themselves).” Knowing that this reading is quite controversial, I only present the lexical evidence, parallels of literature, and common sense for my historical reconstruction. John 1:3 would have the reading “all things were made through it”, similar to how the Jewish literature presented thus far quite often talked about creation being made through God’s creative word (not a person, but His word). This creative word, which housed the purpose and mind of God, was embodied in the human being Jesus in John 1:14 (“the word became flesh”). The implications of this reading are that, if the Jewish evidence of how the Logos was understood by Jews around the first century C.E. is taken seriously, then the Fourth Evangelist could not have presented the Logos as a person distinct from God. The Logos is God’s word, his creative mind and plan, and an extension of God’s very being.
Most who are unable to read the Greek fail to see that John 1:1-18 is in fact poetry. Allow this chiasm to make the point:
A The word was with God – vv. 1-2
B Creation through word – v. 3
C Received life – v. 4-5
D John the Baptist – vv. 6-8
E Response to incarnation – vv. 9-10
F His own, i.e. Israel – v. 11
G accept the Logos – v. 12a
H become children of God – v. 12b
G1 believe the Logos – v. 12c
F1 His own, i.e. believers – v. 13
E1 Response to incarnation – v. 14
D1 John the Baptist – v. 15
C1 Received grace – v. 16
B1 Grace and truth through Jesus – v. 17
A1 Only begotten son with God – v. 18
This is obviously the construction of a writer who is skilled in chiastic poetry.
Anyways, I’m sure a post like this will cause many to argue back, but hopefully readers will see that I tried to do my homework. =)
 Psalm 33:6.
 Psalm 136:5, my translation.
 Prov. 3:19-20. See also 24:3-4; “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
 1Qs 11:11 tr. Garcia Martinez.
 Sirach 33:8, my translation.
 Wisdom 9:1
 Jubilees 12:4.
 Philo Fug. 109. See the almost identical passage in Philo Pot. 54.
 James D. G. Dunn , Christology in the Making, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980) 219.
 Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. 1 (New York: Dover, et 1961) 318.
 Job 10:13 my translation.
 Job 23:14.
 Wisdom 9:9.
 Sirach 1:1.
 Note what many scholars have stated on this very point:
“Now normally, except for special reasons, Greek nouns always have the definite article in front of them, and we can see here that ‘theos.’ the noun for ‘God’ [at John 1:1c], has not got the definite article in front of it. When a Greek noun has not got the article in front of it, it becomes rather a description rather than an identification, and has the character of an adjective rather than of a noun.” William Barclay, Many Witnesses, One Lord (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963) 23-4. “The closing words of v.1 should be translated, ‘the Logos was divine.’ Here the word theos has no article, thus giving the significance of an adjective.” Robert Strachan, The Fourth Gospel, Its Significance and Environment, 3rd ed. (London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1941) 99. “Since ‘God’ [theos] does not have the article preceding it [in clause c]. ‘God’ is clearly the predicate and ‘the Word’ is the subject. This means that ‘God’ [theos] is here the equivalent of an adjective.” Barclay Newman, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John (London: United Bible Societies, 1980) 8-9.
Each of these scholars are saying that the latter part of John 1:1 (“and the word was God”) should not be read as if the ‘word’ is being identified one-to-one with ‘God’ but rather using ‘God’ in an adjectival sense.
 The Greek word for ‘him’(autos) as the passage is often translated, is in fact ambiguous and can certainly mean ‘it.’ In fact the first eight English translations of the Bible, such as the Bishops, Tyndale, Geneva, all used the word “it” instead of “him” in John 1:3.