Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of John by Origen
23. The Title |Word| Is to Be Interpreted by the Same Method as the Other Titles of Christ. The Word of God is Not a Mere Attribute of God, But a Separate Person. What is Meant When He is Called the Word.
Let us consider, however, a little more carefully what is the Word which is in the beginning. I am often led to wonder when I consider the things that are said about Christ, even by those who are in earnest in their belief in Him. Though there is a countless number of names which can be applied to our Saviour, they omit the most of them, and if they should remember them, they declare that these titles are not to be understood in their proper sense, but tropically. But when they come to the title Logos (Word), and repeat that Christ alone is the Word of God, they are not consistent, and do not, as in the case of the other titles, search out what is behind the meaning of the term |Word.| I wonder at the stupidity of the general run of Christians in this matter. I do not mince matters; it is nothing but stupidity. The Son of God says in one passage, |I am the light of the world,| and in another, |I am the resurrection,| and again, |I am the way and the truth and the life.| It is also written, |I am the door,| and we have the saying, |I am the good shepherd,| and when the woman of Samaria says, |We know the Messiah is coming, who is called Christ; when He comes, He will tell us all things,| Jesus answers, |I that speak unto thee am He.| Again, when He washed the disciples' feet, He declared Himself in these words to be their Master and Lord: |You call Me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.| He also distinctly announces Himself as the Son of God, when He says, |He whom the Father sanctified and sent unto the world, to Him do you say, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?| and |Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son also may glorify Thee.| We also find Him declaring Himself to be a king, as when He answers Pilate's question, |Art Thou the King of the Jews?| by saying, |My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is My kingdom not from hence.| We have also read the words, |I am the true vine and My Father is the husbandman,| and again, |I am the vine, ye are the branches.| Add to these testimonies also the saying, |I am the bread of life, that came down from heaven and giveth life to the world.| These texts will suffice for the present, which we have picked up out of the storehouse of the Gospels, and in all of which He claims to be the Son of God. But in the Apocalypse of John, too, He says, |I am the first and the last, and the living One, and I was dead. Behold, I am alive for evermore.| And again, |I am the A and the O, and the first and the last, the beginning and the end.| The careful student of the sacred books, moreover, may gather not a few similar passages from the prophets, as where He calls Himself a chosen shaft, and a servant of God, and a light of the Gentiles. Isaiah also says, |From my mother's womb hath He called me by my name, and He made my mouth as a sharp sword, and under the shadow of His hand did He hide me, and He said to me, Thou art My servant, O Israel, and in thee will I be glorified.| And a little farther on: |And my God shall be my strength, and He said to me, This is a great thing for thee to be called My servant, to set up the tribes of Jacob and to turn again the diaspora of Israel. Behold I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation to the end of the earth.| And in Jeremiah too He likens Himself to a lamb, as thus: |I was as a gentle lamb that is led to the slaughter.| These and other similar sayings He applies to Himself. In addition to these one might collect in the Gospels and the Apostles and in the prophets a countless number of titles which are applied to the Son of God, as the writers of the Gospels set forth their own views of what He is, or the Apostles extol Him out of what they had learned, or the prophets proclaim in advance His coming advent and announce the things concerning Him under various names. Thus John calls Him the Lamb of God, saying, |Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world,| and in these words he declares Him as a man, |This is He about whom I said, that there cometh after me a man who is there before me; for He was before me.| And in his Catholic Epistle John says that He is a Paraclete for our souls with the Father, as thus: |And if any one sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,| and he adds that He is a propitiation for our sins, and similarly Paul says He is a propitiation: |Whom God set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, on account of forgiveness of the forepast sins, in the forbearance of God.| According to Paul, too, He is declared to be the wisdom and the power of God, as in the Epistle to the Corinthians: |Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.| It is added that He is also sanctification and redemption: |He was made to us of God,| he says, |wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.| But he also teaches us, writing to the Hebrews, that Christ is a High-Priest: |Having, therefore, a great High-Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.| And the prophets have other names for Him besides these. Jacob in his blessing of his sons says, |Judah, thy brethren shall extol thee; thy hands are on the necks of thine enemies. A lion's whelp is Judah, from a shoot, my son, art thou sprung up; thou hast lain down and slept as a lion; who shall awaken him?| We cannot now linger over these phrases, to show that what is said of Judah applies to Christ. What may be quoted against this view, viz., |A ruler shall not part from Judah nor a leader from his loins, until He come for whom it is reserved;| this can better be cleared up on another occasion. But Isaiah knows Christ to be spoken of under the names of Jacob and Israel, when he says, |Jacob is my servant, I will help Him; Israel is my elect, my soul hath accepted Him. He shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall any one hear His voice on the streets. A bruised rod shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He bring forth judgment from victory, and in His name shall the nations hope.| That it is Christ about whom such prophecies are made, Matthew shows in his Gospel, where he quotes from memory and says: |That the saying might be fulfilled, He shall not strive nor cry,| etc. David also is called Christ, as where Ezekiel in his prophecy to the shepherds adds as from the mouth of God: |I will raise up David my servant, who shall be their shepherd.| For it is not the patriarch David who is to rise and be the shepherd of the saints, but Christ. Isaiah also called Christ the rod and the flower: |There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall spring out of this root, and the spirit of God shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and He shall be full of the spirit of the fear of the Lord.| And in the Psalms our Lord is called the stone, as follows: |The stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner. It is from the Lord, and it is wonderful in our eyes.| And the Gospel shows, as also does Luke in the Acts, that the stone is no other than Christ; the Gospel as follows: |Have ye never read, the stone which the builders rejected is made the head of the corner. Whosoever falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.| And Luke writes in Acts: |This is the stone, which was set at naught of you the builders, which has become the head of the corner.| And one of the names applied to the Saviour is that which He Himself does not utter, but which John records; -- the Word who was in the beginning with God, God the Word. And it is worth our while to fix our attention for a moment on those scholars who omit consideration of most of the great names we have mentioned and regard this as the most important one. As to the former titles, they look for any account of them that any one may offer, but in the case of this one they proceed differently and ask, What is the Son of God when called the Word? The passage they employ most is that in the Psalms, |My heart hath produced a good Word;| and they imagine the Son of God to be the utterance of the Father deposited, as it were, in syllables, and accordingly they do not allow Him, if we examine them farther, any independent hypostasis, nor are they clear about His essence. I do not mean that they confuse its qualities, but the fact of His having an essence of His own. For no one can understand how that which is said to be |Word| can be a Son. And such an animated Word, not being a separate entity from the Father, and accordingly as it, having no subsistence. is not a Son, or if he is a Son, let them say that God the Word is a separate being and has an essence of His own. We insist, therefore, that as in the case of each of the titles spoken of above we turn from the title to the concept it suggests and apply it and demonstrate how the Son of God is suitably described by it, the same course must be followed when we find Him called the Word. What caprice it is, in all these cases, not to stand upon the term employed, but to enquire in what sense Christ is to be understood to be the door, and in what way the vine, and why He is the way; but in the one case of His being called the Word, to follow a different course. To add to the authority, therefore, of what we have to say on the question, how the Son of God is the Word, we must begin with those names of which we spoke first as being applied to Him. This, we cannot deny, will seem to some to be superfluous and a digression, but the thoughtful reader will not think it useless to ask as to the concepts for which the titles are used; to observe these matters will clear the way for what is coming. And once we have entered upon the theology concerning the Saviour, as we seek with what diligence we can and find the various things that are taught about Him, we shall necessarily understand more about Him not only in His character as the Word, but in His other characters also.