Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Dear John Letter

In the beginning was the WORD.
And the WORD was with God.
And the WORD was God.
(The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verses 1-3.)

Dear John,
You could have made your book a lot easier to understand if you had written the first few verses of your gospel like this:
In the beginning was JESUS.
And JESUS was with God.
And JESUS was God.
But no.
You had to use the word WORD.
It took me almost 41 years to figure out exactly what you meant by WORD. I'm serious. When I was a kid going to Sunday School, I remember hearing this verse many times. My parents even made me memorize it.  But honestly, I never really understood what it meant. (What is the point of memorizing something I don't understand?!? Never mind. That is a different topic for another time.) Anyway, John, back in the day, when I would read:

In the beginning was the WORD
And the WORD was with God.
And the WORD was God.

I used to try to picture what you meant by the word WORD.  And you know what would happen?  I would picture this giant Bible floating in space at the beginning of time. Just hanging there in the galaxy with all the stars.  Really John, that is the image I had in my mind.  This giant black leather Bible open wide floating around out in the dark vastness of space like something out of Mel Brooks' movie Spaceballs.

"Admiral Space-Barnacle!  
"Yes, sir? What is it?"
"What is that up ahead?"
"Well, sir, I am not sure?  What do you make of it?"
Well it looks to me like a giant, uh, a book of some sort?
Is it a Bible, sir?
A Bible Admiral Space-Barnacle?  Out here in space?  It couldn't be!
Watch out!
Oh @&*!! Holy Gnostic Gnightmare!  Watch out!  
Sir! Pull up!  Pull up! We're about to crash right into the Psalms!"

I know that is not what you meant by WORD.
You did not mean the Bible was there in the beginning of time floating in space. But that is what I thought of when I heard the word...WORD. After all, the Bible is called the WORD of God, right?
Anyway, it was just a few days ago that I started reading a bunch of different commentaries on your book. I read one from 1908 by B.F. Wescott, one by William Barclay and the latest Zondervan edition. Fascinating. I read that your Gospel is a "spiritual gospel" not a "synoptic" or chronological gospel.  You wanted to do more than just tell the story of Jesus. Your friends - Matthew, Mark and Luke - they covered the life of Jesus very well in their books. They wrote "Jesus did this" and "Jesus went there" like reporters.  You wanted to do more than just tell a good story. You wanted people to BELIEVE.  You wanted people to know that Jesus loved them enough to die for them.  You wanted them to know who Jesus was - both man and God.  You wanted them to know this and believe it so they could have eternal life.
So why not just call Jesus JESUS right from the start?  Why do you call Him the WORD in the beginning of your book?
Wouldn't it have been easier just to use the word JESUS?
You weren't trying to make it easy.
You were trying to make sure it was understood.
You knew both Jews and Greeks would read your book and you had to find a word, the right word, the perfect WORD, to describe Jesus.
So you chose WORD.
Well, as I found out, the word WORD (Logos in Greek) meant a lot to both Jews and Greeks during the time when you were writing - in the mid to late first century A.D. (Yes, A.D. John. Don't worry, I haven't crossed over to the dark side and started to use "Common Era" stuff. I'll write you another letter about that later.) Anyway, back when you were writing, people understood WORD to mean logic or reason or wisdom or mind.  WORD was transcendent and important.  WORD was what spanned the gap between the spiritual and sensory world. Greeks and Jews alike asked, "How can I make sense of the world around me?" I need wisdom. I need reason. I need LOGOS or WORD.
And when I read that explanation John, I got it. I understood what you meant. I really did! So...I had to write you this letter because I wanted to let you know that finally, after all these years, the Bible stopped floating in space. I understood how WORD and JESUS were the same, but why you used WORD in the opening of your book instead of JESUS. You were writing with your audience in mind (like any good writer)! And you knew, that if you used the word WORD to represent JESUS - your readers at the time of your writing would understand Jesus as The Wisdom of God, The Mind of GOD - the Transcendent One who spans the gap between the spiritual and physical.  You really wanted your readers back in the first century to understand this.  You wanted me to understand it, too.  It's why you wrote your book in the first place.  I like how you wait until the end of your book to state your purpose for writing it. You write:
But this is written 
in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, 
the Son of God 
and that through believing on Him you may have life.

WORD up, John. WORD up!

Love in Christ,

- Hope Horner, 2013
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For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase "WORD UP!" - Please check out this online urban dictionary:
(Lucky for me, I had Cameo to help me out in the 80's.)

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