Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IX/Origen on John/Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John/Book I/Chapter 42
42. Of the Various Ways in Which Christ is the Logos.
As, then, from His activity in enlightening the world whose light He is, Christ is named the Light of the World, and as from His making those who sincerely attach themselves to Him put away their deadness and rise again and put on newness of life, He is called the Resurrection, so from an activity of another kind He is called Shepherd and Teacher, King and Chosen Shaft, and Servant, and in addition to these Paraclete and Atonement and Propitiation. And after the same fashion He is also called the Logos, because He takes away from us all that is irrational, and makes us truly reasonable, so that we do all things, even to eating and drinking, to the glory of God, and discharge by the Logos to the glory of God both the commoner functions of life and those which belong to a more advanced stage. For if, by having part in Him, we are raised up and enlightened, herded also it may be and ruled over, then it is clear that we become in a divine manner reasonable, when He drives away from us what in us is irrational and dead, since He is the Logos (reason) and the Resurrection. Consider, however, whether all men have in some way part in Him in His character as Logos. On this point the Apostle teaches us that He is to be sought not outside the seeker, and that those find Him in themselves who set their heart on doing so; “Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? That is to bring Christ down; or, Who shall descend into the abyss? That is to bring Christ up from the dead. But what saith the Scripture? The Word is very nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,” as if Christ Himself were the same thing as the Word said to be sought after. But when the Lord Himself says “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin,” the only sense we can find in His words is that the Logos Himself says that those are not chargeable with sin to whom He (reason) has not fully come, but that those, if they sin, are guilty who, having had part in Him, act contrary to the ideas by which He declares His full presence in us. Only when thus read is the saying true: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin.” Should the words be applied, as many are of opinion that they should, to the visible Christ, then how is it true that those had no sin to whom He did not come? In that case all who lived before the advent of the Saviour will be free from sin, since Jesus, as seen in flesh, had not yet come. And more—all those to whom He has never been preached will have no sin, and if they have no sin, then it is clear they are not liable to judgment. But the Logos in man, in which we have said that our whole race had part, is spoken of in two senses; first, in that of the filling up of ideas which takes place, prodigies excepted, in every one who passes beyond the age of boyhood, but secondly, in that of the consummation, which takes place only in the perfect. The words, therefore, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin,” are to be understood in the former sense; but the words, “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them,” in the latter. For before the consummation of reason comes, there is nothing in man but what is blameworthy; all is imperfect and defective, and can by no means command the obedience of those irrational elements in us which are tropically spoken of as sheep. And perhaps the former meaning is to be recognized in the words “The Logos was made flesh,” but the second in “The Logos was God.” We must accordingly look at what there is to be seen in human affairs between the saying, “The Word (reason) was made flesh” and “The Word was God.” When the Word was made flesh can we say that it was to some extent broken up and thinned out, and can we say that it recovered from that point onward till it became again what it was at first, God the Word, the Word with the Father; the Word whose glory John saw, the verily only-begotten, as from the Father. But the Son may also be the Logos (Word), because He reports the secret things of His Father who is intellect in the same way as the Son who is called the Word. For as with us the word is a messenger of those things which the mind perceives, so the Word of God, knowing the Father, since no created being can approach Him without a guide, reveals the Father whom He knows. For no one knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son reveals Him, and inasmuch as He is the Word He is the Messenger of Great Counsel, who has the government upon His shoulders; for He entered on His kingdom by enduring the cross. In the Apocalypse, moreover, the Faithful and True (the Word), is said to sit on a white horse, the epithets indicating, I consider, the clearness of the voice with which the Word of truth speaks to us when He sojourns among us. This is scarcely the place to show how the word “horse” is often used in passages spoken for our encouragement in sacred learning. I only cite two of these: “A horse is deceitful for safety,” and “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will rejoice in the name of the Lord our God.” Nor must we leave unnoticed a passage in the forty-fourth Psalm, frequently quoted by many writers as if they understood it: “My heart hath belched forth a good word, I speak my works to the King.” Suppose it is God the Father who speaks thus; what is His heart, that the good word should appear in accordance with His heart? If, as these writers suppose, the Word (Logos) needs no interpretation, then the heart is to be taken in the natural sense too. But it is quite absurd to suppose God’s heart to be a part of Him as ours is of our body. We must remind such writers that as when the hand of God is spoken of, and His arm and His finger, we do not read the words literally but enquire in what sound sense we may take them so as to be worthy of God, so His heart is to be understood of His rational power, by which He disposes all things, and His word of that which announces what is in this heart of His. But who is it that announces the counsel of the Father to those of His creatures who are worthy and who have risen above themselves, who but the Saviour? That “belched forth” is not, perhaps, without significance; a hundred other terms might have been employed; “My heart has produced a good word,” it might have been said, or “My heart has spoken a good word.” But in belching, some wind that was hidden makes its way out to the world, and so it may be that the Father gives out views of truth not continuously, but as it were after the fashion of belching, and the word has the character of the things thus produced, and is called, therefore, the image of the invisible God. We may enter our agreement, therefore, with the ordinary acceptation of these words, and take them to be spoken by the Father. It is not, however, a matter of course, that it is God Himself who announces these things. Why should it not be a prophet? Filled with the Spirit and unable to contain himself, he brings forth a word about his prophecy concerning Christ: “My heart hath belched forth a good word, I speak my works to the King, my pen is the tongue of a ready writer. Excellent in beauty is He beyond the sons of men.” Then to the Christ Himself: “Grace is poured out on Thy lips.” If the Father were the speaker, how could He go on after the words, “Grace is poured out on thy lips,” to say, “Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever,” and a little further on, “Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Some of those who wish to make the Father the speaker may appeal to the words, “Hear, O daughter, and behold and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and thy father.” The prophet, it may be said, could not address the Church in the words, “Hear, O daughter.” It is not difficult, however, to show that changes of person occur frequently in the Psalms, so that these words, “Hear, O daughter,” might be from the Father, in this passage, though the Psalm as a whole is not. To our discussion of the Word we may here add the passage, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens founded, and all the power of them by the breath of His mouth.” Some refer this to the Saviour and the Holy Spirit. The passage, however, does not necessarily imply any more than that the heavens were founded by the reason (logos) of God, as when we say that a house is built by the plan (logos) of the architect, or a ship by the plan (logos) of the shipbuilder. In the same way the heavens were founded (made solid) by the Word of God, for they are of a more divine substance, which on this account is called solid; it has little fluidity for the most part, nor is it easily melted like other parts of the world, and specially the lower parts. On account of this difference the heavens are said in a special manner to be constituted by the Word of God.
The saying then stands, first, “In the beginning was the Logos;” we are to place that full in our view; but the testimonies we cited from the Proverbs led us to place wisdom first, and to think of wisdom as preceding the Word which announces her. We must observe, then, that the Logos is in the beginning, that is, in wisdom, always. Its being in wisdom, which is called the beginning, does not prevent it from being with God and from being God, and it is not simply with God, but is in the beginning, in wisdom, with God. For he goes on: “He was in the beginning with God.” He might have said, “He was with God;” but as He was in the beginning, so He was with God in the beginning, and “All things were made by Him,” being in the beginning, for God made all things, as David tells us, in wisdom. And to let us understand that the Word has His own definite place and sphere as one who has life in Himself (and is a distinct person), we must also speak about powers, not about power. “Thus saith the Lord of powers, (A.V. hosts)” we frequently read; there are certain creatures, rational and divine, which are called powers: and of these Christ was the highest and best, and is called not only the wisdom of God but also His power. As, then, there are several powers of God, each of them in its own form, and the Saviour is different from these, so also Christ, even if that which is Logos in us is not in respect of form outside of us, will be understood from our discussion up to this point to be the Logos, who has His being in the beginning, in wisdom. This for the present may suffice, on the word: “In the beginning was the Logos.”
- It is impossible to render by any one English word the Greek λογος as used by Origen in the following discussion. We shall therefore in many passages leave it untranslated.
- Rom. x. 6–8.
- John xv. 22.
- John x. 8.
- Matt. xi. 27.
- Isa. ix. 5, 6.
- xix. 11.
- Ps. xxxiii. 17.
- Ps. xx. 7.
- Ps. xlv. 1.
- Ps. xxxiii. 6.
- Reading τυγχάνομτας.
- στερεός, of which the στερἑωμα, firmament, is made.