In the Bible and in theology, Jesus is the called the Logos, Greek for the divine Word, understood as ordering principle. I’ve always found the term “Word” applied to Jesus to be confusing, even incomprehensible. I accept it, but I didn’t really see the relation of “Word” to the person of Jesus, until recently
Lately, I’ve renewed my time spent on reading, writing and Latin and the uses and effects of language. Goodwriting, to me, puts names to concepts, feelings and experience we hadn’t been able to label accurately and so allows us to think about them more in depth and from the separation of wisdom. This can be fiction, philosophy, theology, psychology, history, any area even math. What the Word calls out accurately is truth. A truth experienced but not named. In a sense, the truth is uncreated by us humans–it was always there, and so we experienced it. But it wasn’t ordered for us to think about or understand until it was named. This naming, or Word, brings order to our minds that enables us to think about and understand the truth that was already there.
This is true in our day to day experience of reading and naming. It is also true of the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. Jesus is the logos, the Word, the naming of God, the unnamable. In his incarnation, Jesus makes the eternal experience of truth in God, that was however removed from our direct experience and inaccessble, accessible in a direct bodily way. As words make vague experiences of truth comprehensible (or orderly) through naming, The Word brings understanding and access to the transcendent Truth of the Father, the First person of the Trinity.
Both are transcendent and eternal and the Word draws its meaning from the Truth, so they do not and cannot exist in isolation, but are intrinsically interconnected. Jesus as the “Word” of the Father makes sense in this way. In the analogy of Truth and Word, perhaps the Holy Spirit would best be represented as communication itself.
–-Further thoughts on the Trinity and the limits of Language
Discussion of the Trinity itself has the incredible quality of acknowledging at the outset the natural limits of language, especially as it applies to God. This is a refreshing change from our daily experience of language, in which we see that words always have equivocations and double meanings and can be interpreted differently by different people and so often, we talk past each other.
Every culture and sub-culture has its own branch of jargon and lexicon, or specific vocabulary, that initiates must learn to bandy about properly. Think of any professional field–law, or biotech, or computers, or even fields like psychology. Especially in fields of theology, or in community groups–Catholics and Protestants for instance have different lexicons–speak of “sacraments” or “coming to Jesus.” Reporters, news and small-town gossip have their own sets of shared understandings and specific uses of vocabulary.
In some circles “self-care” is an obvious good. In others, it is synonymous with narcissism. In Christian circles, “martyrdom” is a great calling; in sociology, it is a needless sacrifice of legitimate goods which results in resentment. To use a Catholic example, “Traditionalist” is short-hand for someone who might prefer the Latin Mass, wear a mantilla, and adhere to strictly to older social customs as well. It might be used both proudly and contemptuously depending on the speaker.
Rarely are these differences in language and terminology recognized and acknowledged, and so debaters, failing to recognize the natural limits of language, continue to talk past each other.
But in discussions and theology of the Trinity, this is notably different. At the outset of any Trinitarian theorizing, the teacher or author first enumerates the limits of language. As. St. Thomas Aquinas put it, when we speak of God, we speak neither in equivocation (words not applying at all and having different meanings) nor in univocation (ours words applying accurately and completely to God) but in analogy. In analogy, we speak accurately of God, but not completely so. We recognize that our words always fall short of capturing the knowable, but incomprehensible reality that is God.
That’s all for now.
What do you think? What are some other examples of the same words being used differently in different circles of people? How does this cause misunderstanding? What does it mean to say that Christ is the Logos as the Second Person of the Trinity?