The ‘Logos’ occurs in the earliest period of Greek philosophy in Heraclitus, and then especially in Stoicism. Here it is the cosmic law which rules the universe and at the same time is present in the human intellect. It is thus an abstraction, not a hypostasis. Therefore, although the Stoics too, spoke of the Logos, and although they too could say that the Logos was ‘in the beginning’, nevertheless, with their impersonal, pantheistic World Soul they meant something quite different from the Johannine Logos. Platonism also uses the concept. Its view of the ‘real’ being (in the Platonic, idealistic sense, of course) may come nearer the Johannine view, but it still has nothing to do with a hypostasis, and the idea of the Logos’ ‘becoming flesh’ is quite unthinkable for the Platonist. We must guard against being led by the terminological analogy to read into Greek philosophy the late Jewish or Johannine understanding of the Logos. Even Augustine knew that the complete entrance of the Logos into history and humanity is utterly foreign to Platonism, although formal similarities did lead him to remark that with somewhat different expressions the Platonic books say the same thing about the original Logos that John teaches in his Gospel (Confessions, 7.9). Actually, of course, the similarity between the two is more one of terminology than of content itself.
We have already seen that on the basis of the Kyrios title, the first Christians could apply all statements about God also to Jesus. We would oversimplify the problem, however, and fall into a heresy condemned by the ancient Church if we were to attribute to the New Testament a complete identification between God the Father and Jesus the Kyrios, and maintain that the faith of early Christianity made no distinction at all between the two. The ancient two-part confession in I Cor. 8.6, to which we have already referred in another context, indicates that the early Church by no means forgot the distinction—not even when Christ was recognized as the mediator of creation: ‘. . . for us there is one God, the Father, from (εξ) whom are all things and for (εις) whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through (διά) whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ The use of prepositions makes clear the distinction: εξ and εις with reference to God; διά with reference to Christ. We shall seek in vain for a more precise definition of the original relationship between God the Father and Christ the Kyrios.
Even with the titles ‘Logos’ and ‘Son of God’ we approach a closer definition of this relationship only in so far as they refer directly to the pre-existence of Jesus, his being ‘in the beginning’. But we shall see that these names too do not indicate unity in essence or nature between God and Christ, but rather a unity in the work of revelation, in the function of the pre-existent one. As we have seen, this is also the meaning of the transfer of the divine Kyrios name to Jesus. God and the exalted Jesus are one with regard to world dominion, which is one aspect of God’s self-revelation. It is true that Kyrios has to do primarily with the divine rule of Jesus in the present phase of Heilsgeschichte. But I Cor. 8.6 and Heb. 1.10 ff., for instance, extend the scope of this tide to include also Jesus’ original function as mediator of creation.
We do hear concerning the Logos that ‘In the beginning was the Word . . . the Word was with God, was God.’ But, almost as if the writer of the prologue of John feared further ontological speculation, he moves immediately from being to the act of revelation: ‘All things were made through him… and the Word became flesh.’ The situation is similar with the Son of God concept. Looking at the end rather than at the beginning of time, Paul leads us in I Cor. 15.28 to the very threshold of a complete eschatological absorption of the Son in the Father: ‘When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.’
It is possible to speak of the Son only in connection with the revelation of God, but in principle at least one can speak of God also apart from revelation. But the New Testament is interested only in revelation. This is the source of the New Testament paradox that the Father and Son are at once one and yet distinct—a paradox which the later Christian theologians could not explain because they attempted to do so by speculative philosophical means.