A Word That Words Can't Explain
Joel Eschenbach • July 30, 2017
Words are weird. Sometimes the right ones come to us at just the right time and explain exactly what we are trying to say. Other times, there aren't any words in the history of mankind that could do justice to our experience.
It's like hearing my youngest son talk. He says so many things well, but sometimes he just doesn't have the right words... It's hilarious! Like the other day when he told me he found something in the back of my car on the way home from school. "...You know dad, the cracker with the word in it..." What? I was obviously confused and kept asking him what he was talking about until I remembered that I had picked up Chinese takeout the night before!
Words... And when it comes to God, it's even harder. Richard Rohr says that any words we use to try to explain God are metaphors. In other words, words are just a finger pointing to the moon. They're meant to point us in the right direction. On one hand, words fall short. On the other hand, words can bring voice or life to an idea. The right placed collection of words can bring freedom to the deepest places of our souls!
Then there's the Bible, which many Christians call "The Word" or "The Word of God". This has always confused the hell out of me.
Did God actually say these words?...maybe some of them. Does God speak English, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, German, or French? I suppose. Does God still speak words in our day, in our language? Is there a divine being that speaks in an audible voice to special prophets or those "who have ears to hear"? When I read a particular collection of words in the Bible, am I reading the actual words of God?
The book of John starts with this strange poetic intro that many scholars believe was some sort of ancient hymn. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” "The Word" meant a few different things to the ancient cultures of that day. The root word Logos was how the Hebrew people believe God created the universe. It was the way the divine was revealed. In the Greek world it was most likely a philosophical term referring to universal meaning or law. Stoic philosophers defined it as reason or supreme logic.
Logos then was the word that started all other words. It was a word that defined all other words. It was the the very wisdom and power source that created the universe, unleashed the Big Bang, brought existence into existence. Today, we might say in scientific terms that it was The Singularity. This word "Word" might be the most important word of all time!
It was a word that defined all other words. It was the the very wisdom and power source that created the universe, unleashed the Big Bang, brought existence into existence.
And then something unexpected happens. About 150 words down the page John says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
That Word that we don't really have words to explain became more than just an idea or existential concept.
That word became a person and came to live with us.
I'm at a loss for words.