In the Beginning Was the Word


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John 1:1 is quite a meaty verse. John really had a way with words.  And this is evident throughout his Gospel.  Why is Jesus "The Word"?  This verse is a wealth of etymology and semantics. And that was exactly what John was using to communicate so much in so little.

Written in Greek, the word John used was "Logos."  That in and of itself has a wealth of meaning. Logos means:

  • Word, speech, utterance, etc.
  • Reason, logic, cause, motivation (Logos is the root of the English "logic")
  • The controlling principle of the universe (cultural meaning in Ancient Greek)
  • It is also the root of "Legend."  This means both "the legend of Bagger Vance" and the legend on a map that helps you identify symbols used thereon.

I tend to believe that a little bit of all these meanings was part of John's message to us.

Additionally, one cannot make such a cryptic statement in Greek without also evoking the trinity (I use the word purposefully) of arguments: Logos, Pathos, & Ethos.  Does John mean to evoke a meaning distinct from Pathos & Ethos?  Does he mean to include all three?  Thinking in terms of the Trinity, this trinity of words seems appropriate.  But John really wants to focus on just one word -- whether unified with or distinct from the others.

He is the physical manifestation of the Plan of Salvation.  He is what is real.  He is physical.  The Father is Ethos (authority).  The Spirit is Pathos (heart/emotion, etc).  Separating them in this manner really does a disservice.  But this is part of the Trinitarian argument.  And it is also why we believe in the Godhead.  We cannot separate them in our worship.  They must be worshiped as one God.

Jesus was also the word because He was the messenger of the New Gospel that would replace the Law of Moses.  It is HIS message, HIS testimony, HIS gospel, HIS covenant, His Atonement.

The common wisdom is that the word "gospel" means "good news."   I slightly disagree with that definition (consider how we use "news" today).  Rather than "news" I'd say "message" (think about how they used the word "news" only 100 years ago).  But the full translation would be "God's Word."  Earlier English didn't distinguish "good" and "God".  If it was good, it was of God.  And God only did that which was good. 

Now, let's look at the JST:


In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son.  And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God. and the Son was of God.

My personal belief is that this was not a "correction" to the text. Joseph obviously wanted us to get away from the Trinitarian notion.  But the D&C still reminds us that Jesus IS God (D&C 18:33,47 & 19:18).  He's not "God, The Father", but he's still God.  So, it was perfectly accurate as it was.  So, why bother with the change?

I believe that he was trying to point out a specific meaning because it was more important than all the other meanings in the verse as John intended.  The primary point here is that the gospel is all about Jesus.  It is the Word, Covenant, & Doctrine of Jesus Christ.  What do you think Joseph's response would be if you asked him these three questions:

  • Was Jesus, in the beginning? -- YES
  • Was Jesus with God? -- YES
  • Is Jesus God?  -- YES

So, this was not to "correct" anything.  It was more of a commentary to direct us to a specific concept as written.  Let's face it, most people don't really understand why John wrote this in this manner.  The Christian world already has many different interpretations which all have some validity to them.  But Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration.  He wanted us to focus on the most important meaning which usually gets lost in the translation.

The most important part of John 1:1 is:   The gospel is all about Jesus Christ, our Lord, our God our Savior & Redeemer.  See the word play?  That's why Jesus is the Word.

Edited by Carborendum
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@CarborendumThanks for the well thought out post.


I know that some wrestle with the inspired version of John 1 as it doesn't appear to be consistent within itself by having the word be the gospel in verse 1, but then default back to the Word being made flesh in verse 14 and that it doesn't seem logical to have the gospel be made flesh (i.e. everyone knows that the Lord is the word made flesh) and yet I think your post nails this succinctly that the "good news" or "good message" isn't only a message, but embodied in the Saviour Himself. Without Him there is no good news, and thus He is in very reality the good news made flesh.

As to the point that it's not a correction per se, but a commentary - the fact that in verses 14 and 16 the text returns to stating the Word is the Lord would indicate to me that you are correct or these would surely have been altered to go along with separating the Word and God to further delineation as the word being the gospel.

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  • 11 months later...

Another musing came to my mind recently.  I came across some interesting things when I looked at additional translations.

The Latin Vulgate uses the word Verbum. It is interesting to note that the same word is used for both "word" and "verb" in Latin. 

Now look at the Spanish.  They follow the Latin root and use Verbo.  Unlike Latin, there is a separate Spanish term for "word" (palabra) which is not used.

French uses a different tactic.  They use an ancient term for "word" (Parole).  This is a highly formal word today.  But it would have been more common back in the day.  Today's word is mot. (Beatles: Sont les mots qui vont tres bein ensemble).  But they rephrase it to say "In the beginning was that which was the Word of God."  Interesting that they reword it so. 

(Some translations in both French and Spanish resemble what we see in English.  But most of the French versions have this re-worded version.)

For those interested in Korean:


Before the universe existed, there was Christ, the Word. He was with God. And He was God.

Among Spanish speakers there are a few protestant rabble-rousers who believe it is heresy to use "verb" because that is a made up Catholic translation.  They insist it must be palabra.

Well, I'd like to take a different perspective and submit that it all means the same thing.  The real intent is lost in the etymological history.

When we have a plan or an idea, the first physical thing we do to make it a physical reality is to describe it with words.  We form the ideas into words in our minds.  It begins to take shape even when it is only words in our minds.  Then we speak or write those words and it becomes more clear to us.  It is more real to us.

In short, verbalizing something is the first verb (action) that we perform in the process of making an idea into reality.  Jesus was the first creation of the Father to enact the Plan of Salvation.  Jesus is the Plan of Salvation.  And the Plan was made flesh.  The plan was enacted into the world by the condescension of God.

No more will sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground.

Edited by Carborendum
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