One of the things that still gets my juices flowing is when I read or discover something new. It may not be new to anyone else, but if it is new to me I confess to wanting to explore it and see how it fits with the rest of my knowledge and belief system.
As I was reading Learning to Speak God From Scratch by Jonathan Merritt, I was especially interested in his content on the significance of the word…word. We read it often throughout scripture, but it stands out for being used more than 600 times in Jewish and Christian scriptures.
The name Erasmus came up and since he is not a topic of common conversation in our house, I was intrigued. I had heard the name before and yet his contributions were lost to me now.
In case that is true of you, let me share that he lived from 1466 to 1536 and was a Dutch Christian Humanist who was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. He was originally trained as a Catholic priest and from earliest childhood had a love of words and scripture. While still in grade school Erasmus learned to read and write in classical Latin.
He became a revered Bible scholar who lived in the midst of the growing European religious Reformation. Despite his criticism of the abuses of the Catholic Church and a call for reform, he did not join Luther and continued to recognize the pope.
As he worked on revising his translation of the New Testament and specifically the Gospel of John, he paused on John’s use of the word…word. His study of all sources that were relevant caused him to believe John’s word, Logos, was more complex and dynamic than the English word, word.
Merritt quotes his discovery this way:
“Logos signifies a continuous statement, an ongoing narrative, a complex utterance in which the audience, not just the speaker, participates.”
With that in mind the aging Erasmus translated the opening passage of John to reflect that. I want to quote it now and I hope you will read it with a joyous response of what that suggests about God’s desire for a vibrant relationship with us that is active rather than passive.
“It all arose out of a Conversation,
Conversation within God, in fact the
Conversation was God. So, God started the
discussion, and everything came out of this,
and nothing happened without consultation.
This was the life, life that was the light of men,
shining in the darkness, a darkness which
neither understood nor quenched its creativity.
John, a man sent by God, came to remind
People about the nature of the light so that
they would observe. He was not the subject
under discussion, but the bearer of an
invitation to join in.
The subject of the Conversation, the original
light, came into the world, the world that had
arisen out of his willingness to converse. He
fleshed out the words but the world did not
understand. He came to those who knew the
language, but they did not respond. Those
who did became a new creation (his children),
they read the signs and responded.
These children were born out of sharing in
the creative activity of God. They heard the
conversation still going on, here, now, and
took part, discovering a new way of being people.
To be invited to share in a conversation
about the nature of life, was for them, a glorious
opportunity not to be missed.”
Jonathan Merritt adds some observations about this that are worth quoting:
“…understanding Jesus as a divine Conversation reveals a God who is vibrant, alive, involved, and a good listener.
Jesus didn’t just reveal who God is in the past; Jesus reveals who God is in this present moment. That discourse beckons us, draws us, sweeps us up into the Conversation. Which is probably similar to what the apostle Paul meant when he called Christians “a letter from Christ.” When we open our mouths and speak God, we are entering into and amplifying the Conversation, participating in divine discourse.”
Each of us has been invited to enter into this ongoing Conversation.
How powerfully that speaks to me of God’s love for us! His Word from Genesis to Revelation is an open invitation to converse and respond to what is written.
The Lord wants us to dialogue with Him.
That suggests an intensely passionate relational desire that moves us to deepening intimacy beyond prayers of petition, confession, or praise we might more commonly speak.
Have you joined the Conversation?
Erasmus reminds us all that it is “a glorious opportunity not to be missed.”