Chapter 23: The Divine "Word" of Oriental Origin
THE WORD AS CREATOR, AS SECOND PERSON OF THE TRINITY, AND ITS PRE-EXISTENCE
The Word of Oriental Origin
"IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John i. 1.) The doctrine of the divine creative word (from the Greek Logos) appears to have been coeval in its origin with that of the Trinity, if not inseparably connected with it, as it constitutes the second member of the Trinity of "Father, Word, and Holy Ghost" in most of the ancient systems of religion. Works on heathen mythology show that it was anciently a very prevalent custom to personify ideas, thoughts and words into angels and Gods. Words were first personated, and transformed into men, then into angels, and finally into Gods.
And here is foreshadowed the origin of John's personification of "the Word made flesh." It was simply the word of the supreme God as it escaped from his mouth, assuming the form and characteristics of a divine being like himself, and taking position as a secondary God and second member of the Trinity. This was the orient conception, and it appears to have been John's. He evidently had no thought of Christ experiencing human birth, at first, or being born of a woman, but believed, like some of the orientalists, that he came out of the mouth of the Father, and was thus "made flesh." (John i. 2.) Not a word of Christ being born is found in John's Gospel, till after his existence as the Word is spoken of. (See note BIRTH OF JESUS in back of book.)
The Word As CreatorJohn also represents the Word as having been the Creator. "All things were made by him." (John i. 3.) And Peter declares, "By the word of God the heavens were of old." (2 iii. 5.) Now, let it be observed here, as a notable circumstance, that the Chinese bible, much older than the Christian's New Testament, likewise declares, "God pronounced the primeval Word, and his own eternal and glorious abode sprang into existence." Mr. Guizot, in a note on Gibbon's work, says, "According to the Zend-Avesta (the Persian bible, more than three thousand years old), it is by the Word, more ancient than the world, that Ormuzd created the universe."
In like manner the sacred writings of the ancient Tibetans speak of "the Word which produced the world" -- an exact counterpart to John's declaration, "All things were made by him." And the ancient Greek writer Amelias speaking of the God Mercury, says, "And this plainly was the Logos (the Word), by whom all things were made, he being himself eternal, as Heraclitus would say, ... He assumed to be with God, and to be God, and in him everything that was made, has its life and being, who, descending into body, and putting on flesh, took the appearance of a man, though still retaining the majesty of his nature. Here is "the Word made flesh" set forth in most explicit terms. The Psalmist exclaims, "By the Word of God were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of his mouth." (Ps. xxxiii. 6.) Here is disclosed not only the conception of the Word as Creator, but also the Word and the Breath as synonymous terms, both of which conceptions oriental history amply proves to be of heathen derivation.
It was anciently believed that the Word and Breath of God were the same, and possessed a vitalizing power, which, as they issued from his mouth, might be transformed into another being known as a secondary God. Both the Jews and the Christians seem to have inherited this belief, as evinced by the foregoing quotations from their bible. The most ancient tradition taught that the Word emanated from the mouth of the principal God, and "became flesh," that is, took form, as the ancient Brahmins expressed it, for the special purpose of serving as agent in the work of creation, that is, to become the creator of the external universe. St. John evidently borrowed this idea. Read his first chapter.
Pre-existence Of The WordThe pre-existence or previous existence of the Word, antecedent to the date of its metamorphosis into the human form, we find taught in several of the ancient systems of religion, as well as the more modern Christian system. Several texts in the Christian New Testament set forth the doctrine quite explicitly. Christ, as the Divine Word, declared, "Before Abraham was I am," and that he had an existence with the Father before the foundation of the world, etc., which is a distinct avowal of the doctrine of preexistence.
But oriental history proves the doctrine is much older than Christianity.
The Hindoo very anciently taught that "the Word had existed with God from all eternity, and when spoken it became a glorious form, the aggregate embodiment of all the divine ideas, and performed the work of creation." And of Chrishna, it is affirmed that "while upon the earth he existed also in heaven." (See Baghavat Gita.)
In like manner it is declared of an Egyptian God, that "though he was born into the world, he existed with his father God before the world was made." And parallel to this is the statement of the Chinese bible, that "though the Holy Word (Chang-si) will be born upon the earth, yet he existed before anything was made." Even for Pythagoras it was claimed he existed in heaven before he was born upon the earth. Mr. Higgins, in summing up the matter, declares, "All the old religions believed the world was created by the Word, and that this Word existed before creation" (Ana., vol. ii. p. 77), which clearly indicates the source of St. John's creative Word.
The Dual or Two-fold Name Of The WordIn most cases the living Divine Word was known by different names and titles, prior to the era of its assuming the mortal form, from that by which it was known after its fleshly investment.
Among the ancient Persians, the name for the divine spiritual Word was Hanover. After its human birth, it was called "Mithra the Mediator." The Hindoo oriental term for the primeval Word was Om, or Aum. After assuming its most important incarnate form, it was known as Chrishna. The Chinese Holy Interior Word was Omi-to, and its principal incarnation was Chang-ti or Ti-enti. The Japanese also proclaimed their belief in a Divine Word before the Christian era, which, in their language, was Amina. They taught, like John, that it came forth from the mouth of the Supreme God (Brahm) to perform the work of creation, after which, it was known as Sakia. And that popular Christian writer, Mr. Milman, informs us that the Jewish founders of Christianity believed in an original Divine Word, which they call Memra. When it descended to the earth, and "became flesh, and dwelt amongst us" (John i. 4.) according to the evangelist John, it was known as Jesus Christ. Mr. Milman states also, that "the appellation to the Word is found in the Indian (Hindoo), Persian, the Platonic, and the Alexandrian systems." (Hist. of Chr., Book I., Chap. 2.)
Thus, the question is settled by Christian testimony -- that the various conceptions of the Divine Word are of heathen origin.
The Word As A Second Member Of The TrinityThere are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." (i John v. 7.) Observe, the Word is the second person in the Trinity. And this was its post in the Brahman, Hindoo, Persian, and other systems. "All religions," says a writer, "which taught the existence of the Word as a great primeval spirit, represent him as secondary to the supreme. (P.R. 3, vol. ii. p. 336.) "The Hindoos reverenced it next to Brahm." Mr. Higgins cuts the matter short by declaring "The Logos, or Word, was the second person of the Trinity in all the ancient systems, as in the Christian system," which again indicates its heathen origin.
The Word As A Biblical Title"The Word." "the Holy Word," "the Divine Word," etc., are terms now frequently applied to the Christian bible, without any suspicion of their heathen origin. The Zend-Avesta, the Persian bible, was always called "The Living Word of God," for that is the meaning of the term Zend-Avesta, and the oldest bible in the world is the Vedas, and it means both Word and Wisdom. Om, the Egyptian's Holy Word, they frequently applied both to their incarnate Gods and to their sacred writings.
The practice of calling bibles "The Word of God" originated from the belief that, when the incarnate Word left the earth and returned to heaven, he infused a portion of his living spirits into the divine writings which contained his history and his doctrines, and which be himself had prompted his disciples to write as his "Last Revelation to man." They then must contain a portion of him, i.e., a portion of the Holy Word -- hence, both were called "The Holy Word."
And this heathen custom Christians borrowed.
Origins Of The Word As CreatorThe motive which prompted a belief in the creative Word may be styled a theological necessity. It was believed that the principal God, like the rulers of earth, was too aristocratic to labor with his own hands. Hence, another God was originated to perform the work of creation, and called "The Word."
The origin of the creative Word is still further indicated by Blackwood's Magazine.
It says: --
"Creation became impossible to a being already infinite, and was a derogation to a being already perfect. Some lower God, some Avatar, must be interposed (as an emanation from the mouth of the God supreme) to perform the subordinate task of creation. Hence, originated and came forth the Word as Creator."
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