Every Jew knew there was only One God – I am who I am. He was not to be named and He certainly had no progeny. It was little wonder that they thought the followers of Christ blasphemers. They thought they had rid themselves of these heretics when Jesus was crucified; instead His followers made some ridiculous claim that He had risen from the dead. Not all the attempts to crush them managed to quell the threat they posed. These men remained members of the synagogue, but they consorted with Gentiles and, so it was said, even ate with them. But of all the things which the early Church taught, the thing which challenged Judaism most is the idea of the Logos of God being made flesh (sarx, in Greek). St. John’s Gospel does not tell us how the Word became flesh, or what the relationship between the Logos and the sarx was, or how the flesh and the logos coexisted; but he does tell us that the Word became flesh.
The author of Hebrews makes the same claim:
but ‘in these last days he has spoken to us by a [or the] Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains [or bears along] all things by his powerful word.’
In one of the very earliest Christian documents, Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see just the same ‘high’ Christology we see in John. Of Christ he writes:
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
Paul saw no conflict with monotheism. As he told the Corinthians: ‘yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’
St John told the followers of Christ that ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14) – kai ho logos sarx egeneto kai eskhnwsen – as the Greek has it. This is the critical verse. It embodies the most startling claim ever made. Pagan mythology was full of gods copulating with human females, pagan culture was used to ‘sons of god’ in that sense, and in the sense of divine emperors. But the Jews stood against this tide of polytheism. Here, at the beginning of the Gospel according to St John was have the claim that the ‘logos’ of God, who superintended creation, and who had spoken to the prophets, became ‘flesh’ (sarx). The claim is not that the logos ceased to be the logos, but that whilst remaining logos, became sarx.
But how could the Eternal Word of God become flesh? What did that mean? And worse, these Christians claimed Jesus was the ‘Son’ of God? How could God have a Son? More than that, how could God have a Son and be one God? Such blasphemies were behind the expulsion of the Christians from the Temple and the Synagogues. They were also, as we shall now see, the subject of a great deal of debate among Christians.