In order to correctly interpret biblical prophecy, one must have a firm grasp of the multidimensional and overlapping nature of biblical symbolism; and in order to understand the multidimensional and overlapping nature of biblical symbolism, one must have a strong working knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the Logos. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will likely have noticed that I have used this term in passing in previous posts. Because I deem this to be such an important and fundamental subject with regards to biblical prophecy, I wanted to devote an entire discussion to this very important subject in order that I might explain precisely what it is that I am referring to when I use this term.
What is the Logos?
The ancient Greek word logos is a word which can be traced as far back in Greek literature as the writings of Hesiod and Homer (about 700 BC). Its original definition was something like “reason,” “study,” or “word.” Perhaps not surprisingly, it is this ancient Greek word from which we get the English word “logic.” It is also the word from which we get our common logy suffix which is so commonly combined to various Greek prefixes to refer to diverse fields of study (biology, oncology, radiology, and so forth).
Relatively early on in ancient Greece, the word logos began to be used as a philosophical term and began to take on new meaning. The first person we know of to have used the word in this way is Heroclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535 BC – 475 BC), who used the term to refer to some logical or rational principle which governed the entire universe. This philosophical use of the term would later be taken up by the Socratic philosophers and other schools of Greek philosophy over the course of the next few centuries, who would continually expand its definition in various ways.
By the time of we get to the first century BC, we find Hellenistic Jews such as Philo of Alexandria beginning to identify the Greek philosophical concept of the Logos with the Hebrew dabar-yhwh (translated “word of the LORD” in most English Bibles). This Hebrew compound is used frequently throughout the Old Testament to refer to the active revealed “thought” of God, which is the spirit of prophetic inspiration. Greek speaking Hellenistic Jews like Philo came to the realization that what the Greek philosophers called The Logos was one and the same with what the Hebrew prophets had referred to as the dabar-yhwh, and it would be in accordance with this expanded two-sided definition of the concept that the first Christians (who were Jews) understood Jesus Christ to be the Logos incarnate. Thus the New Testament writers understood Jesus Christ to be the personification and human embodiment of both the logical and rational principle by which all things were created and through whom all things material and immaterial consist (Col. 1:16-17), as well as the personification of the living and revealed thought of God who had inspired the words of all of the Hebrew prophets of Israel.
The Logos is the mind of God
The Logos can be summarily defined as simply “the mind of God,” containing what we might call “the thoughts of God.” These thoughts of God are what I refer to as constructs. A construct can be most easily understood as God’s conception or definition of anything that exists. A construct can be tangible and concrete (Jacob, Bethel, Pillar, the Amorites, etc.), or incorporeal and abstract (joy, hope, tribulation, subtility, etc.).
The Logos can perhaps best be likened unto an invisible immaterial database that exists eternally in the heavens, which contains all objectively true knowledge in the universe. The Holy Bible is the earthly reflection of the heavenly Logos, and contains the written record which tells us (verbally) how the constructs within the Bible are related. For this reason, the Bible can be likened unto the computer one uses to access the eternal heavenly database of the Logos. As we will see, the relationships that exist between constructs within the Logos (called relations) constitute eternal laws which govern the figurative language of prophecy and determine how biblical symbols relate to and interact with one another.
It is far easier to show what the Logos is than it is to verbally explain what it is, and one of the best ways to do this is through the use of an exegetical tool that I use that I refer to as Logography. In lay terms, a logograph is essentially a mind map (or construct map) of the Logos. More specifically, it is a visual graphing of the relationships attested by the Word of God to exist between a particular set of constructs. These relationships are represented on the logograph by a series of lines. The following figure is an example of a very basic logograph:
In the logograph above, the purple lines signify relationships between constructs that have been confirmed to exist by the Word of God. So for example, in the logograph above we can see a line connecting the constructs of “Elijah” and “the Prophets.” The Word of God attests that Elijah was a prophet, and the line between the two constructs on the logograph attests of this scripturally confirmed relation. Likewise, there is a line connecting “The Prophets” with “The Holy Spirit” because the Bible testifies that prophets of God receive their inspiration from the Holy Spirit (Acts 21:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:10). Thus, the Word of God affirms that these two biblical constructs are directly related. I could keep going, but I think you get the picture.
Making a logograph from scratch
One of the best ways to demonstrate what the Logos is by creating a logograph from scratch. To begin this process, we simply pick any construct we want to learn about. In this example we will use the construct of God. What does the Bible tell us about God? On the one hand, it tells us that God is Light (1 John 1:5). This tells us that there is a direct relationship that exists within the Logos between the construct of God and the construct of Light. The logograph below charts this metaphoric relationship between the constructs of God and Light.
The Bible also tells us that God is the Word (John 1:1). This tells us that the constructs of God and the Word are directly related within the Logos, and charting this connection inevitably brings a new construct into our logograph:
According to the transitive Law of equality, if A = B and B = C, then A = C. Accordingly, if God is Light, and God is the Word, then it follows that The Word is also Light. Note that this conclusion agrees with Scripture, for it is written:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Having now affirmed this relation by Scripture, our logograph now looks like this:
In order to continue developing our logograph, we simply pick any one of the three constructs that are already in it, and then search for affirmed links between that construct and other constructs in Scripture. The table below charts connections affirmed by Scripture between “The Word” and the constructs of Truth, Fire, the Spirit of God, and Jesus Christ:
|Relation||Nature of relationship||Source|
|The Word <-> Truth||The Word is truth.||John 17:17|
|The Word <-> Fire||The Word is “like a fire.”||Jer. 23:29|
|The Word <-> the Spirit of God||The Word is the Spirit of God.||John 1:14; John 6:63; cf. Eph. 4:4|
|Jesus Christ <-> The Word||Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh.||John 1:14|
When all of the above relations are recorded on our logograph, it now looks like this:
Note that we now have 4 new constructs that have entered into the picture. It is very important to note that, whenever a given construct is confirmed to be in a given family of constructs via a direct scripturally affirmed relationship to another construct within said family—it is automatically related to all other constructs within said family (even if said relationships to the other constructs within the family are not immediately apparent, and there is no obvious connection to any of them to be found in Scripture).1 So to apply this point to our present example—this means that all four of our new constructs are all related to every construct in the logograph, despite the fact that we have thus far only confirmed that they are directly connected to one construct (the Word). Indeed, a diligent search of the Bible confirms all of the following relationships between all of the constructs above:
|Relation||Nature of Relationship||Scripture|
|Jesus <-> Truth||Jesus is the truth.||John 14:6|
|Jesus <-> Light||Jesus is the light of the world.||John 8:12; 9:5|
|Jesus <-> The Holy Spirit||Jesus is the Holy Spirit manifest in human flesh.||Matt. 14:25-26; John 6:19 (cf. Gen. 1:1-2); John 6:63 (cf. Eph. 4:4)|
|Jesus <-> Fire||Jesus baptizes with fire.||Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16|
|Jesus <-> God||Jesus is God manifest in the flesh.||John 10:33; 10:30; 1 Tim. 3:16; Col. 2:9)|
|Holy Spirit <-> Truth||The Holy Spirit is truth.||John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 5:6)|
|God <-> Truth||God is truth.||Deut. 32:4; Heb. 6:18|
|God <-> The Holy Spirit||God is the Holy Spirit.||John 4:24; Eph. 4:4|
|God <-> Fire||God is fire.||Deut. 9:3; 4:24; Heb. 12:29|
|Holy Spirit <-> Fire||The Holy Spirit is fire.||Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 2:3-4|
|Fire <-> Light||Fire is light.||Gen. 22:6; Jer. 36:22; John 18:3|
Factoring in all of the above connections, our working logograph now looks like this:
There is really no end to this process, and you can keep going with it as long as you want. If we wanted to keep going and continue branching out, all we would need to is repeat what we just did, and simply take any construct in the logograph and find a record in the Bible where that construct is linked to some other construct not yet included in the logograph above. So for example, we might take note of the fact that the Bible testifies that the Spirit of God is a teacher and a revealer of knowledge (1 Cor. 2:10), and that it also brings freedom to those who are in its presence (2 Cor. 3:17). These two scriptural factoids bring two new constructs into the above construct family—the constructs of knowledge and liberty. The fact that these two constructs have now entered into our logograph via direct connections to the Spirit of God as testified by Scripture, means that these constructs are both also deeply related to every other construct within the family, even if the connections to those other constructs are not yet obvious. In cases like this where such connections are not obvious, it usually won’t take much searching to uncover the connections between the new constructs and other members of the family.
To demonstrate, we might look up at our logograph above and ask ourselves “how is knowledge related to the construct of light in Scripture?” Well, in the figurative language of the Bible (and figurative language in general), we find that light is a very commonly used symbol for knowledge (Ps. 19:1-2). The logic behind this is easy to understand, and is in fact testified of by our own figurative speech, for knowledge illuminates the dark recesses of the mind, allowing us to “see” (understand) things as they are. Whereas having only a partial knowledge of a particular subject or thing can hinder us from fully understanding it, new information often “comes to light,” which in turn “enlightens” the eyes of the intellect, enabling us to be able to fully “see” (understand) it. It is thus common for laymen in a particular field of knowledge to often seek out the advice and counsel of experts in that field, in hopes that said experts might be able to “shed new light” on something we seek to know or understand.2
For now the point I want to drive home here is that which has been previously stated and has now been officially demonstrated, that is—any time a new construct enters into your logograph via a scripturally affirmed connection to just one member of that construct family, it is automatically related to all of the other constructs in that family, and there is scriptural backing for its relation to the other constructs in the vast ocean of Scripture somewhere. In this case, we just saw that the construct of knowledge, which entered our logograph because of its connection to the Holy Spirit, is also directly connected to the construct of light in the Logos. The table below charts all of the direct connections between our new constructs of knowledge and liberty, and each of the other constructs already in our logograph, alongside some of the scriptures that testify of the relationships between those constructs:
|Relation||Nature of relationship||Scripture|
|Holy Spirit <-> Knowledge||The Holy Spirit is a revealer and teacher of knowledge.||Matt. 16:17; 1 Cor. 2:10; 1 John 2:27|
|Holy Spirit <-> Liberty||The Holy Spirit brings liberty.||2 Cor. 3:17|
|Light <-> Knowledge||Knowledge is light.||2 Cor. 14:6; Ps. 19:1-2|
|Truth <-> Knowledge||Truth is knowledge.||Rom. 2:20; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 3:7; Heb. 10:26|
|God <-> Knowledge||God is perfect in knowledge, and therefore the very source of knowledge.||1 Sam. 2:3; Job 36:4; 37:16|
|Jesus Christ <->> Knowledge||All the treasures of knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ.||Col. 2:3|
|Jesus Christ <-> Liberty||Jesus Christ sets men free.||John 8:36|
|Truth <-> Liberty||The truth sets men free.||John 8:32|
After recording all of the new connections charted in the above table, our logograph now looks like this:
The Holy Bible is probably the only anthology ever compiled which utilizes a shared index of figurative symbolism. This of course is miraculous when you stop and reflect on the fact that the biblical canon contains 66 books written by approximately 40 different authors, who were all separated from one another by hundreds of miles and up to thousands of years. The fact that a universal table of symbolism is clearly discernible when the writings of 40 different men, who were writing at different times for different purposes over a 1600 year period, are assembled together into one volume, is truly remarkable–and points to a canonical unity which obviously bears witness not only of the divine authorship of the Bible, but also the divine assemblage of the biblical canon.
Having a strong command of biblical symbolism is crucial for the biblical interpreter, as one’s ability to uncover the cryptic meaning of prophetic visions and allegories recorded in Scripture is dependent upon their being fluent in the figurative language of the Prophets. Simply put, misinterpreting the symbols in any given prophetic passage can cause one to completely misinterpret the prophecy.
The relationships between constructs within the Logos
One of the most common mistakes that I see biblical commentators making is assuming that biblical symbolism is one-dimensional, where “‘x’ represents ‘y’, and only ‘y’.” This is not how biblical symbolism functions. Rather, biblical symbols are multidimensional–meaning they represent more than one thing (everything they are directly related to within the Logos) simultaneously. Thus not only do the relationships between constructs within the Logos determine what functions as a symbol for what, but they are also the direct cause of the Bible’s multidimensional and overlapping symbolism.
Under-girding the Bible’s peculiar system of multidimensional overlapping symbolism is the phenomenon that I referred to previously known as relational overlap, which means that constructs within the Logos that are directly related are often relationally equivalent (different incarnations or aspects of the same literal thing), or are so deeply related that they are relationally interchangeable. This in turn allows for what I refer to as constructional substitution, which says that constructs that are relationally interchangeable can function as figurative symbols or typological “stand-ins” for one another where they appear in Scripture, and herein lies the key to understanding the multidimensional nature of biblical symbolism.
Basic examples of how the relationships within the Logos create multidimensional and overlapping symbolism
Our present logograph isn’t particularly ideal for demonstrating this truth by example as it contains far more abstractions than concrete objects, but just to give you a very general idea of how this works—let us return to it briefly:
Now let us consider the following verse:
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)
Right off the bat we can deduce that the statement: “I will bring a third part through the fire” is figurative rather than literal language. Gold and silver are purged of their impurities by fire, and possess no monetary value until they have undergone this process. Thus the inference that is being made is that God will bring a third part of his people through the purifying fires of sanctification and purge them of all moral impurities. Once this process is complete, they will “come forth as gold”(Job 23:10)–meaning that they will be exceedingly precious and valuable (like gold) in the sight of God.
While this particular use of a concrete construct as a symbol for a specific abstraction is fairly self-evident and no logograph is needed to solve the mystery of such an obvious figurative analogy—let us pretend for the sake of illustration that we were stumped as to what “fire” represented in this passage. In such an instance, we could simply consult our logograph from earlier, and note all of the various abstractions that we have confirmed that fire is directly connected to within the Logos. We could then consider each abstraction one at a time, and see which one best fits with the context of the passage in question. In this case, “The Word,” “the Holy Spirit,” “the Truth,” “God,” and “Jesus Christ”–any of these would be an equally correct constructional substitution for “fire.” This is because all of these constructs are metaphorically connected to one another within the Logos, and are thus relationally interchangeable (they are all different names and titles which ultimately refer to the same thing).3 If I had to choose only one, I would say that fire in Zechariah’s passage symbolizes the purifying fires of God’s Word / Spirit. This interpretation is confirmed by the words of Jesus himself, who said: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17; cf. John 15:3). This makes even more sense when we recall that God’s word is likened unto a fire multiple times in Scripture (Jer. 23:29; Rev. 11:5).
Another prophecy which uses the construct of fire as a symbol is the prophecy concerning the two witnesses in Revelation 11:
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. (Revelation 11:3-5)
When we consult our logograph above, we can see that the construct of “Fire” is relationally interchangeable with the construct of “The Word.” When we use constructional substitution and replace “fire” with “The Word,” the cryptic meaning of the prophecy becomes readily apparent–the two witnesses (whom John the Revelator describes as prophets) speak the words of God–which are like fire (Jer. 23:29). And this interpretation lines up perfectly with the collective witness of Scripture, which states that prophets are those who are sent of God (Jer. 14:14; 23:21; 26:5; 27:15; 29:9; 29:19; 35:15; Ezek. 3:6; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), and that those who are sent of God speak the words of God (John 3:34).
Let us consider one last example. We all know the story about how God called Jonah and commanded him to go to Nineveh to preach that judgment was imminent if the people would not repent and turn from their wicked ways. Rather than submit to the call and commandment of God, however, we read that Jonah initially went to Joppa on the west coast of Palestine, where he boarded the first ship going in the opposite direction. Based on our logograph above, we can conclude that insomuch as Jonah was running from what God commanded him to do, he was running from the Word of God, which according to our logograph above is relationally interchangeable with the construct of God. It thus stands to reason that by running from the Word of God, Jonah was running from God himself, because (as our logograph above testifies)—God is inseparable from his Word (John 1:1-2). Armed with this understanding, it suddenly makes a lot more sense that the text twice states that Jonah ran from the presence of the LORD (Jonah 1:3), which reflects the under-girding truth that refusal to submit to what God has commanded one to do (the Word of God) is biblically equivalent to walking away from God himself (cf. Gen. 4:5-16).
Likewise, we could take the construct of light in the logograph above to speak more figuratively and say that—by choosing to disregard God’s commandment to go preach at Nineveh, and choosing rather to go his own way—Jonah had left “the light” to walk in the paths of darkness (Prov. 2:13; John 3:20), which would explain why he was unable to see that by running from the commandment of God–he was setting sail for an inescapable abyss of spiritual bondage (John 12:35; 1 John 2:11).
Note that these are extremely basic examples which don’t truly attest to the magnitude of the ramifications that the relationships between constructs within the Logos have on biblical exegesis. As we are working with a very limited and underdeveloped logograph, I am merely trying to paint a very general picture of these invisible laws which govern the Bible’s system of figurative symbolism and its multidimensional nature, in which the symbols overlap.
The importance of the Logos and the true exegetical power of mapping it through logography will be more fully realized once we begin to analyze various prophetic visions and allegories in future discussions. For now, the main thing I want my readers to understand and take from this examination is that biblical symbols are determined by the relationships that exists between constructs within the Logos, and that biblical symbols are multidimensional and overlap because of the phenomenon of relational overlap, as we have seen. Accordingly, the student of biblical prophecy should always assume that any construct being used figuratively in any biblical passage is being used to represent every construct that it is directly connected to within the Logos simultaneously. As we will see in future discussions, the ramifications that the Bible’s system of multidimensional symbolism has on biblical prophecy is absolutely staggering, as this empowers a God whose creativity knows no limits to infuse a single prophetic vision with multiple layers of parallel prophetic meaning, thus allowing him to speak cryptically of a multitude of future events simultaneously with a single vision.
- Even if connections between various concepts in the family aren’t immediately obvious, you can be certain that they are very deeply related—and there is Scriptural confirmation for it somewhere in the Bible. It may not even be on the surface level narrative of the text, but it’s in there somewhere.
- This link between the figurative language of man and the relationships between constructs of the Logos is part of a much larger mystery which I refer to as the Deuteronomy 30:14 principle, and it is a subject that we will discuss in great detail in a future discussion.
- God is a consuming fire as well as a spirit, and there is only one spirit of God, which mandates that the spirit of God is the Holy Spirit, which means that the Holy Spirit is a fire, just like the Word of God is a fire, who is Jesus, who is the Truth, and the earthly embodiment of God himself, who is his biological father, which is the Holy Spirit (you get the idea). All of these constructs refer to the exact same thing.