Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In the Beginning

The book of John, which forms part of the Christian New Testament, begins like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The author of this text, John, is saying that Jesus is the Word of God.

You see, the early Christians had a bit of a problem: if Jesus and God were one and the same, who was running the shop while Jesus was on Earth? John starts his book - his Gospel - by answering that question. He compares the relationship between Jesus and God to the relationship between a speaker and her words.

John’s analogy was clever: you don’t need to believe in God – or in Jesus for that matter – to understand it. You use words, and by using words, you have experienced the power of the unseen to perform action at a distance.

Today, almost two thousand years after John wrote his Gospel, many of us take our own words for granted. And so John’s explanation of the relationship between God and Jesus, now works in reverse to remind us of the relationship we have with our words.

During his talk, biologist Mark Pagel, encouraged his audience to think about all the man-made objects that surround them. Each object, Pagel said, started as an idea in someone’s head. That idea was transferred to other people through language. It was in this way that the object took form.

Words are a kind of everyday magic; the kind that is easily explained - easily dismissed. Nevertheless, words are magic; how they are used is up to you.

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