If God is speaking to us through ordinary language and ordinary literary conventions in the Synoptic Gospels, we must understand what we mean by language and literature and about the communication mechanics that necessarily exists between God and man. This too is important, because modern language theories tell us what language is not, but they do not tell us what language is. For example, it is said that language is merely verbal behavior,[i] or that it is merely a set of essentially mathematical descriptions,[ii] or that language is just a game.[iii]
Plato said that the mind starts with innate ideas, but he was not clear where they came from. Thomas Aquinas said that there is nothing in the mind which was not first in the senses, but it is unclear how the senses could give the mind an idea of the senses themselves. On the other hand, the witness of the apostolic community is that language is Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[iv] He created the senses and the world, and all ideas resolve in him. They tell us that Christ is the universal Son of Man and Son of God, and that we are all particular men who have been given the right and the power to become sons and daughters of God. And they tell us that it is in Christ that “we live and move and have our being.”[v] Paul says “in Christ” 72 times in his letters. Though John never uses this phrase, he expresses in his own language the very same thing: “At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”[vi]
John has clearly said that men have language because Christ gives it to them. John says that Christ does not speak about God. John says that Jesus is the speech of God. The apostolic community of authors assert that Christ begins a dialogue with the human soul from the very beginning. Even though we are now children of a terrible moral catastrophe long ago, even while we are yet enemies of God, Christ nevertheless begins this conversation.[vii] Every infant already knows a little history. He cries because he already knows, in part, the tragedy of the fall. An infant laughs because he already knows, in part, what is funny. The infant is too young to have been taught these things by human intervention.[viii] Yet he must have heard it somewhere before. He knows these things because he is immersed in the amniotic fluid of the ordinary speech of God. God can speak to us in ordinary speech – because the creator of the ordinary worlds became an ordinary man. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…”[ix]
[ii] See Bertrand Russell, On Denoting (Mind, New Series, Vol. 14, No. 56. Oct., 1905),
[iii] See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1953)
[iv] See John 1:1.
[v] Acts 17:28; John 15:4
[vi] John 14:20.
[vii] Romans 5:10. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be saved by his life.” Also II Cor 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
[viii] The inspiration for this illustration comes from Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1928)
[ix] John 1:14a.