Finding the Way

He stops me in the hallway at work–my former teacher, now a colleague. He’s been studying Greek because, he says, teachers should always remember how hard it is to learn something difficult.

“Where in the Bible does Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”?

“John 14, I think.”

He is especially interested in the word way, not sure if the English translation comes from methodos or hodos. The conversation sparks my own investigation. I’m glad the terms I look up are easy to understand (always a plus when dealing with Greek).

Methodos means a way of searching–inquiry. That meaning is secondary, but it’s the one my colleague mentioned. Methodos also means scheming, craftiness, and deceit. Strong’s Concordance finds it twice in Ephesians (4:14 and 6:11). Scriptures that warn us first of the cunning craftiness of men, then to beware the wiles of the devil.

But Jesus does not use methodos in John 14:6. He uses hodos.

Like methodoshodos has different connotations. “It can mean not only a road, a path, but also a practice.” So it is not only the way to go, the direction we take, it is also how we walk, how we encounter God and others through our lives.

Jesus is not a means of inquiry. He is the way to God. And He gives direction for our lives.

Before His followers were called Christians (Act 11:26), they were called the people of the Way. In Acts 9:2, the people “belonging to the Way”–hodos–were those Saul hoped to persecute as he made his way along the road to Damascus. Being called a follower of the Way was descriptive. Being called a Christian was an insult.

They stood out among the crowd. Some didn’t like that.

My colleague also wondered about the root of the word Methodism. Methodism’s founder John Wesley was well versed in Greek. Had Wesley intended to associate his view of the Christian life with methodos–a way of inquiry?

We were both surprised by what he discovered.

The name Methodism came in derision–just as the name Christian had in the early Church. John and Charles Wesley’s fellow students at Oxford called them Methodists because they were methodical in their spiritual discipline and their ministry efforts.

They stood out among the crowd.

John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Wesley knew that to follow the Way was not the easy way

Wesley, like Luther before him, did not set out to establish a new church. Luther wanted to reform Catholicism. Wesley wanted to reform the Church of England. In fact, Methodism did not even become its own denomination until it arrived in America.

In England and America, Methodism planted churches and encouraged moral living, literacy, and philanthropy. Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in the fight against slavery. Wesley advocated prison reform. He urged Christians not to simply collect and send goods to relieve the misery of the poor, but to go to the poor individually, each Christian engaging in personal ministry.
When He walked this earth, Jesus invited people to follow him. Wesley didn’t invite people to follow Methodism. He invited people to follow Christ.

Strong’s Concordance renders truth (aletheia) in John 14:6 as reality. It renders life (zoe) as life that includes both the “physical (present) and . . . spiritual (particularly future) existence.”

The Way, Truth, and Life invites us to a path that leads to reality for eternity.

And there is no other hodos.

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Revised and reposed from April 2016

24 Replies to “Finding the Way”

  1. Good post, Nancy. I love the Greek study. It feeds my inner nerd.
    What you’re discussing here is of singular importance for the Christian. If Jesus is the method of getting to the Father, it reduces him to a guru. If he’s the Way, he’s the savior, the leader whose example I must follow to the Father. Great distinction.

  2. I appreciated your informative post, not just for what it teaches but also for what a great reminder it is that we need to be diligent in our study, searching for meaning and to deepen our understanding of the history of our faith. So often we read and make assumptions about what words mean and what is being communicated. But with a little work and study we get to the deeper level, intended meaning. So thanks for your post!

  3. Thanks. I learned something new today with the Greek words and how their meanings differ. Thanks for sharing and I love the photo of the pathway because it is places like that where I find my Methodos

  4. Wow! This was so impactful. I especially loved this part: It can mean not only a road, a path, but also a practice. It reminds me of Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. THE way and THE practice. I love it.

    1. Me too, Jennifer. There are so many nuances to Greek and Hebrew. The Bible is rich in English–but so deep when we look at the original languages! Thanks for reading and commenting. God bless!

  5. Wow, so much info to take in here! I love studying the meaning of the words we read in our English Bibles, although I have to admit that I’m pretty lazy most days and don’t dig into that part of study. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of digging deeper!

  6. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for this great post. I have to admit that I’m totally lost with the KJV and I have to use one of the Bibles that are translated to easier to understand words. I know some people don’t feel that is right but for me it is. Before I never read the Bible but since I have one I can understand, I read the Bible almost every night.

    I still come across some words that I’m not familiar with and I do look them up but I don’t dig as deep as I should either.

    Our church has Bible study classes on Wednesday evenings and it also helps me to understand more than I ever have.

    Thank you and God Bless.

  7. I recall the day I stopped listening to Oprah many years ago because she said “there are many WAYS to God”. I like to study the bible along with a good Bible dictionary, concordance, a pen and paper.

  8. Very insightful post. So much of the deeper meaning can be lost in the English translation. I like it when someone can explain the Greek meaning of the English words.

    btw; I tweeted the John Wesley quote!

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