In John 14:6 Jesus says he is the way.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In English we typically use the word 'way' to refer to a course, manner or method. In these uses, the referent object is an impersonal concept that we can follow/execute, like a procedure, or perhaps an impersonal concrete object we can traverse, like a road. We do not typically use the word 'way' to literally refers to a person, and it's not clear to me what doing so would mean.

Given this, is it possible Jesus is not intending his statement to be taken literally, but is instead using himself as a symbol to personify an impersonal thing called 'the way'? On this reading, when Jesus says "except through me" he might literally mean "except through the way".

If the way is not literally a person, can we know from the text what is 'the way' Jesus has in mind?

  • A certain famous song by Frank Sinatra inevitably comes to mind... :-)
    – Lucian
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 8:37
  • The crucifixion of the flesh is the way. Jesus came to die on the cross to portray this to the world. Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


Fun Fact: The hebrew word for "the way" is דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה (derech adonai), and at least in some cases, the name "Derick" can be derived from the word.

Other interesting bits, Wisdom was assembled at the beginning of the way of the Lord according to...

Proverbs 8:22, The Lord assembled me [Wisdom] at the beginning of his way (derech)

Here, "the beginning" even uses the rare feminine form of the word "head, heb: rosh" which is used in Genesis 1:1 as the first word of the torah (rosheet).

There is so much great stuff on this. Jesus is that way. The first place the term "the way" is used in the text is in Genesis 3:24 which speaks of the way, through the cherubim and burning sword, to the tree of life. And of course, we envision the cross as the tree of life and the eucharist as its fruit as an antidote to judgment... the knowledge of good and bad.

And according to John 12:32, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." This is Christ dragging people along the way to the tree of life.

So to squarely provide my answer to your question:

Given that each of the gospels have a reference to John the Baptist preparing "the way" of the lord in reference to Isaiah 40 there, I think it's worth looking at that text for a template of what the first century Jews might have considered in this term.

Isaiah 40:3-5, "A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I tie this back to the concept in Genesis 2/3 of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad and the concepts of dichotomy and "othering/self-ing" of the world. I for one, believe (contrary to most), that the biblical text says that we do not have free will or independence from God, but we act like it, and that is simultaneously the source of our condition itself as well as all of our suffering.

For more images of the way of the lord (as a method for entry into paradise), see Deuteronomy 1:39. All who can enter must have the knowledge of good and bad die within them. They must become empty of value (Ecclesiastes shouts the truth that "all life is vanity/emptiness.") I am not a nihilist (e.g. there is nothing), but a kenosist, as in the Kenosis hymn of Philippians 2 about Christ's emptying. That is to say that there are no-things, only relationality... no agency, but the thought of people as moral ends in themselves - a deception - which leads to our suffering)

People think that the bible is an ethics textbook, but I believe that the authors thought it was something exactly opposite of that. Ethics is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. The moral compass points out of Eden. Thus you get the various calls to non-judgment and unconditional love in the Bible.

The "Way of the Lord" then includes eliminating all mountains and valleys into something WITHOUT VALUE (no good or bad). I think most people think of the way into paradise as consisting of a time with a mountain range that is all mountain tops and no valleys. But that's incoherent. The way is an elimination of value all together. It's an elimination of Hope! Hence 1 Corinthians 13:7 says "love hopes all things." Which does not mean love hopes a specific thing, but what is instead of judgment upon what should be.

When one is not thinking about how this could be better, one is truly present in the completeness of the moment (which is eternal). Hope and fear (drawn by good and bad) are what make us move, but simultaneously pull us out of peace (shalom) in the moment.

The world of Shalom (peace/completeness) is one without hope, because it lacks nothing and we want nothing (Psalm 23). That's the paradox of our condition and why the way makes the mountains low and the valleys high, etc.

This is dangerous stuff! Most nations are, at least on their faces, fancied as meritocracies. This finds its APEX in the USA, the land of the free willed agent who is separate from God. What would happen to the basis of our systems of oppression if we realized that meritocracies were based on the delusion of the knowledge of good and bad? What if that was actually the truth?

I believe that it is, and that makes the bible into something way more important than a spellbook for healing bad knees. It makes it into a nuclear bomb that destroys systems of oppression and exile through the truth of the way, non-judgment, emptiness of value, all as vanity, and the unconditional love which is the obvious consequence of that world view.

And as a caveat, of course, the highway in the desert from Isaiah 40:3 uses the term "arabah" which is where we get the term for the Arabian desert which lies on the straight way between Babylon and Jerusalem. The straight line goes right through that desert, and enslaved Hebrews were writing imaginative poetry about that desolate place, and it comes through beautifully there in that text. This is the standard interpretation of the source of Isaiah 40-55 as being derived from the period of Babylonian exile and in response to those immediate events, not as prophecy to future events.


The plain reading is supported in context

I'm not sure it adds anything to the plain reading to ask if "the way" is personified. While "The Way" is personified in that it is embodied in Jesus as the sole source of salvation, that meaning is already there in the plain reading. In context, Jesus is saying that he is "the way" to the Father, i.e. the way to be saved:

John 14:1-6 (NIV):

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus is talking about going to the Father to prepare a place for us, and that He'll come back for us, and that His disciples knew how to get Heaven, i.e. how to be saved. Thomas didn't understand what Jesus meant by this last part (Thomas was thinking in human terms and didn't understand yet that Jesus had to die for our sins), so Jesus clarified by saying that He (Jesus) is the way, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (Jesus), i.e. that He (Jesus) is the way to be saved.

So I'm not sure it adds anything to the plain reading meaning to ask if "the way" is personified.


So at lease from the word "The Way" itself G3598 - hodos as a metaphor "a course of conduct a way (i.e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding"

We definitely understand from Scripture that God will give Man (through Jesus) a New way of thinking, feeling and deciding. No long enslaved to a Sinful Nature but in enslaved to The Righteousness of Christ.

So Jesus being the Way is Jesus being The True Course or Conduct to God The Father.

  • So, would that give support to the personification interpretation? It seems that a person cannot literally be a 'true course', since a 'true course' is an abstract concept whereas persons are concrete objects.
    – matt2048
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 1:52

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