Concerning The Logos

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Concerning The Logos

Kenneth H. Funk II


Quote:The Greek word -- transliterated logos -- which was used by John in the prologue to his gospel, is often translated as word. Taken literally, that meaning is problematic, for how could a mere word exist from the beginning of time? How could a word be God? And how could such a word become human, in particular, the man, Jesus Christ? To properly understand John's prologue and, in fact, to fully understand his gospel and the whole New Testament, one must know something of the interpretation a literate, first century citizen of the Roman Empire -- one thoroughly steeped in Greek philosophy and culture -- would attach to the term.
Literally, logos, did mean word. It could also mean utterance, speech, logic, or reason, to name but a few. Heraclitus of Ephesus, who lived in the sixth century, BC, was the first philosopher we know of to give logos a philosophical or theological interpretation. Heraclitus might in fact be called the first western philosopher, for his writings were perhaps the first to set forth a coherent system of thought akin to what we now term philosophy. Although his writings are preserved only in fragments quoted in the writings of others, we know that he described an elaborate system touching on the ubiquity of change, the dynamic interplay of opposites, and a profound unity of things. The Logos seemed to figure heavily in his thought and he described it as a universal, underlying principle, through which all things come to pass and in which all things share.

This notion of The Logos was further developed by Stoic philosophers over the next few centuries. The Stoics spoke of The Logos as the Seminal Reason, through which all things came to be, by which all things were ordered, and to which all things returned.

Perhaps the most extensive accounting of The Logos was by Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jew who lived around the time of Christ. Philo wrote allegories of Old Testament books authored by Moses, interpreting them in the light of Greek philosophy. He used the term, logos,refer more than 1300 times in his writings, in many varied ways. Of particular note are his references to The Logos as the Divine Reason, by participation in which humans are rational; the model of the universe; the superintendent or governor of the universe; and the first-born son of God. Although there is no direct evidence that John ever even read Philo, it seems clear that the concepts he articulated were firmly in the mind of the evangelist when he wrote his gospel.

The understanding of The Logos by an intended reader of the prologue to the fourth gospel may be summarized as follows.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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The Bible says that "By him (Jesus) all things were created"   How did he create all things?  Look at Genesis and we see that things were created when God spoke.  "Let there be light" etc.  Let's not try to understand logically, things that are too vast and deep for our human brains to conceive.  Jesus was the word (Logos) made flesh.  Or if you don't believe that, you might as well not believe anything else the Bible says.
I think that this ties in with what you were saying in the other conversation about the word spirit. I remember reading that both "spirit" and "logos" can reduce to the same meaning: the essence of God. 

Quote:spirit (n.)

mid-13c., "animating or vital principle in man and animals," from Anglo-French spirit, Old French espirit "spirit, soul" (12c., Modern French esprit) and directly from Latin spiritus "a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god," hence "inspiration; breath of life," hence "life ...

From late 14c. as "divine substance, divine mind, God;" also "Christ" or His divine nature; "the Holy Ghost; divine power;" also, "extension of divine power to man; inspiration, a charismatic state; charismatic power, especially of prophecy." Also "essential nature, essential quality." From 1580s in metaphoric sense "animation, vitality."

According to Barnhart and OED, originally in English mainly from passages in Vulgate, where the Latin word translates Greek pneuma and Hebrew ruah. Distinction between "soul" and "spirit" (as "seat of emotions") became current in Christian terminology (such as Greek psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus) but "is without significance for earlier periods" [Buck]. Latin spiritus, usually in classical Latin "breath," replaces animus in the sense "spirit" in the imperial period and appears in Christian writings as the usual equivalent of Greek pneuma.



Quote:Pneuma in its purest form can thus be difficult to distinguish from logos ...

Another Stoic concept which offered inspiration to the Church was that of 'divine Spirit'. Cleanthes, wishing to give more explicit meaning to Zeno's 'creative fire', had been the first to hit upon the term pneuma, or 'spirit', to describe it.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
(This post was last modified: 2021-08-11, 11:19 PM by Kamarling.)
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(2021-08-11, 11:15 PM)Kamarling Wrote: I think that this ties in with what you were saying in the other conversation about the word spirit. I remember reading that both "spirit" and "logos" can reduce to the same meaning: the essence of God. 
Isn't the Greek term, Sophia also a related concept?
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(2021-08-12, 01:26 PM)stephenw Wrote: Isn't the Greek term, Sophia also a related concept?

Without taking the time to look it up, I thought that Sophia was directly translated as wisdom? Perhaps there is a relationship there?

But it reminds me of a Van Morrison song (A Sense of Wonder):

Quote:On and on and on, through the winter of our discontent.
When the wind blows up the collar and the ears are frostbitten too
I said I could describe the leaves for Samuel and what it means to you and me
You may call my love Sophia, but I call my love Philosophy.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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