See W. J. Ong, Presence of the Word (1967).
Logos (Greek λόγος, logos) is an important term in philosophy, analytical psychology, rhetoric and religion. It derives from the verb λέγω legō: to count, tell, say, or speak. The primary meaning of logos is: something said; by implication a subject, topic of discourse, or reasoning. Secondary meanings such as logic, reasoning, etc. derive from the fact that if one is capable of λέγω (infinitive) i.e. speech, then intelligence and reason are assumed.
Its semantic field extends beyond "word" to notions such as "thought, speech, account, meaning, reason, proportion, principle, standard", or "logic". In English, the word is the root of "logic," and of the "-ology" suffix (e.g., geology).
Heraclitus established the term in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to rational discourse. The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the universe. After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos, through which all things are made. The gospel further identifies the Logos as God (theos).
This LOGOS holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this LOGOS, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (Diels-Kranz 22B1)
For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the LOGOS is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding. (Diels-Kranz 22B2)
Listening not to me but to the LOGOS it is wise to agree that all things are one. (Diels-Kranz 22B50)
Logos has many advantages:
Gordon Clark (1902 - 1985), a Calvinist theologian and expert on pre-Socratic philosophy, famously translated Logos as "Logic": "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God." He meant to imply by this translation that the laws of logic were contained in the Bible itself and were therefore not a secular principle imposed on the Christian world view.
The notorious question of how to translate logos is treated in Goethe's Faust, with Faust finally opting for die Tat ("deed/action").
The term Logos also reflects the term ''dabar Yahweh" ("Word of God") in the Hebrew Bible.
In his book, "Zero, the Biography of a Dangerous Idea." Charles Seife notes that the Greek word for 'ratio' was 'logos'. Thus the translation of John 1:1 reads: "In the beginning, there was the ratio, and the ratio was with God, and the ratio was God.
In Christianity, the prologue of the Gospel of John calls Jesus "the Logos". John's placement of the Word at creation reflects Genesis, in which God (Elohim) speaks the world into being, beginning with the words "Let there be light." The Greek text reads ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος., notably omitting the definite article in the second occurrence of θεος "god". Greek has no indefinite article, and θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος literally translates to "a god was the word" (the translation as a proper name, "God was the word" would strictly require ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος).
The construction in question is what is called a predicate nominative. In such constructions, the definite article is neither required nor appropriate because the most emphasized word in the clause is placed first as opposed to the subject. Thus ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος would be incorrect because the subject of the sentence is ὁ λόγος and the predicate nominative is θεὸς. The definite article is assumed because of the initial position of θεὸς in the clause as opposed to its predicate function. Furthermore, that ὁ θεὸς had already been used in the immediate context of the verse would provide more support that the θεὸς of the third clause in John 1:1 was the same as the ὁ θεὸς of the second clause.
Jerome's Vulgate translation is straightforward "In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum", since Latin has neither definite nor indefinite articles. The KJV has "the Word was God". Some scholars, however, disagree with this translation and the subsequent interpretation of the text. It should be noted that this objection is primarily associated with scholars from the Jehovah's Witnesses, and reflects the teaching of that group. Such translations render John 1:1 to state "and the Word was a god" rather than the more traditional "the Word was God." This translation is seen in Bible Versions such as the NWT, as well as several German translations.
|Translation A ("God")||Translation B ("a god")|
Ernst Haenchen, in a commentary on the Gospel of John (chapters 1-6), takes note of the absence of a definite article: After giving as a translation of John 1:1c "and divine (of the category divinity) was the Word," Haenchen goes on to state: "In this instance, the verb 'was' ([en]) simply expresses predication. And the predicate noun must accordingly be more carefully observed: [the·os′] is not the same thing as [ho the·os′] ('divine' is not the same thing as 'God')." Other scholars, such as Philip B. Harner elaborate on the grammatical construction found here (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87). Apart from Jehovah's Witnesses and some others, the understanding of the language of the original makes the "Word" emphatically "God," as the absence of the definite article makes the "Word" God by nature; ie, not 'a' god, but the Word was God.
Some scholars have suggested that John made creative use of double meaning in the word "Logos" to communicate to both Jews, who were familiar with the Wisdom tradition in Judaism, and Hellenic polytheism, especially followers of Philo (Hellenistic Judaism). Each of these two groups had its own history associated with the concept of the Logos, and each could understand John's use of the term from one or both of those contexts.
Early Christians who opposed the concept of Jesus as the Logos were known as alogoi.
Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the "Logos." It is faith in the "Creator Spiritus," in the Creator Spirit, from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a "sub-product," on occasion even harmful of its development or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal.
The Christian faith inclines toward this second thesis, thus having, from the purely philosophical point of view, really good cards to play, despite the fact that many today consider only the first thesis as the only modern and rational one par excellence. However, a reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the "Logos," from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.
Catholics can use logos to refer to the moral law written in human hearts. This comes from Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts." St. Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts (logos) follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person's heart. Though man may not explicitly recognize God, he has the spirit of Christ if he follows Jesus' moral laws, written in his heart. According to Fr. William Most's article for EWTN (Catholic television network), those who have the spirit of Christ belong to the body of Christ. He writes, "Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church."
The idea is similar to Apollinarism.
The Logos was also the name of a ship in The Matrix.
Anne Sexton refers to the Logos in her poem "When Man Enters Woman."
In the anime Gundam SEED DESTINY, Logos is the name of an organization that manipulates world politics.