[loh-gos, -gohs, log-os]
Logos [Gr.,=word], in Greek and Hebrew metaphysics, the unifying principle of the world. The central idea of the Logos is that it links God and man, hence any system in which the Logos plays a part is monistic. The Greek Heraclitus held (c.500 B.C.) that the world is animated and kept in order by fire—this fire is the Logos; it is the power of order in the world and the order itself. It thus became the unifying feature of the Heraclitean system. The Stoics (see Stoicism) were influenced in part by Platonism and Aristotelianism in their conception of the Logos. To them God was immanent in the world, its vitalizing force, and God as the law guiding the universe they called Logos; with the additional idea that all things develop from this force, it is called the Spermaticos Logos. The Logos reappears in Greek philosophy in a much restricted form in the system of emanations of Neoplatonism. Certain books of the Old Testament present a principle called the Wisdom of God active in the world. At the same time there was a very ancient Hebrew idea of the Word of God, also active in the world. Thus the Wisdom and the Word of God, sometimes quasi-distinct from Him, coalesced. Philo, in his synthesis of Judaism and Greek thought, naturally hit upon the Logos as a union between the systems; hence his Logos retains qualities both of the Stoic Logos and the Hebrew Word of God. Philo's God is remote, unaffected by the world, without attributes, unmoving; hence He must have mediation to connect Him with the world. At times Philo's Logos is independent of God (because of God's remoteness); at other times the Logos is simply the Reason of God (because Philo's monism obliges God to act in the world through His mediating forces). St. John in his Gospel adapted the term to his purpose. In the prologue of 14 verses the idea of the Gospel is stated clearly and simply. The Logos, which is the eternal God, took flesh and became man, in time. The Logos is Jesus. The impersonal, remote God of Philo is not there; the intermediate Logos, neither God nor man, has been replaced by a Logos that is both God and man. This explanation of the relation of God and man became an abiding feature of Christian thought.

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).

Psychologist Carl Jung used the term for the masculine principle of rationality. A form of government where 'words' are the most important thing is called logocracy.

Uses in ancient Greek

In ordinary, non-technical Greek, logos had two overlapping meanings. One meaning referred to an instance of speaking: "sentence, saying, oration"; the other meaning was the antithesis of ergon ("action" or "work"), which was commonplace. Despite the conventional translation as "word", it is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; instead, the term lexis is used. However, both logos and lexis derive from the same verb λέγω. It also means the inward intention underlying the speech act: "hypothesis, thought, grounds for belief or action."

Use in ancient philosophy


The writing of Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BCE) was the first place where the word logos was given special attention in ancient Greek philosophy. Though Heraclitus "quite deliberately plays on the various meanings of logos", there is no compelling reason to suppose that he used it in a special technical sense, significantly different from the way it was used in ordinary Greek of his time.
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)

Aristotle's rhetorical logos

Aristotle defined logos as argument from reason, one of the three modes of persuasion. The other two modes are pathos, persuasion by means of emotional appeal, and ethos, persuasion through convincing listeners of one's moral competence. An argument based on logos needs to be logical, and in fact the term logic derives from it. Logos normally implies numbers, polls, and other mathematical or scientific data.

Logos has many advantages:

  • Data is hard to manipulate, so it is harder to argue against a logos argument.
  • Logos makes the speaker look prepared and knowledgeable to the audience, enhancing ethos.

The Stoics

In Stoic philosophy, which began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BCE, the logos was the active reason pervading the universe and animating it. It was conceived of as material, and is usually identified with God or Nature. The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos, ("logos spermatikos") or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo (20 BC - 50 AD), a Hellenized Jew, used the term logos to mean the creative principle. Philo followed the Platonic distinction between imperfect matter and perfect idea. The logos was necessary, he taught, because God cannot come into contact with matter. He sometimes identified logos as divine wisdom. He taught that the Logos was the image of God, after which the human mind (νοῦς) was made.Robertroberg (Robertroberg) 23:09, 5 October 2008 (UTC) He said the logos was: “ the archangel with many names -taxiarch” the expiator of sins, and the mediator and advocate for men. He said the Logos is a kind of shadow cast by God, having the outlines but not the blinding light of the Divine Being. The Logos as "interpreter" announces God's designs to man.” (Taken from the Jewish Encyclopedia). “The Logos is the first-born and the eldest and chief of the angels.”

Use in Christianity


Logos is usually translated as "the Word" in English Bibles such as the KJV.

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").

Some Chinese translations have used the word "Tao (道)".

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.

John 1:1

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")
  • 1808 "and the word was a god" — The New Testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop William Newcome's New Translation: With a Corrected Text, London.
  • 1864 "and a god was the Word" — Emphatic Diaglott (J21, interlinear reading), by Benjamin Wilson, New York and London.
  • 1935 "and the Word was divine" — The Bible—An American Translation, by J. M. Powis Smith and Edgar J. Goodspeed, Chicago.
  • 1950 "and the Word was a god" — New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (version of the Jehovah's Witnesses), Brooklyn.
  • 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.

    Christ the Logos

    Christians who profess belief in the Trinity often consider John 1:1 to be a central text in their belief that Jesus is the Divine Son of God, in connection with the idea that God and Jesus are equals.

    Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identified Jesus as the Logos. He portrayed Jesus not as "the Maker of all things" but as "the Angel of the Lord", subject to the Maker of all things.

    Early Christians who opposed the concept of Jesus as the Logos were known as alogoi.

    In Roman Catholicism

    On April 1, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who would become Pope Benedict XVI just over two weeks later) referred to the Christian religion as the religion of the Logos:

    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."

    Jung's analytical psychology

    In Carl Jung's analytical psychology, the logos is the masculine principle of rationality and consciousness. Its female counterpart, eros (Greek, love), represents interconnectedness.

    Similar concepts

    In modern philosophy

    Early 20th century movements towards specificity of operational definitions have developed an analog to logos in the concept of world view (or worldview) when used as Weltanschauung meaning a "look onto the world." It implies a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it. The German word is also in wide use in English, as well as the translated form world outlook. (Compare with ideology). Weltanschauung is the conceptualization that all ideology, beliefs and political movements are both limited and defined by this schemata of common linguistic understanding.

    Goethe has his Faust translate John's logos as "Will".

    The idea is similar to Apollinarism.

    Contemporary references

    Tangerine Dream named their 1982 live album Logos Live.

    Terrence McKenna often used the term Logos to refer to the voice one hears when under the influence of an entheogen.

    The Logos was also the name of a ship in The Matrix.

    In the MMORPG Tabula Rasa, Logos refers to a mysterious power.

    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.

    The episode "Bad Words" featured Logos, a fictitious example of the board game Scrabble.

    See also



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