views updated Jun 08 2018


LOGOS . The noun logos is as old as the Greek language itself. It has acquired, over the course of time, a large number of different meanings, which only with difficulty can be drawn into a simple unity. "Reason" is the translation that causes perhaps the least trouble, but "reason" itself is of course far from unambiguous. Perhaps it will help to carve up the vast semantic field covered by the word logos if the three principal meanings are distinguished, even though this entails considerable simplification. First there is an objective meaning: the rational ground or basis (Ger., Grund ) for something. This is often of a numerical or logical nature and functions as a principle of explanation. Second, there is a subjective meaning: the power or faculty of reasoning (Ger., Vernunft ) or thought. Third, there is what shall be called an expressive meaning: thought or reason as expressed in speech or in writing (the "speech" may be either vocalized or purely cerebral).

Stoic Views of Logos

No one of these three meanings is limited specifically to the study of religious thought and experience. One specific use of the word did, however, come to have pride of place in some of the philosophical schools of the ancient world, and especially among the Stoics. In these circles logos came to mean the rational order of the universe, an immanent natural law, a life-giving force hidden within things, a power working from above on the sensible world. This use of the word has obvious affinities with the first of the meanings listed above. Clearly we have to do here with the idea of rational ground or basis. There is, however, the obvious difference that we are dealing not with the rational ground of some one particular entity as distinct from some other, but with the cosmos as a whole. It is this extension in the scope of the word, an extension reaching out to embrace the confines of the universe, that gives to this particular use of logos a religious dimension. Hence the willingness of the Stoics to call this logos "God." Deeply embedded in the matter of the universe, God does not demand our worship, does not cry out for temples built by human hands. He does nonetheless call forth a theology, and he does stir in us a sense of piety; but theology and piety are centered on the cosmos.

The point to appreciate is that, for the Stoics, logos is associated with all the functions that are normally attributed to the divine. Logos is destiny and providence. Chrysippus, one of the founders of Stoicism, tells us for example that "it is in conformity with the Logos that what has happened, has happened, that what is happening, is happening, that what will happen, will happen" (Stoicorum veterum fragmenta 2.913). The Logos impregnates the world, from within, with its order and rhythm. The Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius (5.32.2) tells us that wisdom consists in coming to know "the Logos that extends through the whole of matter, and governs the universe for all eternity according to certain fixed periods." For all that, the Logos is not limited to controlling nature. "If there is any common bond between gods and men, it is because both alike share in the Logos, which Logos is the natural law" (Stoicorum veterum fragmenta 2.528).

Such were the theses upheld by the oldest of the Stoics, in the third century before the common era. Were these Stoics taking over an earlier set of ideas that had been worked out even before their time by Heraclitus of Ephesus toward the end of the sixth century? Heraclitus believed in the existence of a Logos common to all humans, shared by all, over and beyond their private thoughts, a Logos by which all things happen as they do, a Logos clothed with many of the attributes of divinity. There were, besides, many readers in the ancient world who thought that Heraclitus's Logos was close to the Logos of the Stoics and could therefore be taken as the first mapping out of the Stoic conception. On the other hand, one must remember how laconic are the very few quotations from Heraclitus on the nature of his Logos that have come down to us, and how very different are the meanings that can attach to the word. There can therefore be no certainty that the Logos of Heraclitus was really the principle guiding and underlying the universe that the Stoics were going to call by the same name.

It is certain, nevertheless, that of all the theological thinkers of pagan antiquity who made use of the idea of a Logos, the Stoics took the idea furthest and had the greatest influence. Although the great philosophers of the classical period made much use of the word logos, they did not attach to it a meaning capable of sustaining the same religious development. Nor can such development be traced in any of the later spiritual movements rooted in the tradition of Greek thought. Contrary to what one might have expected, the Neoplatonists gave only a very limited place to the Logos within the framework of their religious ideas. The Logos does not belong to the hierarchy of hypostases set up by Plotinus. In the Enneads there are only two short treatises, both called On Providence (3.2.3 [47, 48]), in which Plotinus plays with the idea, perhaps under the influence of Gnostic beliefs. Where Jewish and Christian speculative thinkers are to be found giving the word logos the full depth of its religious value, they, no less than their pagan counterparts, draw upon ways of thinking that are recognizably Stoic in origin.

Should we then look upon the Stoic philosophers as the fountainhead of the entire subsequent development of a theology of the Logos? Not quite: Stoic influence would hardly have been capable, without reinforcement, of stimulating such a profound development. But as it happened, the Stoic conception was joined by a new way of thinking that probably originated in the Near East and that encouraged people to see as independent and separate personifications what had hitherto been understood as different psychological aspects of a single divine being. What had been simply modes of the divine essence now came to be thought of as substances in their own right, each of which had issued from the divine by a process neatly epitomized in the title of a thesis presented by Helmer Ringgren: Word and Wisdom: Studies in the Hypostatization of Divine Qualities and Functions in the Ancient Near East (Lund, 1947). This same shift in thought is brought out by the Christian Tertullian in a treatise against the Gnostics (Against the Valentinians 4.2), in which he writes of the difference between Valentinus and his disciple Ptolemy. In the thought of Ptolemy, "the Aeons, each distinguished by its own name and by its own number, became personalized substances, characterized independently of God, whereas Valentinus had included them in the divine whole itself, and had taken them as thoughts, feelings and emotions of the divine." Earlier, Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.12.1) had written in a similar vein of the same Ptolemy's belief that there had issued forth from the Father Aeons that had earlier been thought of as mere "dispositions" (diatheseis ) of the Father.

The Logos should be seen as the chief of these dispositions. As the name itself testifies, it originally designated the divine reason before becoming a reality in its own right, distinct from God, and soon to be personified by taking on the characteristics of the Son of God. A parallel transformation into a hypostasis distinct from God was undergone by another divine faculty, Wisdom (Sophia). Both developments took place in the first two centuries of the common era, in the Hellenized Jewish circles of Alexandria, and reached their fullest expression in the works of Philo Judaeus (first century ce). The conceptual effort required by these transformations bears all the marks of Stoicism, but the change has been made on the basis of underlying doctrinal shifts. The personalized Logos, distinct from God insofar as accounted the Son of God, is far removed from the supreme principle immersed in matter that the Stoics called by the same name. A difference in terminology brings out just how far the idea has traveled: the "god Logos" of Stoicism has given way, more often than not, to the "Logos of God," or "divine Logos" (e.g., Philo, On the Maker of the World 5.20). This change takes on its full meaning when the Christian Origen contrasts his own belief with that of his adversary Celsus, who on this point can be taken for all intents and purposes as a Stoic. Origen writes as follows (Against Celsus 5.24): "The Logos of all things, according to Celsus, is God himself, whereas we believe that the Logos is the Son of God. In our philosophy it is he of whom we say: 'In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God' (Jn. 1:1)."

Logos and Wisdom

The theology of Wisdom is inseparable from the theology of the Logos. The theology of Wisdom stems from the Old Testament, where in Proverbs (8:2223) Wisdom speaks: "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth," and so on. Wisdom is plainly presented here as the first of God's creatures and as God's collaborator in the creation of all that was yet to be created. How Wisdom is to be thought of in conjunction with Logos may be gleaned from a Hellenistic Jewish text, the Wisdom of Solomon (9:19): "God of my fathers and Lord of thy mercy, thou who hast made all things in thy Logos, and who by this Wisdom has called forth man grant me the Wisdom seated by thy throne."

Jews and Christians have devoted much commentary to these two passages. Philo sees the Wisdom of Proverbs as the mother of the universe. In accordance with an obviously Stoic train of thought (Stoicorum veterum fragmenta 2.1074), she is held to have received from God the seeds (spermata ) of creation (On Drunkenness 8.3031; On the Cherubim 14.49). Elsewhere (Allegorical Interpretation 1.19.64; On Flight and Finding 20.109; On Dreams 2.37.245), she is identified in his eyes with the Logos, and either can be taken as typified by the manna from heaven in Exodus 16. These apparent inconsistencies in Philo's thought have a great deal to do with his allegorical exegesis. They also show how ideas of Wisdom and Logos became intertwined in the Judeo-Greek world of Alexandria. Things worked out differently, however, in the purely Jewish tradition, the tradition we speak of as Palestinian. The rabbinical commentators took Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22 to mean the preexistent Torah, conceived by them as being the plan according to which God had created the world.

The Christians of the second century exercised their minds on the same pages of the Bible and came up with conclusions that were not dissimilar. This, for example, is how Justin Martyr interprets the text from Proverbs, just before quoting liberally from it: "As a principle prior to all his creatures, God has called forth from himself a Power that is like a Logos [dunamin logikēn ]". He goes on to say that in different contexts, scripture calls this power Son, Wisdom, God, and Logos (Dialogue with Trypho 61.1, 129.34). But there is a difference, and one with important ramifications, in the way in which Philo and Justin quote from the same verse of Proverbs. Philo reads the text in a Greek translation that has Wisdom say: "The Lord, to whom I belong [ektēsato ], has made me the principle of his ways." But Justin, in common with other Christian writers of his day, follows another Greek translation, the so-called Septuagint, which rightly or wrongly gives the verse as: "The Lord has created me [ektise ]." One can hardly mistake the significance of the idea of creation that has thus been introduced into the passage.

Justin's aim, an aim that will be shared by the whole of ancient Christianity, is to read this verse from Proverbs in the light of the prologue to the gospel according to John, and so to see in Wisdom a prophetical foretelling of the Logos or the preexistent Son of God. But such an aim is not supported by the fact that Wisdom is said to be "created," which obviously could not be applied to the Son of God. This explains why Justin, as we just saw, abandons the idea of creation and adopts instead the idea of generation, an idea altogether more suited to describe the arrival of the Christian Word. Nonetheless, the idea that Wisdom had been "created" was a constant irritant, impeding any attempt at a syncretistic explanation of Wisdom as the Word. It is not until the fourth century that Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical Theology 3.2.14ff.) resurrects and insists upon the reading ektēsato that had been given by Philo of Alexandria, while Jerome, when he comes to translate the same word in his Latin version of the Hebrew scriptures, chooses the meaning of possessio and excludes the idea of creatio (see his Letter 140.6).

Shortly after Justin, the Christian Theophilus of Antioch takes up the association of the Logos and Wisdom and sometimes seems even to identify the two (To Autolycus 2.10, 2.22). In other passages, however, he distinguishes them (1.7, 2.8), while once (2.15) he uses a very striking formula to tell us of a triad made up of God, his Logos, and his Wisdom. It is tempting to see at this point a preliminary version of the doctrine of the Trinity, with Wisdom occupying the place of the Holy Ghost. The different ways that Theophilus has of expressing himself on the subject show, however, that the doctrine has not as yet really taken on definite shape in his mind. Not until Irenaeus, who never wavers in his identification of Wisdom with the Holy Ghost, does the idea of the Trinity become a consistent and self-conscious doctrine.

Seminal Logos

We can see here how, from the very beginning, the Christian theology of the Logos, or of the Word, was deeply rooted in the particular way in which theologians read and understood Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon in the cultural circles of Hellenistic Judaism. No less important was the influence that Stoicism exerted on these Jewish speculations, though its importance was of another kind. Stoicism provided the theoretical framework that made it possible for images and ideas drawn from scripture to take on definite doctrinal shape.

Take, for example, the Stoic idea of logos spermatikōs, seminal or spermatic logos. This was an idea that the Stoics had worked out to explain how every being contains within itself a principle of development suitable to itselfan idea that they applied to the individual beings within the cosmos as well as to the cosmos itself in its entirety. When applied to individual beings, the formula is used in the plural. We are told, for example, that God, "in looking to the birth of the world, holds within himself all the seminal logoi, according to which each thing is produced, as required by necessity" (Stoicorum veterum fragmenta 2.1027). We have already seen how Philo makes use of this way of thinking when he writes of Wisdom receiving from God the seeds of creation.

Justin is no less indebted to the same mode of thought, although the turn of ideas in his case is very different. Justin wonders how pagan philosophers and poets have been able to utter certain truths, despite their having had no access to the truths of revelation. He decides that it is "because of the seed of the Logos that has been implanted in the whole human race," with the difference that the pagans respond to only "a part of the seminal Logos," whereas the Christians' rule of faith is founded on "the knowledge and the contemplation of the whole Logos, that is, of Christ" (Second Apology 8.1, 8.3). The same Stoic concept underlies the thought of the Gnostic Ptolemy at about the same time (as reported by Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1.8.5): Ptolemy claimed that the Father, in the Son, had called forth all things seminally (spermatikōs ).

Inner Logos and Spoken Logos

Stoic psychology emphasized the lack of coincidence between the reasoning power, which rests within, and language, which gives outward expression to the powers of reason. Since the same word logos was used to designate both the power of reasoning and reason as expressed in speech, the difference came to be stated as a difference between two logoi. One might no less properly express this as a distinction between two types or states of language. A language within, or an inner language (logos endiathetos ), is then distinguished from a language that we have in common with talking birds, a language expressed in speech (logos prophorikos ). We should refrain, however, from giving too much importance to the significance that the Stoics themselves attached to this distinction, for the accounts of it are few and far between. Thus we find in Heraclitus, a commentator on Homer (first century ce?), the claim that if Hermes, god of the logos, is given double honors, "this is because language is double. The philosophers call one an 'inner' language and the other a 'spoken' language. The 'spoken' language is the messenger of the thoughts that pass within us, whereas the 'inner' language stays enclosed within the fastness of our heart" (Homeric Problems 72.1416).

From small beginnings, this Stoic way of thinking came to cut deep into the Christian theology of the Logos. No one threw himself with greater abandon into the description of the idea and its transposition into a Christian context than Theophilus of Antioch, at the end of the second century. In his treatise To Autolycus (2.2), he gives brilliant proof of the idea outlined earlier, according to which the Jewish and Christian Logos resulted from exteriorizing and personifying what had originally been God's own internal faculty of reflection. At first God is alone, and the Logos is quite simply God's weighing up of things within himself; then, when he wishes to create, God brings forth the Logos to be his instrument and his messenger. By cleverly cutting off the opening of the prologue of John's gospel, Theophilus is able to drum up a scriptural warrant for this Stoic representation of the two logoi. The evident weakness in the process lies in introducing into the condition of the Logos a kind of historical development that is ill-suited to the nature of the divine. Because Theophilus has taken over the movement ad extra by which the Stoics passed from the logos endiathetos to the logos prophorikos, the Word of God has to pass through two different and successive states, and it seems clear that his begetting, for all that it is the essential mark of his relation to the Father, belongs only to the second state.

The danger inherent in this view of the Trinity did not escape the eagle eye of Origen, who very neatly seizes upon it in a passage (De principiis 1.2.2) written around 230. By means of a subtle philosophical argument, proceeding by dilemma, he establishes that from all eternity God is, and always has been, the Father of his only Son.

Theophilus of Antioch probably best typifies the tendency that we have found in him. Yet he is by no means the only writer able to manipulate such ideas. In the second century and at the beginning of the third, almost all Christian theologians write of the Logos in a way that implies development: starting from a lack of distinction within the innermost being of God, they make the Logos "proceed" from out of God and take upon himself the work of creation. To be sure, only some of these authors deliberately and explicitly draw upon the Stoic model of the two logoi and cast their ideas in the technical terms of the theory; but they all have the same model in mind. One may quote Justin (Dialogue 61.2) and his disciple Tatian (Speech to the Greeks 5), and in the Latin-speaking world Tertullian (Against Praxeas 57) and finally Hippolytus of Rome (Against Noëtus 10; Refutation 10.33.115). Hippolytus virtually repeats the analyses given by Theophilus, although there are some differences of nuance: for example, Hippolytus splits in two the outward state of the Logos and sees therein a separate stage for the Word incarnate. Yet two noteworthy exceptions should be mentioned: Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis and even more so Irenaeus (Against Heresies 2.13.8, 2.28.5). His struggle against the Gnostics (who in practice shared the views of Theophilus and others) gave Irenaeus an additional reason for forcefully rejecting any assimilation of the generation of the Word with happenings related to the human Logos.

Irenaeus's negative approach won the day. The analogy with Stoic theory of the two logoi is heard of no more for a while, then reappears during the fourth century in the theology of the Word expounded by Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus. Both these writers were condemned and anathematized by synods in 345 and 351. The declaration of faith in 345 ran as follows: "But as for us, we know that Christ is not merely a Logos of God uttered outwardly or resting within [prophorikos ē endiathetos ]. He is the Logos God, living and subsisting of himself, Son of God, Christ" (Macrostich Formula of the third synod of Antioch, pt. 6, in August Hahn, Bibliothek der Symbole und Glaubensregeln der alten Kirche, 3d ed., Breslau, 1897, para. 159, p. 194). This conciliar statement had in any case been anticipated by Eusebius of Caesarea (De ecclesiastica theologia 1.17; 2.11; 14; 15), and was shortly to receive the approval of Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesis 11.10) and Athanasius (Speech against the Arians 2.35). Marcellus of Ancyra and Photinus, then, were fighting rearguard battle. In the dogmatic formula approved in 325 by the ecumenical council of Nicaea (the Nicene Creed), the word logos, which Eusebius had suggested, had already disappeared in favor of "Son of God" (Hahn, 1897, pp. 160161). This substitution obviously brought on the demise of the old Stoic ways of thinking that had been indissolubly linked to the term logos. Not until the fifth century, and then only in the Latin-speaking world, does one find, in the great trinitarian synthesis of Augustine, a new way in which the two states of human language (verbum quod intus lucet, verbum quod foris sonat ) can again be employed to mark out similarities with the divine Word; yet even then the comparison has to be handled with the greatest circumspection. Augustine differs from the theologians of the second century in holding that the spoken human word finds for its analogue not the begotten Logos seen against the background of its participation in creation, but the Word made flesh (De trinitate 15.10.1911.20).

Functions of the Logos

Philo of Alexandria, as well as the early Christians, confers upon the Logos a number of different functions. The chief of these can be described by three words: creation, revelation, mediation.

The idea of speech as creative is hardly likely to have arisen in Greece, where men thought instead in terms of an antithesis between the two nouns logos and ergon: the antithesis of talking and doing, of words and acts, of the lips and the heart. Quite other is the world of the Old Testament, where sentences abound such as those in Psalm 33:9: "For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." (See also Ps. 148:5, 42:15 et al.) Philo was especially struck by the fact that this temporal coincidence between the divine command and its effect was nowhere to be found in the culture of the Greeks: "At the moment that he speaks, God creates, and there is no gap in time between the two; alternatively one might say, if one wished to improve upon the truth of this opinion, that his Word was act [logos ergon ]" (On the Sacrifices of Abel and Cain 18.65).

This moment in Christian doctrine led naturally to giving the Logos (which is also the divine Word) a part in the creation of the cosmos. Its role was that of an instrument (organon ), and Philo takes care to distinguish between the instrument and God himself, who is cause, or aition (On the Cherubim 35.127). This is the same instrumental causality, a subordinate form of causality, that early Christians normally attributed to the Logos. The idea was nearly always expressed by the preposition dia with the genitive, and one should translate it (or at least understand it as meaning) "by means of," starting from John 1:3: "All things were made by the Logos."

Philo does, however, take the instrumental role of the Logos in a fairly wide sense and makes room for what the Greek philosophical tradition called the "exemplary cause" (which was distinguished thereby from the idea of instrument; see Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Ghost 3.5). An extract from the Allegorical Interpretation (3.31.96) makes clear how the Logos is at one and the same time instrument (organon ) and model (archetupos, paradeigma ). And Philo's analyses help us in turn to understand some later texts. Toward the year 177 Athenagoras, no different in this from other Christian writers of the time, writes that "God, by means of the Logos that comes from him, has called the universe into being, has set it in order, and keeps it beneath his governance" (Legatio 10). But a little later he adds, and indeed repeats, that "the Son of God is the Logos of the Father in idea and in act [en ideai kai energeiai ]." These final words would be shrouded in mystery, did we not recall the dual role that Philo assigned to the Logos in creation since, for Philo, the Logos is at one and the same time the ideal model and the agent of creation. At this point, therefore, the influence of Greek philosophy makes itself felt again in the thought of Philo and no less in that of Athenagoras. Thus a pagan contemporary of Athenagoras, the Platonist Albinus, will write of a principle that he calls the first Intellect: "its activity [energeia ] is itself idea [idea ]" (Didascalicos 10).

In the loose and widespread Platonism with which Jewish and Christian ideas of the time were saturated, the impossibility of an adequate knowledge of God was stressed. In such an intellectual climate the Logos inevitably took on a second function, whereby it became a means of revealing the Father to us. This idea becomes so commonplace that I shall only allude to it. There is, however, one very early noncanonical Christian writer who gives the idea a novel twist. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107) writes as follows (Letter to the Magnesians 8.2): "There is only one God, who makes himself known to us through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Logos who comes forth from his silence [logos apo sigēs proelthōn ]." Sigē (Silence) is a figure well known to us from the theogonies current in Simonian and Valentinian Gnosticism, where one of the first Aeonsthat is, one of the earliest emanationsis called by this name. Are we to conclude that Ignatius has drawn his inspiration on this point from the Gnostic theory of divine emanations, as Marcellus of Ancyra later did (according to Eusebius, Ecclesiastical Theology 2.9.4)? The possibility cannot be ruled out. But it is more likely that Ignatius made use of this gripping expression to describe how, when the Logos comes forward to reveal the Father, he breaks the silence that God had kept for ages past.

Entrusted from on high with the creation of the cosmos and the revelation of the Father, the Logos is in some ways closer to humanity than is the Father. The Logos stands on the borderline (methorios stas ), so to speak, between the Father and the human race, and so can play the part of a mediator. To God he offers the prayers and worship of mortal men, while to mortal men he gives the assurance of a divine help that will never fail them. That, at least, is how Philo shapes his ideas, sometimes applying these trains of thought deliberately and explicitly to the Logos (On Dreams 2.28.188189; On the Special Laws 1.23.116). But the role of mediator finds its fullest scope only in Christianity, where the incarnate Logos draws together and makes of itself a center for human and divine nature and is thereby in the ideal position to facilitate the communication of one nature with the other. There are some famous passages in Augustine that one could quote as answering exactly to this point (Confessions 7.18.24; City of God 9.1517). No less apposite, but less hackneyed, is the following quotation from Clement of Alexandria, where a flavor of baroque archaism results from his quoting Heraclitus: "Heraclitus was quite right to say: 'The gods are men, and men are gods. For the Logos is one and the same.' Light shines through this mystery: God is in man, and man is God, and the Mediator [mesitēs ] fulfills the will of the Father; for the Mediator is the Logos, which is the same for man and for God, at one and the same time Son of God and savior of men, God's servant and our Teacher" (Teacher 1.2.1).

The Christian Logos

With the rise of Christianity, old words and ideas became charged with a new meaning, and new wine was poured into old skins, with all the risks attendant upon such an enterprise, as we have already seen in our study of the Stoic theory of the two logoi. Some Christian authors take up with confidence and determination the earlier pagan prehistory of this idea and see therein a providential pattern mirroring sacred history itself: "Those who lived with the Logos are Christians, even if in their day they passed for atheists: among the Greeks, such are Socrates, Heraclitus, and their like; among the barbarians, Abraham, Ananias, Azarias, Misaël, Elijah, and many others." Such is the claim of Justin Martyr (First Apology 46.3), who revels in ferreting out from Greek philosophy and religion ideas that are compatible with the Christian Logos. He draws attention to Mercury, who was called the angelic word of God (22.2), and most of all to the world soul that Plato (Timaeus 36B) says is embedded in the universe in the shape of a cross or the Greek letter chi, a symbol for the cross of Christ (60.57).

This movement toward harmonizing pagan Greek and Christian beliefs, a movement that reflects a grandiose conception of the theology of history, did not keep early Christianity from becoming clearly aware of what, in its conception of the Logos, was most peculiarly its own. Thus the prologue to the Gospel of John shows a writer deeply aware of the historical background from which he has sprung (which included the Wisdom of Hellenistic Judaism and the Torah of Palestinian Judaism). But the prologue is also without peer in revealing the overriding importance given to the perfect coincidence between the preexisting Logos and the Jesus of history. Even so, in John, the personality of this Logos is taken as the known, and not spelled out, a point to which the early theologians will direct their efforts. Such, for example, is Justin's preoccupation when he writes against those (possibly Jews taking their lead from Philo) who believe that individuality of the Logos is no more distinct from that of the Father than light is distinct from the sun. In his Dialogue with Trypho (128.4, 129.34), Justin argues instead in favor of a distinction that is not merely nominal but a distinction of number. As proof, he takes his stand on the bringing forth of the Logos: for "what is brought forth is numerically distinct from him who brings forth; anyone must allow us that."

To be perfectly accurate, Justin does not write of the Logos as "numerically distinct," but as "other [heteros ] in virtue of number." In writing thus, Justin hit upon a word full of pitfalls, a word that could suggest the existence of two gods as well as a debasement of the Logos in relation to the Father. It could even suggest both ideas at once, as seen in another sentence from the same Dialogue, a sentence truly staggering in its lack of theological foresight: "There is, as has been said, another [heteros ] god and lord below the Creator of the universe the Creator of the universe has no other [allos ] god above him" (56.4). Perhaps Justin's pen has run away with him, forcing his ideas in a direction that he did not really intend. Others, whose thinking was really no different from his, will take much greater care in how they express themselves (e.g., Hippolytus, Against Noëtus 11). Origen himself will downgrade the Logos in calling it "second [deuteros ] god" (Against Celsus 5.39, 6.61, etc.) or again in writing "god" (theos ) without the article, whereas he calls the Father ho theos, "the God" (Commentary of Saint John 2.2.1318).

The analyses quoted above may seem oddly archaic in the light of later theology, but they lose a good deal of this quality if we take account of two points. In the first place, the expressions employed by Justin and Origen can already be found in Philo, whose use of them naturally occasions much less surprise. Thus Philo had used the presence or absence of the article to distinguish the "true" God from the Logos god (On Dreams 1.39.229230), and had marked out the Logos as being "the second god" (Questions and Answers on Genesis 2.62). Before Justin and Hippolytus, Philo sees in the Logos "another god" (ibid.). The second point to bear in mind is that the Platonist philosophers of the day also contribute to the movement toward giving the Logos only a diminished form of divinity. They refer regularly to a first principle or a first god, obviously implying the existence of a god of second rank. One such Platonist writer, Numenius (later than Philo but known to Origen), uses the term second god for the demiurge (fragments 11, 15, 16, 19). It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Christian theologians of the second and third centuries, even theologians of the caliber of Origen, were simply prisoners of the Zeitgeist when they came to see the Logos as a god of second rank. They were as yet unequipped with the conceptual apparatus that their successors were going to need so as to share, without loss of identity, the divine nature between Persons Three.

See Also

Archetypes; Hypostasis; Jesus; Kalām; Sophia; Torah.


Aeby, Gervais. Les missions divines de saint Justin à Origène. Fribourg, Switzerland, 1958.

Daniélou, Jean. Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, vol. 2 of A History of Early Christian Doctrine before the Council of Nicea. Translated by John A. Baker. London, 1973.

Harl, Marguerite. Origène et la fonction révélatrice du verbe incarné. Paris, 1958.

Hatch, Edwin. The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity (1888). Reprint, New York, 1957.

Holte, Ragnar. "Logos Spermatikos: Christianity and Ancient Philosophy according to St. Justin's Apologies." Studia Theologica 12 (1958): 109168.

Kretschmar, Georg. Studien zur frühchristlichen Trinitätstheologie. Tübingen, 1956.

Kurtz, Ewald. Interpretation zu den Logos-Fragmenten Heraklits. Spudasmata, vol. 17. Hildesheim, 1971.

Lebreton, Jules. Histoire du dogme de la Trinité des origines au Concile de Nicée, vol. 1, Les origines, and vol. 2, De Saint Clément à Saint Irénée. 6th ed. Paris, 19271928. This is an essential work for the study of the Logos doctrine in early Christianity.

Lebreton, Jules. "La théologie de la Trinité chez Clément d'Alexandrie." Recherches de science religieuse 34 (1947): 5576, 142179.

Orbe, Antonio. En los albores de la exegesis iohannea. Analecta Gregoriana, vol. 65. Rome, 1955.

Orbe, Antonio. Hacia la primera teología de la procesión del Verbo. 2 vols. Analecta Gregoriana, vols. 99100. Rome, 1958. The two works by Orbe are important for the study of the notion of logos in Gnostic traditions.

Prestige, G. L. God in Patristic Thought. London, 1952.

Rendel, Harris J. "Athena, Sophia and the Logos." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 7 (July 1922): 5672.

Ringgren, Helmer. Word and Wisdom: Studies in the Hypostatization of Divine Qualities and Functions in the Ancient Near East. Lund, 1947.

Wolfson, Harry A. "The Trinity, the Logos, and the Platonic Ideas." In his The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass., 1964.

New Sources

Bonetskaia, N. K. "The Struggle for Logos in Russian in the Twentieth Century." Russian Studies in Philosophy 40 (Spring 2002): 640.

Desjardins, Rosemary. The Rational Enterprise: Logos in Plato's Theaetetus. Albany, 1990.

Lee, Bernard H. Jesus and the Metaphors of God: The Christs of the New Testament. New York, 1993.

Montiglio, Silvia. Silence in the Land of Logos. Princeton, N.J., 2000.

Rauser, Randal. "Logos and Logoi Ensarkos: Christology and a Problem of Perception." International Journal of Systematic Theology 5 (July 2003): 133147.

Roochik, David. The Tragedy of Reason: Toward a Platonic Conception of Logos. New York, 1990.

Swearingen, C. Jan. Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literary and Western Lies. New York, 1991.

Wilcox, Joel. The Origins of Epistemology in Early Greek Thought. Lewiston, N.Y., 1994.

Jean PÉpin (1987)

Translated from French by Denis O'Brien
Revised Bibliography


views updated May 11 2018


The word Logos (λόγος) has various meanings in Greek: reckoning, account, explanation, reason, narrative, saying, term, word, etc. But it is the use of this word in the expression, λόγος θεο[symbol omitted], "Word of God," as employed in the Johannine writings of the New Testament, that makes it a term of prime theological significance.

1. In the Bible

For a better understanding of this term as used by St. John it is necessary to begin with a consideration of its similar usage in the works of philo judaeus, who preceded the author of the Fourth Gospel in the employment of this expression.

Logos in Philo. Like most of his thought, Philo's theory of the Logos was a combination of Biblical and Greco-philosophic themes. The developing poetical personification of the word of god in the Old Testament [cf. Ps 32 (33).4, 6; 106 (107).20; 147 (147B).15; Wisdom 18.1516] was the basis for his synthesis. This Biblical personification was augmented in the Targums of the post-Biblical period, works whose contents go back far into the Old Testament oral traditions. In these homiletically expanded translations of the Old Testament the term Memra (Aram. memrā, corresponding to Heb. dābār, "word") was often used as a synonym for the divine name Yahweh. Originally, this was intended to safeguard the transcendence of the divine name, especially when this was used in anthropomorphic contexts. [see anthropomorphism (in the bible).] Thus the Targum of Genesis 3.8 says that Adam and Eve, "heard the sound of the Memra walking in the garden." From this use of Memra for Yahweh's anthropomorphic seeing, hearing, feeling, becoming angered, etc., the Memra becomes a poetic intermediary between Yahweh and His people. The result is that from its usage as a word created to guard the divine transcendence, it becomes a term that intensifies the divine immanence. The Memra becomes God's instrument in creation and in history, and in the ruling of both. Here the theme of personified Word and personified Memra meet and unite. It is difficult to decide the exact line between poetics and metaphysics in these personifications.

Thus Philo would have found the poetic personification of the word (dābār ) of Yahweh not only in the Old Testament itself, but united with the rabbinical theories on the Memra in contemporary Judaic tradition. This supplied the Biblical stratum for Philo's theories on the Logos. The Greco-philosophic concept was a combination of the Logos of Heraclitus and the Stoics with the idea world of Plato; it is no wonder that the Logos theory of Philo defies organization into perfectly coherent unity.

Logos as Image of God. The Platonic thesis of the idea world was equated by Philo with the Logos. Plato considered the visible, sensible world an image (εκών) of the idea world (Timaeus 92); Philo knew from Genesis1.26 that man was created "according to the image" (κατ' εκόνα) of God and he took this to mean that man was the image of the Image (εκν εκόνος) of God. The Image, then, must be the Logos (De opificio mundi 25). This understanding of the Logos as Image of God seems to be accepted by Philo as a first principle, and this is his ordinary way of describing the relation of the Logos with God: "the Image of God is the Logos through whom the whole universe was framed" (De specialibus legibus 1.81); "the divine Logos is Himself the Image of God, chiefest of all beings intellectually perceived, placed nearest, with no intermediary distance, to the truly Existent One" (De fuga et inventione 101); "it well befits those who have entered into comradeship with knowledge to desire to see the Existent if they may, but, if they cannot, to see at least his Image, the most holy Logos" (De confusione linguarum 97). The Logos, then, is the Image of God; it is the personified divine Reason binding creation to the divine.

Logos Image as Wisdom. At times Wisdom (σοφία) seems greater than Logos (De fug. et inv. 109; legum allegoriae 1.65; 2.49; De somniis 2.242); at other times Logos seems superior to Wisdom (De fug. et inv. 97). In reality, however, Logos and Wisdom are but two terms for the same divine Reason as intermediary for creation (Leg. all. 2.86; De fug. et inv. 51, 101; De migratione Abrahami 40 and De som. 185; De fug. et inv. 109 and De cherubim 125127; De con. ling. 146 and Leg. all. 1.43). Logos is Wisdom, but this latter term is more "feminine" and can be used for divine Reason in a receptive role, e.g., as mother of creation (De fug. et inv. 109; Leg. all. 2.49).

Logos Image as Divine "Man." In an allegory on Genesis 42.11 Philo explains, "You have all enrolled yourselves as children of one and the same Father, who is not mortal but immortalGod's man, who being the Logos of the eternal" (De con. ling. 41). In another allegory, on Zechariah 6.12, he identifies the "man" with "the Incorporeal One who differs not a bit from the divine Image" (ibid., 62). Thus the Logos who is the Image of God, the personified divine Reason (νο[symbol omitted]ς), can also be called Wisdom (σοφία) and Man (νθρωπος), divine Man.

Logos Image and the World. The same Logos who is Image (εκ[symbol omitted]ν) with regard to God is Model (παράδειγμα) in relation to the sensible world (κόσμος). The Platonic theory that the sensible world is the visible image of the idea world (De con. ling. 172) is incorporated into Philo's synthesis by the equation of the Logos and the idea world: "the world discerned only by the intellect is nothing else than the Word of God when He was already engaged in the act of creation" (De op. mun. 1525). Thus, for Philo, the material universe is the image of the Logos, which is itself the Image of God.

Logos Image and Mankind. Since the world is the image of the Logos, what of man who is himself part of this world? Man has reason (νο[symbol omitted]ς), whereby he is a very special part of the universe. This reason of man's, "which is in the true sense and full sense man, is the image of the Logos, the cast, as it were, of the Image of God" (Quis reum divinarum Heres 23031; cf., De fug. et inv. 68; De op. mun. 69). Whatever the term used for man's reason, whether νο[symbol omitted]ς, or λόγος, or Ψυχή, or some of their derivatives, it is always through this faculty that man is the image of the Logos (Quod det. pot. insid. sol 8284; De fug. et inv. 69; Quis rer. div. Her. 234; De mutatione nominis 223; De spec. leg. 1.171; Leg. all. 3.95; De spec. leg. 1.81; 3.207; De plantatione 5). It is here that Philo's Biblical conceptions seem to break through his philosophical framework. At times the Logos intermediary fades from the picture and man becomes directly the Image of God by himself (De spec. leg. 3.207; De somniis 1.74; Quod. det. pot. insid. sol 8283; De decalogo 134). It should be noted that this is never said of the world itself, but only of man.

For Philo, then, the Logos is the poetic personification of divine Reason, the Image of God. Logos is also termed, at times, divine Wisdom and divine Man. The sensible world is the image of the Logos as the creational mind of God, but this point is not too fully developed by Philo; it was possibly too un-Biblical. Finally, man, through his reason, is the image of the Logos, which is divine Reason; it is reason that makes man most perfectly and fully man. Philo's Biblical heritage, however, often makes him ignore the Logos's role in this last point, and he speaks of man as the Image of God Himself.

Logos in St. John. The term Logos appears as a technical term in the Johannine writings. Leaving aside the detailed problems of authorship, it will be here presumed that Revelation, 1 John, and John stem from the same theological mentality and may be studied together.

Logos in Revelation 19.13. The general context of this passage is the eschatological judgment (19.1121;20.715) and salvation (21.122.5) of mankind. The judgment is shown as a battle (19.1121; 20.710), after which sentence of condemnation is passed on the vanquished evildoers (20.1115). In this battle the forces of the just are led by a Rider on a white horse among whose many names is that of "The Logos of God." This vision is of Christ as the eschatological Victor and Judge. It is obvious that the title Logos in such a context owes nothing to Philo. It is also clear from the description of the Rider in Revelation 19.1116 that the seer bases his vision on the Old Testament conception of the Logos of Yahweh as an avenging force in history. The destruction of Egypt, whereby Israel was liberated from bondage (Ex 12.23), was later described (Wisdom 18.1416) as a visitation of the wrathful Logos of Godthe Logos as sword of Yahweh (see also Rv 19.15 and 1 Chr 21.16). Thus, the Old Testament theme of God's judgment and God's visitation in wrath (Is 11.4; Ps 2.9) is here given to the Logos as eschatological Victor and Judge. The Logos of God exterminates the unjust.

Logos in 1 John. The problem of chronological sequence of 1 John and John is still disputed; for the present purpose, it is presumed that 1 John preceded John. The prologue of the Epistle describes Christ as the "Logos of life." This sudden and unexplained title probably means that the first readers of 1 John were already familiar with the oral catechesis that lay behind the later writing of John 1.118. In Deuteronomy the Law was preached as a source and way of life, and at times it was simply termed "the word" (dābār: 4.12; 32.47). The revelation of Yahweh in the Law was the word that gave life to Israel; so 1 John sees the incarnate Christ as the full and perfect revelation and communication of divine life to mankind (1 Jn 1.2; 5.20; Jn 14.6; see also Jn 1.17). The Logos of God vivifies the just.

Logos in John 1.118. In his magnificent prologue John mentions the Logos four times under this title; the term is used here without any genitival qualifications. The functions of the Logos as eschatological avenger (Revelation) and as revelatory vivifier (1 John) are here overshadowed as the Logos appears in the fullness of both being and function.

In the Old Testament the hymns to personified Wisdom in the sapiential literature followed a three-point schema: Wisdom was with God from all eternity; Wisdom was with God at creation; Wisdom has come down with gifts to mankind (Prv 8.2235; Sir 1.135; 24.531; Wis 9.912). In John 1.118 the Logos is described in this same pattern except that it is done in inverse parallelism: the Word with God (12, 18); the Word at the old and new creation (3, 17); the gifts that the Word brings to men, centered on divine sonship through the Incarnation (416). But despite the Wisdom framework, John terms Christ the Logos and not the Wisdom of God. In this, John is reverting to the earlier word-of-Yahweh theology of the Old Testament while including in the term all the activity in creation and history attributed to Wisdom in the sapiential books.

The Logos appears immediately as eternal, already existing when God came to create the world. He was both distinct from the Father ("with God," where the divine name has the definite article, θεός) and yet one with God ("was God," where God, θεός, lacks the definite article). The Logos's preexistent divine being is at the height of the descent that terminates in the Logos becoming flesh and giving to the people of God a new Tent in which the divine can dwell (1.14).

Logos in Philo and in St. John. One can hardly state that John did not know the thought of Philo on the Logos; yet it is equally difficult to show any real dependence on it or influence from it. The two syntheses described above have their common roots deep in Biblical and rabbinical thinking on the word and the Memra of God, and this is sufficient to explain their similarities. Their differences arise from the fact that Philo depends on Plato to help him develop the theme of the Logos, whereas John develops the theme from what the Spirit reminds him concerning what he had heard, seen, and felt of the Logos become flesh.

Bibliography: philo judaeus, Philo, tr. f. h. colson and g.h. whitaker, 10 v. (Loeb Classical Library; London-New York-Cambridge, Mass. 192962). É. brÉhier, Les Idées philosophiques et religieuses de Philon d'Alexandrie (2d ed. Paris 1925). m. e. boismard, St. John's Prologue, tr. Carisbrooke Dominicans (Westminster, Maryland 1957). j. starcky, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot et al. (Paris 1928) 5:46575, 47996. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 136468.

[d. m. crossan]

2. Theology of

Because it is decidedly Trinitarian in its historical and logical implications, the present question is intimately connected with christology as well (see god [son]). By way of an introductory definition, the latter may be taken to designate a particular way of understanding and expressing the reality-activity of Jesus of Nazareththis in terms of a definite function attributed to Him; in the present case, that of Logos, or Word. To view Him in such a perspective is to adopt a frame of reference that was originally Biblical, however much it may have been developed in the course of subsequent Christian thought. Consequently, the proclamation of Jesus as the preexisting, divine, creative Logos on the part of the postapostolic Church had its source not directly and certainly, not exclusively in Hellenistic philosophy but rather in the Jewish-Christian Scriptures. The development of this faith and its understanding in the long ages of meditation on the mystery of God's Word is the subject under consideration here; in other words, the theology of the Logos in the postapostolic Church.

Precondition. The diversity found in the ways Jesus is presented in the New Testament is a fact. One of those Christic theologiesindeed a most important oneis that of the Logos. Preexistent and intimately related to the Father eternally; divine; the Guide or Word of all creation; incarnate among men in timesuch is Jesus as Logos according to the Scriptures, especially in the Johannine corpus (Jn ch. 1; 1 Jn ch. 1).

Faith in Jesuswhich was also faith concerning Jesuswas formulated in diverse, if mutually compatible, ways within the New Testament, that of the Logos being numbered among them. In view of this, one might consider antecedently probable the occurrence of a similar situation in later times as well. Such was in fact the case.

Of relevance here are such efforts insofar as they terminated in new modes of presenting the Logos doctrine and its implications. These were attempts on the part of individuals or the magisterium to express the same Biblical faith concerning Jesus in terms more immediately familiar to men of post-Biblical times. Implicit in the whole phenomenon were a consciousness and conviction on the part of the Church. It was aware that its mission to preach the one gospel of and concerning Jesus to all men would entail retaining its truth undiluted, though adapted to vastly different mentalities. The Church also came to the conviction that professing the faith in union with all other believers no more involved the necessity of adopting a particular philosophical system than it involved the necessity of conforming one's eating habits to certain dietary prescriptions of the Mosaic Law.

Realization as Continuation. A most noteworthy characteristic found in the early theology of the Logos was that it involved the homogeneous development of a Biblical truth. If in the New Testament Jesus as Logos had truly transcendent qualities, He was nevertheless presented as very much endowed with a cosmic function at once illuminative and productive (see word, the). His preexistence with the Father was clearly asserted, but even more in focus were the implications this had regarding the entire universe in its relation of dependence on Him. In this, the scriptural perspective was one of transient or functional interpersonalism. It was this aspect that was elaborated further when Christian apologists came into contact with an intellectual milieu concerned with a logos as the explanation of all order and rationality in the world.

Striking evidence of this is present in the ideological connection they made between the creative word of Elohim in the first chapter of Genesis and Jesus as Logos in the prologue of the Fourth Gospel [Theophilus of Antioch, Autol. 2.10, Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 6:1066; Tatian, Orat. 5, Patrologia Graeca 6:814818; Justin, Dial. 61, Patrologia Graeca 6:614615; Justin, 2 Apol. 6, Patrologia Graeca 6:454; Tertullian, Adv. Praxean 5, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 47:23233; Clement of Alexandria, Str., Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Stählin) 461; Clement of Alexandria, Str., Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 451; Origen, Hom. 1 in Gen. 1, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Baehrens) 6.1:110]. The grammatical and exegetical presuppositions this involved were commented on by later Fathers too (Hilary, Tract. in Psalm. 2, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 22.2:39; Jerome, Liber heb. quaest. in Gen. 1.1, Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 67: 3).

It was a common thing for such writers to distinguish between the eternal reason or mental word of God and its external utterance (Theophilus in the place cited; Justin in the place cited in the Dial.; Tertullian in Adv. Praxean 68, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 47:233 and following; Hippolytus, Noët. 10, Patrologia Graeca 10:818). Here one cannot but note the definite resemblance with the λόγος νδιάθετος-προφορικός of contemporary philosophy, particularly Stoicism. The immanent procession of the Logos in the Godhead and His temporal mission are closely connected; the creativeredemptive οκονομία is not divorced from that within the Deity. If the unified picture thus obtained is a decided advantage, there is a difficulty as well. Saving cosmic process threatens to become a necessary element in the divine origin of the Logos. Such theological endeavors were not enthusiastically received by all even at the time (Irenaeus, Haer. 2.28.6; Harvey 1:355).

In effect, these efforts to describe the origin of the Logos from the Father were motivated by a desire to win a sympathetic hearing for the faith. Despite its mysterious character, the doctrine of Jesus as Logos was not without any affinity with elements of non-Christian thought prevalent at the time. There was a willingness on the part of the Fathers in question to search out examples or images from daily life to show that the origin of the Logos from God the Father ( θεός) was not totally unlike anything man could encounter in the world of his experience. In this way one understands better the intention behind their use of such images as the origin of the external word by which man expresses one already in his mind and also the case of the fire giving rise to another without diminution on its own part.

To put it another way, these Fathers used natural analogues to illustrate one aspect of the Jesus-Logos professionHis distinction from the Father and His creativeilluminative-redemptive relation to the world from the very beginning. Examples from the realm of created being could not but limp when applied to the clarification of a mysterious communication of life from Father to Son-Logos in the Godhead. In this case, the distinction between an eternal word in the mind of God and one uttered in time could be understood to make the Logos temporal in the strict sense and therefore not equal to the Father. Such a procedure errs on two counts.

First, it attributes to the writers in question the intention of doing a great deal more than offering helps to understand the meaning and implications of the faith concerning Jesus-Logos. It assumes they thought they had discovered the real equivalent of this mystery in the everyday life of man. There is not the slightest indication that this was the case; they distinguished between this faith and their attempts to render it more intelligible [Justin, Dial. 48, Patrologia Graeca 6:579, 582; Tertullian, De praescr. haer. 7.1213, Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 1:193; Origen, Princ., praef., 24, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Koetschau) 5:810]. Second, it also takes for granted that these Fathers, besides considering their examples completely adequate, saw as well and immediately the consequences to which the latter would lead. In this case that would amount to the temporal generation of the Son, or utterance of the Word. Such a view is clearly anachronistic.

It also overlooks the fact that these same authors insisted on the Word-Son's equality in dignity with the Father [Justin, 1 Apol. 63, Patrologia Graeca 6:426; Athenagoras, Leg. 10, Patrologia Graeca 6:907, 910; Theophilus, Autol. 2.22, Patrologia Graeca 6:1087; Origen, Princ. 5, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Koetschau) 5: 10]. In other words, neither of the two Biblical poles indicating the mystery of Christ as Logos was forgotten. It was very difficult to find the formula to express both simultaneously; emphatic assertion of one seemed to exclude the other. The distinct character of the Logos-Son was presented by use of such examples; His divinity was not for that fact being questionedat least according to the intent of the authors involved. It may be another question to ask whether there is objective compatibility between the assertion that the Word is not fully generated as Son until time begins and that He is nevertheless always God in the full sense. The way one understands what is meant by God will have much to do with determining the answer. It has been suggested that a philosophical theory of participation (the Logos being God by sharing in the Father's substance) and an intellectual attitude at once realist and acritical (permitting partial appropriation of the divine reality by the Word-Son) may have influenced men such as Origen and Tertullian respectively in the systematic replies they gave [B. Lonergan, De Deo Trino 1: Pars dogmatica (Rome 1964) 4548, 5462, 93]. One thing is sure: this era of Christian thought included efforts to achieve a limited understanding of the Biblical doctrine of the Logos as dependent on the Father. Involved was a willingness to use a non-Biblical distinction between immanent word in God's mind and Son or Logos arising fully with reference to creation. Nor is there any doubt that in the minds of those who so reasoned, this was compatible with asserting the transcendence-divinity of the Word.

Realization as Diversity of Perspective. Even in noting the definite continuity the postapostolic theology of the Logos has with the Biblical presentation, one sees that marked differences have appeared as well. The most obvious is this: a growing preoccupation with preexistence. This was definitely among the Biblical data, but there the reason for its introduction was the central, temporal function of the Word. It was almost as if to say that what the Logos incarnate does for man in time is only one part of the truth; that with the Father He has actually been preparing for this from all eternity. That prior state of existence becomes very much the center of attention as Christian reflection on the mystery increases. This was a logical development; it is perfectly understandable that in a culture very much concerned with the supertemporal, the pretemporal aspect of Christ would come sharply into focus.

To put this more concretely, the contrast between the relation of the Logos to the Father and that of other realities (τ πάντα) to the same Father became an object of direct concern. That such a contrast exists and is Biblical, there can be no doubt. How it is to be accurately expressed is something else. Sooner or later someone was bound to ask the question whether Jesus in His preexistent state was God or creature in the strict sense. If the first, then the Logos might seem to be no more than another name for the Father (modalism), and no real dependence of Jesus on the Father could antedate the Incarnation. Then, too, it would be the Father who suffered (patripassianism), or else merely the man Jesus, no more a son than the rest of His followers (adoptionism). But if the second, then assertions that before His human birth He was as Logos equal to the Father would appear to be mistaken piety and in reality blasphemous. Such a mode of considering Jesus-Logos was expressed most explicitly and forcibly in the 4th century by arius (see arianism). One major difficulty was that he and his followers accepted the entire New Testament. This made it difficult for bishops such as Alexander and later St. athanasius to show them that asserting the creaturehood of the Logos was at variance with the apostolic faith.

Frustrated and not entirely happy with the alternative such circumstances forced them to accept, the Catholic bishops at the Council of nicaea i introduced into the structure of a preexisting creed elements asserting the divinity of the Son. He is begotten and not made (in counterdistinction to the invisible beings proposed as made by the Father), originating from the latter's own being and not from something else or from nothing, consubstantial[H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 12526; cf. Ortiz de Urbina, El símbolo niceno (Madrid 1947) 2561]. No one can deny that this dogmatic formulation deals with an aspect of the mystery of Jesus as Logos; nor can there be serious question that it views His preexistence in a new frame of reference. The assertions of the Creed of Nicaea I were made contingently in history because of the Arian challenge. They would, however, have been true of the Logos-Son in relation to the Father whether or not there was ever a world to create, sustain, redeem. This is a definitely new turn in the exposition of the Logos doctrine.

Nature of the Development in Question. The aim of the present study is not to discuss the nature of dogmatic development in general. Still, to ask what precisely took place in this transformation is hardly something indifferent in a consideration of Logos theology.

The first thing is that the progress from the Bible to Nicaea I cannot be reduced to one of deducing a conciliar conclusion from scriptural premises. That is not to say that any laws of deductive reasoning are violated; they are not. But the phenomenon in question was simply not an example of that sort of thought process. This should be clear from the fact that the assertion that would serve as conclusion (conciliar definition of consubstantiality) views Jesus as Son-Logos in a very different frame of reference than is the case with strictly Biblical premises. This would be very much like having four terms in a syllogism. To put it more concretely, the Bible sees Jesus as Logos related to the Father before timeHis divinity appears there insofar as He is, in His activity, on the Father's side of the dichotomy between God and τ πάντα. In terms of creative function rather than strict metaphysical identity of nature, He is associated with the Father. To speak of a unity of being involving consubstantiality may very well be an equivalent way of stating this doctrine. It is not, however, to remain within the Biblical perspective or frame of reference, nor is it to come to a logical conclusion from two strictly Biblical premises. It is to see the compatibility of what is said about Jesus in relation to the Father in the scriptural exposition with that which the Council of Nicaea I asserts. The former is in terms of function regarding men and their salvation; the latter deals rather with being in a manner that more closely approximates the systematic and metaphysical.

Clearly a cultural transformation is involved as well. The Semitic becomes Hellenistic. Still the relation of the Logos to the Father was created by neither though variously expressed by each. It was presupposed by both and was there to be formulated in different but non-exclusive ways. The development in question implied more than a change from one culture to another. Consequently, the truth communicated by both will remain when they have left no more than traces of themselves in human history. When man in a religion based on a real divine revelation attempts to theologize, he makes use of the cultural instruments within his reach. What happened in this case was that a Greek culture served to express the answer to a question inspired by a Greek mentality about a revealed relation between Logos and Father. That there are abundant traces of the Hellenistic Weltanschauung in the reply should come as no surprise. One has only to recall that recourse to such a mode of thought and expression was had by the Church because a real question about the faith did not seem to be answerable otherwise at the time.

In comparing the doctrine of Jesus as Logos-Son in Bible and conciliar documents of the 4th and 5th centuries, it may serve a useful purpose to say that the same relation is viewed from two different perspectives. In the first the mode of presentation is concrete and historical; the other is systematic, abstracted from and contrasted to cosmic process, and much closer to what could be termed logical-metaphysical. This is by no means to imply that the transit from the first to the second was from the imperfect to the perfect. It is simply asserted that the transit was required at the time to make the Christian message concerning Jesus as Logos relevant, or so at least it seemed to the principals involved. That introduced theological considerations as well as articles of faith.

Nor is it in any way indicated that the prior mode may not in other circumstances be called for in doctrinal pronouncements. If many subsequent examples of the latter imitated the method introduced at Nicaea I (Enchiridion symbolorum 150, 25051, 30102, 426), no one can deny (prescinding from the question of definitions) that Vatican Council II in the first chapters of its constitutions on the sacred liturgy and Church treated of Christ as Son and Logos in a way far more akin to the Biblical than to that of these earlier Councils [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 5, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 56 (1964) 99; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church 25, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 57 (1965) 58].

Strictly Theological Consequences. The previous consideration involved a theology of the Logos that was formulated pari passu with a development of faith. There was, however, as well, a development of Logos-theology that did not find for itself a definitive approbation of the Church in a doctrinal pronouncement. It rather dealt with scriptural, patristic, and magisterial expressions of the faith and sought to unify them for the purpose of their assimilative understanding. This attempt characterized the Middle Ages in western Europe. It had its inspiration in Augustine's notion that man is the image of God insofar as he has in his psychological life created representations of the Trinitarian processions of knowledge and love (Trin. 12.6.6, 15.11.20; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 42:1001, 1072).

The doctrinal data concerning the LogosHis origin by way of generation; His reality as a relation opposed to paternity and passive spiration; His personal character; His ability to be sent temporally into the world seem often to be merely juxtaposed in the Scripture and magisterium. Medieval theologians made an effort to see these aspects of the mystery as one unified whole (cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a, 2744). This involved a theologizing that started out with the hypothesis that something not altogether unlike the human process of knowing was found in the Trinity. In the light of it the data in question fell into an intelligible pattern. Thus, reflection on the faith concerning Christ as Logos led to the discovery of something with regard to theological method in general. In confrontation with the certainty of Christian faith, theology has the function not merely of repeating old formulas (however true and authentically guaranteed) and of searching for new ones, but also to see the old and new as interrelated and forming one intelligible whole. This shows that theology at least under one of its aspects is a science far more like the natural ones than has often been suspected.

If contemporary theology has turned, like the magisterium itself in Vatican Council II, to a consideration of the Logos in salvation history, modern concerns have made themselves felt in the process. Distinct personal relations to the Logos, Spirit, and Father in the just are one [see P. de Letter, SJ, "The Theology of God's Self-Gift," Theological Studies 24 (1963) 40222]. Another is the question of divine consciousness in the Word [see jesus christ (in theology) (special questions),10]; this is closely connected with inquiry concerning the new aspect of perfection that the revelation of the Logos within the Godhead opens to man [B. Lonergan, SJ, De Deo Trino 2: Pars systematica (Rome 1964) 18693, 20815]. Finally, the question has been raised as to whether assuming that any Divine Person could have become man does full justice to the implications of the fact that only the Son-Logos did [K. Rahner, SJ, "Natur und Gnade," Fragen der Theologie Heute (Zurich, Cologne 1958) 21819].

See Also: consubstantiality; filiation; generation of the word; jesus christ in theology; nicene creed; processions, trinitarian; son of god; jesus christ, articles on; trinity, holy, articles on.

Bibliography: c. huber, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 6:112528. j. barbel, Christus Angelus (Bonn 1941). o. cullman, Die Christologie des Neuen Testaments (Tübingen 1957), tr. s. c. guthrie and c. a. m. hall (rev. ed. Philadelphia 1963). a. grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, tr. j. s. bowden (New York 1965). k. rahner, "Chalkedon: Ende oder Anfang?," a. grillmeier and h. bacht, Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3 v. (Würzburg 195154) 3:349. p. mcshane, "The Hypothesis of Intelligible Emanations in God," Theological Studies 23 (1962) 54568.

[c. j. peter]


views updated May 18 2018


The Greek term logos is multiply ambiguous. The unabridged Greek dictionary gives five and a half long columns of definitions and examples. Logos is a noun corresponding to the verb legein (say), signifying, among other things, speech, statement, sentence, account, definition, formula, calculation, ratio, explanation, reasoning, and faculty of reason. Early studies of the term tended to talk about a concept of logos, as if there were some single concept or theory associated with it. In fact, the term was employed in different ways by different thinkers. Yet, there is a kind of interplay in concepts associated with the term that makes a single study worthwhile.

Scholars sometimes speak of a change from mythos to logos ; roughly, a transition in expression from storytelling in myths, usually expressed in poetry, to scientific, philosophical, or historical accounts, usually expressed in prose. Philosophers of the sixth century BCE were among the first Western writers to compose treatises in prose. The new medium of expression permitted a more analytic and detached view of things, and it embodied a revolution in thinking about the world. Although logos (plural: logoi ) could signify a story, increasingly logoi were taken to be scientific accounts in contrast to mythoi "stories" and epea "verses" (see Plato Timaeus 26e). But for the sophists, a mythos can be used to express a logos (Plato Protagoras 320c)but only insofar as logos is seen as a more basic kind of explanation.

The Presocratics

Logos soon came to signify something of the content of rational discourse as well as the medium, and it is this sense, or set of senses, that this entry will focus on. Heraclitus (c. 500 BCE) was the first philosopher to raise logos to the level of a principle. He opens his book by saying, "Of this Logos 's being forever do men prove to be uncomprehending, both before they hear and once they have heard it. For although all things happen according to this Logos they are like the unexperienced experiencing words and deeds such as I explain when I distinguish each thing according to its nature and show how it is" (fr. 1). Heraclitus's logos can be shared with people, and indeed he explicates it in his own treatise; but he anticipates that most people will fail to understand the message. "Although this Logos is common," Heraclitus writes, "the many live as if they had a private understanding" (fr. 2). Somehow the logos is publicly available but ignored by the many, who lack philosophical insight. The logos has a particular message, or implication: "Listening not to me but to the Logos it is wise to agree that all things are one" (fr. 50). Heraclitus regards the logos as transcending his own personal communication, and teaching the unity of things.

Heraclitus's logos is a kind of structural principle as well as a message, a reciprocal law of exchange. It has a kind of syntax like language that orders the changes of the world. Heraclitus plays with statements that are syntactically ambiguous, as if to show that the same words can make different statements, which at another level complement each other. So the world is based on a single structure that manifests itself in contraries. Language provides a model for the world.

In the early fifth century BCE, Parmenides presented an argument against change, in the form of a revelation from a goddess. Yet the goddess tells the narrator, "Judge by logos the contentious refutation spoken by me" (fr. 7). Here logos seems to mean something like reasoning, which clearly becomes the key to philosophical truth. For, despite the religious imagery and associations of his poem, Parmenides's message is above all an argument addressed to the reason.

In the latter half of the fifth century BCE the sophists traveled about Greece teaching practical skills to help young men succeed in politics and, above all, the art of public speaking. They saw a knowledge of logos and especially, for them, the spoken wordas the key to controlling emotions and hence the reactions of audiences to a message. As Gorgias observed, "Logos is a great potentate, who by means of the tiniest and most invisible body is able to achieve the most godlike results" (fr. 11, section 8). Sophists composed contradictory arguments (antilogikoi logoi ) on a single topic to teach skill in argumentation, and sometimes studied elements of language and argumentation.

Plato and Aristotle

By the fourth century BCE logos is established not only as speech and the like, but as the faculty of reason. Speech becomes the manifestation of reason, and reason the source of speech. According to Plato an understanding of rhetoric presupposes a knowledge of soulswhat would later be called psychologyand the use of dialectic to implant truth in souls (Phaedrus ). In fact, thinking (dianoia ) is just internal speech (Sophist 263e, Theaetetus 189e). Thus speech becomes a model for thought, and ultimately a representation for the world; for a sentence (logos ), such as "Theaetetus is sitting," is true just in case it correctly describes an action or condition of Theaetetus (Sophist 263ab). In another context, Plato suggests that one can more safely study the world in logoi than by means of sensations, and he consequently adopts a method of hypothesis (Phaedo 99d100a).

The sign that one has knowledge is one's ability to give an account (logos ) or explanation (Phaedo 76b), and one who can give an adequate account is a dialectician (Republic 534b). At one point Plato considers as a definition of knowledge "true judgment accompanied by an account [logos ]," but rejects this in part because a satisfactory explanation of logos cannot be given independently of knowledge (Theaetetus 201c ff.). While the ability to give a rational account provides evidence of knowledge, the account is no mere component of knowledge.

Aristotle accepts Plato's view of the relation between language and the world along with some of Plato's terminology (Categories 24; On Interpretation 17). He recognizes, if somewhat obscurely, the two relationships that allow language to connect to reality: reference (semainein ) and predication (katêgoria )the latter primarily a link between a substance and its attributes, but mirrored in the link between grammatical subject and predicate. The basic unit of communication is the sentence (logos ), which when it makes an assertion (apophantikos ) is the bearer of truth or falsity. Whereas reference connects words with things, (grammatical) predication asserts that the things are connected in a certain way; if the assertion corresponds to the way things are, it is true; otherwise it is false. Building on this basic theory of language, Aristotle developed the first system of logic, showing how certain propositions follow logically from certain other propositions (Prior Analytics ). Moreover, he conceived of a science as a set of propositions arranged in a logical order with axioms and definitions as starting points, and theorems as conclusions (Posterior Analytics I)laying out this ideal structure that would be realized by the axiomatization of geometry a generation or two after his death. Thus in a certain sense Aristotle saw the world as possessing a thoroughgoing logical structure that could be captured in language. Indeed, whereas contemporary logicians often think of logical systems as arbitrary human constructs, some of which are useful for capturing certain linguistic relationships, Aristotle thinks of his logic as having its basis in the nature of things (Prior Analytics I 27).

Hellenistic Philosophy

According to the Stoics, the world is ultimately composed of fire, which is identical with God. Fire pervades the world and functions as a world-soul. Reason (logos ) is found in the world-soul, which orders and controls the world; it is the active principle and is identical with God (Diogenes Laertius 7.134). Soul is found in all animals, and in humans there is also a ruling principle that possesses reason. Thus logos in the human mind is like logos in the cosmos. Through the activity of fire, reason controls the creation and the history of the world. The world periodically perishes in a conflagration that turns all the elements back into fire, from which a new world arises, seeded by seminal logos, a structural principle that directs the cosmogony (Diogenes Laertius 136). The events of the world are ultimately under the control of reason, so that the world is governed by providence (Diogenes Laertius 1389). The Stoics distinguish between uttered discourse (prophorikos logos ) and internal discourse (endiathetos logos ); the former humans have in common with parrots, but the latter is peculiar to humans (Sextus Empiricus Against the Professors 8.275).

Philo of Alexandria (early to mid-first century CE), combining Judaism and Platonism by using Plato's theory to explicate the Bible, recognizes logos as an image of the invisible God, and human beings as created in the image of the logos (On Dreams 239, The Confusion of Tongues 147). God also acts by his word, for "His word is his deed" (The Sacrifices of Able and Cain 65). The world is itself the product of a plan in the mind of God, consisting of the Platonic Forms (On the Creation 1719), which are thus conceived of as present in the mind of God. From this model of the world the creator makes first an invisible world, then a visible one (2936).

Christianity and Neoplatonism

The Gospel according to John begins by affirming the central role of the Logos, or Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1.1, 3, 14). It may be that the Logos of John derives from Jewish rather than Greek conceptions, yet the notion was close enough to Greek philosophical conceptions to allow early Christian thinkers to see in it a point of contact between their scriptures and pagan philosophy. They saw Philo as an inspired writer who shared their vision of the Word of God as an intermediary between God and humans. Jesus of Nazareth was the Word of God, who manifested the power of God on earth and prepared the way for his disciples to become sons of God (1.12).

In the mid-second century Justin Martyr identifies Jesus as the Logos that wise men, including philosophers, partake of. He finds references to the Logos in Plato's Timaeus, and more general instances of divine reason in Heraclitus and the Stoics (First Apology 5, 40; Second Apology 8, 10, 13). He explains that Christians "call Him [Jesus] the Word, because He carries tidings from the Father to men: but maintain that this power is indivisible and inseparable from the Father" (Dialogue with Trypho 128). In the most systematic statement of the early church fathers, Origen (third century), commenting on the opening lines of Hebrews, says that Jesus as Word is the invisible image of the invisible Godapparently apprehensible only by reasonwho "interpret[s] the secrets of wisdom, and the mysteries of knowledge, making them known to the rational creation" (On Principles 1.2.67).

Plotinus borrowed from the Stoics at least the general conception of logos in a seed to account for the influence Soul has on the visible world. The world "was ordered according to a rational principle [kata logon ] of soul potentially having throughout itself power to impose order according to rational principles [kata logous ], just as the principles in seeds shape and form living creatures like little worlds" (Enneads 4.3.10). This also helps one understand how Mind orders things by comparing its operation to that of a seed with a rational principle; in such a way reason (logos ) flows out from Mind to the world (3.2.2). And one can understand how timeless realities have foresight over the world of change by supposing that events unfold according to an archetype, which is effortlessly realized by the imposition on matter of rational principles (4.4.12). Indeed, Plotinus proclaims in a theodicy, "The origin [of events in the world] is logos and all things are logos," even if they seem to be irrational or evil to our limited view (3.2.15).

In the early fifth century Augustine argued that a word in the heart precedes the articulate word of speech. This inner word is a likeness of the Word of God, by whom God carried out the creation of the world, and which came to be embodied in flesh in a way analogous to that in which the inner word becomes articulated in language. Thus the preverbal cognition that humans have in themselves an image of the Word of God (On the Trinity 15.11.20).

Although in Greek philosophy many different versions of how language, reason, and rational principles connect with the world can be found, what is remarkable is the widespread commitment to some view whereby reason is imbedded in the cosmos. Human reason does not simply impose some extraneous order on the world, but it discovers in nature a structure that mind has in common with the world.

See also Aristotle; Augustine, St.; Diogenes Laertius; Hellenistic Thought; Heraclitus of Ephesus; Neoplatonism; Parmenides of Elea; Patristic Philosophy; Philo Judaeus; Plato; Platonism and the Platonic Tradition; Plotinus; Semantics, History of; Sextus Empiricus; Sophists; Stoicism.


Aall, Anathon. Geschichte der Logosidee in der griechischen Philosophie. 2 vols. Leipzig, Germany: O. R. Reisland, 18961899. Reprint, Frankfurt, Germany: Minerva, 1968.

Boeder, Heribert. "Der fr ühgriechische Wortgebrauch von Logos und Aletheia." Archiv f ür Begriffsgeschichte 4 (1959): 82112.

Frede, Michael, and Gisela Striker, eds. Rationality in Greek Thought. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Kittel, Gerhard, et al. "Lego." In Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, vol. 4, 69140. Stuttgart, Germany: W. Kohlhammer, 1942. Abridged in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 505514. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1985.

Mourelatos, Alexander P. D. "Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Naive Metaphysics of Things." In Exegesis and Argument, edited by E. N. Lee, A. P. D. Mourelatos, and R. Rorty. Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1973.

Robb, Kevin, ed. Language and Thought in Early Greek Philosophy. La Salle, IL: The Hegeler Institute, 1983.

Daniel W. Graham (2005)


views updated May 29 2018


LOGOS , a Greek word meaning "speech," "organization," "rational order," "rational relationship," or "rational expression," common in Greek philosophical writings. As the word of God in all its manifestations, it appears in Jewish and Christian theological texts in Greek from the Hellenistic period. *Aristobulus of Paneas, Wisdom of *Solomon, and *Philo are the Jewish sources, and the Gospel of John, the earliest representative of the Christian ones. The later history of the term belongs to Christian theology, where, following John, logos is the Son, or the preexistent Messiah. Logos as an independent entity appeared in Jewish literature suddenly in the writings of Philo. Because of the connection between Philo's use of the term and the Johannine innovation, according to which logos is an intermediary between God and the world, scholars sought parallels elsewhere in Jewish writings, both for the word of God as a distinct concept and for its appearance as a divine intermediary. The memra ("word") of the Lord, one of the terms used to paraphrase the name of the Lord in the Targums, has been mistakenly viewed as such a parallel.

Greek Philosophy

Among early Greek philosophers Heraclitus (fifth century b.c.e.) considered logos as (1) the order in the universe, (2) the organizing force that originates and maintains that order, and (3) human apprehension and reasoned expression of it. All these things for him are one and the same, and are, it seems, to be identified with heat. Plato used the term primarily for logical discussion. However, in Epinomis (986c4), a dialogue probably not written by Plato himself, logos is identified with the intelligence that governs and imposes rational structure in the world; in the Sixth Letter (323d2f.), whose authenticity is also disputed, the son of the true god is identified as "the divine governor and origin of all things present and future," which may point to some notion of the logos as an intermediary between true reality and the world in Greek sources. In Stoic thought logos again has the threefold role of (1) being responsible for fashioning things, (2) accounting for the disposition of things (and so for the rational faculty in man), and (3) expressing reality in language.


The Word of God (devar Adonai) appears in the Bible as divine teaching, i.e., the medium of revelation and guidance (Gen. 15:1; i Sam. 3:21; Isa. 55:10–11; Ezek. and Zech. passim), the instrument of creation (Ps. 33:6; Gen. 1, though the technical term is not used), and the instrument that controls nature (Ps. 107:20; 147:18). This usage parallels in some ways the threefold, normative Greek philosophical identification of logos, except that the biblical emphasis is on moral, instead of natural, philosophy. The Word of the Lord is identified directly with Torah in Psalms 119 (passim), and the attributes of the Word or Torah (Ps. 89; 119) are ascribed to Wisdom in the first nine chapters of Proverbs. Indeed, Torah and Wisdom are identified in the apocryphal books Ben Sira (24:1–21, 22ff.) and Wisdom of Solomon (6:18ff.) in all the same aspects.

Jewish Hellenistic Literature

Aristobulus (fl. 160 b.c.e.) speaks of the voice of the Lord as the natural law, according to which the universe functions (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 13:12). Thus, a rapprochement of the Jewish and Greek notions has occurred. In Wisdom of Solomon (7:17–21) also, Wisdom teaches natural philosophy to man. In the same work logos personifies divine Mercy (Wisdom 16:12), and slays the firstborn of Egypt. In the Haggadah of Passover the Messenger (sometimes identified with logos by modern scholars), who was excluded from any role in the Exodus, may, if that passage is early and if it is a polemic against Wisdom of Solomon, point to an early popular hypostatization of logos; but the bulk of the evidence is opposed to such an early personification. The author of Wisdom of Solomon seems to distinguish between sophia ("wisdom") and logos, as two aspects of God's word, the former being human thoughts and actions in consonance with reality, and the latter, God's speech seen as a messenger, or angel. In addition, the former teaches natural philosophy, not logos.


Logos is central to Philo's thought. It is the chief power of God; it unites His strength and His goodness, and hence it is the rational term which connects opposites, another meaning of the Greek word. In this function, logos brings God to man and man to God. It is the representative of the Governor to His subjects; and its position is intermediate between created things and the uncreated (Her. 205). Logos is a copy (Gr. eikon) of God (i Spec. 81, etc.) through which the world was made (ibid., iii la 96, etc.), and human intelligence is a copy of it (Her. 230, Fug. 68, Op. 69). Philo applies the term logos, or the holy logos, to Scripture itself, i.e., the Law (ivQuaestioneset Solutiones in Genesin, 140; i Som. 229). It is not a person, according to Philo, nor is it an intermediary between God and man, although it is identified with the biblical angel of the Lord (Mig. 174, etc.). Rather, it is sometimes the same as wisdom (i la 65, etc.), because it is the most inclusive expression of the thoughts and ideas of God, which in turn are identified with the Law, or the Torah, with the pattern of all creation, and with the law that directs and maintains all things. Philo's identification of logos with Wisdom and Torah parallels the identification of Torah and Wisdom and the Word of God in rabbinic literature, and conforms to the roles assigned to each in Scripture and rabbinic sources.

Gospel of John

The prologue to the Gospel of John follows biblical and apocryphal sources in portraying the preexistent logos dwelling on earth; but the presentation of logos as an independent agent, and furthermore, as the preexistent messiah is a radical innovation. Apparently, Philo did not think of either notion (i Som. 228f. is not evidence that such a belief existed earlier). Rabbinic and Christian Gnostic speculations, all of later date than John, do, however, understand logos as a second god. Some accounts of *Gnosticism, whose doctrine implies a logos-hypostasis, would even date gnostic sources before John. Among the rabbis a belief in a "second God," or divine intermediary, is represented in the heretical views of *Elisha b. Avuyah (cf. also *Metatron). His views seem related to speculations about Creation, in which the voice, or Word, of the Lord on the waters (Ps. 29:3 and Gen. 1) and at the revelation on Sinai (Ex. 20) are hypostatized. All this, however, is later than the use of the Greek word "logos" in Philo and in the fourth Gospel.

The memra of the Targums, whether it is used in an attempt to express the otherness of God, to avoid anthropomorphisms, or for some other reason, was not thought of as an intermediary between man and God, was certainly not personified in rabbinic thought, and was not identified with Torah regularly. In later rabbinic writing ha-dibbur ("the speech") is used to refer to God, but that phenomenon seems unrelated to the Jewish-Hellenistic logos.


W. Kelber, Die Logoslehre von Heraklit bis Origenes (1958); H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, 2 (1924), 353–5; H. Leisegang, in: Pauly-Wissowa, 25 (1926), 1047–81; H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 1 (Eng., 1947), 200–82.

[Daniel E. Gershenson]


views updated May 21 2018


The logo (logotype) is the emblem or device used to identify a particular company or organization. The design of a logo may be based around the name or initials of a company using a distinctive letter form, such as Coca-Cola (first used in 1887). It may also be a visual symbol of abstract or figurative design, such as the Nike swoosh (designed 1971). In order to function effectively a logo must be easily recognized in a variety of forms—on products, packaging, and advertising.

The logo is the modern equivalent of the maker's stamp; the hallmark or trademark that indicates the authenticity of a product. Logos, like monograms, heraldic devices, flags, and crests, are forms of graphical devices that have been used to indicate the origin, ownership, and status of property and people.

Law protects modern logos, so that the form, color, shape, and graphical detail of any mark cannot be copied or closely imitated without legal redress. This legislation was put into place in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe and America, and is now effective across national borders.

The logo is central to any company's concept of its brand. As the graphic designer Milton Glaser once said, "The logo is the point of entry to the brand" and is used to encapsulate all that a brand may stand for. A logo with a high recognition factor can be a major financial asset to any business, and therefore it sits at the heart of any corporate identity policy. A manufacturer's product range may change from season to season, but successful logos are rarely tampered with and, when design changes are made, they are usually subtle rather than radical. Logos also need to be adaptable to a variety of uses. The interlocking CC logo of Chanel, like many logos used by the garment industry, work well as both a repeat pattern on fabric and as an embossed button on a coat or jacket. The "Medusa head" logo used by Versace was adapted from a classical architectural motif. It can be used in print or relief, and appears on stationery, packaging, buttons, cosmetics containers, and tableware.

The use of the logo as a decorative element was traditionally the preserve of the luxury goods sector (rather than the clothing industry). Leather goods (luggage and saddlery) companies have exploited the familiarity of their logos and signature patterns as they compete in the high-fashion market. The French luggage company Louis Vuitton (founded 1854) first used its monogram in a repeat-patterned canvas in 1896, and the monogram fabric has been a staple of its collections ever since. The monogram pattern has been reinterpreted by a succession of designers from the mid-1990s, including Marc Jacobs and Stephen Sprouse. Gucci's monogrammed fabric, using the GG logo adopted in the 1960s, appeared for many years on handbags and as linings before being used for clothing.

One key factor in the development of fashion branding has been the shift of the "signature" or logo from the inside to the outside of the garment. Conventionally, the designer or manufacturer's label would be sewn inside a garment, originally to guard against the illegal copying of fashion house models. In the field of sportswear, logos began to be more prominent in the 1940s, when the brand named after the tennis star Fred Perry borrowed the idea of the team or club crest, displayed on the breast of shirts and sweaters. In the 1970s, when sportswear was worn increasingly off pitch, court, or course as leisurewear, brands such as Lacoste and Fred Perry used their logos to brand generic garments like the polo shirt. This first wave of fashion sports brands was eclipsed by the phenomenal rise of global sports corporations such as Nike in the 1980s and 1990s.

The "designer decade" of the 1980s introduced many more designer logos to the mass market, where they became adopted as part of street culture. Logos associated with status and expense, such as BMW and Mercedes car mascots in the shape of corporate logos, were worn as jewelry by American rap artists. Heavily branded sportswear by Nike and Tommy Hilfiger (where the logos became increasingly prominent) was worn with a brash, competitive attitude and an emphasis on "box-fresh" products. Between 1995 and 2000, several high-fashion brands including Gucci, Fendi, Dior, and Louis Vuitton produced collections almost entirely focused on the repeat use of the logo (dubbed "logomania" by the style press).

Reaction to this visibly over-branded culture has been strong. One economic and legal side effect has been the flourishing of a counterfeit trade in clothes and accessories where fake logos are applied to unlicensed and inferior goods. The other effect is cultural and political. Global brands have come under attack by the so-called "No Logo" generation (named after Naomi Klein's 1999 book of that title), who reject overtly branded goods as symbols of late capitalist economic exploitation and social inequality.

See alsoBrands and Labels .


Clifton, Rita, and John Simmons, eds. Brands and Branding. Princeton, N.J.: Bloomberg Press, 2004.

Jane Pavitt


views updated May 29 2018


A Greek term generally translated in the Christian New Testament as "Word" but meaning essential thought or concept. In its theological sense, it refers to the creative power (word) of God; in logic, grammar, and rhetoric it indicates meaningful and significant statement. The concept of the ontological creative sound is common to both Hellenic and Jewish theology, which may have influenced each other. Logos is also analogous to the word "AUM" in Hindu mysticism.

The term has been utilized in Theosophy. "Fohat" is the term very commonly used in Theosophy to designate the Deity. Along with the great religions, Theosophy has, as the beginning of its scheme, a Deity who is altogether beyond human knowledge or conception, whether in the ordinary or the clairvoyant states. But when the Deity manifests to man through his works of creation, He is known as the Logos.

Essentially God is infinite, but when He encloses a "ring-pass-not" within which to build a cosmos, He has set limits to Himself, and what we can know of Him is contained in these limits.

He appears in a triple aspect, but this is, of course, merely an appearance, for in reality He is a unity. This triple aspect shows Him as Will, Wisdom, and Activity, and from each of these came forth one of the creative life waves that formed the universe. The third wave created matter, the second wave aggregated diffuse matter into form, and the first wave brought with it the Monad, that scintillation of Himself which took possession of formed matter and thereby started the process of evolution.


views updated Jun 27 2018

Logos (Gk., ‘word’ or ‘reason’). A term prominent especially in early Christian theology as a title or description of Christ. The Christian use depends on: (i) the popular Stoic idea (going back to Heraclitus, c.500 BCE) of a universal reason governing and permeating the world; and (ii) the Hebrew conception of God's word (as of his wisdom) as having an almost independent existence (e.g. Isaiah 55. 11). The prologue to the gospel of John (1. 1–18) identifies the Logos as incarnate in Jesus. To the apologists of the 2nd cent. the duality of the term was a welcome means of making Christology compatible with popular philosophy. Later on (e.g. by Athanasius), it was used to refer generally to the second person of the Trinity.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Lo·gos / ˈlōˌgōs; -ˌgäs/ • n. Theol. the Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ. ∎  (in Jungian psychology) the principle of reason and judgment, associated with the animus. Often contrasted with Eros.


views updated May 14 2018

Logos in theology, the Word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order, identified in the Gospel of John with the second person of the Trinity incarnate in Jesus Christ.

In Jungian psychology, Logos is used for the principle of reason and judgement, associated with the animus.

Logos (Newsletter)

views updated May 23 2018

Logos (Newsletter)

The newsletter of the Swedenborg Foundation which is headquartered at 320 N. Church St., West Chester, PA 19380. The newsletter is also available on the Internet at http://swedenborg.com/logos.html.


Swedenborg Newsletter (Logos). http://swedenborg.com/logos.html. March 8, 2000.