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"Logos" (Greek: λόγος) is the Greek term used in the beginning of the Gospel according to John. In Greek "logos" means word, reason or speech. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, first used the term "logos", around perhaps 500 B.C., in order to mean divine reason. The broad, multifarious meanings of the term "logos" illustrates an imprecision in the Greek language, and the weakness of the language in conveying some of the powerful new concepts of Christianity, despite how Greek was far more sophisticated than any other ancient language.

When used in connection with thought or the mind, as in John 1:1, logos means the mental faculty of thinking and reasoning. In the beginning was "logos", referring to the mind or thought of God. If wikis had existed in ancient Greece, then the meaning of "logos" might have included a wiki! Other example uses of logos in the Bible are in Luke 8:11, Hebrews 4:12, and Philippians 2:16.

The use of "logos" in Hebrews 4:12-13 demonstrates that it cannot be accurately translated merely as "word", because it refers there to how God omnisciently knows what is in man:[1]

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

It has been suggested that "logos" in Hebrews 4:12 above should be translated as "Christ" (based on the interpretation of many Fathers, such as Oecumenius, Theophylact, Thomas Aquinas, Lyra, Cajetan, Clarius, Justinian, Cornelius a Lapide, Jac. Cappellus, Gomar, Owen, Heinsius, Alting, Clericus, Cramer, Ewald—see commentaries on Hebrews 4:12). Hebrews uses the term "logos" frequently.

In literature, logos refers to an appeal to logic, as opposed to an appeal to emotion (pathos) or an appeal to authority (ethos).

In the King James Version, "logos" is translated as follows:

  • "word" - a total of 218 times
  • "saying" - 50 times
  • a variety of different terms - 32 times
  • "account" - 8 times
  • "speech" - 8 times
  • "Word" as in Christ - 7 times, mostly in the first verses of the Gospel of John - St. Augustine preferred to translate logos in this context as the "Living Word."
  • "thing" - 5 times
  • not translated and omitted from the English - 2 times

This calls into question the translation of "logos" as "Word" in the beginning of the Gospel of John. Under the view of some biblical scholars, logos was used by John the Apostle to describe the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, as the Word of God. Commentators have pointed out the inadequacy of the English term "word" to capture the full meaning of "logos".[2] The Letter to the Hebrews explains that the Son is "the express image" of God (see Hebrews 1:1-3 KJV), which can be understood as the complete self-expression of God the Father.

Multiple translations of John 1:1

See John 1:1 at biblehub.com This online site includes classic (conservative Protestant) Parallel Commentaries:

Possible Confusion

λόγος (word, reason) should not be confused with logic (ἡ λογική), nor with intelligence (νοημοσύνη).

See also