Philosophy Word of the Day — Logos

The famous Greek word logos — “word, speech, a...

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“A Greek word, of great breadth of meaning, primarily signifying in the context of philosophical discussion the rational, intelligible principle, structure, or order which pervades something, or the source of that order, or giving an account of that order.  The cognate verb legein means ‘say,’ ‘tell,’ ‘count.’  Hence the ‘word’ which was ‘in the beginning’ as recounted at the start of St. John’s Gospel is also logos.

The root occurs in many English compounds such as biology, epistemology, and so on.  Aristotle, in his Nichomachean Ethics, makes use of a distinction between the part of the soul which originates a logos (our reason) and the part which obeys or is guided by a logos (our emotions).  The idea of a generative intelligence (logos spermatikos) is a profound metaphysical notion in Neoplatonic and Christian discussion.”

— Nicholas Dent, “Logos,” in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 511-512.

On John’s use of logos in the prologue to his gospel, William Temple writes that the Logos “alike for Jew and Gentile represents the ruling fact of the universe, and represents that fact as the self-expression of God.  The Jew will remember that ‘by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made’; the Greek will think of the rational principle of which all natural laws are particular expressions.  Both will agree that this Logos is the starting point of all things.”

— William Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel (London: Macmillan, 1939) 4, quoted by Millard J. Erickson in The Word Became Flesh: A Contemporary Incarnational Christology (Baker, 1991), 26.

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2 thoughts on “Philosophy Word of the Day — Logos

  1. Hi James,
    That’s a good observation. 1:3-4 mention creation and light and darkness, all of which look like allusions to Genesis. John did a nice job of appealing to both Jews and Gentiles at the beginning of his gospel.
    Take care,
    Chris

  2. since you are a greek guy how about this – any jew reading the first verse of john’s gospel has to immediatly think “hey, this guy is writeing a Genesis like creation story…” Its not only “word” but “in the beginning” – Bereshit barah…
    shalom

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