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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

LOGOS. —The conception of Christ as the Logos, or eternal Word, is peculiar to the Fourth Gospel. In the Epp. to Colossians and Hebrews (writings which are likewise touched with the Alexandrian influence) the Logos theory of Christ’s Person is in some points implied (cf.  Colossians 1:15-18,  Hebrews 1:2-4). In Revelation ( Revelation 19:13) the ‘Word of God’ is announced as the new and mysterious name which Christ bears when He comes forth to execute judgment. But only in the Fourth Gospel is the conception deliberately adopted and worked out in its full significance.

The idea of a Logos, an immanent Divine reason in the world, is one that meets us under various modifications in many ancient systems of thought, Indian, Egyptian, Persian. In view of the religious syncretism which prevailed in the 1st and 2nd centuries, it is barely possible that these extraneous theologies may have indirectly influenced the Evangelist; but there can be no doubt in regard to the main source from which his Logos doctrine was derived. It had come to him through Philo after its final elaboration in Greek philosophy.

In the 6th cent. b.c. Heraclitus first broke away from the purely physical conceptions of early Greek speculation, by discovering a λόγος, a principle of reason, at work in the cosmic process. From the obscure fragments of this philosopher that have come down to us we gather that he was chiefly interested in accounting for the aesthetic order of the visible universe. In the arrangement of natural phenomena, in the adaptation of means to ends, he discerned the working of a power analogous to the reasoning power in man. His speculation was still entangled with the physical hypotheses of earlier times, and on this account dropped out of sight, and had little influence on the greater systems of Greek thought. Plato and Aristotle were engaged in the development of the theory of ideas, with its absolute separation of the material world from the world of higher reality. Their work was of profound significance for the after history of Logos speculation, but belongs itself to a different philosophical movement. It was in the reaction from Platonic dualism that the Logos idea again asserted itself, and was worked out through all its implications in Stoicism.

The Stoics, animated chiefly by a practical interest, sought to connect the world of true being, as conceived by Plato, with the actual world of man’s existence. They abandoned the theory of supersensible archetypes and fell back on the simpler hypothesis of Heraclitus, that the universe is pervaded in all its parts by an eternal Reason. Man in his individual life may raise himself above all that limits him, and realize his identity with this Logos, which resides in his own soul, and is also the governing principle of the world. The Stoic philosophy not only furnished the general conception of the Logos to later thinkers, but also emphasized the distinction which became of prime importance in the later development. The faculty of reason as it exists in man reveals itself in speech, which is denoted by the same Greek word, λόγος. To the universal λογος Stoicism ascribed the two attributes that mark the reasoning power in man. On the one hand it is λόγος ἐνδιάθετος,—reason in its inner movement and potentiality,—and on the other hand λόγος τροφορικός,—reason projected and made concrete in the endless variety of the visible world.

1. Philo appropriates the main Stoic conception, but combines it with other elements borrowed eclectically from previous systems of thought. The Logos idea is loosened from its connexion with Stoic materialism and harmonized with a thoroughgoing Platonism, which regards the visible things as only the types and shadows of realities laid up in the higher world. It becomes identical in great measure with Plato’s idea of the Good, except that it is further regarded as creatively active. Philo’s grand innovation, however, is to press the Logos theory into the service of a theology derived from the OT. The same problem which Stoicism had tried to solve had in a different manner become urgent in Jewish thought. Here also all progress, alike in the moral and intellectual life, was like to be arrested by an overstrained dualism. The effort to conceive of God as absolutely transcendent had resulted in separating Him entirely from the world, of which He had yet to be regarded as the Creator and Governor. Already in the later books of the OT, much more in Rabbinical speculation, we can trace the idea of an intermediary between God and the world. ‘Wisdom’ is described in Job and Proverbs, with something more than a poetical personification, as God’s agent and co-worker Peculiar significance was attached by the later expositors to the various OT allusions to the ‘word’ of God. By His ‘word’ He had created heaven and earth and revealed Himself to the prophets. The actual hypostatizing of the Word in the doctrine of the Memra was subsequent to the time of Philo, but it was the outcome of a mode of thinking already prevalent in Jewish theology. God who was Himself the High and Holy One, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, mediated His action through the Divine Word. It was natural for Philo, with his Hellenic and philosophical culture, to advance a step further and identify the Word of the OT with the Stoic λόγος.

The Logos of Philo requires to be understood in the light of this double descent from Greek and OT thought. The Stoic conception, as we have seen, took account of the two meanings of λόγος as reason and uttered speech, but the distinction was of little practical importance. What the Greek thinkers sought to affirm was the rationality of the world. The Logos under all its aspects was simply the principle of reason, informing the endless variety of things, and so maintaining the world-order. To Philo, on the other hand, the idea of reason is combined with that of the outgoing of Divine power. While describing his Logos in terms directly borrowed from Plato and the Stoics, he regards it as in the last resort dynamic, like the creative word in Genesis. This difference between Philo and the Greek thinkers is connected with another and still more vital one. To the Stoics the eternal Reason was itself an ultimate principle, and the necessity was not felt of explaining it as the reason of God. The doctrine of the Logos may, indeed, be regarded as an attempt, more or less conscious, to escape from the belief in a Divine Creator. Philo could not content himself with this notion of an absolute Logos. He started from the Hebrew belief in a supreme, self-existing God, to whom the immanent reason of the world must be related and subordinated. To this clashing of the primary Greek conception with the demands of Hebrew monotheism, we may largely attribute one of the most perplexing peculiarities of the Philonic doctrine. The Logos appears, sometimes as only an aspect of the activity of God, at other times as a ‘second God,’ an independent and, it might seem, a personal being. There can be little doubt that Philo, who never ceased to be an orthodox Jew, had no intention of maintaining the existence of two Divine agents; and the passages in which he appears to detach and personify the Logos must be explained mainly in a figurative sense. The Word which is described as speaking, acting, creating of itself, is the word of God, vividly realized by an imaginative thinker. But this separate existence assigned to the Logos may also be set down in some measure to the composite origin of the idea. The Stoical doctrine of an independent Reason could not be wholly reconciled with the Jewish belief in one supreme God.

2. The Fourth Gospel sets out from a conception of the Logos which to all appearance is closely similar to that of Philo. In the Prologue the main features of the Philonic doctrine are reproduced one by one;—the eternal existence of the Word, its Divine character (ἦν θεός), its relation to God as towards Him, and yet distinct (πρὸς τὸν θεόν), its creative activity, its function in the illumination and deliverance of men. The Evangelist assumes that the idea of the Logos is already a familiar one in Christian theology. It is introduced abruptly, as requiring no explanation, and its different aspects are lightly indicated, by way of reminding the reader of truths sufficiently known to him. We can thus infer that the conception of Philo had already naturalized itself in Christian thought, but there is reason to believe that the author of the Gospel was acquainted more or less directly with the Philonic writings and consciously derived from them.* [Note: the list of parallel passages collected by Grill (pp. 111–138).]

To what extent does the Logos idea of Philo change its character as it assimilates itself to the theology of the Gospel? Before an answer can be offered to this question, it is necessary to consider a preliminary difficulty with which Johannine criticism has been largely occupied since the appearance of Harnack’s famous pamphlet.* [Note: Über das Verhältniss des Prologs des vierten Evgl. zum ganzen Werk (1892).] Is the Prologue to be regarded as an integral portion of the Gospel, or is it, as Harnack contends, a mere preface written to conciliate the interest of a philosophical public? The idea of Christ as the Divine Logos is nowhere resumed in the body of the Gospel. Although the term Logos is constantly used, it always bears its ordinary sense of spoken discourse, while the categories of Light, Life, Love are substituted for the Logos of the Prologue. The work, as we have it, is no metaphysical treatise, such as we might expect from the opening verses, if they truly set forth its programme, but a historical document, the narrative of the earthly life of Christ. In spite, however, of Harnack’s powerful argument, the almost unanimous voice of Johannine criticism has declared against him. The statement of his view has led to a closer examination of the Prologue in its connexion with the Gospel, resulting in multiplied proof that the ideas presented at the outset are woven in with the whole tissue of the work. The Prologue supplies the background, the atmosphere, which are necessary to a right contemplation of the history. Nevertheless, while Harnack’s main argument cannot be accepted, it serves to remind us of one fact which cannot be emphasized too much. St. John is not concerned merely with the Word, but with the Word made flesh. After the first few verses, in which he treats of the pre-existent Logos, he passes to the historical Person of Jesus, who is more than the abstract Word. In Him it had become visible, and acted on men through a human Personality.

St. John therefore accepts the Philonic conception in order to assimilate it to his account of a historical Person, through whom the Word declared itself under the conditions of human life. It is evident that the conception could not be so adapted without submitting to profound modifications. (1) The Logos, which was to clothe itself in flesh and act on men with the force of a personality, must in its deepest ground be a personal Being. We have seen that Philo, partly in imaginative fashion, partly because of the composite origin of his thought, attributes a semi-independence to the Logos. This prepared the way for a complete personification; but Philo himself thinks only of a Divine principle, the creative reason of God. St. John, however, makes it an essential moment in his conception that the Logos has a ground of independent being within God (πρὸς τὸν θεόν, standing over against Him as a distinct Being). His view even of the pre-existent Logos is coloured by his knowledge of the ultimate Incarnation. (2) The creative activity of the Logos, which in Philo is central and all-determining, falls into the background. Only in  John 1:3 (‘All things were made by him’) do we have any clear trace of this aspect of Logos doctrine, and the sequence of thought would still be complete if the brief allusion were omitted. It is thrown out, apparently, by way of acknowledgment of the recognized theory. Some reference to the cosmic significance of the Logos was necessary if any link with previous speculation was to be preserved. The Gospel, in point of fact, knows nothing of the absolute transcendence of God, which Philo’s whole theory is designed to mitigate. It assumes that ‘the world’ is the direct object of God’s love and providence ( John 3:16). It maintains that God acts immediately on the human soul and so makes possible the redeeming work of the Logos ( John 6:44,  John 17:6). (3) In the Gospel, much more emphatically than in Philo, the term λόγος denotes Word as well as Reason. The Greek philosophical meaning is, indeed, discarded, or retained only as a faintly colouring element. The Word is regarded throughout as the expression of God’s will and power, the self-revelation of His inward nature. It does not represent the Divine reason but the Divine energy. Its sovereign attribute is Life, the life which it derives from God and transmits to men. Under the form of Alexandrian speculation St. John preserves the essential Hebrew conception of the living, quickening Word.

Thus, in accepting the Philonic idea, St. John does not commit himself to the precise interpretation that Philo placed on it; on the contrary, whether consciously or not, he departs from the characteristic lines of Philo’s thinking. The differences, however, do not alter the main fact that he rested his account of the Christian revelation on a hypothesis which was metaphysical rather than religious. The Jesus who had appeared in history was identified with the Logos of philosophy, and this identification involved an entirely new reading of His Person and life. St. John does not, indeed, press to its full extent his theory that the Logos became manifest in Christ. Behind his speculation there is always the remembrance of the actual life, which had arrested him as it had done the first disciples, and been to him the true revelation of God. His worship is directed in the last resort not to the Logos whom he discovers in Jesus, but to Jesus Himself. Nevertheless the acceptance of the Logos idea imposes on him a mode of thought which is often alien to his deeper religious instinct. On the one hand, he conceives of Jesus as revealing God to men and lifting them to a higher life by His ethical personality. On the other hand, he is compelled to interpret the work of Jesus in terms of metaphysic. God was manifest in Him because He was Himself the Logos, and the life He imparted was the Divine life, different in essence from that of man. The Gospel wavers throughout between these two parallel interpretations of the life of Christ,—that suggested by the history and that required by the Logos hypothesis. Superficially the two conceptions are drawn together, but they are disparate by their very nature and will not admit of a true reconciliation.

St. John does not concern himself with the questions that arose in later theology regarding the nature of the union between the Logos and the human Jesus. He assumes the union as a fact incapable of further definition. ‘The Word became flesh,’ appeared in Jesus as a human personality. How and when this Incarnation was effected, to what extent the Divine nature in Christ could be distinguished from the human,—these are questions which he does not try to answer, and which he probably never asked himself. His silence is mainly to be explained by the practical intention with which he wrote his Gospel. It was not his purpose to discuss the Divinity of Christ as a theological idea, but to impress it on his readers as a fact, by the knowledge of which ‘they might have life’ ( John 20:31). At the same time, the problems which came to light in the course of later controversy are all legitimately suggested by the simple thesis ‘the Word became flesh.’ From St. John’s silence in regard to them we are compelled to infer that he did not reason out his doctrine with any fulness or clearness. He had set himself to combine ideas which in themselves were radically incompatible, and succeeded in doing so only by a certain confusion of thought.

3. The Evangelist, then, sets out from the fact that the historical Jesus was also the Divine Logos. In the body of the Gospel this hypothesis is never directly alluded to, but it is assumed throughout and modifies profoundly the whole picture of the earthly life of Jesus. (1) Peculiar stress is laid on His miracles as the ‘signs’ by which He ‘manifested forth his glory.’ The motive of compassion, to which the miracles are for the most part ascribed by the Synoptic writers, falls into the background. They are regarded as sheer exhibitions of power, intended by Jesus to inspire belief in His Divine claims. The marvellous element is uniformly heightened, in such a manner as to preclude all natural explanations. (2) Apart from direct works of miracle, certain attributes are assigned to Jesus which witness to His possession of the Logos nature. He partakes even on earth of the Divine omniscience ( John 1:48,  John 2:25,  John 4:17,  John 11:14). He appears where He will, with something of a Divine omnipresence ( John 6:19,  John 8:59,  John 9:35). There is a majesty about His Person which quells and overawes ( John 7:46,  John 12:21,  John 18:6). An impression is borne home on us in every episode of the history that, while He dwelt with men, He was a heavenly being, who could exercise at will the prerogatives of God. (3) The aloofness of Jesus, as of one who belonged to a different world, is everywhere brought into strong relief. In the Synoptic narratives, what separates Him from other men is His matchless wisdom and moral purity. St. John ascribes to Him a radical difference of nature. He does not participate in human weaknesses and distresses (even His sorrow over Lazarus is that of a Divine being who stands apart and contemplates the tragedy of our mortal lot). In His intercourse with the disciples He is conscious all the time that He has come from God and returns to God ( John 13:3-4). (4) A still more striking emphasis is laid on the absolute freedom, the self-determination of Jesus. While submitting for a time to earthly limitations, He vindicates His higher nature by acting in everything on His own sovereign will, without compulsion from without ( John 2:4,  John 6:5-6,  John 7:6,  John 11:33). From the beginning He has fixed His ‘hour,’ and Himself ordains all the conditions that will lead up to it. His enemies are impotent until the hour willed by Himself has come ( John 7:30,  John 8:20), and meanwhile He goes about His work in perfect security ( John 11:9). In this well-marked strain of Johannine thought we have little difficulty in discerning the influence of the Logos idea, penetrating the actual reminiscence of the life of Christ. (5) The Logos character of Jesus, which is thus illustrated on various sides by His actions, comes to clear expression in His spoken words. These are concerned almost wholly with the assertion, under many different types and forms, of the Divine significance of the Speaker Himself. Hence the peculiar value which is ascribed to them ( John 6:63;  John 6:68,  John 15:3). They convey more clearly and emphatically than actions could do the inner secret of our Lord’s personality. Being Himself the Logos, one in essence with God, He had power to impart the higher life (see Word).

In all these directions, therefore, St. John gives effect to the idea of the Prologue that the nature of Christ was a Logos nature. His acceptance of this doctrine involves him in a new reading of the Gospel history—a reading which in some respects is artificial and inadequate. The life of Jesus becomes that of a heavenly being, and all traces of moral struggle (as in the Temptation and the Agony) disappear from it. The attributes of faith in God and infinite sympathy with men are replaced by metaphysical attributes, which are supposed to belong more essentially to the Divine nature. Jesus is the revelation of God because He is the eternal Logos, who manifests in an earthly life the absolute being and self-dependence of God. This, however, is to divest the revelation of its real worth and meaning. What we desire to know and what was actually revealed to us in the life of Jesus, is the moral character of God, and of this the Logos doctrine can render no account. In so far as the Fourth Evangelist has subordinated his conception of Christ to a philosophical speculation, we cannot but feel that he defeats his own purpose. He desires so to assert the majesty of Christ that men may be drawn to believe in Him as the Son of God, and enter into life-giving fellowship with Him. But in the endeavour to exalt the Lord’s Person by means of the Logos hypothesis, he obscures those very elements in the Divine life which constitute its true glory.

4. It is necessary at the same time to recognize that much was gained for Christian theology by the adoption of this hypothesis. (1) A middle term was discovered between Christianity and the forms of Hellenic thought, and a wider development was thus rendered possible. The new religion could now interpret itself to the Graeco-Roman world, and assimilate whatever was congenial to its spirit in the intellectual life of the time. With the help of the categories which it henceforth borrowed from Greek philosophy, it was enabled in many ways to convey its message more clearly and adequately. (2) The claim of Christianity to be the absolute religion was definitely formulated in the Logos doctrine. Jesus was identified not merely with the Jewish Messiah, but with the eternal Word who had been with God from the beginning. His revelation was not one out of many, but the supreme and final revelation. This idea is prominent throughout the Prologue, in which the ‘true Light’ is contrasted with the manifestations of God through John the Baptist and Moses. These, although burning and shining lights, were only ‘for a season’ ( John 5:35). (3) By identifying Him with the Logos, St. John declared, in a manner that could not be mistaken, the uniqueness of Jesus, and assigned Him His central place as the object of Christian faith. The Logos category was in itself insufficient, and tended to confuse Christianity with metaphysical issues which were alien to its real import. But it provided a form within which the innermost truth of the religion could maintain itself for ages following. Jesus Christ in His own Person is the revelation of God, and believing on Him we have life through His name.

5. The vital and permanent message of the Fourth Gospel is little affected by any estimate we may form of the value of the Logos hypothesis. It is evident that, while the Evangelist ostensibly sets out from a philosophical theory, he derives in reality from a religious experience. From the impression created in him by the earthly life of Jesus, still more from the knowledge he had received of Him in inward fellowship, he has arrived at the conviction that this is the Christ, the Son of God. He avails himself of the doctrine of the Logos, the highest that the thought of his time afforded him, in order to express this conviction, and in some measure explain it. But the speculative idea belongs to the form, not to the essence of St. John’s teaching. It represents the attempt to interpret, in terms of an inadequate philosophy, a truth which has been grasped by faith. See also art. Divinity of Christ, vol. i. p. 478b.

Literature,—Aall, Geschichte der Logosidee (2 vols., 1896, 1899); Heinze, Die Lehre rom Logos in der griech. Philosophie (1872); Drummond, Philo Judœus  ; J. Réville, Le Quatrième Evangile (1901), and La doctrine du Logos dans le Lème Évang. et dans les œuvres de Philon (1881); Grill, Untersuchungen über die Entstchung des vierten Evang. (1902); Bousset, Die Relig. des Judenthums (pp. 405–431); Simon, Der Logos (1902); Meyer, Der Prolog des Johannesevang . (1902); Baldensperger, Der Prolog des vierten Evang. (1898); Harnack, Über das Verhältniss , etc. (1892); Kaftan, Das Verhältniss des evangelischen Glaubens zur Logoslehre (1896); art ‘Logos’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible.

E. F. Scott.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

LOGOS. In classical Greek logos signifies both ‘word’ and ‘reason,’ but in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and the NT it is used, with few exceptions, in the former sense only. When it is God’s word that is spoken of, it denotes the declaration or revelation of the Divine will, and specifically the Christian gospel as the utterance of the Divine plan of salvation ( e.g .   Matthew 13:19-23 ||,   Philippians 1:14 ). But in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel (  John 1:1 [3 times] 14, with which cf.   1 John 1:1 [  1 John 5:7 of AV [Note: Authorized Version.] is spurious; see RV [Note: Revised Version.] ] and   Revelation 19:13 ) ‘ Logos ’ (EV [Note: English Version.] Word ) is applied to Jesus Christ, and is used to set forth His peculiar glory as the only-begotten Son of God, who is also the Life and Light of men. It is with this Johannine Logos that we have now to deal, and in doing so it seems necessary to consider (1) the content of John’s Logos doctrine; (2) its sources; (3) its place in the Fourth Gospel; (4) its theological significance.

1. Content. Three stages appear in the exposition of the Logos doctrine given in the Prologue. ( a ) First (  John 1:1-5 ), the nature and functions of the Logos are set forth in His relations to God, the world, and man. He was with God in the beginning, i.e . He eternally held a relation of communion with Him as a separate personality a personality itself Divine, for ‘the Word was God.’ As to the world , it was made by Him (  John 1:3 , cf.   John 1:10 ), perhaps with the further suggestion that from Him it draws continually the life by which it is sustained (  John 1:4 ). But from Him there flows also the higher life of man as a spiritual being possessed of reason and conscience, for His life becomes the universal light of human souls (  John 1:4 , cf.   John 1:9 ). ( b ) The second stage of the exposition (  John 1:5-13 ) is a contrast of the Logos with the word of God that came by John the Baptist. John was not the Light; he came only to bear witness of it. The Logos is the true Light, and the mediator of Divine life to all who believe on His name, ( c ) Finally (  John 1:14-18 ), the author describes the incarnation of the Logos in the flesh, and declares His identity with the historical Jesus Christ, the bringer of grace and truth. In   John 1:18 the whole Prologue is summed up. Here the writer returns to the point from which he set out (cf.   John 1:1 ), but his readers now understand that the eternal Logos is one with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2. Sources. (1) For these some have been content to refer to the OT and the post-canonical Jewish writings . And it is true that a connexion is clearly to be traced. We can hardly mistake a reference in the Prologue (  John 1:1;   John 1:3-4;   John 1:10 ) to the creative word of God in   Genesis 1:1-31 . In the Psalms and Prophets, again, a personification of the word of Jehovah is common ( e.g .   Psalms 33:6 ,   Isaiah 55:11 ). And in the Wisdom literature, both canonical and apocryphal, this personifying tendency is carried still further (  Proverbs 8:22-31 , Sir 24:1-34 ), though it is God’s Wisdom, not His Word, that becomes His representative, and a full personification of the Word does not meet us till we have reached a point in Jewish history where Greek influences have begun to make themselves felt ( Wis 9:1; Wis 16:12 ). All this, however, is very far from explaining the Johannine Logos doctrine. The most that can he said is that the doctrine of the Prologue reflects a tendency of Jewish thought, finding its roots in the OT, to conceive of the Divine self-revelation as mediated by the personified Wisdom or Word of Jehovah.

(2) Some have held that John’s Logos doctrine was derived entirely from the JudÅ“o-Alexandrian philosophy , and specifically from the teaching of Philo. From early times there had grown up among the Greeks a conception of the Logos as the Divine Reason manifested in the universe, and explaining how God comes into relation with it. To this Logos philosophy Plato’s doctrine of ideas had contributed, and afterwards the Stoic view of the Logos as the rational principle of the universe. In his efforts to blend Judaism with Hellenism, Philo adopted the term as one familiar alike to Jews and to Greeks, and sought to show by means of allegorical interpretations that the true philosophy of God and the world was revealed in the OT. And St. John, it is supposed, simply appropriated this teaching, and by means of an idealizing treatment of Christ’s life constructed in his Gospel a philosophical treatise on the doctrine of Philo. The theory breaks down on any examination. To Philo the Logos was the principle of Reason; to St. John He was the Divine revealing Word. Philo’s Logos is not really personal; St. John’s certainly is. Philo does not identify the Logos with the Messiah; to St. John He is no other than the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Philo sees in the flesh a principle opposed to the Godhead; St. John glories in the fact of the Incarnation. With Philo the antithesis between God and the world is a metaphysical one; with St. John it is ethical and religious. St. John cannot, then, have derived his doctrine of the Logos from Philo. But he undoubtedly used the term because Philo had made it familiar to Græco-Jewish thought as a means of expressing the idea of a mediation between God and the universe, and also because he himself had received certain formal influences from the Philonic philosophy (see, e.g ., the value be assigns to knowledge; his crystallization of the gospel into such general terms as light,’ ‘truth,’ ‘life’; his constant antithesis of light and darkness). Apart, however, from such formal influences and the convenience of a familiar and suggestive term, the real source of the Johannine logos doctrine is still to seek.

(3) That source is assuredly to be found in the actual historical personality of Jesus Himself as we find it set forth in the rest of this Gospel. More and more it becomes impossible for the careful student of this book to treat it as a philosophical romance in which a purely idealizing treatment is given to the figure of Jesus; more and more the substantial historical truth of the presentation becomes evident. And, assuming the substantial truth of the narrative, it seems clear that St. John uses his Logos conception, not ‘to manufacture the Light of the World out of the Messiah of Israel,’ but to set forth, in a way that would appeal to the men of his own place and time, Christ’s real relations to God and the universe as these had been attested by His words and deeds, by His dying and rising from the dead, and by all the facts of His self-revelation. We must bear in mind, moreover, that while the term ‘Logos’ was a new one to be applied to Christ, the place of dignity and power assigned to Him by John was by no means new. Both St. Paul and the author of Hebrews had taught the doctrine of Christ’s eternal Sonship, and of His functions as the creator of the universe and the revealer of the Father (  Philippians 2:5-11 ,   Colossians 1:13-20;   Colossians 2:9 ,   Hebrews 1:1-4 ), and the teaching of both, already familiar and widely accepted in the Church, is subsumed in the Johannine doctrine of the Logos.

3. Place in the Fourth Gospel. The attempt has been made to distinguish between the Logos doctrine in the Prologue as Hellenic, and the Gospel itself as Palestinian; and it has been maintained that the influence of the Logos idea does not extend beyond the Prologue, and that it was merely intended to introduce to Greek readers the story of the Jewish Messiah with a view to making it more attractive and intelligible. We may remind ourselves, however, of Strauss’s comparison of this Gospel to the seamless robe of Jesus, a judgment which has been verified by nearly every critical student of whatever school. It is true that when we pass beyond the Prologue the word ‘Logos’ is not repeated. The author nowhere puts it into the mouth of Jesus, one evidence surely of his historical fidelity. But, all the same, the doctrine of the Prologue manifestly works right through the narrative from beginning to end (see such passages as   John 3:13-21;   John 6:53-58;   John 7:28-29;   John 8:12;   John 8:14;   John 8:16;   John 10:29 ff;   John 12:44-50;   John 14:6-11;   John 17:5;   John 17:8;   John 17:24 etc.). It is very noticeable that in   John 20:31 , where, before laying down his pen, the writer reveals the motive of his work, he really sums up the great ideas of the Prologue as he declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life through His name. The Logos, then, is not a mere catchword, put forth in order to seize the eye and arouse the interest of the Greek reader. The Logos idea underlies the whole Gospel, and has much to do with the author’s selection of his materials. In the Prologue, as in any other well-written introduction, the plan of the work is set out, and the Logos doctrine is stated there because it supplies the key to a right understanding of the history that follows.

4. Theological significance. From the time of Justin, and ever since, the Logos doctrine of St. John’s Prologue has served as the material of many a Christian metaphysic. It is no doubt inevitable that this should be the case; but we must be careful not to make St. John responsible for the theological constructions that have been woven out of his words. If an injustice is done him when his doctrine of the Logos is supposed to be nothing more than the fruitage of his study of Philo, another injustice is committed when it is assumed that he is setting forth here either a metaphysic of the Divine nature or a philosophy of the Incarnation. It is plain, on the contrary, that in all that he says it is the religious and ethical interests that are paramount. He uses the Logos conception for two great purposes, to set forth Jesus (1) as the Revealer of God , and (2) as the Saviour of men . The first of these ideas, as has been said, is one that we find already in the Pauline Epistles and in Hebrews; but by his emphasis on the relations of Fatherhood and Sonship St. John imparts a peculiarly moral meaning to the essential nature of the God who is revealed in Christ. But it is above all for a soteriological purpose that he seems to employ the Logos idea. The Logos, who is Identified with Jesus Christ, comes forth from the bosom of the Father, bringing life and light to men. He comes with a gospel that supersedes the Law of Moses, for it is a gospel of grace as well as of truth. Himself the Son of God, He offers to all who will believe on His name the right to become the children of God. And so, while the Logos is undoubtedly the agent of God’s creative will, He is still more distinctively the mediator of God’s redeeming purpose. It is therefore as a religious power, not as a metaphysical magnitude, that St. John brings Him before us. The Evangelist shows, it is true, as Kirn points out, that the absoluteness of Christ’s historical mission and His exclusive mediation of the Divine saving grace are guaranteed by the fact that the roots of His personal life reach Back into the eternal life of God. His Logos doctrine thus wards off every Christology that would see in Jesus no more than a prophetic personality of the highest originality. But, while the Logos idea ‘illuminates the history with the light of eternity, it can reveal eternity to us only in the ligbt of history, not in its own supernatural light’ ( PRE [Note: RE Real-Encykl. für protest. Theol. und Kirche] 3 xi. 605).

J. C. Lambert.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Among the Greek philosophers, especially the Stoics, logos came to mean the rational principle that gave order to the cosmos. It could therefore be equated with God. Human reason, in turn, derived from this universal logos . Philo of Alexandria used this concept in his efforts to interpret Jewish religion for those versed in Greek philosophy. In Philo's writings, logos was the mediating agency by which God created the world and by which revelation comes to God's people. The logos became a distinct entity, specifically the “word of God” active in creation and revelation.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, logos translates the word dabar , which could mean “word,” “thing,” or “event.” In Hebrew thought, the dabar was dynamic and filled with a power that was transmitted to those who received it. The term was often used to designate God's communication to his people, as at the beginning of many of the writings of the prophets: “The word of the Lord came.” The whole of the Law, or all of Scripture, could then be referred to as God's Word.

Toward the end of the Old Testament period Wisdom was increasingly personified as the Word of God that mediated between God and the world (see  Proverbs 8:22-31 ). Wisdom of  Song of Solomon 9:1-2 ). Wisdom (sophia) was preexistent, God's first creation, His instrument and agent in all the rest of creation. God became increasingly aloof in Jewish theology and dealt with His creation only through this subordinate being and through His angels.

In the New Testament logos is used both with common and with technical meanings. It is used for empty words (  Ephesians 5:6 ) and evil words ( 3 John 1:10 ), but it could also refer to the teachings of Jesus ( Matthew 24:35 ). Jesus preached the word ( Mark 2:2 ) or the word of God ( Luke 5:1 ), and judgment would be determined by one's response to Jesus' words ( Mark 8:38 ). The gospel, the message about Jesus, could then be called “the word” ( 1 Thessalonians 1:6;  Luke 1:2;  Titus 1:2-3 ) or “the word of God” ( Acts 8:14;  1 Thessalonians 2:13 ). The word carries God's power to save ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 ). Those who receive the word are called to be faithful to it ( Titus 1:9 ) and to be “doers of the word” ( James 1:22 ).

In the Johannine writings Jesus himself is called the logos (  John 1:1 ,John 1:1, 1:14 ). Paul called Jesus the “wisdom of God” ( 1 Corinthians 1:24 ) and spoke of His preexistence ( Philippians 2:6;  Colossians 1:15-16 ); but only in the Johannine literature do we find the full development of an understanding of Jesus as the logos or wisdom of God that became incarnate. As the preexistent logos , the Son of God was the agent of creation. In contrast to earlier wisdom speculation, John affirmed that the logos was with God and was God. The logos was not created. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, we find logos used with qualifiers such as “of God” (  John 10:35 ), “of Jesus” ( John 18:32 ), “my word” ( John 8:43 ), or “his word” ( John 8:55 ).  Revelation 19:13 calls Jesus the “word of God,” and   1 John 1:1 speaks of Him as “the word of life” (compare   Hebrews 1:2 ), but only in the prologue of the Gospel is logos used of Jesus in the absolute sense. Throughout John's Gospel Jesus spoke and acted as the incarnate logos , continuing God's creative and redemptive work. Hence, He could change water to wine, create eyes for a man born blind, and breathe the Spirit into His disciples ( John 20:22 ).

John was probably dependent upon the developments in the use of logos that are evident in Jewish wisdom speculation and in Philo's writings, but John's distinctive contribution was the adoption of this concept to illuminate the identity and role of Jesus more fully. The Gospel of John declares that the logos of whom the philosophers and sages spoke had come in human form in Jesus of Nazareth. See Christology Christ; Creation; Philo Judaeus; Prophets; Wisdom.

R. Alan Culpepper

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(1): ( n.) A word; reason; speech.

(2): ( n.) The divine Word; Christ.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [5]

log´os ( λόγος , lógos ):

I. Greek Speculation

1. Heraclitus

2. Anaxagoras

3. Plato

4. Aristotle

5. Stoics

II. Hebrew Anticipation Of Doctrine

1. Word as Revelation of God

2. Suggestions of Personal Distinctions in Deity

3. Theophanies

4. Wisdom

5. Targums

III. Alexandrian Synthesis


IV. Christian Realization

1. Pauline Doctrine

2. Doctrine in Hebrews

3. Doctrine in Fourth Gospel

(1) Content of Doctrine

(a) Relation of Logos to God

(b) Relation of Logos to World

(2) Origin of Terminology

(a) Hebrew Source

(b) Hellenic Source

(c) Contrast between Philo and John

V. Patristic Development


The doctrine of the Logos has exerted a decisive and far-reaching influence upon speculative and Christian thought. The word has a long history, and the evolution of the idea it embodies is really the unfolding of man's conception of God. To comprehend the relation of the Deity to the world has been the aim of all religious philosophy. While widely divergent views as to the Divine manifestation have been conceived, from the dawn of Western speculation, the Greek word logos has been employed with a certain degree of uniformity by a series of thinkers to express and define the nature and mode of God's revelation.

Logos signifies in classical Greek both "reason" and "word." Though in Biblical Greek the term is mostly employed in the sense of "word," we cannot properly dissociate the two significations. Every word implies a thought. It is impossible to imagine a time when God was without thought. Hence, thought must be eternal as the Deity. The translation "thought" is probably the best equivalent for the Greek term, since it denotes, on the one hand, the faculty of reason, or the thought inwardly conceived in the mind; and, on the other hand, the thought outwardly expressed through the vehicle of language. The two ideas, thought and speech, are indubitably blended in the term logos  ; and in every employment of the word, in philosophy and Scripture, both notions of thought and its outward expression are intimately connected.

In this article it will be our aim to trace the evolution of the doctrine from its earliest appearance in Greek philosophy through its Hebrew and Alexandrian phases till it attained its richest expression in the writings of the New Testament, and especially in the Fourth Gospel.

The doctrine may be said to have two stages: a Hellenistic and a Hebrew; or, more correctly, a pre-Christian and a Christian. The theory of Philo and of the Alexandrian thinkers generally may be regarded as the connecting link between the Greek and the Christian forms of the doctrine. The Greek or pre-Christian speculation on the subject is marked by the names of Heraclitus, Plato and the Stoics. Philo paves the way for the Christian doctrine of Paul, Hebrews and the Johannine Gospel.

I. Greek Speculation.

The earliest speculations of the Greeks were occupied with the world of Nature, and the first attempts at philosophy take the shape of a search for some unitary principle to explain the diversity of the universe.

1. Heraclitus:

Heraclitus was practically the first who sought to account for the order which existed in a world of change by a law or ruling principle. This profoundest of Greek philosophers saw everything in a condition of flux. Everything is forever passing into something else and has an existence only in relation to this process. We cannot say things are: they come into being and pass away. To account for this state of perpetual becoming , Heraclitus was led to seek out a new and primary element from which all things take their rise. This substance he conceived to be, not water or air as previous thinkers had conjectured, but something more subtle, mysterious and potent - fire. This restless, all-consuming and yet all-transforming activity - now darting upward as a flame, now sinking to an ember and now vanishing as smoke - is for him at once the symbol and essence of life. But it is no arbitrary or lawless element. If there is flux everywhere, all change must take place according to "measure." Reality is an "attunement" of opposites, a tension or harmony of conflicting elements. Heraclitus saw all the mutations of being governed by a rational and unalterable law. This law he calls sometimes "Justice," sometimes "Harmony"; more frequently " Logos " or "Reason," and in two passages at least, "God." Fire, Logos , God are fundamentally the same. It is the eternal energy of the universe pervading all its substance and preserving in unity and harmony the perpetual drift and evolution of phenomenal existence. Though Heraclitus sometimes calls this rational principle God, it is not probable that he attached to it any definite idea of consciousness. The Logos is not above the world or even prior to it. It is in it, its inner pervasive energy sustaining, relating and harmonizing its endless variety.

2. Anaxagoras:

Little was done by the immediate successors of Heraclitus to develop the doctrine of the Logos , and as the distinction between mind and matter became more defined, the term nous superseded that of Logos as the rational force of the world. Anaxagoras was the first thinker who introduced the idea of a supreme intellectual principle which, while independent of the world, governed it. His conception of the nous or "mind" is, however, vague and confused, hardly distinguishable from corporeal matter. By the artificial introduction of a power acting externally upon the world, a dualism, which continued throughout Greek philosophy, was created. At the same time it is to the merit of Anaxagoras that he was the first to perceive some kind of distinction between mind and matter and to suggest a teleological explanation of the universe.

3. Plato:

In Plato the idea of a regulative principle reappears. But though the word is frequently used, it is nous and not Logos which determines his conception of the relation of God and the world. The special doctrine of the Logos does not find definite expression, except perhaps in the Timaeus, where the word is employed as descriptive of the Divine force from which the world has arisen. But if the word does not frequently occur in the dialogues, there is not wanting a basis upon which a Logos-doctrine might be framed; and the conception of archetypal ideas affords a philosophical expression of the relation of God and the world. The idea of a dominating principle of reason was lifted to a higher plane by the distinction which Plato made between the world of sense and the world of thought, to the latter of which God belonged. According to Plato, true reality or absolute being consisted of the "Ideas" which he conceived as thoughts residing in the Divine mind before the creation of the world. To these abstract concepts was ascribed the character of supersensible realities of which in some way the concrete visible things of the world were copies or images. Compared with the "Ideas," the world of things was a world of shadows. This was the aspect of the Platonic doctrine of ideas which, as we shall see, Philo afterward seized upon, because it best fitted in with his general conception of the transcendence of God and His relation to the visible world. Three features of Plato's view ought to be remembered as having a special significance for our subject: (1) While God is regarded by Plato as the intelligent power by which the world is formed, matter itself is conceived by him as in some sense eternal and partly intractable. (2) While in the Philebus Plato employs the expression, "the regal principle of intelligence in the nature of God" νοῦς βασιλικὸς ἐν τῆ τοῦ Διὸς φύσει , noús basilikós en tḗ toú Diós phúsei ), it is doubtful if reason was endowed with personality or was anything more than an attribute of the Divine mind. (3) The ideas are merely models or archetypes after which creation is fashioned.

4. Aristotle:

The doctrine of the Logos cannot be said to occupy a distinctive place in the teaching of Aristotle, though the word does occur in a variety of senses (e.g. ὀρθὸς λόγος , orthós lōgos , "right insight," the faculty by which the will is trained to proper action). Aristotle sought to solve the fundamental problem of Greek philosophy as to how behind the changing multiplicity of appearances an abiding Being is to be thought by means of the concept of development . Plato had regarded the "ideas" as the causes of phenomena - causes different from the objects themselves. Aristotle endeavored to overcome the duality of Plato by representing reality as the essence which contains within itself potentially the phenomena, and unfolds into the particular manifestations of the sensible world. This conception has exerted a powerful influence upon subsequent thought, and particularly upon the monotheistic view of the world. At the same time in working it out, the ultimate "prime-mover" of Aristotle was not materially different from the idea of "the Good" of Plato. And inasmuch as God was conceived as pure thought existing apart from the world in eternal blessedness, Aristotle did not succeed in resolving the duality of God and the universe which exercised the Greek mind.

5. Stoics:

It is to the Stoics we must look for the first systematic exposition of the doctrine of the Logos . It is the key to their interpretation of life, both in the realms of Nature and of duty. Interested more in ethical than physical problems, they were compelled to seek general metaphysical basis for a rational moral life. Some unitary idea must be found which will overcome the duality between God and the world and remove the opposition between the sensuous and supersensuous which Plato and Aristotle had failed to reconcile. For this end the Logos-doctrine of Heraclitus seemed to present itself as the most satisfactory solution of the problem. The fundamental thought of the Stoics consequently is that the entire universe forms a single living connected whole and that all particulars are the determinate forms assumed by the primitive power which they conceived as never-resting, all-pervading fire. This eternal activity or Divine world-power which contains within itself the conditions and processes of all things, they call Logos or God. More particularly as the productive power, the Deity is named the λόγος σπερματικός , lógos spermatikós , the Seminal Logos or generative principle of the world. This vital energy not only pervades the universe, but unfolds itself into innumerable logoi spermatikoi or formative forces which energize the manifold phenomena of Nature and life. This subordination of all particulars to the Logos not only constitutes the rational order of the universe but supplies a norm of duty for the regulation of the activities of life. Hence, in the moral sphere "to live according to Nature" is the all-determining law of conduct.

II. Hebrew Anticipation of Doctrine.

So far we have traced the development of the Logos-doctrine in Greek philosophy. We have now to note a parallel movement in Hebrew thought. Though strictly speaking it is incorrect to separate the inner Reason from the outer expression in the term Logos , still in the Hellenistic usage the doctrine was substantially a doctrine of Reason, while in Jewish literature it was more especially the outward expression or word that was emphasized.

1. Word as Revelation of God:

The sources of this conception are to be found in the Old Testament and in the post-canonical literature. The God who is made known in Scripture is regarded as one who actively reveals Himself. He is exhibited therefore as making His will known in and by His spoken utterances. The "Word of God" is presented as the creative principle ( Genesis 1:3;  Psalm 33:6 ); as instrument of judgment ( Hosea 6:5 ); as agent of healing ( Psalm 107:20 ); and generally as possessor of personal qualities ( Isaiah 55:2;  Psalm 147:15 ). Revelation is frequently called the "Word of the Lord," signifying the spoken as distinct from the written word.

2. Suggestions of Personal Distinctions in Deity:

In particular, we may note certain adumbrations of distinction of persons within the Being of God. It is contended that the phrase "Let us make" in Genesis points to a plurality of persons in the God-head. This indefinite language of Genesis is more fully explained by the priestly ritual in Numbers ( Numbers 6:23 ) and in the Psalter. In Jer, Ezr and the vision of Isa ( Isaiah 6:2 ) the same idea of Divine plurality is implied, showing that the Old Testament presents a doctrine of God far removed from the sterile monotheism of the Koran (compare Liddon, Divinity of our Lord , and Konig).

3. Theophanies:

Passing from these indefinite intimations of personal distinction in the inner life of God, we may mention first that series of remarkable apparitions commonly known as the theophanies of the Old Testament. These representations are described as the "Angel of Yahweh" or of "the Covenant"; or as the "Angel of his presence." This angelic appearance is sometimes identified with Yahweh (  Genesis 16:11 ,  Genesis 16:13;  Genesis 32:29-31;  Exodus 3:2;  Exodus 13:21 ), sometimes distinguished from Him ( Genesis 22:15;  Genesis 24:7; 98:12); sometimes presented in both aspects (  Exodus 3:6;  Zechariah 1:11 ). We find God revealing Himself in this way to Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Hagar, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Manoah. Who was this angel? The earliest Fathers reply with general unanimity that He was the "Word" or "Son of God." But while the earlier church teachers distinguished between the "Angel of the Lord" and the Father, the Arians sought to widen the distinction into a difference of natures, since an invisible Being must be higher than one cognizable by the senses. Augustine insists upon the Scriptural truth of the invisibility of God as God, the Son not less than the Father. He will not presume, however, to say which of the Divine persons manifested Himself in this or that instance; and his general doctrine, in which he has been followed by most of the later teachers of the church, is that theophanies were not direct appearances of a Person of the Godhead, but self-manifestations of God through a created being.

4. Wisdom:

A further development of the conception of a personal medium of revelation is discernible in the description of Wisdom as given in some of the later books of the Old Testament. The wisdom of Jewish Scripture is more than a human endowment or even an attribute of God, and may be said to attain almost to a personal reflex of the Deity, reminding us of the archetypal ideas of Plato. In Job, wisdom is represented as existent in God and as communicated in its highest form to man. It is the eternal thought in which the Divine Architect ever beholds His future creation ( Job 28:23-27 ). If in Job wisdom is revealed only as underlying the laws of the universe and not as wholly personal, in the Book of Proverbs it is coeternal with Yahweh and assists Him in creation ( Proverbs 8:22-31 ). It may be doubtful whether this is the language of a real person or only of a poetic personification. But something more than a personified idea may be inferred from the contents of the sapiential books outside the Canon. Sirach represents Wisdom as existing from all eternity with God. In Baruch, and still more in Wisdom, the Sophia is distinctly personal - "the very image of the goodness of God." In this pseudo-Solomonic book, supposed to be the work of an Alexandrian writer before Philo, the influence of Greek thought is traceable. The writer speaks of God's Word ( mē'merā' ) as His agent in creation and judgment.

5. Targums:

Finally in the Targums, which were popular interpretations or paraphrases of the Old Testament Scripture, there was a tendency to avoid anthropomorphic terms or such expressions as involved a too internal conception of God's nature and manifestation. Here the three doctrines of the Word, the Angel, and Wisdom are introduced as mediating factors between God and the world. In particular the chasm between the Divine and human is bridged over by the use of such terms as mē'merā' ("word") and shekhı̄nāh ("glory"). The mē'merā' proceeds from God, and is His messenger in Nature and history. But it is significant that though the use of this expression implied the felt need of a Mediator, the Word does not seem to have been actually identified with the Messiah.

III. Alexandrian Synthesis.

We have seen that according to Greek thought the Logos was conceived as a rational principle or impersonal energy by means of which the world was fashioned and ordered, while according to Hebrew thought the Logos was regarded rather as a mediating agent or personal organ of the Divine Being. The Hellenistic doctrine, in other words, was chiefly a doctrine of the Logos as Reason; the Jewish, a doctrine of the Logos as Word.


In the philosophy of Alexandria, of which Philo was an illustrious exponent, the two phases were combined, and Hellenistic speculation was united with Hebrew tradition for the purpose of showing that the Old Testament taught the true philosophy and embodied all that was highest in Greek reflection. In Philo the two streams meet and flow henceforth in a common bed. The all-pervading Energy of Heraclitus, the archetypal Ideas of Plato, the purposive Reason of Aristotle, the immanent Order of the Stoics are taken up and fused with the Jewish conception of Yahweh who, while transcending all finite existences, is revealed through His intermediatory Word. As the result of this Philonic synthesis, an entirely new idea of God is formulated. While Philo admits the eternity of matter, he rejects the Greek view that the world is eternal, since it denies the creative activity and providence of God. At the same time he separates Divine energy from its manifestations in the world, and is therefore compelled to connect the one with the other by the interposition of subordinate Powers. These Divine forces are the embodiment of the ἰδέαι , idéai , of Plato and the ἄγγελοι , ággeloi , of the Old Testament. The double meaning of Λογος - thought and speech - is made use of by Philo to explain the relation subsisting between the ideal world existing only in the mind of God and the sensible universe which is its visible embodiment. He distinguishes, therefore, between the Λογος inherent in God ( λόγος ἐνδιάθετος , lógos endiáthetos ), corresponding to reason in man, and the Logos which emanates from God ( λόγος φορικός , lógos prophorikós ), corresponding to the spoken Word as the revelation of thought. Though in His inner essence God is incomprehensible by any but Himself, He has created the intelligible cosmos by His self-activity. The Word is therefore in Philo the rational order manifested in the visible world .

Some special features of the Philonic Logos may be noted: (1) It is distinguished from God as the instrument from the Cause. (2) As instrument by which God makes the world, it is in its nature intermediate between God and man. (3) As the expressed thought of God and the rational principle of the visible world, the Logos is " the Eldest or Firstborn Son of God. " It is the "bond" ( δεσμός , desmós ) holding together all things ( De Mundi , i. 592), the law which determines the order of the universe and guides the destinies of men and nations (same place) . Sometimes Philo calls it the "Man of God": or the "Heavenly man," the immortal father of all noble men; sometimes he calls it "the Second God," "the Image of God." (4) From this it follows that the Logos must be the Mediator between God and man, the "Intercessor" ( ἰκέτης , hikétēs ) or "High Priest," who is the ambassador from heaven and interprets God to man. Philo almost exhausts the vocabulary of Hebrew metaphor in describing the Logos . It is "manna," "bread from heaven," "the living stream," the "sword" of Paradise, the guiding "cloud," the "rock" in the wilderness.

These various expressions, closely resembling the New Testament descriptions of Christ, lead us to ask: Is Philo's Logos a personal being or a pure abstraction? Philo himself seems to waver in his answer, and the Greek and the Jew in him are hopelessly at issue. That he personifies the Logos is implied in the figures he uses; but to maintain its personality would have been inconsistent with Philo's whole view of God and the world. His Jewish faith inclines him to speak of the Logos as personal, while his Greek culture disposes him to an impersonal interpretation. Confronted with this alternative, the Alexandrian wavers in indecision. After all has been said, his Logos really resolves itself into a group of Divine ideas, and is conceived, not as a distinct person, but as the thought of God which is expressed in the rational order of the visible universe.

In the speculations of Philo, whose thought is so frequently couched in Biblical language, we have the gropings of a sincere mind after a truth which was disclosed in its fullness only by the revelation of Pentecost. In Philo, Greek philosophy, as has been said, "stood almost at the door of the Christian church." But if the Alexandrian thinker could not create the Christian doctrine, he unconsciously prepared the soil for its acceptance. In this sense his Logos-doctrine has a real value in the evolution of Christian thought. Philo was not, indeed, the master of the apostles, but even if he did nothing more than call forth their antagonism, he helped indirectly to determine the doctrine of Christendom.

IV. Christian Realization.

We pass now to consider the import of the term in the New Testament. Here it signifies usually "utterance," "speech" or "narrative." In reference to God it is used sometimes for a special utterance, or for revelation in general, and even for the medium of revelation - H oly Scripture. In the prologue of the Fourth Gospel it is identified with the personal Christ; and it is this employment of the term in the light of its past history which creates the interest of the problem of the New Testament doctrine.

1. Pauline Doctrine:

The author of the Fourth Gospel is not, however, the first New Testament writer who represents Jesus as the Logos . Though Paul does not actually use the word in this connection, he has anticipated the Johannine conception. Christ is represented by Paul as before His advent living a life with God in heaven (  Galatians 4:4;  Romans 10:6 ). He is conceived as one in whose image earthly beings, and especially men, were made ( 1 Corinthians 11:7;  1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ); and even as participating in the creation ( 1 Corinthians 8:6 ). In virtue of His distinct being He is called God's "own Son" ( Romans 8:32 ).

Whether Paul was actually conversant with the writings of Philo is disputed (compare Pfleider, Urchristentum ), but already when he wrote to the Colossians and Ephesians the influence of Alexandrian speculation was being felt in the church. Incipient Gnosticism, which was an attempt to correlate Christianity with the order of the universe as a whole, was current. Most noticeable are the pointed allusions to Gnostic watchwords in   Ephesians 3:19 ("fullness of God") and in   Colossians 2:3 ("Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden"), where Paul shows that everything sought for in the doctrine of the Pleroma is really given in Christ. The chief object of these epistles is to assert the unique dignity and absolute power of the Person of Christ. He is not merely one of the Eons which make up the Pleroma, as Gnostic teachers affirm, but a real and personal Being in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells. He is not merely an inferior workman creating glory for a higher Master. He creates for Himself. He is the end as well as the source of all created. things (  Colossians 1:15-20 ). Though throughout this epistle the word " Logos " is never introduced, it is plain that the εἰκών , eikṓn , of Paul is equivalent in rank and function to the Logos of John. Each exists prior to creation, each is equal to God, shares His life and cooperates in His work.

2. Doctrine in Hebrews:

In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have an equally explicit, if not fuller, declaration of the eternal Deity of Christ. Whatever may be said of Paul there can be little doubt that the author of He was familiar with the Philonic writings. Who this writer was we do not know; but his Philonism suggests that he may have been an Alexandrian Jew, possibly even a disciple of Philo. In language seemingly adapted from that source ("Son of God," "Firstborn," "above angels," "Image of God," "Agent in Creation," "Mediator," "Great High Priest" "Melchizedek") the author of He sneaks of Christ as a reflection of the majesty and imprint of the nature of God, just as in a seal the impression resembles the stamp. The dignity of His title indicates His essential rank. He is expressly dressed as God; and the expression "the effulgence of his glory" (the Revised Version (British and American) ἀπαύγασμα , apaúgasma ) implies that He is one with God (  Hebrews 1:3 ). By Him the worlds have been made, and all things are upheld by the fiat of His word ( Hebrews 1:3 ). In the name He bears, in the honors ascribed to Him, in His superiority to angels, in His relationship as Creator both to heaven and earth ( Hebrews 1:10 ), we recognize (in language which in the letter of it strongly reminds us of Philo, yet in its spirit is so different) the description of one who though clothed with human nature is no mere subordinate being, but the possessor of all Divine prerogatives and the sharer of the very nature of God Himself.

3. Doctrine in the Fourth Gospel:

In the Fourth Gospel the teaching of Paul and the author of He finds its completest expression. "The letter to the He stands in a sense half-way between Pauline and Johannine teaching" (Weizsacker, Apostolic Age , V, 11). It is, however, too much to say that these three writers represent the successive stages of single line of development. While all agree in emphasizing the fact of Christ's Divine personality and eternal being, Paul represents rather the religious interest, the Epistle to the Hebrews the philosophical. In the Johannine Christology the two elements are united.

In discussing the Johannine doctrine of the Logos we shall Speak first of its content and secondly of its terminology .

(1) Content of Doctrine.

The evangelist uses " Logos " 6 times as a designation of the Divine preexistent person of Christ (  John 1:1 ,  John 1:14;  1 John 1:1;  Revelation 19:13 ), but he never puts it into the mouth of Christ. The idea which John sought to convey by this term was not essentially different from the conception of Christ as presented by Paul. But the use of the word gave a precision and emphasis to the being of Christ which the writer must have felt was especially needed by the class of readers for whom his Gospel was intended. The Logos with whom the Fourth Gospel starts is a Person . Readers of the Synoptics had long been familiar with the term "Word of God" as equivalent to the Gospel; but the essential purport of John's Word is Jesus Himself, His Person. We have here an essential change of meaning. The two applications are indeed connected; but the conception of the perfect revelation of God in the Gospel passes into that of the perfect revelation of the Divine nature in general (compare Weizsacker, Apostolic Age , V, ii, 320).

In the prologue (which, however, must not be regarded as independent of, or having no integral connection with, the rest of the book) there is stated: (a) the relation of the Logos to God; and (b) the relation of the Logos to the world .

(a) Relation of Logos to God:

Here the author makes three distinct affirmations:

(i) "In the Beginning Was the Word."

The evangelist carries back his history of our Lord to a point prior to all temporal things. Nothing is said of the origin of the world. As in  Genesis 1:1 , so here there is only implied that the Logos was existent when the world began to be. When as yet nothing was, the Logos was. Though the eternal preexistence of the Word is not actually stated, it is implied.

(ii) "The Word Was With God."

Here His personal existence is more specifically defined. He stands distinct from, yet in eternal fellowship with, God. The preposition prós ( bei , Luther) expresses beyond the fact of coexistence that of perpetual intercommunion. John would guard against the idea of mere self-contemplation on the one hand, and entire independence on the other. It is union, not fusion.

(iii) "The Word Was God."

He is not merely related eternally, but actually identical in essence with God. The notion of inferiority is emphatically excluded and the true Deity of the Word affirmed. In these three propositions we ascend from His eternal existence to His distinct personality and thence to His substantial Godhead. All that God is the Logos is. Identity, difference, communion are the three phases of the Divine relationship.

(b) Relation of Logos to the World:

The Logos is word as well as thought , and therefore there is suggested the further idea of communicativeness . Of this self-communication the evangelist mentions two phases - creation and revelation. The Word unveils Himself through the mediation of objects of sense and also manifests Himself directly. Hence, in this section of the prologue (  John 1:3-5 ) a threefold division also occurs. (i) He is the Creator of the visible universe. "All things were made through him" - a phrase which describes the Logos as the organ of the entire creative activity of God and excludes the idea favored by Plato and Philo that God was only the architect who molded into cosmos previously existing matter. The term ἐγένετο , egéneto ("becomes," werden ), implies the successive evolution of the world, a statement not inconsistent with the modern theory of development. (ii) The Logos is also the source of the intellectual , moral and spiritual life of man. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." He is the light as well as the life - the fountain of all the manifold forms of being and thought in and by whom all created things subsist, and from whom all derive illumination (compare   1 John 1:1-3; also  Colossians 1:17 ). But inasmuch as the higher phases of intelligent life involve freedom, the Divine Light, though perfect and undiminished in itself, was not comprehended by a world which chose darkness rather than light ( John 1:5 ,  John 1:11 ). (iii) The climax of Divine revelation is expressed in the statement, The Word became flesh," which implies on the one hand the reality of Christ's humanity, and, on the other, the voluntariness of His incarnation, but excludes the notion that in becoming man the Logos ceased to be God. Though clothed in flesh, the Logos continues to be the self-manifesting God, and retains, even in human form, the character of the Eternal One. In this third phase is embodied the highest manifestation of the Godhead. In physical creation the power of God is revealed. In the bestowal of light to mankind His wisdom is chiefly manifested. But in the third especially is His love unveiled. All the perfections of the Deity are focused and made visible in Christ - the "glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (  John 1:14 ).

Thus the Word reveals the Divine essence. The incarnation makes the life , the light and the love which are eternally present in God manifest to men. As they meet in God, so they meet in Christ. This is the glory which the disciples beheld; the truth to which the Baptist bore witness (  John 1:7 ); the fullness whereof His apostles received ( John 1:16 ); the entire body of grace and truth by which the Word gives to men the power to become the sons of God.

There is implied throughout that the Word is the Son . Each of these expressions taken separately have led and may lead to error. But combined they correct possible misuse. On the one hand, their union protects us from considering the Logos as a mere abstract impersonal quality; and, on the other, saves us from imparting to the Son a lower state or more recent origin than the Father. Each term supplements and protects the other. Taken together they present Christ before His incarnation as at once personally distinct from, yet equal with, the Father - as the eternal life which was with God and was manifested to us.

(2) Origin of Terminology.

We have now to ask whence the author of the Fourth Gospel derived the phraseology employed to set forth his Christology. It will be well, however, to distinguish between the source of the doctrine itself and the source of the language . For it is possible that Alexandrian philosophy might have suggested the linguistic medium, while the doctrine itself had another origin. Writers like Reuss, Keim, Holtzmann, Weizsacker, Schmiedel, etc., who contend for the Alexandrian derivation of the prologue, are apt to overlook two considerations regarding the Johannine doctrine: (1) There is no essential difference between the teaching of John and that of the other apostolic writers; and even when the word " Logos " is not used, as in Paul's case, the view of Christ's person is virtually that which we find in the Fourth Gospel. (2) The writer himself affirms that his knowledge of Christ was not borrowed from others, but was derived from personal fellowship with Jesus Himself. "We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten." This is John's summary and witness upon which he proceeds to base the vivid memories of Jesus which follow. The Johannine doctrine is not to be regarded merely as a philosophical account of the nature of God and His creation of the world, but rather as the statement of a belief which already existed in the Christian church and which received fresh testimony and assurance from the evangelist's own personal experience.

But the question may still be asked: Even if it was no novel doctrine which John declared, what led him to adopt the language of the Logos , a word which had not been employed in this connection by previous Christian writers, but which was prevalent in the philosophical vocabulary of the age? It would be inconceivable that the apostle lighted upon this word by chance or that he selected it without any previous knowledge of its history and value. It may be assumed that when he speaks of the "Word" in relation to God and the world, he employs a mode of speech which was already familiar to those for whom he wrote and of whose general import he himself was well aware.

The truth that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ was borne in upon John. The problem which confronted him was how he could make that truth real to his contemporaries. This he sought to do by using the language of the highest religious thought of his day.

We have seen that the term " Logos " had undergone a twofold and to some extent parallel evolution. On the one hand, it had a Hebrew and, on the other, a Hellenic history. In which direction are we to look for the immediate source of the Johannine terminology?

(a) Hebrew Source:

As a Palestinian Jew familiar with current Jewish ideas and forms of devout expression, it would be natural for him to adopt a word, or its Greek equivalent, which played so important a part in shaping and expressing the religious beliefs of the Old Testament people. Many scholars consider that we have here the probable source of Johannine language. In the Old Testament, and particularly, in the Targums or Jewish paraphrases, the "Word" is constantly spoken of as the efficient instrument of Divine action; and the "Word of God" had come to be used in a personal way as almost identical with God Himself. In  Revelation 19:13 , we have obviously an adoption of this Hebrew use of the phrase. Throughout the Gospel there is evinced a decided familiarity and sympathy with the Old Testament teaching, and some expressions would seem to indicate the evangelist's desire to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish expectation (e.g.  John 1:14 ,  John 1:29 ,  John 1:31;  John 2:19;  John 3:14;  John 6:32 ,  John 6:48-50 ), and the living embodiment of Israelite truth ( John 1:16;  John 8:12;  John 11:25;  John 14:6 ). But as against this it has been pointed out by Weizsacker ( Apostolisches Zeitalter ) that the Word of God is not conceived in the Old Testament as an independent Being, still less as equivalent for the Messiah, and that the rabbinical doctrine which identifies the memra with God is of much later date.

At the same time the Hebrew cast of thought of the Johannine Gospel and its affinities with Jewish rather than Hellenic modes of expression can hardly be gainsaid. Though John's knowledge of and sympathy with Palestinian religion may not actually account for his use of the term " Logos ," it may have largely colored and directed his special application of it. For, as Neander observes, that name may have been put forward at Ephesus in order to lead those Jews, who were busying themselves with speculations on the Logos as the center of all theophanies, to recognize in Christ the Supreme Revelation of God and the fulfillment of their Messianic hopes.

(b) Hellenic Source:

Other writers trace the Johannine ideas and terms to Hellenic philosophy and particularly to Alexandrian influence as represented in Philo. No one can compare the Fourth Gospel with the writings of Philo without noting a remarkable similarity in diction, especially in the use of the word " Logos ". It would be hazardous, however, on this ground alone to impute conscious borrowing to the evangelist. It is more probable that both the Alexandrian thinker and the New Testament writer were subject to common influences of thought and expression. Hellenism largely colors the views and diction of the early church. Paul takes over many words from Greek philosophy. "There is not a single New Testament writing," says Harnack ( Dogmen-Geschichte , I, 47, note), "which does not betray the influence of the mode of thought and general culture which resulted from the Hellenizing of the East." But, while that is true, it must not be forgotten, as Harnack himself points out, "that while the writers of the New Testament breathe an atmosphere created by Greek culture, the religious ideas in which they live and move come to them from the Old Testament."

It is hardly probable that John was directly acquainted with the writings of Philo. But it is more than likely that he was cognizant of the general tenor of his teaching and may have discovered in the language which had floated over from Alexandria to Ephesus a suitable vehicle for the utterance of his own beliefs, especially welcome and intelligible to those who were familiar with Alexandrian modes of thought.

But whatever superficial resemblances there may be between Philo and John (and they are not few or vague), it must be at once evident that the whole spirit and view of life is fundamentally different. So far from the apostle being a disciple of the Alexandrian or a borrower of his ideas, it would be more correct to say that there is clearly a conscious rejection of the Philonic conception, and that the Logos of John is a deliberate protest against what he must have regarded as the inadequate and misleading philosophy of Greece.

(c) Contrast between Philo and John:

The contrast between the two writers is much more striking than the resemblance. The distinction is not due merely to the acceptance by the Christian writer of Jesus as the Word, but extends to the whole conception of God and His relation to the world which has made Christianity a new power among men. The Logos of Philo is metaphysical, that of John, religious. Philo moves entirely in the region of abstract thought, his idea of God is pure being; John's thought is concrete and active, moving in a region of life and history. Philo's Logos is intermediate, the instrument which God employs in fashioning the world; John's Logos is not subsidiary but is Himself God, and as such is not a mere instrument, but the prime Agent in creation. According to Philo the Deity is conceived as an architect who forms the world out of already existent matter. According to John the Logos is absolute Creator of all that is, the Source of all being, life and intelligence. In Philo the Logos hovers between personality and impersonality, and if it is sometimes personified it can hardly be said to have the value of an actual person; in John the personality of the Logos is affirmed from the first and it is of the very essence of his doctrine, the ground of His entire creative energy. The idea of an incarnation is alien to the thought of Philo and impossible in his scheme of the universe; the "Word that has become flesh" is the pivot and crown of Johannine teaching. Philo affirms the absolute incomprehensibility of God; but it is the prime object of the evangelist to declare that God is revealed in Christ and that the Logos is the unveiling through the flesh of man of the self-manifesting Deity. Notwithstanding the personal epithets employed by Philo, his Logos remains a pure abstraction or attribute of God, and it is never brought into relation with human history. John's Logos , on the other hand, is instinct with life and energy from the beginning, and it is the very heart of his Gospel to declare as the very center of life and history the great historical event of the incarnation which is to recreate the world and reunite God and man.

From whatever point of view we compare them, we find that Philo and John, while using the same language, give an entirely different value to it. The essential purport of the Johannine Logos is Jesus Christ. The adoption of the term involves its complete transformation. It is baptized with a new spirit and henceforth stands for a new conception. From whatsoever source it was originally derived - from Hebrew tradition or Hellenic speculation - on Christian soil it is a new product. It is neither Greek nor Jewish, it is Christian. The philosophical abstraction has become a religious conception. Hellenism and Hebrewism have been taken up and fused into a higher unity, and Christ as the embodiment of the Logos has become the creative power and the world-wide possession of mankind.

The most probable view is that Philo and John found the same term current in Jewish and Gentilecircles and used it to set forth their respective ideas; Philo, following his predilections for Greek philosophy, to give a Hellenic complexion to his theory of the relation of Divine Reason to the universe; John, true to ,his Hebrew instincts, seeing in the Logos the climax of that revelation of God to man of which the earlier Jewish theophanies were but partial expressions.

There is nothing improbable in the surmise that the teaching of Philo gave a fresh impulse to the study of the Logos as Divine Reason which was already shadowed forth in the Biblical doctrine of Wisdom (Westcott). Nor need we take offense that such an important idea should have come to the Biblical author from an extra-Biblical writer (compare Schmiedel, Johannine Writings ), remembering only that the author of the Johannine Gospel was no mechanical borrower, but an entirely independent and original thinker who gave to the Logos and the ideas associated with it a wholly-new worth and interpretation. Thus, as has been said, the treasures of Greece were made contributory to the full unfolding of the Gospel.

V. Patristic Development.

The Johannine Logos became the fruitful source of much speculation in Gnostic circles and among the early Fathers regarding the nature of Christ. The positive truth presented by the Fourth Gospel was once more broken up, and the various elements of which it was the synthesis became the seeds of a number of partial and one-sided theories respecting the relation of the Father and the Son. The influence of Greek ideas, which had already begun in the Apostolic Age, became more pronounced and largely shaped the current of ante-Nicene theology (see Hatch, Hibbert Lectures ).

Gnosticism in particular was an attempt to reconcile Christianity with philosophy; but in Gnostic systems the term " Logos " is only sparingly employed. According to Basilides the " Logos " was an emanation from the nous as personified Wisdom, which again was directly derived from the Father. Valentinus, in whose teaching Gnosticism culminated, taught that Wisdom was the last of a series of Eons which emanated from the Primal Being, and the Logos was an emanation of the first two principles which issued from God - R eason, Faith. Justin Martyr, the first of the sub-apostolic Fathers, sought to unite the Scriptural idea of the Logos as Word with the Hellenic idea of Reason. According to him God produced in His own nature a rational power which was His agent in creation and took the form in history of the Divine Man. Christ is the organ of all revelations, and as the λόγος σπερματικός , lógos spermatikós , He sows the seeds of virtue and truth among the heathen. All that is true and beautiful in the pagan world is to be traced to the activity of the Logos before His incarnation. Tatian and Theophilus taught essentially the same doctrine; though in Tatian there is a marked leaning toward Gnosticism, and consequently a tendency to separate the ideal from the historical Christ. Athenagoras, who ascribes to the Logos the creation of all things, regarding it in the double sense of the Reason of God and the creative energy of the world, has a firm grasp of the Biblical doctrine, which was still more clearly expressed by Irenaeus, who held that the Son was the essential Word, eternally begotten of the Father and at once the interpreter of God and the Creator of the world.

The Alexandrian school was shaped by the threefold influence of Plato, Philo and the Johannine Gospel. Clement of Alexandria views the Son as the Logos of the Father, the Fountain of all intelligence, the Revealer of the Divine Being and the Creator and Illuminator of mankind. He repudiates the idea of the inferiority of the Son, and regards the Logos not as the spoken but as the creative word. Origen seeks to reconcile the two ideas of the eternity and the subordination of the Logos , and is in this sense a mediator between the Arian and more orthodox parties and was appealed to by both. According to him the Son is equal in substance with the Father, but there is a difference in essence. While the Father is "the God" ( ὁ θεός , ho theós ) and "God Himself" ( αὐτόθεος , autótheos ), the Logos is "a second God" ( δεύτερος θεός , deúteros theós ). In the Nicene Age, under the shaping influence of the powerful mind of Athanasius, and, to a lesser degree, of Basil and the two Gregories, the Logos-doctrine attained its final form in the triumphant statement of the Nicene Creed which declared the essential unity, but, at the same time, the personal distinction of the Father and Son. The Council of Nicea practically gathered up the divergent views of the past and established the teaching of the Fourth Gospel as the doctrine of the church.


(1) On Greek Logos:

Schleiermacher, Herakleitos der Dunkle  ; Histories of Philosophy, Zeller, Ueberweg, Hitter; Heinze, Die Lehre yore Logos in der Greek Phil . (1872); Aall, Gesch. d. Logosidee in d. Greek Phil. (1896).

(2) On Jewish Doctrine:

Oehler, [[O T T]] heol . (1873); Schurer, Lehrbuch d. New Testament Zeitgesch  ; Schultz, Old Testament Theol .

(3) On Alexandrian Doctrine:

Gfrorer, Philo u. die alex. Theosophie (1831); Dahne, Gesch. Darstell. der jud-alex. Religions-Philosophic (1843); Keferstein, Philos Lehre yon den gottlichen Mittelwesen (1846); Dorner, Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre v. d. Person Christi  ; Siegfried, Philo v. Alex . (1875); Drummond, Philo Judaeus (1888); Reville, La doctrine du Logos  ; Huber, Die Philosophic der Kirchenvater  ; Grossmann, Questiones Philoneae (1841); Watson, Philos. Basis of Religion (1907).

(4) On Johannine Gospel:

Relative comma. of Meyer, Godet, Westcote, Luthardt, E. Scott (1907); Liddon, Divinity of our Lord ("Bampton Lectures," 1866); Watkins, Modern Criticism on the Fourth Gospel ("Bampton Lectures," 1890); Gloag, Introduction to Johannine Writing , (1891); Stevens, Johannine Theol . (1894); Drummond, Gospel of John  ; Bertling, Der Johan. Logos (1907); Schmiedel, The Johannine Writings (1908); Weizsacker, Apostolic Age , V, ii; Beyschlag and Weiss, Biblical Theol. of New Testament  ; Drummond, Via, Veritas, Vita (1894); Hatch, Greek Ideas and Usages , Their Influence upon the Christian Church (Hibbert Lectures, 1888).

(5) Patristic Period:

Harnack, Dogmen-Gesch .; Baur, Kirchen-Gesch .; Dorner, System d. chr. Glaubenslehre  ; Loofs, Leitfaden fur seine Vorlesungen uber Dogmengeschichte  ; Atzbergen, Die Logoslehre d. heiligen Athanasius (1880).

B.D. Alexander

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [6]

( Λόγος , a Word, as usually rendered), a special term in Christology, in consequence of its use as such by the apostle John, especially in the opening verses of his Gospel. An excellent article on the subject may be found in the brief but lucid exposition given in Bengel's Gnomon (Amer. edit. by Profs. Lewis and Vincent, page 536 sq.). (See Word).

1. Rendering. The general meaning of Logos in every such connection is THE WORD, said symbolically of the law-giving, creative, revealing activity of God. This is naturally suggested here by the obvious reference to  Genesis 1:1;  Genesis 1:3.

Many have seen in this term but a bold personification of the wisdom or reason of God. as in  Proverbs 8:22. But this sense of Logos does not occur in the New Test., and is excluded by the reference to the history of creation. Besides, the repeated "with God" ( Proverbs 8:1-2) compels us to distinguish the Logos from God; the words " became flesh" ( Proverbs 8:14) cannot be said of an attribute of God; and the Baptist's testimony,  Proverbs 8:15, in direct connection with this introduction (compare also such sayings of Christ as in chapters 8:58; 17:5), show clearly that John attributes personal pre-existence to the Logos. Similarly, every attempt to explain away this profound sense of Logos is inadequate, and most are ungrammatical. (See Wisdom Personified).

Thus the fundamental thought of this introduction is, that the original, all- creating, all-quickening, and all-enlightening Logos, or personal divine word, became man in Jesus Christ. (See Incarnation).

2. Origin And History Of The Idea.

(1.) John uses the term Logos without explanation, assuming that his readers know it to bear this sense. Accordingly, we find this conception of it not new with him, but a chief element in the development of the Old- Testament theology. In the Mosaic account, God's revelation of himself in the creation was, in its nature, Spirit ( Genesis 1:2), in contrast with matter, and in its form, a Word ( Genesis 1:4), in contrast with every involuntary materialistic or pantheistic conception of the creative act. The real significance, under this representation, of the invisible God's revelation of himself by Speech became the germ of the idea of the Logos. With this thought all Judaism was pervaded; that God does not manifest himself immediately, but mediately; not in his hidden, invisible essence, but through an appearance an attribute, emanation, or being called the angel of the Lord ( Exodus 23:21, etc.), or the Word Of The Lord. Indeed, to the latter are ascribed, as his work, all divine light and life in nature and history; the law, the promises, the prophecies, the guidance of the nation (compare  Psalms 33:6;  Psalms 33:9;  Psalms 107:20;  Psalms 147:18;  Psalms 148:8;  Isaiah 2:1;  Isaiah 2:3;  Jeremiah 1:4;  Jeremiah 1:11;  Jeremiah 1:13, etc. Even such poetic personifications as  Psalms 147:15; Isaiah 4:11, contain the germ of the doctrinal personality of the Word). (See Angel).

(2.) Another important element of Hebrew thought was the Wisdom of God. The consideration of it became prominent only after the natural attributes of God omnipotence, etc. had long been acknowledged. The chief passages are  Job 28:12 sq.; Proverbs 8, 9. Even the latter is a poetic personification: but this is based on the thought that Wisdom is not shut up at rest in God, but active and manifest in the world. It is viewed as the one guide to salvation, comprehending all revelations of God, and as an attribute embracing and combining all his other attributes. This view deeply influenced the development of the Hebrew idea of God. At that stage of religious knowledge and life, Wisdom, revealing to pious faith the harmony and unity of purpose in the world, appeared to be his most attractive and important attribute-the essence of his being. One higher step remained; but the Jew could not yet see that God is love.

(3.) In the apocryphal books of Sirach (chapters 1 and 24) and Baruch (Sirach 3 and  Sirach 4:1-4), this view of Wisdom is developed yet more clearly and fully. The book of Wisdom (written at least B.C. 100) praises wisdom as the highest good, the essence of right knowledge and virtue, and as given by God to the pious who pray for it (chapters 7 and 8); see especially  Wisdom of Solomon 7:22 sq., where Wisdom has divine dignity and honors, as a holy spirit of light, proceeding from God, and penetrating all things. But this book seems rather to have viewed it as another name for the whole divine nature than as a person distinct from God. And nowhere does it connect this Wisdom with the idea of Messiah. It shows, however, the influence of both Greek and Oriental philosophy on Jewish theology, and marks a transition from the Old Test. view to that of Philo, etc. (See Book Of Wisdom).

(4.) In Egypt, from the time of Ptolemy I (B.C. 300), there were Jews in great numbers, their head-quarters being at Alexandria (Philo estimates them at a million in his time, A.D. 50), and there they gradually came under the influence of the Egyptian civilization of that age, a strange mixture of Greek and Oriental customs and doctrines. (See Alexandrian Schools). Aristobulus, about 150 B.C., seems to have endeavored to unite the ancient doctrines of Wisdom and the Word of God with a form of Greek philosophy. This effort, the leading feature of the Jewish- Alexandrian school, culminated in Philo, a contemporary of Christ, who strives to make Judaism, combined with and interpreted by the Platonic philosophy, do the work of the idea of Messiah, affording by the power of thought a complete substitute for it. This attempt to harmonize heathen and Jewish elements, while it led in him to a sort of anticipation of certain parts of Christian doctrine, explains how he himself vacillates between opposite and irreconcilable views. (See Platonism).

(5.) Philo represents the absolute God as hidden and unknown, but surrounded by His Powers as a king by his servants, and, through these, as present and ruling in the world. (These powers, Δυνάμεις , are, in Platonic language, Ideas; in Jewish, Angels.) These are different and innumerable; the original principles of things; the immaterial world, the type of which the material is an image. The two chief of these in dignity are the Θείς , God, the creative power, and the Κύριος , Lord, or governing power of the Scriptures. But all these powers are essentially one, as God is one; and their unity, both as they exist in God and as they emanate from him, is called the Logos. Hence the Logos appears under two relations: as the reason of God, lying in him the divine thought; and as the outspoken word, proceeding from him, and manifest in the world. The former is, in reality, one with God's hidden being; the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations of God in the world, affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld, and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation; not unoriginated, like God, nor made, like the world, but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God's image; the creator of the world; the mediator between God and it; the highest angel; the second God; the high-priest and reconciler.

(6.) L Ü cke concludes that, such being the development of the doctrine of the Logos when John wrote, although there is no evidence that he borrowed his views from Philo, yet it is impossible to doubt the direct historical connection of his doctrine with the Alexandrian. Meyer thinks that if we suppose John's doctrine entirely unconnected with the Jewish and Alexandrian philosophy, we destroy its historic meaning, and its intelligibleness for its readers. It must be admitted that the term Logos seems to be chosen as already associated in many minds with a class of ideas in some degree akin to the writer's, and as furnishing a common point of thought and interest with those speculative idealists who constantly used it while presenting them with new truth.

(7.) But any connection amounting to Doctrinal Dependence of John upon Philo is utterly contrary to the tenor of Philo's own teaching; for he even loses the crowning feature of Hebrew religion, the moral energy expressed in its view of Jehovah's holiness, and with it the moral necessity of a divine teacher and Savior. He becomes entangled in the physical lntions of the heathen, forgets the wide distinction between God and the world, and even denies the independent, absolute being of God, declaring that, were the universe to end, God would die of loneliness and inactivity. The very universality of the conception, its immediate working on all things, would have excluded to Philo the belief that the whole Logos, not a mere part or effluence of his power, became incarnate in Christ. "Heaven and earth cannot contain me," cries his Logos, "how much less a human being." On the whole, it is extremely doubtful whether Philo ever meant formally to represent the Logos as a person distinct from God. All the titles he gives it may be explained by supposing it to mean the ideal world, on which the actual is modeled. At most, we can say that he goes beyond a mere poetic personification, and prepares the way for a distinction of persons in the Godhead. (See Philo).

(8.) John's connection with the doctrines of the later Jews, though less noticed, is at least as important as that with Philo. In the apocryphal books, as we have seen, the idea of the Logos was overshadowed by that of the divine Wisdom; but it reappears, prominently and definitely, in the Targums, especially that of Onkelos. These were written, indeed, after John's Gospel (Onkelos, the earliest, wrote not later than the 2d century A.D.), yet their distinguishing doctrines certainly rest upon ancient tradition. They represent the Word of God, the Memrah, ממרה , or Dibur, דבור , as the personal self-revealed God, and one with the Shekinah, שכינה , which was to be manifested in Messiah. But it would be absurd to claim that John borrowed his idea of Messiah from the Jews, who in him looked for, not a spiritual revelation of God in clearer light, to save men from sin by suffering and love, but a national deliverer, to gratify their worldly and carnal desires of power; not even for the divine Word Become Flesh, and dwelling among men, but for an appearance, a vision, a mere display, or, at most, an unreal, Docetic humanity.

(9.) The contrast between John's Logos and Philo's appears in several further particulars. The Logos here is the real personal God, the Word; who did not begin to be when Christ came, but Was originally, before the creation, "with God, and was God." He made All Things ( Proverbs 9:3). Philo held to the original independent existence of matter, the Stuff, Υ̓́λη , of the world, before it was framed. John's Logos is holy light, which shines in moral darkness, though rejected by it. Philo has no such height of mournful insight as this. This Logos became man in the person of Christ, the Son of God. Philo conceives of no incarnation. Thus John's lofty doctrine of the Messiah is not in any way derived from Jewish or Gnostic speculations, but rests partly on pure Old-Testament doctrine, and chiefly on what he learned from Christ himself. His testimony to this forms the historical part of his Gospel. (See Memra).

3. Theological Bearing Of The Term. The word "Logos" is therefore evidently "employed by the evangelist John to designate the mediatorial character of our Redeemer, with special reference to his revelation of the character and will of the Father. It appears to be used as an abstract for the concrete. just as we find the same writer employing Light for Enlightener. Life for Life-Giver, etc.; so that it properly signifies the Speaker or Interpreter, than which nothing can more exactly accord with the statement made ( John 1:18), 'No man hath seen God at any time: the only- begotten, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath Declared him,' i.e., communicated to us the true knowledge of his mind and character. That the term is merely expressive of a divine attribute, a position which has been long and variously maintained by Socinians, though abandoned as untenable by some of their best authorities, is in total repugnance to all the circumstances of the context, which distinctly and expressly require personal subsistence in the subject which it describes. He whom John styles the Logos has the creation of all things ascribed to him; is set forth as possessing the country and people of the Jews; as the only-begotten (Son) of the Father; as assuming the human nature, and displaying in it the attributes of grace and truth, etc. Such things could never, with the least degree of propriety, be said of any mere attribute or quality. Nor is the hypothesis of a personification to be reconciled with the universally admitted fact that the style of John is the most simply historical, and the furthest removed from that species of composition to which such a figure of speech properly belongs. To the Logos the apostle attributes eternal existence, distinct personality, and strict and proper Deity characters which he also ascribes to him in his first epistle besides the possession and exercise of perfections which absolutely exclude the idea of derived or created being." (See Christology).

4. Literature. The following are the principal monographs on this subject: Sandius, De Λόγῳ (in his Interp. Paradox, Amsterd. 1670); Saubert, De Voce Λόγος (Altdorf, 1687): Carpzov, De Λόγῳ , Philonis (Helmstadt, 1749); Bryant, Philo'S Λόγος (1797); Upham, Letters On The Logos (Boston, 1828); Bucher, Johann. Lehre Evon Logos (Schaffh. 1856). For others, see Danz, Worterbuch, s.v.; Darling, Cyclopaedia, col. 1059; Lange's Commentary (Am. ed., Introd. to John's Gospel). Comp. also the Meth. Quar. Review, July and October 1851; January 1858; Christian Examiner, January 1863; Am. Presb. Review, January 1840; July, 1864; Stud. u. Krit. 1830, 3:672; 1833, 2:355; 1868, 2:299. (See Gospel Of John).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [7]

An expression in St. John's gospel translated the Word (in chap. i.) to denote the manifestation of God, or God as manifested, defined in theology as the second person of the Deity, and viewed as intermediary between God as Father and God as Spirit.