From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Logos (Greek) is an important term in philosophy, analytical psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "word," "speech," "account," or "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for the principle of order and knowledge.
Its semantic field extends beyond "word" to notions such as "thought, speech, account, meaning, reason, proportion, principle, standard", or "logic". In English, the word is the root of "log" (as in record), of "logic," and of the "-ology" suffix (e.g., geology).
Heraclitus established the term in Western philosophy as meaning the fundamental order of the cosmos. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to argument from reason. After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos, through which all things are made. The gospel further identifies the Logos as God (theos), providing scriptural support for the trinity. It is this sense, the Logos as Jesus Christ and God, that is most common in popular culture.
Psychologist Carl Jung used the term for the masculine principle of rationality.
Use in Christianity
Christ the Logos
The Christian concept of the Logos is derived from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, where the Logos (often translated as “Word”) is described in terms that resemble, but go well beyond, the ideas of Philo:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John also explicitly identifies the Logos with Jesus:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[a] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "
Christians who profess belief in the Trinity often consider John 1:1 to be a central text in their belief that Jesus is God, in connection with the idea that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are equals. As theologian Frank Stagg writes:
As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation (Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God, ... Yet the Logos is in some sense distinguishable from God, for "the Logos was with God." God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they are also not simply identical. ... The Logos is God active in creation, revelation, and redemption.
"God" or "a god"
The last four words of John 1:1 (θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, literally "God was the Logos," or "God was the Word") have been a particular topic of debate within Christianity. In this construct, the subject (the Logos) and the complement (God) both appear in the nominative case, and the complement is therefore usually distinguished by dropping any article, and moving it before the verb. Grammatically, the phrase could therefore read either "the Word was God" or "the Word was a god." Early New Testament manuscripts did not distinguish upper and lower case, so that pre-existing beliefs about the Trinity have influenced translation, although many scholars see the movement of "God" to the front of the clause as indicating an emphasis more consistent with "the Word was God." Some translations, such as An American Translation and Moffatt, New Translation, preserve a sense of ambiguity with "the Word was divine." Related translations have also been suggested, such as "what God was the Word also was."
While "the Word was God" is by far the most common English translation, non-Trinitarian groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses (in their New World Translation and their edition of the Emphatic Diaglott) and Unitarians (in Thomas Belsham's modification of William Newcome's version) translate "the Word was a god."
Early Christian writers
Following John 1, the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identified Jesus as the Logos. Like Philo, Justin also identified the Logos with the Angel of the Lord, and used this as a way of arguing for Christianity to Jews:
I shall give you another testimony, my friends, from the Scriptures, that God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos;
In his First Apology, Justin used the Stoic concept of the Logos as a way of arguing for Christianity to non-Jews. Since a Greek audience would accept this concept, his argument could concentrate on identifying this Logos with Jesus. However, Justin does not go so far as to articulate a fully consistent doctrine of the Logos.
- Al-Insān al-Kāmil