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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(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 WISDOM, BOOK OF).
(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.) Lü 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 JOHN, GOSPEL OF).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Logos'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/l/logos.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.