LOGOS, a Greek word meaning "speech," "organization," "rational order," "rational relationship," or "rational expression," common in Greek philosophical writings. As the word of God in all its manifestations, it appears in Jewish and Christian theological texts in Greek from the Hellenistic period. aristobulus of paneas , wisdom of solomon , and philo are the Jewish sources, and the Gospel of John, the earliest representative of the Christian ones. The later history of the term belongs to Christian theology, where, following John, logos is the Son, or the preexistent Messiah. Logos as an independent entity appeared in Jewish literature suddenly in the writings of Philo. Because of the connection between Philo's use of the term and the Johannine innovation, according to which logos is an intermediary between God and the world, scholars sought parallels elsewhere in Jewish writings, both for the word of God as a distinct concept and for its appearance as a divine intermediary. The memra ("word") of the Lord, one of the terms used to paraphrase the name of the Lord in the Targums, has been mistakenly viewed as such a parallel. -Greek Philosophy Among early Greek philosophers Heraclitus (fifth century B.C.E.) considered logos as (1) the order in the universe, (2) the organizing force that originates and maintains that order, and (3) human apprehension and reasoned expression of it. All these things for him are one and the same, and are, it seems, to be identified with heat. Plato used the term primarily for logical discussion. However, in Epinomis (986c4), a dialogue probably not written by Plato himself, logos is identified with the intelligence that governs and imposes rational structure in the world; in the Sixth Letter (323d2f.), whose authenticity is also disputed, the son of the true god is identified as "the divine governor and origin of all things present and future," which may point to some notion of the logos as an intermediary between true reality and the world in Greek sources. In Stoic thought logos again has the threefold role of (1) being responsible for fashioning things, (2) accounting for the disposition of things (and so for the rational faculty in man), and (3) expressing reality in language. -Bible The Word of God (devar Adonai) appears in the Bible as divine teaching, i.e., the medium of revelation and guidance (Gen. 15:1; I Sam. 3:21; Isa. 55:10–11; Ezek. and Zech. passim), the instrument of creation (Ps. 33:6; Gen. 1, though the technical term is not used), and the instrument that controls nature (Ps. 107:20; 147:18). This usage parallels in some ways the threefold, normative Greek philosophical identification of logos, except that the biblical emphasis is on moral, instead of natural, philosophy. The Word of the Lord is identified directly with Torah in Psalms 119 (passim), and the attributes of the Word or Torah (Ps. 89; 119) are ascribed to Wisdom in the first nine chapters of Proverbs. Indeed, Torah and Wisdom are identified in the apocryphal books Ben Sira (24:1–21, 22ff.) and Wisdom of Solomon (6:18ff.) in all the same aspects. -Jewish Hellenistic Literature Aristobulus (fl. 160 B.C.E.) speaks of the voice of the Lord as the natural law, according to which the universe functions (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, 13:12). Thus, a rapprochement of the Jewish and Greek notions has occurred. In Wisdom of Solomon (7:17–21) also, Wisdom teaches natural philosophy to man. In the same work logos personifies divine Mercy (Wisdom 16:12), and slays the firstborn of Egypt. In the Haggadah of Passover the Messenger (sometimes identified with logos by modern scholars), who was excluded from any role in the Exodus, may, if that passage is early and if it is a polemic against Wisdom of Solomon, point to an early popular hypostatization of logos; but the bulk of the evidence is opposed to such an early personification. The author of Wisdom of Solomon seems to distinguish between sophia ("wisdom") and logos, as two aspects of God's word, the former being human thoughts and actions in consonance with reality, and the latter, God's speech seen as a messenger, or angel. In addition, the former teaches natural philosophy, not logos. -Philo Logos is central to Philo's thought. It is the chief power of God; it unites His strength and His goodness, and hence it is the rational term which connects opposites, another meaning of the Greek word. In this function, logos brings God to man and man to God. It is the representative of the Governor to His subjects; and its position is intermediate between created things and the uncreated (Her. 205). Logos is a copy (Gr. eikon) of God (I Spec. 81, etc.) through which the world was made (ibid., III LA 96, etc.), and human intelligence is a copy of it (Her. 230, Fug. 68, Op. 69). Philo applies the term logos, or the holy logos, to Scripture itself, i.e., the Law (IV Quaestiones   et Solutiones in Genesin, 140; I Som. 229). It is not a person, according to Philo, nor is it an intermediary between God and man, although it is identified with the biblical angel of the Lord (Mig. 174, etc.). Rather, it is sometimes the same as wisdom (I LA 65, etc.), because it is the most inclusive expression of the thoughts and ideas of God, which in turn are identified with the Law, or the Torah, with the pattern of all creation, and with the law that directs and maintains all things. Philo's identification of logos with Wisdom and Torah parallels the identification of Torah and Wisdom and the Word of God in rabbinic literature, and conforms to the roles assigned to each in Scripture and rabbinic sources. -Gospel of John The prologue to the Gospel of John follows biblical and apocryphal sources in portraying the preexistent logos dwelling on earth; but the presentation of logos as an independent agent, and furthermore, as the preexistent messiah is a radical innovation. Apparently, Philo did not think of either notion (I Som. 228f. is not evidence that such a belief existed earlier). Rabbinic and Christian Gnostic speculations, all of later date than John, do, however, understand logos as a second god. Some accounts of gnosticism , whose doctrine implies a logos-hypostasis, would even date gnostic sources before John. Among the rabbis a belief in a "second God," or divine intermediary, is represented in the heretical views of elisha b. avuyah (cf. also metatron ). His views seem related to speculations about Creation, in which the voice, or Word, of the Lord on the waters (Ps. 29:3 and Gen. 1) and at the revelation on Sinai (Ex. 20) are hypostatized. All this, however, is later than the use of the Greek word "logos" in Philo and in the fourth Gospel. The memra of the Targums, whether it is used in an attempt to express the otherness of God, to avoid anthropomorphisms, or for some other reason, was not thought of as an intermediary between man and God, was certainly not personified in rabbinic thought, and was not identified with Torah regularly. In later rabbinic writing ha-dibbur ("the speech") is used to refer to God, but that phenomenon seems unrelated to the Jewish-Hellenistic logos. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Kelber, Die Logoslehre von Heraklit bis Origenes (1958); H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, 2 (1924), 353–5; H. Leisegang, in: Pauly-Wissowa, 25 (1926), 1047–81; H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 1 (Eng., 1947), 200–82. (Daniel E. Gershenson)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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