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Logos (Greek: λόγος, plural being logoi) in study of ancient and modern philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and especially philosophy of religion is handled in a systematic and technical way by scholars. Logos has a long history which accounts for the wide ranging semantic field the term maintains in the modern world. Ancient philosophers and other writers within Palestine and the Mediterranean areas, being influenced by Hellenistic culture, intended "Logos" as; "the Word", or "reasoned discourse" and "reasoned argument" as in Aristotelian thought. Other English words like; "account", "reason" or "opinion", and even the modern usage of the word "logic" can lend to defining the ancient Greek word Logos as well.[1]

Logos of Greek, Jewish and Christian philosophical and religious thought, and discourse generally, is the expressed principle or being of the universe. The word, reason or argument doesn't just describe what the word Logos means, but the implication is that there is a casual reality at play as well. The Logos is the reason that actually causes the animating, organizing and bonding forces both in what holds everyday things together and also what balances the cosmos as a whole created system that inhabits life. At the very least, language used within the texts of those who were considerable in the development of the term within specific ancient worldviews, like Heraclitus, used it to imply qualities and characteristics of something rational and eternal and very much involved with the inner workings of the natural order.


Words that define domains of knowledge derive etymology from within philosophical concepts of Greek and Jewish origin and early Christian theology. In English the word "logos" is the root of words with the "-ology" suffix.[2] The "-ology" suffix constitute words of immense importance for talking about domains of knowledge in basic, everyday human discourse. Domains of knowledge are encapsulated by words like; mythology, theology, biology, cosmology, and others. They are simply defined in the suffix, because of the way the ancient word "logos" was handled by ancient philosophers as history progressed. The word cosmology for instance, within this line of thinking, becomes the logos, or what is broadly thought of as logic of the cosmos, theology becomes the logic of theos (deity), biology is the logic of bios (life) and so on.

Ancient Greek Philosophy

A general sense about the divine Logos started in the sixth century B.C, by Greek philosophers especially. The Logos developed into a living reality and would be recognized as a factor or agent of why something happened or why something changed into something else in nature. This was, in part, because concepts like functionality were not understood quite yet by humanity.[3]

Heraclitus of Ephesus

From the Ephesian school of pre-Socratic philosophy the Logos is found within the writings by Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 to 475 BC). Not before Heraclitus had there been special attention in writing and rhetoric upon the word logos in Greek culture under the rubric of philosophy. Within the extant fragments of manuscripts written by Heraclitus qualities of the divine characterizing the Logos is a significant theme.

Heraclitus saw the overwhelming experiential relationship with change in the world. This was, according to Heraclitus an eternal pattern that is logical and intelligible. He famously stated that; "Cold things warm up, the hot cools off, wet becomes dry, dry becomes wet."[4] Fire especially is a significant feature of the philosophy of Heraclitus. Fire, being on of the four classical elements in Greek culture, is responsible for symbolizing the eternal patterns of change that initiates creation from chaos. Change is seen by Heraclitus as a very deep cosmological law with mutual exchanges of change constituting a principle of order and knowledge that rationally unifies the whole complex of the cosmos.

Thus the world is not to be identified with any particular substance, but rather with an ongoing process governed by a law of change. The underlying law of nature also manifests itself as a moral law for human beings.[4]

Because of these very substantial lines of thinking Heraclitus has become important not just to the history of Western philosophy generally but he went beyond merely physical principles that unify nature, into a more metaphysical direction with moral law.


Logos is an impersonal force within pre-Socratic philosophy. The pre-Socratics are Greek philosophers before Socrates and were called physiologoi. Their views place the Logos as an abstract concept firmly philosophical requiring no special or specific personal and historical grounding. A force that exists as a general pervasiveness throughout all of nature.


Aristotle (384 to 322 BC) is another famous philosopher that took special interest, separating man from animal in his philosophizing on the Logos. It was not "self-expression" but "rational language" (or logos) that differentiated man from beast.[5] Since Aristotle there was a recognition of basically three types of arguments; ethos or character, pathos or emotion, and logos or the reason.[6]

Aristotle developed three components of a proposition; onoma, rhema and logos. In Christian theology rhema and logos are developed as Christ's utterance and Christ Himself respectively. While both rhema and logos translate into most English Bibles as merely "word", in the original Greek there is substantial difference.

Logic Aristotle Grammar
subject onoma noun
predicate rhema verb
proposition logos sentence [7]


Stoicism, founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC, views the Logos as a "divine animating principle of the universe"[8] and that it is "incarnate" only in the sense "that each one of us has a part of the logos within."[9] This is in stark contrast when compared against the backdrop of early Christianity which believed the cosmos has a "beginning, purpose, and end; in Stoicism none of these."[9]

Hellenistic Judaism

The Logos was generally used within Jewish wisdom literature and Hebrew religious thought as a figure of speech of the creative activity of God.[3]

Philo of Alexandria

Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD) is known for his attempts to harmonize Greek and Jewish philosophy by biblical exegesis and Stoic philosophical concepts. Being born from an allegorical exegesis of Jewish Scriptures as well as Pythagorism and Platonism, Philo influences Christology of early Christianity with his entire philosophy hinging upon the Logos.

Philo wrote that,

the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated.[10]

In the creation model of Philo, the Logos is a kind of demiurge figure that holds together the fabric of the universe, maintaining or fashioning pre-existing matter. Because the demiurge molds something pre-existing, it becomes a universe that is essentially uncreated or eternal with no beginning. The figure becomes an essential instrument of God the Father, being what spoke creation and life into existence. Containing within it what are called abstract objects (See: Metaphysics) and are usually referred to as the Platonic ideas within Platonic philosophy. In particular, the thought of Philo identifies the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible as actually being the Logos. Angelic appearances are events of the demiurge, interacting with space-time reality so as to maintain it. According to Philo heavenly beings are necessary to bridge the gap between man and God.

Greek philosophy and Jewish thought differ in the definition that is given for the Logos but even more fundamental, the inability to mesh without contradiction becomes clear at the ontological level as well.

The Greek, metaphysical concept of the Logos is in sharp contrast to the concept of a personal God described in anthropomorphic terms typical of Hebrew thought. Philo made a synthesis of the two systems and attempted to explain Hebrew thought in terms of Greek philosophy by introducing the Stoic concept of the Logos into Judaism. In the process the Logos became transformed from a metaphysical entity into an extension of a divine and transcendental anthropomorphic being and mediator between God and men.[3]


Within the philosophy of the Christian religion Logos is metaphysical, historical and personal. The Logos is logically prior to creation of physical laws that govern operation and predictability (See: Science).

Johanine philosophical theology

John the Apostle (6 to 101 AD) is an ancient author and Apostle of Christ. His works are found within the New Testament and are;

  • The Gospel of John
  • The First Epistle of John
  • The Second Epistle of John
  • The Third Epistle of John
  • The Book of Revelation

The Gospel of John especially is the best representation of the how the philosophical concept of the Greek word logos was brought into the realm of early Christianity. It aided in learning about the identity of Christ within the Hellenistic Judaism that early Christianity found itself. Representing most directly a kind of philosophical theology that was focused on Christ as the way, and the Word, or logos. This realization of John of course stems most notably from his historical proximity. The Gospel of John immediately begins to deal with this more Stoic concept at the time of writing. It is important for many reasons that the logos is dealt with in the Gospel of John. First it sets John in a specific social and historical context for when he was writing. This insight alone helps in understanding the history of the concept of logos in an academic venture but also early Christology.

The Gospel of John begins by pronouncing on the inner workings of the world. All things that exist came through a divine Word, or "the Word", which is Christ. The divine prevalence of the Greek logos was a specific historical revelation within Christian thought. John is careful to use specific Greek language to help his Greek audience identify easier and so used the Greek word logos to express his view.

In John 1 it states;

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB)

There are several significant points in the way John writes about Logos when compared to other substantial definitions found in ancient Greco-Roman literature of the same time period. Exegesis of John 1 as well as insight gained from getting to know the background or socio-cultural realities of the author, the word "logos" becomes a personal, divine "Word". It is not as the ancient Greek philosophers expounded as some impersonal governance of order and knowledge, a cosmic law essentially. The logos is theos (theos is Greek for "deity") according to John. Even more according to the text the divine "Word" or "logos" in Greek, are brought into the Word made flesh.[11] According to John all requirements necessary for deity on Earth are actual and thus revealed in the historical person Jesus Christ. The Logos is grounded in the ontology of an actual historical person. Jesus becomes the God-man of history, the Logos of God, an essential person of the Godhead.

The divine Word or Logos of God was made incarnate in the human person Jesus Christ. The glimpse provided by John into the nature of God is rooted within not only his immediate socio-cultural mores but also in rich philosophical heritage stretching back hundreds of years. Stretching back to Heraclitus of Ephesus and then to the more prescient Philo of Alexandria, John is able to expound upon the nature of one God in the manner he does. Drawing from Greek, Stoic and Jewish streams of thought, John the Apostle embeds the Logos within a Christian philosophical theology.

Hyppolytus of Rome

A significant early Christian theologian, Hippolytus of Rome (170 to 235 AD), started to unearth paths of discourse from John regarding his characterization of Christ as logos. So much so did the Gospel of John, specifically chapter 1 grip the articulation of the Christian faith that even to this day it is central to the systematic requirements that the theological doctrine of one God yet manifest in three persons mandates. Hippolytus was a very important figure both in documenting heresies and developing the interpretation of the Scriptures for later generations of Christians.

Referring to John 1 Hippolytus states;

If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons, however, and of a third economy, viz., the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Father indeed is one, but there are two persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word Executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is one. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: The Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all.[12]

Jungian Analytical Psychology

In the theories of Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961), as an analytical psychologist, insight into the human mind and behavior has greatly progressed. Carl Jung in the process of writing about what logos is as a concept, he ends up formulating a theory which informs both the whole and individual experience of human persons. There is an essential connection with the global interaction of culture and society and the local relational experiences of humanity to one another. Jung points to these as stages of psychological maturity for civilization and individual persons.

The Logos is considered the stage of reason, science and logic. That later stage of development though is contrasted with what is another important Greek term called, "eros". Eros is one of the of the four Greek words that are translated into English as "love". The other three words being; storge, philia and agape. The other Greek words for love are brought into the discussion due to the necessity to inform eros on its own ground, and so bring into focus Christian theological discourse upon the word agape, as in brotherly love, and other uses of Greek words for love in ancient literature. Eros though generally means intense passionate love for an object, usually sexual. In the writing of Jung eros is something far different from logos and it is a prior stage. Because eros is a type of love there is an inescapable emotional dimension to it. Under this primitive and emotional stage, eros is characterized with mythical elements and a spiritual mysticism leading to a culture of stories, symbolism and imagery.

The contrast produces a kind of internal struggle between the internal human unconscious and conscious states. The conceptual framework beginning with the logos and eros, is actually characterized in a wider context as "science vs mysticism", or "reason vs imagination".

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  1. Logos By Wikipedia
  2. David A. Truncellito, Epistemology[1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Marian Hillar, Philo of Alexandria, 11. Doctrine of the Logos in Philo’s Writings[2]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Heraclitus (fl. c.500 BCE) By Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Diels-Kranz, 22B126)
  5. Paul Anthony Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern, Vol 2 (University of North Carolina Press 1994), p. 21[3]
  6. Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 3 edition, August 19, 2003), pg. 120
  7. Rhema By Wikipedia
  8. Logos By Wikipedia
  9. 9.0 9.1 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 3 edition 2003), pg. 368
  10. Philo, De Profugis, cited in Gerald Friedlander, Hellenism and Christianity, P. Vallentine, 1912, pp. 114–115.[4]
  11. John 1:14
  12. Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 3, in Anti-Nicene Fathers, 5:224

External Links

  • God and Logic By Apologetics Information Ministry. October 20, 2009