About the origin of the Logos concept / Περί της προέλευσης της έννοιας του Λόγου

The theory of a divine Word that was creative was actually developed well before the author of the fourth Gospel wrote. This can be seen in the ancient targum, or paraphrase of Genesis, Neophyti I, Palestinian Targum Manuscript in the Vatican Library, published in Madrid-Barcelona by Alejandro Diez Macho in 1968. Everywhere that the text of Genesis had “God,” in Hebrew Elohim, this targum had “the Word of God,” in Aramaic memra, which was the translation of the Hebrew dabar.

This Hebrew word dabar was translated into Greek sometimes by logos and sometimes by rema–another example of the double translation we have already examined.

The one responsible for the Greek version of the fourth Gospel, of course, translated the Hebrew dabar with the Greek logos. There has been an enormous amount of useless speculation over this word logos. The influence of Greek philosophy on the composition of the fourth Gospel has been discerned in it; the influence of Philo and indeed that of Neo-Platonism have been among the influences cited. This kind of supposed influence has been one of the principal arguments for assigning a date as late as the second century for the composition of this Gospel. It would have been much simpler all around if it had only been realized that logos was a simple translation of the Hebrew dabar.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 217.


Τι σχέση έχει ο ιωάννειος «Λόγος» με το «Λόγο» της ελληνικής φιλοσοφίας; / Johannine Logos compared with Greek philosophy Logos

The ‘Logos’ occurs in the earliest period of Greek philosophy in Heraclitus, and then especially in Stoicism. Here it is the cosmic law which rules the universe and at the same time is present in the human intellect. It is thus an abstraction, not a hypostasis. Therefore, although the Stoics too, spoke of the Logos, and although they too could say that the Logos was ‘in the beginning’, nevertheless, with their impersonal, pantheistic World Soul they meant something quite different from the Johannine Logos. Platonism also uses the concept. Its view of the ‘real’ being (in the Platonic, idealistic sense, of course) may come nearer the Johannine view, but it still has nothing to do with a hypostasis, and the idea of the Logos’ ‘becoming flesh’ is quite unthinkable for the Platonist. We must guard against being led by the terminological analogy to read into Greek philosophy the late Jewish or Johannine understanding of the Logos. Even Augustine knew that the complete entrance of the Logos into history and humanity is utterly foreign to Platonism, although formal similarities did lead him to remark that with somewhat different expressions the Platonic books say the same thing about the original Logos that John teaches in his Gospel (Confessions, 7.9). Actually, of course, the similarity between the two is more one of terminology than of content itself.

Οscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, σελ. 251, 252.