The incarnation of the Logos

There is nothing so profound and so beautiful as the beginning of John’s Gospel. Mirroring the beginning of Genesis but conscripting the language of the Greek philosophers, John begins, “In the beginning was the Logos.” My own style is more like Luke’s: “The time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was not room for them in the inn.” But I just have to marvel at the profound beauty of “And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (I’m quoting from memory here.)

Of course, we are all aware that translations usually say, “In the beginning was the Word…. And the Word became flesh….” And I’m sure we’re all aware that “Word” here is a stand-in for the Greek Logos. Logos means “word” and “word” means logos, right? This is one of those cases where human language seems inadequate, and it is not just that the Greek can’t be expressed well in translation, but that human language is inadequate to express who God is and what God has done for us. Who or what is this Logos? The Greeks knew it was out there. Just as Paul on Mars Hill met the Epicureans and Stoics where they were, and addressed their desire to honor the unknown God, John addressed the Greek sense that there was a logic to the universe, an organizing principle, a master plan, a blueprint, a perfect model from which the cosmos flowed. How to express that? To the Greeks, it was the logos. In English, we have locked in to a tradition of saying “the Word” to translate logos in John chapter 1. Is that what logos means? Well, no, if by “word” we mean a lexical unit, a minimal utterance, what goes between spaces on a written page. It is a little closer to what we mean when we say, “May I have a word with you?” (What’s the longest word in the English language? The one that comes after “And now a word from our sponsor.”) Even just looking at a single English translation–the Authorized Version–Greek logos is translated in different contexts as “word,” “cause,” “communication,” “sayings,” “account,” “talk,” “treatise,” “intent,” “tidings,” “speech,” “reason,” “utterance” and “preaching.” But “word” is used in most contexts, and that works pretty well in English, because “word” has a wide range of meanings in English, like logos in Greek, though the ranges of meaning do not map perfectly from one language to the other.

Heraclitus, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, is credited with starting to develop this concept of the logos. Then Philo worked further with the Greek philosophical concept and applied it to Jewish theology. But the Greeks saw an unbridgeable gap between the logos and the cosmos, which is only right, if you think in terms of the creation’s ability to reach out to the Creator. Philo drew a picture of the Logos as the firstborn of God, the archetype, the interpreter of God’s designs, a mediator between God and humanity who holds all things together, Platonically describing him as “a kind of shadow cast by God, having the outlines but not the blinding light of the Divine Being” (cited in the Jewish Encyclopedia, among other places).

When you think about all the rich history and philosophy behind this Greek concept of the Logos, that makes it an even more daunting task to translate it into English. It seems like “logic” would be a natural English counterpart for logos. Maybe that is too impersonal, though. How about “reasoning” or “intelligence” or “idea” or “order” or “source” or “organizing principle” or “utterance” or “discourse” or “communication” or “narrative” or “statement” or “message“? When you think about it that way, could it give a new meaning to the expression, “The reason for the season”? We’ve locked into a pretty solid tradition of saying “Word” in English, and virtually every English translation translates it that way. An exception is Phillips: “At the beginning, God expressed himself.”

In French, the Logos in the first chapter of John is translated as la Parole. I like that. Again, parole is a little difficult to translate that into English, but it means something like “(the faculty of) speech.” Some Spanish translations translate Logos here as la Palabra, which I believe fairly well corresponds to English “word.” But then these Spanish and French translations switch to using a masculine pronoun in the subsequent context to refer to a noun that is grammatically feminine. Other Spanish translations use el Verbo, continuing in the tradition of the Latin verbum.

So what did John say about this Logos? Was he just plagiarizing? No, he took the given concept of the Logos and turned it on its head: “And the Logos became flesh.” What!? That was considered impossible. Remember Philo: “a kind of shadow cast by God, having the outlines but not the blinding light of the Divine Being”? Compare John: “…and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We have seen this Logos and have witnessed his glory. He is Immanuel, God With Us. His story is the story John is about to tell.

21 Comments

  1. Posted December 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    >>>>There is nothing so profound and so beautiful as the beginning of John’s Gospel. Mirroring the beginning of Genesis but conscripting the language of the Greek philosophers, John begins, “In the beginning was the Logos.”…

    The article in the link above (“Aristotle…”) is correct that John is alluding to Gen 1. However, I think it is correct to say that John was actually *referring to* that “chapter.” In other words, his use of the opening words (LXX) of EN ARKH… have the effect of his saying, “Gentlemen, if you have LXX scrolls with you, please unroll to the very first portion at the top.” This is not just another “allusion.” It is John answering the question, “Who was the ‘us’ referred to in verse 26?”:

    Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man according to our image and likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the flying creatures of heaven, and over the cattle and all the earth, and over all the reptiles that creep on the earth.

    John gives his answer. It was his “utterance.” John points out that each time God made something, his utterance was involved:

    Gen 1:3 And ***God said, Let there be light***, and there was light.

    Without divine utterance, nothing of the things that did not pre-exist was made:

    Joh 1:3 All things were made by it; and without it was not any thing made (that was made). [I corrected the pronouns].

    John says the utterance was in company with God and the utterance was divine utterance:

    Psa 33:6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

    Note that the word and the breath of his mouth are the vehicles of his creative acts. My view coheres.

    So, the prologue is not talking about Jesus, but about God’s utterance.

    It is in verse 14 that the word produces flesh and tents among us. This is not the reincarnation of a person, but rather the incarnation of God’s message. That is, Jesus will exegete God:

    Joh 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is [now] in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [EXEGETED] him.

    Jesus is an embodied message:

    Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
    Col 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead [ie: theology, knowledge of God] bodily.

    Jesus’ person was not divine. Rather, God dwelling within him by his words and breath in him was:

    Joh 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

    This view, unlike the Catholic-Protestant view, coheres.

  2. Posted December 15, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    David, you write, “Heraclitus, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, is credited with starting to develop this concept of the logos. … But the Greeks saw an unbridgeable gap between the logos and the cosmos, which is only right, if you think in terms of the creation’s ability to reach out to the Creator.”

    As regards Herakleitos himself, this generalization is not true. His view was that “although all things happen in accordance with this Logos, men seem as though they had no experience thereof….” (Bywater fragment 2; W.H.S. Jones’s translation.) Thus it was not the cosmos that, in Herakleitos’s view, was disconnected from the Logos, since all events in the cosmos are obedient to the Logos; it was only human consciousness that was so disconnected or (we might perhaps say) so fallen.

    Herakleitos also seems to have believed that even human consciousness can reconnect with the Logos; this seems to have been his understanding of human potential and human enlightenment. Thus, for example, fragment 19 (Bywater): “Wisdom is a single thing: to understand the Intelligence (ἐπίστασθαι γνώμην) by which all things are steered through all things.”

    Of course, quite a bit did change between Herakleitos’s time and the Evangelists’. For one thing, the Logos had no moral dimension in Herakleitos’s thought — human ideas of good and bad, just and unjust were delusions — whereas, by the time the Logos found its way into Luke and John, it was solidly identified with the intent of the God of Righteousness.

    But (just speaking for myself) I don’t believe the idea that the gap between Creation and Creator can be bridged via the Logos was quite the novelty you describe.

  3. JKG
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    When you think about all the rich history and philosophy behind this Greek concept of the Logos, that makes it an even more daunting task to translate it into English.

    David,
    Your proposal here is just wonderful:

    “This is one of those cases where human language seems inadequate, and it is not just that the Greek can’t be expressed well in translation, but that human language is inadequate to express who God is and what God has done for us.”

    And so you don’t translate; you transliterate:

    “And the Logos became flesh.”

    An analogy to help me understand your move is remember what C.S. Lewis does with “the Tao” (in The Abolition of Man), which he illustrates by way of an entire Appendix as culturally relative variants of human universal ethics. But he also, early on when he introduces it, acknowledges the following: “The Chinese also speak of a great thing (the greatest thing) called the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator.” This is certainly brushing with a broad stroke. The Oxford English Dictionary makers divide the meaning(s) and / or origins of the word into English in two or three different definitions; and, more, even the wikipediaists have to “disambiguate” all of our contemporary understandings of Tao in the West (as we look East). For Lewis, a literary scholar, and a public atheist turned theist turned Christian in England, during a world war, this is quite a move to bring in something uniquely Chinese (with no monolithic sino understanding) as if it were universally common and also profound, in relation to “the Creator.”

    How does The Abolition of Man (i.e., Lewis’ “Tao“) translate into French, or Swahili, or Brazilian Portuguese, or Arabic? How does it read, in English, in Singapore or in Hong Kong? How did John’s gospel (i.e., his “Logos”) read in Athens? How now in Atlanta, Georgia USA?

  4. JKG
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    W.E.,
    I love your imagination of “the effect of [John's] saying, Gentlemen, if you have LXX scrolls with you, please unroll to the very first portion at the top’.” First, wouldn’t it be men mostly in the Synagogues? Secondly, John is reminding of the Jewish history of “Beginning” but also of the legacy of the Jewish scriptures in a Hellenistic empire, now with an indisputably Greek concept for the arrived Messiah figuring in.

    Marshall,
    Have you read Willis Barnstone’s translation of the fragments of Herakleitos? (To Touch the Sky: Poems of Mystical, Spiritual & Metaphysical Light). To say the Greek “seems to have believed” what we today say he did, seems right. Barnstone explains (page 41):

    “Herakleitos is traditionally cited as the author of at least one book, yet no separate fragments of any work by him exist. The extant canon of Herakleitos’s writings is recorded as sayings in the works of others. It is possible, perhaps probable, that like Laoze, Siddhartha, Jesus, and Socrates, his wisdom sayings were passed orally, repeated by others, and ultimately recorded. But unlike Laoze, Siddhartha, and Jesus, whose words suggest a cumulative tradition rather than the work of a single mind, Herakelitos was an actual, cranky, poetic philosopher. He did not set his statements down typographically as poetry or prose, though, like other pre-Socratics –Parmenides, Empedocles,and Democritus– his metaphysical and metaphorical writing has in our time been appropriately lineated as verse.”

    In The Poetics of Translation, Barnstone plays with the indeterminacy notion of Herakleitus’s “logos” as follows (page 268):

    “A good translation is a good JOKE…. Historically, the transformed words have no beginning, do not seek an original author, an original tongue, or first words. And good or bad, beauty or trash, ancient or modern, a JOKE lurks under the text. So the translator lacks the miracle of creation that served Yahweh when with the utterance of a few syllables, yehi or, he translated chaos into lights…. Instability –eternal transformation– may be uncomfortable, but it is best to live with it. Because the dream of capturing and stilling words must really be seen as an allegory for death, a bad JOKE, it is better to accept movement –translation– and live with peppy Proteus and Heraclitus, the two Greek JOKERS.”

  5. Posted December 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for interacting with what I wrote. WoundedEgo, I agree with some of what you say, but not everything, but the things that I disagree with go beyond the scope of this blog.

    Marshall Massey, you said something in my essay was not so novel. I’m sure you are right, and I don’t claim to have come up with an original idea. If I did think I had a new discovery or insight, I would put it into a publication rather than a blog. If there is anything new here, it is how information is packaged together as an essay. What I have done is reflect on the profundity of John 1:1,14, and reflect on the profundity of what God has done for us, as reflected in this passage, and reflect on the links between this passage and what was postulated about the Logos in Greek literature, and reflect on how Logos might or might not be translated adequately. In the end, I would say that this is one place where it is just impossible to translate Logos and capture all the depth of thought behind it. The use of “the Word” might be as good as we could expect to do in translation, but it is not the only option, and it is far from adequate in conveying the complete meaning.

    JKG, I knew you would be prepared to wonder along with me. You are a wonder-full person. Thank you for what you have added, bringing in CS Lewis and Willis Barnstone.

  6. Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    >>>…What I have done is reflect on the profundity of John 1:1,14…

    I notice that many have “became flesh” while the NLT and GW both have “became human” in 1:14. Does anyone have a reason to choose one reading over the other?

    Notice “became” or “was made” for EGENTO. Bernard wrote:

    “To explain the exact significance of egeneto in this sentence is beyond the powers of any interpreter” (Bernard).

    Is anyone here prepared to show Bernard that he is wrong?

    As to the alleged link between John’s LOGOS and Hellenistic philosopy about LOGOS, I think it is coincidental to his argument. He wants to show that God’s dynamic utterances are not confined to Torah (or, “the law,” Moses, etc), nor confined to vocalization but could and would be communicated in the life of a human being.

    When Jesus died, God did not become mute. But in Jesus, all of the Theology of the one true God is embodied, exegeted and focused.

  7. Rich Rhodes
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Jut a quick comment to WoundedEgo’s first question about human.

    We’ve heard “… and the Word became flesh” so much that we’ve lost track of the fact that flesh here is metonymic – part for whole. Nowadays we pretty much have to say human because the metonymy isn’t productive. If it were up to me, I’d probably have said “… and the Word became mortal man” (He did, after all, die.) But the problem with that is that man now has gender overtones, etc., etc. It doesn’t quite get it right to say “… and the Word became mortal” (because it’s Jesus humanity being expressed). And it’s almost Biblish to say “… and the Word became a mortal.” Maybe we could get away with saying “.. and the Word took on the form of a mortal” but wanders into gnosticism, because the point is that his humanness is essential. This one is a perfect storm of theology meets translation theory meets linguistic nostalgia.

  8. Posted December 16, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    What about, “and the utterance made humanity, and dwelled among us”?

  9. Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    W.E.,

    I would think that “and the utterance became a human, and dwelled among us” would be closer.

  10. JKG
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    the alleged link between John’s LOGOS and Hellenistic philosopy

    W.E.,
    I liked your link between John’s LOGOS and the LXX. How about allowing a likely a link between LXX’s GENesis (or Births) and Hesiod’s THeoGONy (or God Birth)? Here is Hugh G. Evelyn-White’s translation with Daryl Hine’s translation of Hesiod:

    from the beginning [ἀρχῆς], … tell me which of them first came to be. In truth at first Chaos [Χάος] came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth…. From Chaos [Χάος] came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night [Νυκτὸς] were born Aether and Day [Ἡμέρη]…

    From the beginning [ἀρχῆς], and say which first of them came into being.
    First of all chaos [Χάος] came into existence, thereafter however
    Broad-bosomed earth took form….
    Next out of Chaos [Χάος] with Erebus black Night too was engendered,
    And out of Night [Νυκτὸς] were the Aether and Daylight [Ἡμέρη] together begotten,

    In Greek philosophy, there were debates whether Logos ordered the kosmos (κόσμος) out of chaos (Χάος).

    The LXX parallels of Genesis with TheoGony and the subsequent Greek philosophic debates begun by it are remarkable:

    In the beginning [ἀρχῇ] God created the heaven and the earth.
    And the earth was without form, and void [ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος];…
    And God said, Let there be [γενηθήτω]…
    And God called the light [φῶς] Day [ἡμέρα], and the darkness he called Night [νύκτα].

    Rich, you say:

    flesh here is metonymic – part for whole. Nowadays we pretty much have to say human because the metonymy isn’t productive. If it were up to me, I’d probably have said “… and the Word became mortal man” (He did, after all, die.)

    Even if we all could agree with some certainty that σὰρξ is John’s metonymy, then we still have to account for his repetitive use of the word prior to that: the will of the flesh [ἐκ θελήματος σαρκός]. There, in v 13, John makes some stark contrasts: “not of blood [αἱμάτων], nor of the will of the flesh [σαρκός], nor of the will of man [ἀνδρός]” but birthed out of “God [θεοῦ].”

    And elsewhere (in vv 4, 6, and 9), in some contrast to the gendered ANDROS [ἀνδρός] “man,” and in differentiation from THEOS [θεος] “God,” John has ANTHROPOS [ἄνθρωπος] “human.” (Notice the connections to PHOS [φῶς] “Light” in vv 4 and 9; and notice in 9 the added connection to KOSMOS [κόσμος] “world”; and notice how Hesiod’s THeoGONy has these same words collocated in a brief and similar context of beginnings and births.)

    There’s a reason, I believe, that John doesn’t say ὁ λόγος ἀνδρός ἐγένετο; and that he doesn’t write ὁ λόγος ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο. He talking about birthed children of God [τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι] and particularly an only-born child from a father [μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός]. The hints of divinity — not just mortality — are being stress when John says ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.

    In an attempt to show the birthing emphasis in John 1 (that mirror’s LXX GENesis which mirrors Hesiod’s TheoGONy), I tried a translation once upon a time:

    http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2009/06/johns-greek-rhetorical-prologue-my.html

  11. Iver Larsen
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    JKG said:
    There’s a reason, I believe, that John doesn’t say ὁ λόγος ἀνδρός ἐγένετο; and that he doesn’t write ὁ λόγος ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο.

    A good point. I am reminded of the smaller prologue in 1 John 1:1-3. The parallels are rather striking:

    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (NIV)

    A word can be heard, but not seen. But we have not only heard and seen Jesus, says John, we have observed him, we have touched him. He was with God, but became a real human being of flesh and blood.

    Since English is not my language, it is hard for me to suggest an English rendering for SARX in 1:14, but would it be possible to say: “The Word became flesh and blood”?
    In Danish, we said: “Ordet blev menneske” (the Word became a human being), but we could have added: “The Word became a human being of flesh and blood”.

  12. Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    In writing this post, I did not mean to focus on ἐγένετο, and I also glossed over σὰρξ, which is certainly a worthy Bible translation topic in itself. I hope to see that one taken up separately. I will just agree for now that the use of sarx in John 1:14 to describe what the logos egeneto is of course figurative language, and it is tricky to translate figurative language from one language to another, and I don’t think any of us would advocate trying to purge the scriptures of all figurative language in translation. There were good reasons for using images like that. But the questions of why the evangelist used sarx and how we might translate it are not exactly the same. All translations force you to make choices. When I was in Africa recently, I did have to deal a little with the translation of sarx in working on the translation of Luke into a local language. But I’ll leave that story for a later time.

    Back to the topic at hand, I had said that the evangelist John had merged the language of Hebrew Genesis with the language of Greek philosophy in order to say something poetically beautiful, profound, thought-provoking, and perhaps surprising. He did this by using less literal, more poetic and philosophical language than Matthew and Luke did when they described the incarnation, and the images that John used are difficult to capture in translation. Of course, Matthew and Luke’s writings have their own beautiful imagery (“You will be with child… The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….”) I said that John took some of the given wisdom about the logos and turned it on its head.

    As to how original John was in writing this, I will take this occasion to provide a quote from Augustine (Confessions VII 9, admittedly taken third-hand from a scholarly article that dealt with one aspect of this question):

    You brought to my notice some books written by the Platonists, which had been translated from Greek into Latin. In these books I found it stated… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….” But I did not find… that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

    Finally, since the Better Bibles Blog is supposed to be about Bible translation and not about Greek philosophy, I considered how logos might be translated. Traditionally it has been translated as “word,” but translating it that way is far from being a no-brainer, except for the sake of tradition. I’m surprised that not even The Message translated it in John 1:1-14 as “the Message.” Working in German, Dr. Faustus (Goerthe’s Faust I, V. 1220-1237) rejected “the Word” and considered “the Mind” and “the Force” before settling on “the Deed.”

    In writing this follow-up comment, I just now read this in the Wikipedia page on Logos:

    Early translators from Greek, like Jerome in the 4th century, were frustrated by the inadequacy of any single Latin word to convey the Logos expressed in the Gospel of John. The Vulgate Bible usage of in principium erat verbum was thus constrained to use the perhaps inadequate noun verbum for word, but later romance language translations had the advantage of nouns such as le mot in French. Reformation translators took another approach. Martin Luther rejected Zeitword (verb) in favor of Wort (word), for instance, although later commentators repeatedly turned to a more dynamic use involving the living word as felt by Jerome and Augustine.

  13. Posted December 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Iver asked:

    Since English is not my language, it is hard for me to suggest an English rendering for SARX in 1:14, but would it be possible to say: “The Word became flesh and blood”?

    Yes, Iver. “Flesh and blood” is a frozen expression in English that is understood by a diminishing number of English speakers, but they are more in number than understand the English rendering just as “flesh” for Greek SARX.

  14. Posted December 17, 2010 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    ISTM a stretch to understand hO LOGOS SARX EGENETO as “the word became a human” because:

    * SARX generally has the sense of “humanity” rather than “a human” (though in context it can);

    * EGENETO is active, rather than middle/deponent or passive (though the active can be used for something that “arose” or “came about) (see the usage in G4);

    * SARX is used in parallel with “us” in the same sentence;

    So I propose the sense of:

    “and the utterance brought humanity into being, and dwelled in a tent among our tents.”

    As I read it, Jesus is then one of the human tents in which the “utterance of divine quality” (not identity) and from which its glory shone out. Paul used the same metaphor for the apostles:

    2Co 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,
    hath shined in our hearts,
    to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
    in the face of Jesus Christ.
    2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
    that the excellency of the power
    may be of God, and not of us.

    and

    Mat 5:14a
    Ye are the light of the world…

    The christian message is that every surface that reflects the sun, is blindingly glorious, and the one(s) in whom God’s utterance dwells, are full of favor and truth. In other words, humanity and divinity are not incompatible:

    Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
    Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    That isn’t a tangent… that is the message.

  15. Posted December 17, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    W.E. wrote:

    ISTM a stretch to understand hO LOGOS SARX EGENETO as “the word became a human” because:

    * SARX generally has the sense of “humanity” rather than “a human” (though in context it can);

    * EGENETO is active, rather than middle/deponent or passive (though the active can be used for something that “arose” or “came about)

    Note that EGENETO is intransitive, so it cannot be translated as a transitive as in “and the utterance brought humanity into being.” Also SARX agrees with the case of the subject hO LOGOS, both being nominative. If the Logos “brought” humanity into being, SARX would need to be in a different case, presumbably the accusative. So translation of EGENETO with intransitive “become” is accurate.

  16. Posted December 17, 2010 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Then where is the preposition?

  17. Posted December 17, 2010 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    And why is it not GINHSTHE?

  18. Posted December 17, 2010 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    No, Wayne, you are right. My reading would require a transitive. I withdraw that reading.

  19. JKG
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Wayne writes: “Flesh and blood” is a frozen expression in English

    W.E. writes: to understand hO LOGOS SARX EGENETO as “the word became a human”

    What’s interesting in connection to what Wayne and W.E. write is all that Aristotle wrote in his biological and physical treatises on flesh and bone and flesh and blood and so forth and so on. FWIW, here’s a little passage from The Physics (193b), which has several of the Greek phrases John uses. It’s Joe Sachs’ English translation first:

    For what is potentially flesh or bone does not yet have its own nature, until it takes on the look that is disclosed in speech, that by means of which we define when we say what flesh or bone is, and not until then is it by nature. So in this other way, nature would be, of the things having in themselves a source of motion, the form or look, which is not separate other than in speech. (What comes from these, such as a human being, is not nature but by nature.)

    τὸ γὰρ δυνάμει σὰρξὀστοῦν οὔτ’ἔχει πω τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φύσιν, πρὶν ἂν λάβῃ τὸ εἶδος τὸ κατὰ τὸν λόγον, ᾧ ὁριζόμενοι λέγομεν τί ἐστι σὰρξὀστοῦν, οὔτε φύσει ἐστίν. ὥστε ἄλλον τρόπον ἡ φύσις ἂν εἴη τῶν ἐχόντων ἐν αὑτοῖς κινήσεως ἀρχὴν ἡ μορφὴ καὶ τὸ εἶδος, οὐ χωριστὸν ὂν ἀλλ’ ἢ κατὰ τὸν λόγον. (τὸ δ’ ἐκ τούτων φύσις μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν, φύσει δέ, οἷον ἄνθρωπος.)

    flesh – σὰρξ, SARX
    bone – ὀστοῦν, OSTEON
    speech [word] – LOGOS
    source [beginning] – ἀρχὴν, ARCHE
    human being – ἄνθρωπος, ANTHROPOS

  20. TimmyC
    Posted December 28, 2010 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    What does everyone think of the Voice translation/paraphrase NT that uses the phrase “the Voice” for “the Word”?

    “Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light. Light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched.”

    http://www.hearthevoice.com/

  21. Posted January 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    TimmyC, I’m sorry you didn’t get a quicker response. I wouldn’t have included “the voice” in my top ten suggestions on how LOGOS might have been translated in John 1:1,14 or anywhere else, but seeing how this was done in the Voice translation, it does sort of make sense. They get credit for using something other than “word.” I am in favor of translations that involve thinking about what something really means in its co-text and context, rather than just choosing the first meaning listed in a dictionary to translate a word in another language.

    A problem I had with that idea of “voice” is that it means primarly to me the medium by which something is expressed rather than the content of what is being expressed, as in “I heard his voice, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.” However, “voice” does have extended meanings that could apply here, as in “They were granted voice at the meeting.” So even though I don’t want to be in the position of arbiter of what is and is not allowable as a translation, if you ask me about the Voice’s choice of “voice” to translate LOGOS in John 1:1, I’ll say, “That’s cool.” Thanks for pointing this out.


2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] logos of John 1:1 with an eye on philosophical discourse. David Frank (Better Bibles Blog) explores the complexity of capturing what John was saying. David Kerr (Better Bibles Blog) summarizes a collaborative discussion about John [...]

  2. [...] of being called “apostles,” the twelve are called “emissaries.” I wrote a blog post here more than a year ago about the translation of logos in John’s gospel chapter one, and this new [...]

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