AskDefine | Define logos

Dictionary Definition

Logos n : the divine word of God; the second person in the Trinity (incarnate in Jesus) [syn: Son, Word]

User Contributed Dictionary


Etymology 1

From Ancient Greek λόγος italbrac logos “speech, oration, discourse, quote, story, study, ratio, word, calculation, reason”, from λέγω italbrac lego “to speak, to converse, to tell a story, to calculate”.


  1. In Presocratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos ; Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument ; In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos
  2. A form of rhetoric in which the writer or speaker uses logic as the main argument
  3. The word of God, which itself has creative power; a hypostasis associated with divine wisdom
  4. The creative word of God, which is itself God and incarnate in Christ

Etymology 2


  1. Plural of logo


Verb form

  1. will entice, will lure



  1. (In) windows.

Extensive Definition

(Greek ) is an important term in philosophy, analytical psychology, rhetoric and religion. It derives from the verb λέγω legō: to count, tell, say, or speak. The primary meaning of logos is: something said; by implication a subject, topic of discourse, or reasoning. Secondary meanings such as logic, reasoning, etc. derive from the fact that if one is capable of λέγειν (infinitive) i.e. speech, then intelligence and reason are assumed.
Its semantic field extends beyond "word" to notions such as "thought, speech, account, meaning, reason, proportion, principle, standard", or "logic". In English, the word is the root of "logic," and of the "-ology" suffix (e.g., geology).
Heraclitus established the term in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the cosmos. The sophists used the term to mean discourse, and Aristotle applied the term to rational discourse. After Judaism came under Hellenistic influence, Philo adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the Logos, through which all things are made. The gospel further identifies the Logos as God (theos), providing scriptural support for the Trinity. It is this sense, the Logos as Jesus Christ and God, that is most common in popular culture.
Psychologist Carl Jung used the term for the masculine principle of rationality.

Uses in ancient Greek

In ordinary, non-technical Greek, logos had two overlapping meanings. One meaning referred to an instance of speaking: "sentence, saying, oration"; the other meaning was the antithesis of ergon ("action" or "work"), which was commonplace. Despite the conventional translation as "word", it is not used for a word in the grammatical sense; instead, the term lexis is used. However, both logos and lexis derive from the same verb λέγω. It also means the inward intention underlying the speech act: "opinion, thought, grounds for belief, common sense."
Logos means the study of.

Use in ancient philosophy


The writing of Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BCE) was the first place where the word logos was given special attention in ancient Greek philosophy. Though Heraclitus "quite deliberately plays on the various meanings of logos", there is no compelling reason to suppose that he used it in a special technical sense, significantly different from the way it was used in ordinary Greek of his time. This LOGOS holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this LOGOS, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (Diels-Kranz 22B1) For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the LOGOS is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding. (Diels-Kranz 22B2) Listening not to me but to the LOGOS it is wise to agree that all things are one. (Diels-Kranz 22B50)

Aristotle's rhetorical logos

Aristotle defined logos as argument from reason, one of the three modes of persuasion. The other two modes are pathos (), persuasion by means of emotional appeal, and ethos, persuasion through convincing listeners of one's moral competence. An argument based on logos needs to be logical, and in fact the term logic derives from it. Logos normally implies numbers, polls, and other mathematical or scientific data.
Logos has many advantages:
  • Data is hard to manipulate, so it is harder to argue against a logos argument.
  • Logos makes the speaker look prepared and knowledgeable to the audience, enhancing ethos.

The Stoics

In Stoic philosophy, which began with Zeno of Citium c. 300 BCE, the logos was the active reason pervading the universe and animating it. It was conceived of as material, and is usually identified with God or Nature. The Stoics also referred to the seminal logos, ("logos spermatikos") or the law of generation in the universe, which was the principle of the active reason working in inanimate matter. Humans, too, each possess a portion of the divine logos.

Philo of Alexandria

Philo (20 BC - 50 AD), a Hellenized Jew, used the term logos to mean the creative principle. Philo followed the Platonic distinction between imperfect matter and perfect idea. The logos was necessary, he taught, because God cannot come into contact with matter. He sometimes identified logos as divine wisdom.

Use in Christianity


Logos is usually translated as "the Word" in English Bibles such as the KJV.
Gordon Clark (1902 - 1985), a Calvinist theologian and expert on pre-Socratic philosophy, famously translated Logos as "Logic": "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God." He meant to imply by this translation that the laws of logic were contained in the Bible itself and were therefore not a secular principle imposed on the Christian world view.
The notorious question of how to translate logos is topicalised in Goethe's Faust, with Faust finally opting for "deed, action" (Am Anfang war die Tat).
Some Chinese translations have used the word "Tao (道)".
The term Logos also reflects the term ''dabar Yahweh" ("Word of God") in the Hebrew Bible.
In his book, "Zero, the Biography of a Dangerous Idea." Charles Seife notes that the Greek word for 'ratio' was 'logos'. Thus the translation of John 1:1 reads: "In the beginning, there was the ratio, and the ratio was with God, and the ratio was God."

John 1:1

In Christianity, the prologue of the Gospel of John calls Jesus "the Logos". John's placement of the Word at creation reflects Genesis, in which God (Elohim) speaks the world into being, beginning with the words "Let there be light." The Greek text reads , notably omitting the definite article in the second occurrence of θεος "god". Greek has no indefinite article, and literally translates to "a god was the word" (the translation as a proper name, "God was the word" would strictly require ).
Jerome's Vulgate translation is straightforward "In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum", since Latin has neither definite nor indefinite articles. The KJV has "the Word was God". Some scholars, however, disagree with this translation and the subsequent interpretation of the text. Some translations render John 1:1 to state "and the Word was a god" rather than the more Traditional "the Word was God." This translation is seen in Bible Versions such as the NWT, as well as several German Translations.
Ernst Haenchen, in a commentary on the Gospel of John (chapters 1-6), takes note of the conspicuous absence of a definite article: After giving as a translation of John 1:1c "and divine (of the category divinity) was the Word," Haenchen goes on to state: "In this instance, the verb 'was' ([en]) simply expresses predication. And the predicate noun must accordingly be more carefully observed: [the·os′] is not the same thing as [ho the·os′] ('divine' is not the same thing as 'God')." Other scholars, such as Philip B. Harner elaborate on the grammatical construction found here (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87).
Some scholars have suggested that John made creative use of double meaning in the word "Logos" to communicate to both Jews, who were familiar with the Wisdom tradition in Judaism, and Hellenic polytheism, especially followers of Philo (Hellenistic Judaism). Each of these two groups had its own history associated with the concept of the Logos, and each could understand John's use of the term from one or both of those contexts.

Christ the Logos

Christians who profess belief in the Trinity often consider John 1:1 to be a central text in their belief that Jesus is the Divine Son of God, in connection with the idea that God and Jesus are equals.
Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c 150) identified Jesus as the Logos. He portrayed Jesus not as "the Maker of all things" but as "the Angel of the Lord", subject to the Maker of all things.
Early Christians who opposed the concept of Jesus as the Logos were known as alogoi.

In Roman Catholicism

On April 1, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (who would become Pope Benedict XVI just over two weeks later) referred to the Christian religion as the religion of the Logos: Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the "Logos." It is faith in the "Creator Spiritus," in the Creator Spirit, from which proceeds everything that exists. Today, this should be precisely its philosophical strength, in so far as the problem is whether the world comes from the irrational, and reason is not, therefore, other than a "sub-product," on occasion even harmful of its development or whether the world comes from reason, and is, as a consequence, its criterion and goal.
The Christian faith inclines toward this second thesis, thus having, from the purely philosophical point of view, really good cards to play, despite the fact that many today consider only the first thesis as the only modern and rational one par excellence. However, a reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems. Only creative reason, which in the crucified God is manifested as love, can really show us the way. In the so necessary dialogue between secularists and Catholics, we Christians must be very careful to remain faithful to this fundamental line: to live a faith that comes from the "Logos," from creative reason, and that, because of this, is also open to all that is truly rational.
Catholics can use logos to refer to the moral law written in human hearts. This comes from Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts." St. Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts (logos) follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person's heart. Though man may not explicitly recognize God, he has the spirit of Christ if he follows Jesus' moral laws, written in his heart. According to Fr. William Most's article for EWTN (Catholic television network), those who have the spirit of Christ belong to the body of Christ. He writes, "Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church."

Jung's analytical psychology

In Carl Jung's analytical psychology, the logos is the masculine principle of rationality and consciousness. Its female counterpart, eros (Greek, love), represents interconnectedness.

Similar concepts

In modern philosophy

Early 20th century movements towards specificity of operational definitions have developed an analog to logos in the concept of world view (or worldview) when used as Weltanschauung () meaning a "look onto the world." It implies a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts in it. The German word is also in wide use in English, as well as the translated form world outlook. (Compare with ideology). Weltanschauung is the conceptualization that all ideology, beliefs and political movements is both limited and defined by this schemata of common linguistic understanding.
Goethe has his Faust translate John's logos as "Will".
The idea is similar to Apollinarism.

Contemporary references

Tangerine Dream named their 1982 live album Logos Live.
Terrence McKenna often used the term Logos to refer to the voice one hears when under the influence of an entheogen.
The Logos was also the name of a ship in The Matrix.
In the MMORPG Tabula Rasa, Logos refers to a mysterious power.
Anne Sexton refers to the Logos in her poem "When Man Enters Woman."
In the anime Gundam SEED DESTINY, Logos is the name of an organization that manipulates world politics.



logos in Arabic: لوغوس
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logos in Russian: Логос
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logos in Chinese: 邏各斯
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