RE: Translation for O LOGOS (John 1)?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Oct 10 1997 - 15:29:23 EDT

At 1:51 PM -0500 10/10/97, Peter Phillips wrote:
>I'm just doing a little bit of a study on the Prologue at the moment (or
>like the last four years of moments). I don't think you are going to get a
>better translation of this word. It was clearly a polysemous word in Koine
>- Ed Miller suggests thirteen possible ways of interpreting it, Origen
>earlier had a much longer list of lexical equivalents in his commentary.
> As he says - it's not only the Greeks who have a problem with this word!
>Why not do what you have done in your letter - transliterate rather than
>translate - it will need explaining eaither way!

I think Peter is really quite right here: at least if you say, "In the
beginning was the LOGOS," people (at least those who haven't dug into the
background and interpretative history of the word) will understand why they
don't understand it.

I've always been fascinated by that scene near the beginning of Goethe's
"Faust" where Faust in his study ponders the proper translation of EN ARCHi
HN hO LOGOS, begins by translating hO LOGOS as "the Word," progresses
through several intermediate stages and ends up translating hO LOGOS as
"the Act." And that's not really so strange considering the role assigned
the LOGOS in creation in the prologue and the fact that at least one of the
background elements entering into the meanings of hO LOGOS must be the OT
range of senses of the DABAR-YHWH.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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