RE: Translation for O LOGOS (John 1)?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Oct 11 1997 - 19:55:53 EDT

At 4:45 PM -0500 10/11/97, wrote:
>If I might be serious for a moment amongst the gidiness of chicken blood,
>but I fear the thread is lost to hilarity:

Since I am named below as an aid and abettor to the line of thought Will
has followed far out upon his limb, it behooves me to at least assume the
role of amicus curiae in Will's defense and to undertake, as Plato puts it
in the Republic, "to come to the aid of the LOGOS" (BOHQEIN TWi LOGWi). But
I will not quite follow Will's line of argument, which (I must say) really
does not seem so outrageous, given his assumption that the author of the
Johannine prologue drew as much from the Greek philosophic tradition of
LOGOS in the lore of Heraclitus and the Stoa as it did from the Hellenistic
Jewish Hokma/Sophia tradition. I personally am inclined to think that it is
Hellenistic Jewish much more than Greek philosophic traditions that play
the chief role in shaping the Johannine prologue, but nevertheless, I do
think Will's notion, whether or not it's right, is by no means implausible.

I'm not going to cite Will's argument. Presumably those who are interested
in any followup of it saw and have not yet deleted it, and those who are
not interested may just as well delete this too.

In terms of Heraclitus and the Stoa, one could say that the LOGOS is the
"soul" of the Cosmos as well as the "soul" of all rational creatures within
the Cosmos.
As R.G. Collingwood many years ago (in _The Idea of Nature_) argued, the
ancient Greek view of the cosmos is that it is a great living creature, an
organism, an animal, and once the Greek thinkers moved away from pure
anthropomorphism and Hesiod's account of the organic evolution of the
cosmos from a primal CHAOS to the ordered regime of Zeus toward a more
naturalistic understanding, they retained the idea of the great living
creature: the universe is alive and ensouled. When once the
teleological-minded thinkers took hold of this notion in earnest, it led
them directly into the LOGOs notion: that the LOGOS is the soul of the
cosmos and that in every rational creature within the cosmos (humanity, in
the Stoic view) that LOGOS is present as the personal soul directing each
human selfhood just as the cosmic LOGOS directs the processes of the cosmos.

Now I'm not so sure that this is the major influence upon the writer of the
Johannine prologue; I think that the Hebraic DABAR-YHWH traditions and the
Hellenistic Jewish Hokma/Sophia traditions probably played a much greater
role in shaping the Johannine prologue, but it is not so easily proved that
the Greek philosophic senses that LOGOS already held for a sophisticated
Greek-speaking public played no part whatsoever in the prologue. I think
the burden of proof is on those who would insist that this Greek
philosophic background has absolutely NO influence on the Johannine
prologue. And for this reason, despite all the problems that "soul" as a
translation of LOGOS there entails, I don't by any means think that it is

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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