RE: Translation for O LOGOS (John 1)?

Date: Mon Oct 13 1997 - 06:59:52 EDT

I must admit that I feel a little better about the translation of Logos as
Word given Rolf's perspective on the translation issues. Since my own
feeble attempts at translation are usually limited to specific sections
of the Bible, e.g. the Prologue, I don't normally have to face some of the
larger issues which would be involved in translating the entire NT as if
it were a single work. If I ever finish my project, which is to explore
the Greek natural philosophy background of the Prologue, the product
will only be the Prologue, itself.

Rolf Furuli writes on 10/13/97:

> If someone enrolls in a course in applied linguistics, the first question
> s/he learns to ask is: "For whom am I translating?"

My target group would be a very small group of folks interested in
ancient cosmology and-or mythical expressions of scientific paradigms,
as in Plato's _Timaeus_. Within this group, the English translation is
normally accompanied by the Greek anyway. So, rather than the typical
theological issues (and to some extent, even the translation issues), I
face the "theological" issues of translating the Prologue as a part of
Hellenistic cosmological writings rather than as part of the Bible.

My goal is to account for the usage of logos in all its Hellenistic
"religious" expressions, e.g. the Gnostic texts, Philo, the Prologue. So, the
pool of texts across which I would try to remain consistent is different
than the the normal pool of this list, i.e. the Bible.

> A transliteration of hO LOGOS would hardly be chosen by an idiomatic
> translation, but is excellent for a literal one. The problem, however, is
> that a literal translation made for study, as far as possible, tries to
> render each Greek word with the same English word.

Yes, but the usage of Logos here is universally acknowledged to be unique
within the Bible, which I use as license to translate it differently than
elsewhere in the Bible. Regardless of its true origin, it seems clearly to
be a technical usage.

> The rendition chosen by most translations, both idiomatic
> and literal is "the Word". It has no problematic connotations which can
> mislead the reader, it can be used for every occurrence of hO LOGOS, and
> because everybody realize that it is not used for an impersonal word, it
> certainly demands an explanation.

For my purposes, however, the fact that Word suggests DABAR-YHWH is a
problematic connotation.

> However, most exegetes will look for a Hebrew background, ...

I suppose the normal presupposition is that in the NT we are dealing with
Hebraic ideas expressed in Greek, which in many instances we undoubtedly
are. However, certain notions found in the NT seem alien to the Hebrew
Bible just as some are alien to Greek philosophy. I think a more
satisfactory approach would be to simply seek the origin of the notion
in question regardless of whether the search leads toward Hebrew sources.

Thanks to Rolf, Carl, and others, for their considerations.


Will Wagers "Reality is the best metaphor."

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