RE: Translation for O LOGOS (John 1)?

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Tue Oct 14 1997 - 12:31:39 EDT

At 09:40 AM 10/13/97 +0200, Rolf Furuli wrote::
>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. So what is gained by a
>transliteration is lost because other instances of LOGOS hardly can be
>transliterated. 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.

I agree in large part with Rolf (especially with what he has to say about
the target audience), but what he says in the excerpt above may need
clarification. As a professional translator I can certainly attest to the
difficulties in handling John's prologue, and yes, we have speculated on
using a transliteration of hO LOGOS in the NASB--maybe for about 2 minutes
in any one brain-storming session. But to return to Rolf's comments, LOGOS
would not be a translation at all, so it is technically incorrect to say
that it would be an excellent one. As to rendering each source word by the
same Eng. equivalent word in a literal translation, there might have been
one stage in the history of modern Bible translation when such a goal was
taken seriously, but no more. A more practical definition would be to render
each source word in an equivalent English word that is accepted as a literal
translation and is appropriate to the given context. Finally, "the Word"
could not be used for every occurrence of hO LOGOS because of the
capitalization of the former, unless Rolf means to refer only to the Gr.
term as it is applied to Christ/the preexistent Son. Often we overlook the
effect of capitalization in specifying a substantive--that, for instance, is
the most important issue in the argument of the Watchtower for "a god" in
John 1:1.

Don Wilkins

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