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The ancient Greek expression logos ( λόγος lógos , Latin verbum, Hebrew דבר davar ) has an extraordinarily wide range of meanings. It is used unspecifically in the sense of “word” and “speech” as well as their content (“ meaning ”), but also designates the intellectual faculty and what it produces (such as “ reason ”), furthermore a more general principle of world reason or a general sense of the Reality. In addition, depending on the context, there are even more specific uses, for example as “ definition ”, “ argument ”, “invoice” or “proposition”. Philosophical and religious principles are also referred to with the expression lógos , for example in the fragments of Heraclitus and in texts of Stoic philosophy as well as of Jewish-Hellenistic and Christian origin.

The lexeme -log- can also be found in the name of the philosophical-mathematical discipline of logic , in the ending -logie to denote sciences (e.g. "cosmology") and in numerous foreign words (e.g. " analogy ").

Concept history

The expression λόγος lógos denotes (written) speech in the ancient Greek language in the sense of its material base of letters, words, syntagms and sentences, in Greek rhetoric the (spoken) speech also in the sense of its expressive content. A relevant dictionary names u. a. the translations speaking, oral communication, word, speech, narrative, message, rumor, (grammatical) sentence, utterance of God ( NT ), command (NT), prophecy (NT), teaching (NT), permission to speak, eloquence, established Proposition, assertion, doctrine, definition, definition, what is being spoken of, thing, object, calculation, accountability, calculation, consideration, appreciation, proportion, reason.

Greek philosophy

In the fragments of Heraclitus , the expression logos has a prominent role and is classically interpreted as a law that pervades the world.

Plato then abstracts the expression logos to such an extent that it can be used as a philosophical vocabulary with the meaning of “representation” or “explanation”. In the dialogue Theaetetos (201 d) the guiding thought is that only that which can be found in an explanatory (or explainable) form as part of the λόγος can be the object of knowledge.

Aristotle uses logos a . a. in the sense of "definition".

The Stoa then sees in the Logos a rational principle of the ordered cosmos, a resting origin from which all activity emerges. It constitutes both causality and an doing-doing-connection . As logos spermatikos ' germ of reason' , the logos is to be found in every being (especially with a soul or with reason). In his description of the stoic view, Cicero speaks a. a. from mens mundi ' Weltgeist ' .

For the sophists , the logos stands in opposition to the myth , which refrains from justifying the truth of its assertions with rational evidence.


In Hellenistic Judaism , logos , in Aramaic memra , denotes the eternal thought of the one God. Memra step out of God at creation . Kabbalists like Isaac the Blind declared memra , the divine reason ( Chochmah ), to be an emanation from the holy thought Kether , which in turn was the first emanation from the primordial En Sof .


The expression logos is used in the so-called prologue of the Gospel of John as " Word of God ".

The Gospel of John ( John 1,1  EU ) begins with the words:

Greek: ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος
Transcription: en archē ēn ho Lógos kaì ho Lógos ēn pròs tòn Theòn kaì Theòs ēn ho Lógos
Latin Vulgate translation: in principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum
German standard translation : "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Quantity translation : "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and God (= divine essence) was the word."
New evangelistic translation (NeÜ-bibel.today (2018)): "In the beginning was the word. The word was with God, yes the word was God. "
Zurich Bible (2007): "In the beginning was the Word, the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and of God's essence was the Logos."
Concordant New Testament (KNT): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was [turned] to God, and [how] God was the Word."
Haubeck & von Siebenthal: New linguistic key to the Greek NT: "[...] the word / the logos was God (ie God in essence)"
Jürgen Becker: The Gospel according to Johannes, ecumenical paperback commentary on the New Testament, Gütersloh u. Würzburg: "[...] the Logos was a god"

Personification of the Logos as Christ, definition as God

In the first part of the sentence (“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God”) the Logos is closely linked to the deity and could be understood as an attribute or an independent person who already existed with God before the world was created (cf. Mi 5,1  EU ; Mt 2,4–7  EU ), or something that z. B. could flow out of God ( emanation ). In the second part of the sentence, translated by many as “the word was God”, not infrequently also “of God's essence was the Logos” (or comparable), sometimes also “a God was the Logos”, says the author of the Gospel of John like the Logos with Christ , which is particularly evident in the context of the following verses, v. a. Joh 1,14  EU and Joh 1,18  EU happens.

According to the dogmatics of the doctrine of the Trinity, this is viewed by its followers as the Incarnation of God , based on the Roman Catholic. and Orthodox veneration of Mary as Mother of God and Mother of God . (See the councils from 325 AD in Nicaea to 680 AD in Constantinople on the list of ecumenical councils ). The following words, "And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (verse 14), are also interpreted by those according to this principle. A consideration of the biblical context for the use of the term God reveals: Satan is also referred to there as the god of this world ( 2 Cor 4,4  EU ), Moses as "God" for Aaron and the Egyptian Pharaoh ( Ex 4,16  EU ; Ex 7 , 1  EU ). Furthermore, the designation is used for other godly powers ( Joh 10.34–35  EU ; Ps 82.6ff.  EU ). Because of this and u. a. also of the immortality and invisibility of God ( 1 Tim 6,16  EU , cf. Jesus death on the cross ), Jesus' prayers to God (including Joh 17.3  EU ; Hebr 7.25  EU ; 1 Joh 2.1  EU ), his biblical Title as eternal high priest according to the order of Melchizedek ( Hebr 7.17  EU , Ps 110.4  EU , Hebr 7.20-25 EU ) and last but not least his anointing , i.e.  empowerment by God ( Jesus Christ from Greek Christos, in German "( God "anointed" or Messiah ), this is seen differently by non-Trinitarians . Already the empowerment of Jesus through God (cf. Heb 1,9  EU ; cf. Heb 7,7  EU ) clearly contradicts the eternal omnipotence of Jesus from himself or the definition of almighty God , while empowered God for Jesus clearly contradicts the above biblical context would apply.

Characterization and action of the logo from the context

The meaning of the Greek word lógos cannot be reduced to the German term “word”, although this term is often chosen in the Bible translations. Logos denotes u. a. also language , speech , proof , theorem , doctrine , sense and reason. This variety of meanings results u. a. based on the following passages: Heb 1,2  EU ; 1 Cor 1.24  EU ; Col 2,2-3  EU ; Col 1.16  EU ; 1 Cor 8,6  EU ; John 1,10  EU , which defines the Logos as "God's wisdom", united in the person of Jesus Christ (cf. Col 2,3  EU : "In him [Christ, verse 2] are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden" " ); 1 Cor 8,6  EU : “We have only one God, the Father. Everything comes from him and we live for him. And one is the Lord: Jesus Christ. Everything is through him and we are through him ”; Heb 1 : 2  EU : “He [God, verse 1] spoke to us in these last days through the Son, whom he appointed to inherit over all, through whom he also made the world”; John 1,10  EU : "He was in the world, and the world became through him, but the world did not recognize him."

Thus the world was of God made through the Logos, which is defined as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:17). This is related to the creatively effective Word of God in Gen 1,3. The same choice of terms or procedure ( through Christ / prophets ..., from God) can be found in the judgment of God through Christ in Rom 2,16  EU and Joh 5,30  EU or in the preaching / communication of God's actions through prophets ( Acts 3 , 18  EU ) or angel ( Acts 7,35  EU ) - where of course God also acts by virtue of his commission directed to them, also with the formulation " through the deeds of the apostles " in Acts 15,12  EU .

Also the pre-existing Logos, now in Christ ( Joh 1,1–2  EU ; Mi 5,1  EU ; Mt 2,4–7  EU ) made flesh, thus becoming human (Joh 1,14), acted according to Mt 9,6  EU ; Joh 5,14  EU ; Joh 9.30–33  EU on behalf and authority of God. Therefore, he found in this "always" being heard ( Jn 11.39 to 45  EU ) so that the biblical captain of Capernaum in Mt 8.5-10  EU in confidence could say to him:

“'Lord, I am not worthy of you entering my house; just speak one word and my servant will be well. I too have to obey orders, and I have soldiers under me myself; If I now say to someone: 'Go!', he goes '[...] And to the centurion Jesus said:' Go! Let it happen as you believed. ' And in the same hour the servant was healed. "

It can therefore make sense to keep the term logos in the translation and to translate it separately and more comprehensively in the note, e.g. In some cases, it happened because only the sum of the German terms covered by logos results in the optimal level of understanding in this regard. On the one hand, points to the translation difficulty whether to transfer the Greek or Hebrew original text (see. Sir 0.6  EU ), on the other hand also that by the biblical context, completely independent of the decision of the translator for individual term selection To gain understanding.

Relation of the prologue to the Old Testament

One of the words at the end of the prologue of John reads: "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, a glory as a native of the Father, full of grace and truth."

The Jewish belief is that a word is more than a mere collection of tones that expresses something. So a word always has an effect. Already in the history of creation it can be seen that God's word, his executive logos, is active:

“God said: 'Let there be light!' And there was light. "

- Gen 1.3  EU

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. [...] For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it was there. "

- Ps 33,6.9  EU

"Neither herbs nor plasters made them well, but your word, Lord, that heals everything."

- Weish 16.12  EU

"So it is with the word that leaves my mouth: It does not return to me empty, but causes what I want and achieves everything for which I have sent it out."

- Isa 55.11  EU


The reconstruction of the historical influences on the Johannes prologue has not yet been fully clarified. Important in this context are, among other things, possible influences of Hellenistic Judaism and the Stoa . Justin the Martyr already indirectly points out that the Christian concept of the Logos has a pagan predecessor and mentions Socrates , Heraclitus , Mercurius and Plato's world soul. At the same time, however, the prologue of John is related to the Hebrew Bible: The phrase "God spoke" from Genesis 1, wisdom ( Wis 9 : 1-2) and the "Word of God" to the prophets (e.g. in Isa 1, 10  EU : “Hear the word of God”) make this clear.

The Prologue of St. John represents an important basis for the systematic Christology and - according to the translation variant of the standard translation  - for the dogmatic interpretation in the doctrine of the Trinity . The major church finally decided on an essential equality of three divine persons according to its definition , among other things with reference to them Template. Recognition of the Trinity is also a condition for admission to the World Council of Churches .

Logos Creator

With Logos Creator is God as a pre-existent Christ in the creation of the world in accordance with the Greek beginning of John's Gospel (1.1-3 EU called).

The word made flesh of the Gospel of John is related to Gen 1.3  EU , where God speaks and thereby creates what he utters.

Modern times

Among the word meanings of the Greek expression logos , that of “reason” in the philosophical context is particularly significant, as it still lends its name to the discipline of logic - and derived from this also the “legality” of considerations (logical). The German term logistics was initially used synonymously with logic , but in the 20th century it was related to organization and administration.

In the first part of Faust , Goethe gives a well-known illustration of the difficulty of choosing a translation option for logos by letting the protagonist think about the various possible translations “word”, “sense” and “force” and finally let him decide for “deed” .


Web links

Wiktionary: λόγος  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German School and Handbook , Freytag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  2. Cicero: De natura deorum II, 22, 57f; see. II, 11.29f; "Animus mundi": Academica I, 29.
  3. LThK, 1962, Vol. 7, p. 146.
  4. 1 Apol. 22.2 and 46.3; see e.g. Pépin, lc, 5505.
  5. Faust I, verse 1224 ff.