The LOGOS and the word “word”: Altogether, say “all”

Calvinists, which, of course, include Jewish Calvinists (huh!) like moi, want to platz at the number of times we hear:

World

“See (in John 3:16), it says ‘world’; get it. God so loved the wooooooooooooorld, not just a select few.”

And

All

Kenneth Copeland: (He died for) “ahhhhhhhhhhl. Everybody say “ahhhhhhhhhl.”
.
So, now choose Christ and in you doing so, He will have wasted one lest drop of his blood.

My cry today, though, has to do not with the emasculation of words like “world” and “all” to a single meaning, irrespective of their contextual or theological context; no, my gripe today has to do with the word “word” – Greek LOGOS. Many Messianic Jews love “Yeshua” but hate “Jesus,” because it is (a translation from) Greek. Another word they hate is LOGOS when used to describe Yeshua, because it’s not only of the Greeks but also because it reeks – of Gnosticism.

LOGOS in John 1, the “Word” of God means far more than the (linguistic) words of God. -In the beginning was the word [logos] and the word was with God, and the word was God [John 1:1]. In this opening verse of the Gospel of John, logos is shown as both eternal and pre-existent. It is at the same time introduced as one with God the Father—”was God”—and also distinct from God the Father—”with God.” John also uses the word logos in his first epistle as follows: That which was with us from the beginning… of the Word of life [1 John 1:1]. “…the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost … ” [1 John 5:7]. Logos in the above two verses of the Gospels and Letters has the same meaning as it has in John 1:1 when context is considered.

What I would like to examine here, though is not John’s  “metaphysical” meaning of LOGOS but how different English versions of the Bible translate the linguistic meaning of LOGOS, which is a term that embraces meanings such as “discourse,” “message,” and indeed “meaning” itself, as in Viktor Frankl’s “Logotherapy” (meaning therapy).

I love James Montgomery Boice. And what a voice. Wish he were still with us. Here is something he wrote on LOGOS in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 17-18:

“In verse 18 Paul begins to discuss his major theme in this New Testament letter – the wisdom of God contrasted with the foolishness of men. There is an interesting connection between the introduction, which ends with verse 17, and this new section on the wisdom and power of God beginning with verse 18. In verse 17 Paul speaks of the words of human wisdom. That would stick in the minds of his readers because the word he used, logos, was a powerful word. Then he finishes the verse and begins verse 18, “For the message of the cross – ” and although our New International Version says “message” at that point, the word is actually the same word – namely, the word “word.”‘ Here it is in the singular. What Paul is saying is, “God did not send me with all of the different, competing, various words of human wisdom or philosophy, but with that single word, that word of the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to anyone who believes.”

Here is the NIV 1 Corinthians 1:17-18: 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence (LOGOS), lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message (LOGOS) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Why not try to capture the flavour of the original Greek by translating LOGOS in both verse 17 and 18 as “words” and “word,” respectively?

And the KJV 1 Corinthians 1:17-18: Verse 17 – “wisdom of words” in the King James Version does a better job than the NIV, which has “wisdom and eloquence.” Verse 18 of the KJV disappoints (me) because it translates LOGOS as “preaching.” To wit: 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of WORDS (LOGOS), lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the PREACHING (LOGOS) of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Here is Young’s literal translation in which verse 18 has “the WORD of the cross”: 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but — to proclaim good news; not in wisdom of DISCOURSE (LOGOS), that the cross of the Christ may not be made of none effect; 18 for the WORD (LOGOS) of the cross to those indeed perishing is foolishness, and to us — those being saved — it is the power of God.

Young’s Verse 17, alas, doesn’t try to retain the feel of the Greek LOGOS, which is used in both verses 17 and 18). “Discourse” in verse 17, of course, is fine as a literal translation of LOGOS. It would have been nice, though, if a literal translation could, where possible, try and retain the literary quality of a translation, which the ESV does do: 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with WORDS of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the WORD of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Here is Hebrews 4:12 “For the WORD OF GOD is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Now suppose some smarty pants committee translated the verse like this: “For the DISCOURSE OF GOD is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That would certainly reduce the literary thrust of Paul’s discourse (oops) to a daaaaaaamp squib; in English, that is. Aaaahhhhlltogether say:

“Discooooooouuuuuuuuuurse”
– of God.

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One thought on “The LOGOS and the word “word”: Altogether, say “all”

  1. I received the following anonymous comment via email:

    Interesting that your Mudlim friend believes the Quran was written by
    Allah and the Torah was written by humans, whereas you believe that
    the Torah was written by God and the Quran by humans.

    I reply:

    The difference between Islam and Christianity in regard to the recording of revelation is that Islam claims that Mohammed was doing automatic speaking (Islam says he couldn’t write). The words passed through his head without touching the thinking “part” of his brain. In Christianity, the noggins of the writers of scripture were implicated in the process. Therefore, the style of each writer can be discerned, whereas in the Quran, the only discernible style, claims the Muslim, is the style of Allah.

    I clarify further upon:

    “Interesting that your Muslim friend believes the Quran was written by
    Allah and the Torah was written by humans, whereas you believe that
    the Torah was written by God and the Quran by humans.”

    This is basically correct, but cannot be deduced from what I wrote. Other readers might (also?) deduce this, so I will have to spell it out; to wit:

    Muslims play by different logical rules: what’s good for a Muslim goose is regarded (by the Muslim) as bad for the Christian gander. This is so because according to “Christian” (Western – Aristotelian) logic, the people of the “Book”  in the Quran references I mentioned can only refer to something literally written down, and not something “written” on the heart.

    The Quran does indeed maintain that the people of the “Book” have not interpreted it correctly, but that is a different issue.

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