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2. THE LOGOS AS REASON.

The Greek expression for “word” (logos), however, means at the same time “reason.” This brings us to a second origin of this name for Jesus, and one which lies not so much in religion as in the contemplation of the Greek philosophers about the world as a whole. If we recognise in this world one order, it is natural to say that this world, as well as each individual man, possesses a “reason.” The logos is then the reasonable order which rules in the world, and so we are able to express ourselves, even if we cannot believe that the world is ruled by a deity who possesses a consciousness of himself.

In this sense Heraclitus (about 500-450 B.C.) introduced the term “logos” into Greek philosophy. Plato (427-347), without using this term, assumed a world of ideas in which the highest, the idea of the Good, represents the deity. These ideas he regards as the original patterns of which all particular things in the material world are only copies. The Stoics (from 300 B.C.) adopted the word logos and the idea of Heraclitus, that the logos is the reasonable order that rules in the world. On this view, therefore, particular things are adapted to the logos, just as, on Plato’s view, they are to the ideas. In correspondence with the plurality of ideas in Plato, the Stoics divided the one logos into a plurality, which is called in Greek logoi. To the statement that these logoi are the originals or patterns of the things in the world, they added a second statement, that they are the powers by which the things of the world are established. 143So they compare the logoi with seeds of corn which have been scattered everywhere in the world and which have produced out of themselves the particular things. Thus it happens, on their view, that the deity which they see in the one logos, the world-reason, through its particular logoi creates all that is, in conformity with that original which it actually represents itself.

We find the doctrine of the logos fully developed in the Jewish thinker Philo, who was twenty to thirty years older than Jesus. In his native city, Alexandria, in Egypt, he had the best opportunity of imbibing Greek philosophy, and of combining it with the ideas which he himself cherished as a Jew. Consequently, the logos is the pattern and producer of things, as we found it on Greek soil; but it cannot be the deity himself (that would conflict with Philo’s Jewish faith); it is simply a second divine being, who is subordinate to the God of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament itself we also find the beginnings of a disposition to distinguish between God himself and a second divine being of this kind. In particular, the Wisdom of God is often represented as assisting God at the creation of the world; it then works in his sight for his delight (Job xxviii. 12-28; Proverbs viii. 22-31; Ecclus. i. 1-10; xxiv. 1-12; Wisdom of Solomon vii. 22-30). This is, of course, only a figurative way of saying that God at the creation of the world made use of his wisdom; but the form of the world, which he conceived in this wisdom of his, before he made the real to arise in conformity with the ideal, may, with a little imagination, be regarded as the original of the world as it existed in the abstract, or as a kind of model of it. And we get some thing very like the expression “logos,” when it is said that God created the world by his word (Psalm xxxiii. 6), 144because in Gen. i. 3 it is said, “God spake . . . and it was so.” In the Hebrew Old Testament as translated into the Aramaic language current at the time of the Fourth Evangelist, and as recited in the Synagogue every Sabbath, in place of the name God, which the people had to avoid pronouncing, the expression “the word of God” was often put, even where, strictly speaking, it was not suitable.

All this, and presumably in addition, legends about the gods, who, according to the religions of Egypt, Babylonia, or Greece, as the agents of a still higher Deity shaped the world and filled it with divine effects, Philo sums up, by representing that the Logos in itself was, on the one hand, only a faculty of God, by which he conceived the organisation of the world, and, on the other hand, a being who has come forth from God and brought God’s influence into the world. In the second sense, we can call it a person, but in the former not; and the important point is that in Philo the Logos must always be a person and at the same time not a person. Were it only the one or only the other, some necessary aspect which it has would be neglected. Philo gives the Logos designations which only seem applicable to a person; for example, the first-born son of God, the high-priest, the mediator, the sinless one. We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that it always remains the power of mind in God.

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