Glossary of Terms

Logos / the Word


Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

logos Greek noun unsually translated 'word' but also 'reason' or 'meaning' and familiar in Greek philosophy from Heraclitus (6th cent. BCE) to the Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria (1st cent. CE) for the principle of coherence undergirding the universe. In the LXX [the Greek Old Testament, Septuagint] logos translates the Hebrew dabar, the creative 'word' of God, which is parallel to sophia (wisdom) as a mediator who acted for God in relation to his creation (Wisd. 9:1-2). In the gospel of John (1:14) and the Revelation (19:13) Jesus is called the Word of God. This is an important development for Christology: it is an assertion that the Word who was God's agent in creation was to be identified with the human figure of Jesus of Nazareth (john 1:46).

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

word of the Lord. A message: the means of God's revealing himself to men, especially through the prophets. Gen. 15:4; Deut. 5:4-5; 2 Sam. 24:11; Ps. 33:4, 6; Isa. 1:10; Jer. 1:2; and opening phrases of other books of prophets.

In the Gospels, the word or word of God. Mark 2:2; 4:14-20, 33; Luke 3:2; 5:1; 11:28.

To people in ancient times words were powerful. A curse was not idle words, but words with power to carry out the thing expressed. In this sense the world came into being through God's word. Gen. 1:3; John 1:1. In the Gospel of John, this power of God is Jesus Christ, 1:14.

In The Acts and the letters, the word is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Acts 8:4; 19:20; 1 Cor. 1:18; Eph. 5:26; Col. 4:3.

Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

logos, the Greek term usually translated ‘word’ (especially word of God) when it occurs in the nt. Logos has a wide range of meaning, e.g., reckoning or accounting, explanation or reason, statement or discourse. In English, it frequently appears in the names of scientific or other disciplines, e.g., biology, psychology, theology.

Originally employed as a technical philosophical term by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (sixth century b.c.), logos became a particularly important concept for the Stoics (third century b.c. and later). In Stoicism, logos was the principle and pattern that gave the world or cosmos its character and coherence. The term was taken over by Philo, the Alexandrian philosophical theologian of Judaism, who was roughly a contemporary of the apostle Paul. By means of the logos, Philo sought to reconcile Greek philosophical theories about the universe (cosmology) with the biblical accounts of God’s creating the world by his spoken word. God’s logos became a clearly identifiable entity, mediating between God and the world, the mode of the divine creativity and revelation.

Already before Philo, logos had been used in the Greek translation of the ot (Septuagint or lxx) to render the Hebrew term (dabar) usually translated into English as ‘word’—a term frequently used of God’s speaking. Just the use of this Greek term, with its rich associations, to translate the equally pregnant Hebrew word (which could mean ‘word,’ ‘thing,’ or ‘event’) was a significant development in the growth of the biblical tradition. At the same time, in the later ot and apocryphal books, ‘wisdom’ (Gk. sophia) was beginning to play a mediatorial role between God and creation not unlike that of logos in Philo (cf. Prov. 8:22-31; Wisd. of Sol. 9:1-2). The idea that God’s relation to his creation was mediated through a subordinate being or mode of manifestation was thus developing in a variety of ways.

In the nt, Jesus is described as preaching the word (Mark 2:2) or word of God (Luke 5:1). In both cases, logos is used, as it most often is in the nt where the English has ‘word.’ The gospel message about Jesus can also be described as the word or word of God (Acts 4:31; 8:4; 1 Cor. 14:36).

Not surprisingly, in the Johannine literature, Jesus himself is called logos (John 1:14: ‘the Word became flesh’). In Rev. 19:13, Jesus is called ‘Word of God’ (logos of God). Elsewhere, in the prologue of 1 John, he is referred to as ‘the word of life’ (1:1).

Particularly significant is the role in creation assigned to the logos, who is incarnate in Jesus (John 1:14) in the prologue of the Fourth Gospel. It is not immediately obvious why a man sent from God, even the Messiah of Israel, should have played such a role. Yet Jesus Christ figures as the mediator in creation not only in John, but also in such nt books as 1 Corinthians (8:6), Colossians (1:15-17), and Hebrews (1:2), although the term logos is not used. (Interestingly enough, in 1 Cor. 1:24, Paul calls Christ ‘the wisdom of God,’ using the Greek term sophia, mentioned above, that has close connections with logos.) This development in the doctrine of Christ becomes immediately intelligible in light of the use of logos as God’s creating and revealing mediator in Philo and the role played by ‘wisdom’ in ancient Jewish wisdom literature. Yet an unprecedented step is taken by nt writers, especially the Fourth Evangelist, when it is claimed that the one who has played this role can be identified with a historic figure, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume

Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, Editors (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add this book to your library. It is available at Border's Books at or Christian Book Distributors at Bible Commentary

Browse an online article entitled, " The Gospel of John's use of 'the Word' (ho logos)," at


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