In the beginning was logic...

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by JM, May 20, 2007.

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  1. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Gordon H. Clark translated the following, "In the beginning was Logic, and Logic was with God, and Logic was God.... In logic was life and the life was the light of men."

    Is "logic" a proper translation for logos?
  2. JJF

    JJF Puritan Board Freshman

    No. While logic is one possible gloss for logos, it is much more broad in its semantic range than simply logic. Word (as translators have always read it. For example, even the Vulgate translates it verbum (word) instead of ratio (reason, logic)) is more in line with the immediate and broader Johannine context, as well as the surrounding context of the Bible.

    The immediate context, echoing Genesis 1, stresses the spoken word and its power to bring things into existence-to give them life, which light does. If readers survey John, they'll find that John is interested in Christ's divinely spoken words, which command respect and submission. John is very much interested in the reoccuring themes of personal trust and belief in the words of Jesus. Read 1 John/John and meditate on what he has to say about words and belief. He is the Word, and his words are the Father's (John 14).

    The passage's similiarity to Genesis 1 is so strong that one cannot overlook it. The logos, with the Father, has made everything, and, as creator of everything, he is coeval with the Father; his words are just as authoritative. To insert logic here-although an important tool in Reformed theology-is to move away from what John is saying. Words are very fuzzy things sometimes, especially with words that have so many meanings. Think, for example, of the sentence: he is green. Is he greedy? Is he sick? Is he envious? Has he been painted green?--or even all of them being true at the same time, I guess. The important thing is context, because it will determine what green really means.

    Also, if you have the current BDAG, take a look at it. BDAG quite successfully locates the meaning of a word in its time and place; it avoids the anachronistic semantic fallacy. Therefore, there is good reason to avoid the translation "logic."
    Last edited: May 20, 2007
  3. Puritanhead

    Puritanhead Puritan Board Professor

    I concur with Joshua.
  4. Sydnorphyn

    Sydnorphyn Puritan Board Freshman

    The translation of logos into logic is too Hellenistic. The major influence for John appears to be the Hebrew Bible and not the Intertestamental period.
  5. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    I agree with Clark based on his argument in his book, The Johannine Logos". He points out that the word "Word" really is not the best translation. Reason, Wisdom (See Proverbs 8) and Logic are all better.
    (Citing the Vulgate, IMO, is not helpful since it is not reliable in translating other words either, like "justify"). Also, consider Proverbs 3:19, "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth: By understanding He established the heavens". And consider Prov. 8. Remember, John didn't use the English word "Word". He used the Greek word, "Logos". As, was pointed out above John was a Hebrew, so he may very easliy had Gen. 1 and Proverbs 8 in mind when writing the word Logos. Unfortunately with the Vulgate translation, being an early and widely used translation the word verbum or "Word" stuck and sadly no one has looked twice at it since Clark to my knowledge. If a person rejects Clark's argument without having read his book then he doesn't know what he is talking about. Clark's ability with Greek and language in general should not be dimissed without careful consideration.
    Also, perhaps our current, modern ideas of logic have been so minaturized and technicalized that we think to use such an idea in John 1 is appalling. But, if Logic is the way God thinks and Clark has very compelling arguments for that, then we need to reconsider the "tradition" of using the word "Word" to translate Logos. Please read Clark's book "The Johannine Logos".

    Last edited: May 23, 2007
  6. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is a good point. The culture has become anti-intellectual in general, and much of the Church has equated logic (philosophy, reading...learning in general), instead of the improper use of logic, with evil. Although I don't know why our translations chose "word" and don't know Clark's argument, I do think that one should get past a knee-jerk reaction.
  7. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    What is a word anyway but a tag for a thought. If you think of a word it usually reflects an idea and will have various meanings within a particular context. So words are thoughts and God being omniscient doesn't have a stream of disconnected words in His mind but rather a coherent body of knowledge. He is not insane or irrational which a person who just thinks "words" without any connection would be. So, just what does it mean to call Jesus the WORD of God? Does it mean He is God's REVELATION since words reveal thoughts?? And if He is God's revelation the next question is "Revelation of what?". Answer: He reveals God. But for that to mean anything, it must be in propositions otherwise we end up as mystics who can't communicate anything to one another and that is not Christianity. So, as we use the suffix "ology" at the end of words to describe the reasoning of, the wisdom of, the study of something, e.g. biology, theology, anthropology, etc. so, Christ is the Logos of God, He is THEOLOGY, the study of, the wisdom of, the revelation of GOD.
    Chew on that for a while....:think:
  8. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    In this era of human consciousness and thought, "logic" has acquired a meaning that does not express what "logos" meant when John used it.

    I think "word" is better, as Christ is the expression of the Father, "the express image of his person" (Heb 1:3), and again, "the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4).

    When David says, "thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Ps 138:2), he is saying, by the Holy Spirit, that the spoken expression of God is paramount. For Christ to be designated "the Word" is fitting, from Genesis 1:3 ("God said"), to Hebrews 1:1, 2 ("God...hath spoken unto us by his Son"), to Hebrews 1:3 ("upholding all things by the word [rhema] of his power"), to Revelation 19:13, 15 ("his name is called The Word of God...and out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword").

    It is written as well, "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God" (Eph 6:17). For an English equivalent which approaches logos, I think word is the best that can be found, especially as it correlates so profoundly with the myriad uses of the word word throughout Scripture.

    It seems to me "logic" is a lame little signifier in this respect.

    But Jim, I do have Clark's book, and I will look though it.

  9. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    One thing to remember, logos was/has been translated as Word and not logic since way before anti-intellectualism invaded the church. So one quite a burden to say that one can do better translation.

  10. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    I'm glad you have Clark's book and are willing to read it. Too many people automatically dismiss Clark's argument without ever even reading it let alone studying it. Clark walks through the entire gospel of John looking at most if not all of the occurences of logos and he also looks at rhema as well. You may have to read it a couple of times. We studied this book at our Sunday evening study at our church and took several months to carefully work our way through it. I hope it will be as much a blessing to you as it was for us.
  11. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Have you read Clark's book, "The Johannine Logos?" If you haven't I highly recommend it and you'll see that Clark has good reasons to translate logos other than "word".
  12. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    How does that make the translation "word" better? An image is a visual representation and a word is not. By your argument it seems like "word" would be one of the worst translation choices. Clark's references to Proverbs 8 which Jim has copied here speak of Christ in a more directly intellectual sense.

    Also, if it is so obvious that "word" would be the best rendition, why do you think John chose the word logos instead of rhema, as in the verse you quoted? Just wondering what your thoughts are.

    There's no finite verb in the first clause of your second sentence so I'm not sure what you meant there.

    I don't think history means a whole lot. If you want to talk about it having been so translated long before the rise of anti-intellectualism, one could note that it was first translated "word (verbum)" by the Romans. I was just saying that people's reaction to Clark's proposition that "logic" may be a better rendition is colored by our place in time.

    Another thing: logic is a direct cognate of logos, unlike "word" which comes from the German wort.

    By the way, I've listened to several lectures by John Robbins and I remember him saying that the translation "word" isn't wrong, just that it is one of many possibilities. Again, see the references to Proverbs 8.
  13. Dagmire

    Dagmire Puritan Board Freshman

    What profit is there to rendering it logic instead of word?
  14. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    In Clark's book he points out that the word "word" is a poor translation and he shows why. He points out that the words wisdom and reason would be better translations. Elsewhere he makes the point that one could accurately translate logos into logic and he shows why. One of his main reasons for doing so is to combat the thorough anti-intellectual, irrational bias of our culture including the church.
  15. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

  16. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    "Word" is not a poor translation. It's excellent.

    John's point is that Jesus is the Revelation enfleshed, the Incarnation of God's Word. He fulfills the Word of OT Revelation, embodying it and taking it beyond what could have been imagined. "Thus saith the Lord," "And God said," "The Word of the Lord that came to..." Words, words, words.

    It's not translation to render "logos" as "logic", but interpretation. I'd even say reduction, because logic is only one use of words and language. Certainly there is more to the OT than propositions.

    I'm not even going to dispute with GClark as to whether he does us all a service by bringing out just such "a" force from the word "logos". Thank you for the monograph. But to say that "logic" is the proper translation is vastly overstated.
  17. Theogenes

    Theogenes Puritan Board Junior

    Clark is NOT saying that logic is the proper and only translation of logos. He said it is a possible one as is reason, wisdom and many others. Have you read his book? If you haven't you should check it out.
  18. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    I gotta get the book.
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member


    Allow me to quote myself:
    Please allow me to quote you
    I can appreciate the argument, or the presentation that presents new insight, or brings something neglected out of a passage or a word. But my point was that "Word" is not a poor translation. It is an excellent translation. And I don't agree that these other glosses are, in fact, "better". I think such renderings would end up hiding more nuance than they reveal, by bearing down in one particular direction. "Word" is better, precisely because it is a broader term, with the wider semantic range.

    I guess we'll just have to differ.
  20. JJF

    JJF Puritan Board Freshman

  21. Herald

    Herald Moderator Staff Member

    Bruce - couldn't say it better. :ditto:
  22. JJF

    JJF Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with one qualification. Every translation is an interpretation.
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Messrs Forrest and Buchanan have hit the nail on the head. It only remains for someone to drive it all the way in by pointing out the immediate link to creation in John 1:1, "in the beginning," and the mediation of the Logos for effecting it in ver. 3, thus providing an articulation of the "Elohim amar" of Gen. 1.

    Gordon Clark's fundamental error was his belief that God thinks. Logic requires process, but God does not know by process. Logic is a created entity. The second person of the Trinity is uncreated.
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    This becomes such a mantra for Clarkians. When challenged with the Church's historical use of terms, they'll go to this guard: yeah but this culture is anti-intellectual.

    We don't re-interpret words to suit the culture of the 20th Century. We also ought not go overboard and presume that because there are the impious who deny intellect, reason, and logic that we are somehow pious in affirming that intellect, reason, and logic are all that is conveyed in Scripture.

    Frankly, this is the typical arrogance of men who pridefully assert that their interpretation is superior to the testimony of the Church for centuries. One would like to think that Confessional Christians would be more circumspect.
  25. JJF

    JJF Puritan Board Freshman

    Insightful and very true! This point needs to be stressed more, I think. Epistemology is wrong-headed from the start if it doesn't realize that God is ontologically different, wholly other. He has, nevertheless, revealed himself by words and ultimately his only begotten Word. For such a being, I'm compelled to believe and trust, even when human logic (a very important and necessary human tool) comes to a stand-still in explaining mysteries.
  26. Sydnorphyn

    Sydnorphyn Puritan Board Freshman

    Robert Gundry's book on John's Prologue is worth reading - a must for anyone working in John's gospel today. He provides a convincing canonical/theological argument for logos in John 1; not only does he provide some of the best exegesis of the Prologue to date, he treats the prologue as a lens for reading the rest of John's story. The basic thesis for the book is that John is NOT recycling language from Greek philosophy, but treating the logos motif with a concept now termed "context carryover" (see JETS, two issues ago on the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark [sorry forgot the title]).
  27. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    David, in response to your post #12: We err if we construe “image” – (Greek, charakter) – in Hebrews 1:3, and “image” – (Greek, eikon) – in 2 Corinthians 4:4 to refer to what you term “a visual representation.” That is not the meaning of the usages of “image” in these two instances (see post #8). Perhaps my starting a new paragraph after this sentence hindered my being clear,

    I think "word" is better, as Christ is the expression of the Father, "the express image of his person" (Heb 1:3), and again, "the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4).​

    For my next sentence was,

    When David says, "thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Ps 138:2), he is saying, by the Holy Spirit, that the spoken expression of God is paramount.​

    I quote from Spiros Zodhiates, “The Son is the eikon of God indicating the revelatory character of the incarnation (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).” And of my next use of “image” he says, “Occurs only in Heb. 1:3 where it [charakter] is translated ‘express image,’ referring to Jesus Christ. Here He is described as ‘the exact image of His [God’s] essence’ [SZ’s translation]. Whatever the divine essence is, Jesus is said to be its perfect expression.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, [AMG: ISBN 089957663X], pp. 512 & 1468.)

    My point is, “image” in these two cases is not visual but refers to Christ representing God’s heart and essence. And that the verbal manifestation of this revelation God says is quintessential. Consider, God reveals His glory and His will to us by the Holy Spirit through His word.

    Rhema is a far more limited word than logos, referring as it does to the teachings of God (in the usage I am thinking of) rather than the expression of His Being.

    Thus, word is the best translation choice for logos.

    I hope this clarifies my thought.

  28. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    That does clarify things a lot. Thank you. I was unaware of the subtleties in the original languages.

    Can you guys expound on this more? Why does God have to think differently from us in order to be ontologically different? What would you say it means that we are created in God's image? Clark says it is the rational thought processes of our minds.

    Hey Rich,

    I wasn't trying to be arrogant when I made that statement. In fact, I didn't even say that I was making an argument. I just said that it is something to keep in mind.

    I would think that it's also possible to pridefully assert something just because it's confessional and assume that that makes it better. This is something I'm still studying for myself but I know that we often like to use the "who are you to go against church history?" argument when it suits our purposes. I'm glad Luther didn't succumb to that reply to his teachings. If the Confession is wrong about something shouldn't it be changed? That's all that the Clarkians are proposing.

    Again, I'm not necessarily arguing for Clark here. I just hate the way people turn up their noses on this board sometimes. It's just as arrogant as I've seen the Clarkians often conduct themselves.
  29. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    If the Confession is wrong, David, then it is not up for you to simply assert it's failure at that point, standing apart from a Synod or Council to reform it just for yourself. We might as well jettison the idea of Reformed confessionalism and let each man decide where the Confession needs to be changed for himself.

    This is not an argument for the infallibility of the Church but for the authority of the Church. It is arrogant, when the Church has uniformly testified to the interpretation of passage, to insist on a new meaning primarily for the doctrinal epistemology that is undergirding that insistence. Unless you'd like to rescind your subscription to the Confession on who settles such matters then you're the party on the outside of Reformed orthodoxy and not me. I have nothing to defend on this board to uphold the Church's right to settle matters of controversy and not philosophers or academia. Go to an Anabaptist board and make such impious claims all you want there.

    Bringing Luther (or Calvin) into your argument does not help your case in the least. They were not inventors of new theology, interpreting the Scriptures on their own and presuming to think their views superior to the testimony of the entire corpus of the Church fathers. They were reformers not revolutionaries.

    Finally, I asserted nothing. I confessed something.

    Clarkians come to the floor in the 20th Century and assert that the whole of the Church has testified incorrectly and that Word should be logic and that the Bible is propositions and nothing else. THAT is arrogant. They have no authority to dictate any such thing.
  30. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Thanks folks.
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