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ΕΝ ΑΡΧΗ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

John 1:1 (Westcott and Hort 1881)

The Greek word λόγος has more than one meaning. It means 'word','speech','divine utterance','analogy' and so on (source).

What is the meaning of the Greek word λόγος in John 1:1?

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The term "Logos" has two meanings: "word" and "reason" [1]. Let's focus on each.

1. Logos as Word

In the case of humans, a word is a sign that represents a concept, which in turn is a mental representation of an entity, so that the secuence is:

entity (real) -> concept (mental) -> word (pronunced or written).

God, in contrast, knows perfectly the possible entities and causes their existence by creating them, with Genesis describing the creative act as the enunciation by God of the word corresponding to the entity, so that in the case of God the logical sequence is:

concept (mental) -> enunciation of the word (creative act) -> entity (real).

Understanding then the creation of an entity as the enunciation by God (the three divine Persons acting as a single efficient cause) of the knowledge that God has of that entity, the generation of the Son can be understood as the full enunciation by God the Father of the perfect knowledge that He has of Himself. At this point it is important to note three essential differences between the act of generation of the Son by God the Father and the act of creation by the three divine Persons acting inseparably:

  1. Since God the Father Is the Subsistent Being or absolute fullness of Being, which is necessarily one, the full enunciation of his self-knowledge does not produce another Subsistent Being, which is intrinsically impossible, but a Person Who Is the same unique Subsistent Being. The difference between the Father and the Son, apart from the fact that the Father generates the Son and not the other way around, is that the Father is the Subsistent Being in fontal plenitude mode while the Son is the Subsistent Being in filiation mode, which explains why the Son does not in turn enuntiate his self-knowledge generating his own son. (This last point follows St. Bonaventure as opposed to St. Thomas Aquinas and uses the concept of modes of beings introduced by St. Basil the Great.)

  2. While to beget eternally a consubstantial Son in inherent to God the Father (and to spirate the Holy Spirit is inherent to the Father and the Son), to create is an absolutely free decision of God (the three Persons).

  3. God the Father begets his Son in eternity, while God creates in time, which in fact begins to flow at the moment of creation, since it is a dimension internal to the created universe.

Understanding then the generation of the Son as the full enunciation by God the Father of his perfect self-knowledge, it is evident that the term "Logos" used by John must be understood in the sense of "Word". This is fully in line with the description of the Son with respect to the Father as "charaktēr tēs hypostaseōs autou", "perfect imprint of his Hypostasis" in Heb 1:3: the word represents the concept, and given that, per absolute divine simplicity, the self-knowledge of the Father is identical to the Father, the full enunciation of that self-knowlege results in the full representation, or perfect imprint, of the Father.

2. Logos as Reason

This in turn had two main meanings in Greek philosophy: first, by Heraclitus, the rational structure of the universe, its inherent rationality; then, by the Stoics, the rational active principle that pervaded and animated the universe and caused its rational operation.

It is evident that both notions have much in common with the notion of divine wisdom in the Old Testament, whose personification in Prov 8;22-9,6, Sir 24:1-30 and Wis 7:21-8:1 has always been interpreted by Christian tradition as a prefiguration of the revelation of the Person of the Son. Besides, given that the wisdom of God the Father consists above all in his perfect knowledge of Himself, and that the generation of the Son is the enunciation of that self-knowledge, which is an intellectual act, an act of wisdom, the Son can be called Logos in the sense of Word and also Wisdom (Sophia), or its synonym Logos in the sense of Reason.

[1] Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'LOGOS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915. https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/logos/

  • It appears the author of the entry from the encyclopedia did not check a lexicon. If he had he would not have defined LOGOS the way he did. LOGOS does not mean "reason, word". It has many usages but is primarily about utterance and communication. – Ruminator Sep 18 '18 at 13:37
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One feature of this site that I hope will change over time is the fact that there are a great many "word study" questions asked on this site and the ones who response rarely consult a lexicon in providing an answer. Instead they rely on items nearer at hand such a concordance, tradition (IE: reasoning from Trinity), amateur etymology etc. This is a terrible state of affairs so I hope everyone will be inspired instead to reach for a lexicon.

I have reproduced the entire entry from BDAG in another post so I'm redirecting there. I also explain my rationale for NOT translating LOGOS as "Word" and instead preferring something like "utterance" or "communication".

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While it is clear that John described Jesus Christ when he used λόγος in John 1:1 (God incarnate 1:14; Son of God 1:34), the question also asks what λόγος signifies in describing Christ. There is a difference between the Greek word λόγος and the English word word. In particular John uses the singular λόγος for what in English we would consider as many words. How Greek philosophers used λόγος tells how diverse its meaning can be (how we get the word logic), but doesn’t tell us how John used λόγος.

We do use the English word word in a similar fashion with the term Word of God. The Bible is the written Word of God and Jesus Christ is the living Word of God.

But, how did John use logos? John uses logos 40 times in 36 verses (NA27). He used it for the content of the message. Thus, it is singular although there are many words. When Jesus is speaking, John sometimes used it for the entire message of Jesus’ ministry (5:24, 38; 8:31-32, 37, 43, 51, 55; 12:48). John used it for the Scriptures (10:35; 12:38). John used the word logos like the Hebrew word דָּבָר (dabar) translated word is used in Isaiah 55:11 and Psalm 119:105. An interesting parallel in the use of this dabar is Psalms 33:6, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (ESV) This again references back to Genesis 1, “And God said,…” (See Psalms 33:9)

While John sometimes used τὰ ῥήματά, hremata (plural of hrema), to distinguish actual words from the message (logos, 12:48), he also used the plural of logos verses the singular to do the same thing (7:40; 10:19) In 14:23-24 John has the singular and plural usage side by side, similar to how he used heremata in 12:48. In 19:8 (with the singular) Pilot believed from the Roman religious viewpoint what the Jewish leaders said about Jesus claiming to be the Son of God. Given that Pilot probably heard about Jesus’ miracles, it’s easy to see that Pilot could believe that Jesus was a son of a god. That explains some of Pilot’s questioning. In 19:13 (with the plural) Pilot doesn’t accept the claims of the Jewish leaders that he is not a friend of Caesar.

What does John mean by the word logos at the beginning of his gospel? Logos encompasses the entire interaction of God with His creation from creation itself to His speaking through the prophets, and now through His becoming the man, Jesus Christ (1:14). It includes the message that Jesus brought (5:24), and we extend it to the written word in the Bible (10:35; 12:38; 15:25; Hebrews 4:12). God’s interaction with His creation, including His interaction with us was not something devised along the way. God’s planning is eternal and already established at the beginning. As stated in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ”

Key also to what logos means is the use of φωνή (phoné) in the Gospel of John. John the Baptist is a voice crying in the wilderness (1:23). You hear the sound (phoné) of the wind (3:8), an illustration of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist rejoices at the sound of the Bride Groom’s voice (3:29). Those who hear Jesus’ voice will live (5:25, 28). The voice of God testified about Jesus (5:37). His sheep hear His voice (10:3, 4, 16, 27) and run from a stranger’s voice (10:5). Jesus shouted to Lazarus in a loud voice (11:43). The Father’s voice is heard from heaven (12:28) for us (12:30). Those of truth listen to Jesus’ voice (18:37). God still interacts with us as the Holy Spirit, whom we cannot see (14:16), but whom communicates with us (16:8-14).

Also key to how God reveals Himself to us is Jesus illustrating it through sheep. Just as a sheep cannot fully understand the mind of the shepherd, we cannot fully understand God. Yet, just as the sheep still has a relationship of knowing the shepherd, we can have a relationship of knowing God, through the ministry of Jesus Christ and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said whoever has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:8-11).

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The answer is found in Scripture itself. The Word is God Incarnate:

θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος ... (1:1)
και ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο και εσκηνωσεν εν ημιν ... (1:14)

John also testifies that the Logos is, at the same time, the Son of God:

καγω εωρακα και μεμαρτυρηκα οτι ουτος εστιν ο υιος του θεου ... (1:34)

  • The OP is asking a question about Greek vocabulary -- as is appropriate to this site -- not a question about theological meaning. λόγος does not mean 'God incarnate' in any Greek dictionary. – Schuh Sep 18 '18 at 20:01
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I believe the author of John is saying...

Ἐν(in) ἀρχῇ (first) [no definite article just like b'reshit in Genesis 1:1] ἦν (was) ὁ (the) λόγος (reason), καὶ (and) ὁ (the) λόγος (reason) ἦν (was) πρὸς (moving towards) τὸ (the) θεόν (God), καὶ (and) θεὸς (divine) ἦν (was) ὁ (the) λόγος (reason)

οὗτος (it) ἦν (was) ἐν (in) ἀρχῇ (first) πρὸς (moving towards) τὸν (the) θεόν (God)

πάντα (all) δι' (because of) αὐτοῦ (it) ἐγένετο (emerges) καὶ (and) χωρὶς (without) αὐτοῦ (it) ἐγένετο (emerges) οὐδὲ (not) ἕν (one) ὃ (that) γέγονεν (has emerged)

Logos is a philosophical term. It does not simply mean "word", it is the "reasoning" behind a collection of words or thoughts. One of the definitions from Thayer's Greek Lexicon says...

"6. reason, cause, ground: τίνι λόγῳ, for what reason? why? Acts 10:29 (ἐκ τίνος λόγου; Aeschylus Choeph. 515; ἐξ οὐδενός λόγου, Sophocles Phil. 730; τίνι δικαίῳ λόγῳ κτλ.; Plato, Gorgias, p. 512 c.); παρεκτός λόγου πορνείας (Vulg.excepta fornicationis causa) is generally referred to this head, Matthew 5:32; (Matthew 19:9 L WH marginal reading); but since where λόγος is used in this sense the genitive is not added, it has seemed best to include this passage among those mentioned in I. 6 above."

Another significant word in this passage is δι'(G1223). Thayer's Lexicon says...

"through, on account of, by reason of, for the sake of, because of"

Note that the concordances say δι' means "by, through" when the noun is in the genitive, but it means "because of" in the accusative. I do not believe this is true. Here are a few examples of δι' with a genitive noun:

"By the which will we are sanctified through (because of) the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10

"And these all, having obtained a good report through (because of) faith, received not the promise" Hebrews 11:39

"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby (because of it)." John 11:4

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through (because of) him might be saved." John 3:17

"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through (because of) this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" Acts 13:38

So we have the reason, and we are told that all emerges because of the reason. The reason became flesh, and dwelt among us. The Logos was not a divine entity that existed with God before being "incarnated" into flesh. It was simply the reason for all things. Later, the author of the Gospel of John says in Chapter 1, verse 30

"This is he of (ὑπὲρ: on behalf of; G5228) whom (which) I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me."

Yeshua came on behalf of the reason, because mankind is the reason according to Genesis 1:26:

"And God said, Let us make (נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה: accomplish; H6213) man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

Hebrews 1:2-4 says,

"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by (δι': because of) whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."

The author of Hebrews then continues in the next chapter in verses 5-18

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by (δι': because of) whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

For verily he took not on [him the nature of: italics not in original Greek) angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham.

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted."

Conclusion

Yeshua is a man. A man approved by God - made just like us. He is not the logos - he is the fulfillment of the logos. He is mankind with the knowledge of good and evil- but with the wisdom and prudence to choose only good. He is not God- he is the express image of God. He is a man that became the son of God...and now he calls us brothers.

  • "If somebody would like to start a thread about this I will explain why" - I think you would be better off to make your case through citing your references for this or showing your work here in your answer. I also suspect that the biggest pushback to this answer you will get is with G4314 (πρὸς; pros) with interpreting it as "moving towards" as opposed to "with", so you might want to add some support for those. – James Shewey Jun 18 '16 at 14:20
  • Since the question is about logos, I thought it might be off-topic to go into a deeper analysis of dia. I'd probably have to quote every instance of dia and it still wouldn't do any good. You know what? You're the first person that has ever asked me why I translate pros as "moving towards". Let's just say there was a "time" when God did not the reason. That discussion might be more appropriate in chat. But I'll give a few reasons for why I believe dia means "because of" in the genitive if you still think it's okay. Thank you @James – Cannabijoy Jun 19 '16 at 5:04
  • I added a few examples of why I believe δι' can mean "because of" with a genitive noun. I tried to choose verses that said something other than "all was made because of him", which makes more sense than "all was made through him". I don't really know what that means. Thank you @James – Cannabijoy Jun 21 '16 at 15:02
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The meaning of any word should be consistent with how the word is used in context and within the overall work.

This writer is purposeful to begin their work by repeating the same phrase 3 times:

In the beginning was the Word (ὁ λόγος), and the Word (ὁ λόγος) was with God, and the Word (ὁ λόγος) was God. (John 1:1 NKJV)

For this writer the Word ὁ λόγος has a triune nature:

  1. In the beginning was ὁ λόγος
  2. ὁ λόγος was with God
  3. God was ὁ λόγος

Just as God with a triune nature took on human form, adding a fourth perspective, this author includes a fourth use:

And the Word (ὁ λόγος) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NKJV)

The in beginning was the triune aspect of ὁ λόγος until ὁ λόγος became flesh to dwell among us. This writer has chosen to parallel their use of ὁ λόγος to reflect the triune nature of God incarnate in human form.

This writer immediately repeats the triune pattern:

All things were made (ἐγένετο) through Him, and without Him nothing was made (ἐγένετο) that was made (γέγονεν). (John 1:4 NKJV)

About ὁ λόγος in the creation, this author states:

  1. All things were made ἐγένετο through Him (ὁ λόγος)
  2. without Him (ὁ λόγος) nothing was made ἐγένετο
  3. that was made γέγονεν

The third usage is slightly different which only implies the presence of ὁ λόγος. This literary technique serves to introduce the third triune usage:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5 NKJV)

The creative element of ὁ λόγος has a continuing affect: life, the light of men, and the light which shines in the darkness:

  1. In him [ὁ λόγος] was life
  2. [ὁ λόγος] was the light of men
  3. The light [of ὁ λόγος] shines in the darkness

So the word made lights to give light to the earth (Genesis 1:17) and later came to earth (in bodily form) to give light to men. In terms of darkness, the writer describes a reversal of creation events. The fourth day of creation ends with the physical objects created to shine in the darkness to give light to the earth; while the writer of the fourth Gospel places the light of life on the earth shining into the darkness. Creation ends with light, the essential physical element for life, shining from the darkness on to the earth; this Gospel begins with the light of life coming to earth to sine light into the darkness.

The author’s second triune structure is constructed with two identical uses reflects the dual nature of the word as an integral component to the author’s prologue:

  1. In the beginning (ἐν ἀρχῇ) was… (1:1)
  2. He was in the beginning (ἐν ἀρχῇ)… (1:2)

The dual nature of the phrase in the beginning is a foundation of the writer's message:

  1. In the beginning was the word (ὁ λόγος) (1:1)
  2. He [the word (ὁ λόγος)] was in the beginning with God (1:2)
  3. And the Word (ὁ λόγος) became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14)

The dual nature of ὁ λόγος is He is both God and man.

So this writer has used ὁ λόγος to reflect triune divine nature with the power to create all things and the added nature to take on a human nature and change the outcome of life in the created world.

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The Greek word λόγος has more than one meaning. It means 'word','speech','divine utterance','analogy' and so on.

Hello I am Marc and I have two years of Greek and Hebrew in undergraduate and went on to Seminary. I also help teach Greek 2 for a few years. I might not be answering your question directly but I want to point out a few things.

Short Answer: It means a divine utterance that is goes back to when God spoke the world into being and it the personification of God (Ging). Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, (Joh 1:14 BGT). It is in fact the LORD and the reason why it is capitalized.

EDIT: Down voted for not assuming more background. (Read Comments)

1 John 1:1 Ὃ ἦν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς- (1Jo 1:1 BGT)

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -- (1Jo 1:1 RSV)

The word λόγος is only found in the LXX in the Pentateuch 1 time in Numbers and 3 times in Deuteronomy so it is hard to say that this is a direct correlation to Genesis 1:3. To go further into the Word being the LORD if we look at Genesis 1:2

WTT Genesis 1:2 וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ (Gen 1:2 WTT)

LXT Genesis 1:2 ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος καὶ σκότος ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐπεφέρετο ἐπάνω τοῦ ὕδατος (Gen 1:2 LXT)

RSV Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:2 RSV)

The Spirit of God was hovering over the water. The world had no form or life.

the word נֶ֥פֶשׁ means life or soul. The place of life or soul was believed to be in the throat. Like the place of emotions and wisdom was in the kidneys during that time. (http://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/16/12/3464.full) In fact in Ps. 107:9 נֶ֥פֶשׁ meant throat. So when the LORD spoke the Word it was the living Spirit from the that spoke into creation life.

So when it is the Word of the LORD it is the very Spirit that gave life to creation. So the Word in John 1:1 and John 1:14 and 1 John 1:1 and He even defines Himself as the Word.

End of added part for the Edit

This is the original part that I said was indirectly answering the question λόγος means only one thing at that one time. Just as we have in English there are MANY possible meanings for a word but context gives you the one meaning. The reason Word is capitalized is it is the defining personification of the LORD.

Look at Change it can mean a lot of different things.

  1. to make different in form: to change one's name.
    1. to transform (usu. fol. by into): The witch changed the prince into a toad.
    2. to exchange for another or others: to change shoes.
    3. to give and take reciprocally: to change places with someone.
    4. to transfer from one (conveyance) to another.
    5. to give or get smaller money in exchange for.
    6. to give or get foreign money in exchange for.
    7. to remove and replace the coverings or garments of: to change a bed; to change a baby.

From the Free Dictionary definition of change

When you use a word it has a single meaning. I am not changing form and giving you $1.25 in return when you buy something at the same time. It really is about the context.

When we look at a word's root meaning it does not give us the real meaning. The famous example of this is the word "Nice" which comes from the Latin, meaning "Ignorant". When we call someone nice we certainly don't really mean ignorant. A well written article on the misuse of Greek http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-not-to-use-greek-in-bible-study

One word about Strong's, it is cool to see the definitions of words but that really just confuses more than helps someone studying a language they don't know well. After my years of study the important piece is the verbs and the historical understanding of the written audience. Strong's gives you neither of there. Also the Strong's is very outdated. In the past 100 years we have increased our knowledge of Hebrew and Greek tremendously. We have better sources and we have more sources. I never touch Strong's when doing any kind of study of a passage and I would be surprised that anyone who studied Greek for a couple of years would be very surprising.

My recommendation for studying scriptures is read a good book on how to study. I always recommend Gordon Fee's "How to Study the Bible for all its Worth" and build your knowledge on how to study the scriptures from a perspective of what it meant to the original audience and how does that impact our lives today. The modern translations are very good and the more I learned Greek and Hebrew the more I trust our translations.

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    It would be better to give a long specific example to this question than a long general answer which could be posted on every question on this site. This site has an academic focus. It's completely unnecessary (and possibly a bit condescending) to point out that words have multiple meanings, especially because the question says so itself! Neither is it helpful to complain about Strong's concordance. Yes it's outdated, but no one before you had mentioned it! – curiousdannii Oct 19 '15 at 13:29
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    Just to finish, I hope I'm not sounding too harsh to you, I do want to welcome you to this site! Thank you for joining and taking the time to type out such a long answer, and I hope you have a lot of fun asking and answering more questions. :) – curiousdannii Oct 19 '15 at 13:41
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    When I said academic, I meant that you can assume more basic knowledge here. Get right to the specific details of the answer. If the question asker doesn't have quite enough background knowledge, they can always ask follow up clarification questions. :) – curiousdannii Oct 19 '15 at 14:07
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    Welcome and thanks for answering! ... If someone asked you in your class what word X means, your answer would "it means Y here" and then lecture them for several minutes on how words in general have multiple meanings? Doesn't seem very helpful in any setting, and definitely isn't here... The main focus of your answer should be how you decide which meaning of λόγος applies in this case. – ThaddeusB Oct 19 '15 at 14:36
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    The word λόγος is only found in the LXX in the Pentateuch 1 time in Numbers and 3 times in Deuteronomy -- where on earth did you get that? It’s found over 50 times in the Pentateuch, over 1000 times in the "larger" LXX (i.e. all of the Greek Jewish scriptures). – Susan Nov 24 '15 at 4:49

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