4

Disclaimer: I don't know any foreign languages except Pig Latin. This is probably a dumb question, but...

In Koine, I believe "logos" is a masculine noun. Pronouns for "logos" such as Οὗτος are likewise masculine and rendered "he", etc. in English translations. Linguistically though, if the context suggested that "logos" were a thing instead of a person wouldn't it be correct to translate as "it"?

I notice for example that "pneuma", which is neuter in form is made to agree with "he" here:

Joh_16:13 Howbeit when he [ἐκεῖνος, "that one", masculine], the Spirit [neuter] of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

So I'm wondering if the pronouns referring to the "logos" in John 1:1-3 ought to be rendered "it"? Does the fact that "logos" is masculine in form mean that pronouns referring to it must also be rendered by masculine pronouns in the target language regardless of context?

2

Grammatical Analysis of John 16:7, 16:8, 16:13

Using John 16:13 to demonstrate your point would not be prudent. While it may seem as though "he" in John 16:13 is referring forward to "the Spirit of truth," also in John 16:13, the Greek distal demonstrative pronoun is actually referring backward to the antecedent ὁ παράκλητος in John 16:7. John 16:8 has the same distal demonstrative pronoun, ἐκεῖνος, evidently referring back to the antecedent ὁ παράκλητος in John 16:7. The following illustration demonstrates the antecedent of the pronoun ἐκεῖνος.

John 16:7, 16:8, and 16:3, ἐκεῖνος referring to antecedent ὁ παράκλητος

Grammatical Analysis of John 1:1-3

A few pronouns occur throughout these 3 verses:

Pronouns in John 1:1-3

  1. οὗτος (John 1:2)
    • proximal demonstrative pronoun, masculine gender, singular number, nominative case
  2. αὐτοῦ (John 1:3), twice
    • 3rd person, personal pronoun, masculine or neuter gender, singular number, genitive case

Grammatical Gender v. Natural Gender

Adjectives and nouns in Greek are declined according to gender, as well as case, number, and person. All nouns in Greek are of one of three grammatical genders: masculine, neuter, or feminine.

Herbert Weir Smyth wrote,1

  1. Gender. – There are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. a. Gender strictly marks sex-distinction. But in Greek, as in German and French, many inanimate objects are regarded as masculine or feminine. Such words are said to have ‘grammatical’ gender, which is determined only by their form.

The antecedent of the proximal demonstrative pronoun οὗτος is obviously ὁ λόγος which occurs in John 1:1. The antecedent of the 3rd person personal pronoun αὐτοῦ (which occurs twice in John 1:3) is also ὁ λόγος.

Pronoun Antecedents in John 1:1–3

Although οὗτος is declined in the masculine gender, some might assume that "the word" (ὁ λόγος) is a person, but οὗτος is simply agreeing with the grammatical gender of its antecedent, ὁ λόγος, a grammatically masculine gender noun. As such, unless it is absolutely certain that ὁ λόγος is referring to an animate object with gender (e.g., a male person), then the pronouns that refer to it would be translated by the neuter gender English pronoun "it."

The Personality of ὁ λόγος

The personality of ὁ λόγος is evident when we read that ὁ λόγος was θεός. Since only Yahveh, the creator, is θεός by nature, and ὁ λόγος must be θεός by nature because everything was created by means of ὁ λόγος (which must exclude ὁ λόγος from being created since something that does not exist cannot be used as the means by which it is created), then ὁ λόγος must be Yahveh, and thus a person. Therefore, it would be permissible to translate the pronouns οὗτος and αὐτοῦ by the English masculine gender pronouns "he/him" to accord with the personality (i.e., natural gender) of ὁ λόγος.


References

Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book, 1920.

Footnotes

1 p. 45, §196

| improve this answer | |
-1

I agree with everything about Simply a Christian's answer except for the personality of ὁ λόγος. My answer is that οὗτος should be translated "it" and that ὁ λόγος does not correspond to a person, but rather "God's divine reason".

There are a few verses that seem to indicate ὁ λόγος is a person. Rather than look at each verse in detail, I will provide links from other SE questions that sufficiently explain why this is not so.

The first is John 1:1...

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." KJV

Based on this answer, a more appropriate translation would be...

"In the beginning was the logos and the logos was with the God, and divine was the logos"

The logos was not itself God, but it is God's logos, and therefore divine.

The next is John 1:14, which says...

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." NASB

According to this answer, "became" and "dwelt" are in the past tense because the "incarnation" was a one-time event. However, if the logos is not a person, but rather a concept, then the logos becoming flesh and dwelling within us would definitely be a universal action. This verse should read...

And the logos becomes flesh and dwells within us, and we behold the glory of it, a glory as of an only begotten of a father; full of grace and truth

(Notice "only-begotten" and "father" do not have a definite article. This is a simile rather than a direct statement.)

So if the logos is a concept rather than a preexisting divine person, what does this have to do with the human Yeshua? The answer is in John 1:30...

"'This is He on behalf of (G5228 ὑπὲρ) whom (which) I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me (Greek: because before me he was).'" NASV

Yeshua came "on behalf of" the logos. He represents the divine reason because he was a perfect human being, upholding the Law and will of God in all he did.

| improve this answer | |
  • @SimplyaChristian Wallace, and those he quotes, disagrees with that. He even argues that, if θεός is to be taken as the definite "God" (under the assumption that the logos is a preexisting person), this would be modalism. – Cannabijoy May 10 '17 at 0:57
  • @SimplyaChristian "Such an option does not at all impugn the deity of Christ. Rather, it stresses that, although the person of Christ is not the person of the Father, their essence is identical. Possible translations are as follows: “What God was, the Word was” (NEB), or “the Word was divine” (a modified Moffatt). In this second translation, “divine” is acceptable only if it is a term that can be applied only to true deity. However, in modern English, we use it with reference to angels, theologians, even a meal! Thus “divine” could be misleading in an English translation.... – Cannabijoy May 10 '17 at 3:34
  • ...The idea of a qualitative θεός here is that the Word had all the attributes and qualities that “the God” (of 1:1b) had. In other words, he shared the essence of the Father, though they differed in person. The construction the evangelist chose to express this idea was the most concise way he could have stated that the Word was God and yet was distinct from the Father." – Cannabijoy May 10 '17 at 3:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy