A very interesting question (by Mike Borden [upvote +1]) about the term λογος (logos) of the Gospel of John of Zebedee.
Regrettably, this bungler situation – described by Mike - about the specific meaning of λογος, is real.
Why this situation exists? Substantially, for a couple of grounds.
An amount of translators:
(1) believe that the Bible writers utilized terms without correctness of speech;
(2) neglect to carefully examining always the Bible context.
First point: the importance to vest correctness of speech to the Bible writers
Ask ourselves: is it possible the NT writers did not distinguish properly between all the Greek verbs linked with the general concept of ‘to speak’? For an example, did they lump everything together the verbs λαλεω (laleō), λεγω (legō), and φωνεω (phōneō)? Instead to choose logos for describe the character in his prologue, could he choose the term ρημα (rēma), or also ονοηα (onoma), indifferently? Did John think, ‘I now will utilize one of these several Greek terms - at random - since it makes no difference, at all’?
To understand Bible message we have to start with the conviction that Bible writers did not write ungrammatically – such some Greek scholars again believe, unfortunately - especially about the John’s Greek language of Revelation. If I were convinced that Bible writers utilized terms without correctness of speech, I will not waste my time examining the babbling of ungrammatical people. This isn’t my case (I leave everybody free to do differently, very obviously).
Personally, I am convinced of the correctness of speech of the Bible writers. These ones were able to distinguishing between relative synonyms. Warning: I am fully aware that the Bible message must pass through the methods of textual criticism (including proved instances of copyists mistakes) – and other Bible-related disciplines - before we will able to understand it fully.
But, what have to do this with our discussion?
Thayer (yet mentioned by Mike Borden), and other lexicographers (as NAS Exhaustive Concordance, Parkhurst, Schenkl-Brunetti, Strong, and many others) derived λογος from λεγω. What means this verb (λεγω)?
Basically, ‘to collect, gather’ > ‘to choose, enumerate, to count among one’s set’. These meanings exclude that λογος is linked with ‘to speak without thinking’, ‘to rave’.
Moreover, according the relatively latest linguistic researches, the etymology of λεγω can be traced from some Semitic origins (to present here all the set of proofs of this would be too wearisome for many forumers, so, I always hope that I will able to present them in the SE Semitic Languages, when it will open – I hope - in the future…).
In fact, through a commutation between K and G (that was common both in Akkadian [ADAKURRU > ADAGURRU, and other terms] as in Greek [Shekelesh, in ancient Egyptian > Σαγαλασσος, transliterated in Sagalassos]), along with a permutation of the group K-L in L-K > L-G, we found, in Akkadian language, the term KULLUMU, that means ‘to show, to point out, to reveal (something hidden), to disclose, explain, advise, teach, instruct’ (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, VIII:519-525).
More similar to the Greek term at issue, we also found, in Hebrew language, the verb לקח, that means ‘to take hold (of)’, as well as the derivative noun means, ‘doctrine, instruction’.
In this manner, the Greek term λογος would be linked not only to a generic meanings of ‘word’, ‘talk’, but it is more near to the concept of ‘instruction’…
But even if we does not take into account the Semitic languages, we cannot skip the linguistic fact that λογος, in addition to the generic meanings of ‘word, talk’ (and so on), possesses – by itself - also some meanings like 'doctrine', 'order', 'command', 'decision to enforce', 'teaching', 'oracle', and so on.
Furthermore, what about the comparison of this Greek term with the others synonyms of it? Are these just-listed meanings shared with the relative Greek synonyms of λογος? Avoiding to weigh down the matter, I focus – as an emblematic example – on the comparison between λογος and λαλια, only. Granted, both terms have in common the meaning of ‘word’, or ‘narration’. So, are they absolute synonyms? Of course, not.
Read, please, what Richard Chenevix Trench (in his Synonyms of the New Testament, 1901 edition, London; I have omitted the Greek diacritical signs, p. 269) asserted (bold is mine):
“[…] a λαλειν may be ascribed to grasshoppers (Theocritus, Idyl. v. 34), and to pipes and flutes (Idyl. xx. 28, 29); yet inasmuch as there is nothing behind these sounds, they could never be said λεγειν: for in the λεγειν lies ever the εννοια, or thought of the mind (Heb. iv. 12), as the correlative to the words on the lips, and as the necessary condition of them; it is colligere verba in sententiam; even as λογος is by Aristotle defined (Poët. 20) […] Plutarch affirms that […] λαλειν could, be predicated of monkeys and dogs (λαλουσι γαρ ου φραζουσι δε, De Plac. Phil. V. 20)”.
So, λεγειν cannot possess a meaning linked with a just-to-say-something mood, meaning that λαλειν are able to back, instead. But, is this (“the thought of the mind”) the real discriminating factor between λεγειν and the other to-speak-related Greek verbs? We will answer it later.
Well, it is clear that this two terms (λογος and λαλια) are only relative synonyms, not absolute ones.
But I’d like, now, leave the NT speaks – by itself - to ascertain the full difference between them.
In Mark 6:50 we found an occasion when Jesus (or, the writer of this Gospel) used both the terms in the same micro-context: “for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke [ελαλησε] to them and said [λεγει], ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’” [ESV]. It is clear that what Jesus spoke (ελαλησε, from λαλεω) was a directive, a teaching to enforce (λεγει, from λεγω).
Read, now, how Trench carry on his argument, confirming our following conclusions (bold is mine): “Λαλια and λογος in the N. T. are true to the distinction here traced. How completely λαλια, no less than λαλειν, has put off every slighting sense, is abundantly evident from the fact that on one occasion our Lord claims λαλια as well as λογος for Himself: ‘Why do ye not understand my speech (λαλιαν)? even because ye cannot hear my word’ (λογον, John viii.43) Λαλια and λογος are set in a certain antithesis to one another here, and in the seizing of the point of this must lie the right understanding of the verse. […] It is clear that, as the inability to understand his speech (λαλια) is traced up as a consequence to a refusing to hear his word (λογος), this last, as the root and ground of the mischief, must be the deeper and anterior thing. To hear his ‘word’ can be nothing else than to give room to his truth in the heart. They who will not do this must fail to understand his speech, the outward form and utterance which his word assumes.” (ibid, pages 269-270)
You see how Trench links the term λογος to the basic concept of ‘a directive, an instruction, a teaching to enforce’. In other words, the teacher/master/oracle hopes that the person is talking to will enforce the listened instruction. The same argument we may use to well understand the passage of Rom 3:19, where the two verbs are again utilized next to each other.
Sorry, but – in this instance - a translation like KJV doesn’t make much sense (“Now we know that what things soever the law saith [legei], it saith [lalei] to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”), translating two different Greek verbal forms (from two different Greek verbs) with the same English verbal form (and the same English verb), implying that the Bible writer here utilized – unnecessarily – two graphically different verbs when they were semantically identical! Not in the least. Paul did know how to spoke and write in Greek very well, and so he did know the difference between those relative synonyms, here utilizing them accordingly.
So, a better (though loose) translation of Rom 3:19 would be (bold is mine): “Now we know that whatever the things the law instructs [legei], it speaks [lalei] to those under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God.”
A final example could be Joh 8:43 (yet mentioned by Trench), where we will be able to discern the semantic discrimination between λογος and λαλια (bold is mine): “Why you do not know my saying [lalian]? Because you are not able to hear (namely, ‘to enforce’, ‘to obey’ [as in Mat 18:15; Joh 9:31; 11:41, et al.]) my instruction [logon]!”
By the way, we can find the same concept of ‘not be able to do [what is right]’ in 2 Tim 3:7, even if here is utilized a different wording.
Second (and last) point: the importance of the context
Is the John’s λογος a God quality, a prerogative of Him? Or, we have to consider the λογος in other way?
We all acknowledge (from the Bible) that God is eternal, with an eternity that sweeps from the past to the future (Jude 1:25).
The Bible global context teaches us that since God did not have a beginning also his qualities and prerogatives did not have a beginning. His love, majesty, justice (fore some examples) are eternal like He is eternal. Differently, the John’s prologue assigned a beginning to the λογος. At this point, we are able to resolve the dilemma ‘Is the John’s λογος a God quality, a prerogative of Him? Or, we have to consider the λογος in other way?’
Since we have yet seen that the λογος had a beginning (Joh 1:1), this term cannot be assigned to God, nor to some quality/prerogative of Him, but to a different individual – that we Christians correctly believe is the Messiah Jesus. The context – also in this instance – is a powerful factor to sustain this conclusion. In fact, passages like John 1:2-4 (‘through the λογος all the things came into existence’); 1:9 (‘the λογος was about to come into the world’); 1:11 (the refusal of the λογος by his own people’s side). Afterwards, the verse 18 completes the argument linking the term λογος to the Son of God.
To return to your final question: ‘If logos in John is thought of as Divine Expression in Christ in any of it’s aspects; in creation, in flesh/redemption, in judgement/consummation does logos in John ever allow for the utterance or expression by God to be divorced from the thoughts of God?’, we may say that this question has little sense, because "God was pleased to have all His fullness [namely, any divine prerogatives we treat here, including thoughts and instructions] dwell in Him [namely, the Messiah Jesus]." (Colossians 1:19, Tree of Life Version)
I hope these information proved to be useful for you.