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Heb 4:12 For the word (logos) of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart

There are many uses of logos that are without the translator’s emphasis of John 1:1-3.

What is the difference ?

Here’s a couple more,

John 6:60 So then many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This statement (logos) is very unpleasant; who can listen to it?”

Luke 7:17 And this report (logos) about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region

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The "word" (logos) in Hebrews 4:12 is the word of God, which can be either written (as in the Bible) or spoken (as in hearing the gospel message). This "word" is active, alive, and comes with divine power because it emanates from God.

I would draw your attention to Mark 4:14 where Jesus uses a parable to illustrate an important point. He uses the analogy of a farmer, sowing seed, BUT note what Jesus says:

The farmer sows the word (logos).

Not seed, but "the word" (logos), the word of God, the gospel message.

In all these Bible verses (including Luke 7:17 and John 6:60) the Greek word "logos" is translated into English as "word" but with a lower-case w.

In John 1:1-3 the subject matter is the Divine Word, or Logos. A person (but not human), not speech or written words. That is why 'Word' here has an upper-case W, to denote divine personage.

My New International Version Study Bible makes this comment:

Greeks used this term not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind - the reason. When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things. Jews, on the other hand, used it as a way of referring to God. Thus John used a term that was meaningful to both Jews and Gentiles.

It is important to realise that the Word is distinct from the Father, being with God.

It is also important to read through to the end of verse 4:

Through him (Logos) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Just as the written word (logos), or the spoken word (logos) of God, is imbued with spiritual life, so too is the Word of God (Logos) imbued with life.

Context is everything! Please see my responses to your comment.

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    Are you are asking why Word is in upper-case in English in John 1:1 denoting a divine personage (not a human person)? Because even staunch anti-Trinitarian Bibles (such as the New World Translation) show logos as Word in John 1:1. Why, the NWT even says "This ONE was in the beginning with God" in verse 2. Also, it is then cross referenced to Revelation 19:13, the rider on the white horse (Christ Jesus when he returns) as "the Word of God". All New Testament Bible translators (as far as I know) show John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13 as Word of God. – Lesley Jan 11 at 16:32
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    As for suggesting that Jesus does not mention where he came from, except his Father and Mary, Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, and every reference Jesus makes to ‘Father’ is his Father in heaven. Jesus declared he was sent from God: “You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me (John 7:28-29). Sent from where? Why, from heaven, which is the place to which he returned! He said to the Jews "If you knew me, you would know my Father also" (John 8:19). He was not speaking of Joseph, but of God. He said "before Abrahm was born, I am!" - a claim to deity (58-59) – Lesley Jan 11 at 16:55
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    Regarding the Jews, the reason they wanted to kill Jesus was because of his claim to deity. Of course they would never accept that he pre-existed from before the creation of the world. Since the Jews do not think the New Testament gospel accounts of Jesus are true, then there is little point in pursuing this line of thought. I was quoting the comment made by the Bible scholars of the NIV with regard to how the Greek word 'logos' was understood. – Lesley Jan 11 at 17:03
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    Interesting. Before Jesus became flesh he was the eternal and uncreated Word of God (Logos); then the Word of God (Logos) became flesh and lived among us and he was known as Jesus. Peter says Jesus was raised to life and sits at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:32-33). NOTE, Peter speaks of Jesus of Nazareth. Revelation 19:11 calls him the Word of God (Logos). I know you think Jesus was resurrected as a spirit creature. Do you think Jesus the man is forever dead? Do you think the spirit creature that came out of the tomb was Michael the Archangel? Are you a Jehovah’s Witness? – Lesley Jan 12 at 10:43
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    @SaroFedele - Sometimes the obvious eludes me. Although I agree with the comment made by Polyhat that "it is important to realise that the Word is distinct from the Father" my answer is not about the Athanasian Creed. Having said that, I decline any invitation to be side-tracked into such a discussion. – Lesley Jun 29 at 16:26
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Hebrews 4:

11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For [because] the word [λόγος] of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Greek λόγος is used polysemically here.

  1. Jesus is alive and active.
  2. The Scripture is alive and active in us.
  3. The spoken word of Jesus brings us peace.
  4. The λόγος/order of God brings eternal rest as opposed to chaos and disorder.

What is the logos in Heb 4:12?

It is not just one meaning but several.

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The phrase [τὸν] λόγον [τοῦ] Θεοῦ (or a slight variant) occurs 42 times in the NT. It does NOT occur in John 1. These include:

  • Matt 15:5 - Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
  • Mark 7:13 - Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.
  • Luke 5:1 - On one occasion, while Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret with the crowd pressing in on Him to hear the word of God
  • Luke 8:11 - And the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
  • Luke 8:21 - But He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and carry it out.
  • Luke 11;28 - But He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
  • John 10:34, 35 - If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— then what about the One whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world?
  • Acts 4:31 - After they had prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
  • Acts 6:2 - So the Twelve summoned all the disciples and said, “It is unacceptable for us to neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.
  • Acts 6:7 - So the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew rapidly, and a great number of priests became obedient to the faith.
  • Acts 8:14 - When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
  • Acts 11;1 - The apostles and brothers throughout Judea soon heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
  • Heb 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
  • Heb 5:12 - Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food!
  • Heb 13:7 - Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

From this brief survey, the phrase "word of God' means one or both of two things:

  1. What is written in the inspired writings (eg, John 10:35)
  2. The teachings about the Gospel that have their origin in the the inspired writings (eg, Acts 6:7, 8:14, etc)

Quite often, the difference between these two are quite blurred.

Now, the difference between these usages of logos and that in John 1;1 is two-fold:

  • In John 1:1-3, "Logos" is personified
  • In John 1:1-3, "Logos" does NOT occur in the phrase "word of God" as it does so often elsewhere as listed above.

In other places, various meanings as attributed to the word such as, "discourse", "thought", reasoning", "a communication", etc. BDAG classifies these with a very extensive survey too large to reproduce here.

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The closely related phrase, ῥῆμα Θεοῦ (and its slight variants) occurs in Luke 3:2, John 3:34, 8:47, Eph 6:17, Heb 6:5, 11:3 with a subtly different but close meaning to λόγον Θεοῦ; but that is another question.

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There are (at least) three uses of the word logos in the New Testament writings.

As the OP points out, in the final paragraphs of the question, one meaning is the simple meaning of a statement (Luke 7:17 'report' and John 6:60 'statement'). This makes it clear that although logos can mean 'a single word', the meaning can be broader.

The meaning in John's context in John 1 is quite clear.

In the beginning, God communicated ('let light be') and this communication, reported in Genesis, was previous to human existence and clearly not addressed to angels since angels do not create, they merely administer what is already created.

Thus the communication must be within deity as a part of the creative process. This communication becomes clear in John 1 where the apostle applies the word 'logos' to convey a particular aspect of a particular person.

Deity has communicated through this Person ('without him was not anything made that was made') and that communication is the creation : the creation being an expression of deity.

But there is more to communicate. More 'word' to communicate. More to 'state'.

Jesus said 'the words that I speak ; they are spirit and they are life'.

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. [John 6:63 KJV]

In context, Jesus says 'the spirit quickeneth' and then 'the words that I speak'. The words that he speaks, speaking in the Spirit, are life-giving.

This is the word of God. But not the mere letter of scripture. For Paul tells us :

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Merely quoting the bible is not life-giving.

This is the word that pierces to the sundering of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. This is the word of Christ (when ministered by 'an able minister of the new testament') that penetrates and divides and pierces and searches.

And when the word is 'the word of God' (that is to say when God, personally, communicates it in the Spirit) then it is life-giving.

Then it is the 'word of life'.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; [1 John 1: 1 KJV]

He who is 'the Word of Life' is he who communicates it. In Spirit. This word is life-giving. It raises the dead.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. [John 5:25 KJV]

This is the first life-giving word, to awake the soul from deadness and to give spiritual life in a new birth . . . . .

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; [John 5:26 KJV]

But there is more . . .

... marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, [John 5:28 KJV]

. . . for in his return he shall speak (in word) and all shall arise to the sound of his voice, in resurrection.


For He is the Word from the beginning.

He is the Word of Life.

And the words that He speaks ; they are spirit and they are life.

And when he speaks, the dead arise.

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According to Deut. 8:3 and Matt. 4:4, logos refers, in those two contexts, to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. [Deuteronomy 8:3 KJV]

But [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Matthew 4:4 KJV]

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  • This is factually incorrect - the "word" in Matt 4:4 is ῥῆμα - a different Greek word from the "logos" of Heb 4:12. Further, the word ῥῆμα does not occur in the phrase, "word of God". However, it does occur in Luke 3:2, John 3:34, 8:47, Eph 6:17, Heb 6:5, 11:3. – Dottard Jan 10 at 21:21
  • I have edited only to quote the texts you refer to and to quote the word under discussion. I think you could enlarge on this and say more. (Down-vote cancelled with an up-vote in the hope that you will add a little more to this answer. – Nigel J Jan 11 at 16:24
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What is the logos in Heb 4:12?

Several answers have stated some basic truths about God's logos and I wont repeat this information. Save, initially, to point out where they have all deviated from scripture. There are inventions that conform to traditional dogma, but are simply not of the inspired text.

  • "In John 1:1-3 the subject matter is the Divine Word, or Logos. A person (but not human), not speech or written words. That is why 'Word' here has an upper-case W, to denote divine personage."

This argument is a traditional trap to guide the unwary into believing the logos is a person simply by the 'translators' using a capital! And, making a Divine person out of imagination and not sound exegesis.

  • "Thus the communication must be within deity as a part of the creative process."

A big assumption based on nothing in the text. When God says 'let there be light', He needs not speak to anyone at all - do we think God needs to use literal words to get things done? God has other heavenly spirits in attendance. Nothing at all expresses more than one with Deity credentials. The whole OT expresses quite clearly the one God known as Yahweh etc. - a solitary God.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the stars by the breath of His mouth. Ps 33:6

No person even hinted at here.

  • "In John 1:1-3, "Logos" is personified" (which is the closest to truth of all)

Indeed IT is personified, but this does not make logos a person either - just as it doesn't make Wisdom a person. Other things are personified in scripture - they are not persons either.

We see this trend to make more of the logos than scripture provides. To personify to the point of having a new Deity, an eternal Deity, an 'eternally begotten' Deity. All drawn from imagination of human writers not inspired by God. Why are they not inspired? Because they contradict the word God has provided through His son and the ones who learnt under Jesus' leadership and subsequently taught the church and wrote the Gospels, letters and epistles. None of these writers ever mentioned another Deity - certainly not a 3in1 Deity! Yet, tradition has insisted for centuries that it knows better.

For the word (logos) of God is living and active...

We can see from 1 John 1 another careful reference to God's word.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Again, no hint of a person or Deity here, but the logos of God and the power within His word. Notice carefully the "which" mentioned several times - making the point that this logos is NOT a person at all - UNTIL, it is given actual human life in Jesus - the logos become flesh.

and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Is Jesus this sword? Keep reading-

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.

Who are we answering to? God. Not the logos.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. v14-15

Now we have the relevance of Jesus in this process - our High Priest who is at once God's word made flesh - the sword AND the one who defends us from this sword of great peril. Our thoughts and hidden attitudes condemning us (God knows them all) yet we are found safe and secure in this logos as Intercessor and Lamb. The reiteration of this Jesus, tempted as we are, made like us in every way (Heb 2:17) - how can he be the God deity who cannot be tempted or die? He cannot - he is one of us!

Jesus as God's word made flesh, fills many roles. Not all together, but at various times as he finished the work he was sent to do. He was not always High Priest, but became so at his resurrection and exaltation. He was not always Judge, but became so as God gave him that authority John 5:27.

This whole passage speaks of one critical truth about Jesus. It is mentioned throughout the NT, but here it is concise. God still has His word - He still speaks out His will, He still looks deeply into His creation and points it toward its imminent completion in Christ. He calls people, He chooses people for certain roles, to bear certain burdens etc etc. Jesus is also this living word as a human - having qualified to represent God in every matter as His 'Right-hand-man' while also representing us - broken and sinful, disobedient and careless and being led to inherit eternity with him at the Father's side.

What is the difference to the logos in John 1:1-3?

None. John is charged with introducing this logos become flesh - this radical change to God's presence in creation. Now God's word is an independent self-willed human who is charged with doing God's will and not his own!

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:34

I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30

John does it twice - John 1 and 1 John 1. No one talks much about 1 John 1 as it lacks the provocative personification the prologue has been presented with. When we read both both together we get a true and complete understanding of 'God's word become flesh'. The same who became High Priest, Saviour, King and many other roles - this wasn't possible until we have this living person in Christ Jesus.

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  • The personification of Word in John 1:1 occurs, in part, because subject/object changes. The Word (subject) was with/toward God (object) and God (subject) was the Word (object). – Mike Borden Jul 5 at 12:50
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I think we may be looking in the wrong place to understand what is meant by Logos.

It's a Greek notion, earliest attributed to Heraclitus, but from the fragments known to us and from the ancient commentators then, no one seem to understand what Heraclitus meant.

Secondly what is understood by the common Greek speaking people in the first century when they hear John say Logos? And what is the Jewish understanding of this Greek concept? Maybe the Septuagint is a good place to start.

Lastly in John's use of Logos, he is bringing together the Greek world and the Jewish world of the Torah, and uniting the revelation of God in one word, understandable to both Greek and Jews.

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