Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Bill Ross
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Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Bill Ross » December 4th, 2018, 12:52 pm

In the first couple of entries BDAG mentions "word" but as I read it looks like he doesn't really mean "word" but rather "communication" or "utterance" or "speech" or "message". I wrote an answer to a question in which I argue that "word" is meaningless as a translation and misrepresents what the scriptures are saying:

https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/ ... =1|30.9051

Am I missing the boat? Does λόγος translated as "word" properly represent the word in the lion's share of the NT? I think in most places it should be rendered "utterance" for the reasons in my post.

Thanks.
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MAubrey
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by MAubrey » December 4th, 2018, 5:37 pm

I'm not sure you've reflected sufficiently upon just how flexible the English 'word' can be.

On the other hand, maybe you should look at some other translations. A number of them, are split nearly 50-50 on translating λόγος as 'word' or as something else. More traditional translations such as the KJV, ESV, NASB certainly use 'word' as a gloss more often than that (2/3's of the time), but the NRSV & NIV are like 60-40 for word vs. something else. And the (H)CSB only gives the gloss 'word' about 1/3rd of the time.

But this should be surprising. The ESV & NASB place a very high priority on translational concordance, which others place a very high priority on contextual accuracy.
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Bill Ross
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Bill Ross » December 4th, 2018, 8:23 pm

When I hear "in the beginning was the Word" I'm thinking "Oooooom" (as in Eastern Meditation) or a word like "radiometry". When I think of "utterance" then I think that God speaks (and commands) through Christ, which is consistent with Hebrews 1:1-2, etc. But okay, thanks.
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MAubrey
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by MAubrey » December 4th, 2018, 9:55 pm

Bill Ross wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 8:23 pm
When I hear "in the beginning was the Word" I'm thinking "Oooooom" (as in Eastern Meditation) or a word like "radiometry". When I think of "utterance" then I think that God speaks (and commands) through Christ, which is consistent with Hebrews 1:1-2, etc. But okay, thanks.
If you're just talking about John 1, then, there's probably a million pages of scholarly debate about what it means there. Have at it. But your original post was about the meaning of λόγος generally, which is a very different thing.

Anyway...why in the world you've think "Oooooom" is beyond me. That's more about your own mental representations than it is about the meaning of 'word'.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 5th, 2018, 7:10 am

Bill, I'm not sure you are so much missing the boat as you are just focusing on the port side when there is also a starboard, a prow and a stern. I agree with Mike: "word" in English has a broad range of meaning which covers much of the semantic range enjoyed by λόγος. I also find it interesting that the ancient version render into the rough equivalent of "word," such as verbum in Latin and Sahidic ⲠϢⲀϪⲈ.
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Bill Ross
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Bill Ross » December 5th, 2018, 7:14 am

From my point of view, the Latin should have been rendered with "sermo" rather than "verbum". That's exactly my point. In fact, I had that conversation here:

https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/ ... 8866#32989
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RandallButh
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by RandallButh » December 5th, 2018, 10:17 am

Mike,
you missed the 60's, in the beginning was "om", the onomapoetic word for primaeval cosmic energy.
When a guy witnessed to me on the beach and read the opening verses of John it was my first thought.

Now I know that John was building on a Jewish concept contained in the all-purpose prayer:
ברוך אתה יהוה אלהינו מלך העולם--שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בדברו
Blessed are you ... -- that everything has come into being through his Word. See Jn 1.2-3.
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by S Walch » December 5th, 2018, 10:32 am

@RandallButh: is there a reason why the all-purpose prayer shifts from the 2nd person to the 3rd person? Reading that, I was expecting it to end בדברך ("through Your word") and not בדברו ("through His word").
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 5th, 2018, 10:51 am

Bill Ross wrote:
December 5th, 2018, 7:14 am
From my point of view, the Latin should have been rendered with "sermo" rather than "verbum". That's exactly my point. In fact, I had that conversation here:

https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/ ... 8866#32989
You can argue it as much as you like, but that's not what Jerome, who arguably knew Greek and Latin a heap better than you or me, did. Perhaps we should try to understand his lexical choice...
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Bill Ross
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Re: Why is λόγος consistently translated as "word"?

Post by Bill Ross » December 5th, 2018, 11:48 am

To my knowledge Jerome did not know English as well as I do and as a native speaker I can tell you that to my ears the way "word" is used in English Bibles is more Biblish than it is English. I've never heard any of these in secular English:

"The word of the President is recorded in public records".

"I read Stephen King's latest word".

"He operated his phone by his word".

"Your word helped me resolve my search problem".

In the discussion I cited the questioner was confused by the idea of a person becoming a word. When I explained that he became God's "communication" or "utterance" (linking John 1:1-3 with "Let there be..." in the beginning, it clicked. "Without God's utterance, nothing was made that was made". Which "word" (verbum) was required to make the world? "Hocus-pocus"?:
Verbum may refer to:

Word, the smallest element that may be uttered in isolation with semantic or pragmatic content
Verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word (part of speech) that in syntax conveys an action or a state of being...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbum
Well, that's why I brought it up. In both English and Latin word/verbum basically is a piece of grammar. One noun, or verb or something. "Word" can be used somewhat informally as a synonym for "news" or "message" but in the scriptures it is used largely as a synonym, I believe, with hRHMA.

Examples:

>[Luk 4:32, 36 KJV] 32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word [? which verbum? clearly "speech"] was with power. ... 36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word [? which verbum? clearly "utterance"] [is] this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.

>[Luk 5:1 KJV] 1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word [? which verbum? clearly "message"] of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

I see this problem everywhere in the NT.

Maybe it's just me.
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