One of our students asks:
I have been reading the Gospel of John, which starts “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the Greek translation, the passage uses “logos” which has been interpreted in English as “word.” What is the difference between “word” and “logos”?
This is a great question, and a wonderful way to explore Metaphysical interpretation of scripture. We don’t claim to be linguists, but we do know a little about how differing interpretations can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
As you can see just by this one example of the word logos, it is difficult to translate consistently between languages. In some cases, the Bible has been translated through multiple languages before arriving at English, so it can be easy for us to understand the words a little differently that what they may have originally meant. It isn’t our job to necessarily decide what the best translation is, but rather, to find the meaning that best resonates with us, and which best inspires us on our path of spiritual unfoldment.
Let’s begin with another scriptural example: Matthew 19:24 quotes Jesus as saying, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” This passage is commonly interpreted as referring to the narrow passageways entering some walled cities in the middle east. These passageways are called the “eye of the needle” which are too narrow for a man on a camel to pass through.
In his book And There Was Light, Dr. Rocco Errico explains that the Aramaic gamla, can mean “camel,” “rope,” or “beam” depending on how the word is used. If you substitute a different meaning of this word, the scripture becomes “it is easier for a rope to go through the eye of a needle…” It suddenly makes perfect sense! One little change in a translation can make all the difference in the world. Is one translation any more or less accurate or meaningful than the other? It all depends on how you understand the words.
Of course, the context of how a word is used in a sentence is what determines its meaning, such as “the car was running,” vs. “the man was running down the street,” vs. “the man was running for office.” (operating vs. moving swiftly on foot vs. campaigning).
Now let’s return to John with a fresh set of eyes. Of course, the traditional meaning of this chapter is that God was made flesh. In other words, Jesus was sent as a physical human incarnation of a personified God. But that conflicts with the Metaphysical understanding that God is not a person, but “all that is,” and that that God energy expresses in and through all humans, no more or less than it did with Jesus.
So what does the passage really mean? The use of “the word” seems rather cryptic, almost like it is code for something deeper, much like “camel” in Matthew 19. Only you can decide what is meaningful to you, but now you have some tools to explore further.
It is important to point out that logos does not mean “word” in the context of an element of a sentence. There are other Greek terms to represent a literal occurrence of a word.
Google translates the Greek word logos into English a number of different ways:
- word (news)
Now, as an experiment, let’s play a kind of spiritual “Mad Libs!” Take the passage from John 1:1 and fill in different translations from above in place of “the word.” It appears three times, so it could potentially have three different meanings, or the same meaning three times, or something in between! Try different combinations, and see how the energy and meaning change, depending on how you substitute the Greek word logos:
In the beginning was
logos , and
logos was with God, and
logos was God.
Example: “In the beginning was consideration, and the reason was with God, and the cause was God.” At first, it sounds strange, but think about it: In the beginning was the consideration of what could potentially be, and then the creative force of the universe (God), expressing as the reason or logic* of Natural Law, caused a particular outcome.
Just by substituting these three occurrences of one original Greek word, you now have many different possible ways to interpret the same 17-word English sentence of John 1:1.
Before we finish, there’s one other option to consider beyond the word logos: the English idiom “word.” When we say we give someone our word, or that our word is our bond, or in 1990s vernacular “Word up,” there is a context of “truth”, which may be the ultimate answer to your question:
“In the beginning there was truth, and the truth was with God, and the truth was God.” Without human judgment and doubt to influence our perceptions, all that remains is truth. And “all that remains,” like “all that is,” is a nice way to express what God really is.
We encourage you to explore these possibilities, just to see how the energy of the passage changes, and to find what deeper meaning is revealed to you in the process. You may be surprised what you find along this journey!
* If you haven’t figured it out already, the word “logic” is also derived from the Greek word logos!