The Word (Logos) in Jewish and Hellenistic philsophical literature

I. Two meanings

A. Stoic philosophy: Logos (Greek) = The principle of reason immanent in the universe

1. The world is material; there is no transcendant deity or (as with the Platonists) universal forms

2. There is a principle of reason that informs the universe and is part of it; that is logos

3. Understanding that principle allows one to live in harmony with the rational world, which is the virtuous life

B. Judaism: Dabar (Speech) = The method whereby God created the world

1. The Word of God is the Torah: it is God's way of communicating with humans

2. Jewish wisdom literature: wisdom is personified as a divine agent

a. "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts long ago" (Proverbs 8:22)

b. in Hebrew, wisdom (Hochma) is female, so is personified as a female figure

c. Logos (Greek) is male

II. Philo (d. 50 C.E.)

A. An educated diaspora Jew from Alexandria

B. Exponent of a philosophy known as "middle Platonism"

1. Combines Plato's philosophy of Forms with a transcendant deity

2. Often identifies this divine principle with the Stoic Logos

C. Philo's philosophy of God

1. There is a transcendant deity (God) who is also the God of Jewish revelation

a. "What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?"

2. God is completely unknowable as He is, beyond all human comprehension

3. God chooses to relate to us in some dim way we can grasp

4. God can be known through his actions: kingliness and creativity

5. Both aspects can be recognized in two ways

a. Throughout the universe, which God created (logos spermatozoi)

b. Through the Torah, in which God speaks (ho legon) to humans

6. The Logos is "the image of God . . . with no intervening distance."

a. metaphor: God seated in his chariot, giving directions (speaking) to the charioteer (Logos) who then drives the horses (kingliness and creativity)

b. The charioteer wields "the reins of the universe"

7. Communion with God is possible through meditation on the Torah

a. Word of God is the soul's food

b. In the divine Word one "sees God from afar"

8. Goal of the quest: to recognize that God cannot be known

"When, therefore, the God-loving soul probes the essence of God, he enters on a quest that is beyond form and sight. And out of this quest there accrues to him a vast gift . . .to see precisely this, that God is incapable of being seen."

Yet the seekers rejoice nonetheless because the quest itself brings "a foretaste of gladness"