Joseph Smith and the Logos - Something is Missing

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Philo Sofee
First Presidency
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Joseph Smith and the Logos - Something is Missing

Post by Philo Sofee »

This is an assessment I wrote for another place on the Internet this morning, and it dawned on me as I finished it up that I am not aware of anywhere where Joseph Smith ever commented, elaborated, or received a revelation of the Logos. It is one of the most fascinating situations in biblical exegesis, but I am not aware if Joseph Smith was aware of it much. Has anyone seen anything from him?

Also in this light of something missing, have LDS scholars ever done any work on the Logos? Again, I am not all that aware of a discussion on this topic within Mormonism. Is it perhaps because of the anti-intellectual, anti-philosophical stance of Mormonism? If memory serves me right Talmage might have mentioned it, and I would be truly surprised if B. H. Roberts didn't analyze it.

Heh, it's actually weird that the Logos has so little impact on Mormonism and their understanding of Jesus. I am familiar with Boyd Kirkland's excellent "Dialogue" article on the goofiness of "Elohim and Jehovah in Mormonism and the Bible," with early Mormonism confusing the two and not really ironing out all the inconsistencies between them and just who was the Father and Son, but this same phenomena exists in the Bible itself, and in Judaism to some extent. The evolution and meaning of Elohim and YHVH is fascinating and has many puzzles to work through and work with. Perhaps Mormonism is uncomfortable with the idea of the female aspect of Sophia/Wisdom also being YHVH? I have no doubt it would make them squirm since they are unfamiliar, for the most part, with the way the Jewish theology through the ages have dealt with the Divine Feminine. Mormons are so beat your head against the wall when it comes to sexuality of Deity.
Other than that, I am not familiar with much Mormon discussion on this. Here is yet more to see the broader and very interesting Greek aspect of the Logos.

How the Greek Conceptions of Logos can Elucidate John 1:1 Jesus as Logos

John’s enigmatic opening of Jesus being the Logos, of course, causes a lot to be written about it because it is so unusual. I will add to that, lets get started. Since this is for the internet, I can’t get overly elaborate or exhaustive in any one attempt. That’s why I post a lot of different small papers on various aspects of this.

Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus, though he didn’t know him, has a lot to say of this Logos. It’s different than what Orthodox Christianity teaches these days so sometimes it shocks people to read what a Jew influenced by Platonism says. But it’s always good to get extended views outside of one’s own theological inherited tradition, even if it seems odd or sometimes to us, downright blasphemous. To the ancients our blasphemy was their doctrine and understanding, it’s something we have to realize that perhaps we are the ones missing the boat in trying to streamline (incorrectly) the many variegated views in antiquity, imagining our view is the only correct one.

“Philo speaks of the all-pervading Logos - another of Wisdom’s names [the personified female aspect of God in antiquity which we ignore today] - which reaches into men’s minds, effectively converting them into extensions of the Divine Mind.”[1] Philo also used the Logos “to describe the Image of God, seen in human form…”[2] “Clement of Alexandria was just one early writer who personified Christ in cosmic terms as the Spiritual Sun, noting that when the Logos ‘the Sun of the soul,’ rises in ‘the depth of the mind, the soul’s eye is illuminated.’”[3]

For the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, he was “not concerned with a philosophical system, but with getting hold of the unity of the One and the All (Fragment 50) through the existence of the universal law of proportion which underlies continuous change. Logos for him is thus the instrument of thought, expressing both the thought-process and its conclusion, and also its consequences for the thinker (Fragment 2).”[4] Hence, “the Logos is the World-reason which sustains and permeates the cosmos like a fine spiritual substance.”

However, Klappert recognizes that this is not the basis of the Logos in John, rather as Philo has described time and again, the Logos is “not only is the Jewish Wisdom identified with the Logos, the Logos understood as a mediating power between God and the Creation and ascribed divine predicates, but Philo also simultaneously combines Old Testament statements of creation by the word, Stoic statements of the Logos as the world-soul and Platonic elements (the Logos as the archetype of the created world) with one another… the divine Logos binds together the heavenly and earthly world and rules over and through both macrocosm and microcosm, the Good News of the Johannine Prologue consists in the fact that the Logos no longer works ‘spiritually’ but is found embodied in a mortal man… the incarnation of the Word thus does not mean Jesus as the eschatalogical [end times, the last days, etc.] ambassador, in whom God is present and acting: it signifies the Presence of God himself in the flesh.”[5]

The imagery of the Logos has very insightfully been associated with the Righteous Zaddik, the Pillar of the world (Proverbs 10:25), by Robert Eisenman, while there is great amounts in the Zohar of the Zaddik being the protector of the people. Yet a thousand years earlier than the Zohar (which is formally a medieval production as Eisenman acknowledges), James the Brother of Jesus is described as a Bulwark and Eisenman describes how this can be recognized as “something equivalent to what goes by the name of the Logos or ‘the Word’ in the Gospel of John.”[6]

In his erudite analysis of Colossians 1:15-20, James M. Robinson years ago noted how “the two titles εικων [form, image, or appearance, “of Christ Helios as εικων of deity[7]] and αρχη [beginning, origin, first cause, ruler, authority[8]] are correlative designations of the Logos, κατ εικονα ανθρωπος και ο οραν Ισραηλ and many names are his, for he is called the Beginning, and the name of God and [His] word, and the Man after [His] image and he that sees Israel… the epiphany of the Logos designates the beginning and basis of the new aeon.”[9] David Fideler, a Classicist scholar, elaborates that “The Logos represents the first level of real manifestation of Being, for it encompasses within itself all the laws and relations which are later articulated in the phenomenal universe. Since the Logos is the emanation of the Transcendent Absolute, it may be poetically described as ‘The Son of God,’ as we see in the works of Philo, the Hermetic writings, and Early Christianity… the Hermetic in one of its more attractive versions, ‘Eternity (Aeon) is said to be the image of God, Cosmos is the image of Eternity, the Sun is the image of the Cosmos, and Man is the image of the Sun.’”[10]

One of the important things Robinson pointed out was that inter-related concepts were all interwoven even in pre-Christian times from the ancient Jewish ideas, as well as the Greek philosophers, and so were available to Philo as he elaborated and coalesced them together in his understanding of the Logos, of which John presumably had access, though he only singularly applied the Logos as God at the very first of his Gospel as a philosophical, cosmological principle. The tie in with the Logos which was critical to Philo’s admiration and excitement was mankind. Lets take a look at how Robinson presented this very interesting addition.

All of the next paragraph of analysis is Robinson’s, interspersed with my notes/comments I will clearly identify in brackets [ ]’s, though I don’t put in all of his reference points of Philo, which are many and abbreviated and in italics, etc., since he wrote it for a scholarly journal, I am just including the Greek analysis to clean it up and make it easier to read.

The conceptual unity of tying three main areas of Hellenistic Judaism together were λογος, σοφια, ανθρωπος [The Logos - the Word, Sophia - the divine female element, and the human] the speculation of Hellenistic Judaism. Philo shows the interrelatedness of these concepts: ανθρωπον θεου, ος του αιδιου λογος ων… εστιν αϕθαρτος - “The man of God, who being the Word of the Eternal… is imperishable.” [my note: αϕθαρ-σια with the ideas of incorruptible, undecaying, immortal[11]] η δε [σοϕια] εστιν ο θεου λογος - “It [Wisdom] is the Word of God.” The concept of εικον του θεου (compare the μορϕη θεου [form of God] at the opening of the hymn in Philippians 2:6-11), rooted in the Anthropos concept (in the Old Testament: Genesis 1:27 and especially 5:1 in the Septuagint - the Greek Old Testament), is applied to the Logos by Philo - λογος δ εστιν εικων θεου δι ου συμπας ο κοςμος εδημιουργειτο - “and the image of God is the Word through whom the whole universe is framed.” The concept of the creation and recreation of the pleroma [my note: The Gnostic term pleroma means “the fulness” being the totality of God’s energy and attributes as they might be bestowed on others, deifying them in the process.[12]] in him fits into this context of Anthropos speculation, Cf. Hippolytus, Μονοιμος… λεγει ανθρωπον ειναι το παν, “Moinomus … says that Man is the All.” The closely related Jewish Sophia is mediator of creation, αρχη (Proverbs 8:22) the LXX [Septuagint Greek]: κυριος εκτισεν με αρχην οδων αυτου, “The Lord made me the beginning of his ways”; and Sirach 24:9 - προ του αιωνος απ αρχης εκτισεν με, “Before the world, from the beginning He created me.” And εικον with the constant use of these contexts of τα παντα formulae, so we have to do with a series of concepts which had already found a crystallization point in Judaism, and could consequently be applied totally to Jesus.[13]

1. Eugene Seaich, “A Great Mystery: The Secret of the Jerusalem Temple, The Embracing Cherubim and At-One-Ment With the Divine,” Gorgias Press, 2008: 61. Hereafter cited as “Great Mystery.”
2. Margaret Barker, “King of the Jews, Temple Theology in John’s Gospel,” SPCK, 2014: 73.
3. As quoted in David Fideler, “Restoring the Soul of the World, Our Living Bond with Nature’s Intelligence,” Inner Traditions, 2014: 58.
4. B. Klappert, in Colin Brown, editor, “The International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,” (4 volumes), ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1986, Vol. 3:1081.
5. B. Klappert, in Brown, “Ibid.,” p. 1116, 1117.
6. Robert Eisenman, “James the Brother of Jesus,” Viking, 1996: 136.
7. Gingrich, Denker, Bauer, “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,” University of Chicago Press, 2nd edition, 1979: 222.
8. Gingrich, Denker, Bauer, “Ibid,” p. 112.
9. James M. Robinson, “A Formal Analysis of Colossians 1 15-20,” in JBL (Journal Of Biblical Literature,), 76:4 (1957): 275-276. Hereafter cited as “Colossians.”
10. David Fideler, “Jesus Christ, Sun of God, Ancient Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism,” Quest Books, 1993: 42.
11. Liddell-Scott “Greek-English Lexicon,” Oxford University Press, with Supplement, 1968, reprint, 1983: 289.
12. Seaich, “Great Mystery,” p. 80.
13. Robinson, “Colossians,” p. 278.
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