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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Language and the Divine|
|Question:||I am very interested in the way language has been associated wth divinities in different cultures (e.g. the Babylonian Nebo/Nabu, the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury, the Hindu Saraswati/Vac, the Japanese Benzaiten, the Celtic Ceridwen and the Aztec Tezcatlipoca) and the idea of the word as sacred. In this connection, I have always been puzzled by John 1:1 in the New Testament ''In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God''. I realise it is subject to many interpretations but is there an underlying attempt to identify and equate God with language or is that a misunderstanding of the Greek term logos? Is language being seen as a manifestation of god and the link between god and humanity? (By way of comparison, for example, the Greek philosopher Proclus described Hermes as responsible for distinguishing and interpreting things and Mercury as filling all things with divine reasons and elevating souls to intellect; Porphyry described Mercury as presiding over rational energy.)|
|Reply:||I am not an expert here but I know that the Greek word "logos" meant something much broader than "word", and indeed its connotation was broader than language in particular – I think it could refer to something like what we might call the faculty of reason. Hence the first verse of John's gospel is probably impossible to translate into English satisfactorily! Geoffrey Sampson|
|Reply From:||Geoffrey Richard Sampson click here to access email|