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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
Date: 12-Nov-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Language and the Divine    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (12-Nov-2012)
  2. Re: Language and the Divine    James L Fidelholtz     (12-Nov-2012)
  3. Re: Language and the Divine    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (14-Nov-2012)

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