Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD), a Hellenized Jew, used the term Logos to mean an intermediary divine being, or demiurge. Philo followed the Platonic distinction between imperfect matter and perfect Form, and therefore intermediary beings were necessary to bridge the enormous gap between God and the material world. The Logos was the highest of these intermediary beings, and was called by Philo "the first-born of God." Philo also wrote that "the Logos of the living God is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated."

So why did the Christian view not follow this definition and instead make the leap to describing logos as part of God?

  • This question appears to me to be contradictory. Can you clarify first and last statements please. The logos as an intermediary being appears to support him as a lower form of God. I'm confused by this...trinitarians would probably not agree with this statement.
    – Adam
    Feb 24, 2022 at 21:48

5 Answers 5


From the works of Philo we can see how he saw the logos, or word/wisdom directly and try to compare a bit with Plato and with Christ.

But the divine word which is above these does not come into any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not like to any of the things that come under the external senses, but is itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect in the whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to the only truly existing God, without any partition or distance being interposed between them: for it is said, “I will speak unto thee from above the mercyseat, in the midst, between the two cherubim.”25 So that the word is, as it were, the charioteer of the powers, and he who utters it is the rider, who directs the charioteer how to proceed with a view to the proper guidance of the universe. (The works of Philo, p330)

The logos is the 'divine word' and 'most ancient of all the objects of intellect' (see quote from Philo above). This does seem similar to some degree to the archetype idea of Plato which are the 'true objects' of life. Basically those philosophers back then tried to identify with words the intelligence of nature that one saw beyond the physical object. This essence, idea or thought, or whatever was 'something' and here we find Philo associating it with 'God's image' or shadow of his person. But it does not seem exactly to be a person necessarily.

Here is another quote from Philo about the logos:

And even if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son of God, nevertheless let him labour earnestly to be adorned according to his first-born word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel. (147) For which reason I was induced a little while ago to praise the principles of those who said, “We are all one man’s sons.”43 For even if we are not yet suitable to be called the sons of God, still we may deserve to be called the children of his eternal image, of his most sacred word; for the image of God is his most ancient word. (The works of Philo,

From Philo's words above it does start to seem that the logos is possibly a person, if we take his reference to 'the great archangel' literally. Then again its not really clear as he reverts back to the 'image' theme as the thing really meant. Maybe that 'image' is just personalized a bit to be a sort of prime archangel symbolically. Philo does not make it clear that he sees the logos as an actual person.

So what is the big difference between this view and the Apostle's? This is kind of obvious. If we look at Philo's logos, it is a force or being available to all who live in accordance with it, and in that sense is a 'mediatory' between man and God. This, one could say, is in some sense a confused, shadowy admission that God has a mediator he sends to the world, who is very ancient. However Jesus was much more then this. Jesus was an intermediator, and the word sent from God but also a 'sacrifice'. The logos of Philo does not intend to sacrifice himself (or itself) in order to reconcile the world to God.

On the other hand, the divinity of Christ, is not a concept derived from Philo's logos, or a leap from it. Philo's logos is principally incomplete and rejected as as being a biblical truth by Christians due to its low perception of a mediator without a sacrifice. The trinity, or with respect to the Christian 'logos', the divine eternal nature of the Son, co-equal with the Father and Spirit, is something stemming from other progressive revelation in scripture, not an offshoot of logos or philosophy directly. That this Jesus, who was a sacrificial-mediator in history, claimed 'to be God' and 'one with the Father' is probably a better foundation to query the origin of the logos-divinity concept, rather then Philo's, Socrates, or Plato's thoughts. The doctrine of the Divine Son is not really related to Philo or philosophy. The whole word may have had a weak concept of a God and his presence in the world, but only scripture reveals the trinity under any meaningful light.

  • You write: "The trinity, or with respect to the Christian 'logos', the divine eternal nature of the Son, co-equal with the Father and Spirit, is something stemming from other progressive revelation in scripture, not an offshoot of logos or philosophy directly." Can you please clarify what you mean by "progressive revelation in scripture"? Thank you. May 5, 2021 at 16:10
  • So, in a sense, the Apostle did not "borrow" Philo's Logos but "elevated" it? Feb 23, 2022 at 15:23

While there are differences between Philo's understanding of the λόγος1 and that of orthodox Christianity, there are also many similarities.

In fact, in On Dreams (De Somniis), I, §230, concerning the phrase «ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεὸς ὁ ὀφθείς σοι ἐν τόπῳ θεοῦ» (Gen. 31:13 LXX), that is, "I am the God who was seen by you in the place of God," Philo wrote, «καλεῖ δὲ θεὸν τὸν πρεσβύτατον αὐτοῦ νυνὶ λόγον», that is, "And what he now calls 'God' (θεὸν) is His most ancient word (λόγον)." We then see that even Philo was not immune to referring to the λόγος as God.


1 Why shouldn't we anticipate differences, especially since Philo was not a Christian?

  • Maybe, to give the full picture, you should have mentioned that, whereas in the LXX translatio the Angel of the Lord refer to himself with a circumlocution, in the Hebrew text, refers to himself as "the God of Bethel" (ha'el beyth-'el). May 5, 2021 at 16:23

If I can restate your question as follows:

Philo used the term Logos to mean an intermediary divine being. So why did Christianity not follow this definition and instead describes the logos as part of God?

Firstly, to say that the logos in Christianity is a “part of God” is an interesting choice of words:

In Greek philosophy, God has no parts (divine simplicity). Christian philosophy has adopted this principle.

In the first three centuries, Christian theologians did think of the Son as part of God. Remember, for example, the famous saying of Tertullian – “The Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole.”

In Eastern Orthodoxy, God is the Father only and the Son is the logos of the Father (the Word of God). The Son and the Spirit are like the two hands of God. Therefore, in Eastern Orthodoxy, we could say that the Son is part of God.

In the Athanasian Creed, the Trinity is God. The Son has been “begotten” by the Father but there is a very strong emphasis on the one-ness of God (the one-ness of the Trinity). I do not think we can speak of the Son as “part of God” in the Athanasian Creed. It does not present God as consisting of parts.

In popular Christianity, believers may understand the Son as part of God because of the formula - one Being but three Persons - perhaps not realizing that “Person” in the Trinity doctrine is not as we understand a person normally. In the traditional understanding of the Trinity, the Trinity has only one undivided substance and only one mind or will.

So, I would like to understand from what perspective you speak when you say that the Logos in Christianity is a part of God.

Secondly, I would like to propose that, in Philo, the logos is as least as much part of God as in Christianity. In Philo, the logos is:

  • An “aspect of the divine” (Philo's view of God - Wikipedia);
  • The "Creator's thoughts;” "Philo probably was the first philosopher who identified Plato's Ideas with Creator's thoughts. These thoughts make the contents of Logos" (Philo - Wikipedia) In this way, “the Logos of the living God” can be understood to be the mind or wisdom of God, as in Greek philosophy which Philo merged with Jewish exegesis of the Scriptures.
  • "The first-born of God” - As in the NT, we can understand this to say that He came out of the being of God.
  • The Universal substance on which all things depend. (Philo's view of God - Wikipedia)

I'll focus on this question, "So why did the Christian view not follow this definition and instead make the leap to describing logos as part of God?"

It is because the logos/Word of God is identified as the second person of the Trinity.

John makes this connection explicit in the opening of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-5, 14).

Again, in Revelation, the rider on the white horse is called "Faithful and True" and, "He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God" (Rev. 19:13).

The same Word through whom the Father spoke all things into existence (Genesis 1) came in the flesh to save his fallen creation (John 1) and is returning to complete the restoration of creation (Rev. 19).

The early Church Fathers also spoke of the Word/logos as being the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.

For example, Athenagoras in chapter 10 of "Embassy for the Christians" says, "The Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in idea and operation. For all things were made after the pattern of Him and by Him - the Father and the Son being one. The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son, in oneness and power of Spirit. The Understanding and Reason of the Father is the Son of God" (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.v.ii.x.html).

Justin Martyr, in his first "Apology" written to the Roman emperor, also argues that the logos is the Son of God and draws comparisons with pagan myths as a point of connection with his Roman audience. His point being that this "logos" whom the pagans idolized is the very Son of God who came to restore his creation through his death and resurrection. See, for example, chapters 21 through 23, beginning at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xxi.html

  • @AaronSimms Thank you for providing the link to Justin Martyr's First Apology. Now I am fully confirmed how he dangerously dabbled in heathen mythology and philosophy. BTW, Justing does not even realize how inconsistent he is when he first affirms that "the Word, who is the first-[born] of God, was produced without sexual union", but then, in the same Ch. 21, goes on to remind his addressee, the emperor Antoninus Pius, "how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter". Several of them were the result of Jupiters' rapes ... May 5, 2021 at 16:45

Because that's Gnosticism.

In short, the early Christian Church had a fair amount of internal factional conflict over what their beliefs were and were not, and some of that made its way into the books of the New Testament. This is why you see statements saying things like that Jesus assumed fully the flesh of humanity, and wasn't just a spirit that made itself look human.

Most notably, they dealt with the Gnostics who believed in the sort of thing described in the OP, and who were thoroughly repudiated by the main line of the Christian Church.

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