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The idea may sound stupidly ridiculous, but I wonder, can the word of God (Christ?) be read as an allegory on how it is that prayer works. If you see John 1:1-3 it says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

I suppose that prayer may work, in its most mysterious form, via the words we think and say to others, such as in the miracle of (intersubjective) consciousness. While humans currently do not have miraculous like technological abilities, it seems our will might conceivably be helpful to the supplicant.

Apologies if this is too biblical in its hermeneutics, but I wondered if the processes I described

  1. make good philosophical sense and
  2. could be a viable reading of that Bible passage?
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    Actually, this reminds me of a question that I once wanted to ask which was whether in the original koine Greek, the word arche was translated as 'beginning'; because it also has the meaning as first or originating principle in Greek philosophy, and this would add an interesting nuance: the originating principle was the Word... – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 17:39
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    @MoziburUllah - It seems to me you have given the correct meaning. The emergence of the first word would coincide with the first distinction, This would be why Reality outruns language, for a system of predication requires that we divide the Unity of Reality and cannot speak of it as it is. Your explanation would be consistent with Spencer Brown's explanation of the emergence of form from formlessness in 'Laws of Form';.The Word cannot be the original source but it can be the first principle in the emergence of form. But I'm not clear on what theologians have to say about this. . . – PeterJ Aug 14 '17 at 17:58
  • @PeterJ: Thxs. For what it's worth wikipedia has "Greek philosophy ... foregrounded the meaning of arche as the element or the principle of a thing, which although undemonstrable and intangible in itself, provides the conditions for the possibility of that thing'. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 18:07
  • @Mozibur Ullah - It seems we're back to Plato's Ideas. Not quite the view I would endorse but close enough for jazz. . . – PeterJ Aug 15 '17 at 9:17
  • seems like the question generated some good (and sympathetic) answers, so i'm disappointed by the downvote/s – user28117 Aug 16 '17 at 17:21
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You have noticed something very important I think.

The logos ("word" will do, but it is an inadequate translation) is a sign, but is it really a mere sign, or does it actually participate, actively and ontologically with/in the godhead? If it participates the words of prayer have a real power flowing back and forth from this God.

There is a saying in the Roman Catholic church that the Sacraments bring about what they signify. They are more than just signs, they ontologically participate in the trinitiy's plan, now, today. They have power today through co-being.

For instance, to take communion under the accidents (signs) of bread and wine is more than that, it is to participate with real being, the actual blood and body of Christ, and participating in it confers grace right now because it is in co-being with it right now.

Short diversion:

(This influence comes from the Greeks, not just because the church itself read the classic philosophers, but because during Jesus's time some Greek writings philosophy AND myth had filtered down, at least in a jumbled way, throughout the geographical area and this got into the New Testament itself.

Note Jesus himself, and read carefully about his various associations with wine, he had men AND women followers, ate and drank wine with prostitutes, he was said to be a wine bibber. Dionysus, no? It is quite possible Jesus modeled himself at least in part on this figure: the bull and the feminine together (the bull clears the temple forecourt of the money changers). So there was certainly a part of Christianity which is not just slave-like. Jesus was meek AND strong. Of course Nietzsche had to know this instantly but he half suppressed it on purpose, I think).

Now back to your questions. The key philosopher here is John of St. Thomas (John Poinsot), I think. And note that if you think about intersubjective consciousness you are speaking of a type of co-being, ontological participation with the other. More than mere words as mere signs, but a participation in being.

The philosopher John Deely has lead the charge in modern scholarship on John Poinsot.

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    +1: It makes me want to enquire what word was translated as meek, and whether this translation is still apposite. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 17:42
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    And if not, what word in the English lexicon is best suited to replace it, it's more than likely several words with different semantic ranges would be req'd. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 17:46
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    I don't even know if the word "meek" is directly related to Jesus in the New Testament i.e. A sentence that says ...Jesus was meek. He did supposedly say the meek shall inherit the earth. Wheras the Jews always required Justice and Mercy together, at least Paul's Jesus would allow just mercy(grace). All this mercy may be seen as meek. Of course Jesus said turn the other cheek I think. – Gordon Aug 14 '17 at 18:04
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    I think the remark about the Jewish faith also goes for Islam too. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 18:11
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    @Gordan: that's what I've supposed; and just as interestingly, from what he said he didn't have much time for his own followers either, and he said this before he found followers! – Mozibur Ullah Aug 14 '17 at 18:23
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Introduction


The short answer is that the "Word of God" shouldn't be read as prayer.

Within Biblical hermeneutics, there are two ways to interpret Biblical texts - either exegetically or eisegetically. That is - either one can read meaning out of the text and context into which it was delivered, or they can place their own ideas into the text, bending it to their own ideas and interpretations. While eisegesis may not always be bad, it is usually frowned upon and discouraged in modern scholarship and practice and is allowed only as an exception - generally not as a rule.

Which brings me to the topic of allegorical interpretation: allegory is especially susceptible to eisegesis. Genreally, nearly anything can be read allegorically and shaped to be an analogy for whatever the reader wants the story to mean in a manner similar to nonrepresentational art. This doesn't mean this is how the author intended for it to be read however. So one must ask in this case: how did the author of John intend his audience to understand this passage.

This is why I am glad to see this post on the philosophy Stack Exchange, and not Biblical Hermeneutics. By happenstance, it is actually better suited here. Because my primary activity and expertise on Stack Exchange is primarily in Biblical Hermeneutics, I will be approaching this question hermeneutically however.


Linguistics


The first step to making clear why the author did not intend for his readers to understand this text as an allegory for prayer is examining the Original Greek of the text. The importance of this task in Biblical Hermeneutics cannot be understated and generally, a good exegete will consult an interlinear translation of the text, and a solid lexicon. In this case, however, merely the interlinear will probably be sufficient for reasons that will shortly become obvious. According to Bible Hub's interlinear Greek/English text, the Word of God or λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, can be transliterated as Logos tou Theos - Word of God. Theos may be recognizable to some as meaning "God", but "Logos" should really stand out to readers here who are familiar with classical western philosophy as a technical term used among the ancient philosophers.


Historical Background

As John was writing in Greek, he wrote to an audience at least somewhat familiar with Greek culture - even those Jews living in Roman occupied Israel. John was assuming that his audience was familiar with the term "Logos" and understood it to mean everything encompassed by Aristotle (according to ) it meant to Aristotle (according to Paul Rahe), the ability to understand

the difference between what is advantageous and what is harmful, between what is just and what is unjust, and between what is good and what is evil.

And also the belief of stoicism that Logos "animates the universe)

But most importantly Philo's understanding of Logos

...who 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".

Plato's Theory of Forms was located within the Logos,1 but the Logos also acted on behalf of God in the physical world. In particular, the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was identified with the Logos by Philo, who also said that the Logos was God's instrument in the creation of the universe.



Conclusion

So, in summary, while technically you could read "word" of God allegorically to mean prayer, this would be an eisegetical interpretation and is not how the author intended you to understand the text. Instead, he intended his readers to understand the "word" (Logos) in the context of Greco-Roman philosophy - especially the works of Philo.


Footnotes:

1 Plato's Theory of Forms actually forms the basis and foundation for Triniterian Beliefs

  • thank James. in the question i was asking about the word of god as a mechanism of prayer, or perhaps the "through him all things were made" as prayer. thanks for the answer tho – user28117 Aug 19 '17 at 15:41
  • I am glad you came here and answered also. I think that the logos is key here. I would give it a more mystical character in this context at the beginning of John's Gospel. The sign of the word is in co-communication, co-being with God as son. It's hard to put into words what I'm saying. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos_(Christianity) may throw some light on what I had in mind. – Gordon Aug 19 '17 at 16:50
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    @user3293056 I understand - what I'm saying is that the Word of God can't be a mechanism of prayer unless that's how Philo defined Logos. I don't really see that in Philo's writings. John is definitely saying through the Logos all things were made and that logos became flesh and was called Jesus, but I don't see that Philo/John viewed that to be a mechanism of prayer and I doubt john thought something as ethereal as prayer could become incarnate. It seems he viewed Logos more concretely. – James Shewey Aug 19 '17 at 16:56
  • The logos here is more than a sign, it has co-being with the son and carries him into the world. Frankly, the logos is to us the Son until he comes again. A mysterious thing, at least to me. – Gordon Aug 19 '17 at 17:03
  • No I agree not primarily as prayer. The intent of the verses is to establish this extremely important relationship of the sign (word, logos, sign) to God, not just as referring to God as son but in co-being with him and carrier of the son. What impressed me was that 056 had come across in his/her own thinking this co-being say in the the words of prayer or words with others, as a type of co-being, not just words but being, with them. This reminded me of the much later John of St. Thomas in some ways. – Gordon Aug 19 '17 at 17:20
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can the word of God (Christ?) be read as an allegory on how it is that prayer works.

Sure, if you want. Unless you happen to live in a place or time that takes heretical notions seriously, there's nothing particular stopping you.

If your question is whether there is any literal or liturgical basis for that interpretation then I'm pretty sure the answer is no. For instance, on a literal front, Logos is not the Greek for prayer usually used in the Bible, proseuche is. On a liturgical front, I don't believe any Christian denomination has taken this interpretation (very possibly because there's no literal basis for it).

You may want to check with Biblical Hermeneutics or Christianity SEs respectively but I doubt you'll get a different response.

Edit: hopefully made it clearer why there isn't a literal or liturgical basis for the prayer interpretation.

  • so you agree that a) it makes good philosophical sense and b) it's good hermeneutics (the allegory is better than others)? sorry can't tell if you've misunderstood, or you just didn't inflect the tone i would expect – user28117 Aug 14 '17 at 16:45
  • @user3293056 No, I don't believe there's any hermeneutic basis whatsoever but I'm just an interested amateur. If you reword it as a purely hermeneutic question, I'm sure the nice folks at the Biblical Hermeneutics site will give you a detailed answer as to why it doesn't make any sense. – Alex Aug 14 '17 at 16:51
  • i'm maybe explaining myself badly... i mean clearly i can do and think what i want without reprisal given there's no reprisals, and obviously it does not attribute a form of agency to God that the vast majority of theists would be familiar with. – user28117 Aug 14 '17 at 16:51
  • the bibical hermeneutic stack exchange is in effect a christian site isn't it? can't see any "liturgical" basis to my question, and by definition allegory isn't "literal". why do you suppose it has no basis in reading the text? if you answered that, it would make a reasonable answer, one that i might accept etc. – user28117 Aug 14 '17 at 16:54
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    @user3293056 No, Christianity is the Christian site. Biblical Hermeneutics is pretty much what it says and they tend to reject religious questions. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, then tend to be very thorough with pretty strong Greek and Hebrew scholarship in evidence. Obviously, if all you want to know is that Logos isn't the Greek for prayer (it's proseuche), I can tell you that :) – Alex Aug 14 '17 at 16:59

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