Mesopotamian Precursors to the Stoic Concept of Logos

Recipient of a British Academy Research Grant, 1997

For anyone who has a serious interest in the ‘Logos’ concept/theology (“creative, cosmic reason”) as found in the Gospel of John, Philo of Alexandria or Heraclitus of Ephesus, this article will be of interest.

What I have tried to demonstrate in my research is that the Akkadian (Babylonian/Assyrian) literature of the second and early first millennia BCE was rife with expressions concerning the creative and organizing power of the divine word. 

The poems, prayers, incantations, rituals and epics adduced within this article provide the historical precedents for the semantic shift which takes ‘Logos’ from its most basic meanings (‘spoken utterance/written word’) to the richly multivalent term it becomes in Greek philosophy and early Christian theology.

The original findings were presented to the Melammu Symposium (Assyrian and Babylonian Intellectual Heritage Project) in Paris, October 1999 (see photograph above). The research was published in the proceedings of the Melammu Symposium: Mythology and Mythologies: Methodological Approaches to Intercultural Influences (Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Helsinki, 2001: 69-91).

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