Introduction: Beyond Logos: Extensions of the Language Ideology Paradigm in the Study of Global Christianity(-ies)
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Beyond Logos: Extensions of the Language Ideology Paradigm in the Study of Global Christianity(-ies)

As the careful reader may intuit from looking at the title situated above, this special section of Anthropological Quarterly is entitled "Beyond Logos: Extensions of the Language Ideology Paradigm in the Study of Global Christianity(-ies)." This title is inelegant enough that it perhaps warrants an explanation. Why entitle it "Beyond Logos"? What is meant by "Logos," why is "logos" something that we should wish to go "beyond," and what does this going beyond have to do with the "extension" of language ideology in its engagement with a questionable object like "global Christianity(-ies)"? Why "global Christianity(-ies)" in the first place, something which is obviously so suspect that the editors of this special section hedge, if not outright prevaricate, as to whether it is even presentable as a single object at all, invoking the kind of clever-by-half play of parenthetically suggested alternate readings [End Page 575] that mark the worst stylistic moments of self-consciously post-modern writing? Most importantly of all, how does all this serve as both a mobilization and an interrogation of the concept of the language-ideological sincere Christian speaker, one of the most productive ideas put forward by the emerging Anthropology of Christianity?

Why indeed?


As a song says, " the very beginning," metaphorical or otherwise, " is a very good place to start," so let's start with logos (λόγος). Logos, of course, is the Greek term that was used to reference both word and speech, discourse and reason; but as far back as the pre-Socratics, it also served as a philosophical term of art, indicating an originary ordering and knowledge, giving it a conceptual load quite different from other analogous words, such as rhema (ῥῆμα), which could be glossed as having the same English-language plain meaning. It is in the second "philosophical" sense that logos had quite a career in the classical and Hellenistic era. Here it was sometimes thought of as being a Heraclitan world-building fire, at other times conceived of as the stoic indwelling, an immanent and animating force of reason (or the logos spermaticos). Around the start of the Common Era, logos found its way into the hands of the Jewish middle-Platonist Philo of Alexandria, who specialized in creating allegorical readings of the Septigant, making the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible in effect yet another Platonic text. With Philo, logos was used as a technical term for a mediating hypostatic emanation from the divine, which served as a barrier between God and the material world. At the same time, logos was also imagined as God's chief means of acting "on" the world (through the act of creation) and " in" the world (through a sustaining providential order). This triple duty of obscuring, creating, and structuring was possible because of the ambiguous status of logos for Philo. It was as at once an aspect of God, an instrument of God, and the structuring principle immanent to the creation that God had forged by way of logos (Radice 2009). Called at once divine, the creator's " first born son," a "high priest," and reason itself by Philo, it is obvious that for him logos was a privileged cosmological term. 1

While Philo, and his particular reading of logos, did not end up having many interlocutors among either the later Platonists or the post-temple [End Page 576] rabbinic writers, there is strong reason to suspect that his reading of logos was directly or indirectly quite influential with another set—namely, the authors of the collection of epistles and biographic accounts that would become the New Testament (Runia 1993, Siegert 2009). Though Philo's abstract, philosophical conception of God is not exactly co-terminus with the God of the New Testament, traces of a concept homologous to Philo's logos can be seen in both the Epistle to the Hebrews and in (some) Pauline depictions of Jesus as intercessor, high priest, and image of the divine. 2 Resonances with Philo's logos are most notable in the Johannine works, particularly the opening lines of the...