What is the Word of God? Almost without exception, if you listen to Bible teachers, it is pretty clear that to them that the Word of God is the Bible. Is the Bible the Word of God though?
I think this question is a bit more complex than what it may seem on the surface. I mean, it would be easy to assume that “word” simply refers to “words,” but sometimes word doesn’t refer to words…word? I’m no Greek and Hebrew expert, so take this with that understanding, but this is my take.
The Greek word that has been translated as “word” in the Bible is logos. While we might assume we could just go to the Greek dictionary to see how the word is defined, it’s not quite that easy. What catches my attention is that the word is not always (not even usually) a reference to God. On its own, Strong’s lexicon (which is the most widely referenced Hebrew and Greek lexicon by Bible types) defines logos as merely a reference to “words uttered by a living voice.”
According to Strong’s, the word logos appears in the Bible 330 times. Of those times, it is used as a reference to word(s) (218x), saying(s) (50x), account(s) (8x), speech (8x), Word (Christ) (7x), thing(s) (5x), not translated (2x), miscellaneous (32x). The vast majority of those times, logos is not a reference to God at all.
There are times though, when logos is not a reference to words, in any form. What are words if they aren’t words though? I think it would help to first try to define what words are. When it comes down to it, words are simply means of expressing inner thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. I think this is crucial for our understanding, when it comes to what is meant when we refer to God’s Word, because it can make the difference between viewing an object (the Bible) as God’s Word and the only “thing” the Bible actually references as God’s Word.
In John 1, John comes right out of the gate making an association with logos that we’ve never seen before. He begins by saying…
In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Then in verse 14, he continues…
And the Word (logos) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
I think the reason we naturally associate the Bible with the Word of God may be partially due to how we narrowly define “word.” I’ll be honest, I struggled with this for a long time, myself. Is John referring to “words” in John 1 though? Clearly not. The Bible did not exist in the beginning. The Bible was not with God, nor is it God. The Bible was not in the beginning with God. All things did not come to being through the Bible. The Bible is not the life and the light of man. The Bible did not become flesh. The Bible did not dwell among us and we did not behold its glory. The Bible is not the only begotten of the Father and it is certainly not full of grace and truth. I know, someone will want to argue that last one, but whatever.
Just to be clear, I do acknowledge that the Bible does contain words uttered by God, so there are places within the Bible where it can be called “words FROM God.” Clearly, this isn’t what John is refering to though. So, what is “word (logos)” according to John, then?
It seems pretty obvious that John is referring to Jesus. But if logos refers only to “words uttered by a living voice,” John identifying Jesus as THE Word of God would make no sense. I think going back to our definition of what words ultimately are may help.
A means of expressing inner thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
That really allows for a much broader understanding of the word logos, doesn’t it?
What if logos (word) carries with it a more nuanced meaning than our narrow definition? Could it be that logos really refers to an expression, rather than a word, or collection of words? Could it possibly include physical expressions such as music, dance, and works of art? Could it be that logos, to John, means the ultimate “divine expression of God?”
Is Jesus a word? Of course not. Is Jesus the ultimate divine expression of God? If we believe what the Bible says about Him, there’s no question!
The Bible points to only one “thing” as the perfect and complete divine expression of God. That of course, is Jesus (sola Christus). He is the only thing called the “image of the unseen God,” and the only thing said to be “the radiance of God’s glory and the EXACT REPRESENTATION of his being.” Jesus Himself said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Nowhere in the Bible are such claims made in regard to anything other than Jesus. Jesus is THE WORD OF GOD!
I think the biggest problem with viewing the entire Bible as the Word of God is that it elevates the Bible to equal status with Jesus in people’s minds. Because people don’t believe that God speaks to us in any other way than the Bible anymore, it actually becomes of higher importance to them than Jesus…except for the part about Him dying to keep us from burning in hell, of course. We do see Jesus often referring to the scriptures, but we don’t see Him elevating them to God-like status. In fact, we see Him being downright critical of them, at times. I think elevating scripture to an even plane with Jesus ultimately pits large portions of the text against His example and teachings, and what a mess it has made.
In my opinion, none of this devalues, or discredits the Bible, but it helps keep the Bible in perspective. I agree with Paul that the scriptures are valuable for teaching, rebuking, and training in righteousness. I think what Paul is suggesting though, as did Jesus, is that the scriptures are a spectacular perspective on God’s grand narrative, which culminated (but didn’t end) in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In Jesus we see God’s divine and perfect expression of Himself and His divine will for man, and that gramd narrative, the words of scripture, point to the WORD OF GOD.
And God’s ultimate divine expression came in the form of flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. ~John 1:14–18 (my paraphrase)