Is the Bible the Word of God? No

Bible – a commonly misunderstood, or perhaps misused word, in referring to the Scriptures given to us through the Apostles and Prophets by God. It is a word younger than the writings themselves.

From Wiki –

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word bible is from Latin biblia, traced from the same word through Medieval Latin and Late Latin, as used in the phrase biblia sacra (“holy book” – “In the Latin of the Middle Ages, the neuter plural for Biblia (gen. bibliorum) gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia, gen. bibliae, in which singular form the word has passed into the languages of the Western world.”). This stemmed from the Greek term τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια (ta biblia ta hagia), “the holy books”, which derived from βιβλίον (biblion), “paper” or “scroll,” the ordinary word for “book“, which was originally a diminutive of βύβλος (byblos, “Egyptian papyrus”), possibly so called from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece.

Biblical scholar Mark Hamilton states that the Greek phrase Ta biblia (“the books”) was “an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books several centuries before the time of Jesus,” and would have referred to the Septuagint. The Online Etymology Dictionary states, “The Christian scripture was referred to in Greek as Ta Biblia as early as c.223.”

To note, most early collections of Christian writings, as the Jews before them, wrote on scrolls of parchment, and not in books. It was not until the 4th century that codices were produced which bound the books together. Again, even after John had finished Revelation, it was not until some time later which the holy writings were bound together in what we would recognize as a book.

Historically speaking, only when the canon was decided did it come to be called the bible. It was no longer a collection of books, but the Book – the bible. The Bible comprises 24 books for Jews, 66 for Protestants, 73 for Catholics, and 78 for most Orthodox Christians (Ethiopians and Armenians not included). Each is further divided into verses of a few short lines or sentences. This was introduced in the Middle Ages and more and more bibles began to be owned and thus used by the public. The Jewish divisions differ at various points from those used by Christians. For instance, in Jewish tradition, the ascriptions to many Psalms are regarded as independent verses, making 116 more verses, whereas the established Christian practice is to count and number each Psalm ascription together with the first verse following it. As well, some books are divided into more chapters, such as Joel and 2nd Chronicles.

Chapters and Verse:

If one was able to see the original manuscripts, they would note the distinctive absence of chapters and verses, cross references, center columns, notes, commentary, headings, and for the Greek, punctuation. No writer of the biblical books included chapter or verses. (For that matter, it is doubtful if they named the books, considered them ‘canonical’, or even thought of what order they would appear). Some portions of the original texts were logically divided into parts following the Hebrew alphabet; for instance, the earliest known copies (which was some 700 years after the original writing) of the book of Isaiah use Hebrew letters for paragraph divisions. Yet nothing points to a consistent pattern of division.

The Old Testament began to be put into sections before the Babylonian Captivity (586 BC) with the five books of Moses being put into a 154-section reading program to be used in a three-year cycle. Later (before 536 BC) the Law was put into 54 sections and 669 sub-divisions for reading.

By the time of the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the New Testament had been divided into paragraphs, although the divisions were different from the modern Bible.

The reason for this is simple: The literacy rate for that time period was very low, with the priestly class holding the education. The division of passages was to allow for simple readings and explanations. We see this exemplified by the readings which Christ performed in the synagogue. (Luke 4.16-20). This aided in memorization as well. Catholics Archbishop Stephen Langton and Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro determined different schemas for systematic division of the Bible between 1227 and 1248. It is the system of Archbishop Langton on which the modern chapter divisions are based, while most attribute the versification found in the Hebrew Old Testament to Rabbi Isaac Nathan around 1440. The good Rabbi most likely solidified an already existing system that predated him by a few centuries, but was invented long after even the latest Deuterocanon books were written.

The first person to divide New Testament chapters into verses was the biblical scholar Santi Pagnini (1470–1541), a system that was never widely adopted. Robert Estienne created an alternate numbering in his 1551 edition of the Greek New Testament. The first English New Testament to use the verse divisions was a 1557 translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579) (William Tyndale’s which came a few decades earlier did not have the versification found in later revisions to his work). The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published shortly afterwards in 1560. These verse divisions soon gained acceptance as a standard way to notate verses, and have since been used in nearly all English Bibles.

One of the issues that I find at fault with the division into verses is that it can obscure the passage by breaking it into different pieces.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV:

(9)  But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

This is the passage  most often quoted when describing our heavenly home, and people stop there, failing to realize that many times the New Testament writers added to the Old Testament, fulfilling themes.

(10)  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

Chapter divisions also break thoughts, such as 2nd Corinthians 6.11-7.1 and Hebrews 11-12.1.

No writer of any book written which was canonized wrote in chapters or verses. It was not until nearly 1500 years after the ink dried on the parchment of Revelation that chapters and verses became common, instituted by men. The writings themselves are inspired, God-breathed, but the chapters, verses, and even the headings are mere trappings invented by men to aid in biblical study. They are no more inspired than the leather that covers the pages, the trees that fell for the paper, or the cross-references, margin notes, and study aids found in any bible.

Is the Bible the Word of God?

No. Does it contain the words of God? Yes. (I will clarify this later)

The phrase ‘word of God’ is found 4 times in the KJV Old Testament and 44 in the New while the phrase ‘word of the Lord’ is found 242 in the Old and 13 in the New.

The first is דּבר, or dabar. Of the four times that the phrase ‘word of God’ appears in the Old Testament, it is used three times. (1st Samuel 9.27, 1st Kings 12.22, and 1st Chronicles 17.3). The Hebrew meaning prohibits the written scriptures, but speaks to the idea that it is the verbal utterance from God. In Samuel, the prophet was going to reveal God’s plan. Shemaiah, also, was told something to say – not write, not pass down, but to say then, as Nathan in Chronicles. At no time does dabar when used in the phrase Hebrew phrase ‘word of God’ suggests something that is actually written down.

The second word is אמרה  /  אמרה, or ‘imrâh  /  ’emrâh and concerning the phrase ‘word of God’ is found in Proverbs 30.5. Several older commentators use this to refer to the inspiration of Scripture, yet the meaning of the word is ‘command’. Clarke says,

Every thing that God has pronounced, every inspiration which the prophets have received, is pure, without mixture of error, without dross. Whatever trials it may be exposed to, it is always like gold: it bears the fire, and comes out with the same lustre, the same purity, and the same weight.

Imrah/emrah does not mean something written, but the commands of God, more often verbally issued. Further it is found 37 times in the Hebrew text used by the KJV, translated as word(s), commandment, and speech. At no time, in any of the translation, is it used to present a written and concise book (or collection thereof).

In the New Testament we find two Greek words translated as ‘word’ – ῥῆμα rhema and λόγος logos. Of the numerous (over 300) times that Logos is used in the Greek New Testament, only four or five does it imply the Christological meaning associated to it and found in John 1.1. Rhema, however, is found 73 three times in the Greek text used by the KJV. Rhema is an utterance much like it’s phonetic cousin in Hebrew; by implication a matter or ‘topic’ (esp. of narration, command or dispute). It is derived from the primary verb Rheo (ρηω) to flow or run , as water; and the suffix ma(μα) , a finite dispensation or portion (eg. “charis”, grace ; but “charisma”, a portion of grace, (spiritual) gift, etc. (From Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).

In Mark 7.13, logos is used to refer to the commands of Moses, found in the Law, concerning parents. Again, this is the commands from God, first verbal, then written, but distinctively, this is found to mean the Torah while in Luke 3.2, rhema is used to denote a prophecy given through the Spirit. Luke 4.4 uses the Greek grapho to describe the written but uses rhema to describe what comes from God. (Note gramma – writings, 2nd Timothy 3.15-16 is a form of grapho). In Luke 5.1, logos is used for the word of God that Christ was going to teach the people. Luke uses the word to mean the doctrine from God. Again, this is not the written words, but teachings directly from God. Luke’s use of this phrase (logos tou theou) and meaning is exhibited more clearly in Luke 8.4-15, the Parable of the Sower. The word of God is the gospel of Christ, the words which are heard and planted in the heart.

Robertson says of the this phrase in Luke,

The seed is the word of God (ho sporos estin ho logos tou theou). The article with both subject and predicate as here means that they are interchangeable and can be turned round: The word of God is the seed. The phrase “the word of God” does not appear in Matthew and only once in Mark (Mark 7:13) and John (John 10:35), but four times in Luke (Luke 5:1; Luke 8:11, Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28) and twelve times in Acts. In Mark 4:14 we have only “the word.” In Mark 3:31 we have “the will of God,” and in Matthew 12:46 “the will of my Father” where Luke 8:21 has “the word of God.” This seems to show that Luke has the subjective genitive here and means the word that comes from God.

In Luke 11.28, Christ calls those that hear the word of God blessed if they keep it. Notice the ‘it’, and not the ‘he’. This is important later when dealing with the unlearned who insists on calling the Bible God in written form, which is a blasphemy and a damnable heresy.

Note John 10.35,

If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

John, who applies logos to Christ (not in this case), speaks of the prophecy found written in the Psalms, first delivered from God, calling utterance the ‘word of God’ but the written words, he calls ‘scripture’ or grapho in the Greek. If one will cease from twisting this verse, and take it in light of the entire passage, one would easily see that Christ is speaking about the word(s) of God, or utterances of God, contained in Scripture.

Returning to the Lucan usage of logos, we find that he uses the phrase to denote the Gospel in Acts – 4:31; 6:2; 6:7; 8:14; 11:1; 12:24; 13:5; 13:7; 13:44; 13:46; 17:13; 18:11; 19:20. Logically speaking, if the Bible was the Word of God, then somehow, the Gentiles received the Bible long before it was finished being written. The Pauline usage does not differ from Luke; neither does the usage of the writer of Hebrews, or the Apostles who wrote the general Epistles. The Word of God, especially for the Church, was the command of God, and perhaps even (rhema) the sword of the spirit.

Before we leave this, note the Gospels,

Matthew 26:75 And Peter remembered the word (rhema) of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Mark 14:72 And Peter called to mind the word ( rhema) that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Luke 22:61 And Peter remembered the word (logos) of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

And again, Paul and the writer of Hebrews,

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word (logos) of God quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It could be that logos and rhema have no real difference, but in the minds of commentators; but one thing is for sure, it does not refer to a specific collection of writings which we now call the ‘Bible.’

What does the Bible call itself?

We know that the Bible does not call itself ‘bible’, nor the Word of God, so what exactly is the proper term? As hinted above, Christ and His Apostles referred to the written works of God as Scriptures.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.  (2 Timothy 3:15-17 KJVA)

‘Scriptures’ v15 is the Greek γραμματα, gramma, while in verse 16 it is γραφη, grapho. While gramma is used 15 times and translated only once as ‘scriptures’, grapho is used 51 times, translated as ‘scripture(s)’. Paul uses gramma, however, six times while referring to the written Old Testament – Romans 2:27-29; 7:6; 2nd Corinthians 3:6, and Galatians 6:11.  Christ uses gramma one time to refer to Moses’ ‘writings’ in John 5.47.

Peter (2nd Peter 1.20) seems to separate, as was done by Christ in John 10.35, segments of Scripture from Scripture in that Scripture is made up of various passages, books, words, and prophecies.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

It is clear that although the Bible contains the words of God, it is not called the word of God, but Scripture.

Is the Bible the ‘written form of God’?

Some fundamentalists, usually in defense of the King James Only position, forsaking all logic, Scripture, and sanity, will mutter that the Bible (KJV) is the written form of God, basing their heretical theology on John 1.1 and 1.14, wherein we learn that Christ, the Logos of God, was made flesh. To take their (lack of) reasoning is to laugh in the face of John, the Apostles, and perhaps even God. This is not to condemn all KJVO proponents as heretics of the faith, but one must be careful of any thing being made into a doctrine – as one false doctrine acts as a cancer that eats away at sound doctrine.

First, we are commanded to make no graven image of God, yet there are countless bibles made every day – if the bible is the written form of God, then we are all heretics and worthy of eternal damnation. Instead, we know that the Logos, in describing Christ, as used by John, refers to the Rationale of God, His reasoning, God active. Of the over 300 times the logos is used in the Greek New Testament, only four or five times can we apply any theological meaning. As a matter of fact, John’s prologue is one of the very few instances in the New Testament were Logos has any theological implications. It is used nearly 330 times in the Greek NT, but only in Johannine Literature (his Gospel, 1st John, and the Apocalypse) does it carry, or seem to carry, deep theological or at least metaphysical implications. Only in the light of Hellenistic thought, tempered by Second Temple Judaism, magnified by the Septuagint, can we understand John’s use of Logos has applied to Christ.

It would be wise for anyone basing their doctrine of the Godhead on the Logos as found in John not to misuse the word, and to properly understand the difference between the Logos as applied to Christ as the many other ways of translating logos.

Is the Bible the ‘body of Christ’?

The logical outcome of the Bible-made-Flesh theology as soundly dismissed above is that the Bible is the Body of Christ. Although common sense would again dictate that this is not so – not just common sense, but anyone with a half-wit of theology under them should be able to see through this rather shallow and heretical argument – let us examine the ‘body of Christ’.

Only four times in Scripture is the phrase ‘body of Christ’ found.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:4 KJVA)

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16 KJVA)

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27 KJVA)

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:12 KJVA)

In Romans, the body of Christ is the glorious victory upon the Cross – the sacrifice. In 1st Corinthians 10, the body of Christ is, of course, a spiritual participation in the sacrifice of Christ which is symbolized by the bread. In both 1st Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the body of Christ is the Church. At no time in Scripture, which we claim to hold to – adding nothing, taking nothing – do we find the ridiculous idea that the body of Christ is a book. One would be wise to retract any such blasphemous, idolatrous statements if such have been made that reflect the above.

Clarity

There is nothing said here to prohibit calling the Bible the word of God, the word of the Lord, or the bible. The issue remains, however, in confusing the word of God with the Word of God. Let nothing I said be confused with denying that all parts of the Scriptures, even the most mundane,  stands as anything less than inerrant. Every word originally inked onto a page has come from God.

Stephen W. Paine in the Winter 1966 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. The title is “Maintaining the Witness to Inerrancy,” p. 27, writes,

 

Endeavoring to discover some pattern in these statements concerning the Bible, we note that there are two kinds of affirmation whose intent is reasonably clear. At the one hand there is that group which seems on any reasonable interpretation to be saying that the Scriptures were divinely and uniquely kept free from error and that they themselves constitute the Word of God written. The terms used by the declarations in this group include such qualifications as the following: “Free from error as originally given”; “wholly with out admixture of error of any kind”; “inerrant in the original writings”; “infallibly written”; “the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God” (the NAE statement); “the verbal inspiration of the Bible”. Seventeen of the statements seem clearly to belong in this group.

At the other end of the spectrum (excluding the two or three colleges who make no reference to the Scriptures in their platform) are those formulations which seem to be trying to say that the Holy Scriptures contain the word of God or the will of God or enough of God’s word and will to be sufficient for our salvation. There are just two which fall at once in this group. One of these declares faith in “the inspired Word of God as expressed in the Bible”; the other declares that the Bible is “a sufficient guide for man’s salvation”.

The idea that the bible contains the words of God is not a slight against inerrancy, but the simple truth that it contains passages of inspired history, prophecy, and commands directly from the mouth of the Lord God Himself, yet, it is not the single word of God or the Word of God.

Rather, let me clarify this way – Tradition allows us to say that the bible is the word of God because it is a defense against those that say that some of the Scriptures are perhaps uninspired or out dated; yet, we must not confuse the word of God which is the Bible, with the Logos (Word) of God which is Christ. To say that the bible is the ‘written form of God’ is idolatry, heretical, and blasphemous; to say that the ‘bible is the body of Christ’ is a direct result of the aforementioned heresy, showing a remarkable deficit of scriptural learning.

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