Word

Word (Greek dābhār, Greek Logos). The Bible contains much that is literally the word of, and from, the Lord—and so it is called “the Word of the Lord.” That expression occurs hundreds of times in the Old Testament and usually denotes the prophetic word (word from God through the mouth of the prophet); however, it also can refer to the law of God (Ps.147.19ff.) and to the creative activity of God, who speaks and causes to be (Gen.1.1-Gen.1.31; Ps.33.6-Ps.33.9). In the case of the Prophet it is never that the prophet chooses to speak a word, but rather that the word from God takes the prophet into its service so that he becomes a mouthpiece for God (Isa.6.1-Isa.6.13; Jer.1.4-Jer.1.10; Ezek.1.1-Ezek.1.28). And, once uttered, God’s word does not return to him empty but accomplishes what he purposes (Isa.55.11). Thus the word of God is the fundamental aspect of God’s self-revelation, for by his word he makes known who he is, what he is like, and what his will is for the world.


Jesus himself did not speak like an Old Testament prophet. He said, “I say unto you,” not “The Lord says to you” (see Matt.5.1-Matt.5.48-Matt.7.1-Matt.7.29). The words of Jesus are the words of the heavenly Father, and so to receive and accept them is to receive eternal salvation (John.5.24; John.8.51; John.12.48; John.14.24). But not only is the word spoken by Jesus truly the word from heaven—he himself is the true Word who has come to earth from heaven (John.1.1-John.1.14). As the Word (Logos) he is the preexistent Word (Son) who exists eternally and so existed before he became the Incarnate Word, when he was rejected by the world he had made. But as Incarnate Word, truly sharing our human nature and flesh, he achieved the redemption of the world through his life, death, and resurrection.

The reason why John chose to call the eternal Son by the title Logos has caused much research. It is generally assumed that there is a Greek background (logos was a prominent concept in metaphysical philosophy) and a Hebrew background (for the word of God is virtually personified in parts of the Old Testament—e.g., Prov.8.1-Prov.8.36). Thus this title of Jesus appealed to both Jew and Greek.

Additional Material

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

wurd: The commonest term in the Old Testament for "word" is dabhar (also "matter" "thing"); in the New Testament logos ("reason," "discourse," "speech"); but also frequently rhema. Rhema is a "word" in itself considered; logos is a spoken word, with reference generally to that which is in the speaker’s mind. Some of the chief applications of the terms may thus be exhibited:

(1) We have the word of Yahweh (or God; see below)

(a) as the revelation to the patriarch, prophet, or inspired person (Ge 15:1; Ex 20:1; Nu 22:38, etc.);

(b) as spoken forth by the prophet (Ex 4:30; 34:1; 2Ki 7:1; Isa 1:10, etc.).

(2) The word is often a commandment, sometimes equivalent to "the Law" (Ex 32:28; Nu 20:24; De 6:6; Ps 105:8; 119:11,17; Isa 66:2, etc.).

(3) As a promise and ground of hope (Ps 119:25,28,38, etc.; 130:5, etc.).

(4) As creative, upholding, and preserving (Ps 33:6; compare Ge 1:3; Ps 147:15,18; Heb 1:3; 11:3; 2Pe 3:5,7).

(5) As personified (in Apocrypha, The Wisdom of Solomon 18:15; Ecclesiasticus 1:5, the Revised Version margin "omitted by the best authorities").

(6) As personal (Joh 1:1). Logos in Philo and Greek-Jewish philosophy meant both reason or thought and its utterance, "the whole contents of the divine world of thought resting in the Nous of God, synonymous with the inner life of God Himself and corresponding to the logos endiathetos of the human soul; on the other hand, it is the externalizing of this as revelation corresponding to the logos prophorikos in which man’s thought finds expression (Schultz). Compare also the references to Creation by "the word of God" and its personifications; see nodetitle; incarnated in Jesus Christ (Joh 1:14; 1; Joh 1:1,2; Re 19:13, "His name is called, The Word of God," Ho Logos tou Theou). See Person of Christ.

(7) Cannot be broken, endureth forever (2Ki 10:10; Ps 119:89; Isa 40:8, etc.).


(9) "Words" are distinguished from "power" (1Co 4:20; 1Th 1:5); are contrasted with "deed" (Mal 2:17; 1Co 4:20; 1; Joh 3:18). (10) Paul refers to "unspeakable words" (arrheta rhemata) which he heard in Paradise (2Co 12:4), and to "words (logoi) .... which the Spirit teacheth" (1Co 2:13).


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Bibliography

  • H. Ringgren, Word and Wisdom, 1947;
  • R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 519ff.;
  • D. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 1981, pp. 321ff.