Don’t mix up “Word of God” and “Bible”

Christians should avoid referring to the Bible as the Word of God. Among Christians, the expression Word of God should refer either to Jesus Christ or to his message, the Good News, but not to the Bible.

The Word of God is far more than the Bible. Like a love story is not the same as love, the Bible is not the same as the Word of God. The Bible reports about the Word of God in human language. The Word of God is bigger and more complex than any human culture can grasp. It cannot be formulated in human language as a collection of texts.

Don’t mix up the photograph of a cat with the cat. The Bible is a snapshot of the Good News. People who believe in the Bible can criticize and even kill each other because of their differing interpretations. This shows that the Bible is only an image of the truth and not the full truth. You may read the Bible thoroughly and still miss the Good News. You may live in the light of the Good News without having read the Bible thoroughly.

Consider that John 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh, not it was made book. And 2 Cor 3:6 says “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The confusion of both terms has deep roots. The Old Testament often uses Word of God when referring to the Holy Scripture because the Jewish faith considered the Holy Scripture as the primary medium used by God when talking to his people.

This old vocabulary problem is still an issue in 2020 because many traditional liturgical formulas cite the Old Testament and therefore mix up both concepts. For example a lecturer might conclude a Bible reading with words like “Praise be to the word of God” (“Acclamons la Parole de Dieu” or “Wort des Lebendigen Gottes” or “See on Jumala Sõna”).

Confusing both concepts can lead to Bible idolatry.

God’s plan

The assumed divine plan God has for humanity and the whole Universe.

Will of God

Something God wants to happen as part of his divine plan.

Word of God

(1) The assumed immutable eternal message revealed by God to all humans through Jesus Christ.

(2) A divine message perceived by a particular human. (As in “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah”, Jonah 1:1)

  1. In Jewish tradition, a synonym for their Holy Scripture.