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

Christians should avoid saying Word of God when they actually mean the Bible or the Holy Scripture.

For Christians the expression Word of God should refer either to Jesus Christ or to his message, the Good News, but not to the Bible. Confusing both concepts can lead to biblicism.

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. Don’t mix up the photograph of a cat with the cat. The Bible is a snapshot of the Good News, a historic document that reports about the Word of God in human language. The Bible is more than a book because it is the product of many cultures and generations of humans. That’s why the Bible deserves being referred to as a Holy Scripture. But the Word of God is even more than the Bible. It cannot be formulated as a collection of texts in human language. We can hear it, but we cannot grasp nor reproduce it.

People who believe in the Bible as a clear and authoritative law book 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 ever having read the Bible.

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 did not make a difference.

This old vocabulary problem is still an issue today 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”). Modern Christian congregations avoid such formulations when possible.

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.

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

Note expressions like “the word of the Lord came to Jonah” (Jonah 1:1), which rather describe a divine inspiration, i.e. a concrete divine message perceived as such by a particular human.