Why is our Bible sometimes referred to as the “Word of God?” As a Protestant, I became used to using that term to refer to the text of the Sacred Scriptures. But the Bible I take from my shelf, hold in my hands, and read — in what sense is the text itself the Word of God?
Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro says that for Islam, the Quran is the Word of God as a book, while for Christians, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The Word made text of Islam existed from eternity with God, but is separate from God. By contrast, Christianity says the Word made flesh was from eternity with God, and was God. Within the Godhead are three persons in eternal and interpersonal communion, which communion the Word made flesh shares with us. (Byantoro 2008, (podcast)) As evidence of the Christian view, John’s gospel is quite clear: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Joh 1:1, 14).
While there are some places in the New Testament where it could be interpreted that the phrase “Word of God” refers to the inspired text, it is clear from the context, and from the other places where the phrase is used, that “Word of God” includes the content contained within the text, but not the text itself.
This can be illustrated most clearly in the book of Hebrews. We read in chapter 11, the “roll call of faith”: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3). It is clear that in this passage, Word of God is a reference to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for as the apostle John wrote: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Joh 1:3).
Given that Hebrews uses the phrase “Word of God” to refer to the Christ, the Son of God, what do we make of the following passage, also from Hebrews, one which is often interpreted as referring to the Bible:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:12-13).
If you stop with verse 12, then considering the “Word of God” to be scripture is reasonable. Once you move on to verse 13, which continues the thought, it is clear the author is not talking about a book, but a person, before whom all creatures are made manifest, and before whom all things are naked and open. Indeed, the author goes on to say this person is he “with whom we have to do.” Thus, this passage is obviously a reference to Jesus Christ, revealed by the Holy Spirit. This revelation could be through the pages of Sacred Scripture, yet it is clear that it is the person of Jesus Christ who is the “Word of God”, not the actual peculiar combination of marks on paper.
Byantoro, Daniel. “Christ the Word Become Flesh.” Christ the Eternal Kalimat. Ancient Faith Radio, August 30, 2008.