Posted by: Veroni Kruger | September 28, 2010

In English this time, because it was requested: IS the Bible the Word of God?

THE WORD OF GOD AND THE BIBLE

Because of God’s otherness and his uniqueness, it is impossible to comprehensively represent his attributes and deeds in human language. On the other hand, language and the ability to use language is a distinguishing characteristic of man, one of the characteristics that are most closely related to the ability to think. The ability to think, in turn, is probably one of the most important aspects in which we have been created “in the image of God.” It follows that it is possible to describe in human language anything that has to do with God, as closely as we can come to understanding it. What must always be borne in mind, is that we are trying to approach that which is not definable and impossible to be circumscribed, through means that are definable and circumscribed.

The Word of God is what God says. “Says” in the sense of expressing what is in the mind of God. This may be referring to speaking as communication, such as when the book of Hebrews says that God spoke in many ways, and ultimately also through his Son. John even calls the Son the Word of God. This means that God spoke through Christ.

It also means “says” as when God brought creation into being. God created the universe by his Word, that is, by speaking. His speaking in this case was simultaneously also an act, by which creation came into being.

It is impossible to record what God has said and is still saying in the same manner that one can record other sounds. It is inconceivable that even the most powerful recording equipment in the world would be able to record God speaking. This is the reason why God “recorded” his speaking through other means.

One of the consequences of the image of God in humans, and the resultant similarities between God and human beings, is the ability of humans to be receptors of what God speaks. By means of the communication that takes place between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man, it is possible for people to “hear” God when He “speaks”. Different people receive what God is saying in different ways, according to their own dispositions. E.g. the person whose mode of expression is mostly verbal, will generally “receive” what God is saying as words or sentences, even single phrases. People whose mode of expression tends to be more visual, e.g. artists, may “hear” God through visual patterns, such as visions, etc.

Word of God is part of the revelation of God. It is described as such to distinguish it from other modes of revelation by God that do not include the act of speaking. Psalm 19 begins by describing the revelation of God through nature, progressing to the revelation of God that takes place through the spoken word.

The Bible is often called the Word of God, because it contains the revelation of God, written down in the form of language. Nevertheless, the Bible cannot really be considered to be the Word of God, because the Word of God is everything that God has ever said, and the Bible cannot contain that. John himself says of Jesus that all the books in the world could not contain everything that Jesus did and said in the short period of the three years He spent on the earth. How much more impossible would it be to capture everything God has ever said in one book.

The process by which the Bible came to us, also makes it impossible to equate it with the Word of God as He has spoken it. People wrote down what is contained in the Bible, and this implies of necessity that there will be “errors” in the Bible. The process of transmission contributes further to its not being as pure as when God himself speaks. (Note that this does not in any way question the belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.)

The Bible contains matters pertaining to the Word of God as God said it. It also contains the description of the reaction of humans to what God said; God’s dealings with people; and how people handled circumstances of life according to what God said, or not according to what He said. The Word of God in the Bible is particularly in the foreground in the description of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus. However, apart from the Word of God, the Bible also contains historic facts. This begins with the Biblical account of creation and the early history of mankind (to the extent that it is relevant to the message the Bible actually wants to convey). It covers the history of the people of Israel, both as God’s people and as an ordinary political and national entity. The history of the nations surrounding Israel is touched upon, and the history of the early church receives a lot of attention. The theologizing in the letters of the apostles is to a large extent an effort on their part to systematize and put in perspective aspects of what they perceive God to have said.

What then, is the relationship between the Word of God and the Bible? The Bible contains those parts of the Word of God that God knows are necessary for human beings to live in this world, and to prepare for eternity. Someone said “Jesus comes to me out of the pages of the Bible.” We get to know Jesus – as the perfect revelation of the Word of God in earthly terms – in the Bible

God has never stopped speaking. He still speaks to people today from the Bible. That is what people experience when they say that a portion of Scripture suddenly “came alive” for them. The Bible also plays a role in the contemporary speaking of God, in that it prepares one to hear from God. By hearing about Him through the Bible, one learns the truth that he speaks, and that He still wants to speak. One also learns something of the mind of God, so that one is prepared to “hear” when He speaks to you. Because the Bible contains such a vast part of the revelation of God, it also serves as objective norm, enabling one to evaluate what one believes one has heard from God. This enables one to determine whether God could really have said what you believe you have heard Him say.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the English translation, Veroni.

  2. I appreciate hearing your insights into such a great subject as the Word and Voice of God. I have been pondering the unique role of the written word especially in comparison to personal revelation of the Spirit to the believer and your comments are very relevant to that subject also.

    There is something objective, as you say, about the written Word.

    However, I have to say that theologians greatly overstate the certainty of the basis of many of our doctrines (well, maybe you and I don’t 🙂 ) and so I wonder if the written Word is as objective as we might wish. My evidence is the great number of interpretations there are of almost any passage of scripture. Now many of those differences can be traced to biases, poor Bible study methodology, even unbelief, etc., but highly trained, biblically orthodox scholars still read many passages differently. What does that say about objectivity in the written Word? I wonder sometimes if most of the issues we argue about aren’t things that God has left deliberately unclear, or perhaps to be discovered another way than deduction/induction, especially via our unfolding relationship with Him. I like the thought of that because it makes the relationship the point (vs. Bible knowledge), and it makes theology interesting again. There are still discoveries to be made in the plans and ways of God!

    One important feature of that objectivity that occurs to me though, is that human beings whose spiritual senses are still dead, or perhaps undeveloped, are able to hear God speak to them via the revelation that God gave _to someone else who was able to hear_! So the person who is otherwise in total darkness has a starting point for his own relationship with God. Not strictly necessary I suppose, since God could personally speak a word of invitation to each and every person, but the objectivity of the written word gives that person a more tangible expression than say, a voice or a dream. I would call that the kindness of God, who desires that none should perish!


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