The Word and the WORD

Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” –- John 1:1 and 14 (KJV)

Jesus, John says, is the Word and in nearly every translation of this passage into the English language, translators capitalizes the word “Word” (“logos” in the Greek) out of respect to the deity. 

In Romans 10:8, we find “logos” again. Paul says, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” You will find that in most versions, translators opt for the lower-case w even though it’s the very same noun that John uses in the first chapter of his gospel.  

Jesus is the Word of God, but the word of God that we preach when we preach Jesus is not the Word of God. What we have here is a difficult but important distinction. Jesus is the Word made flesh, but he is not the Word made paper, glue, and binding or (in the case of a digital Bible) the Word made circuits, silicone, and pixels.

Throughout the scripture, we find God using mouthpieces of a seemingly endless variety. His voice can be heard in creation (Psalm 19:1), in the word of the prophets (Hosea 12:10; Hebrews 1:1), in the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 16:6), and in the warnings spoken by pack animals suddenly endued with the power of speech (Numbers 22:28).

In his book on the Reformation, Thomas Martin Lindsay talks about why we capitalize logos in John 1 but not in Romans 10: “This distinction was real and not merely formal; it was more than the difference between the Word of God and the Word of God written; and important consequences were founded upon it. . . . The Reformers uniformly teach that the substance of all Scripture is the Word of God, and that what is no part of the record of the Word of God is not Scripture. Finally, the distinction between the two need not prevent us from saying that the Scripture is the Word of God. . . . Only it must be clearly understood that the [verb] is does not express logical identity, but some such relation as can be more exactly expressed by contains, presents, conveys, records.”

The Bible is not Jesus. As Lindsay would put it, the Bible contains, conveys, presents, and records Jesus. The Word is to be found the word, especially the Red Letters, those passages in the New Testament that present the words of Christ. “To whom shall we go?” Peter says to Jesus in John 6:68, “thou hast the words of eternal life.”

It is important to that it is entirely possible to receive the Word without hearing or reading the words that Peter is talking about in this passage. That is to say, you can know God without having access to a Bible you can understand, but it is by no means easy. King David, who only had the Pentateuch said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Christians who without access to the lower-case word, must settle for the upper-case Word as related to them by His sundry interpreters. To borrow a metaphor from King David, such light is dim and by no means safe to walk by. Unfortunately, it’s how most believers get by. 

According to The Gospel Coalition, 200 million Christians do not have access to a Bible that they can read and understand, and that’s in Africa alone. Only half of Chinese Christians own a Bible they can read, not to mention the hundreds of languages that still do not have their own translation of the Scriptures. As Loren Cunningham likes to say, the church is suffering from Bible poverty, but it doesn’t have to. 

Due to recent technological advancements, it is now economically feasible to deliver the Scriptures on digital media. Not only can SD chips, thumb-drives, DVDs, and even solar-powered audio/video players, go where books cannot, but they can also meet the needs of the blind, deaf, and illiterate. Furthermore, the virality of digital media allows even a single file to be duplicated indefinitely. True, there are situations in which mobile technology is unfeasible, but even then, advances in print-on-demand publishing allow distributors to print Bibles as needed, to one believer or a thousand so that those who have in their hearts the living Word of God would not have to go through life without the written Word of God.

  1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-africa-needs-a-study-bible
  2. https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/get-involved/donate/appeals/bibles-for-new-chinese-christians/