One of the most common, and most vehement, arguments in which I find myself with other people who call themselves “Christian” regards the Bible as the “Word of God”. This post will demonstrate why that belief is both untrue and unjustified. Although I am an Aramaic primacist, as much as possible I shall use Greek references in this text so as to avoid confusion for the Literalists, who are (almost certainly) without exception Greek primacists.
First, quite simply, the Bible is not a word. “The” is a word. “Bible” is a word. By definition, “The Bible” is a BOOK (it’s Greek); however in this case it is not just “one book”, nor even a single anthology of books, but a collection of anthologies. The first anthology is the Torah, or “The Law” (by tradition, authored by Moses); the first five books of the TaNaKh (the Hebrew Bible, called by Christians “the Old Testament”). Then there are the Nevi’im, or “Prophets”; generally self-titled by their authors. Next there are the Ketuvim, or “Writings”, a miscellany of Hebrew treatises. Finally, there is the Peshitta, or “Direct Transmission”, which the Christians call the “New Testament”. So the Bible is, in fact, many many words.
Second, it is one thing to say that the Bible is divinely-inspired. There is even a Semitic idiom, “written with the Hand of God”, which means “perfectly executed”–which could be used to describe the Bible. But to say that the Bible is the Word of God is to deny the free will, the humanity, of the authors–and therefore to deny the very basis of Christianity, which requires free will for salvation.
Third, “Word of God” is a very poor translation. The Greek words involved here are “λόγος του θεού” (“Logos tou Theou”). While “tou Theou” certainly means “of God”, “Logos” does not mean “word” in the sense that this argument intends. That term is λέξη (“Leksis”). One may see this in modern English: Biology (“bios logos”) is not the “word of life”; it is the “logic of life”. Psychology is not the “word of the mind”, but the “logic of the mind”. Hell, “logic” does not mean “words”!
Let me finish by illustrating the point through a simple word-substitution; the Literalist reader may then perform this same exercise with any use of the term “Word of God” in the Bible. From the NSRV:
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Now, let us make a substitution:
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the (Unit of Language), and the (Unit of Language) was with God, and the (Unit of Language) was God.”
Now, let us make a second substitution:
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the (Reason/Logic), and the (Reason/Logic) was with God, and the (Reason/Logic) was God.”
God did not bring forth the universe by speaking some unit of language into the formlessness and void, which no one else would have heard–nor, certainly, did He do this by tossing about an anthology which was not compiled until about 170 A.D. God brought forth the world by imposing reason and logic on the primal chaos. In fact, God is the reason and logic of the universe.