The ‘Word of God’: is it a Greek or a Hebrew concept?

The “Word” of God
The “Word” of God
Some modern skeptics want to say that the New Testament is suffused with concepts of paganism and Gnosticism.

Look at John 1:1-2:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

The Greek word for “Word” is “λόγος” or logos. Regarding this, one commenter wrote to me:

The word “logos” is in Greek without a corresponding Hebrew word.

While his statement may be true, there are other factors involved.

In an article entitled The ‘λόγος of God’: a Hebrew Concept Packed into a Greek Word, I cited several New Testament commentators. Here is what D.A. Carson said:

[in the Old Testament], ‘the Word’ (Hebrew: dabar) of God is connected with God’s powerful activity in creation (cf. Gen 1:3ff; Ps 33:6), revelation (Jer 1:4; Is 9:8; Ezk 33:7; Amos 3:1, 8) and deliverance (Ps 107:20; Is. 55:1). If the Lord (Yahweh) is said to speak to the prophet Isaiah (e.g. Is 7:3), elsewhere we read that ‘the word of the Lord came to Isaiah (Is 38:4; cf. Jer 1:4; Ezk 1:6). It was by ‘the word of the Lord’ that the heavens were made (Ps 33:6); in Gen 1:3, 6, 9, etc., God simply speaks and his powerful word creates. That same word effects deliverance and judgment (Is 55:11; cf Ps 29:3ff).

In short, God’s “Word” in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and salvation, and the personification of that ‘Word’ makes it suitable for John to apply it as a title to God’s ultimate self-disclosure, the person of his own Son. But if the expression would prove richest for Jewish readers, it would also resonate in the minds of some readers with entirely pagan backgrounds. In their case, however, they would soon discover that whatever they had understood the term to mean in the past, the author [the Apostle John] was forcing them into fresh thought (see on v. 14: there Carson discusses and unpacks this comment: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”).

Another writer, T.F. Torrance, has found this same way of treating a Greek word in the letters of Paul:

Part 1: The Greek Conceptions of Grace

Part 2: Biblical Conceptions of Grace

In short:

Grace in the New Testament is the basic and most characteristic element of the Christian Gospel, It is the breaking into the world of the ineffable love of God in a deed of absolutely decisive significance which cuts across the whole of human life and sets it on a new basis. That is actualized in the person of Jesus Christ, with which grace is inseparably associated, and supremely exhibited on the Cross by which the believer is once and for all put right with God. This intervention of God in the world and its sin, out of sheer love, and His personal presence to men through Jesus Christ are held together in the one thought of grace

Paul, too, packs the Greek concept of “grace” full of Christian meaning. “Paul never speaks of grace, except as grounded in the self-giving of God in the person and death of Jesus”.

The New Testament writers, concerned to communicate the Gospel to a pagan audience, didn’t hesitate to use terms their readers would understand, but they filled them with Old Testament meaning.

Published by John Bugay

"We are His workmanship," His poiema, His "poetry." If you've ever studied poetry, or struggled to write a poem, you understand the care God takes to "work all things together for good" in our lives. For this reason, and many others, I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I have seen His hand working in my life, and I submit myself to His merciful will, with all my being.

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