The Word of God



The Word was God Identity
Philo Judaeus Creation
Anomalies Life-Giver
Lamp Unto My Feet Interaction
Theophanic Angel God's Reason
God's Wisdom

The Word Was God

John teaches that the Word was in the beginning, that the Word is eternal God:



  • “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 any thing made that was made.
  • “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
  • “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . .
  • “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
  • “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
  • (John 1:1-11).



One might think this very clear statement of the eternal deity of the Word would put an end to debate about the eternal deity of the Word. But anyone who so thought would be naive, because human ingenuity will not let the matter rest where God leaves it. Anti-trinitarians who deny the eternity of 'the Son' devote considerable effort to devising a definition of 'the Word' which softens and domesticates John's emphatic statement. Groups which lean toward the understanding that the Word was a 'plan' or 'conception' in the mind of God include classical Unitarians and 'Oneness' Pentecostals. But is it possible that 'the Word' is a 'plan' in the mind of God that someday He would create a Son?

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Identity

Is the Word no more than a plan or a thought? Not very likely; the Word is Jesus Christ, the Son:



  • “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
  • (Revelation 19:11-13)



The word is not an abstraction but a person, not something but someone. It is the Word who was made flesh in the incarnation: "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." (John 1:14). In the Bible, the Word of God has long been revealed as more than a beating of the air. The Word is sent: "He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions." (Psalm 107:20).

The Word created: "By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth...For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." (Psalm 33:6-9).

The Word is eternal: "The voice said, 'Cry out!' And he said, 'What shall I cry?' 'All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.'" (Isaiah 40:6-8); "Forever, O LORD, your word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89). Sometimes the word of God refers to God's revelation to mankind, the Bible. But the word who lives and abides forever is not God's written revelation, which unfolds in time, but the revelator: "...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever..." (1 Peter 1:23).

The Word is powerful: "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11);

"'Is not My word like a fire?' says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?'" (Jeremiah 23:29).



  • “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.”
  • (Hebrews 4:12-13).


Parable of the Sower, John Everett Millais


His character is upright and righteous: "For the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth." (Psalm 33:4).

If it seems odd to be calling "the Word" 'he', extra-Biblical literature had been portraying Him as a Person for some time, even prior to His incarnation: "For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth." (Wisdom 18:14-16).

For all these things, the Word deserves praise: "In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me." (Psalm 56:4).

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Philo Judaeus

Philo Judaeus was a non-Christian Jewish author of the first century A.D. Some people say that the trinity is a New Testament doctrine; even amongst those who affirm the doctrine, there are some who say this teaching cannot be found in the Old Testament. Philo was a Jewish resident of Alexandria, Egypt, whose only Bible was the Old Testament, with special emphasis on the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. These people need to explain why he knows more about the 'word of God' than they do! For a sample of literature that tracks with the Bible description of 'the Word,' see:


The Logos 
Shepherd Fountain
Rock of Israel Manna
Discerner Angel
Priest Creator
Image Light
Lord and God Beginning
Firstborn Son



Because several nineteenth-century German writers sought to make Philo into a source for the New Testament, there is a certain 'guilt-by-association' rap that besmirches his reputation in some circles. This is genuinely unfair. These same 'higher critics' sought to make everything under the sun into a source for Christianity, including phenomena like Mithraism which in their familiar form post-date the day of Pentecost; these critics, as a rule, had been raised as Christians, wanted freedom from that light yoke, and thought the quickest way of obtaining it was to describe Christianity as derivative. This assessment would whittle it down to size according to their own cultural norms, which assigned a positive value to what was original, a negative value to what was derivative. Philo is not to blame for the bad use made of his writings. Moreover, people today deride his 'allegorical method' of scriptural interpretation for its absurd results. This is fair enough but these readers should not overlook what he got right; it may be he knows a thing or two they do not know.

Philo assiduously cataloged characteristics of the Word, like swiftness. "But the divine Teacher is swifter even than time, for not even when He created the Universe did time co-operate with Him, since time itself only came into being with the world.  . .so the word of the Uncreated outruns the word of the created, though that ride with all speed upon the clouds. Therefore it is that He does not hesitate to say, 'now thou shalt see if my word shall overtake thee or not ' (Numb. xi. 23), implying that the divine word has outrun and overtaken all things." (Philo Judaeus, Sacrifices of Cain and Abel, Chapter XVIII, pp. 143-145 Loeb edition). Some of these are trivial, but in some cases he is onto something. He did not get this information from pagan philosophy, he compiled these references from God's word.

Philo's teaching was not altogether novel; study of the Word of God has a long background. The Targums, or Aramaic paraphrases of scripture which came into use after Hebrew ceased to be the living language of daily conversation, often use the phrase 'Memra,' i.e. word, of God:

"But in the Targumim we get yet another expression, which, strange to say, never occurs in the Talmud. It is that of the Memra, Logos, or Word. Not that the term is exclusively applied to the Divine Logos. But it stands out as perhaps the most remarkable fact in this literature, that God — not as in His permanent manifestation, or manifest Presence — but as revealing Himself, is designated Memra. Altogether that term, as applied to God, occurs in the Targum Onkelos 179 times, in the so-called Jerusalem Targum 99 times, and in the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 321 times." (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book I, Chapter IV, Kindle location 1229).

These interpreters are trying to elucidate an idea that is found in scripture; they are not creating something, but discovering something, and we should join them in their explorations.

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Creation

God spoke the worlds into being:

The First PageThe Last Page

Some people are under the impression the idea that God created by His Word is pagan in origin. They then proceed to prove this by quoting works which post-date Moses' writing of Genesis. That God spoke the worlds into being is apparent from the opening pages of the Bible: "And God said, Let there be. . ." Taking things in their proper order, it is clear where Philo got his concept of the Word: from the Bible. The New Testament also portrays the creative word: "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." (Hebrews 11:3).

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Anomalies

What exactly is it about the Biblical 'word' that convinces readers they are reading about a person, not a message? The Bible talks about the 'Word of the Lord' in a way that would be peculiar if we thought of the 'Word of the Lord' as a Western Union telegram sent by God to man. He comes and goes, stays and leaves, asks and answers: "After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.'" (Genesis 15:1).

"Then the LORD appeared again in Shiloh.  For the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD." (1 Samuel 3:21).

"For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them." (2 Samuel 7:21).

"And Jehoshaphat said, 'The word of the LORD is with him.' So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him." (2 Kings 3:12).

"Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'Jeremiah, what do you see?' And I said, 'I see a branch of an almond tree.'" (Jeremiah 1:11).

It's inadvisable to cross Him: "Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." (Numbers 15:31).

"I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." (Isaiah 45:23).

"Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah." (2 Kings 10:10).

One can ask Him a question, and He speaks in return: "And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day." (2 Chronicles 18:4).

He tries His people: "Until the time that his word [dabar] came: the word [imrah] of the LORD tried him." (Psalm 105:19).

He is the speech and the speaker: "For I have been told by the word of the LORD, 'You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.'" (1 Kings 13:17).

"And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the LORD against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him." (1 Kings 16:7).

"And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.' Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.'" (1 Kings 17:1-3).

"Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.'" (1 Kings 17:8-9).

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Life-Giver

The word gives life: "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word [imrah, LXX logos] hath quickened me. [το λογιον σου εζησεν με]" (Psalm 119:50). It was not a new discovery of the New Testament era that "In him was life" (John 1:4).

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Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet

In the Bible, the 'word of God' is two things: He who created all things, and God's revelation. These two are not unrelated, but are two aspects of a whole; revealing God's will is the Word's work and self-revelation:

"The Word (John 1:1): This term even more vividly shows that our Lord Jesus is the complete revelation of God. The Word is that by which God expresses what He is. It is not that our Lord bears the revelation of God, but that, far more, He is Himself that very revelation. . .Christ is the living Word. Tauler, in the Middle Ages, put it enigmatically when he said: 'God hath spoken but one Word, and that Word is still unspoken.' All God's message is forever comprehended in Christ, so that all we can ever know, or need to know, is in Him. As all this is given in a living person, the message is always a present one." (H. C. Hewlett, The Glories of Our Lord, pp. 39-40).

These are not so much two different things which confusingly share the same name, the 'Word,' but the same eternal Son of God revealing Himself in a way which is progressively more personal, open and complete: "The Word that is written makes known Christ the living Word. . .The spiritually-minded hymnist Joseph Hart brings the two Words together in the verse

"'The Scriptures and the Word
Bear one tremendous name,
The Living and the Written Word
In all things are the same.'" (All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer, p. 26).

"The Inspired Word and the Eternal Word are forever inseparable. The Bible is Christ portrayed; Christ is the Bible fulfilled. One is the Picture, the other is the Person, but the features are the same and proclaim their authority." (All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible, by Herbert Lockyer, p. 344).

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Interaction

The Word speaks on His own account, and also speaks objectively about "the LORD": "And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' So he said, 'I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.'  Then He said, 'Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.' And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:9-12).

The word of God is powerful and real, not a 'plan' or 'concept': "He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly.  He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel." (Psalm 147:15-19); "Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word..." (Psalm 148:8).

The Word of God created all that is in the world: "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3).  The Creator is God; so how can He be a mere 'thought' or 'plan'?  Is God a 'thought'?

"In truth, the Divine Logos is God reflected in His own eternal thought; in the Logos God is His own object...The Logos is the thought of God, not intermittent and precarious like human thought, but subsisting with the intensity of a personal form. The very expression seems to court the argument of Athenagoras, that since God could never have been alogos [mute, irrational], the Logos must have been not created but eternal." (H.P. Liddon, The Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Lecture V, Divinity in the Writings of John.)

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Theophanic Angel

Where was the Son of God seen prior to the incarnation, and how can we know it was He? Here, for instance?

"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5:13-15).

There are many angels of God, who are created beings like us. But they will not allow a man to worship them: "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10). Something is different here, because the captain of the Lord's host accepts Joshua's act of worship. For similar cases, see:

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Manoah and His Wife Gideon
Moses at the Burning Bush Definition
Sacrifice of Isaac Hagar
Jacob the Wrestler Captain of the Lord's Host
Wilderness Trek Jesus the Sent One



God's Reason

When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, the Greek word 'Logos' came into view among the people of God. No English translation can do more than snip off a small hanging thread of this New Testament word's meaning:

"λογος . . .a. the word or that by which the inward thought is expressed. . .b. the inward thought itself.
a.) a word, language, talk, saying, statement, an assertion, promise, a command, right of speech, power to speak, speech, language, a saying, tale, story, a narrative.. . .that which is stated, a proposition, position, principle. . .
b.) thought, reason, an opinion, expectation, a reason, ground, plea, account, consideration, esteem, regard, due relation, proportion, analogy. . ." (Liddell & Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon).

The English 'Word' does not have the same tie-in with 'reason' as does the Greek 'logos.' A speaker who says the world was made by the 'logos' has set up expectations of a rational order in the world not necessarily present with 'word.'

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 The Wisdom of God 



  • “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    And find out knowledge and discretion.
    The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
    Pride and arrogance and the evil way
    And the perverse mouth I hate.
    Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
    I am understanding, I have strength.
    By me kings reign,
    And rulers decree justice.
    By me princes rule, and nobles,
    All the judges of the earth.
    I love those who love me,
    And those who seek me diligently will find me...
    The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
    Before His works of old.
    I have been established from everlasting,
    From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
    When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    When there were no fountains abounding with water.
    Before the mountains were settled,
    Before the hills, I was brought forth;
    While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields,
    Or the primal dust of the world.
    When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
    When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
    When He established the clouds above,
    When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
    When He assigned to the sea its limit,
    So that the waters would not transgress His command,
    When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
    Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
    And I was daily His delight,
    Rejoicing always before Him,
    Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
    And my delight was with the sons of men.”
  • (Proverbs 8:12-31).


Is it possible that 'Lady Wisdom' of the Old Testament foreshadows Christ? Paul thought so: "For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). While she's the wrong gender, the scape-goat is the wrong species...and the scape-goat foreshadows Christ, too! Wisdom is grammatically feminine in Hebrew, and so would naturally be paired with feminine pronouns. The Old Testament sets forth the gospel of Christ in shadows and figures; the Old Testament is the New, veiled, and the New Testament is the Old, unveiled. Lady Wisdom displays many of the characteristics of Christ, including eternity:

"But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
From where then does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
(Job 28:12-27).

The equation 'wisdom of God'='logos of God' is not original to the New Testament; Philo Judaeus makes the same identification: "Let us look too at the particular words used. 'A river,' it says 'issues forth from Eden to water the garden.' 'River' is generic virtue, goodness. This issues forth out of Eden, the wisdom of God, and this is the Reason [logos] of God. . ." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, I, 65, p. 189 Loeb edition).

Compare two New Testament texts: "Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple." (Luke 11:49-51), with Matthew 23:34-35: "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar." In the one case, He attributes the quote to 'Wisdom,' in the other, quite naturally and with no special pronouncement, says 'I.' If the Lord was in the habit of delivering this saying, sometimes as a quote from the 'Wisdom of God,' and sometimes in His own voice, this would seem to testify to a self-understanding of Himself as the Wisdom of God.

There remains controversy surrounding this identification. The Jehovah's Witnesses argue that Jesus is a created being, as, they claim, is Lady Wisdom herself. Many modern Bible-readers resist the implication that, as she goes, so is He. But is she a created thing as they say? Wisdom is an essential attribute of God:





Jesus Christ is the Creator!


The identification of 'wisdom' with 'Christ,' while present in the New Testament, is telegraphic rather than explained in full. While extra-Biblical authors like Philo Judaeus have never been considered as inspired or authoritative by the church, they do help to fill in the background of this identification. Paul does not feel the need to argue or convince skeptics that 'wisdom'='Christ,' probably because this identification was already familiar and was not controversial. See, for instance the apocryphal book of Wisdom, where wisdom already shares Christ's attributes:

"For wisdom is more moving than any motion: she passeth and goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness." (Wisdom 7:24-26).

While a source like this carries no special authority, it should remove the reader's doubts that Paul understood what he was saying and meant what he said when he called Jesus "the wisdom of God." In the New Testament, we hold in our hands, among other things, an inspired commentary on the Old Testament, and it does seem that Paul wants to align Christ with the concept of 'wisdom,' as also here:

"For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:1-3).

The Holy Spirit cannot be mistaken in evaluating the original context and intended meaning. What would we expect a world to be like, which had been made in the wisdom of God?:

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