Yup, you read that correctly. There are probably only two reactions to this statement:
- “What is this girl thinking?”
That latter, visceral reaction is why this post is so necessary. This is a topic I have been thinking about for a couple of years now, but this tweet and the well-intentioned (but poorly informed) responses are why I’ve decided to tackle it now. Well, that and we are in the midst of a global pandemic, so I’ve got the time.
First, let’s take a logical approach to this tweet’s assertion. What the writer means is that the physical book that we call the Bible is not our Lord and Saviour. I think we can all agree on that. What seems to confuse some people is the idea that the Word of God isn’t God, and that is because of verses like this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1 (NIV)New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
There are Christians who mistakenly believe that this verse means that since John says Jesus is the Word of God, and since we call the Bible the Word of God, it’s okay to equate the two. This is due to a misunderstanding that comes from a plain reading of the verse. True, the Bible refers to scripture, and the Word of God, as referenced in John 1:1 refers to Jesus. However, there are different words used in the original Greek for both of these concepts.
The word used for scripture, such as in 2 Timothy 3:16, is γραφὴ (graphē), and refers to physical writing. This is the Bible. On the other hand, the word used for “Word of God” in John 1:1 is λόγος (logos). This is Jesus. This distinction is of the utmost importance. Jesus is the Son of God, not an assemblage of phonemes scrawled by a scribe’s faltering hands. Equating Jesus with Scripture is incorrect and unbiblical.
Now, let’s take a look at our original statement through the lens of what the Bible has to say about itself. The best example I can think of is also from the gospel of John, who ends his book with a riveting admission:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” – John 21:25 (NIV)New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What is the significance of this verse? Well, it tells us that the Bible doesn’t record everything, and we know from reading it that there are many things we might presume to be essential for our knowledge that are curiously absent. We only have one anecdote about Jesus’ childhood, for instance. We are never told why God forbade Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The identity of Cain’s wife isn’t clear, either. The fates of all twelve disciples aren’t mentioned, but can be ascertained from other historical writings from the time. What’s more, there are what are referred to as the agrapha in the New Testament epistles. These refer to words attributed to Jesus that are not recorded in any of the four gospels (such as Acts 20:35). This further exemplifies that although the Bible is the Word of God, it does not contain the entirety of all that God has ever said. If the Bible doesn’t even contain all that God said, it most certainly is not the epitome of all that He is.
Is this conclusion blasphemous? No. In no way am I saying that the Bible is incomplete. The Bible is what God has revealed to man, and we know that it is to His glory to conceal a matter (Proverbs 25:2). The Bible doesn’t contain everything about God because we weren’t meant to know everything about God. God is inexhaustible – He is above our fleshly comprehension and means of expression. Rather, it would be blasphemous to contend that imperfect verbiage is capable of conveying all that God is.
Ask anyone who is bilingual (like me), and they’ll tell you that certain verses can be interpreted differently depending on the language of writing. Even Bibles written in the same language can have the same words translated differently based on each interpreter’s understanding of ancient grammar and syntax (own an English Bible, anyone?). Denominational factions in today’s church can sometimes be attributed to unclear nuances in scripture. Who has the monopoly on what God really means in the less explicit parts of scripture?
Human language, let alone writing, cannot encapsulate all of Who our infinitely holy, omnipotent, omniscient and awesome God is. It wasn’t a scroll of ancient books that met Saul on the road to Damascus, but a Person. Therefore, equating written scripture to the Lord would be to diminish Who God is and rob Him of His glory. That is so not what John 1:1 is doing.
Those who espouse this errant thinking believe they are giving the Bible the reverence it is due. The study of scripture is essential, but that alone doesn’t make us a Christian. Satan knows scripture and even quoted it to Jesus in the desert. There are plenty of atheists who diligently read the Bible on a daily basis in the hopes of finding errors or contradictions. Many fundamentalists (and today’s Pharisees) are quick to thump their Bibles around to condemn others of their sin, whilst living in ignorance of their own. All three have the head knowledge, but none of the love and saving grace that are characteristic of God’s children. You don’t need to be born again to read the Bible, but you must be born again to know the Lord!
The Bible is the revealed Word of God, but it is not God Himself anymore than my text messages are an embodiment of who I am. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of of our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. The second greatest is to love our neighbour, not the Bible. Of course, it is impossible to say we love God when we have no interest in what He says. That being said, there is quite a difference between knowing the “Word of God” and knowing the God of the Word. Jesus even said:
21 ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21 (NIV)New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Being a Christian requires knowing and loving God intimately, which is not the same as studying the Bible. This is especially interesting considering that the believers living in the New Testament era didn’t even have the complete Bible as we now know it. They believed in Jesus and were saved without even reading the gospels. Their faith was in the Author of the Word that hadn’t yet been written. This proves that knowing about God or just knowing God’s words aren’t the same as knowing Him.
So, know what Jesus said, and live by His Words. However, don’t do any of this arbitrarily without repenting of your sin, and realizing that it is His grace that saves you through faith, not your knowledge. Love your Bible, but love Jesus more.
I am the admin and founder of www.beautyofhope.ca