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The meaning of Word in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

wurd: The commonest term in the Old Testament for "word" is dabhar (also "matter" "thing"); in the New Testament logos ("reason," "discourse," "speech"); but also frequently rhema. Rhema is a "word" in itself considered; logos is a spoken word, with reference generally to that which is in the speaker's mind. Some of the chief applications of the terms may thus be exhibited:

(1) We have the word of Yahweh (or God; see below) (a) as the revelation to the patriarch, prophet, or inspired person (Genesis 15:1; Exodus 20:1; Numbers 22:38, etc.); (b) as spoken forth by the prophet (Exodus 4:30; Exodus 34:1; II Kings 7:1; Isaiah 1:10, etc.). (2) The word is often a commandment, sometimes equivalent to "the Law" (Exodus 32:28; Numbers 20:24; Deuteronomy 6:6; Psalms 105:8; Psalms 119:11, Psalms 119:17; Isaiah 66:2, etc.). (3) As a promise and ground of hope (Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:28, Psalms 119:38, etc.; Psalms 130:5, etc.). (4) As creative, upholding, and preserving (Psalms 33:6; compare Genesis 1:3 ff.; Psalms 147:15, Psalms 147:18; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 11:3; II Peter 3:5, II Peter 3:7). (5) As personified (in Apocrypha, The Wisdom of Solomon 18:15; Ecclesiasticus 1:5, the Revised Version margin "omitted by the best authorities"). (6) As personal (John 1:1). Logos in Philo and Greek-Jewish philosophy meant both reason or thought and its utterance, "the whole contents of the divine world of thought resting in the Nous of God, synonymous with the inner life of God Himself and corresponding to the logos endiathetos of the human soul; on the other hand, it is the externalizing of this as revelation corresponding to the logos prophorikos in which man's thought finds expression (Schultz). Compare also the references to Creation by "the word of God" and its personifications; see LOGOS; incarnated in Jesus Christ (John 1:14; I John 1:1-2; Revelation 19:13, "His name is called, The Word of God," Ho Logos tou Theou). See PERSON OF CHRIST. (7) Cannot be broken, endureth forever (II Kings 10:10; Psalms 119:89; Isaiah 40:8, etc.). (8) A designation of the gospel of Christ: sometimes simply "the word"; with Jesus "the word of the Kingdom" (Matthew 13:19; Mark 2:2; Acts 4:4, Acts 4:29, Acts 4:31, etc.). In John's Gospel Jesus frequently speaks of His "word" and "works" as containing the divine revelation and requirements made through Him, which men are asked to believe in, cherish and obey (John 5:24; John 6:63, John 6:68, etc.); "the words of God" (John 3:34; John 8:47; John 14:10; John 17:8, John 17:14, etc.); His "word" (logos and rhema) is to be distinguished from lalia, speech (compare Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70), translated "saying," John 4:42 (John 4:41, "Many more believed because of his own word" (logos); John 4:42, "not because of thy saying" (lalia), the Revised Version (British and American) "speaking"); in the only other occurrence of lalia in this Gospel (John 8:43) Jesus uses it to distinguish the outward expression from the inner meaning, "Why do ye not understand my speech?" (lalia), "Even because ye cannot hear my word" (logos). (9) "Words" are distinguished from "power" (I Corinthians 4:20; I Thessalonians 1:5); are contrasted with "deed" (Malachi 2:17; I Corinthians 4:20; I John 3:18). (10) Paul refers to "unspeakable words" (arrheta rhemata) which he heard in Paradise (II Corinthians 12:4), and to "words (logoi) .... which the Spirit teacheth" (I Corinthians 2:13).

For "word" the Revised Version (British and American) has "commandment" (Numbers 4:45, etc.); for "words," "things" (John 7:9; John 8:30; John 9:22, John 9:40; John 17:1), "sayings" (John 10:21; John 12:47-48); for "enticing words," "persuasiveness of speech" (Colossians 2:4); conversely, "word" for "commandment" (Numbers 24:13; Numbers 27:14; Joshua 8:8, etc.), with numerous other changes.

W. L. Walker


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