Re: The Whole Bible Revealed in Zechariah (was Re: NT truth (formerly inerrancy?))

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Sat Jan 17 2004 - 05:15:52 EST

George Murphy wrote:

"...There are places in scripture where language close to "Word of God" is used
for parts of scripture - e.g., /ta logia tou theou/, "the oracles of God" in Rom.3:2."

I see this passage as a reference to the divine interventions of God through prophets on behalf of the Jews down through their history. The interventions are, to be sure, described and recorded in various scriptures, so that through the scriptures we can trace their history. But Paul is referring to the interventions themselves as events that have become the personal property of all Jews rather than merely to the writings that describe them. If Paul were referring only to the writings--well, those writings are easily transferable and could be given to some other people, and then those people would be equal to the Jews in terms of having the oracles of God. But that's not what Paul was implying. The writings are transferable, but the status from being chosen and from experiencing the oracles was not. So the transcendingly important things were the actual collective experiences of the Jews, not the ways they were written up in scriptures.

--Not that I'm trying to denigrate scriptures. They are essential for the historical context of our faith, for "doctrine, reproof, ...," and when read they often become the Word of God. It's just that I don't see them, as objects, as being identical to the Word of God.

George: "...There is no justification at all for your
interpretation of John 1."

Don: Perhaps so. I think I was making a feeble effort at systematic theology here, but I'm really not even interested in such things, so let's ignore it. My main thesis is that "word of God" and like terms in the Bible never unambiguously refer to scriptures, whereas among most Protestants today those terms refer to practically nothing but scriptures. I see this as a potentially damaging distortion of the Word.

George: "...Without reference to
scripture, all kinds of statements can be claimed to be the Word of God."

Don: Yes, can and do. But in fact always have been, whether or not there were references to scripture: Think of all the prophets who proclaimed false words of Yahweh in the OT. And many false words of God have come from people who cite scriptures: Think of all the piles of straw that have come from Daniel and Revelation.

Even if we hold scriptures to be infallible, how do we know we have the right interpretation? As the many disagreements among Christians indicate, the right interpretation is far from obvious. If we say that everything of value is in the Book, we are implying that God can't say anything today that sounds different from what is in the Book and in that way we might miss out on words of God for our time. Jewish leaders in Jesus' day rejected him ostensibly because they believed he was incompatible with Moses.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: George Murphy
  To: Don Winterstein
  Cc: richard ; Gary Collins ;
  Sent: Friday, January 16, 2004 4:14 PM
  Subject: Re: The Whole Bible Revealed in Zechariah (was Re: NT truth (formerly inerrancy?))

  Don Winterstein wrote:

> George Murphy wrote (among other things):
> "c. The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the
> written Word
> of God. Inspired by God's Spirit speaking through their authors, they
> record and
> announce God's revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them
> God's Spirit speaks
> to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service
> in the world."
> But this is a church-generated quote, IMO not inspired. None of your
> _own_ points as I understand them support the notion that the
> canonical Scriptures in whole or in part are per se the Word of God.

  To be quite clear, I never suggested that the ELCA constitution was inspired.
> I understand that the above quoted statement is commonly held to be
> true among Protestant Christians, but I don't think it is consistent
> with scriptural usage of "Word of God," "Word of the Lord," "Word"
> or any equivalent. When did this concept of the "written Word of God"
> first gain currency among Christians? (I'd guess not until after the
> Reformation, but I suspect you can do better than guess.)

  I think your guess is likely to be too late but will leave it to others to
  answer that question. But the fact that one cannot find the exact phrase "the Word of
  God" applied to the whole of scripture in the Bible itself doesn't mean that that can't
  be a legitimate theological term. The church has always recognized - at least since
  Nicea - that it's sometimes necessary to use non-biblical words (like /homoousious/) to
  express the truth of scripture when it is challenged.

  But there are places in wcripture where language close to "Word of God" is used
  for parts of scripture - e.g., /ta logia tou theou/, "the oracles of God" in Rom.3:2.
> My own view, which I believe I can well support from Scripture (even
> though I haven't yet gotten to first base with Richard), is that the
> Word of God is much more dynamic than any written text, and that no
> written text as such is worthy of being called "the Word of God."
> When a person _reads_ the written text, it can become the Word of God
> to that person; but the written text per se is not the Word of God.
> God's Spirit cannot speak through those written words unless they are
> read.

  Yes, the Word of God is dynamic - e.g., Jer.23:29. The third sense of "Word of
  God" that I cited should not be separated from the 1st 2. OTOH, without reference to
  scripture, all kinds of statements can be claimed to be the Word of God.
> Without in-depth familiarity with certain of the writings of the
> prophets, a person is not likely to see even a hint of Christ in
> them. For example, suppose the man in the street happened upon the
> 35th chapter of Ezekiel--someone who was unlikely to have any
> preconceived notions about the true status of the writing. That
> chapter would not be the Word of God to that person. So not every
> word in the canon is the Word of God to every person at all times.
> For many people many of the words are totally irrelevant much of the
> time. In order to be the Word of God for a person, it must be
> relevant to the person.
> Better yet, take almost any chapter of Leviticus. How relevant to the
> man on the street would most such chapters be?
> Ultimately I'm asserting that the Word of God involves action of God
> on his creation accompanied by a response on the part of some portion
> of that creation. Both elements are necessary. If there is no
> response, it was not the Word. The Source (Christ) does not become
> the Word until he interacts with some targeted portion of the
> creation. Until he interacts he remains strictly latent, as before
> the Big Bang--still a Person but not yet the Word. (I then interpret
> John 1:1 as designating the one who was to _become_ the Word as the
> Word, making use of hindsight. If the world had never come into
> existence, he would not be the Word. He existed before creation, but
> he was not the Word before creation.)

  This is entirely speculative & there is no justification at all for your
  interpretation of John 1. The Word "became flesh" (1:14) but it is nowhere suggested
  that anything "became" the Word. "In the beginning was the Word" means just that.
  But this doesn't mean that before creation the Word was just sitting & doing
  nothing. In the inner life of God there are always the dynamic relationships of Father,
  Son & Spirit."

  George L. Murphy
Received on Sat Jan 17 05:13:36 2004

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