“The Word Of God.” What Does That Mean?

We all know a literalist is someone who claims to take literally all passages of the Bible.  I’ve found all literalists also use the phrase, “What the Bible means there is….” which seems something different than literalism.

Then, there are people who claim not to be literalists but consider certain parts of the Bible as the literal truth.  Such people represent a wide swath between conservatives and liberals.

There is a liberal branch of the faith which says the Bible was written by individuals for their own purposes.  But, this group is devoutly religious and believes in the literal Jesus.  So far as I know, all of these distinctly different groups of Christians agree, “The Bible is the word of God.”

I have trouble with that phrase also when I hear some professor who is called “a Biblical scholar” while believing the Bible is the “Word of God”. In other fields, a scholar is considered someone who tries to approach research findings without bias.  We  can agree it is often difficult to have no bias whatsoever, but the effort should be there.

Suppose a “Biblical scholar” says, “I believe the Bible is the word of God,” then proceeds to claim he/she can reach conclusions independant of bias.  I wonder if the scholar is concerned, when he reaches his conclusions, about his soul.  How could he reach a conclusion different than what God has written?

This phrase remains troublesome.

17 Responses

  1. Brad

    It’s not possible for the Bible to be the literal Word of God. The reason is simple: it was written by humans. In order for it to be the literal Word of God, God himself would have had to write it.

    My view is that there are some spiritual truths contained in the Bible just as there is in many other writings. However, there is a whole lot of stuff written to suit someones political agenda, mostly to control and manipulate people, and a whole lot of it that is pretty outlandish by anyone’s standards.

      1. Michael Ross

        The 10 Commandments were written by the very hand of God. So why are you trying to tare them down?

        1. Formerly Fargo Bob

          If the Ten Commandments were indeed written by the “very hand of God,” how could it even be possible for a mere mortal to “tear them down?”

          1. Michael Ross

            how could it even be possible for a mere mortal to “tear them down?”

            Good point, we can’t.

            “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”(Isaiah 40:8)

        2. Michael 3:13 “The 10 Commandments were written by the very hand of God. So why are you trying to tear them down?”

          I envision you as a very rational people outside of you religious views. Thus, it someone showed up today in our town, held up a stone tablet, and said, “I got this from God,” both you and I would want to know who was present when God gave this guy the tablets to varify that it happened.

          You abandon this requirement with the Bible’s stories. I don’t. I want to know who saw God give Moses the 10 Commandments. Without that, it’s just a fairy tale. Besides that, there is no evidence Moses and the Jews were ever at the location where it was supposed to have happened.

  2. This reminds me of the recent incident when a biblical scholar who happened to be a Muslim had written a scholarly work about Jesus and the TV host on Fox News asked him how he could possibly have written this book because he was Muslim as if that disqualified him from being objective.

  3. Brad

    If the Bible is the Written Word of God, then we are all pretty much doomed. If true, it means we have a god that is completely and utterly insane, sadistic, and when in a better mood, loving and kind. Sort of a schizophrenic god, or maybe a god with multiple personality disorder.

  4. Wolfy32

    I had a New Testament class at a secular College, taught by a Baptist minister. He started the class with “This information is in no terms meant to displace your faith. We look at the bible from the position of it was written by authors / people, and not directly written by God himself for the purposes of this class. ”

    Some coped with that by simply stating, it wasn’t written by God but it was divinely inspired by God’s spirit.

    I guess I look at it from what is the sources? Every academic paper written today has a level of legitimacy based on the quality of it’s sources. E.g. Peer reviewed journals that have had the whole community of that area, review and approve the sources as making scientificly valid claims.

    Well, what are the sources of today’s bible… It’s a shakespearian English written book of the collection of numerous ancient and translated texts. The book was ordered by a King to be printed en masse. A small group of people came together reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of ancient writings and made the decision to decide what “fits” and what “doesn’t” fit into the bible.

    Revelations made it, The Apocrapha did not. There was the gospel according to Thomas that did not. There may have been a gospel of Judas. And numerous other gospels… Only Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John made it. No others.

    What if there were hundreds of other ancient texts that better describe God? That better guide our society, but, these books collections were considered the best at the time to assist our society, around 400 years ago was the first collection / iteration of the bible. What was taught before that? Prior to that much of it was in latin and only priests could preach it, which well, means they had a lot of power over the people to direct and control the masses… Talk about a moving target… There would have been no theology, then it would have been, whatever God implored on that person that day or week or that community…..

    I do believe the bible has meaning and a purpose for our society of today as with well most any historical document. We can always learn from the past! What the society was afraid of, what the communities worked towards. What hopes were implored in their fiction writing, what tragedies motivated the crowds?

    Do I believe God meant for the bible to be a literal passing of the words to be taken literally? No, because of I believe there’s thousands of other documents and artifacts collected and held back by the vatican. Lost knowledge and understanding that might reveal much more than we’ll ever know about God, about who and what God is?

    1. Wanna B Sure

      Don’t give King James too much credit. The KJV was a translation only. Many later translations have the advantage of more early manuscripts allowing better exegetics and clarity. It’s my understanding the earliest English translation had “wolf” instead of lion, as most English didn’t know what a lion even was, but they did know of the apex predator, being the wolf. The content/ intent did not change however. Many post-reformed sects seem to think people of antiquity spoke Shakespearian English. Even Luther included the deuterocananical/appocraphal, (intertestamental) books in the back of his translation, considering them to be useful, but not that which doctrine should be derived from, as there were inconsistencies to time, place, and authorship. Still available as a side book, or in the Catholic Bible, interlaced with the OT books. Look up “biblical canon”. Even with all the variations, the content is pretty much standard, excluding the gnostic writings, circa.250? forward.

      1. Wolfy32

        My point is more so that the dead sea scrolls and other gathered writings from ancient times, were sifted through. we don’t know what other stories, information, facts, and accounts were documented and kept under strict control of the Vatican.

        I’m not saying that what was printed is inaccurate.. I just question whether it’s the whole story… were things ruled out because they were too controversial for the time, or because the scholars of the time lacked understanding of what was written?

        That’s all I’m saying, and was there a political agenda the scholars were aiming for when the first publications were made.

        One could argue, that whatever came to be accepted as the canon today is what God intended for us to know… and he had given the scholars that created the canon the spirit of discernment..

        1. Wolfy32 6:51 I think you would enjoy reading material by scholars who study surviving documents other than the Bible. These are writings that refer to the Bible and its characters but is not the Bible itself. They try to compare what they see today and what ancient readers say they saw.

          I’m going to blog about this evening. One such scholar is Bart Erhman.

  5. David

    Jon, I think faith comes first or sort of. This thought probably is proof amongst atheists that religion is hooey. I don’t think so. One may believe in general tenants of a religion – say that Muhammad was a prophet and information was revealed to him from Allah and that the general nature of these beliefs should be followed. Only then does one get into the weeds of what all of this means for the individual believer. Some reject the words or interpret them to their understanding.

    I probably would be considered more liberal when it comes to theology. I had a Catholic nun describe to me that she thinks that Jesus’ life and death actually happened and the new testament is man’s attempt to describe what happened. I tend to agree with that. Divinely inspired . . . if you believe Jesus died and was resurrected then I would think so. It can’t be perfect because words are imperfect. What does it mean is a changing. Just like the U.S> Constitution one has to look at current life to understand what it means for today’s events. The constitution is not a very long document but millions of pages have been devoted to understanding and detailing what it means. I think the Bible or the Koran are probably similar in that they don’t tell the whole story. For the religiously motivated they then have to understand what the documents mean to them and for the society in which they live. I don’t think it is troublesome.

    I’m not sure that people that describe themselves as literalists are actually that literal in their interpretation of the Bible. One can’t be that literal when understanding what an author means when they are interpreting a vision or are describing an event. The person writing the work must never be finished or by necessity they will leave certain things out. It would make no sense to have four Gospels if one author captured everything said and done. So even amongst literalist I think there is a fair amount of interpretation, and they probably bring unnecessary scorn by calling themselves literalists.

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