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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Word of God, or, of the Lord.

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Sometimes Scripture ascribes to the word of God supernatural effects; or represents it as animated and active. So, "He sent his word, and healed them " (Psalms 107:20). Enlarging upon this idea, the apocryphal book of Wisdom ascribes to the word of God the death of the first-born of Egypt (18:15; 16:26; 9:1; 16:12); the miraculous effects of the manna; the creation of the world; the healing of those who looked up to the brazen serpent. In a similar sense of omnific- power the centurion in the gospel says to our Savior, "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed" (Matthew 8:8). Referring to the preserving influence of divine truth, Christ says to the devil that tempted him, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God " (4:4).

From these and other passages we see that the phrase "word of God" or "of the Lord" is taken

(1) for that internal word heard by the prophets, when under inspiration from God;

(2) for that which they heard externally, when God spoke to them; as when he spoke to Moses, face to face, or as one friend speaks to another (Exodus 33:11);

(3) for that word which the ministers of God, the priests, the apostles, the servants of God, declare in his name to the people;

(4) for what is written in the sacred books of the Old and New Tests.;

(5) for the only Son of the Father, the uncreated wisdom. For the first four of these, (See BIBLE); the last only we propose to discuss here.

I. The Logos ( Λόγος) is the name given to the divine or pre-existent nature of Christ, designating him as the great medium of communication between God and man (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13; comp. Hebrews 4:12). This remarkable usage of the term word, as designating not a mere attribute, but a hypostasis in some respects diverse from God, yet at the same time God himself, does not appear to have been derived from the poetical personification of "wisdom," in Proverbs 8:12; Proverbs 8:22; nor from the apocryphal books of Wisdom of Solomon 7:22-26; and of Sirach 1:1-10; Sirach 24:1-14. Even the Logos of Plato, and that of Philo, is no more than an abstraction or personification of divine power, intelligence, and wisdom. As John has united the idea of proper personality with his designation of the Logos, it is certain that he could not have derived his views from any of those writers. There is an immeasurable discrepancy between the views of John and those of Plato and the Jewish writers.

If the Logos of John be the same as theirs, then proper personality and divinity are out of the question. But from the passages cited it is evident that the Logos of the New Test. is a proper and real person, not a mere personification, i.e., a philosophical, speculative, or poetical abstraction, amounting to nothing more than a poeticorhetorical method of describing either divine attributes or divine operations or energies. In the prologue to the gospel of John, the original state or condition of the Logos, and his essential nature, are first described; and then the developments of himself, which had been made either in the way of creation or redemption. He is eternal; was with God; was God. As such he was the Creator of all things without exception. In particular, he was the source of all -life; and as the author of spiritual life, he was the source also of all true spiritual light (1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15-19; Hebrews 1:2-3). (See FULNESS).

How God communed with the first human pair in the innocence of Eden we know not; but after the first transgression his communings were in a different mode, and adapted to man in his altered circumstances. The Logos was God revealed communicating with his creatures, and disclosing to them the way of salvation. The various divine revelations to the patriarchs, and to others under the law, whether as the angel Jehovah, or otherwise in visions, voices, and symbols, were revelations by the Logos. So, in the tabernacle, God of old dwelt, and the shekinah, as significant of the abiding divine glory over the mercy-seat, was the symbol of his presence among his people. So also in the theophany described in Isaiah 4:1-6, we learn something of the glory of the Logos before 'he became incarnate (John 1:14; John 12:41; John 17:5).

Jehovah was indeed revealed in many respects, in the Old Test.; but God as Father, and Christ 'as Son and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier, were, to say the most, only foreshadowed in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the Logos manifested in the flesh, Christ the Son of God, who hath revealed God, i.e., placed the character and designs of God in the light that the gospel affords. His light shone on the darkness of all time ages which preceded his coming; but this darkness was so gross that little impression was made upon it. In order to save the world from its ruinous state, the Logos became incarnate, i.e., took on him the human form and nature, and thus dwelt among men, and manifested his glory, which was truly that of the Only Begotten of the Father. Neither Moses nor any other prophet ever understood and disclosed the character and designs of God in such a way as was adequate to accomplish the plan of our redemption. But he who is in the bosom of the Father exhibited grace and revealed truth in such a way as fully to satisfy our wants and alleviate our woes. (See LOGOS).

II. The Memra (מֵימְרָא ). The Chaldee paraphrasts, the most ancient Jewish uncanonical writers extant, generally use this name (signifying word) where Moses puts Jehovah, and it is thought that under this term they allude to the Son of God. Now, their testimony is so much the more considerable, as, having lived before or at the time of Christ, they are irrefragable witnesses of the sentiments of their nation on this article, since their Targum, or explication has always been, and still is, in universal esteem among them. In the greater part of the passages where the sacred name occurs, these paraphrasts substitute Memra Jehovah (מימרא די 8 8י ), the Word of God, and as they ascribe to Memra all the attributes of deity, it is concluded that they believed the divinity of the Word. In effect, according to them, Memra created the world; appeared to Abraham in the plain of Mamre, and to Jacob at Bethel. It was to Memra Jacob appealed to witness the covenant between him and Laban: "Let the Word see between thee and me." The same Word appeared to Moses at Sinai, gave the law to Israel, spoke face to face with that lawgiver, marched at the head of that people, enabled them to conquer nations, and was a consuming fire to all who violated the law of the Lord. All these characters, where the paraphrasts use the word Memra, clearly denote Almighty God. This Word, therefore, was God, and the Hebrews were of this opinion at the time when the Targum was composed. (See SHEKINAH).

The author of the book of Wisdom, as above observed, expresses himself much in the same manner. He says that God created all things by his Word (Wisdom of Solomon 9:1); that it is not what the earth produces that feeds man, but the Word of the Almighty that supports him (Wisdom of Solomon 16:26). It was this Word that fed the Israelites in the desert, healed them after the biting of the serpents (Wisdom of Solomon 9:12), and who, by his power, destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians (Wisdom of Solomon 18:15; see Exodus 12:29-30), and by which Aaron stopped the fury of the fire that was kindled in the camp, which threatened the destruction of all Israel (Wisdom of Solomon 18:22; see Numbers 16:46). (See WISDOM PERSONIFIED).

III. The Bath-Kol (בִּת קוֹל, daughter of the voice).Under this name the Talmud, the later Targums, and the rabbinical writers make frequent mention of a kind of oracular voice, constituting the fourth grade of revelation which, although it was an instrument of divine communication throughout the early history of the Israelites, was the most prominent, because the sole, prophetic manifestation which existed during (and even after) the period of the second temple. The Midrashim and the Gemara, cited in Reland's Antiq. Sacr. part 2, chapter 9 severally affirm that the Bath-Kol is the voice which spoke to Abraham, Moses, David, Nebuchadnezzar, and others; and the Targums of Jonathan and of Jerusalem make the Bath-Kol appear in Genesis 38:26; Numbers 21:6, and in other places. The treatise Sanhedrin, cited in Vitrinuga's Obser. Sacr. 2:338, uses the words, "From the death of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit ( רוה הקדשׁ, which, according to the Jewish distinction, is only the second degree of the prophetical gift) was withdrawn from Israel; but they nevertheless enjoyed the use of the Bath- Kol."

The Jewish authorities are not agreed as to what the Bath-Kol was, nor as to the precise reason of its designation. It is disputed whether the persons hearing the Bath-Kol heard the very voice from heaven, or only a daughter of it an echo of it; whether, as thunder is often mentioned as a sign of the divine presence, and as the word voice appears to be used for thunder in Exodus 9:23; Jeremiah 10:13; Psalms 29:3, the Bath-Kol may not signify an articulate voice proceeding out of the thunder; or whether, according to the explanation of Maimonides, "the Bath-Kol is when a man has such a strong imagination that he believes he hears a voice from without himself."

As to the meaning of the name itself, passages are cited in Buxtorf's Lex. Talm. s.v. בת , and in. Reland's Antiq. Sacr. loc. cit., which show that the daughter of the voice sometimes means the echo of a sound, and sometimes merely a primary sound itself. It is certain that the Peshito has sometimes rendered the simple Greek (φωνή by "daughter of the voice," as in Acts 12:22; 1 Timothy 6:20; Hebrews 3:15. It is necessary, however, to remark that, according to a fundamental law of all Syro- Arabian grammar; these two words must either stand to each other in the relation of a position or of the state construct. But as apposition can only take place between equivalent and convertible terms, which "daughter" and "voice" are not, accordingly the alternative rendering of daughter voice proposed by Prideaux (which Hormne also has adopted, Introduct. 4:149) violates that rule, because, in such an English combination, the word "daughter" has the force of an adjective; and the Hebrew language, possessing but few adjectives, would have expressed the sense of daughter voice (if that had been the sense intended to be conveyed by Bath-Kol) by making Bath the last word, depending as a genitive on the former. For instance, what we render the Holy Spirit is literally "the spirit of holiness" in Hebrew. Thus, "daughter voice " is not an apposition in English, nor-is it the translation of a state construct according to the, Hebrew order, but of a state construct in which Prideaux has taken the liberty of transposing the dependent word, i.e., of making "daughter of the voice" become, in effect, "voice of a daughter." Jennings also, in his Jewish Antiq. page 229, when he renders Bath-Kol by "filie vox, seufilia vocis," only commits, in the first case, the same error more palpably, and is guilty of quite as great a violation of the first principle of Hebrew grammar as he would be, in the case of Latin, were he to translate filia vocis by "voice of the daughter."

The occasions on which it is alleged that the Bath-Kol was heard after the death of Malachi are of very various degrees of solemnity or significance. Supposing the instances mentioned in Josephus (Ant. 13:10), of the voice which announced to Hyrcanus that his sons had conquered Antiochus, and (War, 6:5) of the awful voice which was heard in the temple, just before the capture of Jerusalem, to exclaim, Μεταβαίνωμεν ἐντεῦθεν ! not to belong to the Bath-Kol (as it is to be observed that the pseudo-Josephus ben-Gorion has, in these cases, merely used the Hebrew word for voice), most of the other recorded instances fall far short of these in dignity, and some appear irreconcilable with even very credulous notions of the limits of divine interposition. Only a few of them, however, can be classed with quite as trivial a species of divination as the Sortes Virgiliance, which is done in the unfair statement of Prideaux (Connex. 2:354). The fact is, that most Christian writers who have treated of the Bath-Kol have not been able to divest themselves of an undue desire to discredit its pretensions, in consequence of their fearing ally comparison which might be instituted between it and the voices from heaven mentioned in the New Test. Indeed, Lightfoot (in his Hor. Hebr. ad Matthew 3:17) considers all cases of BathKol to be either Jewish fables or devices of the devil. Instances of voices from heaven, on occasions outwardly very analogous to some among the Jews, are recorded in the history of the early Christian Church, as the voice which was instrumental in making Alexander bishop of Jerusalem, and that which exhorted Polycarp to be of good courage (Eusebiuts, Hist. Ecclesiastes 4:15; Ecclesiastes 6:11). (See BATH-KOL).

Words of Institution are those words which were used by our Savior when he instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, the essential parts of which are commonly held to be "This is my body" and "This is my blood of the New Testament," words found in all the ancient liturgies.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Word of God, or, of the Lord.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/w/word-of-god-or-of-the-lord.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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