The term “word” in the Scriptures most frequently translates the Hebrew and Greek words da·varʹ and loʹgos. These words in the majority of cases refer to an entire thought, saying or statement rather than simply to an individual term or unit of speech. (In Greek a ‘single word’ is expressed by hreʹma [Matt. 27:14], though it, too, can mean a saying or spoken matter.) Any message from the Creator, such as one uttered through a prophet, is “the word of God.” In a few places Loʹgos (“Word”) is a title given to Jesus Christ.
THE WORD OF GOD
“The word of Jehovah” is an expression that, with slight variations, occurs hundreds of times in the Scriptures. By “the word of Jehovah” the heavens were created. God said the word and it was accomplished. “God proceeded to say: ‘Let light come to be.’ Then there came to be light.” (Ps. 33:6; Gen. 1:3) It should not be understood from this that Jehovah himself does no work. (John 5:17) But he does have myriads of angels that respond to his word and carry out his will.—Ps. 103:20.
Creation, animate and inanimate, is subject to God’s word, and can be used by him to accomplish his purposes. (Ps. 103:20; 148:8) His word is dependable; what God promises he also remembers to do. (Deut. 9:5; Ps. 105:42-45) As he himself has said, his word “will last to time indefinite”; it will never return without accomplishing its purpose.—Isa. 40:8; 55:10, 11; 1 Pet. 1:25.
Jehovah is a communicative God, in that he reveals to his creatures in a variety of ways what his will and purpose is. God’s words were spoken, doubtless through an angel, to such men as Adam, Noah, Abraham and others. (Gen. 3:9-19; 6:13; 12:1) At times he used holy men like Moses and Aaron to make known his purposes. (Ex. 5:1) “Every word” that Moses commanded Israel was in effect the word of God to them. (Deut. 12:32) God also spoke through the mouth of prophets such as Elisha and Jeremiah, and prophetesses, such as Deborah.—2 Ki. 7:1; Jer. 2:1, 2. Judg. 4:4-7.
Many of the divine commandments were committed to writing from the time of Moses forward. The Decalogue, commonly called the Ten Commandments and known in the Hebrew Scriptures as “the Ten Words,” was first delivered orally and later ‘written by the finger of God’ on stone tablets. (Ex. 31:18; 34:28; Deut. 4:13) These commandments were called the “Words” at Deuteronomy 5:22; see TEN WORDS.
Joshua wrote additional “words in the book of God’s law” under divine inspiration, and this was true with other faithful Bible writers. (Josh. 24:26; Jer. 36:32) Eventually all such writings were collected together and made up what is called the Sacred Scriptures or Holy Bible. “All Scripture . . . inspired of God” would include, today, all the canonical Biblical books. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21) In the Christian Greek Scriptures God’s inspired word is often spoken of as simply “the word.”—Luke 8:11-15; Jas. 1:22; 1 Pet. 2:2.
There are many synonyms for God’s word. For example, in Psalm 119, where references to Jehovah’s “word(s)” occur more than twenty times, synonyms are found in poetic parallelisms—such terms as law, reminders, orders, regulations, commandments, judicial decisions, statutes and sayings of Jehovah. This also shows that by “word” is meant a complete thought or message.
The word of God is also described in a number of other ways that give it breadth and meaning. It is the “‘word’ [or “saying” (hreʹma)] of faith” (Rom. 10:8, Kingdom Interlinear Translation), the “word [or message (loʹgos)] of righteousness” (Heb. 5:13) and the “word of the reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19) God’s word or message is like “seed,” which, if planted in good soil, brings forth much fruitage (Luke 8:11-15); his sayings are also said to ‘run with speed.’—Ps. 147:15.
PREACHERS AND TEACHERS OF THE WORD
The greatest exponent and supporter of Jehovah’s inspired word of truth was the Lord Jesus Christ. He astounded people by his methods of teaching (Matt. 7:28, 29; John 7:46), yet he took no credit to himself, saying, “the word that you are hearing is not mine, but belongs to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:24; 17:14; Luke 5:1) Faithful disciples of Christ were those who remained in his word, and this, in turn, set them free from ignorance, superstition and fear, also from slavery to sin and death. (John 8:31, 32) Often it was necessary for Jesus to take issue with the Pharisees, whose traditions and teachings made void the “word [or declaration] of God.”—Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:13.
It is not just a matter of hearing the word of God preached. Rather, acting upon and showing obedience to that message is also essential. (Luke 8:21; 11:28; Jas. 1:22, 23) After being well trained for the ministry the apostles and disciples, in turn, obeyed the word and took up the preaching and teaching themselves. (Acts 4:31; 8:4, 14; 13:7, 44; 15:36; 18:11; 19:10) As a result “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying.”—Acts 6:7; 11:1; 12:24; 13:5, 49; 19:20.
The apostles and their associates were no peddlers of the Scriptures, as the false shepherds were. What they preached was the straight unadulterated message of God. (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2) The apostle Paul told Timothy: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” Furthermore Timothy was commanded: “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.” (2 Tim. 2:15; 4:2) Paul also counseled Christian wives to watch their conduct, “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:5.
Ever since the Devil contradicted what God had said in the Garden of Eden there have been many Satanic opponents of God’s word. Many persons who have upheld God’s word have lost their lives for doing so, as both Bible prophecy and history can testify. (Rev. 6:9) It is also a fact of history that persecution has failed to stop the proclamation of God’s word.—Phil. 1:12-14, 18; 2 Tim. 2:9.
THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD AND SPIRIT
God’s word exerts tremendous power upon its hearers. It means life. God demonstrated to Israel in the wilderness, that “not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4) It is “the word of life.” (Phil. 2:16) Jesus spoke the words of God, and he said: “The sayings [hreʹma·ta] that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”—John 6:63.
The apostle Paul wrote: “The word [or message, loʹgos] of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) It reaches the heart and reveals whether one is actually living according to right principles.—1 Cor. 14:23-25.
The word of God is the truth and can sanctify one for God’s use. (John 17:17) It can make a person wise and happy; it can accomplish whatever work God purposes for it. (Ps. 19:7-9; Isa. 55:10, 11) It can equip a person completely for every good work, and can enable him to conquer the wicked one.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17; compare 1 John 2:14.
Of Jesus’ preaching it is said: “God anointed him with holy spirit and power, and he went through the land doing good and healing all those oppressed by the Devil; because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38) The apostle Paul accomplished conversions of persons, even pagans, “not with persuasive words of [men’s] wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power.” (1 Cor. 2:4) The words that he spoke by God’s holy spirit, based on the Scriptures, the Word of God, worked powerfully to make the conversions. He told the congregation at Thessalonica: “The good news we preach did not turn up among you with speech alone but also with power and with holy spirit and strong conviction.”—1 Thess. 1:5.
John the Baptist came “with Elijah’s spirit and power.” He had Elijah’s “spirit,” his drive and force. Jehovah’s spirit also directed John, so that he spoke the words of God, words that exerted strong power; he was able very successfully to “turn back the hearts of fathers to children and the disobedient ones to the practical wisdom of righteous ones, to get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.”—Luke 1:17.
The message of the good news from God’s Word the Bible should therefore not be underrated. These words are more powerful than any words men can devise or speak. The ancient Beroeans were commended for “carefully examining the Scriptures” to see whether what an apostle taught was correct. (Acts 17:11) God’s ministers, speaking God’s powerful Word, are energized and backed up by “power of holy spirit.”—Rom. 15:13, 19.
“THE WORD” AS A TITLE
In the Christian Greek Scriptures “the Word” (Gr., ho Loʹgos) also appears as a title. (John 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13) The apostle John identified the one to whom this title belongs, namely, to Jesus, he being so designated not only during his ministry on earth as a perfect man, but also during his prehuman spirit existence as well as after his exaltation to heaven.
Regarding the Son’s prehuman existence, John says: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (John 1:1, NW) The Authorized Version and the Douay Version read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This would make it appear that the Word was identical with Almighty God, while the former reading, in the New World Translation, indicates that the Word is not the God, Almighty God, but is a “mighty one,” a god. (Even the judges of ancient Israel, who wielded great power in the nation, were called “gods.” [Ps. 82:6; John 10:34, 35]) Actually, in the Greek text, the definite article ho, “the,” appears before the first “God,” but there is no article before the second.
Other modern translations aid in getting the proper view. The interlinear word-for-word reading of the Greek translation in the Emphatic Diaglott reads: “In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.” The accompanying text of the Diaglott uses capital and small capital letters for the God, and initial capital and lowercase letters for the second appearance of “god” in the sentence: “In the Beginning was the LOGOS, and the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God.”
These renderings would support the fact that Jesus, being the Son of God and the one used by God in creating all other things (Col. 1:15-20), is indeed a “god,” a “mighty one,” and has the quality of mightiness, but is not the Almighty God. Other translations reflect this view. The New English Bible (1961) says: “And what God was, the Word was.” The Greek word translated “Word” is Loʹgos; and so Dr. James Moffatt’s New Translation of the Bible (1922) reads: “The Logos was divine.” The Complete Bible—An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed) reads: “The Word was divine.” Other readings (by German translators) are: By Boehmer: “It was tightly bound up with God, yes, itself of divine being.” By Stage: “The Word was itself of divine being.” By Menge: “And God (= of divine being) the Word was.” By Pfaefflin: “And was of divine weightiness.” And by Thimme: “And God of a sort the Word was.” All these renderings highlight the quality of the Word, not his identity with his Father, the Almighty God. Being the Son of God (Jehovah), he would have the divine quality, for divine means ‘godlike.’—Col. 2:9; compare 2 Peter 1:4, where “divine nature” is promised to Christ’s joint heirs.
A translation by a former Roman Catholic priest, Johannes Greber (1937 ed.) renders the second appearance of the word “god” in the sentence as “a god.” And The Four Gospels—A New Translation, by Professor Charles Cutler Torrey (second ed., 1947), says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was god. When he was in the beginning with God all things were created through him; without him came no created thing into being.” (John 1:1-3) Note that what the Word is said to be is spelled without a capital initial letter, namely, “god.”
How “in the beginning with God”
This Word or Loʹgos was God’s only direct creation, the only-begotten son of God, and evidently the close associate of God to whom God was speaking when he said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) Hence John continued, saying: “This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”—John 1:2, 3.
Other scriptures plainly show that the Word was God’s agent through whom all other things came into existence. There is “one God the Father, out of whom all things are, . . . and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are.” (1 Cor. 8:6) The Word, God’s Son, was “the beginning of the creation by God,” otherwise described as “the first-born of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth.”—Rev. 3:14; Col. 1:15, 16.
Earthly ministry and heavenly glorification
In due time a change came about. John explains: “So the Word became flesh and resided among us [as the Lord Jesus Christ], and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father.” (John 1:14) By becoming flesh the Word became visible, hearable, feelable to eyewitnesses on earth. In this way men of flesh could have direct contact and association with “the word of life,” which, John says, “was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have viewed attentively and our hands felt.”—1 John 1:1-3.
The glorified Lord Jesus Christ continues to carry the title “the Word,” as noted in Revelation 19:11-16. There in a vision of heaven John says he saw a white horse whose rider was called “Faithful and True,” “The Word of God,” and “upon his outer garment, even upon his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Why God’s Son is entitled “the Word”
A title often describes the function served or the duty performed by the bearer. So it was with the title Kal Hatze, meaning “the voice or word of the king,” that was given an Abyssinian officer. Based on his travels from 1768 to 1773, James Bruce describes the duties of the Kal Hatze as follows. He stood by a window covered with a curtain through which, unseen inside, the king spoke to this officer. He then conveyed the message to the persons or party concerned. Thus the Kal Hatze acted as the word or voice of the Abyssinian king.
Recall, too, that God made Aaron the word or “mouth” of Moses, saying: “He must speak for you to the people; and it must occur that he will serve as a mouth to you, and you will serve as God to him.”—Ex. 4:16.
In a similar way God’s firstborn Son doubtless served as the Mouth or Spokesman for his Father, the great King of Eternity. He was God’s Word of communication for conveying information and instructions to the Creator’s other spirit and human sons. Prior to Jesus’ coming to earth, on many of the occasions when God communicated with humans it is reasonable to think he used the Word as his angelic mouthpiece. (Gen. 16:7-11; 22:11; 31:11; Ex. 3:2-5; Judg. 2:1-4; 6:11, 12; 13:3) Since the angel that guided the Israelites through the wilderness had ‘Jehovah’s name within him,’ he may have been God’s Son, the Word.—Ex. 23:20-23; see JESUS CHRIST (Prehuman Existence; Why called “the Word”; Jesus’ Godship).
Showing that Jesus continued to serve as his Father’s Spokesman or Word during his earthly ministry, he told his listeners: “I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak. . . . Therefore the things I speak, just as the Father has told me them, so I speak them.”—John 12:49, 50; 14:10; 7:16, 17.