Sola-Scriptura and the “Word of God”

In my last post I reviewed a Catholic perspective of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  One of the things to note is that this passage is most certainly referring to Sacred Scripture – “All scripture….”  The Greek word used is graphē, which is used more than 50 times in the New Testament and is always translated as “scripture.” 

Often however in order to support the concept of sola-Scriptura, people will use verses like Hebrews 4:12“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The Greek word used here for “the word of God” is logos, which a distinctively different term than graphē and is used more than 300 times in the New Testament.

The use of the word logos in Scripture that is most well known is John 1:1-3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made,” and John 1:14“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”  The “logos” is Christ.  Christ is the “Word of God.” 

And when we return to Hebrews 4:12 and put the passage in context, we clearly see this passage is referring to Christ.  Can Scripture really discern our thoughts and intentions?  No, but Christ can – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heartAnd before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:12-16)

We also see the term logos in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in use at the time of Christ (the Septuagint) to refer to the second person of the Trinity who is active in the lives of the Old Testament prophets.  Some examples:

1 Kings 12:22 But the word of God came to Shemai′ah the man of God

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the Lord is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.  (Reference John 1:3“all things were made through him”)

1 Chronicles 17:3 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan

And other Old Testament passages to consider: 2 Chronicles 11:2, Ezekiel 21:1, Jeremiah 1:4, Psalm 119:74, Psalm 119:81, Psalm 119:89, Psalm 119:160, Psalm 130:5

In the New Testament we also see passages like:

Acts 11:1 Now the apostles and the brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

Revelation 19:13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.  This is another passage that people often try to use to prove sola-Scriptura.  But this is not a verse referring to the graphē (Scripture).  It is referring to the logos – Christ.  Jesus had just told the apostles in John 14:6 that He is the truth.  We will be sanctified in Christ. 

John 10:34-36 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’”  In this passage “to whom the word of God came” is a reference to Christ coming to the Old Testament prophets, and “scripture” a reference to what is written in the Jewish law. 

In addition to the “logos” referring specifically to Christ, it is also used in Sacred Scripture to refer to the oral teaching that is spoken and heard from both the Old Testament prophets and the apostles:

2 Kings 23:16 And as Josi′ah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them upon the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things.

2 Chronicles 10:15 So the king did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfil his word, which he spoke by Ahi′jah the Shi′lonite to Jerobo′am the son of Nebat. 

Luke 5:1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes′aret.

Luke 11:28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 13:5 When they arrived at Sal′amis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.  And they had John to assist them

 Acts 13:46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you.  Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 

Other Scriptures to look up: Isaiah 1:10, Jeremiah 19:3, Luke 8:21, Acts 13:7, Acts 15:7, Philippians 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, Hebrews 13:7

We even see the logos used in reference to the body of believers, the Church –

Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the fait

Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

So we see within Scripture that the logos, “the word of God” can refer to Christ directly, to the oral teaching of the prophets and apostles, and to the Church.  Somewhat ironically, the understanding Catholics have that Scripture is the written word of God and therefore part of the logos seems to be more of a product of Sacred Tradition than derived from Scripture itself.

But the logos most certainly is not equivalent to “Scripture alone,” which is why as Catholics we would reject using these passages to try to prove a doctrine that Scripture alone is the final authority for the rule of faith.  Scripture, the written word, is indeed part of the logos, but it “alone” is not the totality of the logos. So how can verses about the logos ever be acceptable to try to prove a doctrine of sola-Scriptura? 

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