I am pondering the meaning of “word” as it is used in the world of theology. This is not a scholarly presentation. It is more of a reflection.
I have read, as most people who appreciate scripture, the beginning verse of John’s Gospel. For Christians, this is probably the best place to go to get a sense of what “Word” might mean. I think it is important to point out that accepting John into the cannon was not a unanimous consideration. It included stories of Jesus and his teaching, but it also resembles some of the Gnostic writings from the first couple of centuries in the life of the church. I have been reading some of these Gnostic writings has gotten my mind into a less literal mindset than I am used to. In the past, it made sense to me, when people used “word”, to mean the writings in the bible. But looking at this first verse of John makes using “word” to mean bible seem a little silly.
First of all, according to John, the Word existed before the world was made. That would mean before the creation of land upon which human beings could walk and talk and write books the Word existed. In fact, the Word existed before there was anyone with two ears to receive, to hear the Word. That makes me think that maybe that Word in John’s theology means something more like “thought” or “idea”. Perhaps that first sentence in John could be rewritten: “Before the world was created, the Idea already existed.” In other words, God had an idea of what he wanted to create before he created it. Any artist or inventor would understand this. Artists and inventors have a sense that their ideas seem to come to them rather than from them. This seems more like “inspiration”, My dictionary offers this definition: “a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea”. Some people talk about having “a leading”, a little nudge to do something or say something.
Where does such a nudge, or leading, come from? This is where belief comes in. For me, such nudges, come from God. I can’t say I am always positive that a nudge comes from God, but I have little ways to test that. Examining my motives is one way. Another is to pay attention to wisdom. Where do I get my wisdom? From my life experiences, my limited knowledge of people and the world, and the many words of wisdom spoke by wise people today and in the past. I appreciate that so many of these words have been written on the pages of books I read so I can avail myself to them. Especially important to me are thewords that were spoken by Jesus which have been passed on by the writers of the scriptures as best people could recall. I like them so much that they form the center of my spirituality. However, what moves me are not the physical words themselves, but the spirit behind the words. Jesus promised his followers that the same Spirit of God that guided him would be the one that would guide them after he was gone.
I believe Jesus and I believe that Word means the Ideas of God. When I seek to do God’s work in the world, that is, to share in the continuing work of creation, I have to pay close attention to listen, to listen WITH MY SPIRITUAL EARS, to what God is “telling” me to do.
For those who continue to assume that the bible is the way to know God’s will, I would like to suggest that they at least try to accept that the bible is not the only way. God’s cannot be restricted to something physical as words on paper or even words formed with our physical mouths. We have the Holy Spirit to help us first, hear with our spiritual ears and then guide us in how to bring this creative, life-giving…something of God…into the physical world.