Verbum Dei: Word of God

For today’s Essential Vocab we look again into Muller’s dictionary of Greek and Latin theological terms and specifically at the term, Verbum Dei or Word of God. As you will see, it is important especially in nuanced theological discussion to distinguish between these four meanings of Word of God as well as to observe their intimate interrelatedness. Muller writes,

“Verbum Dei: Word of God;

as distinguished by the Protestant orthodox, there are four basic and interrelated meanings of the term Verbum Dei:”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: Verbum Dei.

“(1) the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son.”

Muller, Dictionary, Term: Verbum Dei.

“(2) the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, the divine-human Mediator of salvation.”

Muller, Dictionary, Term: Verbum Dei.

“(3) the inspired Word of the Holy Scripture, which is the wisdom of God given in a form accessible to human beings but nonetheless grounded in the eternal Word and Wisdom of God, God the Son, and historically focused on Christ the Word incarnate.”

Muller, Dictionary, Term: Verbum Dei.

Here of course is where the rubber meets the road for the version controversy. If the revealed word of God is “grounded” in the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, then all that is revealed word must be consistent with the eternal Word. Can a spring send forth salt water and fresh water? Certainly not. In like manner, reading X is either the revealed word of God grounded in the eternal Word or reading X is merely the word of fallen men. These are our only two options.

That said, the revealed word is not alone in that a fourth kind of “word” accompanies the revealed Word. That is,

“(4) the internal Word of the Spirit, or testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti (q.v.), the Verbum internum, which testifies to the human heart concerning the truth of the written or external Word (verbum externum).”

Muller, Dictionary, Term: Verbum Dei.

In sum, when we speak of the Scripture as the word of God we speak of it as that Spirit-inspired and Spirit-testified word-revelation grounded in the eternal Word which has as its central topic the incarnate Word. For those of a more philosophical bent,

The First Cause of revealed Word is the Eternal Word.
The Formal Cause of revealed Word is the Word of the Spirit
The Efficient Cause of revealed Word is also the Word of the Spirit.
The Material Cause of revealed Word is the substance and accidents of the inspired words.
The Final Cause of revealed Word is to draw fallen man to the incarnate Word.

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