- Rick LoPresti
Logos and rhema
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
The New Testament was written in the Greek language. There are differences between ancient Greek and modern Greek; as well as between Greek and English as spoken 400 years ago when the King James Version of the Bible was translated, and modern English as spoken differently in different parts of the world. This does not mean we do not have the scriptures properly preserved for us today. This has been thoroughly confirmed by many means. The word "word" appears 697 times in the Bible, and is mostly translated in the New Testament from 2 Greek words - logos and rhema. Logos appears 331 times, and is translated word 218 times, saying 50 times, account 8 times, speech 8 times, Word (Christ) 7 times, and thing 5 times. It is defined to mean speech, what someone has said, what is declared, thought, or the act of speaking. Rhema appears 70 times. It is translated word 56 times, saying 9 times, thing 3 times, no thing 1 time, and not translated 1 time. It is defined as word, saying, utterance, or thing.
It has been often said that logos represents the written word of God, the Bible; and rhema represents the spoken word of God, such as preaching, prophesying, or the interpretation of tongues. This has no basis in the Bible or the Greek language. The definitions of both words as given by the most respected and most often cited lexicographers have almost nothing to do with written versus spoken words. In fact, both words are basically synonymous. Logos cannot mean the written word of God, because Jesus is called the Logos (Jn 1:1 & 14, 1Jn 1:1, 1Jn 5:7, Rev 19:13). Jesus is certainly expressed in the Bible, but He is not reduced to only written words. He is the living Savior, God manifested in the flesh (Jn 1:1-3 & 14, Jn 14:7-11, 2Cor 5:19, Col 2:9, 1Tim 3:16). If logos means the written word, then we could read John 1:1 as, "In the beginning was the written word, and the written word was with God, and the written word was God." The phrase "In the beginning" is clearly referring to the beginning of the creation (Gen 1:1, Jn 1:3 & 10, 1Jn 1:1-2). The first scriptures were written no earlier than about 2,000 years after the creation, and most scholars say the first new testament scriptures were written in the 40s-50s AD. The closest way the word logos means the written word of God is the few times in the New Testament it refers to things written in the Old Testament (Acts 15:15, Rom 13:9), or the book of Revelation referring to itself (Rev 21:5, Rev 22:7-10 & 18-19). 2Thessalonians 2:2 makes a clear distinction between logos and written words. One example of logos meaning the spoken word as contrasted with the written word is John 2:22. It says "they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said". The Greek word for scriptures here is graphe which means "a document, i.e. holy Writ (or its contents or a statement in it); a writing, thing written, the Scripture, used to denote either the book itself, or its contents, a certain portion or section of the Holy Scripture" according to Strong's Concordance. The Greek word translated in the phrase "the word which Jesus had said" is logos. This clearly distinguishes logos as a spoken word from the written word - the scriptures. 2Thessalonians 2:2 has the phrase "neither by word (logos), nor by letter (epistole) as from us". Verse 15 does the same thing. Logos is almost never used to mean the written word directly, and is sometimes used to mean something clearly other such as the spoken words of someone other than the Lord (Mt 5:32 & 37, Mt 12:32 & 36-37, Mt 22:46, Mt 28:15, Acts 15:24, Acts 16:36, Acts 19:40, Acts 20:24, 1Cor 1:5 & 17, 1Cor 2:13, 1Cor 4:19, 1Cor 12:8, 1Cor 4:9 & 19, 2Cor 8:7, Eph 4:29, Eph 5:6, Col 2:23, Col 4:6, 1Thes 2:5 & 13, Jam 3:2, 2Pet 2:3, 1Jn 3:18, 3Jn 10). It is also translated "account" 8 times and "thing" 5 times. There are also other Greek words that are basically synonymous with logos and rhema and are translated "word" such as eipon, apangello, and logikos. It is noteworthy that logikos is specifically referring to the word of God in 1Pet 2:2. That word is where we get the word logic from. Its root word is logos. Rhema can mean the written word of God (Mt 4:4, Rom 10:8, 2Pet 3:2).
So, what is the point? It is that when most people, Christians in particular, think of the word of God, they think of the Bible, and they should. The Bible is the written word of God. It makes that claim repeatedly itself, and it backs it up. The Bible is the only self-validating book there is. It needs no defense. It can, it has, and it does defend itself. There are many ways to confirm to ourselves the validity of the scriptures. You can read many books on this subject, such as "Why Believe?" by Rick LoPresti, available at amazon. com or through the website awordnerd.com. However, the bottom line is that it is a matter of faith. The made up mind of the unbeliever will dismiss every means of confirming the scriptures anyway. Yet what about the people that lived in the early times of the Old Testament before those scriptures were written? When they thought of the word of God, they thought of the oral word they heard from God directly, or the word of God as delivered by the prophets, or the oral word of God passed down through the generations. This does not bring into question the validity of the scriptures either. For one thing, the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 show us multiple generations living simultaneously before the lifespans began to shorten. For example, Adam lived 56 years into the life of Noah's father. Noah lived 60 years into the life of Abraham. Shem, the son of Noah, lived 50 years into the life of Jacob. The oral testimonies were easily transmitted through the generations before Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible by the inspiration of God. So they had both the well preserved oral transmissions and the direct voice of the Creator who obviously is a witness to the events. Those people were able to know God before the scriptures were written. There is no reason to doubt the long lifespans recorded in Genesis 5 and 11. We are supposed to live forever. Death is not what God ordained for us. Sin caused it (Gen 2:17, Rom 5:8-21, Rom 6:23, 1Cor 15:21-23). That is why Jesus died for us.
What about the people who lived in the early part of the New Testament era before the apostles wrote their books? Although the time frame was not as long, they too had a time period before the New Testament scriptures were written. There were many eyewitnesses who were given many infallible proofs (Lk 1:2, Acts 1:3, 1Cor 15:1-8, 2Pet 1:16-21, 1Jn 1:1-4). Those who wrote the books of the New Testament were not writing down their opinions about God, or what others told them about Him. They saw Jesus for themselves. The 4 men who wrote the 4 accounts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus saw Him fulfill the prophecies. They heard His teaching and saw His miracles. They saw Him after He rose. They saw Him ascend to heaven. They were filled with His Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). The writings of Paul were already considered scriptures in that day by the original apostles (2Pet 3:16).
Does this mean that we are to rate our personal spiritual experiences on an equal level with the scriptures? Absolutely not. Now that we have the completed, inspired scriptures, we are to use them as the measure, guide, and judge of everything. They are the infallible, inspired, written word of God (2Tim 3:15-17, 2Pet 1:20-21). Every revelation or spiritual experience we have must be in harmony with the Bible, or it did not come from God. God does not contradict Himself (1Cor 14:7-8 & 33, Heb 6:18). What it does mean is that God can still speak to people. He did not go silent, and expect us to solely rely on the scriptures as the voice of God. He uses our conscience, other people (especially His people), prayer, circumstances, and many means to speak to us. The question is not, "Is God speaking?" The question is, "Are we listening?"
Adam and Eve knew God's voice (Gen 3:8-10). Moses and the Israelites heard the voice of God on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:19, Deut 4:12 & 33, Deut 5:23-28). Elijah heard it as a still, small, voice (1Ki 19:12-13). The sheep are to know the shepherd's voice (Jn 10:4-5). Jesus told the religious hypocrites they had never heard the voice of God, even though they were hearing it right then (Jn 5:37). The Hebrew word translated "hear" in the great verse Deuteronomy 6:4 means more than to let the compressed air we call sound waves bounce off of our ear drums. It means to hear intelligently, to hear with understanding. As Jesus said, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears (Lk 9:44)." There is hearing, and then there is hearing. When the Lord met Paul on his way to Damascus, He spoke to him directly, but the men who were traveling with Paul did not hear the voice, although they saw the light (Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7-9). Yet Acts 9:7 says they heard the voice. Does the Bible contradict itself? No, the voice was the Lord calling Paul to repentance. When God speaks to individuals, not everyone else hears the voice. We must hear it for ourselves. That is why scriptural, powerful, anointed preaching can go forth, but not everyone there hears it. It is up to us to put up our spiritual antennas and be tuned in. God is shaking this world, but are people hearing His voice (Heb 12:25-29)? Are they hearing but misunderstanding because they do not know Him or the scriptures? We need to hear what God is saying to the world, our nation, our church, our families, and ourselves; and we need to respond properly.