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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Say That God Puts His Word above His Name?

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Does the Bible Say That God Puts His Word above His Name? (Psalm 138:2)

The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone – Question 19

There is a statement in Scripture which seems to teach that God actually puts His Word above His Name. In Psalm 138:2, the King James Bible reads as follows.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2 KJV)

The American Standard Version of 1901 translates the verse in a similar manner. It reads,

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and give thanks unto thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2 ASV)

The New King James Version reads something similar. It translates the verse as follows.

I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name. (Psalm 138:2 NKJV)

This has given the popular idea that God actually magnifies His Word, what He says, above His name or character. Is this what the Scripture teaches? Is God’s Word more important than His character? The following points need to be made.

There Is a Question about How to Translate This Verse

To begin with, we must understand that this is a difficult verse. While the King James Version gives the impression that God somehow exalts His Word above His character, this is not what the Scripture teaches.

His Character and Word Have Been Exalted above All Things

The traditional Hebrew text, the Massoretic text, literally says, “for you have made great over all your name your word.” This has been understood in a number of different ways.

A number of versions see the verse saying that God’s name and His Word have been exalted above all things. For example, the New International Version says,

I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Psalm 138:2 NIV)

The Holman Christian Standard Version says something similar. It reads,

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Psalm 138:2 HCSB)

The translation “God’s Word” says,

I will bow toward your holy temple. I will give thanks to your name because of your mercy and truth. You have made your name and your promise greater than everything. (Psalm 138:2 God’s Word)

The idea here is that God’s character and promise, or His Word, is greater than everything. This seems to be a much better way of understanding the text.

Some Emend the Text

The New English Translation understands this verse differently. It says,

I will bow down toward your holy temple, and give thanks to your name, because of your loyal love and faithfulness, for you have exalted your promise above the entire sky. (Psalm 138:2 NET)

This translation of the NET Bible emends or changes the text. Instead of reading “your name” it emends to the text to read “your heavens.” This would make the verse say that God’s faithfulness to His promises is clear for all to see.

However, we are to understand this verse, we should not interpret in a way which says God puts His Word above His name or character, He does not.

Therefore, we should not use the translation which is found in the King James Version, and a few other versions, to establish how God compares His Word with His character or name.

Summary – Question 19
Does the Bible Say That God Puts His Word above His Name? (Psalm 138:2)

It is a popular idea that the God of the Bible has magnified His Word above His name or character. This is based on the translation of the King James Bible, the New King James Bible, and several other translations. The way the passage reads in these translations indicates that God’s Word is more important to Him than His name.

Modern translations do not render this verse in the same way. They understand it to mean that God’s name or character, as well as His Word, are to be magnified above all things. Instead of contrasting His Word and His name, the psalmist links the two together.

The New English Translation emends the verse to say that God’s faithfulness is there for all to see. It too does not accept the idea that is brought across in the King James Version.

However, this is not how this verse should be understood. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that God magnifies His name above His character.

What Does the Name of God Mean? ← Prior Section
What Does the Hebrew Term Elohim Mean? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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