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Don Stewart :: What Special Terms Does the Bible Use to Describe Itself?

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Don Stewart

We find the Bible assuming itself to be the Word of God in the special terms that it uses to describe itself. They include the following.

1. The Scripture (Scriptures)

The New Testament applied the term "the writings" to the books of the Old Testament. The Latin translation of "the writings" is "the Scriptures." The term "Scripture" comes from the Greek word graphe meaning, "a writing," or "that which is written." The noun form of the word occurs about fifty times in the New Testament and it is used mostly of the collection of sacred writings-the Old Testament.

Jesus said.

Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" (Matthew 21:42).

The singular form of graphe is also used at times when referring to the entire collection of sacred writings. Paul wrote.

What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3).

It Can Refer To One Specific Passage

The word is sometimes used of a specific passage in the sacred writings:

And he [Jesus] began by saying to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21).

It Is Used Of Specific Portions Of Scripture

The term "Scripture" is even used of specific New Testament portions. In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul directly quoted the words of Christ recorded in Luke 10:7 and called the words "Scripture."

For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves to be paid" (1 Timothy 5:18).

Jesus had earlier said to His disciples.

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house (Luke 10:7).

This is the earliest instance of Jesus' words being quoted as Scripture.

The Use Of The Singular And The Plural

In Matthew's gospel the plural form of graphe (graphais) Scripture is used.

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?" (Matthew 21:42)

The parallel passage in Mark has the singular form graphe. Jesus said.

"Haven't you read this Scripture, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'" (Mark 12:10).

Sometimes It Refers To A Larger Portion

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter specifically refers to Paul's writings as Scripture.

He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).

The other Scriptures would refer to the Old Testament as well as that portion of the New Testament that had been written at that time.

It Is Written

The verb form of graphe is used about ninety times. It is often found in a form meaning, "It is written." For example, Jesus said to Satan.

Away with you, Satan! For it is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him" (Matthew 4:10).

2. The Holy Scriptures

Twice we find the Bible called the "holy Scriptures." Paul wrote to Timothy.

And how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

In this instance, Paul used the Greek word gramma to refer to the Scriptures.

Paul used the word gramma when he wrote to the church at Rome.

The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures (Romans 1:2).

3. The Word Of God

"The Word of God" is a title that is used in both Testaments to speak of the sacred writings. This expression emphasizes the nature of the Bible as the revelation of God in written form. In Matthew 15:6, this expression is used specifically of the Law of Moses. Jesus said.

So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God (Matthew 15:6).

In Mark 7:13, "the Word of God" is used of Moses' command regarding honoring father and mother.

Thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this (Mark 7:13).

In John 10:35, Jesus used the phrase is used of the entire Old Testament.

If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken - (John 10:35).

Finally, in Hebrews 4:12, the phrase "Word of God" is used of all Scripture. In this context it seems to refer to both testaments.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

4. The Word Of The Lord

In various portions of the Bible, God's Word is referred to as the "Word of the Lord." Peter wrote.

For, "All flesh is like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever" (1 Peter 2:24,25).

5.The Book (Scripture) Of Truth

In Daniel, we find the written Word called the "Book," or Scripture, of truth.

But first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince) (Daniel 10:21).

6.The Books

Daniel the prophet used the term, "the books" to refer to the sacred writings.

In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years (Daniel 9:2)

Paul used the term to refer to the sacred writings.

When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).

While he may have been referring to the Old Testament it is possible that his own writings were meant.

The Use Of The Terms Book And The Books

Depending upon the context, the word translated "book" can also refer to a book of magic.

And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:19).

In the gospel, the term "book" is used for a certificate, or bill, of divorce

They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate (book) of divorce and send her away" (Mark 10:4)

Therefore Scripture uses the terms "book" and "books" in a number of different ways - including sacred books.

7. The Law

A term used in the New Testament for the Old Testament Scripture is, "the Law." The expression often refers to the entire Old Testament while at other times it is speaking the Law of Moses-the first five books of the Bible. In John 12:34, for example, we find it referring to the entire Old Testament.

The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" (John 12:34).

There is nothing in the Law of Moses, the first five books of Scripture, that says the Christ will live forever. In this context "the Law" is used of the entire Old Testament. The following verses teach that Christ will live forever.

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

Isaiah predicted

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:7).

The Lord predicted that the Messiah, David's greater Son, would live forever.

They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever (Ezekiel 37:25).

Therefore the term "Law" can refer have a narrow meaning, the Law of Moses, or a much wider meaning, the entire Old Testament.

8. The Law And The Prophets

Another New Testament expression used for the entire Old Testament is the Law and the Prophets. It looks at the Old Testament from the standpoint of how it is divided. The Apostle Paul wrote.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Romans 3:21).

9. The Law And The Prophets And The Psalms

Jesus spoke of a threefold division of the Old Testament - the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

In Luke's gospel we read.

Then he [Jesus] said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44).

10. Moses And The Prophets

The Old Testament is also called Moses and the prophets.

Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them" (Luke 16:29).

11. The Oracles Of God

Another term for the holy writings is the Greek word logion. This is a diminutive form of the Greek word logos and means "an oracle, divine response, or utterance." It is used of the sacred writings in Romans 3:2 and Acts 7:38. Paul wrote.

Much, in every way. for in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).

In the Book of Acts we read.

He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us (Acts 7:38).

12.Covenant (Testament)

The word "covenant," or "testament," is also used for the sacred Scripture. The Greek word diatheke translated "testament," means, "covenant, contract, or will." It is used to distinguish between the Old and New Covenants- the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Apostle Paul wrote about reading the old covenant.

But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away (2 Corinthians. 3:14).

The Use Of Book And The Books After Biblical Times

After the New Testament era the terms "book" and "books" began to be used to refer to the collection of sacred writings - the Old and New Testament. The change came about as believers viewed the two testaments as one unified utterance of God.


Twelve biblical expressions-Scripture, the Holy Scripture, the Word of God, the Word of the Lord, the Book of Truth, the Books, the Law, the Law and the Prophets, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, Moses and the Prophets, the Oracles of God, and Covenant-are the designations used for the collection of writings that were considered sacred by the writers of the Bible. This demonstrates the attitude that was taken toward these books-they are the Word of God.

Both testaments claim to record the words and deeds of God. The New Testament uses terms such as "Scripture," "Oracles" and "Testament" when referring to the Old Testament. Each of these terms shows that the writings were considered to be sacred or divinely inspired. It is, therefore, the claim of the Bible that it is the revealed Word of God.


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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