The Bible – The Word of God – Three Views: Part 2

This is part two of “The Bible – The Word of God.” Today we will be looking at the grammatical structure of the phrase “Word of God.”

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“The Word of God”

Before we go on to examine the claims made by these authors we must first analyze the grammar underlying the phrase “the word of God.” The phrase “the word of God” is in the genitive case.  The genitive case is usually used to denote the relationship between a noun and the possessor or source of that noun. The nature of this relationship can vary significantly bases upon the context. Thus the genitive case can have many functions. For instance the genitive might be partitive; consider the sentence “He read some of the theology books,” here we mean that the noun in the genitive is a larger unit while its head noun represents a smaller portion of it. We might also talk about the genitive that functions as a genitive of possession. For instance if Oliver Crisp owns an book we might say that “that book is Crisp’s book” or we could say that “that is the book of Crisp.” There are more types of genitives but for the sake of this paper, we should focus on two types: the objective genitive and the subjective genitive. Both of these forms occur “with a head noun that expresses a verbal idea.”[1]  The subjective genitive occurs when “the word in the genitive functions as if it were the subject of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun.” Mounce suggests that the word “produced” can help us understand what is meant by this type of genitive.[2] So when we consider Mark 1:14 “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,” we would read “good news of God” as meaning the good news that is produced by or comes from God. But we might also read this verse as containing an objective genitive. The objective genitive occurs when “the word in the genitive functions as the direct object of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun.”[3] So in this verse we would read “the good news of God” as the “good news about God.”

Having laid out these options we can ask, “What type of genitive do we find in the phrase ‘the Bible is the word of God?’” We could say that it is a genitive of possession, meaning that the Bible is the word belonging to God, that somehow God possesses the Bible which is the same thing as God’s words. However this does not make much sense. We could say that it is a subjective genitive, that the Bible is the word produced by God or it is the word from God. We could also say that the genitive is an objective genitive, the Bible is the word about God. We should keep these two distinctions in mind as we examine the various theories of what it means to say that the Bible is the word of God.


[1] William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 52.

[2] Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 52.

[3] Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, 52.

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