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MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 2:02 pm
Mark, you are absolutely correct. The early Christians seem to have universally applied Hebrews 4:12 to Jesus, the Word of God. Of course, this makes perfect sense. He is living and powerful. He is the one can discern thoughts and intents of the heart. To the early Christians, this was fairly obvious. As you have mentioned, our translations should capitalize “word” here.
Part of the problem is that most Christians today do not think of Jesus as the Word of God. To be sure, everyone will immediately tell you that Jesus is the Word of God when they’re talking about John 1:1. But as soon as they leave the first chapter of John, that’s the end of it. Beyond that, they don’t think of Jesus as the Word of God in any real sense
So when they come to Heb. 4:12, even though the obvious meaning is that this is talking about a Person, who must be Jesus, they reveal that when the think of the phrase, Word of God, they truly only think about the Bible. In contrast, anyone who reads the early Christian writings immediately notices that they are constantly referring to Jesus as the Word, or perhaps more correctly, as the Logos
Part of the problem is that the term “Word” is an inadequate translation of the Greek word logos, the term used both in John 1:1 and here in Heb. 4:12. To be sure, one of the meanings of the term <i style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>logos is “word.” But it had a second meaning. It also meant the reasoning faculty in man, angels, and higher beings. This corresponds in many ways to Jesus being referred to as the Wisdom of God in Scripture.
I would maintain that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus as the Word, it would be better if our Bibles left that term untranslated, and refer to Him as the Logos instead. I think that once Christians familiarized themselves with that term and its multiple meanings, they would tend to think of Jesus as the Logos (just as did the early Christians)
I’ll give you one quote to illustrate that the early Christians understood the Word in Hebrews 4:12 to be Jesus. I quoted this same passage in my reply to Charles Hood on his question on this verse.
“Since the Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12), this Logos especially now awards our souls the prize of that peace which passes understanding, which He left to His apostles (cf. Phil. 4:7; Jn 14:27). And He draws a sword between the image of the man of dust and the image of the Man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:49), so that by taking our heavenly part at this time He may later make us entirely heavenly, if we are worthy of not remaining cut in two. And He came to bring on earth not only a sword, but also fire (Lk 12:49; Mt 10:34).
Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XXXVII.