The other day I clicked the wrong button on my phone, and ended up looking at emails from the account I use to receive spam. There was an email from Tyndale Publishing, and for whatever reason I clicked on it.

Understanding the Bible Changes Everything

That’s not a tagline. It’s a promise. When you not only read the Bible but also understand and obey it, you will be transformed. And not just your life—when you understand the Bible, it changes your family, community, and nation . . . it changes everything!

The New Living Translation was born out of a courageous passion for God’s Word. It was conceived and created so that all of us can understand God’s words of life and love. Grounded in the foundation laid by Dr. Ken Taylor, the New Living Translation has continued his legacy of making the Bible accessible to all for 25 years. Building on that tradition, we are redoubling our efforts to make the New Living Translation known. The text has not changed, but we are publishing more Bibles than ever in the NLT and seeking to propel this beloved translation into a new day.

John begins his Gospel, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). It is this Word that brings light and life to everything. What an awe-inspiring realization it is that it is written to us and for us, and that it is can reside within us! It is this same Word that the writer of Hebrews says is “alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12), moving in hearts and bursting through obstacles to bring God’s transformational truth to a world that desperately needs it.

Hear the heart of the New Living Translation. [and then there’s a link to a video]

I’ll preface my response by admitting that it’s more than a little silly to become upset over advertising copy, and by confessing that this is not the first time it’s happened.

This is an example of bibiolatry so egregious I couldn’t have made it up. It’s not subtly wrong, it’s way wrong.

The Word, in John 1:1, is obviously the Son, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus. There’s no dispute about that. Across the theological spectrum: fundamentalist, mainline, Catholic, Orthodox. Even people who don’t believe a word of the Bible to be true can’t miss that, simply as a matter of reading comprehension. And if they did, there’s John 1:14 to clear it up, “So the Word became human and made his home among us” (NLT). I note that the NLT’s section header reads, “Prologue: Christ, the Eternal Word.”

To associate the Word with the Bible is blasphemy. It’s a category error. It confuses the Creator with the created. Jesus is not the Bible. The Bible is not Jesus. Look at any of the creeds, any of the church fathers. The relationship of the Divine to the Human is in no way analogous to the relationship between the Divine and the Written.

(Hebrews 4:12 is not as egregious. I think it’s pretty clear that it refers to Christ, but it’s not screamingly obvious in the way that John 1:1 is.)

I won’t miss the opportunity to point out, as an evangelical Quaker, that “word of God” has never been a great alternative phrase for “the Bible.” If I had been arguing that point a week ago, I would have been to ashamed to advance the reductio ad absurdum that if we call the Bible “the word of God,” then there’s a danger that people would begin associating the Bible with God Himself. But here we are.

End of rant.