Heb 4:12 For the word (logos) of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart

There are many uses of logos that are without the translator’s emphasis of John 1:1-3. What did the author of Hebrews mean here?

9 Answers 9


The "word" (logos) in Hebrews 4:12 is the word of God, which can be either written (as in the Bible) or spoken (as in hearing the gospel message). This "word" is active, alive, and comes with divine power because it emanates from God.

I would draw your attention to Mark 4:14 where Jesus uses a parable to illustrate an important point. He uses the analogy of a farmer, sowing seed, BUT note what Jesus says:

The farmer sows the word (logos).

Not seed, but "the word" (logos), the word of God, the gospel message.

In all these Bible verses (including Luke 7:17 and John 6:60) the Greek word "logos" is translated into English as "word" but with a lower-case w.

In John 1:1-3 the subject matter is the Divine Word, or Logos. A person (but not human), not speech or written words. That is why 'Word' here has an upper-case W, to denote divine personage.

My New International Version Study Bible makes this comment:

Greeks used this term not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind - the reason. When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things. Jews, on the other hand, used it as a way of referring to God. Thus John used a term that was meaningful to both Jews and Gentiles.

It is important to realise that the Word is distinct from the Father, being with God.

It is also important to read through to the end of verse 4:

Through him (Logos) all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Just as the written word (logos), or the spoken word (logos) of God, is imbued with spiritual life, so too is the Word of God (Logos) imbued with life.

Context is everything! Please see my responses to your comment.


Hebrews 4:

11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For [because] the word [λόγος] of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Greek λόγος is used polysemically here.

  1. Jesus is alive and active.
  2. The Scripture is alive and active in us.
  3. The spoken word of Jesus brings us peace.
  4. The λόγος/order of God brings eternal rest as opposed to chaos and disorder.

What is the logos in Heb 4:12?

It is not just one meaning but several.

  • 1
    I've learned something new today, thank you: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polysemy
    – Lesley
    Jun 29, 2021 at 16:37
  • Truthfully, I also learned that word recently :)
    – user35953
    Jun 29, 2021 at 17:04

The phrase [τὸν] λόγον [τοῦ] Θεοῦ (or a slight variant) occurs 42 times in the NT. It does NOT occur in John 1. These include:

  • Matt 15:5 - Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
  • Mark 7:13 - Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.
  • Luke 5:1 - On one occasion, while Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret with the crowd pressing in on Him to hear the word of God
  • Luke 8:11 - And the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
  • Luke 8:21 - But He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and carry it out.
  • Luke 11;28 - But He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
  • John 10:34, 35 - If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— then what about the One whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world?
  • Acts 4:31 - After they had prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
  • Acts 6:2 - So the Twelve summoned all the disciples and said, “It is unacceptable for us to neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.
  • Acts 6:7 - So the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew rapidly, and a great number of priests became obedient to the faith.
  • Acts 8:14 - When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
  • Acts 11;1 - The apostles and brothers throughout Judea soon heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
  • Heb 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
  • Heb 5:12 - Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to reteach you the basic principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food!
  • Heb 13:7 - Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

From this brief survey, the phrase "word of God' means one or both of two things:

  1. What is written in the inspired writings (eg, John 10:35)
  2. The teachings about the Gospel that have their origin in the the inspired writings (eg, Acts 6:7, 8:14, etc)

Quite often, the difference between these two are quite blurred.

Now, the difference between these usages of logos and that in John 1;1 is two-fold:

  • In John 1:1-3, "Logos" is personified
  • In John 1:1-3, "Logos" does NOT occur in the phrase "word of God" as it does so often elsewhere as listed above.

In other places, various meanings as attributed to the word such as, "discourse", "thought", reasoning", "a communication", etc. BDAG classifies these with a very extensive survey too large to reproduce here.


The closely related phrase, ῥῆμα Θεοῦ (and its slight variants) occurs in Luke 3:2, John 3:34, 8:47, Eph 6:17, Heb 6:5, 11:3 with a subtly different but close meaning to λόγον Θεοῦ; but that is another question.


There are (at least) three uses of the word logos in the New Testament writings.

As the OP points out, in the final paragraphs of the question, one meaning is the simple meaning of a statement (Luke 7:17 'report' and John 6:60 'statement'). This makes it clear that although logos can mean 'a single word', the meaning can be broader.

The meaning in John's context in John 1 is quite clear.

In the beginning, God communicated ('let light be') and this communication, reported in Genesis, was previous to human existence and clearly not addressed to angels since angels do not create, they merely administer what is already created.

Thus the communication must be within deity as a part of the creative process. This communication becomes clear in John 1 where the apostle applies the word 'logos' to convey a particular aspect of a particular person.

Deity has communicated through this Person ('without him was not anything made that was made') and that communication is the creation : the creation being an expression of deity.

But there is more to communicate. More 'word' to communicate. More to 'state'.

Jesus said 'the words that I speak ; they are spirit and they are life'.

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. [John 6:63 KJV]

In context, Jesus says 'the spirit quickeneth' and then 'the words that I speak'. The words that he speaks, speaking in the Spirit, are life-giving.

This is the word of God. But not the mere letter of scripture. For Paul tells us :

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

Merely quoting the bible is not life-giving.

This is the word that pierces to the sundering of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. This is the word of Christ (when ministered by 'an able minister of the new testament') that penetrates and divides and pierces and searches.

And when the word is 'the word of God' (that is to say when God, personally, communicates it in the Spirit) then it is life-giving.

Then it is the 'word of life'.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; [1 John 1: 1 KJV]

He who is 'the Word of Life' is he who communicates it. In Spirit. This word is life-giving. It raises the dead.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. [John 5:25 KJV]

This is the first life-giving word, to awake the soul from deadness and to give spiritual life in a new birth . . . . .

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; [John 5:26 KJV]

But there is more . . .

... marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, [John 5:28 KJV]

. . . for in his return he shall speak (in word) and all shall arise to the sound of his voice, in resurrection.

For He is the Word from the beginning.

He is the Word of Life.

And the words that He speaks ; they are spirit and they are life.

And when he speaks, the dead arise.


What It’s Not

The Logas of God is the most misunderstood word in the Bible. With utmost respect to the writer of the answer saying “Word” is the written Bible, which writer is solid and knows much about most topics, that is incorrect.

There is no English equivalent to Logas. We have settled on “Word” capitalized. Unfortunately that’s also how we translate “Rhema” which means utterance. Neither is the written word. In my opinion, it would be better if Logas was translated as “Meaning” or “Order”, and if the scriptures were referred to as the words of God, or the Spirit breathed holy scriptures. Austrian theologian Theodor Haeker said every language has a “heart word” that is untranslatable (English: sense, French: raison, Latin: res - ~thing or real, German: Wes - ~essence), and it’s Logos for Greek. It’s rich in significance.

The Logos of God, the Word, is so much more.

The Logos is most certainly not “The Bible”. The bible never once refers to itself as “the Word of God”, and the Logos doesn’t exactly mean “word”. So calling the bible “the Word of God” (depending upon what is meant) may lead us into two errors.

God’s Word as described in the bible, which is rather God’s Logos, God’s methods, God’s order, God’s Way, which is God. It is so unfortunate this is missed, because the Word, the living Word, the very order and Logos of the universe and life, is what is meant.

Greek Philosophy

The Logos is the aspect of God that orders the universe. This includes the laws of physics, the Love and Truth that makes beings possible, order, the moral law, etc. There is no English word that comes close. It had been discussed for centuries by Greek philosophers, including whether to break it into the fundamental rules that govern the spiritual and the laws that govern the physical. In particular, they debated the relationship between God and the logos. They theorized that God first created the Logos (such as the laws of physics if we are talking about the physical creation) and then used the Logos to create everything else. Another Greek proposal was that the Logos is inherent in anything existing, in existence, is part of what it means to exist, and God operated through it. They never considered the possibility that The Logos is God, nor even that It is an aspect of God. This all changed when they heard John say, and then write, “The Logos was with God, and The Logos was God.” They also never considered the possibility that It is actually a Him, a person. To put it mildly, they were impressed. All this is missed by the trite translation “word”. Some who have studied the bible for long begin to know that there’s so much to the word, but just leaving it Logos would have helped them as well.

This then allowed statements such as, “God is Love.” Even now that is hard for many to wrap their heads around, but the concept did not even exist before Jesus, who was The Logos incarnate. He said, “I am the life, the truth, and the way.” It can even be, and has been, argued that when Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except by me.” that He meant, “No one can get to God except by knowing and going through the Logos, which is God.” or depending upon one’s metaphysics, “The only way to God is through His logos aspect, which is speaking now through this incarnation as ‘Me’.” This may mean people who worship the Logos aspect of the triune God by another name can be saved, but even if that’s true: for a Westerner, using another name is not going to be real; he better just worship and get to know Jesus Christ, by name. For a Westerner, any arrogant attempt to deny Christ will necessarily be an attempt to deny the Logos of God. Some would say this distinguishes the Logas, from the Christ, from Jesus, that The Logas took on a body. And some would not; they would identify Jesus with Him.


So the problem is not so much people adding value to the Bible (a good thing) by calling it The Word, but missing out on the Logos (a not so good thing). Too many hear “The Logos of God is simply this book, so don’t bother worshipping and understanding the Logos any more than just endlessly studying and debating this particular book.” Christ is Lord, and Jesus was the Logos incarnate. That’s a living reality, not a book, even if that book is about said reality. An encounter with, meditation on, relationship with, or direct spiritual knowing of the Logos is far different than even extensive book knowledge about It. If someone says, “study the word”, we can safely assume they are missing out on what “The Word” is. If they mean the bible, which they do, well that bible never says it is the word. This also has caused many theologians and philosophers (Aquinas is an exemplar) to bring much of Aristotle into Christianity, such as the statement, “logos is, in John, the primary conceptual means of connection between Greek philosophy and Christian doctrine.” And accepting Philo’s comment that the logos is “inscribed and engraved upon the constitution of all things”

To repeat: Nowhere does the Bible refer to the Bible as the Rhema of God (life quickened word, utterance) or Logas of God (Order and meaning). Nowhere does the Bible say it is “The Word”. It is the inerrant words of God.

One can have knowledge of and know everything there is to know about the life of another person without knowing them. Knowing about God is not knowing God. They’re both good, but one is better.

I even heard John MacArthur once say a preacher told him, “I went through Bible college and studying this book and preached here at this church for ten years, and knew all about Christ, and didn’t know Him, until last month when I came to Him and He came to me. I am saved.”

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word [Logos] dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5 NIV)

  • Like many before you, "Christ is God", doesn't have scriptural support and is only arrived at by supposition. Jesus has a God, which is abundantly scriptural, but does not fit with "Christ is God". One of 'em has to go!
    – Steve
    Sep 20, 2021 at 5:52
  • We are not discussing whether the The Logos is God. But whether Christ is the Logos, or the Logos temporarily inhabited Him or what. Check again when you have time
    – Al Brown
    Sep 20, 2021 at 5:58
  • 1
    👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻 I wasn't going to quibble over 'incarnate'
    – Steve
    Sep 20, 2021 at 6:05

I think we may be looking in the wrong place to understand what is meant by Logos.

It's a Greek notion, earliest attributed to Heraclitus, but from the fragments known to us and from the ancient commentators then, no one seem to understand what Heraclitus meant.

Secondly what is understood by the common Greek speaking people in the first century when they hear John say Logos? And what is the Jewish understanding of this Greek concept? Maybe the Septuagint is a good place to start.

Lastly in John's use of Logos, he is bringing together the Greek world and the Jewish world of the Torah, and uniting the revelation of God in one word, understandable to both Greek and Jews.

  • Excellent point. The God of of Jesus, the jews and his followers was the one JHWH. The concept of one being three but cannot be counted as 3 and one being three and are really not three but 1 was not taught in the scriptures. The concept of a triune God is not in the bible, whether in the old and new testament times. God is not the author of fuzzy numbers and logic. Sep 20, 2021 at 9:50

What is the logos in Hebrews 4:12?

God's word and spirit are not separate Gods from the Father. God's word is powerful than any other being. By his word, creation came forth.

By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6 ASV.

His word is not another God/Creator. That was why Jesus ascribed creation to God, not himself

Mark 13:19 ASV For those days shall be tribulation, such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never shall be.

Any belief or reference about a co-creator God called the "Word" is absent from the Old Testament. There is nothing that an imagined Word God needed to do that God's word cannot do.

Isaiah 55:11 ASV so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

It was John who recorded Jesus' statement in John 17:3 where Jesus declared the Father as the only true God. If we believe John is a monotheist like most jews are, Jesus included. would he advance an idea of a 2nd creator called the "Word"?

Jeremiah 27:4-5 ASV and give them a charge unto their masters, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters I have made the earth, the men and the beasts that are upon the face of the earth, by my great power and by my outstretched arm; and I give it unto whom it seemeth right unto me.

To attribute creation to anyone other than the Father is to rob God. It is honoring a supposed 2nd Creator/Word/God which is due to the Father alone as the Creator. That is why Jesus ascribed creation to God, not himself Mark 13:19 ASV For those days shall be tribulation, such as there hath not been the like from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never shall be, declared that the Father is the only true God

John 17:3 ASV And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.

Even Jesus' words are not his but the Father's

John 14:24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my words: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me.

What kind of a God/Word who is in of himself the "God/Word" had to be taught what to say and how to say it?

John 8:28 ASV Jesus, therefore, said, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things; John 12:49 ASV For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

Consider the following verses:

Psalm 33:6 ASV By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth

Genesis 1:3 ASV And God said, Let there be light: and there was light

Psalm 148:5 ASV Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For he commanded, and they were created.

Psalm 33:9 For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast

These show that God's word is something belonging to God and is not viewed as a second God/Creator.

  • Some good thoughts in there - pls fix several punctuation errors and the verse formatting.
    – Steve
    Sep 21, 2021 at 11:02
  • Thanks. suggest an edit an i will approve it. Sep 21, 2021 at 11:07

What is the logos in Heb 4:12?

Several answers have stated some basic truths about God's logos but they have all deviated from scripture. Below are three ideas that are not of the inspired text.

  • "In John 1:1-3 the subject matter is the Divine Word, or Logos. A person (but not human), not speech or written words. That is why 'Word' here has an upper-case W, to denote divine personage."

This argument is a traditional trap to guide the unwary into believing the logos is a person simply by the 'translators' using a capital! And, making a Divine person out of imagination and not sound exegesis.

  • "Thus the communication must be within deity as a part of the creative process."

A big assumption based on nothing in the text. When God says 'let there be light', He needs not speak to anyone at all - do we think God needs to use literal words to get things done? God has other heavenly spirits in attendance. Nothing at all expresses more than one with Deity credentials. The whole OT expresses quite clearly the one God known as Yahweh etc. - a solitary God.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the stars by the breath of His mouth. Ps 33:6

No person even hinted at here apart from the Lord creating. Is His 'breathe' a person too?

  • "In John 1:1-3, "Logos" is personified" (which is the closest to truth of all)

Indeed IT is personified, but this does not make logos a person either - just as it doesn't make Wisdom a person. Other things are personified in scripture - they are not persons either.

We see this trend to make more of the logos than scripture provides. To personify to the point of having a new Deity, an eternal Deity, an 'eternally begotten' Deity. All drawn from imagination and they contradict the record God has provided through His son and the ones who learnt under Jesus' leadership and subsequently taught the church and wrote the Gospels, letters and epistles. None of these writers ever mentioned another Deity - certainly not a 3in1 Deity!

For the word (logos) of God is living and active...

We can see from 1 John 1 another careful reference to God's word.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Again, no hint of a person or Deity here, but the logos of God and the power within His word. Notice carefully the "which" mentioned several times - making the point that this logos is NOT a person at all - UNTIL, it is given actual human life in Jesus - the logos become flesh.

and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Is Jesus this sword? Keep reading-

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.

Who are we answering to? God. Not the logos.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let’s hold firmly to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. v14-15

Now we have the relevance of Jesus in this process - our High Priest who is at once God's word made flesh - the sword AND the one who defends us from this sword of great peril. Our thoughts and hidden attitudes condemning us (God knows them all) yet we are found safe and secure in this logos as Intercessor and Lamb. God's provision of Jesus, tempted as we are, made like us in every way (Heb 2:17) - how can he be the God deity who cannot be tempted or die? He cannot - he is one of us except without sin!

Jesus as God's word made flesh, fills many roles. Not all together, but at various times as he finished the work he was sent to do. He was not always High Priest, but became so at his resurrection and exaltation. He was not always Judge, but became so as God gave him that authority John 5:27.

This whole passage of 1 John speaks of one critical truth about Jesus. It is mentioned throughout the NT, but here it is concise. God still has His word - He still speaks out His will, He still looks deeply into His creation and points it toward its imminent completion in Christ. He calls people, He chooses people for certain roles, to bear certain burdens etc. Jesus is also this living word as a human - having qualified to represent God in every matter as His 'Right-hand-man' while also representing us - broken and sinful, disobedient and careless and being led to inherit eternity with him at God's side.

What is the difference to the logos in John 1:1-3?

None. John is charged with introducing this logos become flesh - this radical change to God's presence in creation. Now God's word is an independent self-willed human who is charged with doing God's will and not his own!

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:34

What Jesus hungers for, his sustenance and nutrition is not of he world but of His God and to do His will above his own.

I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30

John does it twice - John 1 and 1 John 1. No one talks much about 1 John 1 as it lacks the provocative personification the prologue has been presented with. When we read both both together we get a true and complete understanding of 'God's word become flesh'. The same who became High Priest, Saviour, King and many other roles - this wasn't possible until we have this living person in Christ Jesus.

As noted in the other verse in the question, 'logos' is the expression of God in many ways and is never presented as a person, a deity or one having a unique will. That all changed when it became flesh and Jesus then became the primary expression of God.

  • The personification of Word in John 1:1 occurs, in part, because subject/object changes. The Word (subject) was with/toward God (object) and God (subject) was the Word (object). Jul 5, 2021 at 12:50
  • We can all agree that, whatever the relationships between the Logos, The Christ, and Jesus… Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. And that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus bodily.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 21, 2021 at 17:35

According to Deut. 8:3 and Matt. 4:4, logos refers, in those two contexts, to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. [Deuteronomy 8:3 KJV]

But [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Matthew 4:4 KJV]

  • 1
    This is factually incorrect - the "word" in Matt 4:4 is ῥῆμα - a different Greek word from the "logos" of Heb 4:12. Further, the word ῥῆμα does not occur in the phrase, "word of God". However, it does occur in Luke 3:2, John 3:34, 8:47, Eph 6:17, Heb 6:5, 11:3.
    – Dottard
    Jan 10, 2021 at 21:21
  • I have edited only to quote the texts you refer to and to quote the word under discussion. I think you could enlarge on this and say more. (Down-vote cancelled with an up-vote in the hope that you will add a little more to this answer.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:24

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