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What are the oracles of God?


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oracles of God
Question: "What are the oracles of God?"

There are several places in the Bible that mention the oracles of God. In the New Testament, the term oracles of God refers to the Word of God; in the Old Testament, it sometimes refers to a part of the temple. Not all English translations contain the phrase oracles of God, so it depends on what version one is reading from.

The New Testament Greek phrase sometimes translated “oracles of God” is logion Theou (logion being the plural form of logos). “Words of God” is a good translation. The KJV, ESV, NASB, and some other versions put “oracles of God.” This is a fine translation, too, as long as we define oracle properly.

In modern usage the word oracle often refers to a person, specifically a priest or medium through whom gods or spirits speak. An oracle can also be the place where the priest or medium receives divine messages. But an older definition of oracle, and the one used by some Bible translators, is “a message from God.” The “oracles of God” in the New Testament are the messages or words of God. In Acts 7:38, Stephen speaks of how Moses received “living oracles to give to us” (ESV)—a reference to the life-giving nature of God’s Word.

Romans 3:2 mentions the oracles of God in the ESV: “To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” Paul highlights the fact that the Jews who received, copied, and preserved the Tanakh had been entrusted with the very Word of God. This was an advantage to the Jews because it meant the gospel would be preached to them first and then to the Gentiles. Of course, this advantage was only applicable to those who believed the gospel, as Paul states in the verses that follow. Truly the good news, as Paul continues, is that both Jews and Gentiles now have access to righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21–22).

Hebrews 5:12 also speaks of the oracles of God in the NASB: “You have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” Again, the “oracles of God” here are the words of God. The writer of Hebrews says his readers should have moved beyond the basic principles of God’s Word and on to “meatier” subjects; instead, they are like babies who are not ready for solid food (verses 13–14).

First Peter 4:11 mentions the oracles of God in the KJV: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” In this context Peter instructs us to be extremely careful with the gifts we receive from God (verse 10). Our words should be chosen wisely and spoken as if we are speaking the very words (oracles) of God. When we quote Scripture and expound on its meaning, we actually are speaking the oracles of God. Peter states the goal of our use of words: “So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (verse 11).

In 2 Samuel 16:23, the “oracle of God” (KJV) that gave Ahithophel wisdom means “the Word of God” or, more specifically, “a divine utterance delivered to man.” Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the “oracle of God” refers to the place where God dwelt—the Most Holy Place in the temple that contained the Ark of the Covenant—and thus the place where inquiry could be made about God’s wisdom, will, and word (see 1 Kings 6:5 and 19 in the KJV).

Recommended Resource: Making Sense of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation by Geisler & Howe

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