Historically, Quakers understood the Word of God to be Christ, rather than the Bible. This insight, drawn largely from the opening of the Gospel of John, is one of the central differences between Friends and most Protestants, especially those of the Calvinist strands. Sometimes people will use “the Living Word” to distinguish between Jesus and Scripture, though I usually sense their usage soon becomes blurred.
I raise this not so much for theological argument as for an understanding of how we Friends individually interpret our experiences of the Divine. In the Gospel of John, the concept of Christ is also identified with the image of Light, which we often repeat in our Quaker circles. What interests me is the spectrum of experiences that can happen within that comprehension. At one end we have the ancient problem of a divinity so remarkable and expansive its name cannot be spoken (sometimes represented as YHWH, or pronounced in translation “the word of God” or simply “the Holy One”); at the other end is one so personal it knows “every feather” and “every hair” and is often felt as the person of Jesus. That is, something abstract and universal, on one hand, and something intimately present, on the other. Both can be overpowering and awesome.
In either case, Friends have reported this as Christ present amongst us, “coming and come.” In either case, Friends have discovered no need for an interpreter (trained preacher or priest) between us and the text, other than the Spirit or Light by which it was written. In either case, Friends have known a living and growing, continuing revelation. In Friends’ experience, the book is not closed but miraculously unfolding. This Word is quite different from approaching Scripture as a series of laws to be arrayed and obeyed. It’s what calls us to be a Society of Friends, rather than lawyers – a world of difference, indeed.
For a detailed overview of the metaphor of Light in its early Quaker manifestations, go to my chapbook here.