Where exactly did John get this idea?
- A.) Stroke of literary genius?
- B.) Inspiration of the Holy Spirit?
- C.) Rabbinic thought of his day?
Most, especially in Christendom, will be shocked to hear that the answer is not A. His recording of it in these terms is likely influenced by B. But, the concept in fulness is C!!
Yep. The Apostle John opens his Gospel with,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being…. John 1
but the idea of the Messiah as the ‘Word of the Lord’ was already an idea in rabbinic thought.
There are multiple Targums, or Targumim, that are authoritative translations/paraphrases of the Torah into Aramaic. One of the very interesting features is that woven into the Targumim are some of the threads of prevailing rabbinic thought at the time of writing.
Most fascinating is the Targum Onkelos, recorded late first century, and generally attributed to a proselyte convert to Judaism. (If you have e-sword, a previous post gives a link to download for free. The extra benefit is its searchability!!)
The Targum Onkelos, near 2000 year old, has some fascinating passages of Scripture that not only reveal a rabbinic understanding of the presence of a manifestation of God at key points, but lends heavy weight to that manifestation being Messiah!
Here are a few of the near 100 wonderful examples’
And they heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God walking in the garden in the evening of the day Gen. 3:8
And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between the Word of the Lord and between every living soul of all flesh that is upon the earth. Gen. 9:17
And he believed in the Word of the Lord, (Memra da Yeya,) and He reckoned it to him unto justification. Gen. 15:6 (Who is the covenant with?)
In Aramaic, Memra means ‘Word,’ therefore, in Rabbinic thought, one of the names of the Messiah is ‘Memra,’ or ‘Word.’
Put now thy hand under my thigh, and I will adjure thee by the Word of the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou wilt not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Kenaanaee among whom I dwell. Gen. 24:3
And the Word of the Lord was the helper of Joseph, and he became a prosperous man, and was in the house of his Mizraite master.And his master saw that the Word of the Lord was his helper, Gen. 39:2-3
And Mosheh led forth the people out of the camp to meet the Word of the Lord;and they stood at the lower parts of the mount. Ex. 19:17
And they bound him in the house of confinement, until it should be explained to them by the decree of the Word of the Lord. Nu. 15:34 (Whose decree?)
There are many more examples, but these begin to reveal a fascinating picture. Our English Bible, and indeed, the Hebrew Torah, generally have simply ‘the Lord’ instead of the Onkelos rendering ‘the Word of the Lord’ in a very personified manner.
Some of the other Targumim reveal an even more incredible picture…
And the Word of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yoke-fellow He created them. (Yonatan Targum) Gen. 1:27
Who created? The Memra? Doesn’t the New Testament echo this?
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)
Yes it does!
Now, here is an even more significant passage…
And the Word of the Lord spake all the excellency of these words saying: (Yonatan) Ex. 20:1
The Memra speaking the commandments. Or, to be more precise, when Yeshua says,
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,
it really puts a damper on the Torah being ‘done away with’ if He is the one who spoke it.
It clearly demonstrates the presence of the the Word of the Lord, Yeshua, the Memra, throughout Scripture!
Without getting into a whole discussion about the differences in Judaic and Christian thought on the nature of the Godhead, this little study does reveal one glaring challenge in Christen thought…
Greek mythology tells so many stories of how the gods oppose each other. One trying to amend for, or overcome, the rules and actions of another… The idea that Jesus did away with the Torah perfectly fits the Greek model of ‘warring’ gods, and does not in any way fit with the professed perfect unity of the Father and the Son. Think about it!!
Yeshua said, ‘I and the Father are one.’
Yeshua said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.’ (Jn 7:16 KJV)
Here, in the Memra quotes from the Targumim, we are face to face with the understanding that Yeshua is present at every turn in the Torah. (Christendom agrees with this in principle, but then violates the very idea by believing He did something totally different in the New Testament. If Yeshua overturned the Father’s ‘Word that stands forever’ He takes on a decidedly Greek mythology flavor….)
Tsivi Sadan, in his terrific meditational, The Concealed Light, writes in his segment on ‘Word,’
Accordingly, King Messiah appears to be the embodiment of the Law. He is the one going out of Zion to teach the nations submission to him and to his teaching, which is the Law. This conclusion stands contrary to what many Christians think, that Messiah came to annul the Law. Messiah as the Word of the Lord must mean that to obey him is to obey the Law. pg.41
So, John’s idea comes through first century Judaic thought and reveals the presence of Messiah at many points from creation onward. This is an idea familiar to Christendom, but, it would seem that the implications are not completely thought through….
We would be wise to think them through.