Share on facebook
Share on twitter

JEWISH SOURCES ON THE WORD AS A DIVINE PERSON

In this post, I will be citing some of the Jewish writings which confirm that even the Jews saw from their reading of the Hebrew Scriptures that there was/is a distinctly divine Person sent by God called the Word of God/YHVH.

THE HEBREW BIBLE ON THE WORD AS A DIVINE PERSON

The OT writings are replete with verses where God’s Word is depicted as a living, personal Messenger sent to God’s people on behalf of God:

“After this the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram said, ‘Since You have not given me any children, my heir is a servant born in my house.’ Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son that is from your own body will be your heir.’ He brought him outside and said, ‘Look up toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So will your descendants be.’ Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:1-6 Modern English Version (MEV)

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; and before you were born I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Truly, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am a youth.” For you shall go everywhere that I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces. For I am with you to deliver you,’ says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Now, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.’ Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well. For I will hasten My word to perform it.’” Jeremiah 1:4-12 MEV

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have established the foundation of this house, and they will even complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of Hosts has SENT ME to all of you.’” Zechariah 4:8-9 MEV

WISDOM OF SOLOMON

“Because of their misguided casting of spells and drug use, they didn’t believe until it was too late. As a result, all their oldest males were destroyed. It was only then that they acknowledged your people to be your children. It was then, while everything was wrapped in a gentle silence, and half a night had already passed, that your all-powerful word had leaped down from heaven, the royal throne. Like a fierce warrior, he had entered the land that was marked for destruction. He carried with him your unchanging declaration like a sharp sword. He stood up and filled everything with death; he reached the sky while still standing on the ground.” Wisdom 18:13-16

ARAMAIC TARGUMS

The Targums are Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible. All throughout this particular version one will find a divine figure sent by God who is called Memra, which is the Aramaic term for Word:

And they heard the voice of the Memra of the Lord God walking in the garden in the evening of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from before the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Targum Onkelos, Genesis 3)

And the Memra of the Lord God called to Adam, and said to him, Behold, the world which I have created is manifest before Me; and how thinkest thou that the place in the midst whereof thou art, is not revealed before Me? Where is the commandment which I taught thee? (Fragmentary Targum, Genesis 3)

THE MEMRA AS ISRAEL’S GOD, CREATOR AND REDEEMER:

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If the Memra of YHWH will be my support, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Memra of YHWH be my God. (Targum Neofiti, Genesis 28)

And the Memra of the Lord said to Mosheh, He who spake to the world, Be, and it was; and who will speak to it, Be, and it will be. And he said, Thus shalt thou speak to the sons of Israel, EHEYEH hath sent me unto you. (Fragmentary Targum, Exodus 3)

And I will set the Shekinah of My Glory among you, and my Word shall not abhor you, but the Glory of My Shekinah shall dwell among you, and My Word shall be to you for a redeeming God, and you shall be unto My Name for a holy people. (Targum Pseudo Jonathan, Leviticus 26)

But the custom of (other) nations is to carry their gods upon their shoulders, that they may seem to be nigh them; but they cannot hear with their ears, (be they nigh or) be they afar off; but the Memra of the Lord sitteth upon His throne high and lifted up, and heareth our prayer what time we pray before Him and make our petitions. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Deuteronomy 4)

This day you have made the Memra of the LORD your God to be King over you so that he may be for you a savior God, [promising] to walk in ways that are right before him.” (Targum Neofiti, Deuteronomy 26)

There is no God like the God of Israel, whose Shekinah in the skies is thy help, and whose power is in the heaven of heavens. The habitation of Eloha is from eternity, and the world was made by His Word; and He will drive out thy enemies from before thee, and will say, Destroy. (Targum Onqelos, Deuteronomy 33)

And the Memra of the Lord had caused showers of favour to descend upon Sedom and Amorah, to the intent that they might work repentance, but they did it not: so that they said, Wickedness is not manifest before the Lord. Behold, then, there are now sent down upon them sulphur and fire from before the Word of the Lord from Heaven. And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the herbage of the earth. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Genesis 19)

And the Memra of the Lord Himself had made to descend upon the people of Sedom and Amorah showers of favour, that they might work repentance from their wicked works. But when they saw showers of favour, they said, So, our wicked works are not manifest before Him. He [i.e. the Word] turned (then), and caused to descend upon them bitumen and fire from before the Lord from the heavens. (Fragmentary Targum, Genesis 19)

Here are more quotes from the Targumim:

And the Lord said, This is the sign of the covenant which I appoint (give) between My Word, and between you, and between every living soul that is with you unto perpetual generations. I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of the covenant between My Word and between the earth. And it shall be that when clouding I becloud the earth, the bow shall be seen in the cloud, and I will remember the covenant which is between My Word, and between You, and between every living soul of all flesh; and there shall not be again the waters of a deluge to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between the Memra of the Lord and between every living soul of all flesh that is upon the earth. And the Lord said, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between My Word and between all flesh which is upon the earth. (Targum Onkelos, Genesis 9)

After these things the word (pithgama) of the Lord came to Abram in prophecy, saying, Fear not, Abram: My Word shall be thy strength, and thy exceeding great reward … And he believed in the Memra of the Lord (Memra da Yeya), and He reckoned it to him unto justification. (Targum Onkelos, Genesis 15)

And the Word came from the presence of the Lord to Abimelek in a dream of the night, and said to him, … (Targum Onkelos, Genesis 20)

And Israel saw the power of the mighty hand by which the Lord had wrought the miracles in Mizraim; and the people feared before the Lord, and believed in the Name of the Memra of the Lord, and in the prophecies of Mosheh His servant. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Exodus 14)

And the Memra of the Lord spake all the excellency of these words saying: … (Fragmentary Targum, Exodus 20)

And I will appoint My Word with thee there, and will speak with thee from above the mercyseat, between the two kerubaia that are over the ark of the testament, concerning all that I may command thee for the sons of Israel. (Targum Pseudo Jonathan, Exodus 25:22)

It was when the ark went forward. Mosheh stood, with hands (outstretched) in prayer, and said, Arise now, O Memra of the Lord, in the power of Thy might, and let the adversaries of Thy people be scattered, and make Thine enemies flee before Thee. But when the ark rested, Mosheh lifted his hands in prayer, and said, O Memra of the Lord, turn from the strength of Thy anger, and return unto us in the goodness of Thy mercy, and bless the myriads and multiply the thousands of the children of Israel. (Fragmentary Targum, Numbers 10:35)

Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be broken before them; for the Memra of the Lord thy God will be the leader before thee, He will not forsake thee, nor be far off from thee. And Mosheh called Jehoshua, and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, Be strong and of good courage; for thou art to go in with this people to the land which the Lord hath sworn to their fathers to give it to them, and thou shalt cause them to inherit. But the Lord, He is the leader before thee; His Word shall be thy helper, for He will not forsake thee, nor be far from thee; fear not, nor be dismayed. (Targum Onqelos, Deuteronomy 31)

And the Memra of the Lord will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandment that I have commanded you. Be strong, then, and of good courage, fear not, nor be dismayed before them; for the Shekinah of the Lord your God will be the Leader of you, He will not forsake nor be far from you. And Mosheh called Jehoshua from among the people, and said to him: Be thou strong, and of good courage; for thou art appointed to go with this people to the land which the Memra of the Lord sware to your fathers to give them, and thou art to divide it among them. And the Shekinah of the Memra of the Lord will go before thee, and His Word will be thy helper; He will not forsake nor be far from thee; fear not, nor be dismayed. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Deuteronomy 31)

Who hath directed the Holy Spirit in the mouth of all the prophets? Is it not the Lord? He maketh known the words of His will to the righteous, the servants of His Word. (Targum Jonathan on the Prophets, Isaiah 40)

… thou shalt rejoice in the Memra of the Lord, thou shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. (Targum Jonathan on the Prophets, Isaiah 41)

PHILO OF ALEXANDRIA

Philo was an Alexandrian Jew who wrote treatises on the Jewish faith in Greek. He too speaks of the Word, whom he calls the Logos in Greek, the same term employed by John’s Gospel.

ON THE WORD CREATING MANKIND:

… the great Moses has not named the species of the rational soul by a title resembling that of any created being, but has pronounced it an image of the divine and invisible being, making it a coin as it were of sterling metal, stamped and impressed with the seal of God, the impression of which is the eternal Word. For, says Moses, “God breathed into man’s face the breath of Life,” so that it follows of necessity, that he that received the breath must be fashioned after the model of him who sent it forth. On which account it is said too, that “Man was made after the image of God,” and not after the image of any created being. It follows, therefore, since the soul of man has been fashioned in accordance with the archetypal Word of the great cause of all things…. (Concerning Noah’s Work as a Planter, V. 18-20)

And it is the nature of unity not to be capable of either addition or subtraction, inasmuch as it is the image of the only complete God; for all other things are intrinsically and by their own nature loose; and if there is any where any thing consolidated, that has been bound by the Word of God, for this Word is glue and a chain, filling all things with its essence. And the Word, which connects together and fastens every thing, is peculiarly full itself of itself, having no need whatever of any thing beyond. (Who is the Heir of Divine Things?, 187-188)

ON THE WORD AS THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND THE WORLD:

And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You;” neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace. (Who Is the Heir of Divine Things, 205-206)

ON THE WORD BEING THE ONE WHO DESTROYED SODOM:

… and with respect to which [i.e. the Logos/Word] it is said, “The sun went forth upon the earth, and Lot entered into Segor, and the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” For the Word of God, when it reaches to our earthly constitution, assists and protects those who are akin to virtue, or whose inclinations lead them to virtue; so that it provides them with a complete refuge and salvation, but upon their enemies it sends irremediable overthrow and destruction. (On Dreams, I. 85-86)

Related articles

Muhammad

Allah