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All about the Logos

What did Jesus do at Creation?

It all began one fine moment in eternity. All was God, nothing else existed, because this was eternity, God's special hangout, a place where He and only He lived and still lives. Nothing else existed because there would be nowhere to put it and no time either, because neither time nor place existed. All was God and all was fine.

It could have been like a whisper in the cool still breeze or a shout, like the roar of Aslan. One thing it wasn't was the Big Bang of the scientists, the random inexplicable event. It was the voice of God and it kick-started the Universe. God spoke and time popped into existence and He called it the Beginning. Then God breathed in and created some room and called it the Heavens.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. These, the first words in the Christian and Jewish Bible, are far more awesome than you could ever imagine and, as we shall see, reveal an aspect of our Lord Jesus that is truly mind-blowing.

Jesus? Now I was always led to believe that God the Father was the Creator of the Universe and everything that we see around us. Doesn't the Children's hymn tell us:

 All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful: The Lord God made them all.

This is correct in a manner of speaking, until we examine the small print of Scripture. Our first port of call is the beginning of the Gospel of John, the New Testament equivalent to those mighty first words of Genesis.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

Read these words, then repeat the first words of Genesis and let it sink into your spirit as I take you on a short journey.

At the time of Jesus, the common man living in the land tended not to speak Hebrew as a rule. The language of everyday conversation was Aramaic, a language imported by the conquering Assyrians and also brought back by Jews returning from Babylonian captivity centuries earlier. In synagogues, after readings were made from the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures, an official would also recite an Aramaic paraphrase of those readings. These paraphrases were known as Targums and, for a long time, had to be committed to memory, so that it could be clear that they didn't have the authority of written Hebrew Scripture. Eventually they were written down and a number of them became very popular, as they provided not only a translation of Scripture but also a commentary on them by learned teachers of the day. When Jesus was dying on the cross and uttered the Aramaic phrase, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani", scholars have suggested that he had been quoting from the Targum on Psalm 22.

It starts to become interesting when we look at a Targum that was used to paraphrase the first Chapter of Genesis. Let us first look at the creation of man in verse 27.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

In Targum Jonathan, we read the following rendition of verse 27:

"And the Memra of God created man in his likeness, in the likeness of God, God created, male and female created He them."

Spot the odd word out. It's not a misprint, it's an Aramaic word, memra and it means ... word. If I haven't confused you then, at least I may have excited you as we begin to realize that this memra represents a missing link between Jewish and Christian theology. This will hit home when we consider that memra, when translated into the Greek, becomes the word logos, which brings us back to John 1:1

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Let's read it again, substituting the Greek word for "Word", if you follow me.

"In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God."

And again, this time using the Aramaic word.

"In the beginning was the Memra, and the Memra was with God, and the Memra was God"

Where has that brought us? Well, as we know from this passage in John, the person being referred to as the Word is Jesus himself.

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14)

This becomes interesting when we return to our Targum paraphrase of Genesis 1:27 and replace the word Memra with Jesus.

"And (the) Jesus (of God) created man in his likeness, in the likeness of God, God created, male and female created He them."

This becomes very interesting as it shows us that the concept of the Word of God as Creator was already familiar to Jewish minds when Jesus arrived on the scene. This hits home further when we also discover that the word memra appears over 500 times in Targums and that its usual meaning is to convey an aspect of God that relates to the physical world, particularly in situations where God appears or speaks to mankind. The memra was seen as both an individual and yet a part of God and was also the instrument of creation. Now who does that remind us of?

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

This story will continue next week ...

Steve Maltz
April 2012

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')

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