Listening or seeing – which is more important?
Let's now return to the beginning of the beginning.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". (Genesis 1:1)
Even though, as far as I'm aware, all Targum material has not survived to modern times, I'll take the massive liberty of suggesting the following Targum paraphrase for this verse.
"In the beginning The Word (Memra) of God created the heavens and the earth".
This is fully consistent with John 1:1 and the other New Testament scriptures already mentioned, placing Jesus as the agent of Creation. With that idea firmly in our minds we can delve further into the Genesis account and we notice that a lot of other things nicely fall into place.
We will start by examining the original Hebrew of this opening statement in the Bible.
B'resheet barah Elohim et hashamayim ve'at ha'arets.
Scholars have spent lifetimes just examining these seven words, but modern man (me included) is cursed with rather shorter attention spans, so I will simply tease out a couple of points, selected to shed further light on our understanding of the memra.
Firstly, the word barah that translates as "created" is a singular word. This means that whoever is doing the creating is a single being. That is fine, until we look at what word is used for who is doing the creating. The word is Elohim, meaning "God". But Elohim is a plural word, suggesting that more than one agency was involved here. This squares up with our understanding of memra and, when we consider the next verse,"... and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." We find ourselves with the whole Trinity implied in the first two verses of the Bible.
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
This is the very next verse in the Bible and, no, I'm not going to provide you with a verse by verse commentary of Genesis, it's just that all the juicy stuff is in these early verses. What I am drawing your attention to here is that God's act of creation all through the Genesis account is through His spoken Word, his memra.
"And God said ..."
This pattern is repeated through every day of creation. The Creation of the World was made through a series of ten pronouncements. God gave His Word in order to reveal Himself to man. It's a theme repeated right through the Bible. God uses His Word, firstly to create and then to reveal Himself to His creation. This is the function of the memra of God and this is Jesus in action way before his incarnation.
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26)
This verse has provoked much debate, to put it mildly, in both Jewish and Christian circles, as well as in areas where these circles overlap.
Next week we will find out why ...
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Jesus Man of Many Names )