Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Intojoy, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

    Logos - Reason and Speech

    In Greek philosophy the meaning of Logos encompassed two concepts, the concept of reason and the concept of speech.

    Logos - Reason and Speech - Idea of God/Expression of God

    Most commentators build a case for Jesus being the fulfillment of the goals of Greek philosophy, in that by reason He was the very idea of God, and that by speech He was the very expression of God.

    What those who have studied John's passage through the lens of Greek philosophy forget is that John was not a Greek philosopher but a Jewish fisherman.

    His use of the “Word” is completely consistent with the Jewish concept of the “Memra” (Aramaic for “Word”) that rabbis taught in first century Israel. Their understanding was derived solely from a close study of Scripture, not Greek philosophy.

    John was not trying to promote Greek Hellenized philosophy, with a conception of creation and creator that was incompatible with scripture. Rather, John was using concepts of God that were being taught by the rabbis of Jesus' day, and adding to these concepts based on God's divine revelation.

    Let's deal with the languages in which this concept is portrayed.

    - Davar - Memra - Logos - Word

    The Hebrew for Word is “Davar.” The Aramaic for Word is “Memra.” The Greek for Word is “Logos.” The Gospel of John was written in Greek, so “Logos” is used. If it had been written in Hebrew it would have been “Davar.” If in Aramiac, “Memra.”

    Aramaic was the vernacular speech of Israel in Jesus' day.

    Much of rabbinic writings were also in Aramaic, so we will develop the six things that the rabbis taught about the Word using their word for it, “Memra.” Within John 1:1-18 we can find all SIX of the concepts the rabbis were teaching in 1st century Israel.

    These six concepts about God are six truths about God that the rabbis could not always explain.

    Likewise these same concepts about God are embodied in Jesus, as they correlate to John's statements about Jesus. Jesus is the Memra, or the Word.

    Six Things the Rabbis Taught about the Memra

    The Memra was Distinct from God, but the Same as God
    John 1:1-2.

    This was a paradox that the rabbis recognized, but were unable to explain.

    John will explain this paradox in the concept of the Tri-unity, or Trinity.

    Isaiah 45:21-25. Observe the use of “I,” “Me,” “the Lord,” and “Him.” Isaiah 55:10-11, and Hebrews 4:12 are also good examples of this.

    The Memra was the Agent of Creation John 1:3.

    God spoke, and creation came into existence.

    Everything that we see in this world exists because of the Memra, the Word. Psalm 33:4-6, and Hebrews 11:3.

    The Memra was the Agent of Salvation John 1:12.

    The Memra, visible to the nation of Israel as He led them through the desert in Exodus, saved them physically. Through the Memra (Jesus) is also spiritual salvation, through faith in His work on the cross.

    So wether physically in the Old Testament, or spiritually through Jesus' work on the cross, the Memra is the agent of salvation. Psalm 130:4-8.

    Those who receive the Memra (Jesus), are saved by the Memra.

    The Memra is the Means by which God Takes on Visible Form. John 1:14.
    In Christian theology, these visible manifestations are called a theophany.
    In rabbinic terms this is called the Shechinah (Hebrew). It is the visible manifestation of God's glory, often seen as fire, cloud, or light.

    In John 1:14 the word “dwelt” in Greek is not the usual Greek word used for “dwelling,” but the Greek word used for “to tabernacle,” skeinei.

    John is conveying a specific meaning about Jesus here.

    “Skeinei” is a derivation of the word “Shechinah,” but as there are no “sh” sounds in Greek it became skeinei. The very concept of the word was borrowed from the Hebrew concept. The Memra “tabernacled” among us.

    In the book of Ezekiel, chapters 8-11, we find the account of the Shechinah of the Lord departing from Israel.

    In the incarnation of Jesus, the Shechinah of the Lord had returned to earth, not in the form of light, fire or cloud but in the form of a man of flesh who tabernacled among us.

    The physical body of Jesus veiled the brightness of His glory. Hebrews 10:19-20. At the mount of transfiguration, three of Jesus' apostles were allowed to see the Shechinah shine through Jesus' flesh.

    John says “and we saw His glory” in John 1:14, which refers to this transfiguration which John beheld along with Peter and James.

    The Memra is the Means by which God Signs His Covenants
    John 1:17.

    Throughout human history there have been eight covenants, three with humanity and five specifically with the Jewish people.

    1. Edenic Covenant

    2. Adamic Covenant

    3. Noahic Covenant

    4. Abrahamic Covenant

    5. Mosaic Covenant - the Law, a conditional covenant with Israel.

    6. Land Covenant

    7. Davidic Covenant

    8. New Covenant - prophesied about in Jeremiah 31:31-37.

    The Mosaic Covenant of Exodus 24 was signed and sealed by the Shechinah, as was the Abrahamic in Genesis 15:17.

    The New Covenant was signed and sealed by Jesus' blood being shed on the cross, as described in Hebrews chapters 8-10.

    Jesus (the Memra, the Word) signed and sealed the New Covenant when He lifted the cup of redemption at the last passover, and said “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” in Luke 22:20. 1 Corinthians 11:25.

    The Memra is the Agent of Revelation. John 1:18

    The Word, or Memra, is personified as a revealer.

    God revealed Himself when He gave His servants a Word from Him. This is the case when a passage begins with “the Word of the Lord came to...” of which there are many examples in the scriptures. If you do a phrase search on “the word of the Lord” you will find that it comes up well over 300 times in the scriptures.
    Hebrews 1:1-3.

    Jesus=the Word=the Memra=revealer of the Father.

    So keeping in mind these SIX things that the rabbinic scholars of first century Israel were teaching about the Memra, or the Word, we can see that the purpose of John's prologue is not to show that Jesus came to fulfill the ideals of Greek philosophy. Instead John is showing the Church at large that Jesus existed before the world was created, that He was part of the Triunity of God, and that He came to fulfill the New Covenant promised in Scripture.

    1. The Memra came in visible form, that of a human.

    2. The world did not recognize Him.

    3. His own Jewish people did not recognize Him.

    4. Those who did recognize Him became children of Light.
  2. Hey Intojoy, a little while ago, I had a similar discussion on another thread, so I thought I'd jump in with a bit of what I've learned while studying this passage (I'll probably do a bit of copying/pasting from that thread, actually). I hear what you're saying about the significance of reading the passage as "Memra" instead of "Logos," and I don't think we can dismiss that significance, but I suspect there is a dual meaning here, where the use of Logos in the Hellenistic tradition is equally significant. To explain:

    To think about "logos" as a concept from Greek philosophy is technically factual, but it's probably more accurate to think about it in terms of the zeitgeist, the "spirit of the age." There is quite of lot of scholarship on the subject on just how much influence Hellenistic culture had on traditional Hebrew culture, and of course there's disagreement, but from what I've read anyway, it's not out of line to say that the author of John would have been able to think and write "through the lens of Greek philosophy" (except I would suggest thought, not philosophy) as easily as, say, modern Native Americans can think and write through the lens of modern American thought.

    Stoicism, at the time of writing of the Gospel of John, was just traditional thought. It wasn't just something that was talked about among philosophers -- its concepts permeated the general culture. The concept of Logos in Stoicism is more complex than "reason and speech".

    In stoic thought, the universe is entirely made of two things: the material, and an intelligence which sets the material universe into motion: essentially, fate, or Universal Reason. It is logic, physics, the inherent laws of the universe, the essential Truth that governs the mechanics of the universe. This "intelligence" is Logos. Sometimes Logos in Greek thought is equated with a "god" concept, but this "god" is unknowable, distant, and not a person, just sort of a guiding force that defines the universe and keeps it running as it should.

    By naming Logos "Jesus," the author could be using an existing cultural concept to teach a truth about Jesus that is consistent with the rest of scripture. He's not just the "word," God's power to create, He is the essential Truth of the universe, that actively governs and holds together all of existence. In this reading, the writer is declaring that that this essential truth is not distant and unknowable: it is the person of Jesus, who was made known to us and lived among us (v.14). The concept of Logos is used, but it's also thoroughly transformed in a specific and significant way. In a similar way, Chinese Bible translators translate Logos here as "Tao," and in doing so, transform the culturally ubiquitous concept of Tao, and name it "Jesus," not to reinforce or affirm Taoism, but to teach a culture about Jesus using and transforming a concept they already understand and accept.

    It may well be true that Logos here should only be read as "Memra," I don't know for sure. But I think it's likely there is a valid reading here where all of the following apply:
    - we read this passage through the "lens of Greek thought"
    - we consider the cultural significance of "Logos"
    - the writer is not "promoting" Greek philosophy, but the using/reshaping the culturally ubiquitous concept of "Logos" to teach what the rest of scripture (like Col 1:17) says about Jesus

    Like I said, I hear what you're saying about Memra, but I suspect there is a dual meaning going on here. I don't think we can dismiss the cultural significance of the use of "Word" here in either Hebrew or Hellenistic tradition. I think we can read this passage as "Logos" referring to the concept in Hellenistic tradition without comprising the integrity of the rest of Biblical teaching about who Jesus is.
  3. Sounds like u know more about their day than I do. I question the perception we might have about John's acceptance of Greek philosophy tho. Was he the one called the sons of thunder?

    I would not doubt that he may have been hostile to the non Jewish thinking of his day. However he may still have wanted to relay a message in that culture too. But John's audience were also Jews, I have to keep that in mind.

    James use of the word "wisdom" in his epistle is a good example of how Jews differed in their philosophical daily lives from the Gentiles. To lack wisdom meant to lack skill in living, specifically skillful living for God. To the Greeks wisdom was education and mental attainment of philosophy.

    What do you think of these observations?
  4. #4 Roads, Sep 30, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013

    How familiar are you with the discussion over the authorship of John?

    I wouldn't say that the author of John accepted Greek philosophy, but knew how to talk to people for whom Hellenistic thought was their standard worldview, because that's the culture they grew up in.

    If the intended audience of John were Jews, were they conservative Jews, or Hellenistic Jews? To explain, I think my comparison of Native Americans living in modern America is fair: they have a distinct cultural tradition from the dominant culture, and so, retain many elements of that culture (in this case, as you describe, a uniquely traditional Hebrew concept of wisdom). But they are also part of, and influenced by, the dominant culture. Modern Native Americans can discuss any element of the dominant culture as easily as any American can, while still retaining a distinct cultural identity, which is also distinct in many ways from their ancestors' cultural identity. It's more likely that Native Americans living in urban centers will show more evidence of influence from the dominant culture than those living in rural settings. Even in during Jesus' lifetime there was a strong Hellenistic Jewish community, especially in urban centers, even requiring Koine Greek translations of the OT (like the septuigint) by the late 2nd century BC. John was written fairly late into the 1st century AD, possibly, yes, to Jews, but in a cultural climate of an increasingly Hellenistic Jewish community.

    I also think there is textual evidence that the author considered himself, and his intended audience, to be culturally distinct from conservative Jews. For example, the author writes "the Jews did x" or "the Jews said x." "The Jews," I suppose, could refer specifically to "The Jewish authorities," but I, being a Canadian, wouldn't separate myself when talking about Canadians. Like, I wouldn't say "The Canadians sent troops to Afghanistan," I would say "We sent troops to Afghanistan," especially if I'm talking to other Canadians. Even though I'm only talking about something the authorities did, I still include myself, because I self-identify with that national group. By referring to conservative Jews as "the Jews," the author seems to be making a distinction: that he doesn't self-identify as part of that group. (In some places, some translations read "some Jews" instead of "the Jews," but I don't know enough about Greek grammar to comment on why there's a difference in translations). Some references aren't to authorities at all , Like John 2:13, " And the Jews' passover was at hand..." or John 6:4 "And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh." Why write "the Jews' passover" or feel the need to explain that it is "a feast of the Jews" if this is a conservative Jewish author and with an intended exclusive conservative Jewish audience?

    Although, I'm reluctant to say that what I have described is definitely the intended reading; I'm not a Bible scholar. But I do think there's enough evidence of a strong Hellenistic Jewish community that it's worth considering how John may have been read and received by that community. I think it's unlikely that the author would have been writing with an audience of exclusively conservative Jews in mind, so to read John through a Hellenistic perspective seems like something we could do with a sufficient body of evidence to support that reading.
  5. Thanks. I'm gonna get some material on that. Possibly Josephus. Your points are worth further thought for sure.
  6. Cool, it's always worth digging more.
  7. I've got an idea that Calvin or one of his contemporaries indeed translated John 1.1: 'In the beginning was speech'.

    An interesting rendering!

  8. If Memra meant God or was a word used to substitute the name of God since it was taboo to mention His name by the first century, and it appears so, Yeshua is God made flesh.
  9. Memra described God's active force.
  10. #10 ixoye_8, Feb 5, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
    the Hebrews knew about Genesis long before Plato lived ..

    Logos = word manifested
    the will is the Father .. Jesus (Logos) was the "spoken word" that comes into being ..
    by Him and through Him all things were created ..
  11. #11 ixoye_8, Feb 5, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
    Plato's ideas were long after Genesis ..
    Gen 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
    Gen 1:9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.
    Gen 1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so.
    Gen 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;
    Gen 1:15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
    Gen 1:24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after fntheir kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.

    Luk 7:7
    for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

    Rom 4:17
    as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU” in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.

    there are many many more you can find in the scriptures ..
  12. #12 ixoye_8, Feb 5, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
    the first century A.D. interpretations (or paraphrases) of religious passages known as Targums, were written in Aramaic. In the Targums the Jews used the Aramaic word memra meaning “word” as a personal manifestation of the presence of God. When Exodus 19:17 tells us that—“Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God” the Targums interpret this to mean that he brought them—“to meet the Word (memra) of the Lord.”

    memra is merely the Aramaic equivalent of the prior Hebrew word Shechinah .. the concept of God's ability to manifest Himself was know by the pillars of cloud and fire, the burning bush etc .. since the time of Moses ..

    the difference is memra/shechinah was the manifestation of God Himself ..
    whereas logos was the power itself of God to make manifest ..

    note: the dove over Jesus would be memra/shechinah ..
  13. John 1:1 "In the beginning (of creation) was the word (God spoke), and the word was with God (came forth from God), and the word WAS God (was the essence of all that is God). The same (word) was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him (God); and without him (God) was not anything made that was made. And God said, 'Let there be light...and the life was the light of men."
    God spoke all things into existence, not by the power of His word: "...but by the word of His power..."! The word has power only insomuch as God has ALL power. God gave the angel a commandment, and the angel went and spoke the commandment to a virgin named Mary, and the commandment dressed itself in humanity in the virgin's womb, as the scripture says: "...a body hast thou prepared me." That embryo was born a man and "...found grace in the eyes of God and man...". So we see that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself."
    Jesus was "...the seed of David according to the flesh..."; and the word (the fullness of God) dwelt in "...the man, Christ Jesus...".
  14. This is 100% correct He is YHVH, the Son, personified (God "with" us)...some of those who come to their understanding of these things only through the later Greek-ized or Roman-ized Christianity miss these very important but subtler points...

    brother Paul

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