Monday, July 22, 2013
Jewish Sages Point to Messiah II
Jewish Sages Point to Messiah II
The Memra as a cosmic power was such a prevalent understanding among Jewish sages that this teaching furnished the Jewish philosopher Philo the cornerstone upon which he built his philosophy. Philo saw the Memra as “divine thought,” thus “the wisdom of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24). He wrote of the Memra as being “the image” of the invisible God and “first-born son of God” over all creation (cf. Colossians 1:15). Other titles he gave the Memra was “the archpriest,” “intercessor,” and “paraclete” of humanity, the “arch type of man.”
Philo’s philosophy that anticipated the incarnation of “the Word became flesh” in Messiah Jesus and the later church doctrine of the Trinity.
In the ancient church liturgy, adopted from the synagogue, it is especially interesting to notice how often the term Logos, in the sense of “the Word by which God made the world, or made his Law or Himself known to man,” was changed into “Messiah,” or, in Greek, “the Christ” (see Apostolic Constitutions, vii. 25-26, 34-38, et al.).
Since the widespread message of Messiah Jesus being the Memra, or the Word of God in flesh, and its effective message to Jewish peoples of the first century A.D., Rabbinic theology, outside of the Aramaic Targum literature, made little use of the term Memra.
Apocryphal and Other Rabbinic References:
Book of Jubilees, 12: 22
In this apocryphal book, the Word of God is sent through the Angel of Yahweh to Abraham.
Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] 42:15
The apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus shows the prevalent view in ancient Jewish literature to show the Word, or Memra, more and more as a personified agency: “By the Word of God exists his works.”
In the Mekilta, one of the oldest Midrashim and relatively contemporary with the Mishnah, we find the teaching of the Memra still current within the early period of Rabbinic Judaism: “The Holy One, blessed be He, created the world by the Ma’amar” (10, with reference to Psalm 33:6).
Quite frequent is the expression, especially in the liturgy, “You who has made the universe with your Word and ordained man through your wisdom to rule over the creatures made by you” (9:1; comp. “Who by your words cause the evenings to bring darkness, who opens the gates of the sky by your wisdom..” Also, “who by his speech created the heavens, and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.” Also, through whose “words all things were created” (see Singer's Daily Prayer-Book, pp. 96, 290, 292).
“Your Word, O Lord, heals all things” (16:12).
“Your Word preserves them that put their trust in You" (16:26).
Especially strong is the personification of the Word in Wisdom 18:15: “Your Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of your royal throne as a fierce man of war.”
IV Esdras 6:38
So also in IV Esdras vi. 38 (“Lord, you spoke on the first day of Creation: ‘Let there be heaven and earth,’ and your Word has accomplished the work”).
The Mishnah, with reference to the ten passages in Genesis (ch. i.) beginning with "And God said," speaks of the ten ma’amarot (= “speeches”) by which the world was created (Avot 5:1).
“The upper heavens are held in suspense by the creative Ma’amar” (4:2).
“The Word [dibbur] called none but Moses” (1:4, 5).
Canticles Rabbah 1:13
“The Word [dibbur] went forth from the right hand of God and made a circuit around the camp of Israel.”