Hinge of History
The Hebrew Scriptures are known by most people as the Old Testament. They are the foundation for that portion of Scripture known as the New Testament. What do the terms “old” and “new” imply to you. It is likely that you think of “old” as outdated, in need of an upgrade. “New” is a better version. Given a choice, wouldn’t you choose a new model over and older one? Sadly this is how many perceive the Bible. For that reason, even most Christians have limited knowledge of the Old Testament. While not technically a book of history, the Bible contains accounts of actual events that occurred over a period of about 6,000 years. Not once has the history of mankind contained in the Bible been proven to be false. In fact, scientific and archeological discoveries continually reveal just how precisely its authors recorded what they were inspired by God to write.
During the earliest years of the Church, the only Bible available was the Hebrew Bible. Yeshua, on the day of His resurrection, appeared to His disciples twice. Luke 24 records those events. What did He do? Jesus spoke to them about all that the Tenak (Law, Prophets, Writings) said about His first coming. John’s prologue to his account of Jesus’s life connects the Hebrew Scriptures to the life of his friend, brother, and Messiah. Teach your disciples how to memorize and tell this passage as a story and you will help them validate the history of the entire Bible. His Story is the story of mankind’s history.
Main Story Points
1. The Word, the logos, the memra, became visible as a man of flesh and blood.
2. Humanity as a whole did not recognize Jesus as the Light of the World.
3. Jesus’ own people, Israel rejected Him as their Messiah.
4. Some individual Jews and Gentiles recognized Him and believed in Him.
5. Having received salvation, those who believed became children of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Points to Ponder and Read
The following section is excerpted from a teaching by my discipler, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, entitled The Logos and the Rabbi.
Word = Logos = Davar = Memra
English Bibles translate the “Word” from the Greek “Logos.” The Greeks were concerned with abstract ideas. For them, the Logos was understood as having two aspects stemming from logic and reason. John, however, was not a Greek philosopher. He was a Jewish fisherman. His world was distinctly Jewish and he thought of God in concrete terms.
By the time Jesus was born, the teachers of Rabbinic Judaism were teaching concrete concepts about the “memra,” an Aramaic term equaling the Hebrew “davar.”
The memra was:
1. The Same As / Distinct From God
2. The Agent of Creation
3. The Agent of Salvation
4. The Visible Manifestation of God
5. The Agent of Revelation
6. The Seal of the Covenants
1. The Same But Distinct From God
The memra was sometimes the same as God, but sometimes it was distinct from God. The rabbis never tried to explain away the obvious paradox: How was it possible for the memra on one hand to be the same as God, but on the other hand be distinct from God? They simply taught both statements as being true and left it there.
This is the same thing that John said in verse 1. By stating that the Word was with God, it means Jesus was distinct from God. By saying the Word was God, it means Jesus was the same as God. Like the rabbis, at this point John did not try to explain away the obvious paradox: How is it possible for the Word to be the same as God, yet be distinct from God? This is explained only later in the Gospel in terms of the Triunity. The logos is distinct from God in that He is not God the Father, nor is He God the Holy Spirit. But He is the same as God in that He is the Second Person of that Triunity; He is God the Son and, therefore, the same as God. Only in terms of the Triunity can the rabbinic paradox of the memra in Jewish theology be explained.
2. The Agent of Creation
The rabbis of the 1st Century taught that the memra was also the agent of creation. Everything God created, He created by means of His memra, by means of His Word; so without the memra nothing would exist that now exists. In verse 3, John wrote: All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that has been made. What is true of the memra in Jewish theology is true of the logos of whom John wrote. Everything was made through him, and without him was not anything made that has been made, and so without Him nothing would exist that now exists: He is the agent of creation.
3. The Agent of Salvation
The rabbis taught that the memra was the agent of salvation. Whenever God saved throughout the history of the Old Testament, whether it was a physical salvation such as the Exodus out of Egypt or a spiritual salvation, God always saved by means of His memra, by means of His Word. In John 1:12, John said: But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: … As with the memra of Jewish theology, so with the logos of John: He is the agent of salvation. For it is those who personally believe in His Messiahship and receive Him who become the children of God and receive spiritual salvation from Him, the agent of salvation.
4. The Visible Manifestation of God’s Presence
The rabbis taught that the memra was the agent or the means by which God became visible throughout the pages of the Old Testament. In Christian theology, this phenomenon is called a “theophany.” A theophany is the visible manifestation of God that occurred throughout the history of the Old Testament.
The rabbis had a different term, Shechinah or the Shechinah Glory; the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of God’s presence. Whenever the invisible God took on a visible form, whenever the omnipresence of God became localized, this visible, localized presence was the Shechinah Glory. Throughout most of Old Testament history, the Shechinah Glory took on the form of a light or fire or cloud or some combination of these things. According to rabbis, this came by means of the memra.
In verse 14, John wrote: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us … The Word that in verse 1 was in the beginning with God–always was with God, and always was God–at a certain point in human history, took on visible form. But this time He did not come in the form of a light, fire, or cloud; rather, He came in the form of flesh. He became human; He became man, and Yeshua, as a man, was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.
John went on to say: He dwelt among us. The term that John used which is translated by the English term “dwell” is not the regular Greek term for “dwelling.” Rather, it is a Greek term that was actually borrowed from the Hebrew, skeinei. When the Greeks came in contact with the Jewish world, they came across the term Shechinah and liked what it conveyed. They wished to incorporate it into their language because, in Greek mythology, there were stories of the gods coming down from Mount Olympus, taking on some kind of visible form and, for a while, intermingling with men. The problem was that the Greek language had no “sh” sound. Hebrew has a letter called shin, by which the “sh” sound is made. English requires the combination of two letters, “s” and “h,” to produce the “sh” sound. But in Greek one cannot combine any letters to get the “sh” sound. The Greeks could make a hard “s”; they could say, “sssss,” but they could not say, “shhhh.” They took the Hebrew word Shechinah, Hellenized it, and it became the Greek word skeinei; this is the term John used here. Literally, it does not mean, “to dwell,” but “to tabernacle.” It has its origins in the account of Exodus 40, where the Shechinah Glory, in the form of a visible cloud, took up its residence within the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle. In Hebrew, mishkan is the same Hebrew root as Shechinah.
So for the next several centuries, the Shechinah Glory “tabernacled” with the people of Israel until it left in the days of Ezekiel 8-11. Now, the Shechinah Glory has reappeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Once again, for a period of time, He “tabernacled” among us. Like the rabbis, John also connected the Shechinah with the glory of God; for he goes on to say in verse 14: … (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. Yeshua was that new Shechinah Glory: He was the visible manifestation of God’s presence.
The fact that Jesus was the Shechinah Glory light was developed briefly in John 1:4-10, when he wrote: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lights every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. With these words, John emphasized that Yeshua was that new Shechinah Glory light. He is the source of life and He is the source of light for all men because He is the creator of all men.
5. The Agent of Revelation
The rabbis taught that the memra was the agent of revelation. Whenever God revealed Himself, He always did so by means of His memra, or by means of His Word. John 1:18 states: No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him [or has revealed Him]. Throughout his Gospel, John’s main theme is: Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
But John also has several sub-themes that run throughout his Gospel, and one of these is that Yeshua came for the purpose of revealing the Father to men. That is why John, more than Matthew, Mark or Luke, gives what Yeshua taught and said. There are more of His teachings and sermons in John than in Matthew, Mark and Luke combined. In these sermons and discourses, He revealed the Father to men.
It is no accident, then, that it was John who recorded the incident of one of Jesus’ disciples asking Him in John 14:8: show us the Father. In verse 9, He answered, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” Everything that is true of the divine nature of the Father is also true of the divine nature of the Son. Because of His very nature, He revealed the Father. The same point is made in Hebrews 1:1-3, where the writer pointed out that whereas in previous history God had “revealed Himself in various portions and in various ways, He has in these last days revealed Himself by means of his Son.” The Son is the agent of revelation.
6. The Seal of the Covenants
The rabbis taught that the memra was the means by which God signed and sealed His covenants. In the Old Testament God made eight covenants, three with the world in general and five with Israel in particular. His covenants, whether they were made with the world in general or with Israel in particular, were signed and sealed by means of His memra, by means of His Word.
The sixth point does not come out as clearly as the first five points do, but it is hinted at it in verse 17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The Dispensation of Law was based upon the Mosaic Covenant, which was signed and sealed by the Shechinah Glory in Exodus 24. The Dispensation of Grace is on the basis of the New Covenant, which was signed and sealed by the shedding of the blood of the Son of God. In that sense, He is the agent, the means, by which a covenant is signed.
John’s point was not that Jesus came for the purpose of fulfilling the goals of Greek philosophy, but that He came for the purpose of fulfilling the Jewish Messianic hope. The six things which were taught about the memra in rabbinic writings are true of this One about whom John is writing: Jesus of Nazareth: He is the Memra, Davar, Logos and Living Word.
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