The Aramaic Translations in Jesus’ Day
In Jesus’ time, the Jews spoke Aramaic, and they read Aramaic translations of the Old Testament. These were called Targums, which means “translations.”
The meaning of “the Word” as the speaker for God, really comes alive in the Aramaic Targums.
The Targums explain that “the Word” was the Spirit of God who spoke on God’s behalf, and appeared to men in visible form as a “Messenger” or “Angel.”
We have four different Targums that translate the five Books of Moses.
The Onkelos Targum
From the Onkelos Targum, we read:
“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “if the Word of YHVH will be my support, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I again come to my father’s house in peace; then the Word of YHVH be my God.” (Genesis 28:20,21)
The Targums called “the Word” the Helper of Israel in the Old Testament. So, before Jesus left His disciples, He said: “I will pray the Father and He will send you another Helper” (John 14:16).
The Pseudo Jonathan Ben Uziel Targum
In the Pseudo Jonathan Ben Uziel Targum we read:
“At the door of the tabernacle of ordinance before the Lord; where I will appoint My Word to (meet) you there, to speak with you there.” (Exodus 29:42, 30:36, 33:9, Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 17:4)
The Word was the God of Jacob. In Acts Chapter 7, Stephen told us that Solomon made a house for the God of Jacob, but the Most High does not dwell in a house made by human hands.
The Jerusalem Fragments
In the Jerusalem Fragments, we read:
“the Word of YHVH created man in His likeness, in the likeness of YHVH, YHVH created, male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:27)
“the Word of the Lord caused to descend upon the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” (Genesis 19:24)
“the Word of the Lord spoke all these glorious words (the Ten Commandments).” (Exodus 20:1)
The Neofiti Targum
The Neofiti Targum identifies the Word as the speaker, in Genesis 1:
“On the seventh day the Word of the Lord completed the work which He had created … and the Glory of the Lord blessed the seventh day.” (Genesis 2:2)
These are only a few of dozens of references to the Word in the Pentateuch Targums. As we study these, we quickly learn that the Word was the God who appeared to men, to speak on behalf of the invisible God.
The Targum of Isaiah
The most famous Targum is the Targum of Isaiah, written by Jonathan Ben Uziel, 30 years before Christ. In Jesus’ day, it was regarded as divinely inspired, and read aloud in the synagogues.
It contains 90 references to the Word.
In our Bibles, Isaiah saw the YHVH of Hosts who said to him “who shall go for Us.” (Isaiah 6:8)
The “Us” was explained in Isaiah 48:16 as “the Lord God and His Spirit sent Me.”
But the Targum translates this as: “the Lord God, and His Word sent me.”
In our Bibles, we read Isaiah 63:10, as “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” But the Targum translates this as: “they rebelled against the word of His holy prophets, and blasphemed, and His Word became their enemy.”
The Jewish people understood that the Word was the Holy Spirit of the Old Testament.
In the Targum of Isaiah 42:1, we find out that there is another Holy Spirit:
“Behold, my servant, the Messiah, whom I bring, my chosen in whom one delights, My Word, I will put my Holy Spirit upon Him.”
Here, we learn that:
- The Word would be the coming Messiah
- The Holy Spirit on the Messiah would be the Spirit of God, and
- There are two Holy Spirits in the Bible, the Spirit of Christ, who was the Word, and the Spirit of God, that was first put on Christ.