- 1 The true text of John 1:1
- 1.1 In the Beginning was the Word
- 1.2 And the Word was to God (kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon)
- 1.3 And God was the Word (the “God” who appeared to us was Christ)
- 2 The Word
- 2.1 Hermeneutics – John wrote to the Jews in the time of Christ
- 2.2 We know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews
- 2.3 The Word in the Hebrew Old Testament
- 2.4 The Word in the Targumim (Aramaic Translations)
- 2.5 The Word was explained by Philo, in 30 A.D.
- 2.6 The Change of Rabbinic Theology after Christ
- 3 ELOHIM
The true text of John 1:1
The Greek text of John 1:1 has not been translated correctly into English. The Greek reads:
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and God was the Word.”
In Genesis 1:1, ELOHIM was Christ.
But John was not the first one to call Jesus Christ “God.”
God called Jesus Christ “ELOHIM” in Psalms 45:6, Hosea 1:7, Amos 4:11, Jeremiah 50:40, and Zechariah 12:8. And, most notably, He identified the Spirit of Christ as “YHVH ELOHIM” at the burning bush, in Exodus 3:15 and 16.
In the Beginning was the Word
In John 1:1, the Apostle John used the expression “in the beginning” to imitate Genesis 1:1:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
John even imitated the writing style of Genesis 1, beginning each successive phrase with “and.”
The Bible is the story of God’s salvation plan. Paul described the “end” of this plan, in 1 Corinthians 15:24, “then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God . . .” God’s salvation plan began before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). This is the beginning that John spoke of, when he said, “In the beginning was the Word.”
We only know that Christ, the Word, was “before all things” (Colossians 1:17). We cannot really understand when He became “the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15).
Some Bibles translate מִקֶּ֖דֶם in Micah 5:2 as “from everlasting” to describe Christ’s beginning. But, the Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Lexicon tells us מִקֶּ֖דֶם means “from ancient days,” or “days of old.”
In Jude 1:25, we see that Christ existed “before all ages.” The Greek word here is (æons) αἰῶνος.
“To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”1
When Jude told us the glory of God was “through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages,” he was echoing the words of Jesus: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world (κόσμον kosmon) was” (John 17:5).
The word αἰών (aión), meaning “age” or “world,” is used 125 times in the New Testament. When meaning “age” it refers to the periods, or “ages,” of human history. The root meaning of αἰών (aión) is life. 2 Generally, the Bible refers to the ages or “lifetimes” of the prophets, such as in Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 15:18; and Ephesians 3:9; however, some translations have made the meaning as “world” or “beginning of the world.” There are a few verses where αἰών (aión) clearly does mean world, for example, in Hebrews 1:2, and 11:3: “through whom He also made the worlds,” and “we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Although, even in these verses, some translations use ages and not worlds.
Some have been ignoring the biblical meaning of αἰών (aión). They want to recognize an “eternal” meaning of αἰών in order to defend the Trinity doctrine. They want to say that Christ and God both existed “forever” and therefore they are equal.
The original version of the Nicene Creed has historically been translated into English as “(Christ was) begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), or ‘ages.’” The word aeons (worlds) in the Creed is a Latin transliteration of the Greek word αἰών (aión).
The “Ecumenical Version” of the Nicene Creed, translated in 1975, translated the Latin word aeons to mean “eternally.” The Creed reads, “(Christ was) eternally begotten.” The idea is to support the eternal existence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, making them all equal, pretending that Christ had no beginning. The Catholic Church version of 2011 is a more accurate translation, as “before all ages.”
John, in Revelation 3:14, called Christ “the beginning of the creation of God.” Christ did have a beginning. He was the “firstborn.” God existed before Christ.
You believe that I came out of the Father
There are some who think Christ came into existence when He was “conceived of the Holy Spirit” as recorded in Matthew 1:20. But Christ’s real conception was at the beginning of creation. He was the firstborn.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasized that He “came out” of the Father. He did not “come out” of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 1:20.
Jesus said, “For the Father Himself loves you because . . . you believe I came (out) ἐξῆλθον ἐκ τοῦ from the Father and have come into the world” (John 16:27, 28).
The literal words Jesus spoke here were “you believe I came out of the Father.”
These are the same Greek words we find in John 8:59: “but Jesus hid Himself and went out ἐξῆλθον ἐκ τοῦ of the temple.”
The expression “went out” describes someone who comes from “the inside of something.” Jesus said that He “came out” of the Father and went into the world. He was the firstborn Spirit, who went out of the Father at the beginning of creation.
The Beginning of the Creation of God
In Revelation 3:14, John called Christ, “the beginning of the creation of God.”
John’s expression “the beginning” takes us back to John 1:1. The Spirit of Christ was the “firstborn” and the “only begotten God” (Col 1:15; John 1:18; Heb 1:6). He was the firstborn Spirit. To interpret this as saying the Spirit of Christ was “the originator of the creation of God” is unfaithful to the Greek language, which gives us only one meaning of “beginning” in every verse of the New Testament, including John 1:1. We can consider the meaning of “beginning” in Mark 13:19: “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.” This is the most direct comparison to Rev 3:14 and gives the same meaning as “beginning.”
The Trinitarian Albert Barnes, in his commentary on this verse and the use of the word “beginning” in the New Testament, says: “The word (ἀρχὴ archē, beginning) is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence.”
The Father, who makes all of us in the womb (Jer 1:5; Psalms 139:13; Isaiah 44:2), is the creator and Father of all (Eph 4:6).
The Only Begotten God
All the earliest manuscripts record John 1:18 as:
“No one has seen God at any time, the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared Him.”
The Chalcedon Creed, which was accepted by the Churches of Asia in 451 A.D., also used the expression “only begotten God,” to describe Christ as the firstborn. The Greek Churches of Asia were slow to accept the changing of Greek manuscripts to read “only begotten Son,” in the fifth century.
The Firstborn of Creation
He is the firstborn of creation, Colossians 1:15.
The Apostle Paul was not the first person to call Christ, the firstborn of creation. The expression was used by Philo in 30 A.D., and also appears in the Zohar. The Jewish people, in the time of Christ, already understood that the Word was the firstborn spirit.
Trinitarians will try to persuade us that the expression “firstborn” only signifies “rank” and does not mean “first to be born.” This is not true in the Bible. The Bible uses the expression “firstborn” about 130 times, and it always bears the meaning of “first to be born,” in either a physical or spiritual sense. Trinitarians cite Psalms 89:27, but compare to Revelation 1:5; and Jeremiah 31:9, where Ephraim is a representational expression for Israel (cf. Hosea 6:4,10; 7:1,8 etc.). Israel is God’s first born (Exodus 4:22).
Those who established the Trinity never disputed the Bible’s assertion that Christ (the Spirit of Christ) was born of the Father. They only tried to argue that no time could be established when Christ was born, since the stars and seasons that measure time had not yet been created.
Through Whom and by Whom all things were created
In the beginning, ELOHIM created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
The Apostles taught that all things were spoken into being, through Christ, and by Christ.
To say that that all things were made through Christ means that God was the real creator, who spoke through Christ.
John said that all things were made through Christ: “All things were made through δι’ Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
The Book of Hebrews records, “through δι’ whom, He also made the worlds.”
And Paul’s letter to the Colossians says, “all things have been created through διὰ Him . . .”
The expression “through Christ” also tells us God did not seek counsel from Christ; rather, He simply spoke “through” Christ.
God alone was responsible for the creation of the world. Christ was only the vessel through whom all things were created.
In Colossians 1:16, Paul also said that all things were made by Christ.
Paul echoed the words of Genesis 1:1: “For by ἐν Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth . . .”
And the Word was to God (kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon)
Some believe the phrase “and the Word was with God” means that God was “thinking of Christ” in the beginning. But that idea is not supported by the Greek grammar. The Greek grammar implies action and emotion by Christ, not by God.
There are many Greek words that can be translated “with” (such as en, meta, para, and sun). In this sentence, John used the word “pros.” It actually means “to” or “toward.” It is only translated “with” because that sounds better in English. A quick scan of all the translations of pros in the interlinear text will verify that pros simply means “to.”
In John 17:24, Jesus told us the Father “loved Me before the foundation of the world.” In this verse, you may try to argue that God was only “thinking” about the Christ in the beginning, because the action of the Father is toward Christ. But in John 1:1, the action is toward God. John said that Christ was “to the Father” in the beginning.
The grammar of John 1:1 is identical to 1 John 2:1: “we have an advocate with (to – para) the Father.” John 1:1 and 1 John 2:1 both describe the action of Christ toward God.
You are unlikely to find many Greek Unitarians, because they would understand from John 1:1 that Christ was “toward” God in the beginning. There was action, and emotion, on the part of Christ toward God.
And God was the Word (the “God” who appeared to us was Christ)
The message of John 1:1 is not that Christ was God, but that ELOHIM was Christ. Trinitarian translators have reversed the word order.
The opening words in the Gospel of John mimic the opening words of Genesis, to tell us Jesus Christ was ELOHIM in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, ELOHIM created the heavens and the earth.”
Unfortunately, the English text we read in John 1:1 has been “poetically” altered. The true reading, in the Greek text, contains this most significant truth of the Bible.
 John 1:1, Greek text
The Word, we know from John 1:2 to 5, was Jesus Christ.
The phrase “God was the Word” tells us “ELOHIM” in Genesis 1:1 was Jesus Christ.
The literal translation of John 1:1 as “God was the Word,” can be found in the Concordant literal version, and in many early translations, such as the Wycliffe Bible of 1395, the Coverdale (Great Bible) of 1539, and Luther’s Bible, which reads “und Gott war das wort.” Luther’s translation is still the standard German translation today.
In his book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, the renowned Trinitarian professor Daniel B. Wallace rules out the applicability of Colwell’s rule, that would equate “the Word” to “the God,” the one true God. On page 45, he provides the grammatical argument for the translation, “the Word was God,” – “a subset preposition is envisioned here. The Λόγος belongs to the larger category known as Θεὸς” – his meaning is that since the Word is only a part of God, this phrase must be translated “the Word was God.” But we know that “God” here does not refer to the Trinitarian God. John is telling us that ELOHIM was the Word.
Hermeneutics – John wrote to the Jews in the time of Christ
One of the most important rules we must follow to interpret any Bible passage is to understand who the passage was written to, and when. The Apostle John preached to the Jews, as Paul explained in Galatians 2:7–9.
When John used the expression “the Word,” his audience understood his meaning. The Jews in Jesus’ Day spoke Aramaic, and they listened to Aramaic translations of the Old Testament, every week in the synagogue. The powerful message of those Aramaic translations was that “the Word” was the visible God, who appeared and spoke to man, on behalf of the invisible God, throughout the Old Testament. The Word was the visible God, who created man after His physical image, in Genesis 1:27.
We know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews
In John 4:22, Jesus emphasized the importance of understanding God as the Jews did.
Speaking to the Samaritan woman by the well, Jesus said,
“You worship what you do not know,
we worship what we know,
for salvation is from the Jews.”
In this statement, Jesus brought us two truths: only the Jews had the proper understanding of God; and our salvation requires a proper understanding of God.
Therefore, it is very important that we understand God, exactly as the Jews did. The Jews understood that no one had seen God, or heard His voice, at any time. Men had only seen the Word, who was God’s image, and speaker, throughout the Old Testament.
The Word in the Hebrew Old Testament
By the plan of God, the message of the Word became very powerful before Christ appeared. Without this solid understanding, the Jews would not have understood who Christ really was. But this message did not begin in the Targumim. It was first introduced in the Book of Genesis, and explained more clearly in 1 Samuel, the Psalms, 1 Kings, and throughout the prophets.
The Word was first called “the Word” in Genesis 15
The expression “the Word” was first used to describe God’s speaking to Abram in a vision in Genesis 15:1, and again in Genesis 15:4, where we read,
“the Word of the LORD come to Abram in a vision, saying . . .
hayah debar YHVH to Abram in a vision lemor
היה דבר־ יהוה to Abram in a vision לאמר”
In this sentence, the subject is “the Word.” The Word of the LORD is the speaker. The meaning of this seems a bit abstract; how could one personify “the Word of the Lord”?
The expression “Messenger of the LORD” had not been used yet in the Bible. It first appears in Genesis 16:7.
The reader must assume that Abram saw “the Word of the LORD,” the Messenger of the LORD in the vision. Or why is there a vision? In verse 5, we are told that the Word of the Lord brought Abram outside.
Reading right to left, we highlight in red an interesting fact about this expression: these are literally the words “BE the WORD of HE WILL BE (YHVH).” The first word is the Hebrew word “BE,” the present tense of the verb “to be.” The yod (y) in front of “BE” creates the third person future tense “HE WILL BE.”
The phrase, “come the Word of He WILL BE saying,” is repeated dozens of times, to signify the speaking of “the Word of the LORD” to the prophets.
The Word in the Books of Samuel
Samuel is considered by the Jewish people as the first prophet. The reason may simply be that he was the first one, to whom “the Word of the LORD” spoke on a regular basis.
In 1 Samuel 3:21, we read:
“Then YHVH (He WILL BE) appeared again in Shiloh.
For YHVH (He WILL BE) revealed Himself in Shiloh
by the Word of YHVH (He WILL BE).”
He WILL BE was the shared name of the invisible God and His image, who was the Word.
The Word of YHVH (He WILL BE) was the YHVH (He WILL BE) who appeared to Samuel in Shiloh, on behalf of the invisible YHVH (He WILL BE).
In 1 Samuel 15:10 we read: “and came the Word of YHVH (He WILL BE) to Samuel saying.”
Here, the Word of the LORD speaks to Samuel, just as He did to Abram.
Perhaps the most famous verse that describes the Word in the Old Testament, comes from David:
“The Spirit of YHVH, HE-spoke in me, and His Word was on my tongue.”
2 Samuel 23:2
In this verse, the Spirit of YHVH is the invisible God. He is identified by the masculine pronoun. The Word was the Spirit of Christ in the mouth of David.
We find the explanation of a Spirit in the mouth of prophets, in 1 Kings 22:22:
Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, “I will persuade him.” YHVH said to him, “In what way?” So he said, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.”
The Book of 1 Kings used the expression “Word of the LORD” extensively, to describe the Word of the LORD, who spoke to the prophets.
The Word of the LORD spoke to Elijah and visited him in the Cave
The Word of the LORD is identified as the speaker to Elijah in 1 Kings 16:1, 17:2, 17:8, 18:31, 21:17, and 21:28, using the expression “and came the Word of the LORD to Elijah, saying.”
However, the most striking verse explaining this is 1 Kings 19:9:
“And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place, and behold, the Word of the LORD came to him, and HE said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
Here, the Word LORD is clearly identified as the visible God who spoke to Elijah in the cave.
The Word brought creation into being in the Psalms
“By the Word of YHVH the heavens were made,
and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”
The Psalmist described the creation of God by “the Word” and by the breath of God.
The expression “the Word” described the Spirit of Christ as “the speaker” who spoke creation into being. In fact, you may notice that creation in Genesis 1 was by way of the Ten Commandments, all using the expression “and ELOHIM spoke.” And the Jerusalem Targum identifies “the Word” as the speaker of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1, saying, “And the Word of the Lord spoke all these glorious words.”
The expression “breath of His mouth,” refers to the breath of life that God breathed in Genesis 1:2. We discuss this in detail in Chapter 8.
The Word was identified as the Speaker throughout the Prophets
The expression “And Came the Word of YHVH saying” (wayhi debar YHVH elay minor) was used throughout the prophets, to describe the Word, the prophetic Spirit, who spoke to the prophets. Just a short list of examples consists of Ezekiel 1:3, 3:16, 6:1, 7:1, Jeremiah 1:4, 1:11, 2:1, 13:3, 13:8, 16:1, 24:4, Jonah 1:1,3:1, Zechariah 4:8, 6:9, and so on.
The Word in the Targumim (Aramaic Translations)
The use of the expression “Word of the Lord” reached a height among the prophets who lived from 600 B.C. to 500 B.C. In this time, Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the main language of communication among the Jews. Therefore, a need arose to translate the Hebrew into Aramaic, so that the common Jews could understand the Old Testament.
The translation of the Bible into Aramaic began as an oral practice, and eventually it was written. The Aramaic translations, called Targumim (the singular is Targum), are much like our modern English Bibles. Like the Good News Bible, they also provide some interpretation, or explanation of the passage. They are not word-for-word translations. And, very interestingly, when describing the “visible God” who appeared to men, the Targumists often chose to use the expression “the Word,” rather than YHVH, “He WILL BE,” or “ELOHIM.” The Targumists understood that there were two YHVHs, the invisible God, and His Spirit, who was His Messenger. When describing God’s Messenger, His Spirit, they used the expression, “the Word.”
The writing of the Targumim began in the first century, B.C. The most famous translator was Rabbi Jonathan ben Uziel, who was said to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Jonathan ben Uziel is believed to have translated the writings of all the prophets, including the Books of Joshua, Samuel, Judges, and Kings. In most cases, we cannot identify the writer of the other Targumim.
We actually have Targumim of every Book of the Old Testament except the books of Ezra and Daniel, which were partly written in Aramaic by the original authors.
The Word was the Visible God
The Pentateuch Targumim (the Five Books of Moses) use the phrase “the Word” in the Targumim, which describes the visible God who appeared to man.
We actually have four different translations of the Pentateuch Targumim:
- The Pseudo Jonathan ben Uziel Targum (that was originally attributed to Jonathan ben Uziel, but is greatly disputed).
- The official Targum of the Synagogue, called the Onkelos Targum, purportedly written in the second century A.D. by Onkelos, who many identify as Aquila of Sinope, “a Roman national who converted to Judaism in Tannaic times (c. 35–120 CE).”3
- The Targum Neofiti, of unknown date.
- Fragments of the Targum, normally referred to as the “Jerusalem Fragments,” the most significant of which is the Paris Fragments (kept at Paris).
From our understanding of the account below, the Targum Neofiti and the Jerusalem fragments are believed to have been derived from the Targum read at Jerusalem. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Hai Gaon, an eleventh-century Jewish theologian, who lived in Iraq (Babylon):
We do not know who composed it, nor do we even know this Targum, of which we have heard only a few passages. If there is a tradition among them [the Palestinians] that it has been made the subject of public discourse since the days of the ancient sages [here follow the names of Palestinian amoraim of the third and fourth centuries], it must be held in the same esteem as our Targum (Onkelos); for otherwise they would not have allowed it. But if it is less ancient, it is not authoritative. It is very improbable, however, in our opinion, that it is of later origin (comp. “R. E. J.” xlii. 235). 4
The Pseudo Jonathan ben Uziel Targum is believed to be a composite of the Onkelos Targum and the Jerusalem Targum.
There is a noticeable difference between the Onkelos and Palestine (Jerusalem) Targumim. The Onkelos Targum was written after Christ and does not use the phrase “Holy Spirit” to describe the Spirit in the prophets, as does the Jerusalem Targum. Also, the Onkelos Targum does not call the Word “the Creator” in almost every verse of Genesis 1, as does the Jerusalem Targum. After John’s Gospel was written, Jewish Rabbis tried to remove any description of the Word as being the Creator, in Genesis 1.
Genesis 1 in the Pentateuch Targumim
The Targum read in Jerusalem tells us that the Word created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1.
From the Paris (Jerusalem) Fragment, we read:
“With wisdom, the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth,
And the earth was unformed and void . . .
And the Word of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light,’ . . .
And the Word of the Lord divided the light from the darkness
And the Word of the Lord called the light ‘Day,’ and the darkness, He called ‘Night’ . . .”
The text continues to cite “the Word of the Lord” as the creator in the first and second Chapters of Genesis. Genesis 2:2 reads, “And the Word of the Lord cherished on the seventh day, His work that He had done.”
In the Neofiti Targum, we read:
“From the beginning, with wisdom, the Word of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.
And the earth was waste and unformed . . .
And the Word of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light’ . . .”
The text carries on with the Word of the LORD as the creator, in each verse of Genesis 1 and 2, but there is a slight difference in Genesis 1:26–27, 28: “and the LORD said, ‘let Us create man in Our likeness’ . . . And the Word of the Lord created man in his likeness . . . And the glory of the LORD blessed them . . .”
The most striking verse is Genesis 2:1:
“And they completed the creation of the heavens and the earth.”
The Targumist understood that the heavens and the earth were created by two beings, the LORD and His Spirit, who was the Word.
Other references to the Word in the Pentateuch Targum
Below, we present a sample of references to “the Word” in the Pentateuch Targumim that are available on the Internet. The expression “the Word” is used throughout. As you study these, you will realize that the Word was the visible God, who spoke on behalf of the invisible God, in the Old Testament.
“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, 110 A.D. (Onkelos)
“and My Word shall overshadow thee until I have passed”
Exodus 33:2, 110 A.D. (Onkelos)
“And the Word of the Lord said unto Moses: ‘I am He who said unto the world, Be! And it was.’”
Exodus 3:14 (Jerusalem)
“And 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 (Jerusalem)
“the Word of the Lord will provide me a lamb.”
Genesis 22:8 (Jerusalem)
“This day you have made the Word of the Lord to be King over you, to be your God.”
Deuteronomy 26:17 (Jerusalem)
“And the Word of the Lord spoke all these glorious words (the Ten Commandments).”
Exodus 20:1 (Jerusalem)
“And Abraham worshiped and prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, and said, ‘Thou art the Lord who dost see, but Thou cannot be seen.’”
Genesis 22:14 (Jerusalem)
“And Hagar praised and prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, who had revealed Himself unto her.”
Genesis 16:13 (Jerusalem)
“Stand up now, O Word of the Lord, in the strength of thy might . . . return now O Word of the Lord, from the might of thy anger.”
Numbers 10:35, 36 (Jerusalem)
Pseudo Jonathan ben Uzziel Targum
There is one complete copy of the “Pseudo-Jonathan ben Uzziel.” It is held at the British Museum. Here are some quotes from it:
“She (Hagar) gave thanks before YHVH, whose Word spoke with her.”
Genesis 16:7 (Pseudo Jonathan)
“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 (Pseudo Jonathan)
“I will put thee in a cavern of the rock, and will overshadow thee with My Word until the time that I have passed by.”
Exodus 33:22 (Pseudo Jonathan)
“And the Word from before YHVH met Balaam.”
Numbers 23:4 (Pseudo Jonathan)
The Word would be the Messiah
Of course, the Jewish people have shown a strong resistance to identifying the Word as their Messiah. This is because they would need to admit that they crucified their God, as mentioned in Zechariah 12:10. Trinitarian Christians also resist it, because the theology of the Word ends the doctrine of the Trinity.
But, nonetheless the Word is the Messiah. This is the message of Targum Jonathan.
“Behold, my servant, the Messiah, whom I bring, my chosen in whom one delights,
My Word, I will put my Holy Spirit upon Him.”
Isaiah 42:1, Targum Jonathan
Below, we present this in Aramaic. By Control-clicking on any word, you will be directed to the definition in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon. We have highlighted the word “Memra,” meaning “Word” in Aramaic.
The same expression, “My Servant, in whom I delight,” is repeated in the Targum of Isaiah 43:10: “You are My witness, says YHVH, and My Servant, the Messiah, in whom is My delight.”
Quite significantly, Isaiah 42:1–4 is quoted in Matthew 12:18–21. This may be the longest quotation of an Old Testament passage in the Gospels. It is a key fulfillment of prophecy.
Isaiah described God, who is well “pleased” (in Hebrew “ratsah”), and so put His Holy Spirit on Christ. This is the same word that God spoke when He put His Holy Spirit on Christ during His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ” (Matthew 3:17).
There is one more verse from the Targumim, which tells us the Messiah is not just a person. He is “the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20, Targum Jonathan), the sanctified Spirit of the Old Testament:
“His name will be called before the Wonderful Counselor,
The mighty God, existing forever, the Messiah,
in whose days peace will increase upon us.”
Isaiah 9:6, Targum Jonathan (Chilton Translation)
The Book of Hosea was written during the very same period as Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1 cf. Hosea 1:1). The message of both Books was that the Word was the Messiah.
“I will save them by the Word of the Lord, their ELOHIM.”
Hosea 1:7, Targum Jonathan
“And I redeemed them by My Memra on the fifteenth day of the month of Nisan”
Hosea 3:2, Targum Jonathan
The fifteenth day of the month of Nisan is the Passover, when Christ was crucified. To fully appreciate that the Prophet is speaking of the future, we need to understand Hosea 2:25–3:1. This is a prophecy of the New Testament Church, which goes astray: “Go again and love a lover, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel.”
“And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah…
from you shall come forth before me the anointed One,
he whose name was mentioned from of old”
Micah 5:1, Targum Jonathan
The “anointed One” is the Messiah, the WORD described in Isaiah 42:1.
The Word was explained by Philo, in 30 A.D.
The meaning of “the Word” could not have been better explained than by the Jewish theologian Philo in 30 A.D., in his book, On the Confusion of Tongues. Philo’s explanation is no different than the explanation of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1:
“His firstborn Word, the eldest of His angels, as the great Archangel of many names; for He is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image . . .” 5
The Change of Rabbinic Theology after Christ
Many Jews were converted by John’s message of the Word, as the creator in Genesis 1. The Jewish Rabbis therefore wanted to remove the explanation of the Word from the Targumim. The Onkelos Targum (130 A.D.) did not cite “the Word,” as the Creator, in Genesis 1, and did not translate the prophetic Spirit, as “the Holy Spirit.”
Within 200 years of Christ, “the Memra” disappeared from Aramaic Jewish literature.
The suppression of “the Memra” has been noted by the Jewish Encyclopedia: “Possibly on account of the Christian dogma, rabbinic theology, outside of the Targum literature, made little use of the term ‘Memra.’”6
The 6,200-page Aramaic Babylonian Talmud (200–400 A.D.) makes no mention of “the Memra,” and explains Psalms 33:6, “By the Word of YHVH the heavens were made,” as “speaking is equal to acting.”7. Their explanation was that God’s speaking had made the heavens, and not that the heavens were made by the Word, the Spirit of ELOHIM.
Furthermore, the Talmud said that the Angel who spoke for God was “the Metatron.” Sometime during the second to fifth centuries, a Jewish folktale called “Enoch 3” was written by a Rabbi, who said Enoch ascended to heaven and was the Metatron. Jewish Rabbis, through this story of the Metatron, explained away “the Word” as the speaker who created the world.
The Metatron is also described in the Zohar, which Orthodox Jews attribute to Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai, in the second century. The Zohar calls the Metratron, “the firstborn” (Zohar, Genesis), “the Angel of God,” and “Mediator” of all between heaven and earth.
The word Metatron is probably derived from Metator, meaning guide, to represent the Angel who went before the Israelites in the wilderness. The Metatron is mentioned a couple of times in the Babylonian Talmud. Here is one quote that is worth noting:
And unto Moses He said, “Come up to the Lord.” But surely it should have stated, Come up unto me!—“It was Metatron who said that,” he replied, whose name is similar to that of his Master, for it is written, “For my name is in him.” 8
Indeed, the Rabbis are puzzled by Exodus 24:1. The speaker is obviously not God, otherwise He would have said, “come up to Me.” But who was this one who spoke as God, but was not God? The Rabbis concluded that it was not “the Word,” but “the Metatron,” Enoch, speaking on behalf of God. They also said that the name of the Metatron was “the same as His Master”—YHVH.
The phrase “God was the Word” tells us “ELOHIM” in Genesis 1:1 was Jesus Christ. ELOHIM, in the Hebrew language, simply means divine being. In the Bible, ELOHIM for Christ has both a plural and a singular meaning, because when Christ speaks for God, there are two who speak.
This revelation may be new to some, so we are going to spend some time proving it over the rest of this chapter. Christ was the “ELOHIM,” through whom the invisible God created the heavens and the earth.
Why was Christ called ELOHIM?
This meaning of the Spirit of Christ as “the ELOHIM” of the Old Testament will become clearer as we go through our study. Christ as the ELOHIM was both the “image of the invisible God” and “the Word,” who appeared as God’s image and spoke for God. He was the “only begotten God.”
In Chapter 8, we will see that God demonstrated the meaning of an ELOHIM to Moses, making him both the speaker and the image of the invisible God to Pharaoh, such that when one speaks, two are really speaking. Hence, the plural word: ELOHIM.
Genesis 1:27 proves that Christ was ELOHIM
In Genesis 1:27, we read, “ELOHIM created man in His own image, in the image of ELOHIM He created them male and female.”
The Jerusalem Targum reads: “And the Word of YHVH created man in His likeness, in the likeness of YHVH, YHVH created, male and female created He them.”
The first phrase of this verse refers to the physical creation of man after Christ’s image. The second phrase says that Christ created both male and female in the image of God, which can only mean the spiritual image of the invisible God. James tells us that man was made in the similitude of God (James 3:9), the invisible God.
The Hebrew grammar proves that Christ is ELOHIM
The word ELOHIM is grammatically plural because of its IM ending, which is like the letter “S” in the English language. Without a doubt, God intentionally used the plural form “ELOHIM” to describe Christ. The singular form of ELOHIM, “El” אֵ֔ל, appears 248 times in the Old Testament, and another singular form, “Eloha” אֱל֙וֹהַּ֙, of ELOHIM is also used 60 times in the Old Testament. But God did not use either of these two singular expressions to describe Christ.
Some question whether ELOHIM is really a plural word, but in the Old Testament, ELOHIM אֱלֹהִ֔ים is most definitely used in the plural when referring to idols and divine beings, which we can see in 235 cases.
When ELOHIM does appear as singular, it always has a plural meaning behind it.
ELOHIM was used in the singular for Christ, because He spoke for the invisible God, such that two are really speaking. ELOHIM was also used to describe other national gods, as if they were also speakers for the Most High God, the God of all the Nations. And ELOHIM was used to describe Moses, when he spoke for the invisible God. We will prove this further in Chapter 10, where we will show that the early Jewish people really understood the plurality and singularity of ELOHIM, their God.
The Jewish people today do not recognize the plurality behind the word ELOHIM. Nehemia Gordon, a Kariate Jew and renowned Hebrew scholar, in his paper ELOHIM, proved that the Hebrew word ELOHIM is singular when referring to the Hebrew God, YHVH. This singularity actually shows that ELOHIM is Christ only, and the Father is referred to, only by the implication of the plural word.
Nehemia Gordon proved there are only nine cases, out of 2,300, in which ELOHIM, referring to YHVH, has plural verbs or adjectives. 9 In six of these nine cases, the plural adjective or verb is contradicted by surrounding singular verbs and adjectives. That leaves three cases in which the plurality cannot be explained by the Hebrew language, and these are the three famous “Us” verses in Genesis.
The first of these occurs in Genesis 1:26: “Let Us make man in Our image.”
Speaking for the invisible God, Christ must refer to Himself, because He is the image of the invisible God, the image in which man will be created both physically and spiritually.
We will discuss the other two “Us” statements, and some similar references, in Chapter 12.
The Trinity doctrine also says the word ELOHIM proves God was plural in the Old Testament and remains plural today. However, the plurality of God suggested by the Trinity is not supported by the three famous “Us” verses in Genesis.
The Trinity doctrine teaches that God is composed of three distinct persons who speak as one individual. Therefore, whenever God says something, Trinitarians believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all speaking, and when they speak, they use the expression “I” to refer to the collective individual of God.
If this is true, then the “Us” expression in “Let Us make man in Our image” would logically refer to a “fourth” person, since the three supposedly always speak as one individual.
But the Bible describes Christ and God as two spiritual beings, two Gods: the one True God, and the only begotten God, one who spoke for the other, making us believe there is only one speaker. The only time the plurality comes out is when Christ as the speaker must refer to Himself.
|The Spirit of Christ as ELOHIM|
|The Spirit of Christ was identified as ELOHIM through: the statement of John, “God was the Word”; the expression of Christ “YHVH your ELOHIM (I), YHVH (the Father), are one”; the example of Moses as “the Word,” an ELOHIM; the use of the plural word ELOHIM in the singular; the “Let us” statements; other instances that show Christ spoke for God; Jesus’ statements that no one has seen God’s form; the “appearance” of ELOHIM to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Apostle’s explanation that all things were created through and by Him; and several passages where God talks about ELOHIM in the third person.|
Taking on the form of a man, the Spirit of Christ created man after His image and walked in the garden with him. As Justin Martyr wrote, “appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race.” 10
- NIV, NU Text, as appears in nearly all of the oldest manuscripts. ↩
- “In Homer it typically refers to life or lifespan.” Wikipedia, “aeon.” ↩
- Wikipedia ↩
- Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, Targum ↩
- Philo, Jewish Theologian, On the Confusion of Tongues, XXVIII, 30 A.D. ↩
- Jewish Encylopedia, 1906, “Memra” ↩
- Tract Sabbath, Chapter XVI, p. 254 ↩
- Babylonian Talmud, Talmud, Sanhedrin 38b; see also Abodah Zarah 3b ↩
- Nehemia Gordon. 2003. Elohim: Plurality and “Attraction,” Part 3. ↩
- First Apology, Chapter 63 ↩