In the Beginning was the Logos or the Memrah?

Over the last several years I have, through my interactions on the internet, become convinced that we in the 21st century make a lot of mistakes in our interpretation of scripture because we modern Christians do not understand the people or the cultures of scripture. To help correct any misunderstandings I may have of the Gospels, I am currently listening to Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s bible study Life of Messiah from a Jewish Perspective. This has certainly reinforced how important I believe it is to understand the time and place where scripture was written. Scripture must be interpreted in the time in which it is written!

I recently listed to Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s lecture on the first chapter of John which famously begins:

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

The Greek word for “word” is logos and in Greek philosophy includes the concepts of reason and speech. Most commentaries on the Gospel of John begin by delving into these meanings of logos in more or less depth. The idea being that John was trying to show how the Messiah fulfilled the goals of Greek philosophy in both reason (the idea of God) and speech (the expression of God).

However, there is a problem with approach: John was a Jewish fisherman and a disciple of Jesus Christ not a Greek philosopher. What John was familiar with was Jewish theology of the first century A.D. and that Jewish theology had plenty to say about “the word” but “the word” was not “the logos” it was “the memrah” (Strong’s 0565).

There were six conclusions that the Rabbis had come to about the memrah:

  1. The memrah was sometimes distinct from God and sometimes it was the same as God. This was a paradox that they never tried to explain. Of course it can be explained in terms of the trinity. Notice that John brings both these themes out in verse 1:

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

  2. The memrah was the agent of creation. This was developed from passages such as Genesis 1 where God spoke and things came into being. John brings this out in verse 3:

    All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.

  3. The memrah was the agent of salvation. In the Old Testament God always saved by means of his word (memrah). This salvation could be either physical or spiritual. John brings this thought into this passage in verse 12:

    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:

  4. The memrah was the means by which God becomes visible. In the Old Testament God became visible by means of his memrah which we call theophanies but the Jews called shekinah’s (shekinah means to tabernacle or dwell among). Now, look at what John does in verse 14:

    And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.

    Dr. Fruchtenbaum was also careful to point out that the word to dwell here is not the usual Koine Greek word to dwell. Rather, it is the word “skene” (skay-nay) which is the Hellenized version of shekinah. So, according to this verse, His glory tabernacled (shekinah’ed) among us. I think that is really cool!

  5. The memrah was the agent of revelation. The Jewish Rabbis developed this concept because there are many passages in the Old Testament with the form: “the word came to …” John brings this concept in in verse 18:

    No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

    It is through the Son that the Father is being revealed.

  6. The means by which God signed His covenants was by means of His memrah. There were eight covenants in the Old Testament, three made with of mankind and five with the Jewish people, and all were signed by means of the memrah. This sixth point was not made as obvious in this passage but is alluded to in verse 17:

    For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This is some good stuff. If these six points are Jewish rabbinical teaching from the first century A.D. then I don’t see how John could have accidentally touched on all of them like this.

I’m going to memorize these and use them on the next Jehovah’s Witness who knocks on my door!

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: The Gospels

16 Comments on “In the Beginning was the Logos or the Memrah?”

  1. James w Maycock Says:

    My Strong’s calls ‘memrah’=’imrah or ’emrah. Is it the same?

  2. Glenn Says:

    Hi James,

    Yes memrah is the same as ‘imrah and emraw. I had a hard time finding memrah in Strong’s also but the link to Stong’s I provided in the post has all three spellings.

    Arnold Fruchtenbaum uses the memrah spelling so I used that in my post.

    Glenn

  3. james w maycock Says:

    I guess there is more of me than I thought. There will be at least 2 james w maycock’s in heaven!!

  4. Auke Says:

    Excellent! Nice summary / commentary. Thank you (and Fruchtenbaum). We gentiles have a lot to learn from our believing Jewish brothers and sisters.

    • Glenn Says:

      Hello Auke,

      Arnold Fruchtenbaum has done some very good work. I believe that understanding the Jewish religious culture at the time of the first advent is critical to properly understanding the gospels.

      I’m glad you stopped by. Feel free to comment any time.

      Glenn

      • Auke Smaal Says:

        Thanks Glenn – By sheer luck I got hold of the 2 vols (hard copy that is) of the 1901 edition (11th print) of Alfred Edersheim’s “The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah” – a magistral work by an impressive author. The titel of his book says it all – a “must read” (or “must study”) for understanding the Jewish religious culture at the time.

      • Glenn Says:

        Auke,

        Thank you for the note. I have heard good things about Alfred Edersheim but I have not had the opportunity to read any of his work. Feel free to drop by in the future and let me know what you think of his work. I am always interested in such things.

        Glenn


  5. we hold this truth to be self-evident that Jesus-Christ Has ever Been The Memrah or The Pre-Existent Word of God as God’s Living Post/Science . Let’s all Humbly Approach The Divine – Human Cross of the Almighty God In The Divine Person-Resources of The Lord Jesus-Christ , True God From True God !!!!!!


  6. JESUS-CHRIST HAS EVER BEEN THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF GOD WHO HAS EVER ENLIGHTENED THE WHOLE WORLD AS GOD PUT INTO FULL MANHOOD AND THE EQUAL OF GOD JEHOVAH IN FULL DIVINITY OF THE INCARNATE HOLY SPIRIT

  7. Pastor paul Says:

    I appreciate the notes but wanted to comment on the part where you divide the covenants into those for us and those for the Jewish people. Yes, I agree for example that the New Covenant has not been fulfilled and Jesus partially fulfilled that at the last supper he had with his apostles. As a Gentile that has been grafted in, I am no longer a Gentile (means out of covenant), but am part of the commonwealth of Israel. I do not replace the promises to the 12 tribes as stated in Jeremiah 31:31, but I get to participate in that. I am now in covenant. As far as the covenants, none of them ever disposed of or abolished the previous one, but they were renewed, going back to the original covenant that God cannot break to those who receive His promise of grace and salvation and receive it by faith as we see Abraham did. The original assembly (which we define as church in our bibles) at Mt. Sinai said they would obey God and they did not, so man broke covenant and God always restored it, but it was always based on the same God and the same promises. The dividing or separation, as opposed to the distinction b/t Jews and Gentiles, has gotten us in much theological mess and we need to remember that there is one God, one salvation, and one law that is obeyed by those that are saved so that they may live in righteousness.

    • Glenn Says:

      Hello Pastor Paul,

      I can tell that we have different views on how the covenants relate to the church. As you may have guessed I am a dispensationalist so I do hold to a sharp distinction between the Church and Israel. I know this can be a contentious issue and I don’t want to get into an argument. However for reference I would like to provide a quote from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s “The Eight Covenants of the Bible” (link here):

      ——————

      The concept of partaking is also found in Romans 11:17: But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree; The Olive Tree represents the place of spiritual blessings of the Jewish Covenants. The types of branches partaking in the blessings: natural branches, which are Jewish believers; wild olive branches, which are the Gentile believers.

      However, the Olive Tree itself still belongs to Israel according to verse 24: For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

      The relationship of the Church to the New Covenant is the same as the Church’s relationship to the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant. The physical promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, as amplified by the Land and Davidic Covenants, were promised exclusively to Israel. However, the Blessing aspect, as amplified by the New Covenant, was to include the Gentiles. The Church is enjoying the spiritual blessings of these covenants, not the material and physical benefits. The physical promises still belong to Israel and will be fulfilled exclusively with Israel, especially those involving the Land. However, all spiritual benefits are now being shared by the Church. This is the relationship to these four unconditional covenants between God and Israel

      The Eight Covenants of the Bible
      By Arnold Fruchtenbaum
      P 39

      ———————-

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Glenn

  8. betty Says:

    thank you for the above information

  9. Cassie Says:

    Love your article!

    And as we approach the time of Succot –

    “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.

    Dr. Fruchtenbaum was also careful to point out that the word to dwell here is not the usual Koine Greek word to dwell. Rather, it is the word “skene” (skay-nay) which is the Hellenized version of shekinah. So, according to this verse, His glory tabernacled (shekinah’ed) among us. I think that is really cool”

    Perfect! Especially when we come to the 8th day – and the Simchat Torah – we have good reason to celebrate the Word of the Lord that was given to us at that time. May we all rejoice!

    Thank you, Cassie


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: