Genesis and The Word
Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.” In Genesis 1:27, after the creation of the world, we read “So G-d created humankind in his own image; in the image of G-d he created him; male and female he created them.
The Genesis creation story is not a scientific journal article on the creation of the physical world. Genesis is intended to show that we are created beings in the image of G-d and what our relationship is to our Creator and the world he has placed us into.
But when we read the sages (study of the Talmud is instructional in that we can see how Jewish scholars thought about the scriptures they had been entrusted with), we see that they felt that the world was created for the goal of the Messiah.
Rav says, The world was created only for the sake of David, by virtue of his merit. And Shmuel says: It was created by virtue of the merit of Moses. And Rabbi Yohanan says: It was created by virtue of the merit of the Messiah. (b.Sanhedrin 98b) Ref. 1
What do we mean that the world was made for the sake of the Messiah? The apostles teach that Yeshua existed before the creation and that through Him, as the Word, the creation came into being.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d, and the Word was G-d. He was with G-d in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being. in him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. (John 1:1-4)
But what was this pre-existent essence of Messiah or the Word? In the days of the apostles, the Israelites spoke Aramaic and used Aramaic translations of the scriptures, also known as a Targum. These translations were read aloud in the synagogues along with the Hebrew of Torah and Haftarah readings. Because the Jewish sages of the day did not believe an infinite G-d could infiltrate a finite world, they depicted the creative force of G-d in a way that could intersect with the world of creation. According to First Fruits of Zion in their Torah Club volume Shadows of the Messiah, “Instead, they spoke of a condensed and abbreviated emanation of the Almighty whereby G-d interacts within finite time and space.” Ref 2
This emanation of the Almighty was referred to as the Memra of G-d, or the Wisdom of G-d, the part of the Almighty that was involved in the creation of the physical world. This Memra (or Word) was not different from G-d – this was G-d, a facet of himself that could intersect with finite creation. It was this Memra, this Word, that came to us clothed in flesh and blood, as the scripture teaches in John 1:14.
Why did G-d need to speak his creation into existence? Why could he not have just created in silence? According to the website “Schooling for Born Again Christians” in the section “The Memra”: “It is clear there is a creative, dynamic force in The Almighty's voice, a power and energy in His words, a tangible release of Divine life. His word is an extension of His nature, a movement of His will— alive, powerful, and effective— not just letters, syllables, and sounds. There is vigor and activity in God's words extending far beyond the applications of thought and communication.”
John, the apostle, no doubt was schooled in the Targum teachings, that G-d’s Word or Memra, reigned on the Throne of G-d.
For what people so great, to whom the Lord is so nigh in the Name of the Word of the Lord? But the custom of (other) nations is to carry their gods upon their shoulders, that they may seem to be nigh them; but they cannot hear with their ears, (be they nigh or) be they afar off; but the Word of the Lord sitteth upon His throne high and lifted up, and heareth our prayer what time we pray before Him and make our petitions. (Deuteronomy 4:7 Targum Jonathan) Ref. 3
It is clear that ancient Jewish thought accepted an aspect of the Divine that was able to interact with the world on a finite plane. We see the culmination of the Word in Yeshua, our Messiah.
Ref. 1) The William Davidson Talmud, b.Sanhedrin 98b, from the Sefaria.org website.
Ref. 2) Shadows of the Messiah, First Fruits of Zion, p3.
Ref. 3) Targum Jonathan, Deuteronomy 4:7, from the Sefaria.org website.