Friday, February 1, 2013

An Ancient Jewish Tradition on the Trinity

I'm beginning to think that prior to the "official rabbinic theology" of the Talmud, there was an ancient tradition in support of the Trinity.  For example, Daniel Boyarin wrote an essay entitled "Logos, a Jewish Word" that offers evidence from Philo as well as the Targumic tradition that suggests there was a godhead consisting of at least a "Father" and a "Logos."  Here's what Boyarin has to say:



"In the first centuries of the Christian era, the idea of the Word (Gk Logos) was known in some Greek philosophical circles as a link connecting the Transcending/the Divine with humanity/the terrestial.  for Jews, the idea of this lijnk between heaven and earth, whether called by the Greek Logos or Sophia ("wisdom") or by the Aramaic Memra ("word"), permeated first- and second-century thought...The use of the Logos in John's Gospel ('In the beginning was the Word/Logos, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' [Jn 1.1]]) is thus a thoroughly Jewish usage.  It is even possible that the beginning of the idea of the Trinity occurred precisely in pre-Christian Jewish accounts of the second and visible God that we find in many early Jewish writings."  [emphasis added]

"Philo, writing in first-centuryCE Alexandria for an audience of Jews devoted to the Bible, uses the idea of the Logos as if it were commonplace.  His writings make apparent that at least for some pre-Christian Judaism, there was nothing strange about a doctrine of a manifestation of God, even as a 'second God'; the Logos did not conflict with Philo's idea of monotheism."

"Philo and his Alexandrian Jewish community would have found the 'Word of God' frequently in the Septuagint (LXX), where it creates, reveals, and redeems.  For example, speaking of the exodus, Philo writes: 

'whereas the voice of mortals is judged by hearing, the sacred oracles intimate that the words of God (logoi, the plural) are seen as light is seen, for we are told that all of the people saw the Voice [Ex. 20.18], not that they heard it; for what was happening was not an impact of air made by the organs of mouth and tongue, but the radiating splendor of virtue indistinguishable from a fountain of reason....But the voice of God which is not that of verbs and names yet seen by the eye of the soul, he [Moses] rightly intoduces as 'visible.' (Migr. 47-48)

This text draws a close connection between the Logos and light, as in John 1.4-5: 'In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.'

"Further, for Philo as for the Gospel of John, the Logos is both a part of God and also a separate being:

'To His Word (Logos), His chief messenger (archangelos), highest in age and honor, the Father (Pater) of all has given the special prerogative, to stand on the border and separate the creature from the Creator.  This same [i.e. the Word] both pleads with the immortal as suppliant for afflicted mortality and acts as ambassador of the ruler to the subject.  He glories in this prerogative and proudly proclaims, 'and I stood between the Lord and you' [Deut 5.5], that is neither uncreated by God, nor created as you, but midway between the two extremes, a surety to both sides'. (Heir 205-6)

"Other versions of Logos theology, namely notions of the second god as personified Word or Wisdom of God, were present among Aramaic-, Hebrew-, and Syriac-speaking Jews as well.  Hints of this idea appear in Jewish texts that are part of the Bible such as Proverbs 8.22-31, Job 28.12-28, as well as those not in the Hebrew Bible (but included in the Apocryphal-Deuterocanonical books): Sirach 24.1-34, Wisdom of Solomon 7.22-10.21, and Baruch 3.9-4.4.  Especially common is the Aramaic word Memra ('Word') of God, appearing in the Targumim, the early Aramaic translations and paraphrases of the Bible (e.g., Targum Onqelos, Targum Neofiti), where it is used in contexts that are frequently identical to ones where the Logos has its home among Greek-speaking Jews."

Peter's note:  Boyarin then goes on to quote a Targumic example that shows the various roles of the Logos (Creating; Speaking to humans; Revealing the Divine Self; Punishing the wicked; Saving; Redeeming).

"These examples show that the Memra performs many, if not all, of the functions of the Logos of Christian theology (as well as of Wisdom)."

"The conclusive evidence for the connection of the Targumic Memra and the Logos of John appears in the Palestinian Targumic poetic homily on the 'Four Nights,' probably a liturgical text in which four special nights in sacred history are delineated:

'Four nights are written in the Book of Memories:  The first night:  when the Lord was revealed above the world to create it.  The world was unformed and void and darkness was spread over the surface of the deep; and through his Memra there was light and illumination [italics added], and he called it the first night.'

"This text matches the first verses of John's Prologue, with its association of Logos, the Word, and light.  The midrash of the 'four nights' culiminates in the coming of the Messiah, drawing even closer the connections between the Targum heard in the synagogue and John's Gospel.  Moreover, the midrash of the 'four nights' is most likely a fragment of Paschal liturgy..."

Well, dear reader, Shabbat is almost upon us.  I'm sorry I didn't have much time to blog this week.  Only a couple of posts.  But G-d helped me to find this essay to combat some subtle attacks on the deity of Yeshua that are transpiring in the Messianic movement. 

I think I have a friend who is writing a thesis on this subject and so I'll consult with him and see what other Jewish sources support the Trinity. 

Also, stay tuned for upcoming posts on the following topics:

--How to get Messianic Jews interested in traditional Judaism (since so many, like those in UMJC, are essentially like the Reform movement)

--Jihadism:  A Global Threat

--Was the Septuagint based on an older and more reliable text than the Masoretic text?

--Does the Torah Prohibit Human Sacrifice (i.e. Yeshua)?

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