Westminster Theological Journal, 69 (2007): 247-78
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WTJ 69 (2007): 247-78
BIBLICAL STUDIES THE TARGUM OF ISAIAH AND THE JOHANNINE LITERATURE JOHN L. RONNING
I. Introduction The purpose of this article is to show how the writings traditionally ascribed to the Apostle John seem to depend on a first-century precursor of our extant Isaiah Targum, which is part of Targum Jonathan of the Former and Latter prophets. Most importantly, the results contribute to our understanding of John’s writings. Secondly, they suggest that the potential of the Targums in general for illuminating the Johannine literature is under-exploited. The results could also be used to supplement arguments that have been made for the common authorship of these writings. Translations from the Isaiah Targum given here are from Bruce Chilton’s translation which appears in the series ‘‘The Aramaic Bible.’’1 Wherever I deviate from Chilton’s translation is noted in this article. Throughout, I have changed LORD to LORD (small caps) and have used the spelling ‘‘Shekinah’’ instead of ‘‘Shekhinah.’’ Italicized text is used in ‘‘The Aramaic Bible’’ series to indicate that the underlying Aramaic represents a change in meaning from, or an addition to, the Hebrew text.
II. First John 2:12-14 and Targum Isaiah 43:10, 25; 44:6; 48:12 In 1 John 2:12-13 John says, ‘‘I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning’’ (this sentence is repeated in v. 14). Interpretive questions include (1) what is ‘‘his name,’’ and (2) to what does ‘‘the beginning’’ refer— the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, or the beginning as in Gen 1:1 and John 1:1? With regard to the first question, A. E. Brooke says that ‘‘if any definite name is intended, it is probably the name ‘Jesus Christ,’’’ though he also notes a general similarity to Ezek 20:8-9, where God says that in delaying judgment on Judah, ‘‘I acted for the sake of my name,’’ which would support the view that John Ronning lectures in Old Testament subjects as well as the Johannine literature and Biblical languages at the John Wycliffe Theological College (affiliated with North-West University) in greater Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also webmaster of http://postbiblical.info. 1 Bruce D. Chilton, The Isaiah Targum (ArBib 11; Wilmington, Del.: Liturgical Press, 1987). The issue of dating the Targum (or various elements of it) is discussed on xx-xxviii.
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‘‘his name’’ is the Tetragrammaton.2 One could cite Ps 25:11 with the same implication: ‘‘For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.’’ Like Brooke, R. Brown also takes note of Ezek 20:8-9 but says that ‘‘a good case can be made for the thesis that John means specifically the divine name ‘I AM,’ ’’ by which Brown means ™gè e„mi, found in the LXX as an idiomatic translation of the MT ℵvh ynℵ, ‘‘I [am] he,’’ but especially in the LXX of Isa 43:25; 51:12; 52:6 where the MT ‘‘I, I am he’’ is rendered with a double ™gè e„mi and thus could be understood as ‘‘I am ‘I AM,’’’ the second ™gè e„mi being a way of saying the divine name, which was no longer pronounced.3 Concerning the question of what John means by ‘‘him who is from the beginning,’’ Westcott suggests that the title ‘‘sums up shortly what is expressed in its successive stages in John i. 1-14’’ (where ‘‘in the beginning’’ means the same as in Gen 1:1).4 Likewise, Brooke equates ‘‘him who is from the beginning’’ with ‘‘the Word who was in the beginning with God,’’ saying that John is writing against ‘‘the refusal . . . to believe that the pre-existent Logos had become truly incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth’’ which ‘‘seemed to him to be the most serious intellectual danger which threatened the Church of his day.’’5 Brown, however, maintains that John here means the beginning of the Christian era.6 Answers to both of these interpretive questions are suggested when the dependence of 1 John 2:11-14 on Tg. Isa. 43:10, 25; 44:6; 48:12, as shown by the following comparison, is recognized: Your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. (1 John 2:12) I, I am He, who forgives your sins for my name’s sake. (Tg. Isa. 43:25)7 You know him who is from the beginning (tÕn ¢p’ ¢rcÁj). (1 John 2:13, 14) I am He. I am he that is [Chilton, was] from the beginning (]ymdqlmd ℵvh ℵnℵℵvh ℵnℵ). (Tg. Isa. 43:10)
The italicized portion of Tg. Isa. 43:10 stands in place of the MT, ‘‘Before me there was no God formed.’’ It also agrees with the Targum’s paraphrase of Isa 2 A. E. Brooke, The Johannine Epistles (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1912), 44. B. F. Westcott agrees that the name referred to is Jesus Christ (The Epistles of St. John [4th ed.; London: MacMillan, 1905], 59). I. Howard Marshall thinks the phrase ‘‘on account of his name’’ points to what John has previously said about the blood of Jesus (The Epistles of John [NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 138). 3 Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 30; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982), 302. For ™gè e„mi as the divine name, Brown refers to his commentary where he discusses John 6:20; 8:28; 17:6, 11-12, 26; 18:5 (The Gospel According to John [1–12]: Introduction, Translation, and Notes [AB 29; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966], 534-37, 75456). Brown is certainly mistaken when he says that ™gè e„mi is only ‘‘indirectly related to YHWH’’ (756). He himself notes that ‘‘I am he’’ is an alternate for ‘‘I am YHWH’’ and that hvhy ynℵ in Isa 45:18 is in the LXX simply ™gè e„mi (536). 4 Westcott, Epistles of St. John, 60. 5 Brooke, Johannine Epistles, 45. 6 Brown, Epistles of John, 303. 7 ym> lydb ;bvxl qyb> ℵvh ℵnℵℵnℵ. ;bvx is literally ‘‘your debts’’ as in Matt 6:12. The terminology of the MT is significantly different, though much the same in sentiment: ‘‘I, I am he who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake.’’
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THE TARGUM OF ISAIAH
44:6 and 48:12, which read identically to the Aramaic of 43:10 (Tg. Isa. 44:6: ‘‘I am He. I am He that is from the beginning’’; and Tg. Isa. 48:12: ‘‘I am He. I am He that is from the beginning’’).8 In these latter two passages, the Hebrew underlying ‘‘the beginning’’ is ‘‘the first,’’ part of ‘‘I am the first and the last.’’ As the italic type indicates, Tg. Isa. 48:12 is the exemplar for the other two passages; ‘‘I am he’’ is added at the beginning of the Isa 44:6 passage so that it agrees with 48:12, and ‘‘I am he who is from the beginning’’ is added to 43:10, with the same result. The fact that two different phrases in 1 John 2:12-14 agree so closely with two phrases closely collocated in Targum Isaiah (one being found three times), both of which are divine ‘‘I am he’’ sayings, makes it unlikely that the similarity between 1 John and Targum Isaiah is accidental, or that both 1 John and the Targum borrow from the same liturgical source.9 And since there are such significant differences between the MT and the Targum, the OT dependence of 1 John 2:12-14 cannot be discerned without consulting the Targum. Once this dependence is recognized, answers to the interpretive questions mentioned above are suggested: (1) ‘‘his name’’ is the same as ‘‘my name’’ in Tg. Isa. 43:25, that is, the Tetragrammaton, with obvious and important christological implications; (2) ‘‘the beginning’’ is not the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, but the same as in Tg. Isa. 43:10; 44:6; 48:12, thus also in Gen 1:1 and John 1:1. This use of Targum Isaiah in 1 John 2:12-14 could also be used to argue for unity of authorship between 1 John, John, and Revelation. Brown points to his study of John’s Gospel (see n. 3 above) in saying that the name in question in 1 John 2:12 is the divine name. In light of this connection it is of interest to compare 1 John 2:12 with Tg. Isa. 53:6, which says, ‘‘Before the LORD it was a pleasure to forgive the sins of us all for his sake’’ (also v. 4, ‘‘our iniquities for his sake will be forgiven’’). If Tg. Isa. 53:6 had read ‘‘for his name’s sake’’ instead of ‘‘for his sake,’’ one could point to it as the source of John’s language. What is of interest, assuming that the Targum preserves wording contemporary to John, is that John’s wording seems to agree with a passage speaking of God’s name, when there was a passage very close to the same wording from Isa 53, where the Targum specifically identifies the servant as the Messiah (52:13). John chose rather to use the language referring to the divine name from another passage in Isaiah. John’s choice of terminology in this Epistle is therefore in keeping with his concern evident in the Gospel, that belief in Jesus as the (human) Messiah of prophecy is insufficient, but, ‘‘Unless you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins’’ ( John 8:24; cf. Isa 43:10). In this connection we can see that in his use of Tg. Isa. 43:10, John actually refutes the view of the Targum, which presents the Messiah only as a witness to the divine ‘‘I am he.’’ ‘‘‘You are witnesses before 8 I have changed Chilton’s translations slightly to bring out the agreement between these three passages. E.g., Chilton uses ‘‘old ’’ (44:6) and ‘‘first’’ (48:12) instead of ‘‘beginning’’ used in 43:10 (Isaiah Targum, 87, 94). 9 A unique Toseftah Tg. of Zech 4:7 says that the Messiah is ]ymdqlm, but Rimon Kasher interprets the expression here as ‘‘of old,’’ referring to David of historical times (‘‘Eschatological Ideas in the Toseftot Targum to the Prophets,’’ Journal for the Aramaic Bible 2 : 27).
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me,’ says the LORD, ‘and my servant the Messiah with whom I am pleased, that you might know and believe before me and understand that I am He. I am he that is from the beginning.’ ’’10 The context of Isa 43:10 is that of predictive prophecy as proof that the LORD is the one true God. Usually the Hebrew ‘‘I [am] he’’ (ℵvh ynℵ) is translated into Greek idiomatically as ™gè e„mi (literally, ‘‘I, I am’’). Several ‘‘I am he’’ (™gè e„mi) sayings of Jesus in John are commonly seen as dependent on Isa 43:10, especially John 13:19 (also in a context of prediction: ‘‘From now on, I am telling you before it comes to pass so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he’’), and John 8:24, 28, which together reflect the ‘‘know’’ and ‘‘believe’’ of Isa 43:10; less commonly John 6:20 is mentioned (for which, see §3 below).11 It would be quite natural, if John and 1 John have the same author, for the author to refer in the Epistle to the same verse which was so significant in the sayings of Jesus preserved in the Gospel. Targumic dependence of ‘‘him who is from the beginning’’ suggests a similar link between 1 John and Revelation, since it would suggest that ‘‘he who is from the beginning’’ in 1 John 2 is taken from God’s self-description, ‘‘I am the first,’’ which is (in the MT, not the Targum) part of ‘‘I am the first, and I am the last’’ spoken by God three times in Isaiah (41:4; 44:6; 48:12).12 Likewise, in Revelation Jesus calls himself ‘‘the first and the last’’ three times (1:17; 2:8; 22:13). In both series of three, the first of these sayings contains or is followed by ‘‘I am he’’ (MT ℵvh ynℵ; LXX and NT ™gè e„mi). In both series are sayings accompanied by the divine assurance, ‘‘Do not be afraid’’ (Isa 41:10; 44:2, 8; Rev 1:17; 2:10). We see then that Jesus uses the divine language of the MT in these passages in Revelation, whereas John in his first Epistle uses the equivalent from the Isaiah Targum to speak of Jesus. ‘‘You have known him who is from the beginning’’ is equivalent to ‘‘You have known him who is the first’’ (and the last). In another mark of common authorship of the Johannine literature, we will see below that the same phenomenon is found also in John’s Gospel; in some cases where Jesus uses the divine language of the MT, John uses the Targum equivalent in speaking about Jesus. 10 In contrast, Gu¨ nter Reim suggests that John took ‘‘the Messiah’’ as antecedent of the divine ‘‘I am he,’’ so that ‘‘Der Messias ist der ‹Ego Eimi›’’ (‘‘Targum und Johannesevangelium,’’ BZ 27 : 11). One would more likely conclude the opposite from Tg. Isa. 43:10, since the one who says ‘‘I am he,’’ etc., speaks of the Messiah as one ‘‘before me.’’ It is the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel that show that the Messiah is the one who says the divine ‘‘I am he.’’ The first ™gè e„mi in fact does have ‘‘the Messiah’’ as antecedent ( John 4:26), but the wording seems to be taken from Isa 52:6, so that ‘‘this verse operates on two levels. The first level is there for all to see. Jesus claims to be the messiah of whom the Samaritan woman speaks.’’ On the second level, due to the verbal borrowing from Isa 52:6, ‘‘Jesus’ identity as messiah is therefore an identity which includes an identification with Yahweh’’ (David Mark Ball, ‘I Am’ in John’s Gospel: Literary Function, Background and Theological Implications [ JSNTSup 124; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996], both quotes from 180). 11 See, e.g., Ball, ‘I Am’ in John’s Gospel, 183-94, 198-200; and many commentaries. 12 MT ‘‘I am the last’’ becomes in Tg. Isa. ‘‘even the ages of the ages are mine.’’ For some reason, the first ‘‘I am he who is from the beginning’’ was put at Tg. Isa. 43:10, not 41:4.
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THE TARGUM OF ISAIAH
As mentioned above, ‘‘I, I am he’’ of Isa 43:25 (MT ℵvh yknℵ yknℵ; Tg. ℵvh ℵnℵℵnℵ), which precedes the text used by John in 1 John 2:12, is rendered in the LXX as ™gè e„mi ™gè e„mi, which could be translated ‘‘I am ‘I am he.’’’ J. H. Neyrey notes that scholars often take this (along with LXX Isa 51:12; 52:6) as evidence that ™gè e„mi was considered prior to NT times as a way of saying the divine name; he thinks that in John ™gè e„mi ‘‘is a condensed form, even a code for God’s special name, as it was in the LXX,’’ and that it ‘‘ultimately refers back to the special name given Moses at the burning bush.’’13 Recognizing the dependence of 1 John 2:13-14 on Tg. Isa. 43:10, 25, we see that the divine ™gè e„mi is applied to Jesus in the Epistle by inference. Likewise, in Rev 2:23 Jesus says, ‘‘All the churches will know that I am he [™gè e„mi] who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.’’ This is virtually a quote from Jer 17:10, with ™gè e„mi substituting for hvhy ynℵ (LXX ™gè kÚrioj). In short, the Targum helps us to see evidence for unity of authorship of these three works, and the subtlety of this evidence is such as not likely to be due to someone just trying to copy the style of another. More importantly, we see that in 1 John 2:12-14, John speaks of Jesus the same way that in Targum Isaiah, the God of Israel speaks of himself.
III. John 6:16-21 and Targum Isaiah 43:1-10 Without reference to the Isaiah Targum, the ‘‘I am he’’ (™gè e„mi) of John 6:20 (usually translated ‘‘it is I’’ for the sake of English idiom) has been connected to Isa 43:10 because ‘‘Do not be afraid’’ of John 6:20 is also found in Isa 43:1, 5, and Isa 43:2 is a promise that the LORD will be with his people when they pass through the waters, which is what the disciples are doing in John 6:16-21.14 Looking at the Targum of this passage suggests other significant connections between the passages, as well as to John’s Prologue. The Targum interprets God’s promise of being with his people when they cross through dangerous waters (v. 2) historically: ‘‘At the first when you passed through the reed sea, my Memra was your help; Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who were as numerous as the waters of the river, did not prevail against you.’’ When Israel crossed through the sea, it was dark, with a strong wind (Exod 14:21), two things that are mentioned also in John 6:17-18 (also Matt 14:24-25; Mark 6:48). ‘‘Memra’’ (Tg. Isa. 43:2) is the divine Word, which Chilton says ‘‘refers to God as he responds to and addresses Israel, and as such it also provides the occasion 13 Jerome H. Neyrey, An Ideology of Revolt: John’s Christology in Social-Science Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 214. 14 See, e.g., Ball, ‘I Am’ in John, 183-85; and John Paul Heil, Jesus Walking on the Sea: Meaning and Gospel Functions of Matt 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:15b-21 (AnBib 87; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981), 59. Other OT connections are possible, especially Ps 107:4-5, 9, 23, 25, 27-30 (Brown, John 1–12, 255), an association proposed as long ago as Origen, as noted by D. A. Carson (The Gospel According to John [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991], 276).
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on which Israel might react.’’15 Relatively few scholars have allowed the possibility that targumic Memra (along with the related term Dibbera/Dibbura, used primarily in the Palestinian Tgs. of the Pentateuch) lies behind John’s Logos title.16 More frequently this possibility is ignored or cursorily dismissed, evidence of the polemical success of G. F. Moore, P. Billerbeck, and V. Hamp.17 In this writer’s opinion, this matter is another example where the Targums are underexploited. There is not space in the present article to examine the issue fully, especially since we are focusing on the Isaiah Targum here and (in my opinion) the strongest evidence comes from the Palestinian Targums of the Pentateuch rather than from the ‘‘official’’ Targums (Onq. and Jon.). Nevertheless, numerous passages referring to the divine Word in the Isaiah Targum are quite suggestive of passages in John dealing with the one whom John calls ‘‘the Word.’’ In the present context, for example, the divine promise ‘‘I will be with you’’ (Isa 43:2) and ‘‘I am with you’’ (v. 5) becomes in the Targum ‘‘my Word was your help’’ (v. 2, looking back at the sea crossing), and ‘‘my Word is your help’’ (v. 5, looking to the return from exile). Likewise, in the sea crossing of John 6 Jesus the Word helps his disciples reach the other side (v. 21, ‘‘immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going’’). The Synoptics show his help by noting that when Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped (Matt 14:13; Mark 6:51). In Tg. Isa. 43:1 the LORD says to Israel, ‘‘you are my own.’’ Chilton translates ‘‘you are mine,’’ which agrees with the Hebrew (htℵ yl), but the Aramaic (tℵ ylyd), which combines the preposition yl with the relative pronoun, is the first-person equivalent of a word that has been suggested as the Aramaic equivalent of ‘‘his own’’ in John 1:11.18 John says in this context that he (the Word) came to his own, and his own did not receive him (the Word), but to those who did receive him (the Word), he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his (the Word’s) name. Now it so happens that 15 Chilton, Isaiah Targum, xv. Memra is Aramaic ℵr f: m" m, the emphatic (definite) state of r+mym ", from the root rmℵ. 16 E.g., B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (London: John Murray, 1887), xvi; Martin McNamara, ‘‘Logos of the Fourth Gospel and Memra of the Palestinian Targum (Ex 1242),’’ ExpTim 79 (1968): 115-17; McNamara, Targum and Testament: Aramaic Paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible; A Light on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 98-106; Robert Kysar, The Fourth Evangelist and His Gospel: An Examination of Contemporary Scholarship (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1975), 109; Brown, John 1–12, 524; Craig A. Evans, Word and Glory: On the Exegetical and Theological Background of John’s Prologue ( JSNTSup 89; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), esp. 114-34; Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (NICNT; rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 105-6. 17 George Foot Moore, ‘‘Intermediaries in Jewish Theology: Memra, Shekinah, Metatron,’’ HTR 15 (1922): 41-85; Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash (6 vols.; Munich: Beck, 1922–1928), 2:302-33; Vinzenz Hamp, Der Begriff ‘Wort’ in der arama¨ ischen Bibelu¨ bersetzungen: Ein exegetischer Beitrag zum Hypostasen-Problem und zur Geschichte der Logos-Spekulationen (Munich: Neuer Filser-Verlag, 1938). C. K. Barrett’s comment is a favorite: Memra of the Targums is ‘‘a blind alley in the study of the biblical background of John’s logos doctrine’’ (The Gospel According to St. John [2d ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978], 153). 18 C. F. Burney, The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1922), 33, 41; this agrees with the Peshitta and Old Syriac. The Aramaic would be hylyd; cf. Hebrew vl>.
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THE TARGUM OF ISAIAH
the idea of receiving/not receiving the Memra of the LORD is ubiquitous in the Targums, where ‘‘receive’’ is Aramaic lybq (pael ), most often rendering Hebrew im>.19 A typical example would be Isa 46:3, where the LORD says ‘‘Listen to me, O house of Jacob,’’ which the Targum renders, ‘‘Receive my Word, those of the house of Jacob’’ (those he has called ‘‘my own’’ in 43:1).20 Further indication that we should take the ‘‘receive’’ language of John 1:11-12 as dependent on the Targums is that some of the Targums (e.g., Pss, the Palestinian Tgs. of the Pentateuch, but not Onq. and Jon.) speak about believing/not believing in the name of the Word of the LORD, language also arguably reflected in John 1:12.21 Some of these targumic passages are quite suggestive of passages in John, the most striking of which is perhaps Tg. Neof. Num 14:11 (‘‘How long will they not believe in the name of my Word, in spite of all the signs of my miracles which I have performed among them’’) compared to John 12:37 (‘‘Though he had performed so many signs before them, they were not believing in him’’).22 Back to John 6:16-21, we can see in these verses a kind of ‘‘acting out’’ of John 1:11-12: Jesus came to a remnant of his own (v. 17, where œrcomai is used, as in 1:11), this remnant received him into the boat (lamb£nw is used as in 1:11), and were helped to their destination, just as those who received the Word are given eternal life and taken to heaven. This help can be compared to the help of the divine Word mentioned in Tg. Isa. 43:2, help in crossing the Red Sea. While crossing, the Israelites were assisted in reaching the other side when, at morning light, the LORD looked down on the Egyptians from the pillar of fire and cloud and put the Egyptian army into confusion (Exod 14:24). According to Tg. Neof. [mg.] and Frg. Tg. V, N Exod 14:24, it was the divine Word who looked upon the Egyptians and confounded them. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of Exod 14:25 has the Egyptians acknowledge that the divine Word is fighting against them. So too the disciples are helped to the other side when the one whom John has called ‘‘the light’’ and ‘‘the Word’’ came to them on the sea. At the same time, the scene in John 6:16-21 can be related to what is probably the most commonly used Targum passage in arguing for a targumic background to the Logos title, the ‘‘hymn of the four nights,’’ found as an addition to the Palestinian Targums at Exod 12:42 (except that in Frg. Tg. P it is at Exod 15:18). From Targum Neofiti: ‘‘The first night, when the LORD was revealed over the world to create it. The world was formless and void, and darkness was spread over the face of the deep, and the Word of the LORD was the light, and it 19
Tg. Neof., however, uses Aramaic im>, instead of lybq, for Hebrew im>. Chilton translates lybq with ‘‘attend to’’ and transliterates Memra (Isaiah Targum, 91). 21 Evans, Word and Glory, 118 (textual parallel #61). As A. T. Hanson observes, ‘‘In the context this must refer to the name of the Logos’’ (The Prophetic Gospel: A Study of John and the Old Testament [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991], 24). 22 The similarity between John 12:37 and Num 14:11 (MT, not any Tg.) is noted by Gu¨ nter Reim, Studien zum alttestamentlichen Hintergrund des Johannesevangeliums (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), 139 n. 61. 20
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shone’’ (‘‘in the darkness’’ is implied by the context).23 Likewise, in John 6:19 the divine Word, also called light ( John 1:4-5), appears in the darkness. Being placed at Exod 12:42, where the Hebrew text refers to the night of Passover as a night of vigil, the hymn of the four nights no doubt was remembered at Passover season (the third night in the hymn recalls the original Passover). John 6:4 says that the Passover was near, which would be quite appropriate to take note of if the ‘‘first night’’ was about to be re-enacted in the experience of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee.
IV. John 8:58 and Targum Isaiah 43:12-13; 48:15 ‘‘Before Abraham was born, I am he’’ (™gè e„mi). More often ‘‘I am’’ is used in translation, under the assumption that the verse relates to Exod 3:14, where the LXX has ™gè e„mi.24 As we have noted, however, ™gè e„mi is frequent in both LXX Isaiah, where it stands for Hebrew ‘‘I am he,’’ and John, and some of the sayings are clearly related to each other. We should thus also consider the possibility that Jesus is alluding in John 8:58 to the divine ‘‘I am he’’ of Isaiah. None of the Isaiah passages makes mention of Abraham, although the phrase ‘‘Abraham my friend’’ occurs just four verses after the first ‘‘I am he’’ (Isa 41:8; cf. v. 4). But the Isaiah Targum adds mention of Abraham in a number of passages, the most relevant of which with respect to John 8:58 is Tg. Isa. 43:12, just one verse prior to the second ‘‘I am he’’ saying of this chapter (third in the Tg. of this chapter): ‘‘I declared to Abraham your father what was about to come, I saved you from Egypt, just as I swore to him between the pieces . . . and also from eternity I am He’’ (Tg. Isa. 43:12-13). Targum Isaiah 48:15 likewise says, ‘‘I, even I, by my Memra [i.e., Word] decreed a covenant with Abraham your father and exalted him,’’ just three verses after the ‘‘I am he’’ saying of v. 12. The fact that other parts of Tg. Isa. 43 are important for understanding various parts of John and 1 John, as we have seen, would seem to increase the likelihood that here we have another allusion to this chapter of the Targum. We do need to consider, however, that there are other Targum texts that might have 23 rhnv ℵrvhn hvhv yyyd hyrmmv, with hvhv emended to hvh. See Martin McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Exodus (ArBib 2; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1994), 52, for a discussion of the text and other Palestinian Tg. readings. McNamara says, ‘‘The bearing of this text of Neofiti on the prologue of John has been noted independently by A. Díez-Macho (Atlantida, vol. I, no. 4, 1963, pp. 390-94) and R. Le De´ aut (La nuit pascale, Rome, 1963, pp. 215f.). The latter, in fact, considers the poem on the Four Nights . . . as a type of hymn to the Word (Memra) of the Lord’’ (‘‘Logos and Memra,’’ 116). See also McNamara, Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament (GNS 4; Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1983), 237-39. The ‘‘poem on the Four Nights’’ has also been seen as supporting a Targum background to the Logos title by Kysar (The Fourth Evangelist and His Gospel, 109); and Reim (‘‘Targum und Johannesevangelium,’’ 11). Reim points not just to the Prologue but to the fact that each of the four nights (creation, Abraham, Passover, and deliverance through the Messiah) are related by John to Jesus, the third and fourth coming together with Jesus as the Passover lamb. Reim thinks John’s notice ‘‘it was night’’ (13:30) points the reader to the poem of the four nights (ibid.). 24 E.g., Jacob Enz, ‘‘The Book of Exodus as a Literary Type for the Gospel of John,’’ JBL 76 (1957): 213.
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influenced John 8:58. Whereas in the MT of the Pentateuch there is only one ‘‘I am he’’ saying (Deut 32:39), in the Palestinian Targums of the Pentateuch there are about sixty (about forty each in Tg. Neof. and Tg. Ps.-J., with about a 50 percent overlap). All but one of these (Tg. Ps.-J. Gen 45:3) are divine ‘‘I am he’’ sayings, and some of them are quite suggestive of John 8:58. The following are all from Targum Neofiti; brackets are used to indicate marginal glosses: (1) ‘‘When Abram was 99 years old, the Word of the LORD was revealed to Abram and he said to him, ‘I am he, the God of heaven’’’ (Gen 17:1); (2) ‘‘And the [Word of the] LORD was revealed to him that night and he said ‘[I] am he, the God of Abraham your father’ ’’ (Gen 26:24);25 (3) ‘‘The Word of the LORD called to him from the midst of the thorn bush . . . and he said, ‘I am he, the God of your father, the God of Abraham’’’ (Exod 3:4-6); (4) ‘‘And the [Word of the] LORD spoke with Moses and said to him, ‘I am he, the LORD. And I was revealed in my Word to Abraham’ ’’ (Exod 6:2-3). While one need not consult the Targums to see why Jesus’ hearers picked up stones to stone him ( John 8:59), such synagogue readings as noted above may well have come to mind and contributed to the interpretation that Jesus was claiming to be the God of Abraham.26
V. John 6:45 and Targum Isaiah 55:1-3 In the first part of John 6:45, Jesus quotes from Isa 54:13, ‘‘they shall all be taught of God,’’ virtually identical to the MT, whereas Targum Isaiah has, ‘‘All your sons shall be taught in the law of the LORD.’’ Let us assume for the sake of argument that this was also the Targum reading at the time of Jesus’ ministry, which would mean that Jesus did not quote the Targum addition as part of what ‘‘is written in the prophets.’’ Yet, Jesus apparently does go on to utilize targumic terminology from just a few verses later, where the verbs ‘‘come, buy, and eat’’ from the divine invitation of Isa 55:1 are rendered with ‘‘come, hear, and learn’’ in the Targum: ‘‘Everyone who has heard from the Father, and learned, comes to me.’’ Targum Isaiah 55:1 is as follows: ‘‘Ho, every one who wishes to learn, let him come and learn; and he who has no money, come, hear, and learn! Come, hear, and learn, without price and not with mammon, teaching which is better than wine and milk.’’ Is this coincidence, or is Jesus purposely using Targum terminology here, though not quoting it as Scripture? There are a number of reasons for saying that the ‘‘come(s) to me’’ language of this verse and the chapter as a whole (vv. 35, 37, 44, 65) depends on Isa 55:1-3, a fact which would make it more likely that there is a deliberate use of the Targum terminology in John 6:45: (1) The invitation issued to ‘‘come to the waters’’ (to drink) and to eat what is good fits 25 hnℵ (‘‘I’’) is missing from the text but required by the context (Alejandro Díez-Macho, Neophyti 1, Targum Palestinense, MS de la Biblioteca Vaticana, Tomo 1: Ge´nesis [Textos y estudios 7; Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1968], 161). 26 Reim comes to a similar conclusion from the use of Memra in connection with Abraham, rather than from an examination of the ‘‘I am he’’ sayings in the Palestinian Tgs. (‘‘Targum und Johannesevangelium,’’ 6).
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the theme of the bread of life discourse, as well as the specific terminology of John 6:35: ‘‘He who comes to me shall not hunger, he who believes in me shall not thirst.’’ (2) The chapter is preceded and followed by similar allusions to this invitation: ‘‘You are unwilling to come to me, that you may have life’’ ( John 5:40; cf. Isa 55:3: ‘‘Come to me . . . that your soul may live’’). Similarly John 7:37: ‘‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’’ (3) The thought of John 6:27 (‘‘Do not work for the food that perishes,’’ etc.) is essentially the same as Isa 55:2 (‘‘Why do you spend for what is not [true] bread,’’ etc.). One implication of the Lord’s use of Targum terminology is that he approves of the spiritual interpretation of the divine invitation to ‘‘eat what is good.’’ Applying this lesson to his own command to eat his flesh and drink his blood would indicate that it is not literal but is equivalent to the ‘‘come, hear, and learn’’ of the Targum. It was mentioned above that the language of receiving the divine Word in the Targums usually renders MT language about listening to God, or his voice. Targum Isaiah 55:2 is an example of this pattern. But this language is also used for the divine ‘‘come to me’’ in the next verse. The text is as follows: ‘‘Receive my Word diligently, and eat what is good. . . . Incline your ear, and receive my Word; hear, that your soul may live.’’27 What is noteworthy here is that we can see that Jesus uses the divine language of the MT, ‘‘come to me,’’ whereas John in his Prologue, when speaking of the same spiritual transaction, uses the language of the Targums. That is, when John speaks of those who received him (the divine Word), he is writing about the same response called for by the language ‘‘come to me’’ of this invitation in Isa 55 and John 6. Likewise, Jesus equates the idea ‘‘come to me’’ with ‘‘believe in me’’ (6:38), just as John in his Prologue equates the idea of receiving the Word with believing in his name, both of which are targumic concepts, as noted above. Again, we should note that recognition of the Targum terminology aids in interpretation: when John writes about receiving Christ the Word, he is not referring to the idea of receiving a gift with ‘‘no strings attached,’’ but of a commitment to obedience, since the Targum terminology usually is found where the Hebrew text speaks of listening to the voice of God, that is, obeying him. The same emphasis is found in the upper room discourse (14:23, etc.), and John’s first Epistle (2:3-6, etc.). It has been suggested that one indication of commonality of authorship between 1 John and the Gospel is that both call Jesus the Word ( John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1), as does Rev 19:13.28 The last passage will be discussed later. For now we can ask whether, if a Targum background for the Logos title is indicated in the Gospel, is there any evidence that ‘‘the Word of life’’ in 1 John has such a background? Although, as far as I am aware, this particular expression is not 27
Chilton has ‘‘Attend to my Memra’’ instead of ‘‘receive my Word.’’ E.g., D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Leicester: Apollos, 1992), 470. Brown also points to the use of Word in Rev and 1 John to show that John’s use of Logos in his Prologue was not ‘‘entirely unique in the Judeo-Christian heritage’’ (John 1–12, 519). 28
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targumic, it could be an adaptation of ‘‘the bread of life’’ from the Gospel based on substituting ‘‘Word’’ for ‘‘bread.’’ This modification would be difficult to prove, but the dependence of the bread of life discourse on the invitation of Isa 55:1-3, where the Targum stresses ‘‘receive my Word,’’ at least makes the suggestion plausible. Or, ‘‘the Word of life’’ could be based on the idea ‘‘in him was life’’ ( John 1:4), ‘‘him’’ being the one whom John has called ‘‘the Word.’’ Three divine ‘‘As I live’’ oaths in the Pentateuch are rendered in Targum Neofiti with, ‘‘As I live and endure in my Word’’ (Num 14:21, 28; Deut 32:40). The divine Word is also involved in the resurrection, as noted below in section 12.
VI. John 14:16; First John 2:1; and Targum Isaiah 43:2, 5 (the Paraclete) In what we have seen so far by way of examples of passages that could support a Targum background for the Logos title, Jesus does not identify himself as the Word, but rather he uses divine language from the MT where a Targum counterpart of the same passage refers to the divine Word (Memra); John is the one who calls Jesus the divine Word. We noted that God’s promise that he was or will be with his people is expressed in Tg. Isa. 43:2, 5 by the idea of the divine Word being for the help of his people, a concept we saw fulfilled in the crossing of the sea, John 6:16-21. Yet Jesus does not say anywhere in John, ‘‘I (the Word) am for your help,’’ but rather he uses the language of the MT, ‘‘I am with you’’ ( John 7:33; 13:33; similarly 14:9, 25; 16:4; 17:12). Is ‘‘I am with you’’ spoken by Jesus divine speech, analogous to the OT divine promise? It could be argued that these expressions are not divine speech at all, but rather are meant in the same way that an ordinary person might speak of being with someone in a physical sense. Yet John 14:16 suggests the possibility, via Targum terminology, that ‘‘I am with you’’ is divine speech. Jesus says, ‘‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he might be with you forever.’’ ‘‘Another’’ suggests that the first Helper is Jesus himself, which many view as being confirmed by 1 John 2:1, where this same word (Paraclete) is used: ‘‘And if anyone sins, we have a Helper with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’’ This passage, of course, is just a few verses before John uses the language of Tg. Isa. 43:10, 25, as we saw in section 2; and Tg. Isa. 43:2, 5 has language about the divine Word being for the help of his people (for MT ‘‘I am/will be with you’’). Could Jesus be mixing MT and Targum language in John 14:16, obliquely referring to himself as Helper (who has been with them) by promising another Helper, then using MT language behind the Targum language, ‘‘that he might be with you forever’’? It would be difficult to prove that the Paraclete title is related to the Targums, but when Targum connections continue to add up, the plausibility increases.
VII. John 1:1-3; Targum Isaiah 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; and Targum Jeremiah 27:5 These Targum passages speak of creation through the Memra and have been suggested as possible evidence for a Targum background to the Logos
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title, since John 1:3 says that all things were created through the divine Word.29 In Tg. Isa. 44:24 the LORD says, ‘‘I am the LORD, who made all things, I stretched out the heavens by my Memra [MT ‘by myself,’ ydbl], I founded the earth by my might [MT ‘who was with me?’ (ketib ytℵ ym), or ‘from with me’ (= ‘by myself’; qere ytℵm)].’’ ‘‘By my might’’ is probably influenced less by the Hebrew text than by a tendency to standardize this verse according to the similar passages Tg. Isa. 45:12 and 48:13, where ‘‘by my might’’ renders ‘‘[by] my hand’’ (45:12) and ‘‘my right hand’’ (48:13), but especially Tg. Jer. 27:5 (which also begins ‘‘I by my Memra, made the earth’’), where the MT specifically mentions God’s might. The Targum renderings of Isa 45:12 and 48:13 are much like 44:24: ‘‘I by my Memra made the earth, and created man upon it; I by my might stretched out the heavens’’ (45:12), and ‘‘by my Memra I founded the earth, by my might I stretched out the heavens’’ (48:13). Targum Jeremiah 27:5 also mentions his creation of the beasts. The four Targum passages thus together say that the heavens and the earth, including man and beasts, were made by God through his Memra; thus ‘‘all things were made by [the divine Word].’’ Targum Isaiah 48:13 is also of interest because it is just one verse after the verse from which I argued above that the phrase ‘‘I am he that is from the beginning,’’ on which 1 John 2:13-14 depends, was added to Tg. Isa. 43:10. Now that we have discussed the relevance of the ‘‘receive’’ language of John 1:11-12 to the Word of the Targums, we can also take note that Tg. Isa. 48:12 also begins, ‘‘Receive my Word [Chilton ‘Attend to my Memra’; MT ‘listen to me’], O those of the house of Jacob’’ (again, those he has called ‘‘my own’’ [Tg. Isa. 43:1]). One might argue that in these passages Memra is not the divine Word but should be taken literally (‘‘by my decree’’), as the parallel with ‘‘my might’’ would suggest, and the fact that in 48:13 ‘‘by my Memra’’ is used for Hebrew ‘‘my hand.’’ On the other hand, one could argue that the Memra is divine because ‘‘by my Memra’’ renders the Hebrew ‘‘by myself ’’ in 44:24, and ‘‘I’’ in 45:12. In any of the proposed backgrounds for the Logos title used by John (divine Word of the Targums, Wisdom, Philo’s Logos, OT word),30 it is taken for granted that John has adapted his source material. Memra (or Dibbura/ Dibbera) is certainly not the divine Son, nor the Messiah, in the Targums, and could not conceivably become flesh. The point is that even if one considers it 29 E.g., Evans, Word and Glory, 116. The divine Word is the subject of creation verbs repeatedly in Tg. Neof. and the Frg. Tgs. of Gen 1 and other texts referring to the creation (e.g., Tg. Neof. Gen 14:23; Frg. Tg. V Gen 35:9). 30 I leave out Bultmann’s gnostic theory. See all of Evans, Word and Glory, who finds the case for a gnostic background methodologically flawed (the closest parallels are late and much more likely to have been influenced by John than the other way around) and far less convincing than all other proposals that are based on a background in the synagogue (including targumic Word) of John’s time. For an attempt to explain the whole of John’s Gospel in light of the Logos title being a personification of the OT word of the LORD, see Delbert Burkett, The Son of the Man in the Gospel of John ( JSNTSup 56; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991). For Jesus as Wisdom personified throughout the Gospel, see Martin Scott, Sophia and the Johannine Jesus ( JSNTSup 71; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992). For Jesus as the Logos of Philo, see C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).
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likely that Memra was meant by the targumist to be taken literally in these passages, that would not mean that it could not serve as the basis of the Logos title in John. If we take the ketib of Isa 44:24, ‘‘who was with me?’’ (in creation), the targumist answers by saying that it was God’s attribute of strength that was with God, because he renders ‘‘who was with me?’’ by ‘‘by my might.’’ But the other answer from the same verse is that ‘‘my Word was with me,’’ since ‘‘by my Word’’ stands for ‘‘by myself,’’ in the same way that ‘‘by my might’’ stands for ‘‘who was with me?’’ It does not take a great deal of imagination to see John, looking at both the Aramaic and the Hebrew (the LXX puts ‘‘who was with me’’ with the following verse), adapting Memra, which is divine in many passages (whether it was meant to be divine or literal in these particular passages), to the Son through whom the world was created, who was in the beginning with God. The further observation that Tg. Isa. 43 is quite important to interpreting John’s Gospel and First Epistle, as discussed in so much of what we have seen so far, makes it more plausible that we have just one chapter later a verse that could be part of the basis for describing the Son as the divine Word through whom all things were made.
VIII. John 1:14; 12:41 and Targum Isaiah 6:1-8 John says that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ (12:41), just as he says the disciples saw the glory of the Word who became flesh (1:14), a fact which has been used to argue for a Targum background for the Logos title. The argument is (1) John 1:14 uses Targum terminology ‘‘Word’’ and ‘‘glory’’ and alludes to a third term ‘‘Shekinah’’ (the manifest presence of God) which is related to the verb ‘‘dwell’’ used by John (skhnÒw); (2) these three terms are employed in the Targums in texts dealing with the manifestation of God’s presence and/or his interaction with his people, and all three are used in Tg. Isa. 6:1-8, the scene John presumably alludes to when he says Isaiah saw Christ’s glory; (3) the MT does not say Isaiah saw the divine glory, but the Targum does:31 31 ‘‘We cannot fail to notice that in Jn. I14 the writer—no doubt with intention—brings together all three of these Targumic conceptions. In kaˆ Ð lÒgoj s¦rx ™gšneto we have the Me¯mra¯ ; in kaˆ ™sk»nwsen ™n Øm‹n the Shekînta¯ ; in kaˆ ™qeas£meqa t¾n dÒxan aÙtoà the Y eqa¯ ra¯ . This is evidence that, so far from owing his lÒgoj-doctrine to an Alexandrian source, he is soaked through and through with the Palestinian Jewish thought which is represented by the Targums’’ (Burney, Aramaic Origin, 38-39). Burney here follows Gustaf Dalman, The Words of Jesus Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language (trans. D. M. Kay; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 231. Similarly George R. Beasley-Murray, ‘‘The language used of the incarnation of the Logos is reminiscent of the dwelling of the Shekinah among the people of God in the wilderness’’ (John [WBC 36; Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1987], lix). McNamara also connects the three targumic terms Word, glory, and Shekinah to John 1:14 (Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament, 238) as does Evans (Word and Glory, 20, 133). More recently Mary L. Coloe has written, ‘‘These terms from the Targums used in the Jewish synagogue worship may have provided the Johannine author with the theological tools to express the divinity they saw, heard, and experienced in Jesus’’ (God Dwells With Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel [Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2001], 61). Similarly Reim, although he does not take note of the use of Memra in Tg. Isa. 6 (‘‘Targum und Johannesevangelium,’’ 8).
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I saw the glory of the LORD resting upon a throne, high and lifted up in the heavens of the height; and the temple was filled by the brilliance of his glory. . . . 5 And I said: ‘‘Woe is me! For I have sinned; for I am a man liable to chastisement, and I dwell in the midst of people that are defiled with sins; for my eyes have seen the glory of the Shekinah of the eternal king, the LORD of hosts!’’ 6 Then there was given to me one of the attendants and in his mouth there was a speech which he took before him whose Shekinah is upon the throne of glory. . . . 8 And I heard the voice of the Memra of the LORD which said: ‘‘Whom shall I send to prophesy, and who will go to teach? ’’
The case should not be overstated: John could have added the idea of glory to his description of the scene of Isa 6, where the glory of the LORD is mentioned in v. 3, on his own initiative, or he could have taken note of the LXX rendering of ‘‘the train of his robe’’ which filled the temple as ‘‘his glory’’ (v. 1), in a manner quite like the Targum. Nevertheless, it is true that these words are collocated dozens of times in the Targums, where either (1) the divine Word and the Shekinah and/or glory are together in one Targum (as in this passage from Isa), or (2) the divine Word alternates with Shekinah and/or glory in different Targum readings of the same passage (in the case of the Palestinian Tgs. of the Pentateuch, including marginal glosses of Neof.), or in different manuscripts of a single Targum. Here I will cite a few that could be viewed as having a direct bearing on John 1:14 because of the association of the divine Word with the dwelling of God among his people and/or manifesting his glory (‘‘Word’’ stands for Aramaic Memra unless otherwise noted): (1) In Tg. Ps.-J. Deut 5:24 Moses quotes the people’s response to the Sinai revelation (Exod 20): ‘‘The Word of the LORD has shown us the Shekinah of his glory . . . and we have heard the voice of his Word.’’ (2) In Tg. Neof. Exod 8:18 [ET 22], the LORD says to Pharaoh that he will perform miracles in Egypt ‘‘so that you may know that I am he (ℵvh hnℵ), the LORD, whose Word dwells [mg., the glory of whose Shekinah dwells] within the land.’’ Likewise in John the first example of ‘‘we beheld his glory’’ is the miracle at Cana of Galilee ( John 2:1-11), ‘‘the beginning of signs’’ (v. 11), which reminds us of the beginning of signs in Egypt when the water was turned to blood, not only in the Nile but also in stone water vessels such as those mentioned in v. 6. The Nile waters were used for purification, just as the water John mentions. Possibly Pharaoh was going to the Nile for a purification ritual when Moses met him and struck the Nile, turning it to ‘‘blood.’’32 We should also note 32 Rodger Wayne Dalman, ‘‘The Theology of Israel’s Sea Crossing’’ (Th.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 1990), 130-31. Dalman cites Coffin Spell 439: (The priest says,) ‘‘Wash yourself in the swamp-waters of the inundation and in the waters of the Nile which are in the Broad Hall’’ (131). Rosemary Clark describes ‘‘The Nile Room’’ of a Ptolemaic Egyptian temple: ‘‘Libations of Nile water from the seven mouths of the Delta were stored here for special purifications’’ (The Sacred Tradition in Ancient Egypt: The Esoteric Wisdom Revealed [St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000], 240). A connection between the miracle at Cana with the first plague in Egypt was suggested by Harald Sahlin, Zur Typologie des Johannesevangeliums (Uppsala: Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1950), 330. Robert Smith criticized Sahlin’s general methodology but agreed that in this case ‘‘one may justifiably compare Jesus’ miraculous changing of water into wine at Cana’’ to the first Mosaic sign (‘‘Exodus Typology in the Fourth Gospel,’’ JBL 81 : 334).
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that ‘‘so that you might know that I am he’’ from this verse in Neofiti, spoken by the divine Word according to the marginal gloss, agrees with John 8:28, with ™gè e„mi corresponding to Aramaic ℵvh hnℵ, just as in LXX Isaiah it corresponds to Hebrew ℵvh ynℵ. (3) As the Israelites left Egypt, they were led by the Word of the LORD (Tg. Neof. and Frg. Tg. P Exod 13:21) or the glory of the LORD’s Shekinah (Ps.-J. Exod 13:21) in the pillar of fire and cloud, visible evidence of the LORD dwelling among his people.33 Further, this pillar, in which the divine Word led Israel according to Neofiti, gave light to his people and was also involved in conflict between light and darkness when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites and caught up to them at the Red Sea (Exod 14:19-20; cf. John 1:5). (4) At Massah the Israelites tested the LORD, asking, ‘‘Is the glory of the Shekinah of the LORD dwelling among us or not?’’ (Tg. Neof. and Ps.-J. Exod 17:7; Tg. Onq., ‘‘Is the Shekinah of the LORD among us?’’). At this place the LORD said, ‘‘My Word will stand in readiness on the rock at Horeb, and you [Moses] shall strike the rock’’ (Tg. Neof. v. 6). (5) On the third day at Mt. Sinai Moses brought the people to meet the Word of the LORD (Tg. Onq. and Frg. Tg. P Exod 19:17), or the Shekinah of the LORD (Tg. Ps.-J. and Ctg. F) or the glory of the Shekinah of the LORD (Tg. Neof. and Frg. Tg. V, N ). (6) The LORD promised that after the tabernacle was constructed he would meet with the Israelites at the doorway of the tent of meeting, which would be consecrated by his glory, and he would dwell among them and be their God, and ‘‘they shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God’’ (Exod 29:43, 45-46). Targum Neofiti v. 43 reads, ‘‘I—my Word—will meet the children of Israel there’’; v. 45 reads, ‘‘I will make my Shekinah [interlinear gloss, the glory of my Shekinah] dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and my Word will be for them a redeeming God.’’ Verse 46 says he brought them from Egypt ‘‘so that the glory of my Shekinah might dwell among them.’’ Targums Pseudo-Jonathan and Onqelos read ‘‘my Shekinah’’ instead of ‘‘the glory of my Shekinah’’ in both verses. Targums Pseudo-Jonathan and Onqelos v. 43 have ‘‘I will appoint my Word to be there.’’ (7) In response to Moses’ request, ‘‘show me your glory’’ (Exod 33:18), the LORD says that when the glory of his Shekinah passes by, ‘‘you will see the Word (Dibbera) of the glory of [my] Shekinah, but it is not possible for you to see the face of the glory of my Shekinah’’ (Tg. Neof. Exod 33:22-23). According to Tg. Neof. v. 21, this is spoken by the Word of the LORD. Targum Neofiti mg. at v. 23 says, ‘‘I will make [you] see the Word (Dibbura) of glory.’’ Targum Psuedo-Jonathan and Fragmentary Targums P, V, N read similarly to Targum Neofiti (v. 23 only in Frg. Tgs.). Targum Onqelos v. 20 says, ‘‘you will not be able to see the face of my Shekinah.’’ Targum Onqelos vv. 22-23 say that ‘‘when my glory passes by, I will . . . shield you with my Word [MT, hand] until I have passed by, then I will remove the Word of my glory.’’ 33
Noted by Reim, ‘‘Targum und Johannesevangelium,’’ 5.
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(8) In Lev 26:12 the LORD promises that if Israel is obedient ‘‘I will walk among you,’’ which Targum Neofiti renders, ‘‘my Word will go among you’’; Targum PseudoJonathan, ‘‘I will make the glory of my Shekinah dwell among you’’; Targum Onqelos refers to the Shekinah but not glory. One might add, with relevance to John 1:1, Targums Neofiti and Pseudo-Jonathan render ‘‘I will be your God’’ from the same verse (Lev 26:12) as ‘‘my Word will be to you a redeeming God.’’ With respect to John 12:41 and Isa 6, it is also of interest that Tg. Ps.-J. Deut 4:7 borrows from Isa 6:1 in a way that suggests the possibility that another Targum, no longer extant, spoke explicitly of Isaiah seeing the glory of the divine Word: ‘‘The Word of the LORD sits on his throne, high and lifted up, and hears our prayers.’’
IX. The Word at War 1. Revelation 19:13 and Targum Isaiah 59:15-19; 63:5 In Rev 19:13 Jesus is said to have the name ‘‘the Word of God.’’ As noted above, calling Jesus ‘‘the Word’’ is unique to the Johannine literature and this fact can be used to argue for unity of authorship. If the Logos title in the Gospel is based on the divine Word of the Targums, then the argument for unity of authorship would be enhanced if this name in Rev 19:13 could also be shown to be influenced by the Targums. Conversely, showing a targumic dependence of ‘‘the Word of God’’ in Rev 19:13 might enhance the probability that the Logos title in the Gospel is also targumic. An argument has been made for a targumic understanding of Rev 19:13 along the lines that in the Targums ‘‘the Word of the LORD’’ (or a variation such as ‘‘my Word,’’ ‘‘his Word,’’ etc.) is commonly used (hundreds of times in the extant Targums) to refer to God.34 ‘‘The Word of the LORD’’ stands in place of the divine name, in the same way that ‘‘the Lord’’ does in translations since the LXX. This usage is found primarily in passages dealing with God’s interactions with his people or his creation in general. Further, as noted in section 3 above, outside of the ‘‘official’’ Targums (Onq. and Jon., of which Isa. is a part), the Tetragrammaton is often referred to as ‘‘the name of the Word of the LORD.’’ Thus ‘‘Abram believed in the name of the Word of the LORD’’ in Tg. Neof. Gen 15:6. Martin McNamara notes that this passage in Revelation ‘‘is clearly dependent’’ on Isa 63:1-6, but he does not connect the name ‘‘the Word of God’’ with the Targum expression. Instead, he notes that the Palestinian Targums seem to have appropriated the idea of the blood-soaked warrior of Isa 63:1-6 to the Messiah in Gen 49:11-12, where the MT says, ‘‘He washes his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes shall be red with wine and his teeth white with milk.’’35 The following compares the MT of Isa 63:2-3, Rev 19:13, 15, and Tg. Neof. Gen 49:11-12: 34
Evans, Word and Glory, 118, 129. Martin McNamara, The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch (AnBib 27; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1966), 231. 35
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Why is your apparel red, And your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? 3 ‘‘I have trodden the wine press alone, And from the peoples there was no man with me. I also trod them in my anger, And trampled them in my wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on my garments, And I stained all my clothing.’’ (Isa 63:2-3). He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. . . . 15 and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Rev 19:13, 15) How beautiful is King Messiah who is to arise from the house of Judah. He girds his loins and goes forth to battle against those who hate him; and he kills kings with rulers, and makes the mountains red from the blood of their slain and makes the valleys white from the fat of the warriors. His garments are rolled in blood; he is like a presser of grapes. (Tg. Neof. Gen 49:11-12)
Verse 12 of the Palestinian Targums (except Frg. Tg. P which does not have v. 12) interprets the MT’s red eyes and white teeth as indications of the moral purity of the Messiah, which McNamara compares with ‘‘in righteousness he judges and wages war, his eyes are like a flame of fire’’ (Rev 19:11-12). McNamara notes that there is no record of a rabbinic interpretation of Gen 49:11-12 that ‘‘is in the spirit of the PT paraphrase,’’ which implies that the Palestinian Targums preserve ‘‘a very old pre-Christian rendering which is quite in accord with the expectations of the warlike Messiah who . . . was awaited by the Jews in the New Testament period.’’36 One could argue that the passage in Rev 19 depends on both a literal translation of Isa 63 (‘‘he treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God’’ is closer to ‘‘I have trodden the winepress alone . . . I trod them in my anger’’ than to ‘‘he is like a presser of grapes’’) and the Palestinian Targum paraphrase of Gen 49:11-12 (‘‘robe dipped in blood’’ is closer to ‘‘garments rolled in blood’’ than ‘‘their blood is sprinkled on my garments’’). But one could also make a connection between Rev 19:13 and Tg. Isa. 63:5, where the MT ‘‘My own arm brought salvation to me, and my wrath upheld me’’ is rendered ‘‘I saved them by my strong arm, and by the Memra of my pleasure I helped them.’’ We see in this passage that while the MT stresses that God acts alone as warrior, in the Targum he acts through his Word, a feature that we also noted in connection with the theme of creation in Isa 44:24 (§7 above). Again one might object that ‘‘the Memra of my pleasure’’ could or should be taken literally, as God’s decree through which he accomplishes his good pleasure. But again we note that in any proposal of a background for the Logos title, John is not considered bound to use his source material without adaptation. By saying that the name of the warrior is ‘‘the Word of God,’’ which infers the Tetragrammaton, John makes it clear that the warrior of Rev 19 is YHWH, not merely a personification of God’s decree. The warrior of Isa 63:1-6 is not actually named in the MT. That his name is YHWH is clear from the parallel passage Isa 59:15b-20, ‘‘The LORD saw,’’ etc. In this passage, ‘‘his righteousness upheld him’’ (v. 16) is in Targum Isaiah, ‘‘by the 36
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Memra of his pleasure he helped them.’’ One need not go to Gen 49:11 in the Palestinian Targums therefore to explain Rev 19:11, ‘‘in righteousness he judges and makes war.’’ Targum Isaiah 59:17 says, ‘‘strength and salvation he will bring by his Memra to those who fear him’’ (MT, ‘‘[he put] a helmet of salvation on his head’’); Tg. Isa. 59:19 says ‘‘by the Memra of the LORD they shall be plundered ’’ (MT, ‘‘[He will come like a rushing stream], which the wind of the LORD drives on’’), where ‘‘the Memra of the LORD’’ agrees with the name ‘‘the Word of God’’ of Rev 19:13. Targum Isaiah 59:20 goes on to say, ‘‘And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to return the rebels of the house of Jacob to the law, says the LORD,’’ where the subject of ‘‘he will come’’ could be understood to be the divine Word, who is depicted as coming in Rev 19. Assuming that John’s description of Christ as warrior in Rev 19:11-16 depends in part on the depiction of the Messiah in the Palestinian Targums of Gen 49:11-12, it is of interest that John did not content himself to depict Christ as the (human) Messiah envisaged in the Targums, but made prominent the parallels with the divine warrior of Isa 59:15b-21/63:1-6, even giving him the name which is the Targum equivalent of the Tetragrammaton. In showing this warrior both as the (human) Messiah and as the divine Word, John is giving us the message in Rev 19 that the divine Word has become flesh, just as he said in John 1:14. Here again, we see that recognition of the targumic background also provides evidence for the unity between writings traditionally ascribed to the same author. One obstacle to acceptance of a targumic background to Rev 19:13 is the belief that this passage has as its background Wis 18:15: ‘‘Your all-powerful word (lÒgoj) leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior.’’37 The context is the LORD’s striking down the Egyptian first-born at the first Passover. In this connection it is of interest that some of the Targums also ascribe the destruction of the Egyptian first-born to the activity of the Memra (including in ‘‘the third night’’ in Frg. Tg. V’s version of ‘‘the hymn of the four nights’’ noted above in §4), a fact which has been used to argue for the intertestamental development of the Memra theology of the Targums.38 2. John 12:31-32 and Isaiah 33:10-11, etc. Little notice has been taken of the dependence of John 12:31-32 on Isa 33:10, though the similarities are quite striking: 37 ‘‘It seems fairly certain that here the author is drawing on the Wis 18:14-16’’ (McNamara, Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament, 235). However, in his notes on Tg. Neof. for the ArBib series, McNamara still holds to a dependence of Rev 19:11-16 on the Palestinian Tgs., and the latter’s dependence on Isa 63:1-6 (Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis [ArBib 1A; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1992], 220 n. 27). 38 This passage is part of the basis for R. Hayward’s conclusion, ‘‘Memra was known in Alexandria in the second half of the first century BC’’ (Divine Name and Presence: The Memra [Totowa, N.J.: Allanheld, Osmun, 1981], 121). Also see Tg. Neof. Exod 11:4; 12:12-13, 29 (mg.).
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‘‘Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men to myself.’’ ( John 12:31-32) ‘‘Now I will arise,’’ says the LORD, ‘‘now I will be exalted, now I will be lifted up.’’ (Isa 33:10)
In Isa 33 ‘‘the ruler of this world’’ was Sennacherib, and v. 10 announces that ‘‘now,’’ after so many years that Isaiah has been predicting the defeat of the Assyrians, the time has come. ‘‘I will arise . . . I will be lifted up’’ answers petitions such as Ps 7:6 [MT 7], ‘‘Arise, O LORD, in your anger; lift yourself up against the rage of my adversaries.’’ The result of the LORD arising was the decimation of the Assyrian army and Sennacherib’s retreat in disgrace (Isa 37:36-38). In John 12:31-32 we see the same pattern: ‘‘now’’ means so many years after Isaiah’s prediction of the work of the Servant; ‘‘the ruler of this world’’ is the devil who will be defeated by the literal ‘‘lifting up’’ of the Son in crucifixion. We also see that just as those ‘‘near and far’’ were invited to respond to the salvation of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah (Isa 33:13), likewise through the warfare at the cross, ‘‘I will draw all men to myself.’’ The connection between the defeat of Sennacherib and the work of the Servant would have been evident already in Isaiah itself since the verbs used in Isa 52:13, ‘‘My Servant . . . will be high, he will be lifted up’’ were also used in Isa 33:10 of God. In fact, there are two more passages in Isaiah that speak of God as high and lifted up (6:1 and 57:15), and the four ‘‘high and lifted up’’ passages in Isaiah correspond to the four passages in John that speak of Jesus being ‘‘lifted up’’: (1) ‘‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up’’ ( John 3:14) has a particular relevance to Isa 52:13, since that passage goes on to describe the suffering of the Servant as if under the curse of God. (2) ‘‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he’’ ( John 8:28) pertains especially to Isa 6:1, since there Isaiah sees the one who is high and lifted up in the temple, just as in John 8:28 the Jews see Jesus in the temple speaking in such a way that ‘‘the style of the sentence is that of Divine proclamations.’’39 (3) John 12:31-32 corresponds to Isa 33:10, as noted above. (4) In Isa 57:15 God speaks of himself as the one who is high and lifted up, who dwells forever. In John 12:34 the Jews ask, ‘‘We have heard out of the law [perhaps at Isa 9:6] that the Christ is to remain forever, so how can you say ‘the Son of Man must be lifted up’?’’ (answer from Isa 57:15; the one who remains forever is high and lifted up; there is no contradiction between remaining forever and being lifted up). We also should note that it is quite striking that it should be favorably mentioned that a man should be ‘‘high and lifted up’’ (Isa 52:13) in light of the strong condemnation of mere men who are ‘‘high and lifted up’’ (in pride) in Isa 2:12-14. 39 J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John (ICC; New York: Scribner, 1929), 2:303. Bernard notes Ezek 11:10 as an example of similar style. We noted above in §8.2 that Tg. Neof. Exod 8:18 [ET 22] also says ‘‘then you will know that I am he.’’
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It is also of relevance that at some point Jewish tradition held that the defeat of Sennacherib took place at Passover (Tg. 2 Chron. 32:21), probably based on the promise that God would ‘‘pass over’’ Jerusalem (Isa 31:5), so that perhaps some of the Jews in Jerusalem for the Passover, listening to Jesus, would have also been thinking of that great deliverance and recognized the Lord’s appropriation of the language of Isa 33:10, although it is not evident that Targum Isaiah understands this chapter to be speaking specifically of the invasion of Sennacherib. Still, those who would have recognized an echo of Isa 33:10 in John 12:31-32 might also have been aware of Tg. Isa. 33:11 which says, ‘‘because of your evil deeds my Memra, as the whirlwind the chaff, will destroy you.’’ ‘‘You’’ here is not specifically Sennacherib but the Gentiles. Targum Isaiah 10:17, however, does speak specifically of the defeat of the king of Assyria (mentioned in v. 16) ‘‘in a single day’’ when the LORD’s ‘‘Memra will be strong as the fire.’’ Targum Isaiah 30:31 says, ‘‘For the Assyrian who strikes with a dominion is broken up at the voice of the Memra of the LORD.’’ In Tg. Isa. 36:7 Rabshakeh says, ‘‘But if you say to me, ‘We rely on the Memra of the LORD our God’ ’’ (for protection from the Assyrians); similarly v. 15, and Tg. 2 Kings 18:22, 30. 3. John 14:1-4; First John 3:8; and Palestinian Targums Numbers 10:33-35 Jesus going to the cross to defeat Satan, with his return to the disciples on the third day, can be compared to Israel’s departure from Mt. Sinai on a three days’ journey, with the ark of the LORD going before Israel, at which time Moses uttered the petition, ‘‘Rise up, O LORD! Let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you’’ (Num 10:35). We are also told that when the ark rested, Moses said, ‘‘Return, O LORD, to the myriad thousands of Israel’’ (v. 36). The LORD is thus depicted as the divine warrior who goes before his people to secure victory, then returns to dwell among them. We have warrant for this comparison from the words of Jesus in John 14:1-4. It has been noted that ‘‘I go to prepare a place for you’’ could reflect Targum language.40 Whereas Num 10:33 and Deut 1:33 say that the LORD went before Israel to ‘‘search out’’ a place for them to camp in the wilderness (Hebrew rvt), all of the Targums use the word ‘‘prepare’’ ([qt, haphel ). This is another case where the Targums do not make an arbitrary change but use a word found in a similar passage elsewhere. The MT of Exod 23:20 refers to the promised land as the place God has prepared for Israel (the LXX uses ˜toim£zw, as in John 14:2). ‘‘Prepared’’ is no doubt used because it is less anthropomorphic than ‘‘search out.’’ John 14:1-4 has more in common with Deut 1:33 and its context than just the language about preparing a place. Jesus also speaks about belief in God and in himself (v. 1), just as Moses recounts Israel’s unbelief in God who went before them to search out a place for them (Deut 1:32). Both passages also speak of 40 Evans, Word and Glory, 134; McNamara notes that the same change is found in the Peshitta (Palestinian Judaism and the New Testament, 239-40).
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‘‘the way,’’ which in Deut 1 is the way through the wilderness.41 Perhaps this is why Jesus tells the disciples that they know the way he is going, but they do not realize that they know it (vv. 4-5); it is the same way that they have heard about since childhood whenever Num 10 and Deut 1 were read in the synagogue. Jesus going on a three-day journey to defeat Satan and then return to the disciples can be seen as answering the ancient petitions of Moses as they were rendered in the Palestinian Targums of Num 10:35-36, for example, Ps.-J. Num 10:35-36 says: When the ark desired to set out . . . he [Moses] said, ‘‘Let the Word of the LORD be now revealed in the power of your anger, and let the enemies of your people be scattered, and let their enemies not be accustomed to stand up before you.’’ And when the ark desired to rest, . . . he said, ‘‘Return now, O Word of the LORD, in your good mercy, and lead your people Israel, and let the Glory of your Shekinah dwell among them, and love the myriads of the house of Jacob, the multitudes of the thousands of Israel.’’
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan embellishes the prayer of Moses by asking that the divine Word dwell among them and love them. Jesus addresses these issues later in this chapter ( John 14:21, 23). We may also note the double interpretation of the petition ‘‘return’’ in Targum Neofiti and Fragmentary Targums P and V, ‘‘turn from your wrath and return to us,’’ which fits perfectly the mission of Jesus, who goes to the cross to turn away the wrath of God from his people and return to the disciples. As noted above, Pseudo-Jonathan renders the petition ‘‘Arise, O LORD’’ as ‘‘Let the Word of the LORD be now revealed.’’ With John’s adaptation of ‘‘the Word of the LORD’’ to ‘‘the Son of God,’’ we can see perhaps Targum influence in the wording of 1 John 3:8 in this same context of divine warfare: ‘‘The Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.’’ Thus the ‘‘Word at war’’ theme joins John’s Gospel, First Epistle, and Revelation, all plausibly connected to the Targums.
X. Third John 7 and Targum Isaiah 48:11 (The Word and the Name) In 3 John 7 John refers to those who ‘‘went out [on Christian ministry] for the sake of the Name.’’ One might take ‘‘the Name’’ here as Brown took it in 1 John 2:12 (see §2 above), as a reference to the name of God, as in Lev 24:11 (‘‘he blasphemed the Name’’). We saw in the previous section that Christ’s name is ‘‘the Word of God’’ (Rev 19:13), and we saw the appropriateness of seeing this name as the Tetragrammaton used of the Son, since in the Targums ‘‘the Word of the LORD’’ stands hundreds of times for the MT ‘‘YHWH,’’ including contexts of divine warfare. A close connection between God’s name and his divine Word is also implied in Tg. Isa. 48:11, where the MT ‘‘For my own sake, for my own sake (yniml yniml) I will act, for how shall it be profaned?’’ is rendered ‘‘For my name’s sake, for my Memra’s sake I will act, that nothing should be profaned.’’ One could easily conclude, then, that when John says Christian workers ‘‘went out for the sake of the Name,’’ the name is the Tetragrammaton, and the assumption is that this is Christ’s name, just as in Rev 19:13. 41
Brown notes the connection to the way and a place from Deut 1:33 (John 1–12, 625).
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One could arrive at the same conclusion in John’s Gospel without any reference to the Targums at all. Those who have advocated that personified Wisdom provides the appropriate model for John’s Logos title have pointed to the similarity between John 1:14 and texts from the intertestamental Wisdom literature where Wisdom makes her dwelling among men.42 The relevant texts, however, say nothing about the manifestation of the glory of Wisdom. But if we want to know what John means by calling Jesus ‘‘the Word,’’ and therefore try to ‘‘fill in the blank’’ of the statement ‘‘________ dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory’’ (omitting ‘‘became flesh’’ since no proposed source material has anything analogous to this), the OT pattern of God dwelling among his people and manifesting his glory, in both the temple and the tabernacle, should readily come to mind (e.g., Exod 25:8; 29:45-46; 40:34-35; 1 Kgs 6:13; 8:13-14; 2 Chr 5:13-14; 7:1-3). Based on these passages we could ‘‘fill in the blank’’ with the divine name, concluding that ‘‘the Word’’ must be a unique circumlocution for it. Or if we had Philo but not the Targums we could conclude that John has borrowed this circumlocution from Philo, since the Logos is ‘‘a concept which Philo considers identical with the name—precisely as divine.’’43 For OT support one could point to passages where God’s name is said to dwell among his people.44 As L. Morris concludes, ‘‘John is saying to his readers, then, that the glory that had been manifested in one way or another in the wilderness wanderings and later, as at the dedication of Solomon’s temple . . . was manifested in its fullness in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.’’45 More importantly, John is saying that the glory of Jesus is the glory of YHWH. We began our look at the Isaiah Targum by noting that the Targum background to ‘‘for his name’s sake’’ of 1 John 2:12 indicated that the name referred to is the 42 Bar 3:36-37 says, ‘‘[God] found the whole way to knowledge, and gave her to Jacob his servant and to Israel whom he loved. 37 Afterward she [Wisdom] appeared upon earth and lived [sunanastršfw] among men.’’ Similarly Sir 24:4-8, ‘‘I [Wisdom] dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. 5 Alone I have made the circuit of the vault of heaven and have walked in the depths of the abyss. 6 In the waves of the sea, in the whole earth, and in every people and nation I have gotten a possession. 7 Among all these I sought a resting place; I sought in whose territory I might lodge. 8 Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent. And he said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’ ’’ ‘‘Dwelt’’ in v. 4 and ‘‘make your dwelling’’ in v. 8 are from kataskhnÒw, often used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew verb ]k>, used for God’s dwelling among Israel. John 1:14 uses the similar verb skhnÒw. Likewise ‘‘tent’’ in v. 8 is skhn», used in the LXX for the tabernacle. A connection between Wisdom of the Wisdom literature and John’s Logos title was initially proposed by J. Rendel Harris, The Origin of the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1917). 43 John C. Meagher, ‘‘John 1:14 and the New Temple,’’ JBL 88 (1969): 57. Meagher cites Philo, Confusion 146, where the firstborn Word is called ‘‘the name of God, and the Word, and man according to God’s image.’’ Meagher also points for support to John 17:11-12 where Jesus says that the Father’s name is given to him (‘‘John 1:14 and the New Temple,’’ 57 n. 1). 44 E.g., often in Deut 12–26; Ezra 6:12; Neh 1:9; Ps 69:36 [MT 37]; 74:7; Jer 7:12. In Ezek 43:7, where the MT says, ‘‘I shall dwell among the Israelites forever,’’ the LXX says, ‘‘My name shall dwell among the Israelites forever.’’ 45 Leon Morris, The Word Was Made Flesh: John 1–5 (vol. 1 of Reflections on the Gospel of John; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 20.
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Tetragrammaton. The idea of ‘‘the Word’’ and ‘‘the Name’’ as closely related concepts therefore ties together John’s Gospel, Revelation, and 1 and 3 John.
XI. The Trial of Jesus and the Isaiah Targum Most of the Isaiah Targum passages that we have dealt with so far have been from chs. 43 to 48, which are part of a heavenly trial, with the LORD as prosecutor, or plaintiff, who is arguing for the verdict ‘‘I am he,’’ that is, ‘‘I am YHWH, the one true God’’ (beginning with Isa 41:4), the evidence being that he alone predicts the future long before it happens, in such a way that no one can say ‘‘my idol has done it’’ (Isa 48:5). Throughout this section of Isaiah, then, the LORD is testifying concerning himself, that ‘‘I am he.’’ Similarly, Jesus says in John 8:18, ‘‘I am he [™gè e„mi], the one who testifies concerning myself.’’ Is this just a coincidence of language? Consideration of his words at his trial suggests that this is not just a coincidence of language. Just as the LORD predicted the coming of Cyrus in this section of Isaiah, as well as the coming of the Servant of the LORD, Jesus also predicts the future ‘‘so that you might believe that I am he’’ ( John 13:19). What he has just predicted is his betrayal, which shortly came to pass. While Jesus is arrested and put on trial, then, in a situation where he appears to be the defendant who is on trial for his life, from another perspective he is the prosecutor or plaintiff, proving his case that ‘‘I am he.’’ It should not be surprising, then, that he borrows from the language of the heavenly advocate in Isaiah at this earthly trial. In Isa 45:19 the LORD says ‘‘I have not spoken in secret. . . . I, the LORD, speak righteousness, declaring things that are upright.’’ Similarly at his trial Jesus says, ‘‘I spoke nothing in secret’’ ( John 18:20), and ‘‘If [I have spoken] rightly, why do you strike me?’’ ( John 18:23). The Isaiah Targum follows the MT fairly closely here. Of interest in the Targum are several references to the divine Word in the context: ‘‘Israel is saved by the Memra of the LORD with an everlasting salvation’’ (Tg. Isa. 45:17); ‘‘Turn to my Memra and be saved, all those at the ends of the earth’’ (v. 22); ‘‘In the Memra of the LORD all the seed of Israel shall be justified and glorified’’ (v. 25).46 The divine saying ‘‘I have not spoken in secret’’ is repeated in Isa 48:16: ‘‘Come near to me, listen to this. From the first I have not spoken in secret.’’ ‘‘Come near to me’’ can again be understood along the lines of the heavenly lawsuit scenario: ‘‘Come near and listen to the legal argument I am making in order to establish the verdict ‘I am he.’’’ In Targum Isaiah it is, ‘‘Draw near to my Memra, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret.’’ Strikingly, this is what happened at the trial of Jesus, when his accusers drew near to the divine Word and heard him repeat the words of the divine plaintiff, ‘‘I have not spoken (prophetically) in secret.’’ 46 Tg. Isa. 45:17 was one of several texts cited by the seventeenth-century Puritan Thomas Goodwin as the basis for his conclusion that the Logos title derived from the Memra of the Targums (The Works of Thomas Goodwin [Nichol’s Standard Divines; Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862], 4:418). Thanks to Mark Jones for alerting me to this reference.
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The Targum goes on to say, ‘‘The prophet said, And now the LORD God has sent me and his Memra.’’47 That ‘‘his Memra’’ stands for MT ‘‘his Spirit’’ might be taken against the proposal that John’s Logos title depends on the Memra (and Dibbera) of the Targums, and against the idea that John 18:20 is meant to be understood in light of Tg. Isa. 48:16. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning again that whatever source is proposed as background to the Logos title in John, it is acknowledged that some adaptation of that source is involved. It is the same here. The Targum says ‘‘his Memra’’ in Isa 48:16 for ‘‘his Spirit,’’ which, on a Christian interpretation, refers to the Holy Spirit. And surely John would prefer the interpretation that these words are spoken by the Servant, not by Isaiah, in anticipation of his being sent into the world. But identifying Jesus as the divine Word goes beyond identifying him as the Servant, the Messiah; this title identifies him as one who bears the divine name. The Father and the Holy Spirit also bear the divine name, but John adapts the Targum title to apply it specifically to the Son, the Servant, even though in the Targums the Memra is clearly not the Messiah (e.g., in Tg. Isa. 42:1, the Memra is pleased with the Servant), and Memra can be used for God’s Spirit.
XII. John 11:25-26 and Targum Isaiah 26:9 In ‘‘I am the resurrection and the life’’ ( John 11:25), ‘‘I am’’ is ™gè e„mi, and we should again allow for the possibility that ™gè e„mi represents Aramaic ℵvh ℵnℵ spoken by Jesus and is meant as the divine ‘‘I am he.’’ Targum Isaiah 26:19 gives us the second-person equivalent in a similar context: ‘‘You are he who brings alive the dead, you raise the bones of their bodies’’ (MT, ‘‘Your dead will live, their corpses will rise’’). The previous verse in the Targum says, ‘‘Those who reside in the world have not brought deliverance to the earth, they also have not done wonders, neither will they be able to do so’’ (MT, ‘‘We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, nor were inhabitants of the world born’’). According to the Targum, it is God, not ‘‘those who reside in the world,’’ who raises the dead, and ‘‘I am he, the resurrection and the life’’ can be seen as a claim to be the one addressed in the Targum, ‘‘You are he who makes alive the dead,’’ as proven by the fact that he performs the miracle of resurrection. Jesus seems to belong to the category of ‘‘those who reside in the world,’’ those who cannot do miracles, but he was only temporarily in the world ( John 1:10), and in this context Martha confesses him as ‘‘he who comes into the world’’ ( John 11:27), obviously meant as a unique designation. He is actually the only one in the world who can say the divine ‘‘I am he.’’ The ‘‘You are he’’ of Tg. Isa. 26:19 may have been influenced by the ‘‘I am he’’ of a contemporary Targum of Deut 32:39, where the MT says, ‘‘I, I am he, and there is no god besides me. It is I who put to death and give life.’’ Targum Neofiti and Fragmentary Targum V of this verse say, ‘‘I, I in my Word am he, and there is no other god beside me. I am he who causes the living to die in this world, and who brings to life the dead in the world to come.’’ 47 There are two mistakes in Chilton here: ‘‘They [sic] prophet said,’’ and putting ‘‘LORD God’’ in italics (Isaiah Targum, 95).
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We might add in light of the expression ‘‘I in my Word am he’’ that recognizing the Logos title of Jesus as based on the divine Word of the Targums allows a connection in the Gospel between the Word of the Prologue and the one who repeatedly says ‘‘I am he’’ in the body of the Gospel. This would be another instance of Jesus using the divine language of the MT (‘‘I am he’’), while John uses language from the Targums to the same end; both ‘‘Word’’ and ‘‘I am he’’ inferring the divine name. That is, Jesus’ claim, ‘‘I am he,’’ and John’s description of Jesus as ‘‘the Word’’ are both ways of saying that Jesus is YHWH, one using the language of the MT, the other using the language of the Targums. This observation also gives us a good explanation for why Jesus is not called ‘‘the Word’’ outside the Prologue; the repeated ‘‘I am he’’ sayings infer the same thing as the Logos title, and can be seen as confirming that ‘‘the Word’’ is a divine title taken from the Targums.
XIII. ‘‘Caiaphas Prophecies’’ in the Isaiah Targum So far we have discussed the christological significance of John’s use of the Targums. Here we take note of an evident apologetics motive for identifying Jesus as the divine Word. Both Chilton and Robert Hayward have written of the ‘‘quasi-prophetic status’’ of the targumist. Chilton observes, ‘‘The usage of ‘the prophet said’ suggests the meturgeman took his quasi-prophetic status quite seriously.’’48 According to the Talmud (Meg. 3a) Jonathan (putative author of Tg. Jon.) was said to have worked under the guidance of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Chilton says this statement may be taken to illustrate in a creative way the prophetic claim which the meturgeman makes. . . . Since the destruction of the Temple [according to rabbinic understanding], prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise. As we have seen, such a derivative notion of prophetic authority seems to be claimed by the meturgeman.49
We have noted a number of places where the Targum refers to the divine Word in such a way that a Christian interpretation might be easily made if one identifies Jesus, the Son of God, with the Word of the LORD in the Targum passage. Possibly John made this identification in part because he saw the hand of God at work in such renderings, in a manner analogous to the ‘‘prophecy’’ of the high priest Caiaphas. John tells us that Caiaphas did not speak on his own initiative about the death of Jesus for the nation, but rather he prophesied such (i.e., spoke for God) because he was the high priest (11:49-52). Why was John interested in such ‘‘prophecies’’ when there were plenty of OT prophetic texts to which he might instead appeal, such as Isa 53? Perhaps because he saw many such ‘‘prophecies’’ in the Targums which are not in the Hebrew text. If we look at the examples noted above from Tg. Isa. 45—‘‘Israel is saved by the Memra of the LORD with an everlasting salvation’’ (v. 17); ‘‘Turn to my Memra and be saved, all 48
Chilton, Isaiah Targum, xiii. Ibid., xxi, xxiii. Similarly Robert Hayward, ‘‘It is possible that the Targumists saw themselves as having a quasi-prophetic part to play in the communities of their own day’’ (The Targum of Jeremiah [ArBib 12; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1990], 32). 49
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those at the ends of the earth’’ (v. 22); ‘‘In the Memra of the LORD all the seed of Israel shall be justified and glorified’’ (v. 25)—we can make a number of analogies with the prophecy of Caiaphas: (1) Caiaphas ‘‘was high priest that year.’’ God spoke through him not because Caiaphas was spiritually suitable to be his spokesman, as though he fit the qualifications for a prophet from Deut 18, but because he filled the office of high priest. Similarly, the Targums, though not in the same category as Scripture, were nevertheless very important in the religious life of Israel, being read from Sabbath to Sabbath in the synagogue services following the reading of the Hebrew. They spoke to the nation, and if he chose to, God could speak to the people even in the Targum alterations of Scripture, the same way he could speak through Caiaphas the unbeliever. (2) Caiaphas’s doctrine was a mixture of truth and error, as are the interpretations and embellishments of the Targums. Caiaphas was not a reliable prophet, as Moses was. (3) Caiaphas was hostile to Christ. Of course, contemporary Targums would not have been specifically hostile to Jesus of Nazareth when he began his public ministry, but it could be said that the Targums, although inconsistent on this matter, presume a mind-set which would be hostile to the idea of the incarnation, in that they often avoid biblical anthropomorphisms and the idea of the immanence of God. As J. S. McIvor put it, ‘‘The Targumist ensures that God is God and remains ‘high and lifted up,’’’ that is, transcendent.50 As already noted, ‘‘high and lifted up’’ (with slight changes of verb form) is applied to God in Isa 6:1; 33:10; and 57:15. Isaiah 57:15 goes on to say that although God dwells in a high and holy place, he also dwells with those who are of a contrite heart. Targum Isaiah 57:15 changes this promise to dwell with the lowly into a promise to deliver them: ‘‘He promises to deliver the broken in heart and the humble of spirit, to establish the spirit of the humble, and to help the heart of the broken.’’ The ‘‘high and lifted up’’ (ℵS fI: nv ,r f, etc.) language used of God is also applied to the Servant of the LORD in Isa 52:13, a fact which is obscured in the Targum: ‘‘Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall prosper, he shall be exalted and increase, fI n in the passages and shall be very strong.’’ ‘‘Increase’’ is the verb ygc, whereas ℵS speaking of God is rendered with a verb or adjective from the root lun. Similarly, Isa 9:6 [MT 5] is changed in the Targum so as to remove the divine titles from the Messiah: The prophet said to the house of David, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and he will accept the law upon himself to keep it, and his name will be called before the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, existing forever, ‘‘The messiah in whose days peace will increase upon us.’’51
In light of this rendition it could be fairly said that the Targums reflect a point of view which would be unreceptive to the idea of the incarnation, thus hostile to claims of deity by any man, including Jesus of Nazareth. 50
The Targum of Chronicles (ArBib 19; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1994), 24. As Craig S. Keener says, ‘‘Tg. Isa on 9:6 is reworded to avoid the idea that the royal child is God’’; and ‘‘Tg. Isa 9:6 deliberately alters the grammar to distinguish the Davidic king from the Mighty God’’ (The Gospel of John: A Commentary [2 vols.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003], 1:203 n. 312, 295 n. 135). 51
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(4) Despite Caiaphas’s hostility, God spoke through him. John and other Jewish Christians who read the Targums could make the same observation about many targumic passages. (5) The truth of what Caiaphas said was not what he meant. Perhaps we can see a biblical analogy in Exod 10:28-29, where Pharaoh dismisses Moses with the warning, ‘‘In the day you see my face you shall die,’’ to which Moses replies, ‘‘You are right, I shall never see your face again.’’ Likewise, ‘‘Turn to my Word and be saved, all those at the ends of the earth’’ was certainly not meant by the targumist to point Jews to a human Messiah as the provision for their salvation. But John and other Jewish Christians could take it that way, just as John interpreted the prophesy of Caiaphas from a Christian perspective. Perhaps John saw, then, the whole Memra theology of the Targums as analogous to the prophecy of Caiaphas, something providentially ordained by God to speak to his people beyond what he had already done in the Hebrew Scriptures. A whole class of ‘‘Caiaphas prophecies’’ would involve warnings about what would happen to Israel if it did not receive the divine Word. Targum Isaiah 1:19-20 says, ‘‘If you are willing and receive my Word, you shall eat of the good of the land; but if you refuse and do not receive my Word, by the adversary’s sword you shall be killed; for by the Word of the LORD it has been so decreed.’’52 Aramaicspeaking Jewish Christians would readily see a specific fulfillment of this threat in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans, and perhaps even relate ‘‘by the Word of the LORD it has been decreed’’ to the prophecy of such destruction by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. After the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Romans, observant Jews would ask the same question asked in the time of Jeremiah, ‘‘Why is the land ruined?’’ ( Jer 9:12), to which the answer must be the same, ‘‘They did not listen to my voice’’ ( Jer 9:13), which in the Targum is, ‘‘They did not receive my Word’’ (again, cf. John 1:11). In Tg. Isa. 30:11 disobedient Judah, intent on going to Pharaoh for help, instead of to their divine King, says to Isaiah, ‘‘Remove from before us the Memra of the Holy One of Israel’’ (MT, ‘‘cause to cease from our presence ‘the Holy One of Israel’ ’’). This demand can be compared to John 19:15, ‘‘Away with him [the Word], away with him. . . . We have no king but Caesar.’’ The targumist certainly was not thinking of the rejection of the Messiah in this passage, but John might have. Targum Isaiah 53:5, speaking of the Messiah (52:13), says, ‘‘And he will build the sanctuary which was profaned for our sins, handed over for our iniquities; and by his teaching his peace will increase upon us, and in that we attach ourselves to his words our sins will be forgiven us.’’ The next verse says, ‘‘We have gone into exile, every one his own way.’’ Presumably, references to the destruction of the sanctuary and exile would refer to the Roman, not Babylonian, conquest, thus would not be current during the ministry of Jesus. But they might have been added to the Targum by the time John wrote his Gospel. If so, he might look back on the words of Jesus 52 Again, I have changed Chilton’s ‘‘attend to my Memra’’ to ‘‘receive my Word’’ to highlight the similarity to John 1:11.
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about the destruction and rebuilding of the temple, that is, his body ( John 2:1921), and seeing the targumist unwittingly doing the same thing, as the MT reference to the piercing and crushing of the Servant is changed into a promise that the Messiah will rebuild the temple. One might question the logic of seeing God’s providential ordering of certain Targum texts in such a way that they could be read with a particular application to the person and work of Jesus Christ, while at the same time other Targum readings alter the MT in such a way as to remove the basis for a Christian interpretation. Why would God not do a thorough job and keep the messianic prophecies intact as well? In answer, I would say that the same logic would also apply to Caiaphas’s utterance recorded by John. By the same logic, John should not say that Caiaphas ‘‘prophesied,’’ since if he was under God’s influence, he should be intent on doing what is right, not what is wrong. Surely if Judas was acting under the influence of Satan ( John 13:27), so was Caiaphas. The fact remains, John does say that Caiaphas prophesied, and he may well have viewed many Targum texts in a similar way.
XIV. Dating the Divine Word Theology in the Targums C. H. Dodd, who prefers Philo’s Logos as background to John’s, spends just two sentences discussing Memra of the Targums as a possible background to the Logos title because, he says, Memra in the Targums was probably later than John. ‘‘[Philo’s] use of the term Logos itself has some affinity with the (probably rm :ym " as a periphrasis for the divine name.’’53 Yet Dodd later) use of the term ℵf devotes an entire chapter to a discussion of the corpus hermetica, most of which he acknowledges to be later than John, under the reasonable assumption that such material would have had first-century precursors. Similarity between Philo’s Logos and Memra would point in the same direction with respect to Memra. Whether there is a similarity between Memra/Dibbera and Philo’s Logos is a matter of considerable disagreement: some authors take it for granted,54 others categorically deny it.55 In favor of similarity one might note, for example, 53
Dodd, Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 68. Israel Abrahams, after acknowledging Philo’s dependence on Greek philosophy, writes, ‘‘On the other hand, Philo’s Logos is rooted in the biblical idea of the creative word of God, the Targum’s memra, the mystical concepts of the merkavah (‘divine chariot’), the Shekhinah, the name of God, and the names of angels’’ (‘‘Word,’’ EncJud 16:635). Daniel Boyarin says Philo’s Logos and the targumic Memra both represent variations in detail of ‘‘the Logos theology [which] was a virtual commonplace’’ (‘‘The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John,’’ HTR 94 : 249). Boyarin suggests that first-century Judaism had thoroughly absorbed central Middle Platonic ideas (248). S. Levey says ‘‘The Memra is the most versatile literary device in our Tg.’s [Ezekiel’s] theological exegesis, similar to Philo’s logos’’ (The Targum of Ezekiel [ArBib 13; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1987], 15). 55 ‘‘The Logos of Philo is not the Memra of the Targumim. For, the expression Memra ultimately rests on theological, that of Logos on philosophical grounds’’ (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [2 vols.; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1901], 1:48). Moore adds another reason, that unlike Philo’s Logos, ‘‘in the Targums memra . . . is not the creative word in the cosmogony of Genesis or reminiscences of it’’ (‘‘Intermediaries in Jewish Theology,’’ 54). Moore previously noted that there was one exception to this statement (Tg. Isa. 45:12), an exception which 54
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that both Philo and the Targums locate the divine Word between the cherubim above the ark in the holy of holies.56 We have also noted that there is an overlap between the concepts of Memra and Shekinah in the Targums; there is likewise a similarity in usage between Shekinah and Philo’s Logos. Hanson notes that Exod 24:10, ‘‘they saw the God of Israel,’’ was rendered in the LXX as ‘‘they saw the place where the God of Israel stood,’’ and Philo explains, ‘‘This place is that of his Logos.’’57 Targum Onqelos of this passage says that they saw the glory of the God of Israel; Pseudo-Jonathan and Neofiti mg., the glory of the Shekinah of the God of Israel; Neofiti, the glory of the Shekinah of the LORD. We noted above (§9) that Wis 18:15 ascribes the destruction of the Egyptian first-born to the activity of the divine Logos, just as some Targum passages speak of the Memra destroying them. Wisdom 16:5-13, which comments on the bronze serpent incident (Num 21), is also of interest: ‘‘For he who turned toward it [the bronze serpent] was saved, not by what he saw, but by thee, the Savior of all. . . . For neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was thy word [lÒgoj], O Lord, which heals all men’’ (Wis 16:7, 12). In John 3:14-18, Jesus makes an analogy between his crucifixion and Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness; those who believe in him will have eternal life. He goes on to say that those who believe in ‘‘the name of the only Son of God’’ have eternal life. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Num 21:8-9 says they not only had to look at the bronze snake, but their heart must have been ‘‘directed to the name of the Word of the LORD’’ in order to live. R. Brown, following M. E. Boismard, notes that ‘‘the name of the only Son of God’’ in John 3:18 is reminiscent of ‘‘the name of the Word of the LORD’’ in the Targum passage.58 This name must be the Tetragrammaton, as noted above on John 1:12, which would explain why the one who does not believe in Jesus is ‘‘condemned already’’ (v. 18); Jesus bears the divine name. Wisdom 16:12 therefore might represent an intertestamental stage in development of the Word theology which eventually identified the Tetragrammaton in the Targums as ‘‘the name of the Word of the LORD.’’ Along similar lines, the Hellenistic Jewish tragedian Ezekiel, who wrote a play re-enacting the exodus sometime during the third to first centuries B.C., supposedly proved the rule (46, 54), and overlooked others in Isa (44:24; 48:13) and Jer (27:5), which we discussed above in §7, as well as the Frg. Tgs. of Gen, where the divine Word is repeatedly the subject of verbs in the creation account where in the MT God is the subject. The same is true of Neof., discovered a few decades after Moore wrote. 56 Both Tg. Neof. and Tg. Ps.-J. Num 7:89 say that the Word (Dibbera) spoke to Moses from between the cherubim, which is a fulfillment of the promise in all the Targums of Exod 25:22, where God promises to appoint his Word (Memra) to meet with Moses there (MT, ‘‘I will meet with you there’’). Philo says, ‘‘directly above them [the cherubim], in their midst, [is] the voice and the Logos, and above it, the Speaker’’ (Ð Lšgwn) and again, ‘‘There appears as being in their midst the divine Logos and, above the Logos, the Speaker’’ (QG 2.68). Presumably A. T. Hanson meant to refer to this section of Philo, but he actually cited §78 (Prophetic Gospel, 76). 57 Hanson, Prophetic Gospel, 76; Philo, QE 2.37. 58 M. E. Boismard, ‘‘Les Citations Targumiques dans le Quatrie`me E´ vangile’’ (RB 66 : 378), cited by Brown (John 1–12, lxi, 133). Boismard also notes the reading of Frg. Tg. V, N Num 21:9, that when anyone bitten lifted up his face in prayer towards his Father in heaven, and looked at the serpent, he lived (‘‘Citations Targumiques,’’ 378). Frg. Tg. P Num 21:9 is similar but briefer.
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depicted the scene of the burning bush with a voice coming from behind a curtain, with the statement to Moses, ‘‘and the divine Word [Logos] shines out from the bush upon you.’’59 Note the association of the Word with shining light, as in John’s Prologue, as well as the repeated use of Memra in the Targums of the burning bush scene: ‘‘The Word of the LORD called to him from the midst of the bush’’ (Tg. Neof. Exod 3:4; see also Tg. Neof. mg. 3:14, 15; 4:2, 6, 11, 21, 30; Frg. Tgs. P, V, B Exod 3:14); ‘‘I have been revealed in my Word to deliver them’’ (Tg. Neof. Exod 3:8); ‘‘I, in my Word, will be with you, and this will be a sign that my Word has sent you’’ (Tg. Neof. Exod 3:12; similarly Tg. Neof. Exod 4:15); ‘‘They will say to me, ‘The Word of the LORD was not revealed to you’’’ (Tg. Neof. mg. Exod 4:1); ‘‘that by my Word they may be delivered’’ (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 3:8); ‘‘It was told me [at the burning bush] by a word [rmym] from before the LORD that the men who had sought to kill me had fallen’’ (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 10:29). Eliezer Segal does not hesitate to relate Ezekiel to Philo, and Philo to targumic Memra: Philo preferred to minimize God’s direct involvement with the created world by applying the Stoic concept of the ‘‘Logos,’’ an emanated entity that furnished the rational structure that regulates the physical world. In Philo’s interpretations, it was this Logos, not God himself, that was heard or seen by the prophets of the Bible. This usage was adopted by the standard Aramaic translation of the Torah (where the Logos appears as the memra, the word of God) and continued to influence Jewish philosophers in later generations. And so, while striving to fashion a literary representation of God’s appearance to Moses, the tragedian Ezekiel was scrupulous in eschewing all references to the ‘‘voice’’ of God. Instead, he consistently makes reference to the ‘‘word of God,’’ namely the divine ‘‘Logos,’’ in a manner reminiscent of Philo.60
If the use of Memra is early enough to be of interest in NT studies, what about the use of Dibbura/Dibbera? Scholars tend to see the use of Dibbera as a secondary development of about the third century.61 If Dibbera merely replaced Memra in certain Targum passages after the NT was written, it might seem irrelevant to the question of dating the divine Word theology of the Targums. However, if it could be shown that Dibbera was also used in the first century, this fact could contribute to refuting one objection against the Targum background of the Logos title. That objection is that John uses ‘‘the Word’’ in an absolute sense of Jesus, whereas Memra is only used in the expression ‘‘the Word of the LORD’’ and related expressions, ‘‘my Word,’’ ‘‘his Word,’’ and so 59 Noted by Hanson, Prophetic Gospel, 31, citing J. Jeremias, ‘‘Zum Logos-Problem,’’ ZNW 59 (1968): 84. 60 Eliezer Segal, ‘‘Staging the Exodus,’’ Jewish Free Press, April 21, 1997, 18-19; also in Eliezer Segal, ‘‘Who Staged the First Biblical Epic?,’’ in Holidays, History and Halakah (Northvale, N.J.: Aronson, 2000), 169-72. 61 Andrew Chester, Divine Revelation and Divine Titles in the Pentateuchal Targumim (TSAJ 14; Tu¨ bingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1986), 115. Chester cites in agreement Billerbeck (Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash, 2:316-19); Hamp (Der Begriff ‘Wort,’ 93-97); and Domingo Mun˜ oz-Leo´ n (Dios–Palabra: Memra´ en los Targumim del Pentateuco [Granada: Institucio´ n San Jero´ nimo, 1974], 66879).
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THE TARGUM OF ISAIAH
forth.62 ‘‘The Word’’ on its own, using Memra, is rare enough that its usage could be considered a scribal mistake. However, Dibbera is used in this absolute sense, for example, in Tgs. Neof. and Ps.-J. Num 7:89, noted above (n. 56), ‘‘The Word spoke to [Moses].’’ Against the late and secondary development of Dibbera/Dibbura I would draw attention to the use of Dibbura in Tg. Ezek 1:25 (‘‘their wings became silent before the Word’’). S. Levey notes how Targum Ezekiel (part of Tg. Jon. of the Prophets) avoids use of the term ‘‘Messiah’’ despite a number of opportunities to use it, and where one might expect it to be used. For example, in Tg. Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25 ‘‘my servant David’’ is translated literally, whereas ‘‘David their king’’ in Jer 30:9 and Hos 3:5 is rendered ‘‘the Messiah, son of David, their king’’ in Targum Jonathan. In Levey’s view, ‘‘Merkabah Mysticism’’ is substituted for ‘‘Messianic activism’’ in Targum Ezekiel in order to avoid Roman persecution of Jewish nationalism.63 The Merkabah is the divine chariot seen by Ezekiel, and it is in this context that Dibbura is used. Levey ascribes this unique emphasis on Merkabah mysticism as a substitute for messianic activism in Targum Ezekiel to the work of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai.64 Since the term Dibbura is used only here in all of Targum Jonathan of the Former and Latter Prophets, it would seem reasonable to ascribe the unique use of Dibbura in Tg. Ezek 1 also to Johanan ben Zakkai. But Johanan ben Zakkai was a contemporary of Johanan ben Zebadiah, better known as John son of Zebedee, the traditional author of the Gospel named for him. It could be, then, that Targum Ezekiel preserves a first-century usage of Dibbura which does not appear elsewhere in Targum Jonathan, but is found often in the Palestinian Targums of the Pentateuch. There is therefore no reason to assume that Dibbera in the latter is a late development. In short, analogies between the Word theology of the Targums and the Logos theology/philosophy of intertestamental Wisdom literature, Philo, and Ezekiel the Tragedian make plausible an intertestamental date for the former. Of course, of more importance in demonstrating the use of Memra and Dibbura in first-century Targums are the correspondences that may be seen between Targum passages using these divine circumlocutions and John’s writings. This article has concentrated only on the Isaiah Targum; much more evidence can be added based on the rest of the Targums.
XV. Conclusions The reader will likely find some of the correspondences between the Isaiah Targum and the Johannine literature suggested here more convincing than others, but perhaps one might concede that the contention that this Targum (and by implication, the Targums in general) are under-exploited in Johannine studies has been demonstrated. The writings traditionally ascribed to John seem to 62 ‘‘ ‘The Memra,’ ‘the Word,’ is not found in the Targums, notwithstanding all that is written about it by authors who have not read them’’ (Moore, ‘‘Intermediaries in Jewish Theology,’’ 61 n. 24). 63 Levey, Targum Ezekiel, 4-5. 64 Ibid., 4.
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WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
depend on the Isaiah Targum in ways that are significant to our understanding of John’s Christology and his apologetics. In his Gospel, First and Third Epistle, as well as Revelation, John speaks of Jesus using language that in the Isaiah Targum is used for the God of Israel. The evidence includes, but is not limited to, the Targum use of the divine Word, which John applies to Jesus. These results help us to see unity between John’s Prologue and the body of the Gospel, as well as unity of authorship of the writings traditionally ascribed to John. They further suggest that increased attention to the Targums in Johannine studies is warranted. In theory, all scholars would admit the potential value of Targum studies, but it would appear that this potential has not been realized. Why should this be? If we ask the question, why, for example, the dependence of 1 John 2:12-14 on Tg. Isa. 43:10, 25; 44:6; 48:12, which presumably was evident to at least some of John’s initial readers, was forgotten by the early church, the answer must be found at least in part in the hellenization of the church. Perhaps then, NT studies are still too hellenized? Or perhaps the Targums are particularly overlooked for some reason even when scholars give attention to Hebrew and Aramaic sources? Whatever the reason for the relative neglect of the Targums, I hope that this article will help overcome the apparent inertia in Johannine scholarship, leading to a more thorough investigation of the Targums, with a view to the full appreciation by Christians of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.