Ancient Jewish Literature and the Godhead!

25 Oct

I often find when reading the Bible that I had read over something without really considering its implications. For example, in Genesis, chapter one, it was only after years of reading that I suddenly recognized the implication of plurality in the Godhead right there in the act of creation. It is not so apparent in the beginning verses but it is there in verse-2 where the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. Plural implications are certainly apparent there, but in verse-14 and onward it is almost like poetry. First God said “Let there be lights in the firmament…” Then “God made two great lights…” in verse-16. In verse-20 God said “Let the waters bring forth…,” and in verse-21 “God created great whales…” Then in verse-24 God said “Let the earth bring forth…,” and in verse-25 “God made the beast of the earth after his kind…”

I don’t think this evidence of plurality in creation escaped the notice of the ancient rabbis either. For example, when we come to Genesis 1:27 the Targumist renders this verse:

And the Word of the Lord created man in his likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord he created him, the male and his yoke-fellow he created them [Jerusalem Targum – Compare Genesis 1:27] (emphasis mine)

Here we see that the targumist changed the word for “God” into the phrase “The Word of the Lord.” This should remind us of the Gospel of John where he writes: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” It seems that John’s “Logos” was well known in Jewish literature and would have been readily recognized by the Jews of his day.

But, why does the targumist have the Word of the Lord creating man in Genesis 1:27? Why is there a change here? I believe it is because of the wording of verse-26 “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” [JPS – emphasis mine].

The Targum, Pseudo-Jonathan, handles the problem in a different way,

And the Lord said to the angels who ministered before him, who had been created in the second day of the creation of the world, Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl which are in the atmosphere of heaven, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every reptile creeping upon the earth. And the Lord created man in his Likeness: In the image of the Lord he created him, [Pseudo-Jonathan – Compare Genesis 1:26-27] (emphasis mine)

Psudo-Jonathan handles the implication of plurality by interpreting it as God speaking with the angels and indicating that the angels are in the image of God and partners with him in creation. This however cannot be so, for nowhere else does Scripture imply that man has been created by angels or created in their image. Neither does any Scripture imply that angels have been created in the image of God. Moreover, angels were never brought up in the text, not when God spoke in the plural nor when he created the man. The word angel is not mentioned until the 16th chapter of Genesis, and the plural is not mentioned until the 19th chapter. There is no authority for the plural in Genesis 1:26 to indicate that God was speaking with angels. God works after the council of his own will, not at the counsel of the angels (Isaiah 40: 12-14; cp. Ephesians 1:11). No one but God is mentioned here, so no one but he is responsible for creation. But the point is, the Jews recognized the implication of plurality in the text and felt a need to explain it. The fact is there is a great deal of evidence in ancient Jewish literature that points to the idea of plurality within the Godhead and that God has a Son. The excerpts quoted above only scratch the surface!

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Posted by on October 25, 2009 in Godhead, Religion


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