Jesus – the Word of God Personified

The Apostle John introduces his gospel with the words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:1,14) Was this a concept derived from Hellenistic thought and calculated to appeal to a Greek mindset or can it be traced from ancient Hebrew sources?

The “Word” in Hebrew is rb;D “dabar.” In the Targums, which are ancient Aramaic translations or paraphrases of the Old Testament, it was translated as “mimra” (Targum Onkelos). The Targums, which pre-date the Talmud, give us some insight into how the ancient synagogue understood the concept. In the Targums it is recorded that the Lord’s “Mimra” created man. The Targums personify the “Word” and make Him equal to and one (echad) with Elohim. The Sages equated the “Word of the Lord” with the Lord Himself. In other words, they referred to the Lord as being the “Word”, the “Dabar” or the “Mimra.” The apostle John writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is in perfect accord with these ancient sources. Jesus declared boldly, “I and the Father are one (echad)” in perfect accord with the Sh’ma (Dt.6:4), and he also claimed pre-existence when he said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). By this Jesus the Messiah proclaimed himself to be “Elohim” – “God among His people.”

It is also often recorded in the Scriptures that “the Angel of the Lord” appeared to the Prophets and because he spoke on behalf of and in the Name of the Lord, He too, was called the “Dabar” or “Mimra”. The Lord said to Moses,

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.” Exodus 23:20-21

The prophet Isaiah wrote: He (the Lord) said, “Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me”; and so he became their Saviour. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them (Isaiah 63:8-10).

The Soncino commentary on the above Scripture says: “God himself, so to speak, participates in the sufferings of His people. The angel of His presence is expressive of divine manifestation in a perceptible form.”

The Sages agree that the Messiah would speak the very Word of God. In other words he will be to them, the Word of God, the Word the Dabar or the Memra. The Lord said to Moses,

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). Furthermore, the Lord said to Moses, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my Name, I myself will call him to account.”

Echoing the words of Deuteronomy Ch. 18 Jesus said,

“For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it” (John 12:49).

Anyone who rejects Jesus the Messiah is rejecting the Word of God. Jesus is the very embodiment of the Torah. In Him, all the requirements of the Torah have been fully met. The Torah was never intended to be only external rules and regulations. The Lord said that he would write His Torah on our hearts (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Only through faith in Jesus do we receive his Spirit to make his word a living reality in our lives.

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deuteronomy 30:11).

The rabbis have instead made the Torah into a set of external rules and regulations. Rabbinical Judaism has become a religion following the opinions and traditions of men and accommodates its adherents despite the multitude of different opinions and interpretations of the Torah, yet the rabbis will excommunicate any Jew who dares to put their faith in Jesus, the word of God. This perversion of the true faith of Israel was foretold by the prophet Isaiah:

For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there. Very well then, with foreign lips and strange languages God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose” – BUT THEY WOULD NOT LISTEN. So then, the Word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there– so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured (Isaiah 28:10-13).

The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is the full and final revelation of God to man:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us in [the person of] his Son who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:1). In other words, the Messiah is “the angel of His presence” and the “Word of God” personified.

The Sages of Judaism are highly esteemed by the religious Jewish community, but it is Jesus the Jewish rabbi, the one whom “we esteemed not” (Is. 53:3), who has had a far greater impact upon the world than all the Sages put together! His words are not merely man’s interpretation of the word of God – He speaks the word of God with authority because He is the Word of God made flesh. To those who receive him he is the very word of life by which we live.

During the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry it was customary for rabbis to acquire a following of disciples who espoused their teaching on the Scriptures. Jesus demanded a level of undivided commitment from his disciples that not everyone was prepared to give. They were to unreservedly and thoroughly consume every word he spoke. For this reason, many who had initially begun to follow him, turned back. They were unwilling to accept his word as the word of God, devoting themselves to his teaching to the exclusion of all other. Jesus asked his closest disciples if they did not want to also leave him at this point of his ministry.

Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69).