GOD’S SON IN TARGUM NEOFITI REVISITED

This is a follow up post to my article where I discuss the Trinity in Targum Neofiti (TN for short): THE TRINITY IN TARGUM NEOFITI.

TN contains a remarkable paraphrase of Genesis 1:1, where it is explicitly stated that YHVH has a Son who made creation in wisdom:

From the beginning with wisdom the Son of the Lord (bara da-YYY’) created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 (Targum Neofiti, p. 497  https://archive.org/details/neofiti1genesis/Neofiti%201%20-%20G%C3%A9nesis%20-%20Translation-English/page/n3/mode/2up; bold emphasis mine)

Suffice it to say, this reading has perplexed scholars leading certain of them to resort to conjectural emendation, e.g., emending the text to what they think it originally read:

Targum Neofiti 1 (translation by Alexander (2009), p. 11f.; Gen. 1:1 only) From the beginning with wisdom the son of the Lord perfected the heavens and the earth [Or, following the restored [sic] text: From the beginning with wisdom the Word of the Lord created and completed the heavens and the earth.] (Scripture Study & Scholarship, by G. G. Bolich & G. C. Kenney [lulu.com; Illustrated edition, 2015], p. 164; bold emphasis mine)

From the beginning with wisdom the Memra of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth And the earth was waste and unformed, desolate of man and beast, empty of plant of cultivation and of trees, and darkness was spread over the fact of the abyss; and a spirit of mercy from the Lord was blowing over the surface of the waters.

b Text: “in wisdom the son of the Lord (br’ dyyyy) perfected.” The text, however, in MS itself is corrected after an erasure; “and” of the original is visible before “perfected.” This original reading PROBABLY was: “the Lord (or: the Memra of the Lord) created (br’) and perfected”; see P Nfmg: “in wisdom the Lord created” (cf. VN).

2 “the Memra of the Lord”; text of Nf has: “the son of the Lord,” br’dYYY, (See Apparatus, note b \ which is due MOST PROBABLY to a late, even sixteenth-century, correction. However, in Christian tradition from earliest times the opening word of Genesis was understood to mean “in the Son” (= Jesus, the Word); see Jerome, Hebr. quaest., in Gen 1:1 (CCL 72, 3, citing Altercation of Jason and Papiscus; Tertullian and Hilary. The original Palestinian Targum PROBABLY read: “From the beginning in wisdom the Memra of the Lord created”; see also 2 Ezra 6:38,43: “In the beginning (Latin trans.: From the beginning) of creation you spoke the word… and your word perfected (i.e., carried out, completed) the work.” On the possible relationship of 2 Ezra to Pal. Tg., see D. Munoz Leon, 1974B, 1975, esp. 1975,52-61; idem, 1974A (Dios Palabra), 162-164. On Memra and creation, D. Munoz Leon, ibid. (1974A) 607-611; R. Hayward, 1974, 1981. On the use of Nf of Memra dYYY as a rendering of the HT ’Ihym and YHWH, and on the possibility of a development in this usage, see B. Barry Levy, Targum Neophyti 1. A Textual Study 1: Introduction, Genesis, Exodus, 1986, 41-43. (Martin McNamara, The Aramaic Bible – Targum Neofiti 1. Genesis, Volume 1A [Liturgical Press, 1A edition, 1991], Volume 1a, p. 52; bold and capital emphasis mine)

As the readers can see, scholars such as McNamara propose that, instead of “the Son of YHVH,” the Targum actually had Memra, which is Aramaic for “Word.” I.e., it was the Word of YHVH that perfected the heavens and earth, an emendation that still perfectly comports with the teaching of the [N]ew [T]estament that Jesus is the eternal Word by whom God created all things and who then became a human being at a specific point in time:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created by him, and apart from him not a single thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not know him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we gazed on · his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God. The only Son, himself God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14, 18 William Mounce Reverse New Testament (MOUNCE)

However, as McNamara himself acknowledges the reading found in TN is “the Son of YHVH,” and no amount of textual emendation can change that fact.  

Peter Schäfer, considered the foremost scholar of rabbinic Judaism and early Jewish mysticism in the world today, also concedes that this is the reading of the original manuscript and highlights the struggles that scholars have with it.

In his exposition of Sirach 24:23, Schäfer notes:

“All this” refers to everything that had previously been said about wisdom; all this is now interpreted as the Book of the Covenant between God and his people Israel–that is, as the Torah (Greek nomos). Wisdom, God’s personified messenger on earth, is now embodied in a book, the book of Torah. This reinterpretation of biblical wisdom paved the way that classical rabbinic Judaism would take: from personified Wisdom to the book of the Torah, which needs to be interpreted. Hence, the s0-called Fragment Targum, one of the oldest Palestinian targumim on the Torah, translates the verse Genesis 1:1 be-reshit Elohim not as “in the beginning God created the heaven and earth” but instead as “through/by means of wisdom (be-hokhmah)8 God created and perfected the heaven and the earth.”9 “Wisdom” here of course means “Torah,” as explicitly explained in the midrash Genesis Rabbah:10

The Torah declares: be-reshit God [the heaven and the earth] (Gen. 1:1) and reshit refers to the Torah, as it is said: “The Lord created me (qanani) as the beginning (reshit) of his way.” (Prov. 8:22)

Here, the reshit from Genesis 1:1 is interpreted through Proverbs 8:22. There, Wisdom says of herself that sheis the beginning (reshit) of his way–that is, his action of creation; accordingly, the reshit in Genesis 1:1 must refer to wisdom: be-reshit means, as in the targum, “through/by means of wisdom.” At the same time we know from Jesus Sirach 24:23 that this wisdom is identical to the Torah, so the verse in Genesis 1:1 according to this rabbinic interpretation means “through/by means of the Torah God created the heavens and the earth.” Thus in contrast to the canonical and noncanonical wisdom tradition, the Torah is not only the first created work of creation but also God’s tool of creation. As a parable in the midrash further expounds, God looked in the Torah while creating the world–that is, he used it as a blueprint as it were for his creation. In contrast to this, New Testament Christianity continues the line of the personified (male) Logos, referring it to Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

This Christological interpretation can be found, of all places, in the OLDEST complete Palestinian targum on the Pentateuch that we know of: the so-called Codex Neofiti. In the Aramaic translation of the Codex Neofiti, Genesis 1:1 reads, Mileqadmin be-hokhmah bera de-YYY’ shakhlel yat shemayya we-yat ar’a,11 which can only be translated literally as, “In the beginning, by means of wisdom, the son of God perfected the heaven and earth. This version combines the two variants of the Fragment Targum (mileqadmin, “in/at the beginning,” and be-hokhmah, “through/by means of wisdom”), and by inserting the particle “de” before YYY’, transforms the verb bera (created) into the noun bera (son): “the son of God/God’s son.” Since the verb bera was no longer there and shakhlel (perfected) remained as the only verb, the copula we– (and) before shakhlel (also in the Fragment Targum) no longer made sense and was deleted by a redactor, as can easily be seen on a photocopy of the manuscript.12 In other words, whoever deleted the copula we– before shakhlel wanted to give a clear meaning to the sentence, which had become incomprehensible due to the particle de– before YYY’–namely, it was the son of God, the Logos of the New Testament, who through the wisdom of God perfected creation.

Unfortunately, we do not know how this Christological interpretation of the first verse of Genesis should be dated. The Codex Neofiti is the only extant manuscript of this targum, and the colophon dates the manuscript to 1504. The targum itself was dated to the first century CE by its discoverer, Alejandro Diez Macho,13 but this early dating has not found general acceptance. Today it is assumed to have been written in the fourth century.14 But what was the original version of Genesis 1:1? The we– before shakhlel was definitely in the original manuscript text, but it is also true that the particle deYYY’, which makes it IMPOSSIBLE to read bera AS A VERB and confuses the syntax of the sentence, WAS IN THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT TEXT AS WELL. The most probable and theologically least unsettling explanation of the extant version of Genesis 1:1 is that the clearly Christological interpretation was the work of an early modern Christian redactor.15 On the other hand, it cannot be entirely ruled out that the reading bera de-YYY’ (son of God) was intended in the original targum text, and that the manuscript scribe continued in the early sixteenth century with we-shakhlel (and perfected), because this was familiar to him from other versions of the targum (as documented in the Fragment Targum). In this case, here we would have an interpretation of the first verse of Genesis that is utterly unique in rabbinic tradition,16 which against the background of the early Jewish evidence discussed here, however, does not seem as singular as it might appear at first glance. (Two Gods in Heaven: Jewish Concepts of God in Antiquity [Princeton University Press, 2020], 2. The Personified Wisdom in the Wisdom Literature, pp. 29-32; bold and capital emphasis mine)      

12. Anonymous, The Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch: Codex Vatican (Neofiti 1) (Jerusalem; Makor, 1970), 2. Hence, the verse Genesis 1:1 originally read as follows: Mileqadmin be-hokmah bera de-YYY’ we-shakhlel shemayya ve-yat ar’a

15. This explanation was already suggested by Diez Macho, Neophyti 1, 3, critical apparatus to Gen. 1:1. See also McNamara, Targum Neofiti, 52n2. (Ibid., p. 146)

The Fragment Targum (FT) refers to the Targum of Jerusalem, which reads:

I. At the beginning (min avella) the Lord created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was vacancy and desolation, solitary of the sons of men, and void of every animal; and darkness was upon the face of the abyss, and the Spirit of mercies from before the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.

[JERUSALEM TARGUM. In [by] wisdom (be-hukema) the Lord created. And the earth was vacancy and desolation, and solitary of the sons of men, and void of every animal; and the Spirit of mercies from before the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.] (The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel On the Pentateuch With The Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum From the Chaldee, by J. W. Etheridge, M.A., First Published 1862, Genesis, 1-6; bold emphasis mine)

Here’s another translation:

Fragmentary Targum P (translation by Klein (1980), p. 3)

With wisdom the Lord created and perfected (wa-shakhlel) the heavens and the earth. And the earth was unformed and void, and desolate of people and empty of all work; and darkness was spread over the surface of the deep; and a merciful wind from before the Lord was blowing over the surface of the water.

(A marginal gloss offers a variant version):

From the beginning the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.

Fragmentary Targum VNL (translation by Klein (1980), p. 90)

With wisdom the Lord created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was unformed and void, and desolate of people and empty of all animals; and a merciful wind from before the Lord was blowing over the surface of the water. (Bolich & Kenney, Scripture Study & Scholarship, p. 164; bold emphasis mine)

Now to sum up the point being made by Schäfer so that the readers can follow his arguments, the words bara de-‘YYY are in the original copy of TN, but so are wa-shakhlel. The combination of these terms makes the verse unintelligible since the verse would literally read, “In the beginning, by wisdom the Son of YHVH and perfected the heavens and earth.”

Schäfer proposes that the scribe/copyist included the wa before shakhlel due to his being familiar with how some of the other targums read, particularly FT since it also includes these two terms. This resulted in the copyist or redactor creating an incoherent or nonsense reading.

Yet whatever the case may be this fact is clear: there is no textual evidence for “the Son of YHVH” being a later interpolation by some scribe or Christian redactor.

The following Evangelical scholar presents some of the reasons why this is not a Christian interpolation:

More remarkable than the FT is the famous Targum Neophyti (TN). This Targum, even more expansive than the FT, includes yet a third interpretation of reshit“In the beginning, with wisdom, the Son of the LORD7 created the heavens and the earth.”8 To many modern readers, this extraordinary pre-Christian interpretation appears fanciful. Several lines of evidence, however, suggest that this Targum offers an interpretation that is attentive to the details of Gn 1:1 within the final composition of the Pentateuch and also identical to the interpretation of the creation account provided by the book of Proverbs.

There are at least four textual factors that support TN interpretation of Gn 1:1: (1) the poetic and literary qualities of Gn 1:1 lend themselves to a poetic interpretation;9 (2) rishonah, (“at first”) rather than reshit (“beginning”) is the proper Hebrew word for initiating temporal sequence in Hebrew;10 (3) the appearance of reshit in the poetic eschatological seams of the Pentateuch (Gn 49:3; Nm 24:20; Dt 33:21); and finally, (4) the interpretation of Gn 1:1 offered by the book of Proverbs. Rashi, following in the tradition of the Targums, refers to Prv 8:22 in his interpretation of Gn 1:1. He writes, “For the sake of the Torah [by the Torah] God created the heavens and the earth.”11 Proverbs 8:22 left an indelible mark on the Jewish interpretation of the creation account. Proverbs 8 also proved to be an important passage for the Christology of the early Church fathers. Among the Church fathers who understood Prv 8:22-31 as a reference to the Son of God are Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, and Augustine.12… (Seth D. Postell, “Proverbs 8: The Messiah: Personification of Divine Wisdom”, The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecies: Studies and Expositions of the Messiah in the Old Testament, eds. Michael Rydelnik & Edwin Blum [Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 2019], pp. 740-741; bold emphasis mine)

7. Some have suggested that “the Son of God” was a Christian gloss, but a careful look at the actual manuscript of TN proves this to be untenable. The spacing in the verse reveals (1) the da (“of”) is original; (2) the wa (“and”) was obviously a gloss that was later erased because it was not original.

8. Alejandro Díez Macho, Neophyti 1: Targum Palestinense MS de la Biblioteca Vaticana, Tomo I, Génesis (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientícas, 1968), 3 (emphasis added).

9. On the literary qualities of Gn 1:1 see Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 1 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 6; Shimon BarEfrat, Narrative Art in the Bible (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1984), 203; and John Sailhamer, Genesis, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 35.

10. See Rashi’s comments in Miqraoth Gedoloth.

11. Miqraoth Gedoloth (words in brackets provided).

12. See J. Robert Wright, ed., Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, vol. 9 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 59–71. (Ibid., p. 745; bold emphasis mine)

WISDOM AS GOD’S ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN SPIRITUAL OFFSPRING

With this in mind, there may be an explanation as to how a Jewish author could have come to the realization that God has a Son whom he appointed to create all things.

As the targums show, Jewish scribes understood the Hebrew term in Genesis 1:1, be-reshit (“In/by/with the beginning), to be an allusion to Proverbs 8:22, where the expression reshit is used in reference to God’s Wisdom being appointed from before creation:

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud… ‘I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion… The LORD brought me forth (qanani) as the first (reshit) of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth (cholalti), when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth (cholalti), before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman (‘amon) at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:1-3, 12, 22-36 New International Version 1984 Edition (NIV1984)

Elsewhere we are told that YHVH created all things by his Wisdom:

“How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24 NIV1984

“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’ But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” Jeremiah 10:10-12 NIV1984

Thus, Wisdom is depicted as being a co-creator, as a master craftsman, who assisted God in bringing creation into existence.

What makes this interesting is that Proverbs 8:24-25 describes Wisdom as having been birthed from before creation, in eternity, and even employs a verb found in one other place, where David refers to his being born sinful:

“Surely I was sinful at birth (cholalti), sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5 NIV1984

We are even told from where Wisdom was birthed or begotten:

“For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6 NIV1984

God brought forth Wisdom from out of his “mouth,” which means that Wisdom was residing “within” God from eternity. This point is brought out more explicitly in the Deuterocanonical writings, the so-called Jewish Apocrypha:

“All wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him for ever. The sand of the sea, the drops of rain, and the days of eternity—who can count them? The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out? Wisdom was created before all things, and prudent understanding from eternity. The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed? Her clever devices—who knows them? There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared, sitting upon his throne. The Lord himself created wisdom; he saw her and apportioned her, he poured her out upon all his works. She dwells with all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him.” Sirach 1:1-10 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

“Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her people. In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory: ‘I CAME FORTH FROM THE MOUTH of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud. Alone I compassed the vault of heaven and traversed the depths of the abyss. Over waves of the sea, over all the earth, and over every people and nation I have held sway. Among all these I sought a resting place; in whose territory should I abide? Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.” Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me, and for all the ages I shall not cease to be. In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.’” Sirach 24:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Therefore, Wisdom is not a creature that God brought into existence from nothing, or out of creation. Rather, Wisdom is uncreated since it has always existed with/in God as an essential, intrinsic characteristic of God’s infinite and uncreated Being. God then summoned forth his eternal Wisdom in order to have it create all things in a wise and orderly fashion.

Wisdom is further equated with God’s Word who, like Wisdom, sits enthroned with God in heaven:

“For though they had disbelieved everything because of their magic arts, yet, when their firstborn were destroyed, they acknowledged your people to be God’s child. For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word (ho pantodynamos sou Logos) leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth.” Wisdom 18:13-16 NRSV

“O God of my ancestors and Lord of mercy, who have made all things by your word (ta panta en Logo sou), and by your wisdom have formed humankind to have dominion over the creatures you have made… With you is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world; she understands what is pleasing in your sight and what is right according to your commandments. Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her, that she may labor at my side, and that I may learn what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions and guard me with her glory. Then my works will be acceptable, and I shall judge your people justly, and shall be worthy of the throne of my father… Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom.” Wisdom 9:1-2, 9-12, 17-18 NRSV

Interestingly, the foregoing passage describes Wisdom being sent along with the Holy Spirit to bring guidance and salvation to mankind!

Wisdom is further depicted as possessing all of God’s essential, incommunicable attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, omnibenevolence, etc.:

“for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique (monogenes), manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful (pantodynamon), overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle. For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection (apaugasma) of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image (eikon) of his goodness. Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.” Wisdom 7:22-30 NRSV

The foregoing helps us appreciate how or why a Jewish scribe could come to the realization that God has a unique Son that was appointed to create all things.

The texts we examined describe Wisdom as being born from God, which to a Jewish reader would imply that Wisdom is God’s spiritual Offspring. From there it isn’t hard to imagine how a Jewish composer could then assume that it was this divine Offspring who created all things in wisdom, a wisdom he possessed in common with his divine Begetter.    

THE HOLY ONES OF ISRAEL: GOD AND HIS INCOMPREHENSIBLE SON

This brings me to my final argument.

In the same book of Proverbs, God is said to have a Son who is just as incomprehensible as he is, and does what God alone is capable of doing:

“Nor have I learned wisdom, Yet the knowledge of Holy Ones (Qadoshim) I know. Who went up to heaven, and cometh down? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound waters in a garment? Who established all ends of the earth? What [is] His name? and what His son’s name? Surely thou knowest!” Proverbs 30:3-4 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

The above reference describes God and his Son as the Holy Ones that have established and maintain creation, which are divine acts illustrating the fact of their possessing a nature (“name”) that is beyond human comprehension.

Moreover, there is clearly an allusion to Proverbs 8:22-31 here, since it also mentions God bringing forth and setting the bounds of creation.

In light of the above points, one can reasonably assume that this incomprehensible Son, who is the other Holy One coexisting with God, is none other than divine Wisdom itself. And those Jews scribes/rabbis who read their Bible meticulously, with great detail, would have noted these connections and therefore arrived at the same conclusion.

The following scholar helps to piece all the data from the Jewish Scriptures and Aramaic Targums together, and shows how this all ties in with the NT proclamation of Jesus Christ:

1. Genesis 1:1. Targum Neofiti reads, mileqadmin be-hokmah bara de-YYY shakhlel shemayya ve-yat ar’a (“In the beginning, with wisdom, the Son of Yahweh created the heavens and the earth”). The Targum is not alone in its indication of wisdom as the means by which God created. Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15 says that he established the world (tebel) by his wisdom (ba-hakamato). In Ps 104:24 the psalmist says, “How great are your works, O LORD! All of them you have made with wisdom (ba-hakamah).” Proverbs 8:22–31 says that wisdom was at the LORD’s side as a “master-workman” (amon) when the heavens were established.

The Targum also finds support within the book of Proverbs for its understanding of the Son’s role in creation. Proverbs 30:4 reveals that the one who established all the ends of the earth has a Son. It is difficult to say what the relationship of the Targum to Prov 30:4 is, but what does seem certain is that the Targum is engaged in a fascinating exegesis of bara. In the Hebrew text of Gen 1:1, bara clearly means “he created.” But in Aramaic bara can also be bar (“son”) plus the suffixed definite article a (“the”). The Targum features this Aramaic option and adds shakhlel for “he created” (or “he finished/decorated”).

NT Christology picks up the thread of the above mentioned texts. For instance, 1 Cor 1:30 says Christ “became to us wisdom from God.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 speaks of Christ as the one “by whom are all things.” Colossians 1:15 calls the Son of God (Col 1:13) “the firstborn of all creation.” Just as wisdom in Prov 8:22 says, “The LORD created me reshit,” so Col 1:18 refers to the Son as “the beginning.” Hebrews 1:2 says that God made the world through a Son.

But perhaps more than any of these NT texts it is the opening of John’s prologue that best passes as an actual reference to Gen 1:1.41 John 1:1 signals this with the phrase en arche (“in the beginning”). The phrase is repeated in John 1:2 where the Word is again said to have been with God in the beginning (cf. Prov 8:22–31). McNamara has conducted a study of the conceptual influence of the Targums on John’s prologue with particular regard to the way the Targums use the terms “Word” (Memra), “Dwelling” (Shekinta), and “Glory” (Yeqara) as substitutes for “the LORD.”42 McNamara comments:

Present-day scholars tend to reject the targumic Memra as a background to, or contributing factor towards, John’s doctrine of the Logos. This they prefer to see prepared in the prophetic word (dabar) and in the Wisdom literature. This neglect of targumic evidence is unfortunate. Granted that the Memra of God and the Lord is but another way of saying ‘God’ or ‘the Lord’, it by no means follows that John was not influenced by targumic usage in his choice of Logos as a designation for Christ. For John, too, “the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). John got his doctrine on the nature of the Logosfrom the New Testament revelation. The question at issue for us is the sources from which he drew the concepts and terms in which he expressed it.43

For John, the Word is also the Son of God (John 1:14; 3:16). Thus, both Targum Neofiti of Gen 1:1 and John 1:1–3 identify the Son as the agent of creation in Gen 1:1. (Michael B. Shepherd, Targums, the New Testament, and Biblical Theology of the Messiah

[Cedarville University, mshepherd@cedarville.edu], pp. 51-52; bold emphasis mine)

FURTHER READING

GOD’S ETERNAL WORD AND UNCREATED WISDOM BECOME FLESH!

The Incomprehensible Nature of God and his Son

The incomprehensible Son of God and sovereign Lord of all creation

The Lord Jesus Christ – The Incomprehensible Son of Proverbs 30:3-4

PROVERBS 8:22-36: THE ETERNALLY BEGOTTEN SON

PROVERBS 30:4: THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE SON

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