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Torah, Wisdom and Word

  
 The following article by Anthony Buzzard is from the July 2010 issue of Focus on the Kingdom.  He quotes from A Theology of the Jewish-Christian Reality by Paul van Buren, p. 79-83.

“In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. He was present to God in the beginning. Through Him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be.”

“In the biblical view words underlie reality. With words God called the world into being; the capacity for using language from the start set man apart from the other creatures; in words each person reveals his distinctive nature, his willingness to enter into binding compacts [promises] with men and God, his ability to control others, to deceive them, to feel for them, and to respond to them. Spoken language is the substratum of everything human and divine that happens in the Bible, and the Hebrew tendency to transpose what is preverbal or nonverbal into speech is finally a technique for getting at the essence of things.” (Robert Alter)

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made” (Ps. 33:6). “For he spoke and it came to be [so the word, not Word, was made flesh]; He commanded, and it stood forth” (Ps. 33:9).

God is as good as his word, so the Word of God is as good as God. When God speaks, God himself is creatively active, in calling the world into being, in calling Israel into being, and in calling the church into being [and calling the Son, Jesus, into being]. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets” (Heb. 1:1), the first of whom was Moses. God spoke in the Torah of Moses, and now “in these last days [but not before] he has spoken to us (the church) by a Son…through whom he created the world” (Heb. 1:2). What God said in the Torah of Moses concerning his word of creation “in the beginning” reached and created his people Israel as Torah; it reached and created his church as Jesus Christ. The word spoken in the person of Jesus Christ, therefore, is God’s confirmation of Torah (“all the promises [2 Sam 7:14, also] of God find their Yes in him” 2 Cor. 1:20) and together they are the one creative word from the beginning. What else can the church say coherently?

Israel’s witness to God’s creative activity through his word or through Torah could also be expressed by the use of the concept “the wisdom of God.” The author of Proverbs has Wisdom speak as follows:

“The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways…When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep; when he made firm the skies above, when he fixed the foundations of the earth; when he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command. Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men” (Prov. 8:22; 27-31).

God’s Word, Torah and Wisdom are all one, the creative, purposeful, and supremely good activity of the One God. The author of the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel could therefore say that the Word “came to his own [place],” for the world, and also Israel, belonged to him by right of Creation. But, the Prologue continues, “his own did not accept him” (Jn. 1:11). And then, following immediately, “Any who did accept him he empowered to become children of God” (1:12).

“Did not accept,” and then “did accept.” How are we to understand this contradiction? Clearly it reflects the conflict which the early Jesus-movement came to produce within the people Israel. Some, even “multitudes,” heard him gladly, and some, at least some of the Jerusalem “establishment,” rejected him, possibly for fear of how the Roman occupying forces would react to this movement. In any case and after the fact, we can certainly say of this positive and negative that God’s Word came once more to his created possession, and that his created own people received him in sufficient numbers to make it possible for many others to be able to accept him too.

“Him” means, in these verses, Jesus Christ [note the light is neuter in v. 5 and masculine in v. 10]. Does that mean the Jew Jesus of Nazareth? Is it proper to say of this Jew that he was in some sense “preexistent”? Here we must do some sorting out.

The term “preexistent” [cp. prenatal, which is clear] occurs nowhere in either the Scriptures or the Apostolic Writings, but there is no reason why the concept, properly qualified, could not be used to refer to the opening words of the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel and the verses cited from the eighth chapter of Proverbs. The idea certainly appears in the opening of Genesis Rabbah, where, commenting on those verses from Proverbs, the Rabbis argued, in their own inimitable way, that Torah was with God when he began to create the world. The thrust of their claim, however, appears to be not so much temporal as evaluative: Torah has a higher value even than creation. It is as if the Rabbis could have said that creation is a product of Torah, but would never have said the opposite, that Torah is a product of creation. We could put it in our own words by saying that “Torah produced history” is a claim prior in value and in reality to “History produced Torah.” The second claim is obviously but trivially true; theologically, however, it comes second. In like manner, although the Prologue of John claims that “the Word was made flesh” (v. 14), it gives priority to the claim that the Word made all flesh (v. 3). (The verb egeneto is identical in both verses, and I cannot demean the craftsmanship of the author by thinking that this is accidental). The term “preexistent,” however, leads one to think primarily and misleadingly in temporal terms. The concept of “priority” is therefore preferable…

This Jewish notion of the priority in value and in reality of God’s Word (or Torah, or Wisdom) to all else, appears in other apostolic texts as well, referring to “our Lord Jesus Christ,” or simply “Christ” (Eph. 1:3ff), or “Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5ff), or “a Son” who is clearly Jesus (Heb. 1:2). Especially interesting is the Adam- Christ argument of Romans 5, in which Christ is assigned a clear priority over Adam, and yet there is no clear indication that this priority was intended in a temporal sense [Paul says that Christ was not the first! Adam was]. We may conclude that for the earliest church, Jesus was accorded the priority in reality that the Rabbis assigned to Torah.

If one were to make the claim of priority in a temporal sense, one would be claiming that Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, had existed with God before the creation of the world. That claim would be worse than unintelligible; it would destroy all coherence in the essential Christian claim that Jesus was truly a human being, that the word became flesh [note that flesh=human being, 1 John 4:1-2]. The humanity could hardly be eternal in that sense and still be “like us in all things, excepting sin” (Council of Chalcedon; cf. Heb. 2:17). Jesus of Nazareth began his life, began to exist, at a definite time in history [cp. 2 Sam. 7:14]: the Word became flesh.

The Word that began to be flesh at a definite time, however, the Word that is God’s own, the divine purpose and intention that is God’s very own, this Word is eternal as God is eternal. This Word is God’s own eternal activity. The issue is the personal identity of personal agency. This Word was God in the beginning and with God in the beginning, according to the Prologue. This is the Word that has now moved onto the stage of history [the dream became true]. [Cp. the weather forecast with pictures of clouds became actual weather.]

The Word became, or was made, or happened as flesh [a created human being, the Son of God], just as the world and all that is became, was made, happened as creation [not literally preexisting]. As in Creation, and as at Sinai, so in the life of this Jew, the creative Word spoke, and as a result, behold: creation, Israel, Jesus of Nazareth!

The subject of the Prologue to the Gospel of John is the miracle of God’s involvement with his Creation in order to bring it nearer to its completion. What is preexistent, utterly one with God before the Creation of the world, is the divine resolve not simply to begin Creation but to bring it to its completion in a fully personal way…This eternal personal resolve of God’s, which is with God and is God the Creator, is that which was enacted [brought on to the human stage] in the personal existence of the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Editor: The Son of God is what the logos, word of God, His wisdom, project and immortality program became. There was no Son of God before the begetting of Jesus. What “preexisted” was not the Son but the promise of God that He would one day send His unique Son. His Son now offers us all immortality, provided we believe and obey his teachings and those of his holy apostles, as recorded in the Greek Scriptures.

9 Responses to “Torah, Wisdom and Word”

  1. on 16 Aug 2010 at 10:18 pmrobert

    Its time to face the fact that Philo at least a half a century before John wrote his gospel connected the Word of God to the Son of God. This was obiviously the inspiration for this passage.
    Philo never mentioned not even once Jesus as the Word or Son of God. Matter of fact He never mentioned him at all.
    Its time we see that the Word(Wisdom) prexisted with God as the only begotten long before it came to rest in the flesh of Jesus at his baptism. It spoke through Jesus in the first person which is what has you and tradition confused. Jesus was the Son of God as the Anointed(Christ) King , as the Anointed(Christ) Prophet and As the Anointed(Christ)Priest and now after his death and resurrection sits at the right hand of God as the FIRST BEGOTTEN OF THE DEAD till GOD makes all his Enemies JESUS’ footstool so Jesus Can Reign From Gods Throne While God Enjoys His Sabbath and after Jesus will give back the throne or maybe even share it.

  2. on 17 Aug 2010 at 6:25 amJaco

    Mark,

    This is such a good article! It beautifully harmonises the Prologue with the rest of the Hebraic thought.

    The subject of the Prologue to the Gospel of John is the miracle of God’s involvement with his Creation in order to bring it nearer to its completion. What is preexistent, utterly one with God before the Creation of the world, is the divine resolve not simply to begin Creation but to bring it to its completion in a fully personal way…This eternal personal resolve of God’s, which is with God and is God the Creator, is that which was enacted [brought on to the human stage] in the personal existence of the man Jesus of Nazareth.

    This is in such stark contrast to orthodox kenosis theology! Since the ensarkosis of the word was such a miraculous event, isn’t it nearly blasphemous to state that Jesus’ supposed incarnation was a humiliation? Nothing of that sort!

    Jaco

  3. on 18 Nov 2010 at 11:15 amXavier

    Who is the logos at John 1.1?

    http://lineoffireradio.askdrbrown.org/2010/09/15/the-preexistence-of-the-son/comment-page-8/#comment-31598

  4. on 18 Nov 2010 at 3:38 pmJoseph

    Xavier,

    I just got done reading that exchange. Thanks for posting that.

    Also, where can I watch the debate videos that took place between Brown and Buzzard?

  5. on 18 Nov 2010 at 3:58 pmXavier

    Joseph

    where can I watch the debate videos that took place between Brown and Buzzard?

    Over at the RF Youtube channel: AbrahamicMovement

    http://www.youtube.com/user/AbrahamicMovement?feature=mhum

    For some reason the Jewish Voice did not broadcast the second part of the debate nationwide. Might be next week.

    Apologies for anyone who was expecting it. Check out the above link tho for the program.

  6. on 18 Nov 2010 at 6:46 pmJoseph

    Thanks for that. I’ll write them a message to see if they will publish the second part.

  7. on 18 Nov 2010 at 7:25 pmJoseph

    Is it just me, or do I see Buzzard and Good not being able to get their points across?

    Thing about debating Brown is that you have to match his volume of speech, which means being just as aggressive and just as loud, otherwise he can talk away what is said. Unless I’m just seeing Trinitarian slanted clips from the debate, I see it as Brown and White walking away with a victory in the eyes of the audience.

  8. on 18 Nov 2010 at 8:34 pmXavier

    Joseph

    Is it just me, or do I see Buzzard and Good not being able to get their points across?

    Maybe their inexperience.

  9. on 18 Nov 2010 at 9:11 pmJoseph

    Maybe their inexperience.

    I’d say that, and also not being properly prepared. Going into a debate you must study your opponents vocal and body language and find a strategy that will overcome their position.

    I don’t consider myself as knowledgeable as Buzzard and Good, but I can debate very well face to face with an opponent. It’s about being aggressive. Using your offense as your defense. This of course does not mean anger, it just means not letting your opponent overtalk you and learning to take form of how they interact. To debate a guy like Michael Brown, a good strategy would be to call him out every time he cuts you off, as it will expose his aggression in taking over his fair share of time in the debate. Once you have set the pace according to fair exchange in dialog, then the debate can continue in more two sided manner.

    I actually heard Anthony the second time he was on Mike Brown’s radio show and he did rather well. The reason he did is because he didn’t let Brown put words into his arguments and stood the offensive. I don’t know why he didn’t take that same approach face to face and step it up a notch. He would have had both Brown and White stumbling over their own words.

    It just seemed like they were ill prepared and perhaps Buzzard and Good didn’t feel like they were on the same team.

  

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