More Memra: Two God's in the OT?
Why do the Targims translate various words as "memra" rather than just using the words as they appear in the Text of the OT? Because this was an attempt to deal with certain discontinuities which would stand otherwise.
Online Torah Commentaries
A Voice of the Believing Remnant of Israel
Memra Linked to Messiah
"Memra (trnhn) is an Aramaic word, which is almost universally translated as "Word" in English. The Targums use the word Memra to describe a person whom they say is the creator of the world. For example, the Jerusalem Targum of Johathan ben Uziel renders Bereshit 1:27 as follows: "And the Word [Memra] of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the Lord, the Lord created, male and female created He them." That this word is the essential and uncreated Word, one of the ,k, ihahr (the Three Heads), which are One, is evident from His being the Creator of man, as the Jerusalem Paraphrase of Johathan ben Uziel (Genesis 1:27) faithfully teaches me
I clearly perceive that the Word is called Jehovah, and that through Him (the uncreated, self-existing Word) all things, visible and invisible,were created.3 For further evidence, from the Targums, Rabbi Tzvi Nassi cites the Jerusalem Targum to Shemot (Exodus) 3:14:And the Word [Memra] of the Lord said unto Moses: "I am He who said unto the world, Be! And it was; and who in the future shall say to it, Be! And it shall be." And He said: "Thus thou shalt say to the children of Israel; I Am hath sent me unto you."4 Thus we have seen that right from the beginning of the biblical narrative we have a clear revelation of the Messiah."[Ibid]
Messiah Creates the World
"In the opening words from the Torah, "in the beginning." Messiah was there as the Creator before the beginningfrom eternity past!Messiah in the Creation Not only can we see the Messiah existing before the world was created, but we can also see Him in the creation process itself. For one, as we have already examined, the Messiah was the one who actually did the creating. But there is more. "The Spirit of Messiah"Bereshit 1:2 reads, "Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters" (italics mine). At first glance, it seems rather obvious that we are reading about a reference to the Holy Spirit. However, the ancient rabbis saw things differently. They saw verse 1:2 as a reference to the Messiah! Bereshit Rabbah 2.4, part of a collection of midrashim dating from the late Second Temple period onward, comments on those italicized words by saying, And the spirit of God hovered:" this alludes to the spirit of Messiah, as you read, "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. (Isaiah XI, 2)"Let There Be Light"[Ibid.]
Light of God's Golory Linked to Messiah
"The rabbis also see another reference to the Messiah in the creation account found in 1:3, the first quotation from God in the Torah, "Let there be light."The Sages understood this too to be a Messianic allusion, and so the Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah asks, "Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?" and answers,"It is the light of the Messiah."5 Risto Santala develops this thought even further. He observes that the Aramaic word for "light" is the word "nehorah." and that it is "one of the secret names of the Messiah." The evidence he cites from the rabbis is that both Daniel and Isaiah use "light" in connection with the Messiah. Santala notes that the rabbis use Isaiah 60:13 in reference to the Messiah. Here Messiah is seen as "a light to the Gentiles." Thus, Santala refers to the Midrash as it comments on the words of Daniel chapter 2: "And Nehorah dwells with him." This is the Messiah King, for it is written: "Arise, shine, for your light has come."6 (Isaiah 60:1)[Ibid]
The passages bring out the basic reason why the Targims felt it necessary to cover the presence of God by translating it was Memra, thus distingusihing Gdo himself from his presence. Becasue, without doing this, some passages would clearly imply two God's. In fact some passages would imply two YHWH's, the most sacred name of God, that is God himself:
Philo corroborates Uses Logos for Memra
Philo is not just Greek, his views reflected widespread Hellenization
"The intermingling of Greek and Hebraic elements in these passages is curious. But the two sets are easily distinguishable. Two things are clear from these quotations. Firstly, the angel is a kind of representative of the Deity among mortals. It is a sort of God in action. God is very near man and not transcendent. Secondly, the angel and the Logos (Word) or Logoi (Words) have very much the same nature and fulfil very much the same function. The Rabbinic mysticism clustering round angels as well as the Rabbinic doctrine of the Shechinah--which will be dealt with later--have likewise many points in common. Angels encompass"
Philo's Logos not mere Rehash of Plato.
But let it not be thought that Philo's Logos and Logoi and his angelology are nothing but symbols of abstract thinking on the ways in which the Deity participates in the affairs of men and of the world. It has been mentioned a little above, that the Rabbis often materialised the Shechinah and gave strongly definite personality to their 'angels.' There is one respect in which Philo followed a similar line of exposition. He too gave personality to his Logos--personality as understood in Philo's time, and very different from our modern ideas of personality. Not alone does he speak of the Logos as the being who guided the patriarchs, as the angel who appeared to Hagar, as the cloud at the Red Sea, as the Divine form who changed the name of Jacob to Israel, but he also describes him as "a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador sent by the Ruler of all to the subject race" (Who is Heir to the Divine Things, xlii.). He is "an attendant on the one Supreme Being" (ibid. xlviii.). He is a paraclete. "For it was indispensable that the man who was consecrated to the Father of the world, should have, as a paraclete, his son, the being most perfect in virtue, to procure forgiveness.
The resemblances between these teachings and much of the mysticism of Paul, as well as of the author of the Fourth Gospel, are unmistakable; and whether they show borrowing or are explicable as belonging to the modes of thinking current in that age, is a moot point. But what strongly concerns our presentation of this subject, is
the fact that this branch of Philonic theology is mirrored in the early Jewish, as well as in the early Christian, teaching about God.
But with this considerable difference--that whereas some of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity are embedded in these ideas, their significance for Judaism was, at no epoch, vital. They belong to the literature, not to the faith, of the Jew. They were ever for the few rather than for the many.
It is to the figure of Metatron that we must turn for the counterpart in Rabbinic mysticism to the personified Logos of Philo. "Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him" (Exodus, xxiii. 20, 21). This angel in whom God's name exists is, said the Rabbis, Metatron. And why so? Because, said they, the numerical value of
Philo's Logos Reflects OT God Through Memra
The Word in this extraordinary pronouncement holds the idea of the Divine Energy (as distinguished from the Divine Love) which is operative in all things and which "links the Transcendent Godhead with His creative spirit, creature with Creator, and man with man" (Evelyn Underhill, The Mystic Way, p. 223). Truly enough, the passage breathes what seems an unedifying spirit of revenge and bloodthirstiness, but it is explicable as an echo of the Old Testament idea of the God of righteousness who hates wickedness and slays the wicked. Divine Justice energises in the world, it is embedded in the scheme of the cosmos, it brooks no evil, it recognises nothing but uprightness and truth. This idea of an antagonism between an immanent God and sin is, as will be seen in our next chapter, a feature of the Rabbinic conception of the Shechinah. In Exodus Rabba, xxviii. and xxix., the Divine Voice at the revelation on Sinai deals out death to the idolaters. Similarly, the Targum (Aramaic paraphrase on the Old Testament) renders the Hebrew for "And my soul shall abhor you" (Leviticus, xxvi. 30),
by "And my Memra1 shall remove you afar." The Memra here is the avenger of the wayward Israelites.
[paragraph continues] Jewish-Hellenistic 'Wisdom,' the 'Word' of the Fourth Gospel, the 'Memra' of Targumic literature, the 'Shechinah' of the Talmud and Midrashim--all point--though in somewhat different ways and degrees--to the great fact that the world of matter and of spirit is the scene of the immanent manifestation of Divine Wisdom, Divine Power, Divine Love, Divine Justice.(p78)
'Memra' is the Aramaic for 'word.' For the full theological significance of the 'Memra' see the author's Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature, pp. 146-173.