As a bit of a follow up to my last article I want to take a minute to address a rebuttal which may come up after reading the first part in this series: The idea that the Word made flesh is synonymous with “the Torah made Flesh”.

The Law Made Flesh

There’s a line which was spoken in season 3 of the TV show The Chosen where Jesus responds to assertions that he is blaspheming the Law of Moses by stating, “I am the Law of Moses”. As this is something that I’ve heard from some of the people I had mentioned in the previous article, we have to remember that while it may be true that this can be a legitimate approach to interpreting things that Jesus said, we do need to clarify that this is not a direct quote from anywhere in the Bible and any attempt to state that Jesus actually is the direct physical representation of the Law is an interpretation. The closest the Bible comes to saying that Jesus is the Law is in the first chapter of John.

The book of John starts with a beautiful, poetic line which the context of the chapter lets us know that he is speaking of Jesus when he says,

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being,” (Joh 1:1-3 TLV).

This prologue to the book of John continues talking of Jesus as “the Word” and juxtaposing him as light coming against darkness for another few paragraphs until it crescendos by saying, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us…” (John 1:14).

The place where interpretation begins is when we make synonymous the words ‘λόγος’ (the Greek word ‘logos’, meaning ‘word’) and ‘νόμος’ (the Greek word ‘nomos’, meaning ‘law’). Elsewhere in the New Testament when the concept of the law is in question you are going to see it talked about with the word nomos.

Something to consider is that there are two different contexts which we must take into account when we look at what John may have meant when he referred to Jesus as the logos. Without getting too far into the weeds it’s important to note that the scholarly consensus is that the Apostle John wrote his gospel somewhere 60 and 90 AD.[1] This marks John’s gospel as the last of the gospels written, and it also means that it was most likely written during the time that John was living in Ephesus.[2] Whatever language John would’ve spoken when he grew up in the Galilee, when he was in Ephesus, the people around him would’ve been speaking Greek. More than that, the early tradition holds that, “According to Papias, the dear disciple of John, in his five exegetical books, this gospel was published and sent to the churches of Asia by John himself during his lifetime.”[3] As all of these churches were in the Roman empire, the main language of the time would have been Greek, and if John wanted to be understandable to those he was communicating with, he would’ve written in Greek and spoken in a way that they would understand.

All of this is said in order to make the point that not only would there have been a Hebrew understanding of what was meant by “Logos” but there would have also been a good deal of Greek thought which would have been implied by this. The question, then, which needs to be asked is, were there conceptual understandings in both of those mindsets of a thing called “the Word”?

The answer is, yes. Well, at least to some extent.

There was a Jewish concept of the Memra, the Aramaic for “Word”, and it was similar to the Greek concept of the “Logos” in that they both seek to explain divine wisdom on some level, but there’s debate over how much influence Greek Hellenism had on what became the Jewish concept of the Memra.[4] During the 1st century AD (while Israel would have already been bathing in Greek Hellenism, and during the time John would have been writing) there was rabbinic thought which considered ‘Wisdom’ as having a participatory part in creation, and by the 2nd century there were rabbinic teachers who were teaching that Wisdom and Torah (the Law of Moses, the Instructions of YHWH) were synonymous because of Pro 8:22-23.[5] This links the Greek and Hebrew concepts of “The Word”, but it should be mentioned that both of these concepts believed ‘the Word’ to be a non-physical force which was brought into existence during the creation. By John saying that “the Word” was in existence at creation, he is taking it a step further. This is more evident when he says that nothing was made without ‘the Word’ (John 1:3).

All of this is to say that Jesus is much more than a physical manifestation of the Law. Jesus is the divine wisdom which existed before creation, and the hand by which all was created. While I fully affirm the place of believing obedience to the commands of YHWH, when we elevate them to the same heights as King Jesus we are elevating the creation up to the status of the creator, and when we say that Jesus is the physical manifestation of the Law of Moses, we are diminishing the lawgiver and creator, King Jesus, and that’s something we must never do!

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[1] Dockery, David S., ed. 1992. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[2] Beasley-Murray, George R. 1999. John. Vol. 36. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[3] Beasley-Murray, George R. 1999. John. Vol. 36. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[5] Keener, Craig S. 2012. The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

About the Seeking Scripture Team: We are a group of believers from all walks of the faith, saved by grace alone through faith in our Messiah. While we are of one accord in many things, we are all works in progress and lifelong learners. Therefore the opinions of one may not always represent the opinions of all.

Aaron Baker
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