Ancient Judaism Confessed Existence of “the Word of God” as a Separate Being!

 

Philo, Jews, Targums,

and the Logos

 

                        In the first century, Judaism did not exhibit a singular,

monolithic view on the Godhead that modern rabbis so

                        tenaciously proclaim.  In ancient Judaism and ancient

                        Jewish commentaries on the Scriptures, called Targums,

                        the existence of the Word of God as a divine Being along-

                        side the Father, was freely acknowledged.  The writings

                        of Philo give us a clear insight into the true Jewish rabbin-

                        ical concept of God which proves they understood there

                        was another Being, besides the Father, who interacted

                        with mankind. 

 

William F. Dankenbring

 

            Proponents of the “one God” theory, who deny the pre-existence of the Word of God, or Jesus Christ as the Logos, a separate Being apart from the Father, tell us that such a concept does violence to the truth of “one God,” or “ethical Monotheism.”  This belief, they claim, violates the primary belief of Judaism that God is “one.”  But was this the true belief of the rabbis and Jews of Jesus’ day?  Did they persecute Him because He believed and taught that there was another Being along side the Father, known as the Word of God?  Or was their anger focused on Him because He suggested that He himself was that secondary Being? 

 

            The modern world is awash with theories about the Godhead and nature of God.  The four primary beliefs among Christians and Jews are the concept of one God, the Father, the concept of a Trinitarian Godhead as believed by most Protestants and Catholics, the idea of two Beings, the Father and the Logos, both co-eternal and co-equal, and the concept of the Father as being the one original true God, and the Logos as being His created partner and companion, through whom He made the Universe and everything in it.  A fifth concept has arisen in recent years which is a variant of the first theory.  It holds that there is only one God, the Father, and that Christ Jesus is the Messiah, but He never pre-existed His birth in the womb of the virgin Mary. 

 

            Many people seem to find the latter viewpoint interesting, because it seems to reconcile the idea of God as being one, and there being no other God than Him – no other being called “God” or regarded as God.  To them, whenever “God” is mentioned in the Old Testament Scriptures, it always refers to the Father – not to another Being who became Christ!  There was no other such Being in the Godhead, they dogmatically aver. 

 

           

The Writings of Philo

 

But few realize that the most famous Jewish philosopher and writer of the first century, a man by the name of Philo, also shows that the Jews of his day believed in a “Companion” of the Father who existed at His side and was instrumental in the Creation, as well as serving as a go-between, a mediator and channel of communication, between the Father and mankind.  He often used the Scriptures themselves to prove this belief and to demonstrate its veracity.  Philo was a contemporary of the apostle Peter, and personally aquainted with him, who lived in Alexandria, Egypt. 

 

In The Works of Philo, he declares, speaking of God, “for the abrupt rock is the wisdom of God, which being both sublime and the first of things He quarried out of His own powers, and of it He gives drink to the souls that love God; and they, when they have drunk, are also filled with the most universal manna; fore manna is called something which is the primary genus of everything.  But the most universal of all things is God; and in the second place the word of God” (“Allegorical Interpretation, II, 86, Works of Philo, page 47).  Remember, Jesus Himself said that He was the true “manna” that came down from heaven (John 6:32-35, 48-51).

 

Philo also referred to the Word of God as the “shadow of God.”  Notice how he puts it:  “Now Bezaleel, being interpreted, means God in his shadow.  But the shadow of God is His word, which He used like an instrument when He was making the world.  And this shadow, and, as it were, model, is the ARCHTYPE of other things.  For, as God is Himself the model of that image which He has now called a shadow, so also that image is the model of other things, as He showed when He commenced giving the law to the Israelites, and said, ‘And God made man according to the image of God,’ as the image was modeled according to God, and as man was modeled according to the image, which has thus received the power and character of the model” (III, 96, page 61).

 

Notice how this corresponds perfectly with what Paul wrote in Hebrews, speaking of Christ, saying Christ is His Son, “through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power . . .” (Heb.1:1-3).

 

Later, in this same discourse, Philo speaks about the Word of God, saying that God “nourishes us with His own word, which is the most universal of all things, for manna being interpreted, means ‘what?’ and ‘what’ is the most universal of all things; for the word of God is over all the world, and is the most ancient, and the most universal of all the things that are CREATED” (III, 175, p.70).  Jesus Himself, who said that He came from God the Father, acknowledged that He was “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev.3:18).

 

Writing on “Husbandry,” Philo later shows that God is like a shepherd and a king, who governs the earth and the heavens, “ruling them according to law and justice; appointing as their immediate superintendent, His own right reason, His FIRSTBORN SON, who is to receive charge of this sacred company, as the LIEUTENANT of the great king” (“On Husbandry,” XII, 51, p.179).  The apostle Paul likewise spoke of the preexistent Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).  Clearly Philo was speaking of a great Being who pre-existed the incarnate Christ, and Paul identified this great Being as the One who became Christ!

 

“His Firstborn Word”

 

            Philo also wrote a treatise “On the Confusion of Tongues,” in which he really outdid himself on his comments regarding the “Word” or “Logos” of God.  Notice these remarkable, outstanding statements!

 

                        “And even if there be not as yet any one who is worthy to be called a son

                        of God, nevertheless let him labor earnestly to be adorned according to his

                        firstborn word, the eldest of his angels, as the great archangel of many

                        names; for he is called, the authority, and the name of God, and the Word,

                        and man according to God’s image, and he who sees Israel. . . . For even

                        if we are not yet suitable to be called the sons of God, still we may deserve

                        to be called the children of his eternal image, of his most sacred word; for

                        the IMAGE OF GOD IS HIS MOST ANCIENT WORD” (Philo, “On the

                        Confusion of Tongues,” XXVIII, 146-147, page 247).

 

            I don’t know how to make it more clear than that!  Philo is plainly in complete agreement with the teachings of the New Testament concerning the existence of a great Being, whom he calls the “Firstborn Word,” “the Eldest of His Angels,” “the Authority,” “the Name of God” (i.e. YAHVEH), “The Great Archangel of Many Names,” and “the Word.”  He is the “Image of God,” and “His Most Ancient Word.” 

 

            Who was this Being?  The New Testament writers clearly prove with many infallible proofs that it was the ONE WHO BECAME JESUS CHRIST!  The prophecies of the Old Testament, and the many MIRACLES He performed, including the raising of the dead, prove beyond any doubt or question that “Yeshua Ha-Notzri,” “Jesus the Nazarene,  was the Logos or Word of God who fulfilled these predictions and prophecies! 

                       

The ROLE of the Word

 

In another section of his work, called “Who Is the Heir of Divine Things,” Philo makes the truth about the nature of God and the Word of God, and their respective roles, very plain.  He declares:

 

            “”And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic

            and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of

            both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator.  And

            this same Word is continually 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.  And the

            Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of

            it, saying, ‘And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and you;’ [see

            Numbers 16:48] neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as

            you, but being in the midst between these two extremities . . .” (205,

            page 293).

 

In another passage “On Flight and Finding,” Philo takes a lesson from the name “Bethuel,” the father of Rebekkah, noting that “Bethuel” literally means, in Hebrew, “the daughter of God.”  Why would a man have a feminine name, he asks.  He goes on to say that the name indeed is feminine but the sex masculine.  Similarly, in the book of Proverbs, wisdom  is portrayed as feminine (Prov.1:20-22; 8:1-4).  Philo goes on:

 

            “For indeed all the virtues bear the names of women, but have the powers

            and actions of full-grown men, since whatever is subsequent to God, even

            if it be the most ancient of all other things, still has only the SECOND

            PLACE when compared with that omnipotent Being, and appears not so

            much masculine as feminine, in accordance with its likeness to the other

            creatures; for as the male always has the precedence, the female falls short,

            and is inferior in rank” (IX, 51, p.325).  

 

The Septuagint Version in Genesis 31:12

 

In his book “On Dreams,” Philo brings up a very interesting passage from the book of Genesis where God says to Jacob, “I am the God who was seen by thee in the place of God” (XXXIX, 227, p.385).  He is quoting a passage found in Genesis 31:12, from the Septuagint, the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into a foreign language – Greek – which was made by the most eminent scholars and priests from Jerusalem, who traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelpus, about 250 years before Christ.  Therefore this passage gives us insight into the knowledge of the Jews about the Godhead two hundred fifty years before the coming of Christ. 

 

The Septuagint actually says in the passage, “I have seen all things that Laban does to thee. I am God that appeared to thee in the place of God, where thou anointedst a pillar to me, and vowed to me there a vow.” 

 

Philo explains this enigmatic passage as follows:

 

            “And do not pass by what is said here, but examine it accurately, and see

            whether there are really two Gods.  For it is said:  ‘I am the God who was

            seen by thee;’ not in my place, but in the place of God, as if he meant

            some other God.

 

            “What then ought we to say?  There is one true God only:  but they who

            are called Gods are numerous; on which account the holy scripture on

            the present occasion indicates that it is the true God that is meant by the

            use of the article, the expression being, ‘I am the God (ho Theos);  . . .

            and what he here calls God is his most ancient word . . .”(XXXIX, 227-

            229, p.385).

 

Philo continues this discussion, adding another dimension to our thinking on the subject.  He takes note of the fact that when God says, “I am the God who was seen by thee in the place of God,” that

 

            we must understand this, that he on that occasion took the place of an

            angel, as far as appearance went, without changing his own real nature,

            for the advantage of him who was not, as yet, able to bear the sight of

            the true God; for as those who are not able to look upon the sun itself,

look upon the reflected rays of the sun as the sun itself, and upon the

halo around the moon as if it were the moon itself; so also do those who

are unable to bear the sight of God, look upon his IMAGE, his ANGEL

WORD, as himself” (XLI, 238-239, p.386).

 

            In his book “The Special Laws,” Philo plainly tells us the truth, as he, a famous Jewish teacher of the first century, saw the Word of God.  He declared:

 

                        “Now the image of God is the Word, by which all the world was made”

                        (IVI, 81, page 541).

 

            Clearly, Philo knew and understood that there were two Beings, one subordinate to the other, One who was “uncreated,” and the other “created” by the Supreme Being, who was the “Image” of God, His very own “Word,” yet a real person – not merely some sort of “thought” or “idea” or “plan.”  He was very real, very tangible, and He revealed Himself to mankind as the “Messenger” and “Go-Between” between the Father and mankind.  

 

The Logos, who became Jesus Christ, was the Father’s exact “Image” – His “Angel Word.”  He stands in for God the Father, representing Him in all His dealings with the human race.  He is the “Mediator” between God and mankind!

 

Questions and Answers on Genesis

 

            Finally, in one more place, Philo deals with this topic in very explicit language.  In a section of his works titled, “Questions and Answers on Genesis, II,” he refers to Genesis 9:6, where we read:  “For in the image of God He made man.” 

 

            Notice, now, what Philo has to say about the astounding, hidden from view, deep meaning of this verse which so many people read right over!

 

                        “Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made

                        man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own

                        image? (Genesis 9:6).

 

                        “Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence                                    uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude

                        of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second

                        deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational

                        soul of man should bear it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word

                        God is superior to the most rational possible nature.  But he who is superior

                        to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and

                        how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself?” (Philo,

                        page 834).

 

            Interestingly, Philo was not alone in his understanding of the existence of the Word of God as a “second deity,” who Himself was a “pattern” or “image” of the supreme Father.  Other ancient Hebrew sources also attest to this awesome fact.

 

Evidence from the Apocrypha

 

            This knowledge was also known to Ben Sirach, who wrote “The Wisdom of Sirach,” a book in the Apocrypha.  He declared, “I besought the Lord, the father of my lord, not to forsake me in the days of my trouble” (Wisdom, 51:10).

           

            The context makes no sense unless he is speaking of praying to God, the Father, who was the “father of my Lord,” that is, the second Being of the divine Beings, whom he referred to as his “Lord.”   Ben Sirach’s book “Wisdom” is excellent and inspiring literature from which we can learn many points of wisdom, history, and true godly worship.  Although it does not belong properly in the canon of Scripture, it is similar to the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

 

Evidence from the Targums

 

            The Targums are ancient translations and commentaries of the Old Testament written in Aramaic.  They began as oral readings into the Aramaic vernacular of portions of the Hebrew Bible used as part of the regular worship services in synagogues. The Targums were preserved in written compositions used in synagogue liturgy and by rabbinical academies. 

 

Since the Targums originated in the ancient Jewish synagogues, they would be an excellent source to learn about early Judaism and its beliefs.  They reveal the ancient Jewish understanding of many Old Testament passages, long before the time of Christ. 

 

How did the ancient Jews perceive the nature of God, and the Word of God?  What do the Targums reveal?

 

            Let us notice a few comparisons of the Aramaic Targums, and how they compare with several passages in the Tanakh, the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures.

 

            Genesis 3:8 – “They heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day; and the man and his wife hid from the LORD God among the trees in the garden” (Tanakh).

 

            Genesis 3:8 – “And they heard the voice of the WORD OF THE LORD GOD walking in the garden in the repose of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from before the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, translated by J. W. Etheridge).

 

            Genesis 19:24 – “As the sun rose upon the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Tanakh).

 

            Genesis 19:24 – “And the Word of the Lord Himself had made to descend upon the people of Sedom and Amorah showers of favour, that they might work repentance from their wicked works.  But when they saw the showers of favour, they said, So, our wicked works are not manifest before Him.  He turned (then), and caused to descend upon them bitumen and fire from before the Lord from the heavens” (Jerusalem Targum, translated by J. W. Etheridge).

 

            The Jerusalem Targum indicates that the common understanding of the Jews during the time of Christ was that the first “LORD” mentioned in Genesis 19:24 was the Word of God (the One who later was incarnated as the Messiah, Jesus Christ), and the second “LORD” was the Father in heaven.

 

            Exodus 20:1 – “God spoke all these words, saying” (Tanakh).

 

            Exodus 20:1 – “And the word of the Lord spake all the excellency of these words, saying” (Jerusalem Targum).

 

            Exodus 29:42-43 – “a regular burnt offering throughout the generations, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting before the LORD.”

 

            Exodus 29:42-43 – “A perpetual holocaust for your generations at the door of the tabernacle of ordinance before the Lord; where I will appoint My Word to (meet) thee there, to speak with thee there.  And there I will appoint My Word (to meet) with the sons of Israel, and I will be sacrificed in their rulers for My glory” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan).

 

            What a prophecy!  Indeed, the Word of God – Jesus Christ – was “sacrificed” by the rulers of Judah and the Romans as a glorious act of compassion and sacrifice, for His glory and the glory of God, the Father, to demonstrate their awesome love for us!

 

            Deuteronomy 4:20 – “But you the LORD took and brought out of Egypt, that iron blast furnace, to be His very own people, as is now the case” (Tanakh).

 

            Deu.4:20 – “For you hath the Word of the Lord taken for His portion, and hath brought you out from the iron furnace of Mizraim to be unto Him a people of inheritance as at this day” (Jerusalem Targum).

 

            Deut.4:24 – “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, an impassioned God” (Tanakh).

 

            Deut.4:24 – “For the Word of the Lord your God is a consuming fire; the jealous God is a fire, and He avengeth Himself in jealousy” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan).

 

            Deut.6:20-25 – “When in time to come, your children ask you, ‘What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you?’  you shall say to your children, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and the LORD freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand.  The LORD wrought before our eyes marvelous and destructive signs and portents in Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household; and us He freed from there, that He might take us and give us the land that He had promised on oath to our fathers.  Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these laws, to revere the LORD our God, for our lasting good and for our survival, as is now the case.  It will be therefore to our merit before the LORD our God to observe faithfully this whole Instruction, as He has commanded us’ ” (Tanakh).

 

            Deut.6:20-24 – “When thy son, in time to come, shall ask thee, saying, What are the testimonies, statutes, and judgments which the Lord our God hath commanded you?  Then shall you say to your sons, We were servants to Pharaoh in Mizraim, and the Word of the Lord brought us out of Mizraim with a mighty hand; and the Word of the Lord wrought signs, great wonders, and sore plagues on Mizraim and on Pharaoh and all the men of his house, which our eyes beheld; but us He led forth free to bring us in and give us the land which He sware to our fathers.  And the Lord commanded us to perform all these statutes, that we may fear the Lord our God for good to us in all days, that He may preserve us alive as at the time of this day” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan).

 

            Notice that in the ancient Targums, the Hebrew “LORD” – YHVH – was often replaced by “The Word of the Lord” – the “Word of YHVH” – or the “Word of Yahveh”!

 

            Why would the translators into Aramaic, the common tongue spoken by the Jews upon their return from Babylonian captivity, do such a thing? 

 

            These passages demonstrate that the ancient people of Judah and Israel – before the time of Christ – KNEW AND UNDERSTOOD that there were TWO DIVINE BEINGS BEING SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT –  the “Lord,” and the “’Word of the Lord”!

 

A Missing Passage in the Tankah

 

            The Septuagint, translated into Greek about 250 years before Christ, has another passage that proves there were TWO MEMBERS of the Godhead in the Old Testament.  This passage is found in the Song of Moses.  But for some reason it was left out of the Jewish version of the Tanakh, the Massoretic Text, which was finalized about three centuries after the time of Christ.  We read in this ancient passage: 

 

                        “Behold, behold that I am he, and there is no god beside me:  I kill, and

                        I will make to live [the power of resurrecting the dead]: I will smite, and

                        I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of my hands.  For I will

                        lift up my hand to heaven . . . and I will render judgment to my enemies, and

                        will recompense them that hate me.  I will make my weapons drunk with

                        blood, and my sword shall devour flesh . . . .

 

                        “Rejoice, ye heavens with him, and let all the angels of God worship him;

                        rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen

                        themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will

                        render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward

                        them that hate him; and the Lord will purge the land of his people” (LXX,

                        Deuternomy 32:39-43).

 

            The one clearly referred to here is “God,” the “LORD,” who will avenge Himself of His enemies.  All the angels of God are told to worship Him.  All the sons of God are to strengthen themselves in Him.  But could this be the Father?

 

            The apostle Paul shows plainly that it is not.  In the book of Hebrews, he quotes this passage from the Septuagint, and writes as follows: 

 

                        “But when He again brings the FIRSTBORN into the world, He says:

                        Let all the angels of God worship Him” (Heb.1:6).

 

            Paul continues:

 

                        “But to the Son He says:  Your throne, O GOD, is forever and ever;

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You have

loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore GOD, YOUR

GOD, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than your

companions (Heb.1:8-9).

 

            The Septuagint was translated from the Hebrew into Greek with great aplomb and ceremony, by the wisest priests and scholars in Israel, about 250 years before Christ.  It would seem clear that during that time frame, it was understood that there were Two Beings – the Supreme God, whom we call the Father, and the Logos or Word, or Angel of the Lord, who revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. 

 

Paul plainly says this second Being is the One who became Jesus Christ, the Messiah, born of the virgin Mary, just as Isaiah had predicted would occur:

 

 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall

conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his

name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). 

 

            Emmanuel was the name Isaiah said He would be called.  Matthew quotes this prophecy, saying, Emmanuel “is translated, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  Jesus was literally “God with us” in human flesh – the incarnate Word of God or Angel of the Lord having been made into human flesh, to live among us, and to save us from our filth, vile behavior, lawlessness and wickedness – ALL our sins!  He fulfilled this prophecy to the uttermost!

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

As striking as the testimony is from Philo, the Targums, and even the Apocrypha, written long before the birth of Jesus Christ, in their clear teaching that the Messiah pre-existed His human form as the “Image of God,” the “Elect One,” and the “Chosen One,” there is more evidence from the writings of the twelve sons of Jacob, which have come down to us as the “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.”   These documents were written down centuries before Christ, and in oral form no doubt go back thousands of years, to the time of the patriarchs themselves.  Regardless of that fact, however, it is indisputable that their present form predates the time of Christ.  Notice what they testify as to the pre-existence of the Messiah as a separate Being long before the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs are twelve books which purport to be messages given by each of the twelve sons of Jacob, to their sons, shortly before their deaths, in the form of final admonitions and prophecies of the future of their children, down through the ages, and particularly what would befall them in the “last days.”

In their present form, they were written between 107 and 157 B.C., according to most scholarly opinion. Each testament purports to be the final admonition given by each of the sons of Jacob to his offspring, before he died, as was the custom in those by-gone years. The books are amazing in their intellectual understanding, and moral force. Written or transcribed by a Pharisee probably about 150 years before Christ, they contain evidence of divine inspiration, and therefore it is reasonable to conclude that they are exactly what they purport to be -- the transmissions of the original oral testaments of the twelve patriarchs, sons of Jacob, to their sons, sometime before the middle of the second millennium before the present era.  Let us notice some of the amazing statements in the testaments of some of these sons of Jacob.

Reuben

“Therefore I command you to hearken to Levi, because he shall know the                       LAW of the Lord, and shall give ordinances for judgment and shall sacrifice            for all Israel until the consummation of the times, as the anointed High Priest,                       of whom the Lord spake. I adjure you by the God of heaven to do truth each one                   unto his neighbor and to entertain love each one for his brother. And draw ye                   near to Levi in humbleness of heart, that ye may receive a blessing from         his        mouth. For he shall bless Israel and Judah because him hath the Lord chosen                     to be KING over all the nation.  And bow down before his seed, for on OUR                        BEHALF it will DIE in wars visible AND invisible, and will be among you                        an ETERNAL KING” (The Lost Books of Eden, “Testaments of the Patriarchs,”               chap.2:26-30, p.223).

Notice in this passage, an allusion to a Messianic King who would rise up from the seed, or future offspring of Levi -- one who would “die” on behalf of all of us who would also be “an eternal king.”

Was Jesus Christ descended from Levi?  Did He have Levitical blood flowing in His veins?  We know He was of the tribe of Judah, but we also know that there was intermarriage between the tribes of Israel, particularly between Judah and Levi, who remained together down through history. Mary, Jesus’ human mother, was the cousin of Elizabeth, married to Zecharias, a Levitical priest (Luke 1:5, 36). Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, and Mary’s cousin (v.36) -- they were related! This indicates that Jesus Christ was not only Jewish, in ancestry, descended from king David, as the prophecies foretold (Luke 1:32), but also was descended from Levi.

Simeon’s Testament

“Then shall all the earth rest from trouble, and all the world under heaven            from war. Then the Mighty One of Israel shall glorify Shem. FOR THE                    LORD GOD SHALL APPEAR ON EARTH, AND HIMSELF SAVE                      MEN. Then shall all the spirits of deceit be given to be trodden under foot,                        and men shall rule over wicked spirits. Then will I ARISE in joy, and will              bless the Most High because of his marvelous works, BECAUSE GOD                      HATH TAKEN A BODY AND EATEN WITH MEN AND SAVED MEN.                And now, my children, obey Levi and Judah, and be not lifted up against               these two tribes, for FROM THEM SHALL ARISE UNTO YOU THE                          SALVATION OF GOD. For the Lord shall raise up from LEVI as it                       were a High Priest, and from Judah, as it were a KING, GOD AND MAN.                     He shall save all the Gentiles and the race of Israel” (chap.3:5-11, p.226).

Notice that Simeon plainly said that it was the ‘Lord God” who would “appear on earth, and Himself save men.”  He foretold that God Himself would “take a body” and “eat with men” and save men.  He foretold that this Messiah would arise from the tribes of Judah and Levi.  How ASTOUNDING!  Christ Jesus did just what Simeon prophesied -- He appeared on earth and divested Himself of His divinity and became a flesh and blood human being, so He could die, paying the penalty for our sins.  Simeon’s remarks clearly indicate that God Himself, a member of the Godhead, who pre-existed the time of Christ, would be the One who would do this.

 

Testament of Naphtali

Naphtali was the eighth son, born of Jacob and Bilhah. He was a very athletic, swift runner, and ran like a deer, so Jacob appointed him to be the message-bearer in the family (chap.1:15). Naphtali knew his progeny would also stray from God’s commandments in the end times, and do according to all the wickedness of Sodom (chap.1:28). 

Naphtali wrote:

“Do ye also, therefore, charge your children that they be united to Levi and to          Judah; for through them shall salvation arise unto Israel, and in them shall                 Jacob be blessed. For THROUGH THEIR TRIBES SHALL GOD APPEAR          DWELLING AMONG MEN ON EARTH, to save the race of Israel, and to             gather together the righteous from amongst the Gentiles” (chap.2:24-25).

            Notice!  This son of Jacob foretold that “God” would “appear dwelling among men on earth,” to save Israel and the righteous.  Jesus Christ said He came for that very purpose – to save Israel and bring salvation to the Gentiles! 

Asher

Asher also told his progeny that they would sin, and be delivered into the hands of their enemies in the latter days, and be scattered upon the face of the earth. He declared this would happen, until:

“Until the Most High shall visit the earth, coming Himself AS MAN,                    with men eating and drinking, and breaking the head of the dragon in                the water. He shall save Israel and ALL the Gentiles, GOD SPEAKING                  IN THE PERSON OF MAN” (chap.1:40-41).

The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day rejected Him because He referred to God as His Father, and declared, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). Because of this statement, John relates, “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making himself equal with God” (v.18).  But Asher foretold that the Messiah would be “God speaking in the person of man.”  Here again is proof that Christ was truly the pre-incarnate Word of God, the Son of God, the “Image” of God the Father!

Testament of Joseph

Joseph relates a vision he had of the future in his Testament -- a vision that foresaw the Messiah of Israel.  He relates:

“There were twelve harts feeding [the twelve tribes of Israel]: and the nine                were first dispersed over all the earth [718 B.C.], and likewise also the            three [586 B.C., and 70 A.D.].

“And I saw that from JUDAH was born a VIRGIN wearing a linen garment,           and from her was born a LAMB, WITHOUT SPOT; and on his left hand there        was as it were a LION; and all the beasts rushed against him, and the LAMB       overcame them, and destroyed them, and trod them under foot.

“And because of him the angels and men rejoiced, and all the land. And               these things shall come to pass in their season, IN THE LAST DAYS”                              (chap.2:74-76).

Joseph later declares in his Testament:

“Do ye therefore, my children, OBSERVE THE COMMANDMENTS                of the Lord, and honor Levi and Judah; for from them shall arise unto you                  the LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD,                    one who saveth all the Gentiles and Israel.

“For his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away”                            (chap.2:77-78, page 265).

Who is this “Lamb of God” that figures so prominently in Joseph’s prophecy, given to his progeny, about 1800 years before Christ?

John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, saw Jesus approaching him, as he was baptizing in the Jordan river.  He declared to the Jews who were present with him, as he was baptizing, including the scribes and Pharisees, as he pointed in the direction of Jesus Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Later, the next day, as he stood with two of his disciples, he said to them, again, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (verse 36).  Jesus Christ is also the “LION” foretold by Joseph, who is also the Lamb (see Revelation 5:5-12).

The Testament of Benjamin

The final Testament of the twelve sons of Jacob is that of the last born, the second son of Jacob and Rachel, Benjamin. Benjamin had a special relationship with his older brother Joseph.  Joseph forgave all his brothers who had sold him into slavery.  His prayers for them were heard by his father Jacob, who was moved by his compassion, and declared:

“My good child, thou hast prevailed over the bowels of thy father Jacob.                           And he embraced him, and kissed him for two hours, saying: In thee                        shall be fulfilled the PROPHECY of heaven concerning the LAMB of                       GOD, and Saviour of the world, and that a blameless one shall be  delivered                        up [as Joseph himself, a blameless one, had been delivered up!] for lawless                      men, and a SINLESS ONE SHALL DIE FOR UNGODLY MEN in the blood                      of the covenant, for the salvation of the Gentiles and of ISRAEL, and shall                destroy Beliar [Satan] and his servants” (chap.1:19-21).

The Jews of Jesus’ time, and ever since that time, up to the present day, as a whole have been ignorant of the real meaning of this ancient prophecy. It foretells the Messiah first coming like “Joseph,” and who would be treated by His brethren as Joseph was – rejected, ridiculed, and cast away.  Even as the sinless one was sold into slavery to the Egyptians, so the true Messiah was rejected by His own people, and crucified (John 1:11; Acts 7:51-52).  Jesus’ first appearance was as the sinless “Lamb of God.”  He was foretold to die for the sins of wicked men (Isaiah 53), the innocent for the unjust.  At His first appearance He came to teach, to suffer, and to die even though He was guiltless.  It happened, just as the patriarchs foretold.

The second appearance of Yeshua will be as the “son of David,” the Messianic king who will return in wrath and judgment, to judge the nations, and punish the wicked, and to save His people, to redeem Israel, and to usher in the Kingdom of God (Rev.11:14-19; 19:11-15). At His second coming He will come as the “LION of the tribe of JUDAH,” who is the “root of DAVID” (Rev.5:5). He will judge the nations, and smash them as clay pots (Rev.19:15).

Benjamin goes into incredible detail, predicting the sufferings of Christ, in His first coming, suffering similar in many respects to those Joseph had suffered.  Benjamin continues:

“Nevertheless, the temple of God shall be in your portion, and the last                   temple shall be more glorious than the first. And the twelve tribes shall                         be gathered together there, and all the Gentiles, until the Most High shall                      send forth His salvation in the visitation of an only-begotten  PROPHET.

“And He shall enter into the first temple, and there shall the Lord be                     treated with outrage, and He shall be LIFTED UP UPON A TREE.                And the VEIL OF THE TEMPLE SHALL BE RENT, and the Spirit of                     God shall pass onto the Gentiles as fire poured forth.  And I know how                 lowly He shall be on earth, and how glorious in heaven” (chap.2:5-10,                         p.268).

Was Christ lifted up upon a “tree”?  Yes, He was nailed to a stake.  And He declared, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).  He also declared, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He” (John 8:28).  He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).  Fulfillling this prophecy, He was crucified (John 19:18).  And at that moment, as Benjamin prophesied, the “veil of the Temple” was “rent” from top to bottom (Luke 23:45; Mark 15:38; Matt.27:51).  Indeed, just as Benjamin foretold, a “blameless one” was delivered up, a “sinless one” indeed “died” for mankind.

Benjamin then exhorts his children down through the ages to speak the truth to their neighbors, and to keep the commandments of God.  Looking far into the future, he declares:

“And then shall ye see Enoch, Noah, and Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac,                       and Jacob, rising on the right hand in gladness. Then shall we also rise,                       each one over our tribe, worshipping the King of heaven, who appeared                        upon earth in the form of a MAN in humility. And as many as believe on                         Him on the earth shall rejoice with Him. Then also all men shall rise, some                        unto glory and some unto shame.

“And the Lord shall judge Israel first, for their unrighteousness: for when              He appeared as GOD IN THE FLESH to deliver them they believed Him                        not.

“And then shall He judge all the Gentiles, as many as believed Him not when                    He appeared upon earth . . . .

“And there shall arise in the LATTER DAYS one beloved of the Lord,                of the tribe of Judah, and Levi, a doer of His good pleasure in His mouth,               with new knowledge enlightening the Gentiles.

“Until the consummation of the age shall He be in the synagogues of  the             Gentiles, and among their rulers, as a strain of music in the mouth of all.                 And he shall be inscribed in the holy books, both his work and his word,                       and he shall be a chosen one of God for ever” (chap.2:26-28, p.269).

This remarkable prophecy was written down by a Levitical scribe over a hundred years before the time of Christ.  It was undoubtedly “oral” tradition, handed down from generation to generatiioin, before that time.  Just as Benjamin predicted, the “King of heaven . . . appeared on earth in the form of a man,” and “appeared as GOD in the flesh”! 

Benjamin’s testimony, like that of the other eleven brothers, is amazing in its clear view of the future and the coming of a Messianic saviour, deliverer, and king.  He plainly foretold how God would send a Saviour, a Redeemer, a Holy One, who Himself is also “God,” a Divine Personage, who would become the Messiamic King of the earth.  In no way did this fact go counter to the true concept of “one God.”  It was acknowledged and understood centuries before Christ!

The Testimony Is Conclusive

            When we view all this evidence objectively, with a clear vision, and without prejudice, we can see that there is no question but that Almighty God, the Father of all, planned from the beginning to save mankind from sin, and that He created in the beginning the “Son of Man,” who was also the “Son of God,” who was the “Chosen One” and the “Elect One,” also known as the “Word” of God, the ‘Image” of God, and the “Firstborn” of God. 

            The combined testimonies of Philo, the ancient Targums, the Twelve Patriarchs, and the testimony of the New Testament, make it perfectly clear.  Christ Jesus pre-existed His human form as the Logos of God, just as John wrote.  He was the “Firstborn of all creation,” just as the apostle Paul declared.  He was the One God chose to be His Chief Lieutenant and Executive Officer in creating and ruling the Universe, and in bringing many sons to glory as the “Captain” of our salvation.   

Eventually, God intends to put all creation under the rulership of men, elevated to Godhood status.  As Paul declared, “For in that He put all in subjection under him [mankind], He left nothing that is not put under him.  But now we do not yet see all things put under him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are ALL OF ONE, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:  ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to you.’  And again:  ‘I will put My trust in Him.’  And again:  ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me’” (Heb.2:8-13).

Paul continues, illustrating the tremendous plan of God, which is so breath-taking and insuperable:  “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” – the Word of God Himself became a flesh and blood human being – “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. . . . Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb.2:14-18).

Paul says, as he explains the mystery of the Logos, and the Christ, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house.  For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.  For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.  And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Heb.3:1-6).

Let us not mimimalize the nature and deity of Christ the Messiah.  Let us not be taken in by the foolishness of those who deny His pre-existence as the Being known as the Logos, or Word, of God.  But let us rejoice in the full knowledge of the greatness and majesty of the Messiah, God’s firstborn over all creation, and give God full praise, glory, and honor, and to the Messiah as well.

How awesome is the truth of God.  How perfect is His great Plan and purpose.  How majestic are all His works, and the plan of salvation He is working out on the planet earth with human beings, His children. 

            “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we                                                 are the children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs                                                   of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with                                                         Him, that we may also be glorified together.  For I consider                                                       that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be                                                         compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”                                                   (Romans 8:16-18).

Praise God!  Halleluiah, praise God!  Amen and Amen.