The Dabar of ’Elohiym or the Logos of God?
by Brad Scott
One of the most fundamental backgrounds in understanding words is to know a little history behind those who use them. It is generally agreed by all that the language of the Tanakh is Hebrew. It is also generally agreed that the Tanakh is very "Jewish", and full of concepts, idioms, and phrases that are viewed as Hebraic. Scriptural writers of the Tanakh spoke, taught, and thought from this perspective. Until the time of the New Testament, the Word of ’Elohiym was everything that He had spoken. All scriptural thought was seen through the Hebrew language. But several hundred years before ’Elohiym would take on flesh, the world was already experiencing some dramatic changes in language and culture. Behind the scenes, the Greek view of the world, and all that is in it, was brewing.
In our book, "Let this Mind be in You", I discuss the dramatic differences between Greek thought and Hebrew thought in much more detail. But suffice it to say, these two world views are in most ways antithetical to each other. This can be seen in no better way than the defining of words. Last time, we defined the word word from the Tanakh. We will now see how this word changed in time, from the thoughts and commandments of ’Elohiym, to the Logos. But first I would like to quote from some earlier works concerning this gradual evolution of scriptural words.
Edwin Hatch is eminently known for dozens of Greek works in the 19th century. Perhaps his greatest work is the Concordance to the Septuagint. The following are several excerpts from his book entitled: "The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church". 1895. Williams and Norgate.
“In a similar way we shall find that the Greek Christianity of the fourth century was rooted in Hellenism. The Greek minds which had been ripening for Christianity had absorbed new ideas and new motives;”
“We have ample evidence in regard to the state of Greek thought during the ante-Nicene period. The writers shine with a dim and pallid light when put side by side with the master-spirits of the Attic age;”
“We have ample evidence also as to the state of Christian thought in the post-Nicene period. The fathers Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Cyril of Jerusalem, the decrees of general and local Councils, the apocryphal and pseudonymous literature, enable us to form a clear conception of the change which Greek influences had wrought.”
“Education was no longer in the hands of “private tutors” in the houses of the great families. It entered public life, and in doing so left a record behind it.”
“But when the product of one generation spreads its branches far and wide into the generations that succeed, its roots must be deep and firm in the generation from which it springs. No lasting element of civilization grows upon the surface. Greek education has been almost as permanent as Christianity itself, and for similar reasons. It passed from Greece into Africa and the West. It had an especial hold first on the Roman and then upon the Celtic and Teutonic populations of Gaul; and from the Gallican schools it has come, probably by direct descent, to our own country and our own time.”
This process took several centuries to saturate the known world, but it indeed took root and has never let go. So let's trace one simple word for now.
The English word word that we read in our New Testament is translated in most occurrences from the Greek word logos. The 'o''s are pronounced as the 'o' in log, not as in low. Its fundamental meaning is much the same as is dabar. It means thought, thing, something said, or utterance. This is the dictionary definition. However, it's colloquial meaning in the centuries before and after Yeshua‘’s time was quite different. Among the religious Greeks of that time the logos was the "god of gods", the divine mind of the gods. He or it was the "supreme knowledge", also known as gnosis. He was right thought, right mind, right purpose, and right creed. In other words, the logos was right belief. Knowledge was salvation: say the right things and believe the right things. And so we have the very subtle shift from Yeshua‘ being the "instructions of ’Elohiym become flesh" to the divine "knowledge of the god of gods". Salvation became an intellectual pursuit, with structured creeds as it's evidence. Edwin Hatch said it better, again, when he said,
“… the word faith came to be transferred from simple trust in God to mean the acceptance of a series of propositions, and these propositions, propositions in abstract metaphysics … The proposition followed: Belief in God came to mean the assent to certain propositions ABOUT God.”
Theophilus also stated that the logos had two aspects, thought and speech. So, the teachings of YHVH in the Tanakh concerning marriage, government, children, relationships, disease, clean food, unclean food, handling of criminals, waste management, health, money, and love evolved into a creedal system. The WORDS of 'ELOHIYM soon became an abstract, undefined concept that could be obtained by saying the right things, to the exclusion of doing the right things. The Jews of the so-called “dark ages” knew this concept very well. When confronted with the Crusaders, they simply stated that they believed that “Jesus was the Savior”, and were promptly released. Most confessing Jews of that time secretly returned to their underground synagogues, knowing that the evidence of a Christian was a good confession.
This would not be all that critical if the actual Words of ’Elohiym were impotent and ineffectual. In the book of Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) chapter 14 in referring to Hasatan it says, “Who made the world like a wilderness, and destroyed its cities, who opened not the house of his prisoners?” Is it any wonder how easy that would be for him if ’Elohiym's Word, designed to produce a land full of milk and honey, to prosper our cities, and to set the captives free, was rendered irrelevant by a Torahless (lawless) religious culture? Is it a coincidence that the devil (2 Thessalonians 2:8) is called the lawless one? When you redefine ’Elohiym's words, you redefine life and all that it means.
We are going to spend the next several teachings identifying many words that over the last 2000 years have been slowly redefined. Many of these paradigm shifts will astonish you. But more than that, they will give you a fresh perspective of ’Elohiym's glorious word. His Dabar in the flesh, REALLY does give LIFE! Next time: The Light and The Way.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊