John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word (logos; λόγος), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word, says John, existed “in the beginning” and, eventually, “became flesh and dwelt among us” in the Messiah (1:14). Yet the Gospel writer also notes that this Word “in the world” (en to kosmo; ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ) prior to Jesus (1:10), and those who “received” the Word before the Incarnation were called “children of God” (1:12). So when did the Word of God come into the world before the advent of the Messiah, and who received this Word according to Israel’s Scriptures?

God’s initial interaction with the prophet Samuel is a good example of the Word in the Hebrew Bible. As the young Samuel serves as an apprentice under Eli the priest at the Temple in Shiloh, the Lord calls to him several times. At first, Samuel thinks that Eli is calling him, but the priest tells him that it’s actually the voice of God (see 1 Sam 3:4-9). After three divine calls, God appeared physically to Samuel when “the Lord came (bo’; בוא), and stood (yatsav; יצב)” before the boy (1 Sam 3:10).

Just a few verses later, we learn that God makes these kinds of physical appearances through the Word: “The Lord continued to appear (l’heraoh; להראה) at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself (niglah; נגלה) to Samuel at Shiloh by the Word (bi’devar; בדבר) of the Lord” (1 Sam 3:21). Thus, the meetings between God and Samuel support John’s claim that the Word came into the world of ancient Israel and that Israelites like Samuel received the Word. For John, it would be this same Word who would one day become flesh in Yeshua the Messiah.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. I am so pleased to see this write-up. The Creator, who is outside of creation, needs to communicate to His creatures, and the interaction comes seemingly exclusively in two ways. 1. By Word (tangible/visible/physical acts and appearances in the physical dimension) 2. By Spirit for we are spirit beings – made in His image (The Spirit came upon/to e.g. Saul when he prophesied, the Spirit brooded upon). Often God will interact by Word and Spirit simultaneously (The Spirit came upon believers at Pentecost-tongues of fire, and upon Jesus – dove). John wrote to Jewish Christians.

  2. Hi to all, mine is a question; if the word come firstly to Samuel, then what about Adam, Cain, Abram “Abraham”, Moses etc..? Not by doubt, but just want to know please.
    Thank you.
    Kind regards.

    • Thanks for your question, Matthew. It’s not that “the Word” appeared *first* to Samuel, only that Samuel provides us with one of the clearest examples of the Word’s visible appearance. God appears to Adam, Cain, Abram in embodied form — see Gen 3:8; 4:15-16; 18:1-8 — but these texts don’t state that these manifestations were God’s “Word,” as does First Samuel.

      • The Word of YHVH appeared to Abram in a vision. He SAW the Word, which spoke to him as God. …and the Word always was Deity.

        • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

          • Gerry, Jesus, the word of God is also the Angel of God.
            Genesis 16
            Genesis 22
            Genesis 31
            Exodus 3
            Exodus 14
            Numbers 22
            Judges 2
            Judges 6
            Judges 13
            Zechariah 3
            Zechariah 12 – and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them
            These 11 passages show the Angel of YHWH
            is a divine figure

          • “Angel” in Hebrew is “malach.” This can be a man, a heavenly being, a donkey, or God Himself. We read the passage in context to figure out what kind of messenger, or who it is. You are right it doesn’t automatically make them deity, but doesn’t make them not either.

  3. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given”(Isaiah 9:6). Would this not be a reference to (John 1:14) “The Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us”.

    • Thanks for your question, Ken. Isa 9:6 is tricky, since the New Testament writers never cite the verse with reference to Jesus. John cites Isaiah quite a bit with reference to Jesus and his preexistent glory (e.g., Jn 12:36-41), but doesn’t mention Isa 9:6. Thus, it’s tough to say whether or not the writer of John’s Gospel would have understood Isa 9:6 as the Word dwelling among us.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  4. A strong case for the plurality of God. Could you help me with the meanings of those words ‘by’ and ‘through’ and other such words we see like ‘in’ e.g. ‘in’ the Spirit, ‘in Christ’ etc. Thank You! 🙂

  5. Can we discuss the context?

    “11) He came to His own, and His own DID NOT RECEIVE HIM. 12) But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God”

    Samuel recognized and received Him.

    • True, Neville. Is your question, “Why does John say ‘his own did not receive him’ when Samuel did, in fact, receive him”? Is that the context you’re wanting to discuss?

      • Oh, no, I’m sorry for the confusion. It is clear that God presented himself to Samuel via the Word, as you documented. John must not have had multiple prior appearances/incarnations in mind (Samuel, Abram), but could only be talking about Yeshua. Maybe I read more into your parallel than intended.

        • Ok, got it. Thanks for your clarification. When John says that the Word of God “came to his own, but his own did not receive him” (1:11), we need to ascertain what John means by “his own”: many English translations insert “his own people” (i.e., Jews), even though “people” doesn’t appear in the Greek. A better way to understand the verse is by going to the one right before it: “He [i.e., the Word] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world did not know him” (1:10). More than just Israel, John means that the Word of God came to “the entire world” (cf. Jn 3:16) throughout history, but the vast majority of people in the world did not receive him — though some, like Samuel, did receive him and were called children of God (cf. Jn 1:12).

          • …to say “the entire world” is being meant in context from the words: “he came to his own” is to mishandle the word of GOD! His Own can only mean the Jew’s. Christ was a Jew & GOD’s own can only be Jew’s

          • Willem, to import “the Jews” into John’s rhetoric is to add words to the text that aren’t there. More, the immediately preceding sentence points to his “own” being the “world” (kosmos), not just Jewish people: “He was in the world (kosmos), and the world (kosmos) was made by him, and the world (kosmos) did not know him. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him” (Jn 1:10-11). Since John refers to the entire “world” three times in v. 10, it would be against the context if the focus were to shift solely to the Jewish people in v. 11. That the focus here is on the world also aligns with the Gospel’s overall thesis: “God so loved the world (kosmos) that he gave his unique Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish” (3:16).

  6. In the beginnig,does that mean the start of creation? If the word was the beginning and with God and was God, Does that mean Yeshua(Jesus) is God that made everything through Yeshua(Jesus) so Gods first appearance was in The Garden of Eden,or was it Yeshua(Jesus).?
    Thank you and God bless.

    • Good question, Christian. According to Genesis, the one walking in Eden was God (i.e., the Father). Jesus doesn’t appear on the scene until the Word of God is enfleshed in the first century CE/AD. Prior to that, God’s embodied Word made appearances on earth.

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      • John 1:4 says that the Word created all things; nothing that has been created came into being without Him. Later this Word is identified as the One who became flesh. Jesus is God is Creator.

        John’s opening, “in the beginning,” is meant to direct our attention to Genesis 1:1.

  7. About the “beginning?”…. I’ve always been fascinated that the first verse of the Hebrew scripture “bereshet Elohim”… I believe translates to in the beginning God. In Hebrew, the word “Elohim” in describing God is plural? Were God the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit there in the beginning?

    • Thanks for your question, Wes. Yes, “Elohim” is a plural word (or a “dual” word), but it would be over-reading to extrapolate trinitarian theology based on this word alone.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • I like your writings Dr. Schaser. And I’ve always been fascinated with the thought of Jesus being “seen” in the Old Testament. Is there an issue with “trinitarian theology” ??… which I’m interpreting as fact that God the Father, Jesus his Son and the Holy Spirit all exist.

        • Thanks, Wes. No, I don’t see there being an issue with trinitarian theology: God the Father reigns in heaven and appears on earth via the Word (which is both God and separate from God; Jn 1:1), and the Holy Spirit dwells among God’s people on earth (cf. Isa 63:10-11; Ps 51:11).

  8. Truly enjoy these articles & comments! Want to testify here that our living, loving Ancient Father God still calls out from heaven & sends His visible Word! January 2, 2006, the Majestic Holy One whom I knew as Father & Truth appeared & took me Spiritually up into the heavens!

  9. I am always amased why people can not understand the trinity of god. Is not your father, your mother and you a trinity? Why do some have a problem with AVIYHa My FATHERYHa, BeNo YHaShUA His Son VeRUaGYHa and His Spirit? Are you not mind in matter with emotion?

    • And the column of fire and smoke, the burning bush, and the many other manifestations of God in the OT & NT were what? Father, Son, and Spirit are but 3 of the many manifestations of an infinite God. I’d even say the primary manifestations. But not the only ones.

  10. The encounter of Adam,Noah,Abraham,Isaac,Jacob,Moses,Eli with Almighty God can be described as what? Were those encounter not by the word of God, I just want to know?

    • Thanks for your question, Obazi. If the text states that the “word” (דבר; davar) appeared to these people, then the encounter was by means of the word of God. Sometimes divine encounters lack reference to God’s “word” — e.g., the encounter with Abraham in Genesis 18 — in which case, we needn’t read an appearance of the “word” into the divine encounter. Short answer: it’s best to approach each divine encounter on a case-by-case basis.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  11. Hi. I’m new here today.
    I’ve always considered these to be pre-incarnate appearances of the 2nd person of the Trinity.

    Like “THE ANGEL of the Lord.

    • Welcome to the discussion! While the phrase “second person of the Trinity” isn’t found in the New Testament, you’re right that the writer of John’s Gospel would say that when God’s “word” appeared to Samuel, it was the same “Word” who would later become incarnate in Jesus. From a NT perspective, one could extrapolate that the appearances of the “angel of the Lord” are also manifestations of the pre-incarnate Word; but it may not be a one-to-one parallel, since Hebrews explicates that Jesus is superior to God’s angels (see Heb 1:4-13).

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