In a previous article, we saw that God’s “Word” (logos; λόγος) appeared to Israelites like Samuel long before the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Yet, the Gospel of John also states that the Word existed all the way back at creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (1:1). John’s use of the phrase “in the beginning” (en arche; ἐν ἀρχῇ) echoes the Greek translation of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning (en arche; ἐν ἀρχῇ) God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet John goes on to say that “all things were made” through this Word (1:3), a notion that does not appear in Genesis 1. So where does the Gospel find support for the Word’s role in creation?
The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible corroborates John’s assertion that “all things were made” through the divine Word (1:3), but in order to find biblical support, we must go beyond Genesis to the Greek version of the Psalms. According to Psalm 32:6 LXX [33:6 in Hebrew and English Bibles], “By the word (logos; λόγος) of the Lord the heavens were established, and all the host of them by his breath.”
Moreover, according to the Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible, called the Targums, God created light through the Word. According to the original text of Genesis 1:3, “The Lord said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light,” but according to the Targum, “The Word (memra; ממרא) of the Lord said, ‘Let there be light” and there was light according to the decree of his Word (כגזירת ממריה; kigzerat memreh)” (Tg. Neof. Gen 1:3). To the extent that John’s understanding of the creative Word parallels the Jewish translational traditions that we also find in the earlier Septuagint and later Targum, John had strong support for the idea that God created the world through the Word.