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Avraham believed in the Memra- Rational Faith

Avraham believed in the Memra

Rational Faith
James Scott Trimm

In Genesis 15:6 we read concerning Avraham:

“And he believed in YHWH, and He counted it to him for righteousness.”
(Gen. 15:6)

The official Targum to this verse paraphrases:

 “And he believed in the Word (Memra) of YHWH. And He counted it to him for righteousness.”
(Gen. 15:6 Targum Onkelos)

And Targum Psedo-Jonathan has:

“And he believed in YHWH, and had faith in the Word (Memra) of YHWH, and He reckoned it to him for righteousness.”
(Gen. 15:6 Targum Pseudo-Jonathan)

Of course we know that the Torah is the Word of YHWH (Is. 1:10; 2:3) and of course we know that Messiah is the incarnation of the Word (Jn. 1:1-3, 14; Rev. 19:13), a point which the first century Alexandrian Jew Philo of Alexandria also makes when he writes:

“The head of all things is the eternal Word (Logos) of the eternal God, under which, as if it were his feet or other limbs, is placed the whole world, over which He passes and firmly stands. Now it is not because Messiah is Lord that He passes and sits over the whole world, for His seat with His Father and God but because for its perfect fullness the world is in need of the care and superintendence of the best ordered dispensation, and for its own complete piety, of the Divine Word (Logos), just as living creatures (need) a head, without which it is impossible to live.”
(Q&A on Exodus, II, 117)

Philo of Alexandria made a very interesting comment about this verse (Gen. 15:6):

“It is best, therefore, to trust in God, and not in uncertain reasoning, or unsure conjectures. "Abraham trusted in the Lord, and it was counted to him for Righteousness” (Gen. 15:6) And Moses governed the people, being testified to that he was faithful with his whole house. But if we distrust our own reason (LOGOS, Word), we shall prepare and build ourselves a city of the mind which will destroy the truth.”
(Philo of Alexandria; Allegorical Interpretation, III, 228)

Although Philo’s native language was Greek and the Septuagint was his Bible, he was clearly aware, directly or indirectly, of the reading of the Targums to this verse, or at least a general tradition that in this verse Avraham’s faith is in the “Word” (Aramaic: Memra; Greek Logos).  

Philo is telling us that the “Word” is also “reason” or “logic” (our English word “Logic” is actually derived from the Greek word LOGOS).

The Torah and the Messiah are one. When we study Torah, the Wisdom of Torah gestates in our Understanding and gives birth to Knowledge of Torah. This is what is meant by having the Torah in our inward parts. Since the Torah and the Messiah are one, this is also having the Messiah within us. The Messiah within us is a spark of YHWH within us, a second soul. While our animal soul has an inclination to do evil, this second soul has an inclination to do good. This helps us to overcome our evil inclination. This occurs as Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge of Torah within us flows from our mind down to our emotions, resulting in a love for Elohim that inclines us to keep the positive commandments, and an awe for Elohim that inclines us not to violate the negative commandments.  In this way our mind is elevated above our emotions.

Our faith in Torah is rooted in Logic, and one important aspect of the Word is rational thought, logic.  Philo is telling is that Avrham’s faith was also rooted in logic, it was faith in the Word… faith in rational thought.  

Philo warns us that if we cast rational thought aside, we will find ourselves not having faith in YHWH but instead creating subjective constructs of our own imagination.  

Remember, Avrham’s faith was a rational, logical faith.  Avraham’s faith was faith in the Word.

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