This week's work for Barnes was more mild, since we only met once, Monday being Labor Day of course. The primary sources we read were a number of variations of the Genesis creation account. Other than the Masoretic text that everyone's Old Testament is based off of (which dates from around 1000 AD), we were looking at the thousand-years-older Dead Sea Scrolls copy of Genesis, as well as some of the Targums of Genesis (2nd or 3rd century AD, amplified versions where the text is augmented by various rabbis so as to give you the most explicit sense of the text as they understand it--most needed, of course, in the texts they thought problematic or dangerous). We also looked at the texts of Ps. 104, Ps. 33, Judith 16, Job 33:4, 2 Baruch 21, and Isaiah 42, 57, and 63. Why? Because, like Genesis 1:2, they talk about the Spirit of God as Creator. What's even more interesting is how that sense of the text seems to get edited out over the centuries.
It's only this tiny, tiny handful of texts that talk about the Spirit of God as Creator, but it seems that these texts were significant enough to worry the rabbis of Rabbinic Judaism after Christianity began among the Jews. Both the Palestinian and the Babylonian Targums that we looked at went to great lengths to change that sense of the text: that instead of "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," you have "a spirit of mercy from God was blowing over the surface of the waters, " or "a merciful wind from before God was blowing over the surface of the water, " or "a wind from before the Lord was blowing on the surface of the water." The Dead Sea Scroll text, however, simply has that old "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Grammatically, like those other oddities of Genesis 1, where God says, "Let us" do this and that, you seem to have an indication in the oldest Hebrew texts of the Bible that the Spirit here is distinguished somehow from "God." Why is unclear. A secondary text we read with some attention, the elderly 1916 edition of F. McCloin's The Mystery of the Trinity, was most un-PC in talking about how the Jews writing the OT documents have left us lots of evidence of a Jewish understanding of some kind of multiplicity in God, even if the post-Christian rabbinic Jews rejected the notion.
We've long noticed the dramatically odd text in Ps. 110 of "The Lord says to my Lord" language Christians later read as the Father speaking to the Son, as "Lord" is a word generally used of God. It was stunning to see that same kind of text in the Dead Sea Scrolls copy of Isaiah 42:5, where we read, "Thus says The God and God the creator of the heavens...." The Masoretic Text--the Hebrew text of the scriptures dating from about 1000 AD and from which our current Bibles are translated-- says, "Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens...." In the first, we have two names being contrasted, "Thus says The God (ha-el) and God (elohiym)" where the MT has inserted instead "YHWH" instead of what was apparently originally there. The two names el and elohiym, presented as a pair, seem to be the original, as the Dead Sea Scroll copy of Isaiah is anywhere from 1000-1200 years older than any of the Masoretic Bible texts are. But that Bible seems to have a tendency to allow changes over a thousand years, but only changes, curiously enough, like this one, or like substituting "the One" for "the Father" in DSS Isaiah 57:15. Curiously, these changes obscure a Christian interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures, interpretations that the rabbis of the first few centuries after Jesus heard again and again in debates over whether Jesus was the Messiah, like the one we read about last week between Justin Martyr and Trypho.
Now, I'm all for the peaceful dialogue Christianity has enjoyed with Judaism in recent decades. Earlier centuries have displayed the results of a lack of love that have resulted in shame for us all. I'm proud of my Jewish heritage, and of my Christian faith. And I'm also keenly interested in the truth. If the texts take us in this direction, I'm all for following them into the most authentic reading of what the prophets had to say to us, in hopes that we can read together without tension. But Christians (Jewish and Gentile) and Rabbinic Jews have long disagreed on whether Jesus is the Messiah and I think that dealing with that disagreement--up front--is the heart of real dialogue.
I don't know if I needed to go in that direction at all, but I could just see in my head someone reading what I'd just written and the implications of it, and getting their undies in a bundle, so I thought that it was disclaimer-time. Maybe instead it should just be bed-time. As I'm nodding repeatedly and correcting oodles of spelling and grammar errors, I'll say yes, it's time to end. Good night!