The question that seems to always get raised within the Christian faith is, “How does John 1:1-5 connect or have any relation to Genesis 1:1-4?” I will answer this question not from a Christian point of view but from a Jewish one. We must first understand what Genesis 1:1-4, Bereshit in Hebrew, has to say regarding the Messiah. If there is relation between Genesis 1:1-4 and the Messiah then John 1:1-5 would make more sense from a Hebrew perspective and not a Greek one. Let us begin by reading Genesis 1:1-4 and see what it has to say and what the ancient sages understood about it.
בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ׃ (Gen 1:1)
והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשׁך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים׃ (Gen 1:2)
ויאמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי־אור׃ (Gen 1:3)
וירא אלהים את־האור כי־טוב ויבדל אלהים בין האור ובין החשׁך׃ (Gen 1:4)
Gen 1:1 In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth;
Gen 1:2 and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of Elohim moving gently on the face of the waters,
Gen 1:3 then Elohim said, be light! And be light.
Gen 1:4 And Elohim saw the light, that it was good, and Elohim separated between the light and darkness.
The first thing we must notice is that when we read the Hebrew in a literal way we see something interesting starting in verse 1. It reads, “In beginning he created (singular) Elohim (plural, they God)”
The Jewish sages made this comment regarding this verse.
“Jehovah, Elohaynu, Jehovah. There are three steps to accept the mystery from above. In the beginning God created. In the beginning is the first mystery from where all else spreads…The name takes three forms and from there the name is interpreted in several ways… Rabbi Bechai explained: Elohim is El Haym. These are gods. Remember your creators (Ecclesiastes 12:1). The wise will understand.” (The Jerusalem Edition of the Zohar)
“When God created the world He created it through the three sephiroth [countings]—sepher, sapher and sipper—by which three beings are meant. The rabbi, my lord and my teacher of blessed memory, explained that sepher, sapher and sipper are synonymous with Jah, Jehovah and Elohim, meaning to say that the world was created by these three names.” (Rabbi Eliezer Hakkalir)
“Elohim is composed of two words, El and Haym. These are God. That Elohim is plural, though there is only one God, is truth. Eliezer sat before his father. We have learned that to him is justice. How is it that wherever we meet Adonai Elohim [yod, hay, vav, hay, the letters of Jehovah’s name], it means mercy? (the Zohar)
“He answered, It is written, know therefore this day and consider in thine heart that Jehovah is Elohim. Sometimes justice can coexist with mercy and mercy with justice. Come and see the mystery of the word Jehovah. There are three steps, each existing by itself, nevertheless, they are one and so united that one cannot be separated from the other.” (the Zohar)
“He is the highest and hidden light, which cannot be known. The ancient Holy One is revealed in three heads that are united in one, and that head is three times exalted. The ancient Holy One is described as being three” (Amsterdam Edition of the Zohar)
The Jewish sages and Rabbi’s believed that Genesis 1:1 explains creation by and through three Sephiroth or countings which are three names in Hebrew. These three names are synonymous with Yah, YHWH and Elohim. When understanding this interpretation we can now see John 1:1 with more clarity.
בראשית היה הדבר והדבר היה את האלהים ואלהים היה הדבר׃ (John 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.
Not only is the Word with Elohim but the Word is also Elohim (plural, they God) The very Word in Hebrew is devar and is used here as the very Word spoken by Elohim and who is with Elohim and part of Elohim in the plural. The third manifestation is of course the Spirit of Elohim but we will save that for a future blog. The second part of Genesis 1 is verse 2 which states the following:
“and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of Elohim moving gently on the face of the waters,“(Genesis 1:2)
The ancient Rabbi’s and sages declared that the Spirit of Elohim is the Messiah who is literally “hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis Rabbah 2:4) The Messiah not only existed with and as Elohim (plural, they God) but took part in creation itself. Going back to John 1 we see this in verse 2 and 3.
“He was in the beginning with Elohim. Everything existed through His hands, and without Him, not even one thing existed of the things, which have existed.” (John 1:2-3)
The very things in creation were created by the very hands of the Messiah. John is recounting the very acts of creation from Genesis to show the preexistence and eternal nature of the Messiah. John is looking back to Genesis 1:1-4 and explaining what the Jews already knew and believed concerning the Messiah. In Genesis 1:3-4 we read the following passages of Messiah in creation.
“then Elohim said, be light! And be light. And Elohim saw the light, that it was good, and Elohim separated between the light and darkness.” (Genesis 1:3-4)
The sages were drawn, in one midrash, by this passage to Psalm 36:9 were we read, “In Your light (or) we see light” The sages said that the light within the light is the light created on the first day while the light itself before the sun and the moon is King Messiah. The light is called good (tov) by Elohim which the sages said is the light of Messiah who was concealed before the creation of the world under the throne until his generation, (Pesikta Rabbati 36) This brings us right back to John 1:4-5 which reads:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.” (John 1:4-5)
The Messiah was the light of men and the light of the world which shined in the darkness from the beginning. John is speaking from the Hebrew and Jewish understanding that the Word who was with Elohim and who was Elohim is the very light in creation who is now the light of men that shines in the darkness. This very Word became human and was seen by his followers. The Messiah Yeshua said,
” I am the light of the world ; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12)
Published by The Jewish Institute.com, written by Dr.Al Garza