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It has long been assumed by Johannine scholars that the Targums were of no use in studying the concept of "Logos" employed in John's Gospel. In The Jewish Targums and John's Logos Theology John Ronning offers surprising new research showing that the "Logos" title was developed from the Targums. Chapter one opens with a clear thesis by Ronning. He states, "This book depends entirely on, and argues for, the view that John's decision to call Jesus "the Word" the Logos, was influenced by the Targums"
(1). Such a forthright thesis is much welcomed and it is immediately grounded in the Targum text which did not translate the MT references to "God" as "God", but as the divine "Word". The truth of this thesis has great significance on how we are to understand John's intention in composing his Gospel, what his influences were, and just what he is trying to say theologically in his Gospel.
Is the stage set for a revolutionary understanding of John's Gospel to occur? It may be a bit premature for this. Yet, Ronning's thesis puts direct pressure on the major views on the origins of John's "Logos". It throws into doubt 3 important positions; 1) the belief that John adapted his concept of Logos from the Greek philosophical tradition, 2) that it derived from the personification of Wisdom in the OT, and 3) that it arose from the phrase "the Word of the Lord" found often in the OT.This work will no doubt mark the beginning of a very important discussion about the theological and sociological background of John's Gospel. It will, of necessity, become a staple in the library of every serious Johannine scholar.
At the beginning of his gospel, John refers to Jesus Christ as the Logos--the "Word." John Ronning makes a case that the Jewish Targums--interpretive translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic that were read in synagogues--hold the key to understanding John's Logos title. Examining numerous texts in the fourth gospel in the light of the Targums, Ronning shows how connecting the Logos with the targumic Memra (word) unlocks the meaning of a host of theological themes that run throughout the Gospel of John.
John Ronning (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies and director of the doctoral program at Faith Theological Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.