Saturday, March 12, 2016

Micah 5:2: "Ancient Days" and the First Creation of YHWH

At some point in their history, the ancient Jews apparently believed in a created being alongside YHWH, who was subsequently used to bring the sum total of reality ("all things") into existence. This belief is reflected in the rabbinic writings, but it is also latent in the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. Micah 5:2 reads: "out of you [Bethlehem] shall One come forth for Me Who is to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been of old, from ancient days (eternity)" (Amplified Bible).

Now while it is true that the Amplified Bible and other translations render the Hebrew OLAM as "eternity"--the rendition "ancient days" seem to be preferable in this context: "'Origin' (MOSAOT, elsewhere only 2 Kings 10:27 with a quite different meaning!) echoes the verb 'come forth' (YS') and thinks of children originating in the loins of their father (BDB, YS', 1h, p. 423). Bethlehem as the 'parent' of the ruler belongs to a period now viewed as an era behind the current order and so belonging to 'ancient days' " (James Mays. Micah [Old Testament Library], pp. 115-116).

By no means do I necessarily agree with every sentiment expressed by Mays--in a sense, Bethlehem would bring forth the promised Messiah. Nevertheless, his years would stretch back to "ancient days" because he existed in heaven before coming to the earth. This does not imply that the Messiah was not created, however: he issued forth from his Father as the first creation of God and was not eternal in his preexistence (see Rev. 3:14). This point (about OLAM meaning "ancient days") is also forcefully brought out by Joseph Klausner:

"the words, 'from of old, from ancient days' indicate only the antiquity of his origin (since from the time of David to the time of Micah several centuries had passed), but nothing more" (The Messianic Idea in Israel. p. 76).

Probably supplying even more robust evidence for the idea of a created preexistent being with God is Prov. 8:22: "The Lord formed me and brought me [Wisdom] forth at the beginning of His way, before his acts of old" (Amplified Bible).

While admittedly this verse has been hotly debated, it seems most appropriate to translate QANAH as "created" instead of "possessed" as others construe this passage. In poetic contexts, QANAH is understood to mean "create" or "form" (Gen. 14:19-22; Ps. 139:13). Interestingly in Deut. 32:6, the word is parallel to ASAH ("to make") suggesting that it may have the meaning "create." Thus if the preexistent Messiah is under consideration as the figure of Wisdom in Prov. 8:22--then it would seem fitting to view him as being the first creation of Yahweh, then afterwards being used to create all things as the intermediary agent of the Most High God.


Duncan said...

This hinges on how olam is to be understood.

Proverbs 8:12 is of interest.

Wisdom dwells with?

Matt13weedhacker said...

Micah 5:2 LXX καὶ αἱ ἔξοδοι αὐτοῦ ἀπ' ἀρχῆς ἐξ ἡμερῶν αἰῶνος

Proverbs 8:21(A)LXX ἐὰν ἀναγγείλω ὑμῖν τὰ καθ' ἡμέραν γινόμενα μνημονεύσω τὰ ἐξ αἰῶνος ἀριθμῆσαι

Both Prov. 8 and Micah 5 LXX speak of ἐξ ἡμερῶν αἰῶνος and τὰ ἐξ αἰῶνος.

Gk., ἐξ denotes origin.

And Micah 5:2 LXX ἀπ' ἀρχῆς = from of a beginning!

Gk., αἰῶνος = an age of undetermined length characterized by certain events that occur in it.

In the case of Proverbs 8:22 LXX it is the age, or time characterized by ἐν ἀρχῇ, i.e. ἔκτισέν με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ and Gen. 1.1 ἐν ἀρχῇ and John 1.1 ἐν ἀρχῇ.

Could this be the same ἀρχῇ that Micah 5:2 ἀρχῆς speaks of?

Justin Martyr certainly thought so. He both spoke of the Logos as γένητος “created” (with a single "ν") in the manuscripts, not γέννητος “begotten” (with the double "νν"), as the Tri{3}nitairan printed texts have deviously corrupted.

Dial. 61.1A = γεγένηκε = MSS, BNF 450
Dial. 61.1A = γεγένηκε = MSS, Claromontanus
Dial. 61.1A Tri{3}nitarian Printed Texts: = γεγέννηκε

GREEK TEXT: “...τι ἀρχὴν πρὸ πάντων τῶν κτισμάτων ὁ θεὸς γεγένηκε δύναμίν τινα ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ λογικήν...” - (Dial. 61.1A; Folio 113b, BNF 450 Text.)

JUSTIN MARTYR (circa. 110-165 C.E.): “...because as a beginning, prior to all of those things that were created,{1} He who [Or: “that”] is [the] definitive God caused a certain kind of rational power [Gk., ( γεγένηκε )] to be created,{2} having it's origin from out of Him-Self.{3}...” - (Dial. Chapter 61:1-3; “Dialogue with Trypho a Jew”)
[FOOTNOTE 1]: Or: “that have been created”
[FOOTNOTE 2]: Lit., “to begin existence“ Or: “to be made” “to begin to be.”

Codex Regius Parisinus Graecus 450, or BNF (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, gr. 450), Folio 113b, can now (finally!) be seen online at this link below:

Codex Claromontanus, Folio 87v, can be seen online at this link below:

Duncan said...

Of significant interest here is Mat 2:1-6, Mat 1:1-5, 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 7:12, Luke 2:11, Mat 2:1,6, Luke 1:32-33.

Duncan said...

Sorry - 1 Samuel 7:12 should be 17:12.

Anonymous said...

What I find confusing is how someone can "preexist" themselves. A point Anthony Buzzard frequently makes.

Anthony F. Buzzard ‏@AnthonyFBuzzard
"[Preexistence] puts a being, a life in (paradoxical) relation to a being which has always existed." Otto, Kingdom of God & Son of Man, p175

“Preexistence” appears to be a way of papering over the obvious cracks in the theory that a single person can preexist himself.

"One cannot preexist oneself! Preexistence is a clever cover-up term for holding to “two existences,” and thus two distinct persons."

“How can someone exist before existing? How can ‘Jesus Christ’ exist before Jesus was born in Bethlehem?" Johnson, The Creed, 2003, p 108.

Terence Kenehan said...

QANAH - Genesis 4:1 - "And the man knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said 'I have gotten (qana) a man with the help of the LORD.'"-KJV

"In face of this evidence we must surely conclude that the ground-meaning of kana is that of acquiring something not previously possessed, which may be done by buying or MAKING it, in the case of a child by BEGETTING it."
C.F Bruce -Christ as the APXH of Creation, JTS,27 (1926) PP. 160-77, capitalisation mine.

Could we conclude that Jehovah "possessed" or "acquired" wisdom (the messiah) by begetting/creating it/him? I think this is how scripture paints it.

@anonymous I've always understood it as Jesus's PREHUMAN existence, opposed to the paradox of complete preexistence, as spirit form is a different kind of life/existence.
The idea that having two distinct existences necessitates two distinct "persons" to live in them seems like an either/or argument to me. But I may have missed something...

Edgar Foster said...

On Micah 5:2, from NET Bible:

"As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 6 seemingly insignificant 7 among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, 8 one whose origins 9 are in the distant past.10"

9 tn Heb “his goings out.” The term may refer to the ruler’s origins (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT) or to his activities.

10 tn Heb “from the past, from the days of antiquity.” Elsewhere both phrases refer to the early periods in the history of the world or of the nation of Israel. For מִקֶּדֶם (miqqedem, “from the past”) see Neh 12:46; Pss 74:12; 77:11; Isa 45:21; 46:10. For מִימֵי עוֹלָם (mimey ’olam, “from the days of antiquity”) see Isa 63:9, 11; Amos 9:11; Mic 7:14; Mal 3:4. In Neh 12:46 and Amos 9:11 the Davidic era is in view.

sn In riddle-like fashion this verse alludes to David, as the references to Bethlehem and to his ancient origins/activities indicate. The passage anticipates the second coming of the great king to usher in a new era of national glory for Israel. Other prophets are more direct and name this coming ideal ruler “David” (Jer 30:9; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5). Of course, this prophecy of “David’s” second coming is actually fulfilled through his descendant, the Messiah, who will rule in the spirit and power of his famous ancestor and bring to realization the Davidic royal ideal in an even greater way than the historical David (see Isa 11:1, 10; Jer 33:15).

Edgar Foster said...

Regarding QANAH, a friend once wrote:

At Proverbs 8:22 the Hebrew word under discussion is transliterated:
"kah-NAH'-nee." We are told in the passage that Jehovah "kah-NAH-nee." The "nee" suffix indicates the pronoun "me" in this sentence." But what is the core verb?

From Whence The Word?

On pages 888 and 889 of The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon (1979) under "Kah-NAH" [transliterated], we find: "get, acquire...(a0 of God, as originating, creating...Gn 14:,19,22, Dt 32:6, Ps 139:13; Prov 8:22" Note how this reference work relates this word to the subject word found in Proverbs 8:22. Further, on pages 663 of Gesenius Hebrew Grammar by Kautzsch (1988), we are informed that "kah-NAH-nee" derives from "kah-NAH" which on page 662 we are told means: "(1) to form, create (2) to get, acquire, to obtain (3) to buy, to purchase." Next, Strong's Concordance links "kah-NAH" to Proverbs 8:22 and defines "kah-NAH" as "to erect, to create, to procure, esp. by purchase; by implication to own, buy"

This means that Wisdom [Christ] was declaring that "Jehovah created, originated, formed me."

Duncan said...

I find it interesting that reshit can mean head (summit - ) & that the ABP translation of Prov 8:22 LXX is translated this way:-

Pro 8:22 The lord created me the head of his ways for his works.

Genesis 2:10 LXX

(ABP-G+) ποταμος δε εκπορευεται εξ Εδεν ποτιζειν τον παραδεισον εκειθεν αφοριζεται εις τεσσαρας αρχας

is interesting when compared to (YLT) And a river is going out from Eden to water the garden, and from thence it is parted, and hath become four chief rivers ;

Edgar Foster said...

Of course, Rosh Hashanah can mean "the head of the year," and there has been some debate as to whether the Greek kephale can mean "head" in the sense of "source." But D.A. Carson and Vern Poythress evidently "put paid" to that idea.

Duncan said...

The particular issue to which their debate relates had not occurred to me but since you mentioned it I do not think that it is over yet.

A third option?

Edgar Foster said...

I did read the article and will peruse it again later, to be fair, but the literature on kephale firmly supports the meaning "authority over." What I like about Poythress is that he carefully reviews instances of the word in the literature, and D.A. Carson's discussion also carefully points out the fallacies of the dissenters. The major lexica also support the meaning "authority over." Like all things in scholarship, nothing is usally thought to be conclusive. Yet we have to consider the preponderance of the evidence.

Edgar Foster said...


omar meza solano said...

Exelente explicación, hola soy Testigo de Jehová mi nombre Omar sirvo como precursor auxiliar en Perú lima , tal ves pueda habilitarme sus estudios en español? Le agradecería muchísimo le dejo mi correo electrónico y/o facebook

Edgar Foster said...

Thank you, omar. Good for you to introduce yourself, brother. Maybe catch you on facebook.