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The Jewish Targums and John's Logos Theology

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"A significant contribution that promises to be a part of the scholarly debate for many years to come and is a must-read for anyone interested in Johannine scholarship and/or Second Temple studies."--Seulgi L. Byun, Bulletin for Biblical Research
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's fresh and stimulating study of the Aramaic tradition and the light it sheds on John's Logos theology represents another important, positive step in Johannine scholarship. The documentation is impressive and the arguments are compelling. There should no longer be any doubt about the role played by the targumic memra ('word') in Johannine Christology. Ronning's book is must-reading for anyone interested in the Johannine writings."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia

"Targum research is an oft-neglected branch of biblical studies, and this book introduces a number of areas where these writings can shed light on the theology and exegesis of John's gospel. While the author expects that it will take some time for interpreters used to other ideas to digest the material in this book, he hopes that perhaps at least there can be immediate agreement that scholars can no longer ignore or give superficial attention to the Targums while trying to explain John's Logos title. An excellently researched and thought-provoking book. Highly recommended."--Martin McNamara, professor of Scripture, Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Dublin; editor, The Aramaic Bible

"Ronning identifies an astonishing number of parallels that shed new light on John's theology more generally. Even those who may not be persuaded will surely acknowledge that this work is a wonderful education on the subject. More important, it is a contribution that changes the nature of the scholarly debate, and as such it cannot be ignored."--Moisés Silva, author, Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics; coauthor, An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics and Invitation to the Septuagint

"Aramaic was the principal language of Jesus and his first followers, and the Bible in Aramaic--available in the Targumim--was the version of Scripture they often presupposed. For that reason the Targumim are sometimes key to the exegesis of the New Testament. In the past, attention has focused on the Synoptic Gospels. In this book, Ronning shows that a critical reading of John's Gospel is also enriched by taking account of the Targumim."--Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion, Bard College

The Author

  1. John Ronning

    John Ronning

    John Ronning (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies and director of the doctoral program at Faith Theological Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Continue reading about John Ronning


"One feature in the Targums is avoidance of anthropomorphisms and the distancing of God from too-close association with creation through circumlocutions like Memra and Shekinah. For example, 'I will cover you with my hand' (Exod 33:22) would be rendered 'I will shield you with my Memra.' Literally, memra means 'the word.' However, the grammatical usage suggests that it is no hypostasis of God. Scholars have generally left it untranslated. Ronning insists that it should be translated, and precisely as 'the Word' (capitalized). He argues that this way the Targums best illuminate John's use of his logos as the divine word. Though the greater majority of scholars prefer to seek the background to John's Logos in the OT 'word of the Lord,' developments of the wisdom tradition, the Logos of Philo, or a confluence of all of these, Ronning has made a case that is massively documented and calls for a second look at the question."--The Bible Today

"The work is well-done and by all means it will captivate biblical scholars and others as well. Ronning offers a bunch of original documents and considers a wide array of contemporary scholarship. The evangelical community will highly praise the newly published monograph on John's theology rooted in Jewish sources. Furthermore, the work will be welcomed by scholars of Aramaic, Old Testament, and New Testament."--Igal German, Theological Book Review

"Ronning's work must be recognized for its value to Targumic studies and is a 'must have' for those engaged in that field of study. . . . Unlike other works in this field of study, this book is an easy read."--Michael D. Fiorello, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Ronning's argument is provocative and often convincing. . . . Some interesting points emerge, particularly in the argument that John's logos theology counters that of the targums in its emphasis on the enfleshment of the word."--Grant Macaskill, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"An impressive and somewhat provocative study of the Jewish Targums and the light they shed on the Gospel of John. . . . Ronning is to be commended for a thorough and meticulous study. The number of parallels that he identifies between the Targums and John's Gospel is striking, and his theological analysis is lucid. Ronning may not be the first to link John's Logos theology with the 'Memra' of the Targums, but his is certainly the most comprehensive and convincing work to date. . . . It is a significant contribution that promises to be a part of the scholarly debate for many years to come and is a must-read for anyone interested in Johannine scholarship and/or Second Temple studies."--Seulgi L. Byun, Bulletin for Biblical Research

"A well-researched book. . . . The author makes [his] case methodically and with great care. . . . Ronning's work is an important one in both its depth and breadth of research. He has made a compelling case for his assertion of a targumic background to the Logos theology of John. This book contributes in a significant way to the progress of targum studies."--Charles Rhine, Journal of Theological Studies

"Ronning has contributed a highly detailed and fascinating study to the background of the Gospel of John. In many ways, his proposal that the Targums provide the background to John's logos is convincing. . . . Ronning's study can contribute to the fabric of the background without the need to be an exclusive solution. . . . Two other helpful features of this volume may be noted. First, Ronning reveals a high Christology in his study. Second, through his focus on the Targums, he includes helpful observations and interpretations of various aspects of the Gospel of John . . . which are of value even if his central thesis is not provable. Also this book is of value for its introduction and emphasis on the Targums. Ronning's achievements here cannot be underestimated. No doubt the Targums will provide helpful results in further study."--Joseph D. Fantin, Bibliotheca Sacra