Christian M. M. Brady cbrady at tulane.edu
Tue Apr 30 08:21:42 EDT 2002

On 4/30/02 7:55 AM, "Jonathan D. Safren" <yonsaf at beitberl.ac.il> wrote:

> Ian,
> Memra is Aramaic for "word, saying". It occurs nowhere in the Tanakh, 328
> times in the Babylonian Talmud, once (!) in the Palestinian Talmud and 56
> times in the Aggadic literature, at times as a noun, and at times as an
> element in the infinitive lemeymra'.(I only looked up the orthography
> mymr').
> It's a cognate of Hebrew ma'amar (<'mar), and is sometimes its semantic
> equivalent in Mishnaic Hebrew.

Jonathan is correct. May I add from my forthcoming book (on TgLam)? It is
specific to that work in many of its comments, but the general info might be
useful (and saves me from re-writing). The notes (numbers 122--127) are at
the end. Those will be most useful to you all.

I hope this is helpful.

cbrady @ tulane.edu
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to
love our enemies; probably because generally they are
the same people.  -- G.K. Chesterton


Memra ‹ God¹s Word
There is perhaps no single Aramaic term which has received more attention in
recent scholarship than Memra. God¹s ³utterance² or ³word² is the means by
which his will is made known to his people and by which that will is
fulfilled. It is not surprising then to find this powerful term used seven
times in TgLam.122 Memra used in TgLam in order to further clarify Israel¹s
responsibility for her fate (she has ³transgressed² God¹s Memra) and God¹s
ultimate control of Israel¹s fate (the enemy can only conquer Jerusalem by
the decree of his Memra). Of those seven times that Memra is used in six of
those cases Memra indicates a pronouncement or decree from the Lord. The one
exception is found in 3.54 and will be dealt with below. Of those instances
in which Memra refers to God Memra is found in construct with gzr (decree)
three times (1.15, 17, and 20), in 1.18 it is simply ³his Memra,² in 2.17 it
is ³the Memra of his mouth,² and in 3.57 it is ³your Memra.²
During the past century many scholars, particularly in the field of New
Testament studies, have argued that Memra was a type of hypostatic figure
which existed independently, but alongside God.123 This view, however, is no
longer maintained by most scholars.124 Early in this century Moore engaged
in a detailed analysis of the material then available.

Quoting Moore:
"God¹s memra has sometimes the connotation of command Š sometimes it might
best be translated ³oracle,² the revelation of his will or purpose (not,
however, a specific word of prophecy); sometimes it is the resolution of a
metaphor for God¹s power Š [and] in many instances it is clearly introduced
as a verbal buffer Š, but it is always a buffer-word, not a buffer-idea;
still less a buffer-person."125

In 1956 the Codex Neofiti I was discovered and provided additional data for
the study of Memra. More recently Hayward has argued that in its origin
Memra is ³God¹s )HYH, His Name for Himself expounded in terms of His past
and future presence in Creation and Redemption.²126 This position has been
challenged,127 but all agree that the use of Memra within the targumic texts
as we have them is diverse and cannot be reduced to a single equivalence.

122They are 1.15, 17, 18, 20; 2.17; and 3.57. The term mymry occurs once, in
3.54, and is uttered by a man. It will be discussed below.

123See F. Weber, System der Altsynagogalen Palästinischen Theologie aus
Targum, Midrasch, und Talmud, (Leipzig, 1886), p. 180. The most recent full
length survey of the issues involved is Hayward, Divine Name and Presence:
the Memra.  His first chapter, ³The Problem of Memra,² has an excellent
summary of the history of scholarship on Memra up to 1981.  As noted
earlier, our attention will be focused upon the use of the term within
TgLam, but it is appropriate to note a few of the secondary sources which
are most relevant to this study. Chilton, The Glory of Israel, see
especially his section on the use of Memra within TgIsa, pp. 56-69. V. Hamp,
Der Begriff ³Wort² in den aramäischen Bibelübersetzungen, (München, 1938);
Michael L. Klein, ³The Translation of Anthropomorphisms and Anthropopathisms
in the Targumim.² VTSupp, 32 (1981), pp. 172-6; G. F. Moore, Judaism in
First Centuries of the Christian Era, vol. 1, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard,
1927); D. Muñoz Leon, Dios-Palabra. Memrá en los Targumim del Pentateuco,
Institución San Jerónimo 4 (Granada, 1974); and W. E. Aufrecht, ³Surrogates
for the Divine Names in the Palestinian Targums to the Exodus,² Ph.D.
thesis, U. of Toronto, 1979, pp. 66-110.

124See Moore (Judaism, vol. 1, p. 419) who states categorically that
³nowhere in the Targums is memra a Œbeing¹ of any kind or in any sense, much
less a personal being.²

125Moore, ³Intermediaries,² pp. 52-3.

126Hayward, p. 147.

127See Klein, ³Anthropomorphisms,² p. 175, and works cited therein.


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