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Risto Santala: The light of the Messiah

God’s first words in the Bible are: “Let there be light! And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.”

When we study the creation account closely we notice that it was not until the fourth day that God created the “two great lights”, the sun and the moon. The Sages understood this too to be a Messianic allusion. The Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, “Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?” and answers, “It is the light of the Messiah”. The Yalqut Shimoni, comprising catenae of Talmudic and Midrashic passages drawn up in the 12th and 13th centuries, adds to this exposition the words: “This is the light of the Messiah, as is written in Psalm 36:10,’In your light, we see light'”.

The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, ‘light’, to be one of the secret names of the Messiah, since we read in the Aramaic part of the book of Daniel that, “He knows what dwells in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2.22). Furthermore, on the strength of the prophecies of Is.42:6 and 60:1 -3 the Messiah is seen as “the light of the Gentiles”. Did not Jesus announce that he was himself the “light of the world”, and that, “whosoever follows me will never walk in darkness”? The Midrash understands the words of Daniel 2:22 Messianically: “And Nehora dwells with him. This is the Messiah-King, for it is written: Arise, shine, for your light has come (Is.60:1)”. Even Psalm 43:3, which is used in the prayers of the synagogue, is related often to the

Messiah: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.” We can see from the above words that the associative Jewish method finds Messianic allusions in places where Christians have not seen them. The Apostle Paul says that this Christ-mystery “has been kept hidden for ages and generations” (Col.1:26). Could it be possible that with these words Paul was referring to Jewish tradition?

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