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Monday, April 03, 2006 

Reflection's on John's Gospel
Part 1
Topic: Exegetical

Reading: Lifehacker and 43folders
Enjoying: Fruit roll ups
Listening: Bruce Ware on the Trinity. I had heard him at the the BCP last year, and while some of the content is similar, it is sooo good again.

Upon recently listening to an interview of Dr. Carl R. Trueman by Pastor Mark Dever at IX Marks, Dr. Trueman mentioned the injustice done to the Fourth Gospel in the Academy. Rarely is much advanced scholarship done on this Gospel. Though it is not one of the Synoptics and has a variety of reasons for not receiving the scholarly attention other NT books have, we should be more honest: atheistic German scholars who had sold their souls to higher criticism, modernity and their own idols could not manipulate this text as they had the Synoptics.

What follows are some of my own and others' meanderings on the Fourth Gospel. As much as possible, the order follows the basic flow of the Gospel. Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, perhaps this will stimulate other minds as well. Hopefully, this proves to be some well used fodder for all Christians - teachers and learners alike.

Structure and Theme
* Despite the prologue encircling the Logos - the Word - in John 1, John's Gospel is not primarily "the Hellenized (read: Greek) Gospel," but rather the opposite. While the Fourth Gospel does not have direct quotes from the OT like the three Synoptics do, in form and in content John has written a very Hebrew - not Hellenized - Gospel. Starting out with "In the beginning," John is writing a commentary on the Old Testament, and furthering the OT narrative through the person and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Logos.

* Jesus, moreso in this Gospel than in the other three, takes up the mantle of prophet, and specifically, that of covenant prosecutor. The Old Testament is dominated by the motif of prophet coming to prosecute the covenant obligations on behalf of God to the faithless Hebrew people. Having cut a covenant with God at Sinai, both Yahweh and the Israelites make promises to perform functions. The disobedient Israelites try to play the whore and make side deals on God, who sends His prophets to prosecute the covenant law and carry out covenant sanctions. Jesus furthers this in John's Gospel, coming as the final arbiter of the Law, and ultimately to condemn Israel.

* John's gospel is a contentious courtroom of a gospel. Legal language dominates the whole gospel - witnesses are called, Jesus promises an advocate, the Jews are constantly trying to put Jesus in the dock. But the whole gospel is really the trial of the Jews, just as what appears to be the trial of Jesus before Pilate is really the trial of the Jews who ultimately say they have no king but Caesar. John's gospel shows Jesus bringing the covenant lawsuit against Israel, and Revelation, John's companion volume, shows Jesus carrying out the sentence against His own who have rejected Him.[1]

* John and Revelation function like Luke-Acts, with Revelation completing the story that was begun in the gospel. Gage pointed out the various ways that the opening chapters of John "gesture" toward the end of Revelation. Early in John, Jesus is presented as a Bridegroom, but there is no bride until the end of Revelation. John begins his gospel with explicit allusions to Genesis 1 ("in the beginning"; imagery of light/darkness, etc.), and this is completed in the Genesis 2 imagery of Revelation 21-22. The word tabernacles with men, and at the end of Revelation this same imagery appears again. He connected the prediction to Nathaniel (Jn 1:51) to the vision of angels and the appearance of the son of man in Revelation 18-19; the angels are "ascending and descending" on the Son of Man, who is revealed as the rider on the white horse at the "peak" of the vision in Revelation. In this sense, then, John-Revelation tells one continuous story.

* Both John and Revelation are chiastic, and they run parallel. John 12 is the center of the gospel, and Revelation 12 is the center of Revelation. Jesus is lifted up on the cross in John 12, and in Revelation 12 he is exalted to rule with a rod of iron. Jesus says that the prince of this world is judged in John 12, and Satan is cast from heaven in Revelation 12.[2]

* Jesus, his name in Aramaic rendered literally as "Yeshua," oftens figures as the typologicaly fulfillment of Joshua - "Yoshua." Joshua began his crusade by crossing the Jordan River to begin his holy war, and Jesus crossed the Jordan between Judea and Galilee. Joshua sent spies into Jericho (Jerusalem), two of which witnessed faithfully to God and urged the people to obedience. These spies had escaped the king of the land by going to the whore Rahab, and she signaled to them by a scarlet cord. In John's Revelation, God sends two witnesses urging the people to faith in God, and the kings of the land seek to put them to death. A whore is marked by a scarlet cord. Joshua sees a vision of a divine Man with a drawn sword who leads them into battle. John falls before the Son of Man, and a sword portrudes from His mouth, with which He makes war on the whore and kings of the earth. Jesus fulfills the Conquest and Joshua typologies throughout John's Gospel and Revelation.[3]

The Good News According to John
John 1

* Homer's prologue to the Odyssey delays the identification of the hero until the end of the prologue, a literary sign that this hero comes hidden, disguised, in craft. That, of course, is precisely how Odysseus behaves throughout the epic.

John's gospel begins with similar techniques. We learn about the Word and have some sense that he is a person from the opening verses. John is named, and we think perhaps John is the Word and the light; but no, John has tricked us, because John is only a witness to the light. We know all about what this Word has done - made the world, come into it, given rights of children to those who receive Him, revealed glory, given the fullness of grace. But it's not until verse 17, right at the end of the prologue, that Jesus is named.

And throughout John's gospel, Jesus is the elusive hero, the one born of the Spirit who comes and goes where He pleases and is heard but not grasped or seen. In some sense, he remains the hidden hero until His un-veiling in John's second volume, the "Apocalypse," when, like Odysseus, he returns to His bride to destroy the unruly suitors.[4]

* Though there was always grace for believing Israel at Mount Sinai, there is a new disposition to be found in the same stream of Christ. Grace and truth have come through Jesus, and it is a new matrix for grace - it is grace against grace. Though the Old Covenant is fading and being fulfilled/abolished under Christ's inauguration, the New Covenant is reaching high noon, and the glory of its light is now penetrating at full strength. While never disapproving of the Law, since it was good and can convert the soul, Christ is the means and giver of said Law, and His grace and truth are the means of all transforming power, for both justification, sanctification, and union with God.

* While it is true that God has always covenanted with man, He has also always provided an avenue - a contact point - for His glory to be in the midst of His people. In the Garden, His glory was radiated in His image-bearers. Post-fall, man's marred and defaced countenance could no-longer adequately convey the splendor of God, so new avenues were employed. For awhile, His glory was displayed in the shekinah cloud, Moses' face, and the tabernacle. Under David and Solomon, Yahweh's house was established permanently temporarily in Jerusalem. Now, however, in Jesus Christ we see the glory of God restored in the face of man once again. This Logos has tabernacled amongst us, and we have beheled His glory in the face of God. In Christ, the image-bearer who is a worthy vessel of God's glory, the pre-fall condition of Eden is restored. In Christ, there is no temple, for the Lamb is the temple where we come into the Holy of Holies and commune with our Great God.

John 2
* As mentioned above, Jesus is the Bridegroom awaiting His Bride, and nearly usurps His place in the Wedding at Cana. When most grooms serve the best wine first, Jesus shows Himself to be the true groom - and the rightful - groom, by providing the fine wine. His mother recognizes this, to which Jesus responds by calling her "Woman." Christ is here naming her a type of Eve ('woman'), who recognizes a New Adam who not only names, but creates wine from water. Like the first Eve who had hoped Cain might be the one to crush the serpent, this Eve (mother Mary) does not yet understand Christ's timing. He does not yet pour out the wine of the cup of wrath. It is His to drink, not the wedding celebrants.

* The word "zeal" appears only in John 2:17 and Rev 3:19. In both cases, the import is zeal for the cleansing of God's house - the temple in Jerusalem in one case and the church in the other. (In another study, which shows that John and Revelation form a single chiasm, the cleansing of the temple of merchandizers in John 2 is matched by the description of the merchandizing in "Babylon" in Revelation 17-18. When we factor in Jim Jordan's insight that economic imagery in Revelation refers to worship, we gain considerable insight into John 2. John appears to be using the same "merchandizing" imagery in his gospel as he does in Revelation; Jesus' objection is not to economic activity in the temple, but to liturgical corruptions.)[5]

More to come

[1]One of the resources that this piece uses are the thoughts generated by Dr. Peter Leithart. His text, A House for My Name (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2001), is a biblical theology tour of the Old and New Testaments. This particular idea was generated here. Back

[2]Here, Dr. Leithart plays off Dr. Gage, who will be mentioned more below. How the chiasm precisely works in John|Revelation is still a bit of a question, at least to our mind. For instance, does the chiasm run

John Revelation


A. A.

B. B.

C. C.

B'. B'.

A'. A'.

or does it run through both, such as











A'. Back

[3]Dr. Gage of Knox Seminary has, with Dr. White, done some important work on John|Revelation that both Dr. Leithart and What the Thunder Said... plays off of. Back

[4]From Dr. Leithart. Back

[5]Ibid. Back

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Well for the sake of argument I want to ask this, this idea that logos aligns this gospel more with Jews than the Hellenized doesn't seem to make sense to me. Isn't logos a very Greek term?

Well for the sake of argument I want to ask this, this idea that logos aligns this gospel more with Jews than the Hellenized doesn't seem to make sense to me. Isn't logos a very Greek term?

blund, heady stuff... and tight. I'll have to wade through it more later. I read your first point, about John being the more jewish of the gospel. I agree wholeheartedly. I've been studying it for a teen bible study, using ridderbos, and, when he comes up short, carson, though neither have noted yet just how dependent John is on his jewish identity in structuring his book.

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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