Well, let me just say a quick word about the book that is at your table and why I wrote it. And some of you may have noticed I did put the obligatory Spurgeon quote in there. And of course you have to acknowledge your intellectual debts. So I’m referring to our brother Ed in there who was the source of that quote, which I think is perfect. He says, basically if you want to know about Jesus, just read the four gospels, very simple, but yet very profound. So this is living proof that I don’t just like John’s gospel; I actually like all four gospels. I just like John’s best because it’s the last one. And it just kind of, it’s the perfect capstone, right? For what the early church called the fourfold gospel. It’s really one gospel according to the four witnesses, right? In Jewish life.
Everything had to be established by the authority of two or three witnesses. Well, here we have four gospels. Stephen, you know, wanted two extras. So I hope you enjoy that. I originally wrote it for college students because you know, when I was looking for, (my son and my daughter were in college at the time), for a good book to read on the gospels and on Jesus, I just couldn’t find one that was a little more substantive but still relatively jargon free. You know, if I’m, most books are either a little bit too academic or just too lightweight and superficial. I wanted something kind of in between, you know, that really equips people. Hopefully solidly just, you know, tracking with each of us narrators. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’ll tell you what, it was a lot of work; especially writing through Luke now as you might’ve expected.
I started with, John naturally wrote this extra John first and then backtracked and went, you know, to Matthew, Mark and Luke. So Luke was actually the last one I wrote. And so when I was somewhere stuck in the middle of, of the travel narrative, it was just more of grinding it out because Luke is a long gospel. You know, it’s the longest one and it’s great but, but at some level, you know, writers will tell you, part of it is just kind of, you know, you persevere till the end just like in the book of Revelation. So yeah, I hope you enjoy that and commend it. If, it would help a great deal if all of you, each one of you could write an Amazon review just because a lot of people believe it or not judge the quality of the book by how many Amazon reviews it has.
So if we can humor some of those people and tell them that it’s a book worth their while. Well, let me move into my third and final lecture and I’m going to try to leave plenty of time for interaction. This is a workshop. And so I want us to work with the material, hopefully model, some solid hermeneutics is a well, which as you know, I espouse the Biblical Triad, which is history, literature and theology. So I hope you see that in action that I’m trying to give attention to history. Probably my emphasis is a little bit more on literature and theology and the inner play between the two here, right? The importance of structure and understanding the book, how the theological message is conveyed in, in the, in, in, in a certain literary context. Hope you see that action. I hope, I know.
I talked to some of you preaching through John right now. I hope some that is helpful as you, as you preach and as you teach and even just as students of God’s word, you know, John is neglected. Often I find people, you know, look at Paul, they look at the other gospels and yet here you have the one who was closest to Jesus during his earthly ministry who had just incredibly penetrating insights about who Jesus was and is. And so I’m basically just here as someone who loves John’s gospel and wants to commend it to maybe those who might never have had the opportunity or a occasion to, to study it in depth. So that said, let’s turn to the, the final sign in the festival cycle. The healing of the man born blind, one of my favorites. It’s, (apart from being, you know, historically true and theologically intriguing and very significant),
It is also a masterpiece of storytelling. It’s just so well told. I just Marvel at that. And so we’ve seen that in chapter six there was that watershed moment of many of Jesus’s disciples basically leaving, no longer following him. And then in chapter seven you see Jesus briefly at home with his brothers, an intriguing scene. It’s reminiscent of the way Jesus interacted with his mother at the Cana wedding at the beginning of chapter two. It’s quite clear that Jesus’ brothers don’t, at least not yet believe in him. They urge him, you know, to make a name for himself in Jerusalem and the, we’re not gonna take the time to, to study that in depth. But like his mother, Jesus’ brothers misjudged the timing of when Jesus was going to reveal himself and also his motives. You know, he’s not about making a name for himself.
So when you look at the midway point of the book of signs right there, juncture, right? 12 chapters, end of chapter six, beginning of chapter seven the picture’s actually quite bleak. And I know that I, in some of publications, I refer to the failure or at least apparent failure of Jesus’ mission. And I’ve gotten a little bit of gentle pushback from people who’ve said, what are you saying Jesus was a failure? Well, no, but in human terms, if you judge, you know, resonance by people’s response at this point, you have to admit Jesus doesn’t have a lot to show for his efforts, right? Other than the 12 who are the, the sole bright spot here many of his disciples leave him, even his own family. And so I think John intentionally, right? It’s not a coincidence that those two narratives are juxtaposed, is showing that that unbelief persists in Jesus’ own family. Even among most of his closest followers with the disciples, with the 12 being the only exception. And even there, one of them is a traitor.
Important ministry lesson here I think, ought to give us pause. You know, any of us who think that failure is necessarily an indication that we’re doing something wrong or conversely that success necessarily means we’re doing something right. I mean, maybe so, but maybe not because Jesus did everything right. He backed up his messianic claims with a series of startling signs and yet he was met with massive unbelief. So I think some on the mission field will tell us similar stories that sometimes the field is hard and the harvest is relatively meager and yet faithful witness is born. So there’s different ways we might gauge success in the kingdom. So the festival cycle that began with the healing of the lame man and the feeding of the 5,000, as we’ve seen, chapters five and six continues and concludes with four chapters, seven through ten that find Jesus at two additional feasts; it’s the festival cycle, right Tabernacles in seven and eight.
And then the feast of dedication, though Hanukkah is mentioned at the end of chapter 10. And these four chapters, cohere rather tightly at the very end, I’m going to have a, just trying to be practical here, a suggested preaching outline of the festival cycle. So, so you know stay with me here. Chapter seven and eight are in some manuscripts separated by the so-called pericope of the adulterous woman. As you know, those scholars are virtually united, and I hope you all agree, in their belief that the story was added later and was not originally written by John. And in my notes here, which I’m hoping like last year’s, if you missed last year, you can go to the Midwestern journal where it was published in the spring 2019 issue. We’re opening to do the same thing this year where we have kind of a written out manuscript of, of all three lectures combined into one article.
So in, in my notes, they already a fairly substantive footnote justifying text critically why, uh I think it’s John 7:53 to 8:11. The pericope of the adulterous woman is not original, can’t give an extended rationale here. But if you exclude that, then chapter seven and eight cohere very nicely and show jointly how Jesus initially delayed going to the festival. But then later on went, he appeared in public both at the midway point. And so that’s how you have the division 7:13 to 36. And then also on the final day of the feast, 7:37 to 39 and then seamlessly Jesus engages in a second teaching cycle, which culminates his affirmation that he preexisted Abraham remarkable, “before Abraham was, I am,” that’s kind of the climax of chapter seven and eight. And then, just getting a brief survey,
Uh there’s hardly a transition in 9:1 it just says as he passed by Jesus encounters a man who had been born blind. And then incidentally, there’s again virtually no transition in chapter 10. So I think the chapter division here at our English Bibles is partially misleading because it suggests that this is now a kind of a brand new story, which it isn’t really chapter 10 seamlessly follows, literally seamlessly follows on, on chapter nine. And of course since Tabernacles, right, in chapter seven and eight is celebrated as I mentioned early in September or October and then dedication is in December, chapter seven through 10 are in a fairly compact timeframe. So the plot is thickening and the narrative gaps get smaller and smaller. John includes more and more material as we get closer to Jesus’ final week.
So the setting then chapter seven, the first 13 verses. And this would be a good case study of how John portrays Jesus as fulfilling the essence of those different festivals. The feast of Tabernacles, uh it’s also called the feast of booths celebrated God’s provision for the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. You had water pouring and torch lighting rituals that are commemorated water coming out of the rock, God guiding his people by a pillar of fire at night during the Exodus. But for Jesus, the festival is anything but an occasion for Jewish national pride or even for just reliving the past. Rather, he announces that he embodies the very essence of what the Jewish people celebrate. He’s not backward looking, he’s forward looking. He’s one with the God who led Israel at the Exodus and he will lead his people in a new Exodus, through his death on the cross.
And so he takes the last feast of Tabernacles, through his earthly ministry, as an occasion to reveal just that. And that is what John is trying to convey here. True, it’s not theology 101 but certainly is a great lesson in advanced biblical theology. Now, halfway through the feast, verse 14, so you set the stage and then he makes a, an appearance he’s delaying, right, his, his travel to Jerusalem, but he does make his initial public appearance at the midway point of the feast. Again, he weaves into his narrative, (John does) a reference to a previous event, which is the healing of the lame man beginning of the festival cycle. When he says “I did one work,” Jesus said, verse 21, “and you all Marvel at it,” (I think he’s referring to the, the healing of the lame man.)
“Moses gave you circumcision and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision so that the law of Moses may not be broken. Are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?” Of course, you recognize the classic from the lesser to the greater argument here, which Jesus uses skillfully against the Jewish leaders who had an excessive concern for the law of Moses without recognizing its actual purpose because God’s purpose for the Sabbath command was hardly to keep a long time invalid from being healed. Jesus gives the example of circumcision, which was performed on the eighth day after a child was born. Leviticus 12:3. If that day fell on a Sabbath, right? Something had to give, because those two commands collided. Should you honor the Sabbath and refrain from work the way the Jews defined it?
Or should you go ahead and circumcision the infant boy anyway? Well, interestingly, and that’s what Jesus is getting at here, Jewish first century practices, we can see from the Mishnah as well, held that circumcision was to go ahead, even if the eighth day happened to fall on the Sabbath. So even the Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ day believed that the need to abate a circumcision command overrode the command to observe the Sabbath rest. Interesting, right? And so in this way, and that’s how Jesus argues that precedent had been set, the Sabbath commandment was not absolute, but it could be set aside in exceptional cases such as circumcision. And based on this precedent, Jesus argues very skillfully against his Jewish opponents, that if it was appropriate to circumcise a small part of a person’s body, why would it be illegitimate to heal a whole person? Lesser to the greater argument.
You just Marvel among other things, how Jesus was able to be- basically to beat, the, the, the rabbis and scribes at their own game, right? It was even his, his, his exegetical skills and his a logical reasoning skills were so far superior to theirs. And he’s just lowering himself here to kind of engage them on this level of mere human reasoning. He didn’t have to do that. It’s very gracious that he did. And so his point is, so why were they so rigid, uh not to allow for an exception in the present case, which was obviously a benefit to a person and didn’t truly violate the spirit of a Sabbath command? It’s very hard to argue with this kind of reasoning apart from the fact that it shows a lot of compassion and grace, which obviously the authorities lacked in this case. Just incredible fireworks display of, of Jesus’ ability to reason from scripture with people who were supposed to be the experts in that area.
Okay, and then John uses various voices in the crowd, at the feast, as representative of various Jewish messianic expectations in the days of Jesus. That’s what that section of of John seven is all about. And you, so you see you know, I have a whole kind of bullet pointed list in the Jesus of the gospels at this point. Some are saying when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from. So-Called, you know, hidden Messiah chapter seven, verse 27. And of course they use it as an argument against Jesus because they knew where he was from. So he’s saying he can’t be the Messiah because when the Messiah comes, nobody will know where he’s coming from. But then other people are saying, well when the Christ comes, will he do more signs than Jesus has done? Of course, that echo is again, right?
The whole idea of signs and, and there’s this implicit acknowledgement that Jesus sure did a lot of signs, you know, it was that, was that still not enough? Is the messiah going to do even more. So John obviously uses that with some fine irony. Others are saying, well, we thought, I thought Jesus was from Galilee, but doesn’t scripture say that the Messiah is going to be born in Bethlehem? Again, John shows that that’s a ironic because those people were just speaking out of ignorance here. In fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and so forth. So notice that those expectations were not only, you know, varied in some cases they were mutually contradictory. And again, John shows just with irony that people were just confused about who the Messiah was going to be. So no wonder, right, they had difficulty with the messiah Jesus turned out to be.
Of course, the lesson here is that, you know, when we come to Jesus, we ought to accept him the way he is rather than trying to you know squeeze him into our expectations. So we’ve seen Jesus spoke up at the midway point and then the second occasion, verse 37, John speaks on the final day, the great day of the feast, so-called because Tabernacles festivities lasted for a whole week and the eighth day, ended with, with just a whole firework of activities. And so it’s fitting that Jesus, you know, makes one more final public declaration on that on that great final day. And he uses Isaiah’s language here. Isaiah was of a huge influence for John’s theology. And of course, Jesus is you know, teaching as well. Jesus says, if anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink, and then he adds whoever believes in me as the scripture says, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.
And then John adds, that this was a reference to the Spirit that would soon be given most likely you know, we don’t have the quotes as the scriptures says, but we can’t really find it in the new Testament, that exact phrase. So most scholars take it as a, as a reference to kind of a composite references in Ezekiel. And so the other prophets. And so the interesting thing here is there’s some debate in the commentary literature. Does it refer to Jesus himself? Does it refer to believers in Jesus? You know, after the spirit is given? I think probably the latter is more likely. So Jesus is here saying that anyone who believes in him, they will themselves become a life-giving source source of the life-giving message about the Messiah and then seamlessly transitioning to the so-called paternity controversy. And in chapter eight, verse 12 and in essence, the debate revolves around the Jewish claim of descent from Abraham.
Jesus acknowledges that true the, you know, Pharisees and the authorities, they are ethnically descendants of Abraham, but he argues that spiritually speaking, they’re actually the children of the devil. I mean, you can see how that probably went over like a lead balloon there. Now we know from the other gospels that, generally the Jewish people did not view themselves as sinners. You know, sometimes it’s in quotation marks, they look at other people as, as sinners, but not themselves because they try to observe the law of Moses. But here again, Jesus has this very intricate line of reasoning. He says, well, since the Jewish authorities, opposed him, who was the God sent Messiah that revealed that truly the spirit in which they operated and that, that guided them, that motivated them in their desire to kill Jesus was actually the spirit of Satan,
Because, as we see in Genesis three, Satan was a murderer from the beginning, in verse 44. I mean, this is explosive stuff here. You can see that the gloves are now definitely off. So one of the highlights of that, you know, remember I talked about escalating animosity and controversy, I mean, it doesn’t get more escalated than that. They call the Jewish authorities you know children of the devil. And I think John wants to tell us too, that there’s really no middle ground, either you’re a child of God or you’re a child of the devil. Many are not gonna be that receptive to that approach, I would think, or, or others in the culture. But I think John is being very logical and theological and radical about that. And so he has this set of polarities, right? Either from above, or you’re from below. You either love or you hate.
You’re either in the light or in the darkness you see that also then in the, especially in first John. You either follow Jesus or you’re a child of Satan. Sometimes people don’t understand it. They talk about John being actually antisemitic, which is really ludicrous. You know, he was Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. You know, I think they don’t understand, this is not a matter of ethnic Jewishness. It’s a matter of those specific Jewish authorities that ended up having Jesus crucified being not made truly motivated by love of God despite what they, what they claimed. Anyway. So then moving on to chapter nine and the healing of the man born blind. Briefly, there’s this beautiful symmetry in John’s gospel. It begins with a prologue, ends with an epilogue. In between you have a story of Jesus in those two equal halves that are often called, you know, the book of signs and the book of glory or, or the book of exaltation chapters, you know, one to 12 and then 13 through 20.
And then within that first half, the book of signs you have as we’ve seen the Cana cycle, chapters two to four, and then the festival cycles in chapters five through 10. I talked a little bit with the president earlier. He said, well, what about chapter 11 and 12? Well, you have to wait until next time. in any case, in each cycle, again, beautiful symmetry. Jesus performs three signs, right? Three in the Cana cycle, beginning, middle and end; three in the festival cycle, beginning, middle and end. And so in this case, now we have the, the final of those three signs in the festival cycle. And if you’re keeping track, if you’re keeping count, this would now be the sixth sign. So only the, the raising of Lazarus would be left, which is obviously very, very special. there’s some more symmetry at work here.
It’s just incredible how carefully crafted the Johanan narrative really is because as I mentioned earlier, you have those representative figures of faith or unbelief in, in the Cana cycle it’s Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman; chapters three and four. And here in the festival cycle you have the lay man in chapter five and the man born blind in chapter nine as examples of unbelief, faith, unbelief and faith; representative characters. I admit that in the case of three and four, those are juxtaposed in back-to-back chapters. In this case, you know, they’re framing the festival cycle. Okay so John used a little bit of variety there, but I think it’s still the same symmetry and the same idea. Also now turning more to the comparison between five and nine which I alluded to in chapel already, both healings, right? The layman and now the man born blind take place on a Sabbath.
Very interesting. Both are signs so you have some similarities, but you also have some contrast. So even more striking. We’ve seen in the first the chapel message that the layman is anything but you know, certainly not grateful for being healed. Rather he reports seasons not once, but twice to the authorities. And you know, blames him for, you know, breaking the Sabbath. And then Jesus warns him rather sternly not to sin anymore lest something worse happens to him. And so if that becomes some sort of foil, right? A literary foil the lame man in chapter five for the, the healing of the man born blind in, in chapter nine because the two characters couldn’t be more different. Here, chapter nine, Jesus makes immediately clear that neither the man nor his parents sinned,
Rather, blindness was sovereignly ordained by God so that God’s glory might be revealed in Jesus. Also the responses of the two man couldn’t be more different rather than incriminate Jesus with the authorities as the layman had done, the blind man who’s of course no longer blind now strenuously defends Jesus against the authorities accusation’s. It’s actually very ironic, he turns out to be much a better theologian than the Pharisees and the scribes in the narrative. And there’s even some similarity with the Samaritan woman who starts out by calling him a prophet at first and then progresses to a deeper understanding of who Jesus truly is. He also first calls Jesus a prophet. Later he calls himself a disciple of Jesus. And of course the Pharisees are very you know, derogatory and even abusive and say, Hey, we’re disciples of Moses. You know, we don’t even know where Jesus came from.
He’s probably a sinner. Well, he must be a sinner or he wouldn’t have told you to break the Sabbath and so forth. And so finally, he actually worships Jesus; incredible as the climax of that narrative, which is the only instance of worship directed towards Jesus before, of course, Thomas’ declaration of Jesus: “My Lord and my God” after the resurrection in 20, 28. Again, the Samaritan woman is a partial parallel in that Jesus talks to her about worshiping spirit and truth, you know, but we don’t actually see her falling down on her knees and worshiping Jesus like the man born blind does here. Again, you have representative characters. Both are healed by Jesus but still, you know, you have to trust Jesus to reap the full benefits of a particular sign. And so the question then that Jesus is asking his readers, and I think is asking us today as well, is how will you and I respond to what Jesus has done for us?
Will, we responded in faith like the man born blind or the Samaritan woman in the previous cycle or will we prove resistant to Jesus like the lay man or in a previous cycle, Nicodemus, will we believe and or will we remain in our sin. That’s the all important question. All readers of John’s gospel do well to ponder and there and only there I agree with Rudolf Bultmann who called the gospel of John a gospel of decision. I think he’s exactly right. John calls us to make a decision either for or against Jesus. Okay. So finally then chapter 10, the good shepherd discourse, which follows almost seamlessly on, on the healing. In this case, what’s the common ground is that Jesus presents himself as the good shepherd who really cares for God’s people as opposed to the, the Jewish leaders who are irresponsible and, you know, being motivated really by, by self-interest.
And again, just look at church leaders today and just look at their tweets and look at their social media posts and try to discern if they’re motivated by self-interest or for love and care for others. And again, I’m not, I mean, I’m applying that same standard to myself. Don’t go and look at my tweets right after this. No, you should be able to. So again, I think it’s it’s maybe a a convicting thing to think about, but I think that is really what Jesus says is the difference. And so he used the good shepherd drawing on Ezekiel 34 here. The whole chapter is devoted to a stern denunciation of Israel’s shepherds in Ezekiel’s day. And so Jesus is basically drawing on that passage. I wrote a whole seminar paper in my seminary days. It was later published in the Bulletin of Biblical Research on John 10, John 10:16 especially, there will be one sheep and one shepherd directly taken from Ezekiel.
All right, so with this, we’ve come to the end of our study of the festival cycle. Again, just like in our study of the Cana cycle, we found the, the fourth evangelist to be a very careful and skillful writer who executes his game plan to perfection. His purpose in his gospel, and he shows a lot of forethought, is to set forth Jesus as the Messiah and son of God. And toward that, that end, he’s carefully selected a series of stark, startling striking messianic signs as we’ve seen structured Jesus’ ministry in this early ministry cycle the Cana cycling and the later one, the festival cycle with many kind of recurring motifs as we’ve seen, but with escalating controversy. So the plot gradually thickens as we move closer to the passion narrative. And at the heart of it all, as John makes clear, especially through the inclusion in John five and 10 is Jesus claimed to be God.
I think that’s John’s great merit that he sharpens our focus very strongly on that all important claim. Now by being highly selective and by focusing his whole gospel on that central question of who Jesus is, John calls, as I’ve mentioned, each of us to a decision: is Jesus God in the flesh as his followers came to believe or is he a deceiver, blasphemer and imposter as the Jewish leaders believed. What John would have us do, is follow in the footsteps and in the trajectory of the Samaritan woman and the man born blind who encountered Jesus and were profoundly impacted by him. And so I stand before you here as someone who’s been profoundly impacted by Jesus in a life changing encounter. And I know many of you had that same conversion experience. Both the Samaritan woman and the man born blind made that journey from recognizing Jesus initially as a prophet to becoming his disciple, evangelist and worshipper. And this is also the journey on which you and I should embark. So thank you very much for joining me on this journey, which continues and may God, bless you as you serve him and join him on his mission.
Thank you, and I think now we have exactly 16 minutes for Q and A, maybe a little bit more if Jared is allowing us to. All right, so any questions on, yes-
Yes, and so I think this is an instance of the mission motif. The question was in, in the good shepherd discourse, he talks about there’s going to be other sheep as well. So I think that refers to Gentiles who would also later join. This is one of several references. Another one is at the end of chapter 11 where Caiaphas says that Jesus came not only to the Jewish people but also the scattered children, you know in addition to that. So I, I talk about that in, in a book called salvation to the ends of the earth, which is a book on, you know, biblical theology of mission. And so it’s really interesting the question there would be ‘Did Jesus come primarily to the Jewish people or to the Gentiles also?’ And I think most scholars believe that it’s actually, he came primarily to the Jewish people.
You think of Matthew 10 where he says, don’t go right to anyone except to the lost, you know, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And it was only then, I think after Jesus’ death and crucifixion as the Jewish Messiah that then he commissioned his new Messianic community to embark on the Gentile mission. So that’s acts two following first Acts one eight right? You’ll be my witnesses when the Holy spirit has come upon you. You know, both Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, so, so you’ve definitely hit on something very important there. I love the mission theme in John. It’s often overlooked.
Thank you. Thank you. Can everyone hear me? You mentioned how the blind man and the Samaritan initially saw Jesus as a, as a prophet. So in witnessing to Muslims, do you think they are one step further than the secular world?
What is that last thing? So I heard that they both acknowledged Jesus as a prophet initially. Yeah, initially.
And then, then they became his disciples. And then even further. So in witnessing to Muslim people, would you say like they are one step further because they see him as a prophet, then the secular world because they see him as basically just a historical man. What are your thoughts on that?
Right. Well, I think in a Johanine narratival perspective, what you see there is there’s actually some progression in their growing in their understanding of who Jesus truly is. In other words, they have to start somewhere, right? And so you see that they gradually progress. And especially when you compare that progression with, you know, the comparative character like Nicodemus in chapter three, there’s the opposite. You know, he’s just completely dumbfounded and there’s no progression there. And the same with the lame man. I mean, he’s just statically intransigent. And so I think that contrast brings out the progression even more. And so I think the paradigm would be you kind of start with people where they’re at in their understanding and then gradually educate them, you know, and bring them closer and closer to kind of a fuller understanding who Jesus truly is.
So having spent such an immense amount of time studying John academically- is there some sort of shift in your mind or your approach when you begin to approach it from a devotional standpoint? Instead of seeking to primarily understand it, you’re trying to grow closer devotionally to God?
Mhmm, great question. Well first thing I would say is I don’t really distinguish between the two. But I think there’s a sense which my heart increasingly is to communicate what I’ve learned, you know, in really 35 years of, of, you know, close study of, of John’s gospel to others. Maybe just share my love for John’s Gospel and for Jesus in particular. Especially because being a parent, being a father, you know, passing it on to the next generation to my children. That’s seriously been, you know, a big motivating factor. And I think especially as they were in high school and then started going to college, I developed a more keen interest and involvement in apologetics. So for instance on Sunday I’m leaving, I’m going to a student retreat in Colorado Springs. I’ll be speaking most of next week to maybe 250 students from K U and Kansas state.
And some of the other, the other universities about Jesus and life in the spirit, they want me, wanted me to fuse the gospels and a little bit of Paul at the end- Romans chapter eight. Again, just as an outflow of- that, I feel like as scholars, you know, we do need to have a heart for discipleship and even a heart for the lost. One thing that I found really, really sad and tragic and convicting when I did some work on the book trying to make it accessible is that I gradually came to realize that scholars have actually, if anything, separated people from Jesus in the gospels, you know, and the critical scholarship has actually become a massive obstacle. And so what I found myself doing in many ways, it’s just almost like undoing some of the damage that’s been done by a lot of scholars, hopefully not me, you know, but, but even so, I mean, clearly there’s a sense in which you write a commentary, it’s a little bit more for an advanced audience, you know, either other scholars or maybe pastors. And so I think certainly I’ve progressed a little bit at this stage of my life in more, you know, Charles Smith would tell you there’s certain stages. So I’m probably more in the legacy leaving stage right now. I’m thinking that would be a legacy to just kind of pass on what I’ve learned to my children, to the next generation. You know about Jesus in John’s gospel.
You are pointing out the juxtaposition of Nicodemus and the woman at the, well, the man, the lame man and the man born blind that follows the same pattern of like Rahab and Achan- is he, you, do you, do you think he’s doing that on purpose and that he, he’s doing that to let us know he knows he’s writing scripture or I mean do you think he’s do that on purpose? Mirroring, mirroring Rahab and Achan as examples of Israelites and non Israelites
So are you saying that you see a similar pattern in the old Testament? (Speaker 5) Yeah, with Rahab being a non Israelite who shouldn’t have got it, and Achan being an Israelite who should’ve got it, and it’s reversed. (Speaker 1) Yeah. Well I think in, in John’s case, this is not so much a matter of, you know, salvation history and Jew/Gentile or you know, ethnic, because sure you might see that in the case of Nicodemus and the Samaritan, but that’s one among, maybe at least half a dozen contrasts between the two, you know and you don’t necessarily see that in the case of the lame man and the man born blind. So I think in John’s case, it’s more universal contrast between belief and unbelief. And you know, some people have called John either the gospel of belief or the gospel or you know, universal gospel. And I think that’s, that’s epitomized of course by John three 16. Right. “Whoever believes.” So in that sense, I think John is even transcending any Jew/Gentile distinctions. He’s just not that interested in that. He’s just interested in eternal realities, eternal life, you know, or lack there of. You know belief or unbelief.
So, you mentioned that a lot of, there’s a lot of skepticism in kind of mainstream scholarship towards the historicity of John’s gospel. So what are some reasons why we can trust the historicity of John’s gospel? And also what are some resources that we can read to learn more about that?
Okay. So what are some reasons that we should trust the gospels?
Specifically John’s gospel.
Okay. Yes. So Craig Blomberg has written a book called the historical reliability in John’s gospel, which I wrote an endorsement for. So I like it. And so that would be a good place because he looked specifically at some of the passages that some of our critical scholars would, you know, allege there’s some, you know, historical, you know, lack of accuracy and so forth. And actually the opposite is really the case. There’s some references that, that actually are unique to John. For instance, he is the only one who mentions the feast of dedication, for example, or he alone mentions Annas, you know, the father-in-law of Caiaphas and so forth. So there’s, there’s actually an article by Martin Hengel, mentioned him earlier, in German that talks about John as a reliable historical source. And coming from him, I mean, that’s, that’s very significant. So that would be, that would be one resource.
And certainly all my writings. I mean there’s, there’s times when I touched directly you know, on, on questions of historicity- remind you that the Peter Williams was here last year for Sizemore and he obviously he wrote that Crossway book called can we trust the gospels? And so it’s actually a very high end volume. So I don’t know if my, you know, say your regular college student might be able to fully grasp everything, but, but he talks about different geographical and, and other, you know, topographical ways in which the gospels show that they, they really knew their stuff, you know, and so I think it’s gone some way to push back against critics like Bart Ehrman. And of course you could also listen to the debate between Pete Williams and Bart Ehrman I guess last summer as well. So there’d be a few resources there. Yes writings of Don Carson who was here as well. That’d be somebody else.
So you said in the Cana cycle that there are three signs, so the one at the wine and in the temple, and then the last one at Cana, but, Then at the end of chapter four, John explicitly says like, this is the second sign. And I know he qualifies it. He says that when he had come from Judea to Galilee. So I was just wondering how you reconcile John, like that verse with your view that there’s three and not- You’re smarter than me, so I’m going to probably believe you way more [Inaudible], but I just kind of want to see what-
That’s a fair question, then probably you’re a representative character here. There’s probably what a lot of people were wondering about. So thanks for asking that question. Give me a chance to respond. I think yes, my answer would be that there’s a couple of intervening references to signs in Jerusalem in John 2:23 and 3:2. Okay. So John tells his readers that those two framing signs in Cana were not the only signs Jesus did. And so my point is that temple cleansing was just one of those Jerusalem signs. Okay. And the reference there, I mean, you answered your own question there. Yeah. I think in 4:54 it’s qualified by saying it’s a second sign he did in Cana, you know, basically queuing in his readers that this is now the inclusio yo, you know, going back to chapter two, verse one through 11, now again, critical scholars, you know, they have then you know, argued that John was following a so called sign source as what Boltman said and, and any, yeah.
And, and I think to me that is one of the reasons why people haven’t even looked for any intervening signs between, right, beginning and end of like two and four. So, and that’s why they missed the temple cleansing because they took it literally at face value and said, not just the second sign in Cana, but just a second sign in the gospel period. And so I’m just saying, well, look at 2:23 and 3:2 and you’ll see that John wants his readers to know that Jesus performed other signs as well. Again, you know, not everybody will agree with that, but it’s that coupled with the walking on the water kind of falling short when you look at some of the other signs has convinced me- maybe one more thing there. I think people starting out with the equation, it’s sign equals miracle.
And so obviously the temple cleansing is not a miracle in the narrow synoptic sense, right? Like the feeding of the 5,000 or the turning water into wine. So I think that’s another reason why they missed it. But I did an extensive study of the word sémeion in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the old Testament. So if you do that, you see that the word sémeion is used for two kinds of signs, the signs at the Exodus, you know, Moses and Pharaoh and those are typically called signs and wonders. So that’s the miraculous side of it. But then there’s also the prophetic signs and prophets like Isaiah who would walk around you know basically stripped down to his undergarments just to show the bankruptcy of, of Israel, you know, prior to the exile. And it would prophesy God’s judgment in the imminent future. And so I think the cleansing of the temple is that prophetic type of sign, which is an action that is conveying God’s judgment prophetically on Israel, you know, for, in this case, the corruption of temple worship. So Isaiah 20 verse three would be one place where you can see the use of sémeion in that second prophetic sense, in addition to the first sense. So I think what people have done is they have absolutized one kind of sign when the old Testament, which was John’s primary theological source actually is two different kinds of signs. Yes.
Thank you for offering this. And for the book, can we go back to John seven? Do you think that the spirit permanently indwelt old Testament believers? And how would you- you know, what is Jesus promising in John seven?
Thank you. That’s a really good question. And I, the short answer is no. I think that’s just the new Testament like post Acts 2 phenomenon. My good friend Greg Alison at Southern and I have written a book on the Holy spirit that’s coming out June 1st. It’s the first volume in a new series, 15 volumes in total, edited by David Dockery, Nathan Finn and Chris Morgan published by BNH academic. And so it’s on 15 major doctrines of the faith. And you typically have a biblical scholar survey the biblical material and then you have a systematic theologian you know, just take it from there. And so, yeah, it was my privilege to treat both Old and New Testament for that. And I think clearly what you see there is that the, the regenerating indwelling work of Holy spirit you know, is, is a new Testament phenomenon. And the old Testament typically you would have the spirit rest on leaders, you know, for their tenure.
That’s why David could say, don’t take your Holy spirit away from me. But you know, so the important relevance for gospel studies is that, so what we’re saying is that the 12 did not have the regenerating indwelling Holy spirit in them, right, during Jesus’ earthly ministry. And I think sometimes people would invoke things like, well, look at Peter, you know, he denied Jesus and so it’s okay if I deny him. I said, not necessarily because he didn’t have indwelling Holy spirit. If you’re a believer, you do. So the analogy breaks down at that point. Those of, you know, the disciples, as characters in the gospels, they were still pre-Acts two while we are, you know, post Acts two. Which makes the gospels more difficult to interpret than, say Paul’s letters- hermeneutically have to be a little more sophisticated.
So my question was referring to actually back in John five when Jesus referred to himself as the son of God- when the Jews were wanting to persecute him, not only cause the signs he was doing, but because he called him cause he called God his father. And then also the contr- or the contrast in chapter eight, the Pharisees make a reference to God being their father. And I wanted to see what you thought on that. Cause Jesus does say that no, your father is a devil, but they claimed they claimed at least a part of that. So I wanted see what you thought about that.
Yeah. So there is an important motif like talking about biblical theology, right? In terms of this child of God motif. And you see it in the prologue, right? Right. At the heart of it, you know, anyone who believes in Jesus can become a child of God. And then I think probably the main other place is, as you mentioned, both John five and then again John eight. And so if you want to connect the dots there, yeah, it’s very much about, of course, Jesus being the you know, the monogenes, you know, the one and only, you know, son of God and in a unique way. And it’s only used in the prologue twice in 1:14 and 18. And then in John three, twice in John 3:16, right? And again, John 3:18. So monogenes would be a unique, you know characteristic of Jesus and then derivatively right-
believers in Jesus also can become children of God, which means unless you believe in Jesus, you are not really a child of God, you know, in a true spiritual sense. And so that’s why Jesus makes some of those striking statements like in the good shepherd which in chapter 10. He says, you don’t believe because you’re not one of my sheep in this case, you know which to the Pharisees are saying what? The guy’s mad, he’s crazy. How can he say to, of course, we’re children of God, right? And so John again helps us to think spiritually. You know, and others like Paul in Romans nine would have readily agreed, you know, everybody who is ethically a Jew is truly a believer in the Messiah, is, you know, spiritually, saved. So I hope this at least roughly what you’re getting at there. Yeah. Yes.
How do you deal with preaching through John, the end of John seven, beginning of John eight with the adulterous woman? How would you, how do you deal with preaching through that in a corporate setting? In a church?
Just ignore it. No, I was kidding. Because obviously most people have something in their Bibles there even though, you know, it’s mostly in footnotes with some square brackets and already some sort of a notation. Most ancient manuscripts don’t have it. So, so that can help you, you know. But I, I’ve seen different approaches to that. One of the more effective ones I’ve seen is where people basically just take that as an opportunity to educate people on you know, what scripture is on the Canon on inspiration, on you know, a little bit of textual criticism maybe without calling it that, you know, kind of thing. So, so I think it, it becomes a good opportunity. Sometimes I’ve seen people do it in just five or 10 minutes. Other times I’ve seen them just spend a whole message on that.
And it becomes almost like a little bit of an introduction to, you know, the nature of scripture and some of the issues related to, you know, translations, transmission, biblical authority. You know, so we take that as an opportunity. And also, you know, I think there may be pushback against people like Bart Ehrman who basically makes it look like all of scripture is that way. Scripture is hopelessly corrupt then. You know what I’m saying? Actually, no, he’s, he’s basically lying to you and he knows better than that because this is one of only two places- as he knows. The other being, the long ending of Mark where you do have a significant textual critical issue. And we’re pretty much, I mean, the vast majority of scholars are agreed anyway, that those are just later additions.