JESUS AS TEACHER
IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
In John 2:12-12:50 (Jesus' Public Ministry), Jesus' teaching material consists mostly of seven discourses. Often these discourses are dialogical, but sometimes they are soliloquies; in some cases, the dialogue evolves into a soliloquy. (Interspersed with these seven discourses in John 2:12-12:50 are Jesus' "signs.") In John 13:1-17:26 (Jesus' Last Supper and Upper Room Discourse), Jesus discourses with his disciples at length, preparing them for his departure. In addition, there are numerous smaller units of teaching material in John. Unlike the synoptic gospels, Jesus' intended hearers are more often individual seekers, Jesus' disciples or Jewish leaders; when he does speak to the general public (the "crowds" or "the Jews") in John 6:22-71, John 7:1-53a and John 10:1-19, Jesus uses metaphorical language, and is, consequently, not understood fully or at all, which is consistent with his pedagogical method outlined in Mark 4:10-12 and parallels.
It should be added that in John, Jesus makes it clear that his teaching comes from God (John 7:16-18; 8:26, 28, 38; 12:49-50), and, as in the synoptic gospels, Jesus teaches in various settings in the fourth gospel (John 6:59: Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum; John 7:14, 28; 8:2, 20: he teaches in the Temple during the festival of Tabernacles; John 18:20: Jesus says that he taught openly in synagogues and at the Temple). The people recognize that Jesus is not among the "learned" of his day and this produces astonishment in them: "The Jews then were amazed, saying, 'How has this man become learned, having never been educated?'" (7:15).
Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most scholars held that the Gospel of John reflected a non-Palestinian religious-historical background. In spite of the great diversity of conflicting proposals as to its background—such as early Gnosticism or Hellenistic Judaism—what virtually all critical scholars agreed on was that the fourth gospel was not a product of Palestinian Judaism. (C. H. Dodd lists suggested religious-historical backgrounds for understanding John [The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 1-130].) A non-Palestinian background, of course, necessitates the denial of the historicity of the Johannine portrayal of Jesus. Indeed, many scholars appealed to the alleged non-Palestinian Jewish nature of the gospel as proof of its non-historicity. Thus, for many generations, scholars seeking to reconstruct the teaching of Jesus neglected the fourth gospel, because they assumed that the discourses were primarily the author's own theological compositions and had little to do with the historical Jesus.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were probably composed or copied by the Essenes, remarkably are in many respects conceptually similar to the Gospel of John. Within a few years of the publication of the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars were quick to notice the religious-historical background shared by the Gospel of John and the scrolls (F. Braun, "L'arrière-fond judaïque du quatrième Evangile et la communauté de l'alliance," RB 62 (1955) 5-44; W. Albright, "Recent Discoveries in Palestine and the Gospel of John," in The Background of the New Testament and Its Eschatology, ed. W. Davies and D. Daube; J. A. T. Robinson, "The New Look on the Fourth Gospel," in Twelve New Testament Studies, 94-106; J. Price, "Light from Qumran upon Some Aspects of Johannine Theology," in John and the Dead Sea Scrolls). Although some claimed direct dependence of John on one or more of the Dead Sea Scrolls, more than likely both reflect a more inclusive Palestinian Jewish conceptual world. In reaction to this development in Johannine studies, some have pointed out that there are important conceptual differences between John and the Qumran sectarian writings (see H. Teeple, "Qumran and the Origin of the Fourth Gospel"). Although such differences forestall any simple identification of John as a literary product of the Qumran community, nevertheless, the similarities are numerous enough to obviate the need to search for a religious-historical background outside of Palestinian Judaism. Actually, to interpret John against a religious-historical background other than Palestinian Judaism usually distorts the meaning of a text, since alien meanings are given to key religious terms (see, for example, the commentaries by Bultmann, Barrett and Schnackenburg). The Palestinian provenance of the key theological concepts in the Gospel of John removes a major barrier to the acceptance of Jesus' teaching material in the Gospel of John as historically accurate.
Further evidence for the historical reliability of the Gospel of John is the ample evidence that its author is an eyewitness of what he describes, or at least had access to eyewitness accounts. It is now (sometimes begrudgingly) accepted among New Testament scholars that many narrative details in the Gospel of John are best explained as originating in eyewitness testimony (Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John; Morris, "The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel," in Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 218-92). Some of the detailed and accurate geographical references included in the gospel certainly suggest an eyewitness account. (For the complete evidence that the author of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness, see Literary Sources for the Reconstruction of the Life of Jesus.) If the author was an eyewitness, then the burden of proof is on the one who denies that Jesus' teaching material in John is not historically trustworthy; it would seem inconsistent for the author to be so meticulous as to provide so many historical and geographical details in his narrative, but so compositionally cavalier as to create theological discourses de novo, from his own imagination.
One might expect that the Palestinian religious-historical background of the Gospel of John and the evidence for its eyewitness origin would lead scholars to handle Jesus' teaching material in it as historically trustworthy. Against all the evidence, few scholars, however, have drawn this conclusion; they prefer to continue to exclude the fourth gospel as a primary source for reconstructing Jesus' teaching (a recent exception to this is J.A.T. Robinson, The Priority of John). The only real obstacle to an acceptance of the historical reliability of Jesus' teaching in the Gospel of John is the alleged incompatibility of the synoptic teaching material and that of the fourth gospel. As will become evident, there is no incompatibility, but only complementariness. It is probable that John the apostle composed his gospel to complement one or more of the synoptic gospels; this accounts for the lack of overlap in content with the synoptic gospels outside of the Passion narrative. (Morris refers to John as an "interlocking tradition" with the synoptics [Studies in the Fourth Gospel, 40-63].)
It was common for ancient historians to create speeches and place these in the mouths of historical figures. This is not to say necessarily that these speeches were historical fabrications, so that ancient historians must be judged to be writing fiction rather than history. In some cases, the speeches created by ancient historians are historically suspect, but this is not universally true (A.W. Mosley, "Historical Reporting in the Ancient World," NTS 12 [1965-66] 10-26; W. C. van Unnîk, "Luke's Second Book and the Rules of Hellenistic Historiography," in Les Actes des Apôtres, 37-60). Thucydides (c. 460-400 BCE) explains that, although neither he nor his sources could always recall the exact words spoken, nevertheless, in the speeches that he created he attempted to give an accurate rendering of the essence of what was said: "Therefore the speeches are given in the language in which, as it seemed to me, the several speakers would express, on the subjects under consideration, the sentiments most befitting the occasion, though at the same time I adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said" (History of the Peloponnesian War, 1.22.1). (Interestingly, Thucydides claims to be more careful with the "facts of the occurrence of the war" [ta erga tôn prachthentôn en tô polemô].) Similarly, Polybius (c. 200-118 BCE), reflecting upon the discipline of writing history, said that historians "simply record what really happened and what really was said, however commonplace" (Histories, 2.56.10). Now given his actual practice of writing history, clearly, for Polybius, writing speeches that reflect what a historical figure said on a given occasion but are not verbatim transcripts is consistent with the task of recording "what really was said." Closer to home, Josephus explains that his aim was to write an undistorted account of the Jewish war with Rome in reaction to the many inaccurate and biased accounts of the event (War 1.1-3). Yet he also created speeches for various historical figures. In one case, he creates two different versions of the same speech delivered by Herod the Great (War 1.373-79; Ant. 15.127-46). Although the later version of Herod's speech in Jewish Antiquities is longer than its earlier counterpart in Jewish War, nevertheless, the same basic points are made in both. It is clear that he is accurately reflecting the contents of Herod's speech, although not providing a verbatim transcript of what said on the occasion in either version. (Josephus does not provide information on his sources for Herod's speeches, but he rarely does identify his sources.) Thus, von Ranke’s now famous dictum that the historical task is to reconstruct “how it actually happened” (wie es eigentlich gewesen ist) did not form part of the ancient historian’s understanding of his task. With respect to the reporting of speeches, the ancient historian is content to give the essence of what was said, not a verbatim account, contrary to the stricter standards of modern historiography, which would judge the speeches in ancient sources to be not history proper.
The discourses in the Gospel of John are accurate summaries of what Jesus said on different occasions that have been translated into Greek, a Greek distinctive of its author, John the son Zebedee. (It is obvious that Jesus' speeches in the Gospel of John are summaries because they are unrealistically short.) The Johannine discourses are, in other words, Jesus' ipsissima vox (actual voice) rather than his ipsissima verba (actual words) (see Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, 182-86). As with Thucydides, however, it must not be concluded that, because John the apostle followed the convention of creating speeches or discourses for Jesus, the Johannine discourses are historically unreliable as sources for reconstructing Jesus' teaching. Not being a verbatim transcript of what Jesus said does not make the Johannine discourses historical fictions. Rather, there is a third option: tertium datur. One is justified in taking these discourses as historically reliable summaries of what Jesus said, either as John himself heard or as reported to him by others, including Jesus. John as a disciple of Jesus was, of course, present for many of the events that he reports in his gospel, and so he is his own primary source. It is possible that he had written down what he remembered of Jesus' discourses long before he incorporated them into a gospel. Unlike the synoptic gospels, the fourth gospel does not consist of independent units of tradition that orginally circulated as oral tradition among the churches; the origin of its teaching material is different: the summaries and translations of Jesus' discourses by the eyewitness John the son of Zebedee.
Unlike the synoptic gospels, in John Jesus only infrequently makes reference to the Kingdom of God. In the fourth gospel, there are five references to the Kingdom of God in two different contexts; in both Jesus is speaking to an individual not the crowds. John's purpose of supplementing the synoptic gospels may explain why he does not give such centrality to theme of Kingdom of God.
Jesus says to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, that unless a person is born again or from above (anôthen) he cannot see the Kingdom of God (3:3). (The adverb anôthen can mean "again" or "from above." The fact that anôthen means "above" in its other occurrences in the fourth gospel suggests that this is the meaning in 3:3 [see 3:31; 19:11, 23]. Yet Nicodemus' question in 3:4 implies that he understood Jesus to say that a person must be born "again." Perhaps to be born "from above" implies being born "again.") Jesus means that something must first happen to a person—described as born from above or being born again—before the possibility of entering the Kingdom of God can exist. Jesus elaborates by saying that unless a person is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (3:5), which is intended to explain the meaning of being born from above or reborn. Being born of water and of the Spirit probably refers to undergoing John the Baptist's baptism of repentance for the forgiveness and the baptism of the Spirit respectively. (In Mark 1:8; Matt 3:11b-12 = Luke 3:16b-17, John the Baptist says that, whereas he baptizes with water the one who comes after him will baptize in "the spirit of holiness and with fire.") Jesus' point is that the Spirit is operative in bringing people to the point of entering the Kingdom of God as a present reality, which is to become a participant in eschatological salvation. He chastises Nicodemus for not knowing this, even though he is a "teacher of Israel." Although Jesus speaks about the Spirit's coming as future, yet it is also true that the Spirit is operative in the present making entrance into the Kingdom of God a possibility. (See Carson for a different view [John, 185-203].)
Pilate asks Jesus whether he is a king, to which he responds affirmatively (18:33b-35, 37). He says, however, that his "kingdom" (hê basileia) is not of this world; if it were, then his followers would not have allowed him to be delivered over to "the Jews" (18:36). Jesus adds that his "kingdom" is not from here (ouk estin enteuthen). His point is that his "kingdom" is not like earthly kingdoms in that it has its origin with God. Ironically, the arrest and execution of the king will not hinder the emergence and maturation of the Kingdom of God.
In John, Jesus speaks more often of "life" (zoê) or "eternal life" (zoê aiônios) than he does about the Kingdom of God (see John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 26, 29, 39, 40; 6:27, 33, 35, 40, 47, 48, 51, 53, 54, 63, 68; 8:12; 10:10, 28; 11:15; 12:25; 14:6; 17:2-3). But one should not imagine that these are competing soteriological conceptions; rather they are complementary. Jesus uses both expressions, and even more besides these (e.g., “peace,” “new covenant,” “paliggenesia,” "that age,“ “visitation,” and "being saved"). In the Psalms of Solomon, the terms "eternal life" (3:12; 15:13) and "Kingdom of our God" (17:3) both occur as means of expressing aspects of the same eschatological hope. Likewise, "to enter into life" is used in the synoptic gospels to express what entering the Kingdom of God means in other contexts (see Mark 9:43-47 = Matt 18:6-9; Mark 10:17-30 = Matt 19:16-30a = Luke 18:18-30; Luke 10:28). Jesus speaks about eschatological salvation in various ways, two of which are the Kingdom of God and receiving eternal life. For whatever reason the synoptics stress the former whereas John stresses the latter. It is possible that John made a deliberate choice to do so.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks often about his role as the mediator of eschatological salvation. (Jesus speaks about himself in similar terms in the synoptic gospels; this is often connected with Jesus' call to discipleship.) Entrance into the eschatological salvation and believing that Jesus is who he says he is, however, are inseparable. As in the synoptic gospels, Jesus makes it clear that this salvation is intended for Jews (John 4:22: "We worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews.")
Jesus sees himself as the means by which human beings come to possess eschatological salvation, expressed in various ways. To reject Jesus is tantamount to a rejection of this salvation; to accept Jesus, as indicated by believing his words, leads to eternal life. Jesus describes his role as the mediator of eschatological salvation in various ways and in different contexts. Jesus' conjoining salvation to allegiance to him is also evident in Jesus' teaching about discipleship in the synoptic gospels.
In the synoptic gospels Jesus uses metaphor to describe the nature of the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel of John, however, Jesus often uses metaphor to describe his role as mediator of eschatological salvation. (Dodd lists what he identifies as the seven Johannine parables, by which he means central metaphors [Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, 366-87].) In order to understand Jesus' use of these metaphors, it is important to interpret them against their appropriate religious-historical background of Palestinian Judaism. There are particularly relevant, religious-historical parallels between Jesus' words and the author's own theologizing and some of the texts that the Qumran community produced or copied. Key terms with apparently similar meanings are shared by both. (Actually, with respect to their meaning, these key terms are not discrete, but semantically overlap to a great extent. In some cases, they seem to be virtually interchangeable.) There are also parallels in non-sectarian Jewish writings to consider.
a. Jesus' Use of the Metaphor of Light
Jesus refers to himself as the "light of the world" (to phôs tou kosmou) or simply as "light" (to phôs) (8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36, 46), by which he means that he is the world's light, the means by which light comes to the world. In this context, light means eschatological salvation. In 8:12, Jesus says that the one who follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (to phôs tês zoês). Jesus as the light brings life to whom he enlightens. The phrase "light of life" is a genitive of purpose: the light for the purpose of life. In other words, Jesus is the mediator of eternal life, a synonym for eschatological salvation (The genitive phrase "light of life" occurs in Ps 56:13 and Job 33:30.) After saying that he is the light of world, Jesus says that the one who follows him does not "walk in darkness" (John 8:12). Similarly, Jesus declares that he as the light has come into the world in order that those who believe in him would not remain in the darkness (12:46). To walk or remain in the darkness is to be excluded from the light understood as eschatological salvation as a present reality. Jesus' purpose is to bring eschatological salvation to those who accept it. In 12:35 the disciples are warned about being overcome by darkness and walking in darkness (12:35). Finally, in 12:46 Jesus says that he came for the purpose of being the light in order that the one who believes in him will not remain in darkness. In other words, Jesus' purpose is to mediate eschatological salvation. In 12:36, Jesus makes reference to the "sons of light," which is a designation for those who have entered into a state of eschatological salvation, synonymous with being a "son of the kingdom" (Matt 8:12; 13:38), and "believing in the light," which means to accept Jesus as one sent from God. (See also 11:9-10; 12:35-36 and 1:4, 5, 7, 8, 9; 3:19, 20, 21 where John refers to Jesus as the light. John also sets light in contrast to darkness, which aims to overcome the light [1:5], and refers to the possibility that men love darkness more than light, because their works are evil [3:19].)
b. Religious-Historical Background to Jesus' Use of Light
Light terminology is particularly dominant in Qumran sectarian writings. A representative sample of the occurrences of this concept are as follows (using Vermes’s translation, but not following him in his use his antiquated pronouns).
i. Qumran Sectarian Writings
The community is described in its future role as a source of light becoming an eternal fountain, resulting in the destruction of the sons of iniquity by fire.
The community interprets itself as having been redeemed by God to be an everlasting people and having been given a lot (inheritance) of light. The community is under the direction of the angel called the Prince of light.
At the eschatological battle
God will destroy iniquity, bring darkness low and magnify light.
In describing the wicked man (i.e., any man who does not join the community), the author says that the wicked man claims to seek the ways of light, but actually is looking for (and finds) darkness.
From the source of light are those born of truth, whereas from the source of darkness are those born of falsehood. Light/truth and darkness/falsehood are co-ordinate pairs of concepts.
The children of righteousness are said to walk in the ways of light, and be ruled by the prince or angel of light, whereas the sons of falsehood walk in the ways of darkness, and are ruled by the angel of darkness.
God created two spirits or fundamental dispositions in which human beings could walk or live, the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness. All human activity originates from one of these two spirits
The author sees the light that he has (in his heart) as originating in God’s marvelous mysteries; this light is parallel to justification from God’s righteousness.
In these texts, light is associated with God, having its origin in God. Human beings walk in the ways of light, insofar as they know God's requirements expressed in the Law and do them. There are two spiritual options or fundamental dispositions available to all human beings (two "spirits"), the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness. (One might even go as far as to say that light is the mode of God's being, a mode of which human beings can partake.) Those who do partake of the mode of being of light are appropriately called the sons of light. God’s light in the heart is parallel to justification (mishpat). There is an angel of light said to rule the sons of righteousness, corresponding to an angel of darkness said to rule the sons of falsehood. The community as a source of light is destined to destroy the sons of iniquity.
ii. The metaphors of light and darkness also occur in Palestinian Jewish writings that are non-sectarian in origin, fragments of copies of which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls
Although its members still must submit to final judgment, this group known as the elect in 1 Enoch 1-5 is assured of a positive outcome: “But with the righteous he will make peace, and he will protect the elect and have mercy upon them (1:8; see 5:4). In this context, to say that God will make peace with the righteous does not imply former hostility, but is a soteriological expression, meaning that God will eschatologically bless or reward them. (“Peace” being used as an expression for eschatological salvation in Jub. 23:27-31.) To make peace with the righteous is synonymous with having mercy on them and protecting them from divine wrath at the time of final judgment. The influence of the Aaronic blessing (Num 6:24-26) is evident on this description of the eschatological blessing of the righteous in 1 Enoch 1:8. The implication is that God will bless eschatologically the righteous in Israel, true members of the covenant, in the same way that he blessed all Israel in the past. The destiny of this group is further described in 1 Enoch 5:7: “But to the elect there will be light, joy and peace, and they shall inherit the earth.” To receive light, joy and peace is to be the recipient of eschatological salvation; in addition, the elect shall inherit an earth free of wickedness. This state of eschatological blessedness is also called “salvation," to which sinners will be denied (5:6).
Light and darkness are used to represent two spiritual and ethical realms in which a human being may live.
a. Jesus' Use of Metaphor of Truth
The term "truth" (alêtheia) is used in various contexts in the Gospel of John. Sometimes it occurs on Jesus' lips, while at other times John, the author, uses it. The term is used very loosely and even ambiguously. Thus, it is impossible to define it with any precision. (The interpreter can sympathize with Pilate's question, "What is truth?" [18:38].)
Jesus says that John the Baptist witnessed to the truth (5:33) and that he came into the world to witness to the truth (18:37). In this context, truth means something like God's eschatological salvation, so that Jesus is describing John's salvation-historical role as the forerunner of the Messiah, the mediator of eschatological salvation. Jesus also designates himself as the truth (14:6), by which he means that he is the mediator of the "truth," which again means eschatological salvation (as Jesus uses it, "truth" is synonymous with "light"). In the same passage, Jesus says that he is "the way," which is synonymous with being the truth: Jesus is the means by which a Jew obtains eschatological salvation (Jn 14:6) (for "life" see below). Jesus' self-designation as the truth expresses how eschatological salvation is inseparably tied to him. In dispute with his opponents, Jesus teaches that the one who holds to his teaching "knows the truth" and the truth will "set free" (8:31-32). As the object of human knowledge, truth refers not merely to correct understanding but to a saving knowledge, an understanding that leads to becoming a participant in eschatological salvation as a present reality. To be set free by the truth is an expression of truth as eschatological salvation: one is set free from sin and its consequences (i.e. obatins forgiveness) and perhaps the influence of Satan and the spirits under his authority. Jesus prays also that the Father would sanctify his disciples "in (the) truth" (17:17, 19). The adverbial phrase "in (the) truth" has the meaning "by means of (the) truth" (instrumental use of en). In this context, truth denotes something like God's salvific intentions towards human beings. Thus, to be sanctified in the truth is to be set apart as the recipients of eschatological salvation.
Jesus describes "the devil" (diabolos) as not remaining in the truth and as not having the truth in himself (8:44). In this case, "truth" has the more general meaning of the sphere of God's reality (or some other such phrase); there is a sense in which one can be separated spiritually from God, which is expressed as not remaining in the truth or not having the truth in oneself. Jesus also refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of truth (14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13). The phrase Spirit of truth may a genitive of quality—Spirit characterized by truth—in which case the meaning is that the Spirit is part of eschatological salvation. Or the phrase may be a genitive of origin—Spirit whose origin is the truth—so that the Spirit is designated as being from God or God's realm. Finally, Jesus says to Pilate that "those of the truth" hear his voice (18:37), by which he means those who are participants of eschatological salvation, or who are destined to be so, are responsive to Jesus' teaching. Thus the phrase "those of the truth" is a genitive of quality, designating they are characterized as being of the truth.
The author of the Gospel of John describes the incarnate Word as "full of grace and truth" (1:14) and says that, whereas the Law came through Moses, "grace and truth" came through Jesus Christ (1:17). He also makes reference to "doing the truth" as a correlate to coming into the light (3:21). To do the truth is to be obedient to God, however that is expressed.
b. Religious-Historical Parallels to Jesus' Use of Truth
There are many occurrences of the term truth in the Qumran sectarian writings, too many to list individually. As in John, the term is also used loosely and ambiguously in these texts.The following are samples of the use of truth.
God has decreed a destiny of light according to his truth.
All the spirits of truth (angels) are under the authority of the Prince of light.
The author calls the members of the community those who are resolved to God's truth. In this context, God's truth functions more or less as a synonym for God or perhaps is a reference to the Law.
The author calls his group the community of truth.
In this long section, the term "truth" is used in the service of setting forth a spiritual / ethical dualism. In 1QS 3 it is said that there are two spirits in which a person can walk, the spirits of truth and falsehood: "He [God] created human beings...designing for him two spirits in which to walk until the appointed time for his visitation, the spirits of truth and deceit" (3.17b-19a) "To walk in the spirit of truth" means to be rightly related to God (to be in the covenant), resulting in proper belief and in proper conduct. The spirit of truth is said to have its origin in “a spring of light,” whereas the spirit of deceit has its origin in “a well of darkness” (1QS 3.19). These seem to be synonymous with the spirits of light and darkness (1QS 3.25). In 1QS 4 the two spirits are said each to exist in an individual person in certain pre-ordained proportions, resulting in the ways of truth or works of deceit. (These denote the practical consequences of the two spirits.)
One's destiny is determined by the relative proportions of the two spirits that a person has: a greater proportion of the spirit of truth will lead to righteousness, which will lead to reward, and a greater portion of the spirit of deceit will lead to wickedness and punishment. The term "sons of truth" occurs in 1QS 4.5-6 to denote members of the community. The spirit of truth corresponds in some way to the angel of truth (3.24), who seems to be identical to the angel of light (3.20), standing in opposition to the angel of darkness.
God has ordained an end for deceit at the time of his visitation (final judgment) (4:18), when the truth will appear in the world (4.20); truth means eschatological salvation and judgment. In 1QS 4.20-21 it is said that at that time God will purify all the deeds of men by his truth, which is his salvific work: "God will purify by his truth all the works of man and purge for himself some from the sons of man. He will utterly destroy the spirit of deceit from within his flesh." In 4.21, however, it is said that God will purify man from all ungodly acts by the spirit of holiness and "sprinkle upon him the spirit of truth like waters of purification."
The terms truth and deceit are used absolutely. It is said that the doings of deceit are an abomination to truth and the doings of truth an abomination to deceit (4.17). As already indicated, at the destruction of deceit at the time of the visitation of God, truth will then appear in the world (4.18-19). In this passage, truth and deceit seem to represent or at least correspond to the two ages, the first is dominated by wicked/false beings; the age in the future will be dominated by righteous/truthful people.
The council of the community is establish "in truth" and its members are called "a witness to truth at judgment."
a. Jesus' Use of Metaphor of Life
Jesus refers to himself as having life in himself (5:26) or as being the life (11:25; 14:6); he also refers to himself as giving life to others (5:21; 6:33). When he refers to himself as the life or having life in himself Jesus means that he is the source of eternal life, that eschatological salvation is mediated through him. This is why he can give (eternal) life to others. Jesus also says that the Spirit gives life and that his words are Spirit and they are life (6:63). The Spirit gives life in the sense that the Spirit is the means by which one understands and thereby enters into eschatological salvation (see John 3:5-6: "I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."). When he says that his words are Spirit, Jesus means that his teaching is from the Spirit, being Spirit-inspired; this is why his words "are life": his teaching mediates the possibility of entering into eternal life.
While speaking in the synagogue in Capernaum (6:59) Jesus also says that he is the bread of God from heaven or bread of life (6:32-33, 35, 48, 50, 58). He is comparing himself as the mediator of eschatological salvation typologically to the manna that God gave to the Israelites, which gave them physical life. Jesus also talks about the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood in order to have eternal life (6:54-57). In so doing, he uses a metaphor to depict his life-giving calling: he is the spiritual counterpart to physical, life-giving bread and drink. Jesus' references to the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood metaphorically depict the need to assimilate that which is without—Jesus—to receive eternal life, in the same way that food and drink are assimilated to produce physical life. Jesus also calls himself the light of life (8:12) (see 1:4), by which he means that, as the light, he gives eternal life. When conversing with the Samaritan woman, he says that he is the source of living water that bubbles up to eternal life (4:13-14). Again he uses a metaphor to depict his salvation-historical role: in the same way that water gives physical life, so he mediates eternal life.
b. In the Qumran sectarian writings life is used literally to mean physical life, but also metaphorically:
In this blessing given to all the "men of the lot of God" the phrase "with the understanding of life," i.e., "with life-giving understanding" occurs.
The phrase "the light of life" (the same phrase the occurs in John 8:12) occurs, meaning the light that is characterized by life, or gives life.
Life in these phrases mean spiritual life, a certain quality of life that results from being rightly related to God; there is, however, no fully-developed doctrine of eternal life in the Dead Sea Scrolls, though it is implied in places.
c. In the post-biblical texts written in Greek, but reflecting a Palestinian background [with the exception of some aspects of 4 Macc] the term "eternal life" occurs along with "life" denoting eternal life.
The patriarchs and martyrs "live to God," meaning that they live eternally.
In this passage, the term eternal life occurs, in one case in conjunction with light.
These passages refer to "rising up to eternal life," "life in the Lord's light" that will never end and how the righteous shall "live by God's mercy."
Jesus describes his role as being the means by which people receive eschatological salvation as being the shepherd who leads his sheep appropriately and as being the gate of a sheep pen, which is metaphorical of his being the means by which people enter eternal life. This is the meaning of the statement that Jesus came for the purpose that the sheep would have abundant life: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." Those who enter through him into eschatological salvation will be "saved" from negative consequences of the final judgment.
1. John 5:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you that the one who hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life, and will not come into judgment but pass over from death to life" (see 5:25-26).
2. John 6:27-29: "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for eternal life, which the son of man will give to you." Jesus presents himself as the one through whom eternal life will be given to those who seek it; this is expressed by using the metaphor of Jesus as food. He explains that doing the work of God is to believe in him, whom God has sent.
3. John 6:40: "This is the will of my Father, that the one who looks to the Son and believes in him have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
4. John 8:24: "I told you that you would die in your sins. For I you do not believe that I am (who I say I am), you will die in your sins."
5. John 8:51: "Truly, truly, I say to you that if anyone keeps my word, he will not see death for eternity." The one who accepts Jesus as the messenger of God will be exempt from eternal death.
6. John 9:39: "For judgment I have come into this world, in order that those who do not see will see and those who see will become blind." Jesus offers eschatological salvation, and those who accept it are those who see; but those who reject him and his offer are those who become blind.
7. John 10:28: "I will give to them [my sheep] eternal life."
8. John 12:47b: "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (see the larger context: 12:47-49).
9. John 14:6 Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus means that no one comes to the God and receives eternal life except through him as mediator.
Sometimes, the author of the fourth gospel, John the son of Zebedee, includes his own theological reflections of Jesus' role as mediator of eschatological salvation. Stylistically and conceptually, these reflections resemble Jesus' discourses, indicating how influenced John was in his own theologizing by what he remembered of Jesus' teaching.
1. The Prologue
Unique to the Gospel of John
is the prologue, which contains an interpretation of Jesus as the logos
("word") made flesh (1:1-18). Many scholars suspect that the prologue
or parts thereof is a hymn that author of John prefaced to his gospel.
R. Brown, for example, proposes that the original hymn was composed
of four strophes (1:1-2; 1:3-5; 1:10-12; 1:14, 16), into which the author
of John interpolated 1:6-9 and 1:15 (The Gospel According to John,
1.3-4, 21-23). What Brown and others claim is possible, but not necessarily
the case. John could even have composed the hymn himself and then adapted
it as a prologue to his gospel. In fact, all suffer from the defect
of excess supposition.
The religious-historical background to the prologue is found in the Old Testament, where God's word, as his communication to human beings, assumes a sort of quasi-independent existence (e.g.'s, 1 Kgs 17:2; 18:1; Isa 38:4; Jer 1:2, 4; 2:1; 11:1; Ezek 3:16; 11:14; 12:1; see Ps 148:18). In addition, the personification of God's attribute of Wisdom is found in Prov 8; Wis 7:22-8:1; Sirach 1, 24; Baruch 3-4, so that Wisdom is depicted as both independent of God and identical with God. Thus, religious-historically, it is understandable how the concept of God's attribute of "word" (divine communication) could become the conceptual vehicle by which John expresses his christology, his understanding of Jesus. Unlike his religious-historical precedents, however, John conceives Jesus as the word as more than just the personification of an attribute of God, but as independently existent and made flesh. One could say that, rather than personifying the word, John hypostasizes the word, i.e., he makes the word into a hypostasis or an entity, but without ever denying the word's divine status.
In the prologue John begins by identifying Jesus in his pre-incarnate state as the word who was with God and who was God (1:1-2) (Grammatically, the absence of the definite article before "God" [theos] identifies this word as the subjective completion of "the word" [ho logos]; such a grammatical indicator is necessary because the order is reversed in the sentence, that is "God" precedes "the word": "God was the word" [kai theos ên ho logos].) The "word" was that through whom all things came into being. The word is then said to be the means by which all things were made, so that nothing came into being except through him. A new idea is found in 1:4a: "In him [the word] was life and the life was the light of man." For life to be in the word means that the word was the means of obtaining eternal life. In its next occurrence life takes the definitive article ("the life"), so that life now is the word and, as the life, he is the light of human beings, the means by which human beings understand correctly and thereby receive eschatological salvation. John 1:5 says that the light shines in the darkness; this is the first encounter with the Johannine dualism. The word as the light enters the world, the realm of humanity, which is in darkness.
In 1:6-9 the prologue relates the word to the historical figure of John the Baptist, using the term light: Jesus, the word, is the light, whereas John is a witness to the light. As light, the word comes into the world, which came into being through him, but the world did not know him. To those who did receive the light was given the right to be called the children of God; such are said to be born of God (1:10-13).
In 1:14 it is said that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. The incarnate word is called "the only-begotten son" (monogenous para patros), which means the unique or only son. In 1:16-17, the Jesus is interpreted in relation to Moses, thereby sketching for the readers a salvation-historical context in which to understand Jesus. In 1:16 it is said that from the fullness of the word we have received grace upon grace, meaning that in salvation-history it is through the word that grace comes in abundance to the world—it is a grace upon grace. The word in terms of his role in salvation-history is then contrasted with Moses: whereas the Law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (1:17). To say that truth came through Jesus is to say that eschatological salvation came through him. In fact, the phrase "grace and truth" is probably a hendiadys (two words expressing one concept) describing eschatological salvation. In 1:18, John concludes by again affirming the unique status of the word, whom he calls the son; this is especially true in relation to the Father. The son has the salvation-historical role of coming into the world and making the Father known.
2. John 3:16-21
In this section, John provides a summary of Jesus' role as mediator of eschatological salvation. He calls Jesus the son whom God gave to the world, so that whoever believes in the son will have eternal life. He also refers to Jesus as the light.
3. John 3:31-36
John makes another statement concerning Jesus' role as mediator of eschatological salvation similar to that in 3:16-21. He says the following about Jesus.
1. In John 6:37, 39, 44,
65 Jesus teaches that those the Father has given him will come to him
and no one comes to him unless the Father draws him or enables him.
Jesus also distinguishes between those who belong to God and those who
do not; the former hear the words of God, whereas the latter does not
(8:47). Similarly, Jesus says to Pilate that those of the truth hear
his voice (18:37). Speaking metaphorically, Jesus compares those who
follow him to his sheep, who know their shepherd's voice (10:3-4). Jesus
also describes himself as the good shepherd who knows his sheep (10:14);
Jesus knows his sheep, who listen to his voice and follow him (10:27).
In 15:16 Jesus states pointedly that the disciples did not chose him,
but he chose them, in order that they bear fruit. In 12:40 the author
of the Gospel of John, quoting Isa 6:10, explains unbelief as the result
of God's blinding the eyes and hardening the heart.
Jesus explains the meaning of what John the Baptist's prediction that the one who would come after him would baptize in the spirit of holiness (Matt 3:11a,c-12 = Luke 3:16a,c-17; Mark 1:8). During the Festival of Tabernacles, held during the fall harvest (see Lev 23:33-43; Num 29:12-38; Deut 16:13-15), Jesus taught in the Temple about the future giving of the Spirit (7:14), even though Jesus believes that the Spirit is already operative in an anticipatory manner [John 3:5-6]). On the eighth and last day of festival (Lev 23:36, 39; Num 29:35), Jesus announced publicly, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" On the festival of Tabernacles, certain required sacrifices were offered on each of the seven days. Jews were required to live in "tabernacles" for seven days during the seven days, and at appointed times march in procession while carrying a lulav (a bundle of palm, willow [and myrtle] branches) in one hand and an ethrog (citrus fruit) in the other. When the hallel (Pss 113-18) was recited, the celebrants would shake their lulavin (m. Sukk. 3.9) Although not required in the Law, according to m. Sukk. 4.1, 9 a water libation was made on each of the days of the Festival of Tabernacles. (According to m. Sukk. 4.3, 5, there was another extra-biblical rite involving the arrangement of willow branches around the altar.) A golden flagon was filled at the pool of Siloam and brought into the Temple through the Water Gate. The flagon of water was carried by the priest up the ramp of the altar where there was located a silver bowl into which he poured the contents of the flagon. The water was then drained out to the base of the altar. The water libation probably served as both a symbol of thanksgiving for rain received in the past year and a symbolic prayer for rain for the next year (Zech 14:17). Jesus uses the association of life-giving water with the festival of Tabernacles as a means to teach about the eschatological giving of the Spirit. He compares the Spirit to life-giving water: the Spirit gives spiritual life. The Spirit gives life as if it were a river of life-giving water flowing from within the innermost being (koilia, lit. body-cavity or belly) of a person. (The use of water as a metaphor of spiritual life also occurs in Isa 55:1; 58:11; Ezek 47; Joel 3:18); Zech 13:1; 14:8.) (On the eschatological promise of the Spirit, see Matt 3:11b-12 = Luke 3:16b-17; Mark 1:7-8). The one who "thirsts" spiritually should come to Jesus, because through him God will give the promised Spirit. As with all of of Israel's eschatological promises, Jesus says that the condition of receiving the promise of the Spirit is to believe in him. When he says that the promise of the Spirit is foretold in Scripture, Jesus no doubt refers to passages such as Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 36:22-27; 37:12-14; 39:29; Joel 2:28-32. (In fact, Isa 44:3 also compares the Spirit to life-giving water.)
Jesus criticizes some Jews for assuming that they retain the status of being sons of Abraham while rejecting him and his teaching. He concedes that they are the "seed of Abraham" by which he means that they are Jews in the physical sense (8:37). What he denies is their right to call themselves "children of God" and the right to call Abraham their father. In other words, he redefines a Jew as also being obedient to God: "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham" (8:39b). In particular, if they were children of Abraham they would accept Jesus' teaching and not try to kill him. Jesus even says that their father is "the devil" (8:44), because he like them is a murderer: "You are doing the deeds of your father" (8:41). He also says that they are "slaves of sin" (8:34). What Jesus says in John 8 has parallels to the synoptic account of John the Baptist's warning to his contemporaries: "And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (Luke 3:8 = Matt 3:9). Likewise, Jesus distinguished"sons of the kingdom" from "sons of the evil one" (Matt 13:38). The Qumran sectarians had similar designations for those Jews they considered to destined for eschatological destruction, including sons of darkness or sons of deceit; such Jews were thought to be under the influence of the angel of darkness In 4Q286, this same group is called "the sons of Belial" (frag. 7 col. 2.5b–6).
Only during his Upper Room discourse does Jesus clearly explain that his destiny is to die; his aim is to prepare his disciples for his departure. Before this he alludes to it in many ways, but never explicitly and clearly. At his last Passover meal with his disciples, in the context of the nearness of his death and departure to the Father, Jesus says and does the following.
3.3.1. Jesus washes his disciples feet as a symbol of the attitude that they should have towards one another; he thereby prepares them for his absence (13:2b-18) (see Washing of Disciples' Feet).
3.3.2. Jesus gives a new commandment to his disciples to love one another (13:34-35; 15:12-14). This is Jesus' understanding of God's essential requirement for human beings, which he gives to them to prepare for the time when he will no longer be with them.
3.3.3. Whereas, in accordance with Jewish expectation, he spoke about the future giving of the Spirit in a non-rejection context (John 7:37-39), Jesus explains in a rejection context that the eschatological promise of the Spirit would be fulfilled only after he has returned to the Father (14:15-17; 25; 15:26; 16:7-15). The Spirit will be given to the disciples and presumably to those who belong to Jesus' community (i.e. church). Thus, a condition of the fulfillment of this promise is Jesus’ death. It should be noted that Jesus calls the Spirit the paraklêtos. Literally, the word paraklêtos means one who is called alongside. The term describes the Spirit’s role as one who comes to the disciples to help them in various capacities. Jesus says obliquely that the paraklêtos has been with the disciples until now (par' humin), but will be in the disciples (en humin) after Jesus' departure (14:17). Jesus seems to be equating himself with the paraklêtos insofar as it is he who has been with the disciples. In this passage, Jesus explains the effects that the Spirit will have in the world. First, the Spirit will convict the world with respect to its "sin and righteousness and judgment," by which is meant that the Spirit will operate to convince Jews and gentiles of their sin and how they deserve judgment. (16:9). The Spirit will also convict the world with respect to "righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see me." Jesus seems to mean that the Spirit will convince Jews and gentiles that Jesus was from God and has been vindicated by God by being raised from the dead, which is why they no longer see him. Third, the Spirit will convict the world concerning "judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged." Jesus means that the Spirit will convince Jews and gentiles that Jesus’ death is the instrument of the judgment and overthrow of Satan as the ruling force in the world. Knowing this will allow human beings to appropriate spiritual authority over the Satan and evil spirits under his influence. Jesus continues by saying that the Spirit of truth will guide the disciples into all truth, and so be a means of knowing (16:13). The Spirit will glorify Jesus in all that he does (16:14a) and Jesus says that the Spirit will disclose to the disciples "all that I have" (ek tou emou) (16:14b). He adds that all that he has is all that the Father has (16:15a). Jesus seems to mean that the Spirit will disclose to the disciples all the spiritual benefits of Jesus, in order that they may appropriate these. (Earlier, Jesus spoke obliquely about the Spirit when he said that "whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" [7:37-39]).
In this context, Jesus speaks metaphorically about the disciples' remaining in him as branches remain attached to the grape vine; his meaning seems to be twofold. On the one hand, Jesus is saying that he is true Israel and everyone who is connected to him (in faith) is a part of true Israel; the vine is a symbol of Israel in the Old Testament (Ps 80:8-16; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; Ezek 15; 19:10; Hos 10:1; see also Mark 12:1-9). On the other hand, Jesus, in speaking about the necessity of remaining in him in order to be fruitful, is probably referring to the disciples' relation to the Holy Spirit. In 14:20 Jesus speaks about how on that day (the coming of the Spirit) Jesus will be in the disciples: this could refer to the Spirit's being in the disciples.
3.3.4. Jesus says that where he is going he will prepare a place for the disciples and will come again to get the disciples (14:1-4). Speaking metaphorically, he asks, "My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" (14:4). Exactly what he means by rooms in God's house, referring to places where disembodied spirits will go to dwell Jesus does not explain.
3.3.5. Jesus warns his disciples of coming persecution (15:18-25; 16:1-4). He explains that "the world," by which he means human beings as alienated from and hostile to God, will hate the disciples in the same way that it has hated him and God the father.
3.3.6. Jesus offers a prayer to the Father in the light of the approach of "the hour," which is the time of his death (17). He connects eternal life with knowing God the father and the one whom God the father has sent, the son, by which he means recognizing and accepting him (17:1, 3). He also says that the Father has given him authority over "all flesh," by which is meant human beings; this authority includes giving eternal life to all whom God the father has given him. So ultimately Jesus believes that those who accept him and his message are chosen to do so (17:2, 6). He prays for the protection of those whom God the father gave to him. They are in danger because, like Jesus, they do not belong to "the world," which is hostile to Jesus (17:9-20). Jesus explains he is in the Father and the Father is in him; he prays that those whom have been given to him will be in him and the father. This will result in unity (17:20-23).