Wednesday, April 09, 2014

#40daybible Day 33 (John 1-6)

Day 33 starts the Gospel of John with chapters 1-6.

Some notes:
  • The "prologue" of John is a magnificent hymn to the Logos or "Word," which is not the Bible, but Jesus. John 1:14 makes it clear that the Word come down from heaven is Christ. In theology terms, we call the event when Jesus took on human flesh the "incarnation."
  • This language of God's "word" had a history in Jewish thinking. John 1:1-3 is exactly the kind of thing that Jewish thinkers like Philo said about God's word, his will in action. 
  • John uniquely among the Gospels emphasizes that Jesus existed before he came to earth. John doesn't mention the virgin birth and the others don't mention his pre-existence.
  • The Gospel of John seems to downplay the role of John the Baptist a little. For example, while Matthew tells us that JB was the "Elijah" of prophecy, JB denies it in John. John doesn't even tell his audience, perhaps at Ephesus, that JB baptized Jesus, and Jesus' disciples uniquely baptize in John at the same time as JB. 
  • In short, John makes it very clear that JB's role ends as soon as Jesus arrives on the scene. He must increase, I must decrease. It's easy to wonder whether Ephesus had a lot of "incomplete" followers of John the Baptist, and that John has paraphrased the story in such a way as to make it clear that people like Apollos had been need to go the whole way and follow Jesus.
  • John highlights some different disciples than the other gospels. For example, there's Philip and Nathaniel, Andrew,  and Thomas.
  • John uniquely tells about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, the first of seven "signs" Jesus does in the first half of John. Some think that John has moved Jesus' action in the temple to contrast the old purification with the new. In the other Gospels, Jesus overturns the tables in the final week before his resurrection.
  • John 3 has Jesus' secret interaction with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, including John 3:16. Jesus is back in Jerusalem. Another unique feature of John's Gospel is how often Jesus goes down to Jerusalem. Jesus attends three Passovers in John, which is where we get the idea that his ministry lasted three years.
  • John 4 has Jesus' interaction with a Samaritan woman. The temple is already destroyed as John writes, and he makes it clear that the temple is not necessary to worship God. God is a Spirit.
  • In healing a royal official's son, he does his second of John's seven signs (although he has done other signs between the first and second in this series).
  • John implicitly shows that Jesus has replaced various Jewish institutions. In John 5, Jesus shows that he can work on the Sabbath.
  • Jesus makes himself equal to God in John to a degree he doesn't in the other Gospels (which are sometimes called the "Synoptic" Gospels because they give a similar presentation that can be distinguished from John's presentation). Nevertheless, Jesus still in John does not act without the Father's initiation.
  • The miracle of feeding the 5000 is the only miracle all four Gospels share in common (aside of course from the resurrection...)
  • John 6 has the first of Jesus' "I am" statements, unique to John: "I am the bread of life." Probably it's no coincidence that John places this saying next to Jesus' feeding of the 5000, where he multiplies bread.
  • The Gospel of John was probably written as Gnosticism was on the rise. Gnosticism believed that matter was evil and thus that Jesus couldn't have taken on flesh. Not only John 1:14 but these verses especially combat that point of view. Disciples leave him as a result, perhaps an allusion to the split that had taken place in John's community over Jesus' flesh.
Personal take-away today:
  • John 3:8 has always been meaningful to me. The Spirit blows where he wills. God has a freedom to do what he wills.

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