Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Lk 11:2, cont.)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou
(Luke 11:2)

In the previous study, we began exploring the literary context of the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer (and its Kingdom-petition). An important aspect of the Lukan handling of the Kingdom-theme is the way that the Gospel writer shifts the emphasis from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom to the proclamation by the disciples. As we saw, the two mission-episodes (9:1-6; 10:1-12ff) play a central role in the framework of the Lukan narrative. The first of these episodes, which is part of the Synoptic tradition (Mk 6:7-13 par), comes toward the end of the Galilean period, while the second (the mission of the seventy[-two]), which is unique to Luke, occurs at the beginning of the Journey to Jerusalem.

The mission of the seventy(-two) disciples, sent out by Jesus as a continuation of his own mission, serves to frame the entire Journey narrative. The journey to Jerusalem has an important place in the Synoptic narrative; however, its role is transitional, serving primarily to join the Galilean and Jerusalem sections of the narrative. In Mark, the journey is essentially limited to chapter 10. However, by contrast, in Luke’s Gospel, the Journey covers more than nine full chapters (9:51-18:31), thus forming a major division of the narrative in its own right. For the Lukan author, the Journey becomes the setting for a wide range of traditional material—sayings, teachings, and parables of Jesus—some of which occur in an entirely different location in the Synoptic/Markan narrative (or in Matthew). The arrangement of the material is primarily literary, rather than historical and chronological.

Given the emphasis on the disciples’ proclamation of the Kingdom, it is only natural that Jesus would take time to teach his disciples about the Kingdom. And, indeed, there are a number of Kingdom-teachings that can be found throughout the Journey narrative, as Jesus prepares his disciples for what will take place in Jerusalem. This teaching, in light of the framing episode of the disciples’ mission (10:1-12ff), also anticipates the early Christian mission narrated in the book of Acts. As we shall see, the Lukan author interprets the coming of the Kingdom largely in terms of the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Lord’s Prayer (11:2-4) represents the first Kingdom-teaching of the Journey narrative, following closely as it does after the mission episode (10:1-20). It is part of a block of teaching (11:1-13) by Jesus regarding prayer. I have discussed this section previously in the Monday Notes on Prayer feature, and will not repeat that exegesis here. The Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer is also part of a section on prayer (6:5-15), but in a very different location and narrative context.

It is worth considering the components of the Lukan block, isolating the elements and individual traditions according to the following outline:

    • Narrative Introduction, with a request by the disciples (v. 1)
    • The Lord’s Prayer (vv. 2-4)
    • A Parable illustrating the need for boldness in prayer (vv. 5-8)
    • Two additional sayings on prayer [Q material] (vv. 9-13):

The two sayings in vv. 9-13 follow the same order in Matthew (7:7-11), indicating that they were joined together at an early point in the tradition, perhaps having been originally spoken together (at the same time) by Jesus himself. The differences between the Matthean and Lukan versions of these sayings are relatively minor, except for the Lukan reference to the Holy Spirit (v. 13), the significance of which will be addressed below.

As for the Lord’s Prayer itself, the Lukan version (vv. 2-4) is noticeably shorter than the Matthean version (6:9-13), as also the version in the Didache (8:2), which is likely dependent on Matthew. The Lukan version has five petitions (governed by verbal imperatives), while the Matthew/Didache version has seven. Luke’s version also has a shorter invocation—simply “Father!” (vocative Pa/ter). As the phrase o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$ (“[who is] in the heavens”) is distinctive to the Gospel of Matthew, it is assumed by many commentators that the phrase here in the Prayer is a Matthean addition, and that Luke has the more original form.

The genitive pronoun h(mw=n (“our”) is far more likely to be original, since addressing God as “our Father” appears to have been common among Jews at the time—a usage that was continued by early Christians. It is found in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters, but as a fixed formula that would scarcely have been original to Paul (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 2 Thess 1:1-2; 2:16; Philem 3; also Eph 1:2). Even so, if the modifying pronoun was originally part of the invocation in the Prayer, it is not at all clear why Luke would have omitted it (especially considering the wording present in verse 13).

The reference to God as Father has an added significance within the Lukan context of the Prayer. Indeed, the theme of God as Father is central to second “Q” saying (vv. 11-13 par), which here concludes the block of Jesus’ teaching on Prayer. The illustration involves a human father’s relationship to his child, and how a loving father will give “good gifts” to his child when the child asks for them. Jesus’ application of this illustration involves the rhetorical qal wahomer (“light and heavy”) principle—viz., what applies in a lesser case should apply all the more in a greater case. What is true (in a positive sense) of a human father will certainly be true in the case of God as our Father. The Matthean version of the saying (7:11), which is no doubt closer to the original, brings out the parallel:

“If, then, you, being evil, have seen [i.e. known] (enough) to give good gifts to your offspring [i.e. children], how much more will the Father in the heavens give good (thing)s to the (one)s asking Him!”

The “good (thing)s” (a)gaqa/) would correspond to the third petition in the Lukan Lord’s Prayer (v. 3), and to the last three petitions (vv. 3-4) generally. Interestingly, Luke has apparently modified Jesus’ saying, so that it provides, instead, a climactic reference to the Holy Spirit:

“…how much more will the Father out of heaven give the holy Spirit to the (one)s asking Him!” (v. 13)

Otherwise, Luke’s version of the saying is close to the Matthean; the latter may have adapted “out of heaven” ([o(] e)c ou)ranou=) to the more distinctively Matthean “in the heavens” (o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$). It is not entirely clear whether the phrase e)c ou)ranou= (“out of heaven”), as Luke presents it in context, refers to the location from which God responds, or whether it means specifically that God will send the Spirit “from heaven”. The latter interpretation would anticipate the sending of the Spirit in Luke-Acts (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2:2ff).

This reference to the Spirit has profound implications for the Lukan understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Kingdom-petition in particular. In light of the way that the motif of God as Father frames the pericope, it is likely that the climactic reference to the Spirit functions in a similar manner. If there is a parallel, it is to be found in the first two petitions of the Prayer:

    • “May your name be made holy”
      a(giasqh/tw to\ o)noma/ sou
    • “May your Kingdom come”
      e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

The formal pattern of these two petitions indicates how close in thought and conception they are: i.e., the coming of His Kingdom is parallel to the making holy of His name. In Old Testament and Israelite religious tradition, the name of God represents God Himself—His manifest presence, character, power, and authority. A particular application of the name—for example, as it is called upon the people of Israel, or the Temple in Jerusalem—implies that the person (or thing) over whom God’s name is called belongs to Him. There is thus a conceptual relationship between God’s name and His kingdom—His name represents His dominion, all that belongs to Him, and which is under His authority.

There is a similar parallel between God’s name being made holy (vb a(gia/zw) and His kingdom coming (vb e&rxomai). The establishment of God’s kingdom (on earth) means that His dominion will be made complete and will be treated (by human beings on earth) with the honor and sanctity that it deserves.

The leading motif of “making holy” (in the first petition) guides the thought of the entire Prayer. Consider how the five petitions may be structured and outlined:

    • Petitions 1 and 2, regarding God and His Kingdom
      • Petition 3, regarding the earthly needs of human beings
    • Petitions 4 and 5, regarding the deliverance of human beings from the dominion of sin and evil

From an eschatological standpoint, the coming of God’s Kingdom marks the end of the wicked/evil kingdom(s) which dominate the current Age. The deliverance of human beings (spec. the righteous) is a natural consequence of the coming of God’s Kingdom upon earth at the end-time.

While Luke certainly preserves the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom theme, he expands the interpretation of it, particularly in light of the early Christian mission (see the discussion above). Here, the idea of the coming of the Kingdom blends with the theme of the coming of the Spirit. Given the climactic position of the Spirit-reference in verse 13, and the intentional Lukan adaptation of the underlying tradition, there can be little real doubt that the Gospel writer is implicitly interpreting the Kingdom petition in light of the coming of the Spirit.

We will be discussing this interpretive development in greater detail as we proceed; however, it is worth noting here a provocative variant reading of the Kingdom-petition in verse 2. In at least one minuscule manuscript (700), instead of e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou (“May your kingdom come”), the text reads:

e)lqe/tw to\ pneu=ma sou to\ a%gion e)f’ h(ma=$ kai\ kaqarisa/tw h(ma=$
“May your holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us”

The reading in manuscript 162 is similar; and a comparable reading is known to have been extant in Greek manuscripts in the 4th-5th centuries, as attested from quotations by Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus Confessor. Even earlier, Tertullian conceivably could be alluding to a Spirit-petition present in texts of Lk 11:2 (cf. Against Marcion IV.26), though this is not certain. It has been explained as a gloss, perhaps deriving from liturgical tradition, that inadvertently crept into the text. Cf. UBS/Metzger, p. 130f, who cites a similar prayer-petition from the Greek Acts of Thomas §27.

Whatever the origin of this variant reading, I would maintain that, at least in terms of the implicit identification of God’s Kingdom with the Holy Spirit, it corresponds with the Lukan interpretation. To be more precise, from a Lukan theological standpoint, there are two main components of the Kingdom as it begins to be established through the early Christian mission: (1) the proclamation of the Gospel, and (2) the coming of the Spirit. This understanding of the Kingdom is established at the beginning of the book of Acts (1:3-5, 6-8), and then is expounded throughout the remaining narrative.

References above marked “UBS/Metzer” are to Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament [4th revised edition] (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft / United Bible Societies, 1994).

Saturday Series: 1 John 3:4-9 (continued)

1 John 3:4-9, continued

In our study on 1 John 3:4-9, we have examined the climactic sin-references in verses 6 and 9. Each of these verses marks the climax of a parallel unit—vv. 4-6 and 7-9, respectively. There is, indeed, a parallelism to the three statements in each unit:

    • Statement 1, contrasting the true and false believer:
      “the (one) doing the sin” (v. 4)
      “the (one) doing the right (thing)” (v. 7)
    • Statement 2, describing the mission of the Son (Jesus) with regard to the removal of sin; he appeared (lit. was made to shine forth):
      “…(so) that he might take away sin” (v. 5)
      “…(so) that he might dissolve the works of the Diábolos” (v. 8b)
    • Statement 3, regarding the sinlessness of the (true) believer in Christ:
      “every (one) remaining in him does not sin” (v. 6)
      “every (one) having come to be (born) of God does not do sin” (v. 9)

The implications of statements 2 and 3, when taken together, are clear: the Son, through his mission, removed sin, and thus the true believer, who remains in him, does not sin.

As I discussed in the previous study, verse 9 formulates this characteristic of the true believer according to two distinctly Johannine theological idioms: (1) the motif of birth, using the verb gennᜠ(“come to be [born]”) + the preposition ek (“[out] of”); and (2) the use of the verb ménœ (“remain, abide”). Both of these aspects are emphasized in verse 9. As I noted, the birth imagery dominates, and includes the aspect of remaining: the believer comes to be born out of God, and then, as His offspring, God’s seed (spérma) remains in the believer. Both aspects are integral to the idea of the sinlessness of the believer, as the chiastic arrangement of the verse indicates:

    • every (one) having come to be (born) of God
      • he does not sin
        • His seed remains in him
      • he is not able to sin
    • he has come to be (born) of God

If we are to understand how the believer can be sinless (and “unable to sin”) —in apparent contradiction to what the author wrote earlier (in 1:5-2:2; see also 5:16-17)—the key is in this central motif of God’s seed remaining in the believer. In this regard, it is necessary to address two interpretive questions:

    1. How is the “seed” of God, that remains in the believer, to be explained? and
    2. How does the remaining of this Divine “seed” in the believer relate to the remaining of the believer in God?

Let us consider each of these, in turn.

1. How is the “seed” of God, that remains in the believer, to be explained?

First, the context makes clear that the word spérma (“seed”) here refers to the believer’s birth from God (lit. “out of God,” ek tou Theou). Because the male image of “seed” (spérma, i.e. ‘sperm’) is utilized, some commentators believe that the principal idea that is being emphasized is the begetting of the believer, rather than the birth per se. The seed-motif certainly implies a begetting by God as Father; this “seed” literally comes “out of” God, to be implanted within the believer. It is a Divine seed, and enables the birth of the believer as God’s own “offspring” (téknon). Though the idea of ‘begetting’ is certainly present, it is, in fact, the birth of the believer that is principally in view.

The noun spérma occurs only rarely in the Johannine writings. Even though the theological birth-motif occurs with some frequency, especially in 1 John (2:29; 3:1-2, 10; 4:7; 5:1-2, 4, 18; see also Jn 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 8:39ff; 11:52), the noun spérma is not used elsewhere in this context, except indirectly in Jn 8:33, 37 (compare the following vv. 39-47). The only other occurrence in the Gospel and Letters (Jn 7:25) simply uses the word in the figurative sense of a person’s offspring (or descendant).

There are, however, instances elsewhere in the New Testament where spérma is used in a theological sense. Most notably, there is Jesus’ parable of the Sower, in which the “seed” that is sown is explained as symbolizing the “Word (of God)”, Mark 4:14ff par. In that Synoptic passage, the noun spérma is implied, but then is used explicitly in a subsequent parable (v. 31), and in the Matthean parable of the Weeds (13:24-30, 36-43), where it has a comparable meaning. In these Kingdom-parables, the “word” or “account” (lógos) of God refers specifically to the preaching/teaching of Jesus (regarding the Kingdom of God). The Son’s “word” (lógos) also has a central place in Johannine tradition, even if this is expressed rather differently than it is in the Synoptics, with a stronger theological (and Christological) orientation.

The closest parallel to 1 Jn 3:9 is found in 1 Peter 1:23; indeed, the wording and thought is quite similar, referring to believers as:

“having come to be (born) again, not out of a decaying seed [sporá], but undecaying, through the Word of God living and remaining”

The parallels with Johannine thought, and to v. 9 in particular, are noteworthy:

    • the use of the verb gennᜠ(here the compound anagennáœ) + the preposition ek, to express the idea of the birth of believers
    • the use of a (substantive) perfect passive participle to express this as a fundamental characteristic of believers
    • the idea that this is a new birth, with the believer being “born again/anew” (compare Jn 3:3ff)
    • this new birth is facilitated by the presence of God’s own “seed” (the related noun sporá instead of spérma)
    • the true, spiritual nature of the imagery is indicated by the language used, and by the specific designation of the seed/word as “living” (zœ¡ntos)—see Jn 4:10-11; 6:51, 57; 7:39.
    • the use of the verb ménœ (“remain, abide”)
    • the idea that the Word of God “remains” in the believer

A different kind of parallel can be found in Paul’s use of the noun spérma in Galatians 3 (vv. 16, 19, 29) and Romans 4 (vv. 13, 16, 18; also 9:7-8). There the expression is “seed of Abraham”, identifying believers as the true offspring/descendants of Abraham, and thus able to inherit the covenant promises made by God. It is actually Jesus who is the “seed”, but believers take on the same identity through trust in him. Ultimately, this is another way of referring to believers as the sons/children of God (see Gal 3:26-29; 4:4-6; Rom 8:14-17ff; 9:8). A similar “seed of Abraham” theme appears in the Gospel of John (8:31-47).

There are two ways of understanding the “seed” motif in 1 John 3:9: (a) as the implanted Word of God, and (b) as the living Spirit of God which enables our “birth” (Jn 3:5-8) as His offspring. In Johannine thought, these two aspects are tied together, and it would be a mistake to create a false dichotomy by suggesting that the interpreter here must choose a single aspect. In responding with faith/trust, the believer receives the Word—the Word of God the Father, manifest in and through the Son. It comes to remain (i.e., abide) within the believer. However, since God Himself is Spirit (Jn 4:24), His Word also is Spirit (see 6:63). The believer is united with both Father and Son through the presence of the Spirit; it is the Spirit that remains in the believer (1 Jn 3:23; 4:13), and His Word through the Spirit. Primarily, then, the “seed” that remains in the believer is the Spirit of God, but it is also His Word.

2. How does the remaining of this Divine “seed” in the believer relate to the remaining of the believer in God?

The Johannine writings use the verb ménœ to express both sides of the abiding union of the believer with God. There are two sides because this union is reciprocal: the believer remains in God, and God remains in the believer. The union with God the Father is realized through the Son: this means, the believer remains in the Son, and the Son remains in the believer.

With regard to these two sides of the union, we may draw a comparison with the covenant-bond—indeed, this spiritual union, between God and believers, represents a new covenant, patterned to some extent after the old bond between God and His people. In the old covenant-bond, YHWH remained ever-faithful to His people (see Deut 7:9, etc); the question was, whether the people would remain faithful to Him. Much the same situation applies to the new covenant. The Son (and Father) remains in believers, but will believers be faithful and remain in Him?

The exhortations to “remain”, found in both the Gospel and First Letter, show the importance of this question, as it is framed. The principal passage in the Gospel is the Vine-illustration section (15:1-17) of the Last Discourse, which I have discussed at length in a recent series of notes. In verses 4-10, the verb ménœ occurs ten times, and once more in v. 16. These instances begin (v. 4) with an imperative: “you must remain [meínate] in me”. Actually, both sides of the bond of union are mentioned, though only the believer’s side is there specifically an imperative: “you must remain in me, and I in you”. In the remainder of vv. 4-10, Jesus explains to his disciples what will happen if they should not remain (vv. 4, 6), and, conversely, what it means if they are faithful and do remain (vv. 5, 7). The emphasis in vv. 9-11ff is on remaining in the Son’s love; but the Vine passage also expresses the importance of remaining in his word (v. 7, see 8:31). Remaining in the Son means remaining in his word and his love, as I have illustrated:

This is the great two-fold command, as it is formulated by Jesus in the Gospel. First John continues this tradition of a two-fold command (or duty, entol¢¡) that is required of every believer, but formulates it somewhat differently (see 3:23-24).

The implication of 1 John 3:9 is that, if the believer will take care to remain in the Son—which means remaining in his word and his love—then the Divine “seed” which remains in the believer will enable the believer to be free from sin. As noted above, this “seed” refers essentially to God’s Spirit (which is the Spirit shared by His Son), but the Spirit, in turn, embodies and manifests the living presence of both the Word and Love of God. Even as the Son manifested the Father’s Word and Love during his earthly mission, so it is now realized for believers through the Spirit.

As in John 15:4, so also 1 John employs the verb ménœ in the imperative (2:24, 27-28). Actually the form of the verb in 2:27-28 is ambiguous; it could be read as either an indicative or an imperative. It is best read as an imperative in v. 28, but many commentators feel that the indicative is more appropriate in v. 27. In any case, the exhortation is clear enough: “you must remain in him” (ménete en autœ¡). There would be no point in making such an exhortation, with its implicit warning, if there were not the possibility that the believer, through carelessness or neglect, could cease (or fail) to remain in the Son. In the context of 3:9, we could formulate the author’s argument as follows: if the believer remains in the Son, then the abiding presence of the Son (and Father), through the Spirit, will keep the believer from sin; however, if the believer ceases, even temporarily, to remain in the Son, then it is possible to sin.

In next week’s study, the last in this set on 1 John 3:4-9, I will discuss the feasibility of this line of interpretation, in light of the wider context of First John, and of the Johannine writings as a whole. I will also touch upon other approaches and proposed solutions which commentators have variously adopted as a way of resolving the ‘sin-problem’ in 1 John.

February 13: Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31

Galatians 4:21-31 represents the final section of the probatio of the letter (chaps. 3-4), and also the final argument used by Paul in support of his central proposition (expressed in 2:15-21). By these arguments, Paul endeavors to ‘prove’ (thus, probatio) his proposition, regarding the relation of believers in Christ (Jewish and non-Jewish) to the Torah.

I have discussed this section previously, most notably as an article in the series “Paul’s View of the Law”. Here I will be focusing on the particular theme of the sonship of believers, contrasting this sonship with a condition of slavery. This is a theme which runs through chapters 3-4—and, indeed, through the entire letter. Are believers still in bondage to the regulations of the Torah (under the term no/mo$), thus continuing in a kind of slavery? or, as sons, who have now come of age, able to inherit everything that belongs to the Father, are we free of this guiding authority? Paul argues strenuously against the former, while affirming (just as vigorously) the latter. The allegorical illustration he uses in 4:21-31 represents his final argument (of the probatio) toward this goal. He frames the illustration with a pointed rhetorical question for his audience:

“Relate to me, (you) the (one)s wishing to be under the Law, would you not hear the Law?” (v. 21)

This rhetorical device is known as the interrogatio method, by which Paul questions his audience, prompting them and allowing them to bring forth a determination themselves. The question actually serves as a challenge to the Galatians, and cuts right to the heart of Paul’s message in the letter. It also alludes to the seemingly paradoxical character of Paul’s view of the Torah. In support of his argument that believers are no longer bound by the Torah’s authority, he appeals to the Torah’s authority.

There is actually a double-use of no/mo$ here, referring both to the Torah regulations (recorded in the Pentateuch) and, secondly, to the narratives of the Pentateuch. This is significant since Paul’s argument is based upon the interpretation of a specific Scriptural narrative (from the Torah/Pentateuch). The expression “hear the Law” also has a two-fold meaning: (1) to obey the Law, and (2) literally, to hear the words of the Law (i.e. of Scripture). The latter is what Paul means primarily here, but he may also be saying, “if you want to be under the Law, are you willing to obey the Law (i.e. the true Law of Christ)?”

In verses 22-23, Paul summarizes the Scriptural narrative found in Genesis 16:1-6; 21:8-14, citing Gen 16:15; 21:2-3, 9. That Hagar was a slave or “servant-girl” (paidi/skh) is indicated in the narrative (Gen 16:1ff; 21:10ff, also 25:12); the contrast of Sarah as a free woman can be inferred/implied naturally from the context. This establishes the contrast between slavery and freedom—a key theme which Paul introduced (2:4) and developed (3:23-29; 4:1-10) earlier in the letter (cf. the previous notes on 3:26 and 4:4-7). It also sets the stage for the specific emphasis on freedom in Christ to follow in 4:31/5:1ff.

The contrast, expressed through the figures of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative, is also expressed grammatically by the me/nde/ (“on the one hand…on the other…”) construction in verse 23 (cf. also vv. 8-9) [Note: some manuscripts (Papyrus46 B f vg) omit me/n]. The contrast/conflict between freedom and slavery is also defined as being between the “promise” (e)paggeli/a) and the “flesh” (sa/rc):

“the (one born) of the servant-girl has come to be (born) according to (the) flesh,
but the (one born) of the free (woman) through (the) e)paggeli/a [i.e. promise]” (v. 23)

The promise is closely connected with the Spirit (Gal 3:14). Meanwhile, the expression “according to (the) flesh” (kata\ sa/rka) is used frequently elsewhere in Paul’s letters (Rom 1:3; 4:1; 8:4-5, 12-13; 9:3, 5; 1 Cor 1:26; 10:18; 2 Cor 1:17; 5:16; 10:2-3; 11:18), and a Spirit-Flesh dualism is an important aspect of Paul’s thought in both Galatians (Gal 3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17; 6:8) and Romans (Rom 8:1-17) [cf. also Phil 3:3].

The two kinds of sons thus symbolize this dualistic orientation of Paul’s theology. The symbolism is based on his interpretation of the Genesis story as an “allegory” (a)llhgori/a), that is, a description of one thing under the image of another. Familiar from Greco-Roman and Hellenistic-Jewish literature and philosophy, it is also similar to the creative midrash interpretive tradition in Judaism; for other examples in Paul’s letters, cf. 1 Cor 10:1-13; 2 Cor 3:7-18. The contrast/conflict between Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac in the narrative is coordinated and aligned together (sustoixe/w, v. 25) as follows:

Slave-girl vs. Free (woman) [v. 22b]

Flesh vs. Promise [v. 23]

(Old) Covenant vs. (New) Covenant [v. 24]

Jerusalem (on earth) vs. Jerusalem above [v. 25-26]

Hagar/Ishmael vs. Sarah/Isaac [v. 28-29]

As indicated in verse 24, Paul gives prominence and priority to the idea of two covenants—the Greek word rendered “covenant” (diaqh/kh) is literally something “set through” or “put in order”, often in the legal sense of a will or testament (as in Gal 3:15-17), but here corresponding to the Hebrew tyr!B= (“binding agreement”)—that is, the agreement (covenant) established between God and his people (Israel). The two covenants—old and new—are contrasted syntactically by way of another me\nde/ formulation (see above):

    • me/none (the old) from mount Sinai into/unto slavery [ei)$ doulei/an]… (vv. 24-25)
    • de/(the other), the Jerusalem above, (which) is free [e)leuqe/ra e)stin]… (vv. 26-27)

Paul establishes this line of association first by equating Sinai with the (current) earthly Jerusalem in verse 25; he does this by way of (allegorical) correspondence, even though he recognizes that Mt. Sinai is actually in “Arabia” (presumably the Sinai peninsula). This equation has the following interpretive relationship:

    • The Sinai covenant (the Law/Torah) leads to slavery [doulei/a] =>
    • Jerusalem is currently serving as a slave [douleu/ei]

The last point could be taken either in a socio-political (i.e. under Roman occupation) or religious-spiritual (bondage under the Law and sin) sense, or both. This contrasts sharply with the traditional Jewish self-understanding of freedom related to the Torah and the covenant with God (see Mishnah Abot 6:2, also e.g. John 8:33), which Paul reverses completely. Here is the associative logic as a whole:

    • The Old Covenant (the Law/Torah) given at Mt. Sinai
      • Sinai = earthly Jerusalem
        • The Jerusalem below | Slavery
        • The Jerusalem above | Freedom
      • Jerusalem (above) = believers in Christ
    • The New Covenant (the Spirit/promise) realized in Christ

This idea of a heavenly Jerusalem came to be well-established in early Christian thought (see Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 3:12; 21:2-22:5), and generally builds on the (eschatological) Old Testament and Jewish tradition of a “new Jerusalem”—e.g. Isa 54:10ff; 60-66; Ezek 40-48; Tobit 13:9-18; Jubilees 4:26; 2/4 Esdras 7:26; 10:40ff; 2 Baruch 4:2-7; 32:2-23; 1 Enoch 90:28f; 2 Enoch 55:2. Another familiar, and related, Jewish tradition was Jerusalem/Zion as a mother (v. 26). As such, this image is parallel to that of the Jewish concept of freedom associated with the Law and Covenant; and, again, Paul reverses this traditional association, by way of citing Isaiah 54:1 (LXX), a passage which came to be used in Judaism in the context of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (see the Targum; Pesiqta Rabbati 32:2). The context of Paul’s citation (v. 27) rather suggests a correlative juxtaposition between physical barrenness and spiritual life.

In verses 28-31, Paul applies this interpretation to the identity of believers in Christ. These verses begin and end with statements of Christian identity, related to the parallel concepts of promise and freedom, and emphasizing again the theme of the sonship of believers

V. 28: “But you*, brothers, according to Isaac, are offspring of (the) promise
{* some manuscripts read “we”}

V. 31: “Therefore, brothers, we are not offspring of the (slave)-girl, but of the free (woman)”

Verses 29-30 stand in between, and are descriptive of conflict for believers:

    • V. 29: External—drawing upon Jewish tradition of conflict between Ishmael and Isaac (not indicated specifically in the Scripture narrative itself), see t. Sota 6:6; Genesis Rabbah 53 (34a), etc. This is interpreted by Paul according to two aspects:
      (1) Jewish hostility and persecution toward early Christians, attested to amply by Paul in his letters and in the book of Acts.
      (2) The dualism of kata\ sa/rka (“according to the flesh”) vs. kata\ pneu=ma (“according to the Spirit”). Here the conflict is still external—i.e. the issue being that regarding circumcision and actual observance of the Torah commands; for an internal expression of this dualism in the hearts/minds and lives of believers (before and after conversion), cf. Romans 7-8.
    • V. 30: Internal—quoting Gen 21:10 and applying it primarily in a religious-spiritual sense: believers are the heirs in Christ (Gal 3:29; 4:1, 7; see also Rom 4:13-14; 8:17), and should no longer wish to come under a yoke of slavery. That Paul may here be expressing the rejection of Jews is certainly possible (see 1 Thess 2:14-16; Rom 9-11), but I do not believe that this is his emphasis—it rather relates more properly to his exhortation to the Gentile Galatians that they “cast away” the yoke of bondage (i.e. observance of the Torah) which they are considering placing upon themselves.

The thematic structure of these verses may be outlined as follows:

    • V. 28—Believers are children of the promise
      • V. 29—Conflict for believers: Flesh vs. Spirit
      • V. 30—Action for believers: “Cast out” the son of the slave-girl (i.e. slavery)
    • V. 31—Believers are children of the free woman

Significantly, these verses, which conclude the probatio, also prepare for the ethical instruction that follows in the exhortatio (“exhortation”) section, 5:1-6:10. Indeed, here Paul begins to turn his readers’ attention to the implications and consequences of what it means to be “sons/children of God”.

One primary implication has been the main focus of the letter, up to this point: believers are no longer under the binding authority of the Torah regulations (such as circumcision, the dietary and purity laws, etc), and are not obligated to observe them. This is emphasized by the ‘outer’ verses (vv. 28, 31) of the outline above.

The second implication (cf. the ‘inner’ verses 29-30), which is just as important, comes to be the focus in 5:1-6:10. Now that believers are freed from the Torah regulations, how is our life and behavior to be regulated? This is defined principally by the conflict between flesh and the Spirit. The impulses of the flesh (toward sin) still need to be curbed. However, this is no longer achieved through the external authority of the Torah regulations, but through the internal guidance of the Spirit. Even what remains of the Torah regulations—namely, the command/duty to love one another (5:13-15; 6:2ff)—is interpreted in light of the new reality that believers now live and act according to the Spirit. Paul expounds this quite clearly in 5:13-24, a passage which lies at the very heart of his instruction in 5:1-6:10.

This message may be summarized by the principle that: the sonship of believers is defined by the presence and work of the Spirit. In the next daily note, will begin examining this principle further, as Paul develops and explains it, in Romans.

Saturday Series: John 16:8-9

John 16:8-9

In this continuing study on sin in the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters of John), we turn now to the Paraclete saying in 16:7-15. This is the fourth (and final) such saying in the Last Discourse, the prior three coming in 14:16-17, 25-26, and 15:26-27. I have recently discussed these in some detail in a set of notes and articles, part of the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”. The term “Paraclete” is an anglicized transliteration of the descriptive title parákl¢tos (para/klhto$), which means “(one) called alongside” —that is, to give help or assistance. It is a title of the Spirit, which Jesus promises will come to the disciples, after he has been exalted and has returned to the Father in heaven.

In 1 John 2:1, the only other occurrence of parákl¢tos in the New Testament, it is Jesus himself who is referred to as “(one) called alongside”, to give help to believers, specifically through the act of interceding before God the Father on believers’ behalf (in matters related to sin). In 14:16, the first Paraclete-saying in the Gospel, the Spirit is referred to as “another parákl¢tos“, implying that Jesus was the first. Indeed, in many ways, the Spirit-Paraclete continues the work of Jesus in and among his disciples (believers). Jesus continues to be present, speaking to believers through the Spirit, teaching them. For more on this, see the articles on the Paraclete-sayings (1, 2, 3, 4).

The final Paraclete-saying (16:7-15) occurs in the last of the three Discourse-divisions (16:4b-28), which has the following general outline:

    • 16:4b-28Discourse/division 3—Jesus’ departure (farewell)
      • The Promise of the Spirit (vv. 4b-15)
      • Jesus’ Departure and Return (vv. 16-24)
      • Concluding statement by Jesus on his departure (vv. 25-28)

The promise of the coming of the Spirit (vv. 4b-15) is thus tied to the departure of Jesus (back to the Father in heaven). He speaks as he does to his disciples because he soon will no longer be with them, at least in a physical sense. And he still has many things he must yet say to his disciples (and all believers), v. 12. For this reason, it is necessary for the Spirit to come, to be present with (“alongside”) believers, and to remain in/among them:

“But I say the truth to you: it bears together (well) for you that I should go away from (you). For, if I should not go away, (then) the (one) called alongside [parákl¢tos] will not come to you; but, if I do travel (away), I will send him to you.” (v. 7)

It is actually beneficial to the disciples (and to future believers) that Jesus should go away (back to the Father). Though he will no longer be present with them physically, as a human being, he can still be present spiritually, through the Spirit. In each of the Paraclete-sayings, Jesus explains certain aspects of the Spirit’s role. He continues that teaching here in verses 8ff:

“And, (hav)ing come, that (one) will show the world (to be wrong), about sin, and about righteousness, and about judgment” (v. 8)

In the previous Paraclete-saying (15:26-27), the emphasis was on the Spirit as a witness—specifically, a witness to the truth of who Jesus is (v. 26). The Spirit will give witness of this to the disciples, but also to the world, through the disciples. The essence of this witness is further explained here, utilizing the verb eléngchœ. The basic meaning of this verb is to show someone to be wrong. It occurs two other places in the Gospel—in 3:20 and 8:46. The first occurrence is close in context to the use here: it refers to a person’s evil deeds being shown to be evil, exposed as such by the light of Jesus Christ—and by the Gospel witness to the truth of his identity as the Son of God. The reference in 8:46, where the verb is used, as it is here, specifically in connection with sin, was discussed in an earlier study.

The Spirit will show the world to be wrong about three things, in particular: sin (hamartía), righteousness (dikaiosýn¢), and judgment (krísis). In the verses that follow (vv. 9-11), Jesus explains the basis upon which the Spirit shows the world to be wrong about each topic. The first topic he addresses is sin; his explanation is short and to the point:

“about sin, (in) that they do not trust in me” (v. 9)

In the prior studies, we have seen how the Johannine understanding of sin entails two distinct levels, or aspects, of meaning. First, there is sin as understood in the general or conventional ethical-religious sense, as wrongs/misdeeds that a person commits. And, second, there is sin in the theological sense, defined as the great sin of unbelief—that is, of failing or refusing to trust in Jesus as the Son of God. Here, the truth regarding sin is clearly defined in terms of the latter (“they do not trust in me”).

Many commentators take the verb eléngchœ here to mean that the Spirit convicts the world of sin, of showing the people of the world to be sinful. While this aspect of meaning is not entirely absent, I do not consider it to be primary here. To be sure, the world (kósmos), dominated as it is by darkness and evil, and being opposed to God, is characteristically sinful. However, what the Spirit does, specifically, is to show the world to be wrong about sin. The world’s view and understanding of sin—that is, the nature and reality of sin—is fundamentally wrong. People may accept the conventional meaning of sin, and even seek to live in a righteous manner, avoiding sin, without realizing the true nature of sin. Even the seemingly righteous people—such as religious Jews in Jesus’ own time, who followed the precepts of the Torah—were sinful, if they refused to trust in Jesus. Indeed, such people commit sin in its truest sense, since they commit the great sin of unbelief.

The explanation regarding the true nature of the judgment (krísis) alludes to this same theological-Christological understanding of sin. According to the conventional view, the judgment occurs at the end of the Age, at some point in the future, when all people will be judged for their deeds (i.e., sin in the conventional ethical-religious sense). However, according to Jesus, and the theology of the Gospel, the world (and its ruler) has already been judged:

“about judgment, (in) that the chief [i.e. ruler] of this world has been judged” (v. 11)

This judgment is based entirely on whether or not a person, when confronted with the Gospel witness, the truth about Jesus, trusts in him. The one who trusts in Jesus, has already passed through the judgment and holds eternal life, while the one who does not trust, has already been condemned. For the key references elsewhere in the Gospel, see 3:19-21; 5:22-24 (v. 24); 8:51; 12:31, 46-50. The subject was also discussed in the previous studies on 8:21ff and 9:39-41 / 15:22-24.

The judgment is realized through the exaltation of Jesus the Son of God. In the Johannine Gospel, the exaltation of Jesus is not limited to his resurrection or ascension; rather, it covers a process that begins with his Passion (suffering and death). This is particularly clear from the setting of the declaration in 12:31. The Son’s mission on earth, and the witness to his identity as the Son, reaches its climax with his death on the cross (19:30). Through his death, resurrection, and return to the Father, the Son is “lifted up”, and Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is manifest to anyone who would believe. This helps us to understand the second of the topics about which the Spirit will show the world to be wrong. In verse 10, Jesus explains the true nature of righteousness (dikaiosýn¢), as being defined in terms of the Son’s return to the Father. In other words, true righteousness is rooted in Jesus’ exaltation and his eternal identity as the Son. Believers experience righteousness only in relation to the Son.

For more detailed discussion on vv. 8-11, see my earlier article and set of notes.

Next week, we will turn our attention to the final two sin-references in the Gospel.

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 6:19-33

1QH 6

(Unless otherwise noted, the translations of 1QH are my own.)

It is possible that the hymn beginning at line 12 of column V (cf. the previous notes) continues on into column VI. It has been suggested that the hymn extends through 6:18, or even through line 33 (cf. the discussion by the editors in DJD XL, pp. 77-8, 88-90); however, it may be better to treat 6:19-33 as a separate hymn. In any case, many of the themes in column V continue in column VI; the poems certainly share a number of features and aspects in common.

The difficulty in determining the division of the hymns stems, in large part, from the missing lines (1-11) at the beginning of column VI. Lines 12-18 emphasize once again that those righteous persons, who are able to obtain wisdom and understanding, do so through the mercy and favor of God. There is a strong predestinarian orientation to the Qumran Community, which is expressed here in the Hodayot, in a number of the hymns.

Those who receive the inspired revelation from God are described as “men of truth and the chosen (one)s of righteousness” (line 13); they are characterized by virtues that reflect the fundamental attributes of God Himself, being enabled to pursue wisdom and understanding by God’s spirits: “[(those) searching for insight and seeking understanding […] (the one)s loving compassion and (those) lowly [i.e. humble] of spirit…” (lines 13-14). Through God’s favor—His guidance and protection, given through His spirits—the chosen ones are able to remain faithful to the end, even in the face of affliction and persecution (lines 15-18).

The section (or separate hymn, cf. above) that begins at line 19, opens with a blessing (to God) which makes clear, again, that the ability possessed by the righteous/faithful ones is given to them by God:

“[Blessed are you,] my Lord, the (One) giving [i.e. placing] understanding in (the) heart of your servant, (for him) to gain insight in(to) all these (thing)s, and to have under[standing of…], and to hold himself (firm) against (wicked) deeds, and to bless with rightness all (those) choosing (what is) pleasing to you, [to choose all th]at you love and to abhor all that [you hate]…” (lines 19-21f)

As we have seen, elsewhere in these hymns the same wording from line 9 is used with a Divine spirit (j^Wr) as the object of God’s giving (4:29; 5:36) . The virtue or attribute (here “understanding”, hn`yB!), defined abstractly, can also be personified dynamically as an active spirit. The hymnist could just as well have used the expression “spirit of understanding” (cp. “spirit of knowledge” in line 36). It is thus a gift from God that enables the chosen one to have wisdom and understanding, and to resist the evil influences that lead humans to wickedness. Human begins must choose (vb rh^B*) between what is pleasing to God and what He despises/abhors, but only through the favor and guidance of God is one able to make the right choice (on a regular basis).

The deterministic emphasis, in this regard, is expressed quite clearly in line 22f:

“You have given your servant insight in(to) [… (the) lo]ts of humankind, for (according) to (the) mouth of (the) spirits you made (the lot) fall for them between good and evil, [and] you have established…”

In the expression “mouth of (the) spirits” (twjwr yp), the noun hP# (“mouth”) is presumably used in the abstract sense of “measure, portion”. The idea seems to be that the spirits have been measured/portioned out to different people (cp. the similar wording, applied to Jesus, in John 3:34), so that they will incline toward either the good or the evil. As we have seen, according to the thought-world of the Qumran hymns, there are both good and evil spirits that influence human beings, with people being trapped between the two forces. By nature, the spirit/nature of a human being (“spirit of flesh”) is corrupt, being ruled by a perverting spirit (“spirit of crookedness”). It requires a special gift/favor by God in order to enable a human being to be faithful and righteous. The protagonist of the hymn describes this very dynamic:

“And I (indeed) know, from your understanding, that through your favor to a m[a]n you make [abundant his inheritance] in (the) spirit of your holiness, and so you bring him near to your understanding…” (lines 23b-24)

Here, again, we find the expression “spirit of (God’s) holiness” (vd#oq j^Wr), as representing the principal spirit that God gives to His chosen one, reflecting the fundamental Divine attribute of holiness. God gives His holy spirit to all of His chosen ones, but gives to some a greater portion (i.e., a more abundant “inheritance” [hl*j&n~]). This spirit draws the person toward God’s understanding, bringing him/her near to it (vb vg~n`). Significantly, the protagonist states that it is from God’s own understanding, gifted to him by God’s spirit, that he has obtained his knowledge.

The possession of this spirit, and the inspired wisdom/understanding that it brings, enables a person to remain faithful and righteous in all things. This ethical-religious principle is developed in lines 25-33. It is according to the measure/portion of the person’s “nearness” (being near, brwq) to God’s understanding, that he/she will be faithful. The same expression as in line 22, with the noun hP# (“mouth”) in the abstract sense of “measure/portion”, is used. A person will act righteously, and remain faithful to God, to the extent that God’s holy spirit is present, drawing the person ever closer to God’s own wisdom and understanding.

The final line (32-33) makes clear that this faithfulness is defined in traditional terms, according to loyalty to the covenant (i.e., observance of the Torah precepts and regulations): “I will not bring into the council of [your] tr[uth any] (one) turning (away) [from] your [b]inding agreement [tyr!B=, i.e. covenant]”. It was expected that every member of the Community would be meticulously loyal and devoted to the Torah.

In the next note, we will at the remaining lines (34-41) of column VI.

DJD XL = Discoveries in the Judean Desert, Vol. XL: 1QHodayota, with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f, by Hartmut Stegemann with Eileen Schuller, translations of texts by Carol Newsom (Clarendon Press: 2009).

Spirit in the Qumran Texts: 1QH 4:37-40

1QHa 4, continued

(Unless otherwise indicated, the translations of 1QH are my own.)

In the remaining lines (37-40) of what survives of the column IV hymn, there occur two key expressions which are most instructive for an understanding of the theology (and anthropology) of the Qumran Community, as expressed particularly in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot). These parallel, contrastive expressions are:

    • “spirit of flesh” (rc*b* j^Wr) [line 37]
    • “spirit of holiness” (vd#oq j^Wr) [line 38]

The first of these occurs at the end of the third surviving section (ll. 29-37, discussed in the previous note). The psalmist praises God for His mercy and help, recognizing the need for God Himself to act on his behalf, “…for your servant (is) a spirit of flesh”.

The noun rc*B* (“flesh”), in the Old Testament, serves as a designation for a human being, and for human nature in general. By using the term “flesh”, the emphasis is on the createdness of the human nature, in its weakness and limitation (particularly in its mortality). The term is often specifically used to contrast the human being with God. Indeed, “flesh” is that which distinguishes a created (physical/material) human being from God, who is identified with spirit (see esp. John 4:24). Admittedly, this specific distinction is not made precisely in the Qumran texts; but there can be no doubt of the important contrast between God (and the Divine nature) and human “flesh”.

In line 37, the author/protagonist is particularly emphasizing the weakness and limitation of his human nature, which requires God to act on his behalf, delivering and protecting him from sin and the attacks of harmful “spirits”. But, while the use of the word rc*B* (“flesh”) is fully in keeping with Old Testament usage and tradition, the specific expression “spirit of flesh” is peculiar. Indeed, for readers familiar with the spirit/flesh contrast in the New Testament (especially in Paul’s letters), the expression may seem quite contradictory. How, indeed, can there be a spirit of flesh?

I think that the expression can be understood on several levels. First, there is the basic idea of a person’s material body (“flesh”) being animated by a spirit (or “soul”). In other words, “spirit of flesh” can simply serve as a way of referring to a living human being. Secondly, the “spirit” also reflects an operating mindset (and will) that governs the flesh (i.e., body) of a person. The spirit directs and influences the life and action, thought, etc, of a human being. Thirdly, “flesh”, in the anthropological sense, can connote, not only human weakness and limitation, but can also be used in the more negative sense of a human nature corrupted by sin and evil. This last aspect of meaning comes close to the starkly negative meaning of “flesh” (sa/rc) in the letters of Paul.

Until recent decades, there were many attempts by scholars to ascertain the origin and background of Paul’s distinctive use of the term “flesh”. Parallels in contemporary Judaism were difficult to find—that is, until the discovery, reconstruction and publication of the Qumran scrolls. In a number of those texts, including here in the Hodayot, we find a negative anthropological use of the term “flesh” (Heb. rc*B*) that resembles Paul’s usage in a number of ways. This will be discussed further as we continue through these notes.

In the context of the 1QHa column IV hymn, the contrast to the expression “spirit of flesh” is found at the beginning of the next (fourth) section (lines 38-40f). As mentioned in the previous note, sections 2 and 3 (ll. 21-28, 29-37) each begin with a praise/blessing of God, praising Him for what He has given to the hymnist/protagonist. In line 29, specific mention is made of the “spirits” God has given to (i.e., placed “in”) him. These spirits are apparently the means by which God guides and protects the person. The wording in line 38 is parallel, both in form and meaning:

“[Blessed (are) you, God Most High, that] you have sprinkled (the) spirit of your holiness over your servant, [and have] purified (the) […] of his heart”

The verb form htwpynh can be derived either from [Wn I (“wave, shake”) or [Wn II (“sprinkle”); I have opted for the latter (cp. Schuller/Newsom, p. 19; DJD XL, p. 74). On possible restorations for the lacuna in line 38, cf. DJD XL, p. 72).

If various “spirits” have been placed within in the hymnist, as a representative of the faithful/righteous Community, then also the spirit of God’s holiness has also been “sprinkled” over him. The expression vd#q) j^Wr is sometimes translated “holy spirit”, but this can be misleading (particularly for Christian readers); a proper rendering is “spirit of holiness” (cf. Romans 1:4). This pattern of expression (“spirit of…”) occurs frequently in a number of the Qumran texts, as we shall see. The particular construct genitival pattern likely was influenced by Old Testament usage—particularly the sequence in Isaiah 11:2.

There are many such spirits that come from God (cf. above on line 29), however the spirit of holiness (vd#q)) is especially associated with God Himself, reflecting the important Divine attribute/characteristic of holiness (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 71:22; 77:13; 78:41; 99:3ff, 9; Isa 1:4; 6:3, etc). Even so, the specific expression “spirit of holiness” is quite rare in the Scriptures, occurring only in Psalm 51:13[11] (“spirit of your holiness”) and Isa 63:10-11 (“spirit of His holiness”); cf. also Daniel 4:8-9, 18; 5:11. The expression here in line 38 essentially matches that in Psalm 51:13: “(the) spirit of your holiness” (;v=d=oq j^Wr), i.e., “your holy spirit”.

The faithful/loyal Israelite (that is, member of the Community) is made holy by the spirit of God’s own holiness—the chief of the “spirits” that are given to the individual. This enables the human being, with his/her corrupted “spirit of flesh” (cf. above), to remain pure (i.e. holy) and faithful to the covenant (lines 39-40). The “spirit of flesh” is restored to purity, so that the human spirit is now able to receive knowledge and insight from God, and to follow the Instruction (Torah) without stumbling. The author of the hymn, as an exemplar for the Qumran Community, represents all the Community members. Just as he is made holy by God’s holy spirit, so are all those who join the Community. The spirit of holiness is given to the member—an event and dynamic that is symbolized in the ritual of the Community (to be discussed esp. in the upcoming notes on the Community Rule documents).

The column IV hymn apparently ended with line 41, since the remainder of the column (at the bottom of the page leaf) was left uninscribed (see the information given in DJD XL, pp. 77-8). A new hymn must have begun at the top of the next leaf (column V); however, lines 1-11 of column V are lost, with another hymn beginning at line 12. The short hymn at the beginning of column V presumably ended on line 10 or 11.

In the next note, we will begin looking at the hymn in column V, which may extend (partway) through column VI. There are important spirit-references in this hymn which will allow us to build upon our notes thus far. In particular, the expression “spirit of flesh” is repeated (cf. above), as is the idea of God giving a holy/righteous spirit to the author (protagonist) of the hymn.

Schuller/Newsom = Eileen M. Schuller and Carol A. Newsom, The Hodayot (Thanksgiving Psalms): A Study Edition of 1QHa, Early Judaism and Its Literature Number 36 (Society of Biblical Literature: 2012)
DJD XL = Discoveries in the Judean Desert, Vol. XL: 1QHodayota, with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f, by Hartmut Stegemann with Eileen Schuller, translations of texts by Carol Newsom (Clarendon Press: 2009).

August 13: 1 John 2:20

1 John 2:20

Having considered the use of the title “the holy (one) of God” in Jn 6:69 (the confession by Peter, cp. Luke 9:20 par) in the previous note, I wish to examine now the same title (“the holy [one]”) in 1 John 2:20. In the previous discussion, I had mentioned that, within the Johannine theological context, the title “holy one of God” in Jn 6:69 contained an allusion to the important association between the Son (Jesus) and the holy Spirit of God. It is worth giving further consideration to the point by examining the evidence in the Gospel.

First, we have the Paraclete-saying in 14:25-26, in which the Spirit-Paraclete is specifically referred to as “the holy Spirit” (v. 26). In point of fact, the adjective a%gio$ is rather rare in the Gospel of John, occurring just five times. In addition to Peter’s confession (here, 6:69), and one occurrence in the Discourse-Prayer of Jesus (17:11, addressing God the Father), it is only used in three references to the Spirit (with the full, qualifying expression “[the] holy Spirit”, [to\] pneu=ma [to\] a&gion).

It is significant the way that these three Spirit-references frame the Gospel narrative, in relation to the ministry of Jesus (the incarnate Son of God) on earth:

    • 1:33—at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, part of the Johannine version (cf. also verse 26) of the saying by the Baptist (cp. Mark 1:8 par), alluding to the promise of Jesus’ giving the Spirit to believers: “(he) is the (one) dunking [i.e. baptizing] in (the) holy Spirit”.
    • 14:26—the Johannine narrative of Jesus’ ministry is structured around the great Discourses, culminating in the Last Discourse (13:31-16:33), in which Jesus gives the final teaching to his close circle of disciples (and true believers); the Paraclete-sayings deal with the coming of the Spirit, following Jesus’ teaching to this effect in the earlier Discourses—cf. the Spirit-references in 3:5-8, 34f; 4:10-15 [7:37-39], 23-24; 6:63.
    • 20:22—at the end of Jesus’ ministry, following the fulfillment of his mission (and his exaltation), Jesus finally gives the Spirit to his disciples (the first believers).

It is only natural that holy one of God (Jesus) would give the holy Spirit of God, particularly since the Son (Jesus) possesses the fullness of the Spirit, having received it from the Father (3:34-35). This Christological dynamic makes the use of the title “holy (one)” in 1 John 2:20 particularly intriguing:

“But you hold (the) anointing [xri=sma] from the holy (one) [o( a%gio$], and you have seen [i.e. known] all (thing)s.”

There is some debate among commentators as to whether the title o( a%gio$ (“the holy [one]”) refers specifically to Jesus (the Son) or God the Father. In the previous note, I discussed the use of the title “holy one” (in Hebrew, the use of the substantive adjective vodq* corresponds with a%gio$ in Greek). In the Old Testament Scriptures, almost exclusively it is used as a title for God the Father (YHWH)—particularly in the expression “the Holy One of Israel” (most frequent in the book of Isaiah)—and only very rarely is applied to human or angelic beings as God’s consecrated servants (Num 6:17; Psalm 106:16; Dan 8:13); the same usage is attested in the subsequent Jewish writings from the first centuries B.C./A.D.

By contrast, in the New Testament, “[the] holy one” ([o(] a%gio$) is predominantly a title, with Messianic significance, that is applied to JesusMark 1:24 [par Lk 4:34]; Acts 2:27 and 13:35 [citing Ps 16:10]; Rev 3:7, and of course in John 6:69 (cf. also 10:36); the Messianic context of these references was discussed (and established) in the previous note. Only in Rev 16:5 is the title used in its more traditional religious-historical aspect, as an epithet of YHWH. Interestingly, as I had mentioned, the adjective a%gio$ is actually rather rare in the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters), occurring just five times in the Gospel and once (here) in 1 John. In the Gospel, once it is applied to Jesus the Son (6:69), once to God the Father (17:11), and three times to the Spirit (i.e., “[the] holy Spirit,” 1:33; 14:26; 20:22).

Overall, the New Testament and Johannine usage favors o( a%gio$ (“the holy [one]”) here as a title of Jesus Christ (the Son).

Rather more certain, in my view, is the conclusion that the term xri=sma (“anointing”) here (and in v. 27) refers to the presence of the Spirit. The noun xri=sma occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, so there is little opportunity for comparative examination of word-usage. However, for reasons I detailed in the earlier article on 2:18-27, the anointing which believers received (v. 27) is best understood as a reference to the Spirit. Most likely, in common with other early Christians, the Johannine churches viewed the believer’s baptism as representing the moment when he/she received the Spirit (cf. Jn 1:33); to view the baptism as an ‘anointing’ by the Spirit was natural, drawing upon the type-pattern of Jesus’ own baptism (cf. especially the Lukan emphasis of 4:18ff, in light of 3:22; 4:1, 14). Also significant and influential are the Prophetic passages referring to God ‘pouring out’ the Spirit on His people in the New Age (cf. the Introduction to this series for the key passages).

But does the believer receive the Spirit from Jesus (the Son) or from God (the Father)? The immediate evidence from 1 John (3:24; 4:2ff, 13; 5:6-8ff) indicates the latter—that it is God the Father who gives us the Spirit. However, the Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ role in giving the Spirit (cf. above). According to the framework of the Johannine theology—expressed clearly in the Gospel, and only alluded to in the Letters—the Son (Jesus) receives the Spirit from the Father, and then, in turn, gives the Spirit to believers. The Father is the ultimate source, but the Son is the immediate giver; thus, there is a certain variability and interchangeability with how this is expressed in the Johannine writings (cf. for example, the variation in the Paraclete-sayings, in 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7b, 13-15).

The focus in 2:18-27 is on the person of Jesus—the Anointed One (xristo/$) and Son of God—and this would tend to confirm the point of reference for the title “holy one”. It also corresponds with the Messianic (and Christological) significance of the title in Jn 6:69, as was discussed in the previous note.

Yet in verse 27, the Divine subject, in relation to the anointing (xri=sma), is expressed more ambiguously:

“But (as for) you, the anointing which you received from him, it remains in you, and you do not have a need that any (one) should teach you; but, as his anointing teaches you about all (thing)s, and is true and is not false, and even as it (has) taught you, you must remain in him.”

The phrase “the anointing which you received from him” seems to allude back to verse 20; if the title “the holy one” refers to the Son (Jesus), then it is most likely that the pronoun of the prepositional expression “from him” (a)p’ au)tou=) also refers to Jesus. Turning ahead to verse 28, where Jesus is clearly the implied subject of the second clause, the implication is that the pronoun of the expression “in him” (e)n au)tw=|), at the end of v. 27 and beginning of v. 28, likewise refers to Jesus; certainly, there is no obvious indication of a change of reference. For the same reason, it would be simplest to interpret the qualifying subject “his anointing” (to\ au)tou= xri=sma) as meaning the anointing received from Jesus.

In other words, all the third person singular pronouns in vv. 27-28, refer primarily to Jesus Christ (the Son). It is he who gives the anointing (i.e., the Spirit) to believers, having himself received it from God the Father. As noted above, the Father is the ultimate source of the Spirit, but it is given through the mediation of the Son. Just as it was promised that the Jesus would baptize believers in the Spirit, so he anoints them, pouring out the Spirit upon them. Yet the anointing does not simply come from without, like physical liquid poured out on a person, but abides within; this is the clear significance of the use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”)—both here and throughout the Johannine writings. The anointing (i.e., the Spirit) remains within (cf. 3:24; 4:13; Jn 14:17), and is the means by which believers remain in the Son; and, in turn, it is through the presence of the Son that we remain in the Father (and He in us). This is the essence of the Johannine theology; even though it is expressed more clearly and precisely in the Gospel, the theology is equally present, in an implicit and allusive fashion, throughout 1 John.


August 12: John 6:69

John 6:69

Verse 69 represents the second part of Peter’s confession (on the first part, v. 68, see the previous note), which forms the climactic point of the great Bread of Life Discourse-Narrative in chap. 6. It holds a place in the Johannine Gospel similar to that of the more famous confession in the Synoptics (Mk 8:29 par, cf. below). The two parts are related syntactically as comprising a single confessional statement:

    • “You hold (the) utterances of (the) Life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life]
    • we have trusted and have known that you are the holy (one) of God.”

The verbs pisteu/w (“trust”) and ginw/skw (“know”), though commonly used by early Christians (in a religious and theological sense), are especially prominent in the Gospel of John. The verb pisteu/w occurs 98 times (out of 241 in the entire NT), while ginw/skw is used somewhat less frequently (57 out of 222 NT occurrences). There is a special emphasis on knowing the truth (8:32, etc), which is defined in the Christological sense of trusting in Jesus (as the Son of God)—in this way, one “knows” the Son, and, through him, knows God the Father as well (7:28-29; 8:14ff, 19, 28; 10:14-15, 27, 38; 14:4-7ff, 20; 15:15; 17:3, 7-8, 23ff).

Peter’s confession of trust in Jesus is centered on the title “the holy (one) of God” (o( a%gio$ tou= qeou=). In the Old Testament Scriptures, “holy (one)” (vodq*) is used almost exclusively as a title of YHWH (Job 6:10; Prov 9:10; Hos 11:9, 12; Hab 1:12; 3:3; Ezek 39:7), where it typically occurs within the expression “the Holy (One) of Israel” (2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jer 50:29; 51:5). It is used most frequently in the book of Isaiah (1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6, et al.), while in later Jewish writings the substantive “Holy One” continues to be used almost entirely as a Divine title (e.g., Sirach 4:14; 23:29; 43:10; 47:8; 48:20; Baruch 4:22, 37; 5:5; 2 Macc 14:36; 1 Enoch 1:2; 93:11; 97:6). The title itself relates to the fundamental attribute of holiness (Josh 24:19; 1 Sam 2:2), which Israel, as God’s people, must maintain as well (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Deut 7:6, etc).

Only on rare occasions in the Old Testament is the substantive “holy (one)” applied to a human being, in reference to the consecrated priests (Num 16:7; Psalm 106:16), while in Dan 8:13 vodq* refers to a heavenly (angelic) being. In Prayer of Azariah 12, the title “holy one” is applied to Israel. In Old Testament and Jewish tradition, it was common to refer to both heavenly beings and righteous Israelites as “holy ones”; the Qumran texts make a good deal of this parallelism, identifying the Community as the “holy ones” on earth, who act in consort with the “holy ones” in heaven—both groups functioning as end-time representatives of God.

The only Old Testament parallel to the specific title “the holy one of God” is found in Psalm 106:16— “(the) holy (one) of YHWH” (hwhy vodq=)—referring to the special status of the high priest Aaron. The adjective ryz]n`, which similarly denotes a consecrated individual, separated out for special service to God, has comparable meaning when used as a substantive “consecrated [i.e. holy] (one)”. In Judg 13:5, 7 and 16:17, we find the expression <yh!ýa$ ryz]n+ (“consecrated [i.e. holy] one of God”), which is quite close to the corresponding Greek here in Jn 6:69. Most English versions transliterate ryz]n` (i.e., “Nazir[ite]”) rather than translate it; on the Nazirite vow, cf. the regulations in Numbers 6 (cp. Amos 2:11-12).

Thus, for the historical background of the expression “holy one of God”, we find two lines of religious tradition: (a) the sanctified status of the (high) priest, and (b) those set apart for service by the Nazir(ite) vow. In the New Testament, the latter is related to John the Baptist, where, in the Lukan Infancy narrative, it refers to his eschatological/Messianic status, fulfilling the figure type of the prophet Elijah (Lk 1:15-17; cf. also vv. 76ff). In the Gospel of John, as elsewhere in the Gospel tradition, it is Jesus, rather than John the Baptist, who fulfills the Elijah figure-type (1:21, 25); for more on this subject, cf. Part 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Other occurrences of the title “holy (one)” in the New Testament confirm its significance as a Messianic designation that is applied to Jesus. It occurs once in the Synoptic Tradition (Mk 1:24 / Lk 4:34), in the context of Jesus’ miracle-working power—as a sign that he fulfills the role of Messianic Prophet (in the manner of Elijah, cf. the references in Lk 4:24-27, in the context of vv. 18ff). In Acts 2:27 and 13:35, the expression “holy one” in Psalm 16:10 (where the Hebrew adjective is dys!j* rather than vodq*) is clearly intended as a Messianic reference, applied specifically to the resurrection of Jesus (cf. vv. 24, 30-31ff, 36). The title also has a Messianic (Davidic) significance in Rev 3:7.

These factors, taken together, make it all but certain that here, in v. 69, Peter similarly uses the title “the holy one of God” in a Messianic sense—though it is not immediately clear which Messianic figure type is primarily in view. The immediate context of the Feeding Miracle (vv. 1-14) suggests a Messianic Prophet (like Elijah); however, the Bread of Life Discourse (as well as the wider literary context of the Johannine Gospel) indicates that a Prophet like Moses is intended. Yet the reference in verse 15 also raises the possibility that a royal (Davidic?) Messiah may be in view as well. In any case, the Messianic identity of Jesus is very much the focus of Peter’s confession in the Synoptic Gospels:

“You are the Anointed (One) [i.e. the Messiah]”
(Mk 8:29)

The Lukan version corresponds generally with the Johannine tradition here:

“You are the Anointed (One) of God” (Lk 9:20)
“You are the Holy (One) of God” (Jn 6:69)

From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, the title “holy (one)” also refers to Jesus’ identity as the (pre-existent) Son of God, sent to earth from heaven by God the Father. This gives to the Messianic title a deeper Christological significance, as is suggested by Jesus’ statement in 10:36:

“…(the one) whom the Father made holy [vb a(gia/zw, i.e. set apart, consecrated] and sent forth into the world”

This statement is connected with a more direct declaration of his essential identity as God’s (eternal) Son: “I am [e)gw\ ei)mi] (the) Son of God”. The Johannine theological and literary context (esp. in the Prologue) clearly connects this Divine Sonship with a strong pre-existence Christology, rather than the earlier Christology which explained the Sonship almost entirely in terms of Jesus’ exaltation (to God’s right hand in heaven) following his death and resurrection. In the Johannine writings, the confession of the true believer combines both titles— “Anointed One” and “Son of God” —with this distinctive Christological understanding, giving new meaning to the older forms.

In this regard, the main Johannine statement (in the Gospel) is not the confession by Peter, but the one by Martha in 11:27:

“I have trusted that you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God, the (one) coming into the world.”

The Gospel concludes with a similar confessional statement, in 20:31 (cp. 17:3; 1 Jn 1:3; 3:23; 5:20). The combination of titles, of course, also resembles the Matthean version of Peter’s confession, as representing a comparable (theological/Christological) development of the Synoptic tradition:

“You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16; cf. 26:63ff)

Finally, I would suggest that, from the Johannine theological standpoint, the title “holy one of God” also alludes to Jesus’ association (and identification) with God’s holy Spirit. In addition to the immediate context of the Spirit-saying in v. 63 (the Christological significance of which has been examined, in detail, in recent notes), there are other aspects of the Johannine writings (Gospel and First Letter) which seem to bear this out, including the intriguing use of the title “holy one” in 1 John 2:20. I will discuss this verse in the next daily note.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Textual Note on Jn 6:69—There is some variation in the manuscripts (and versions) with regard to the text of title in Peter’s confession (cf. above). The text followed above, o( a%gio$ tou= qeou= (“the holy [one] of God”), would seem to have decisive manuscript support, representing the reading of Ë75 a B C* D L W al. In other witnesses, the title was expanded in various ways, most likely as a harmonization with the Matthean form (16:16) of the Synoptic version of Peter’s confession (cp. Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20), or with the local Johannine confessional statements in 1:49; 11:27. Cf. the brief note in the UBS/Metzger Textual Commentary (4th revised edition), p. 184, and in the various exegetical-critical commentaries (ad loc).

August 9: John 6:63 (8)

John 6:63, concluded

“…the utterances which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life.” (v. 63b)

In this final note on Jn 6:63, we will examine the second part of the verse (b) in terms of the second Christological difficulty (related to the Bread of Life Discourse, cf. the disciples’ reaction in v. 60) outlined in the prior notes—namely, the idea that is necessary to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”). The first Christological difficulty—viz., Jesus’ claim of having come down from heaven (i.e., his heavenly origin)—in relation to v. 63b, was discussed in the previous note.

(2) The need to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”)

This aspect of the Discourse (see vv. 27, 32f, 35, 48ff, 50, 51ff) has been discussed in the prior notes, including its specific relation to the statement in v. 63a. Now, we will be looking at v. 63b: “…the utterances which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life.”

In applying this statement to the idea of eating Jesus, the most obvious implication is that Jesus’ words in the Discourse to that effect must be understood (and interpreted) in a spiritual manner. If his words (r(h/mata) are Spirit, then they can only be understood correctly in a spiritual way. From the Discourse itself, it is clear that “eating” Jesus means trusting (vb pisteu/w) in him (i.e., as the one sent by God the Father from heaven). This is indicated clearly in vv. 29, 35f, 40, 47; even so, Jesus’ hearers at the time (including his disciples) would have found it difficult to understand the connection. His words became particularly “harsh” (v. 60) once Jesus began to explain this eating in terms of eating his flesh (v. 51). Some of those who heard him naturally asked, “How is this (man) able to give us [his] flesh to eat?” (v. 52).

Modern commentators continue to be “tripped up” (v. 61) over this point, but for a different reason—as many take more or less for granted that the eucharistic language in vv. 51-58 refers to a physical eating of the (sacramental) bread (i.e., in the Lord’s Supper ritual). Against this understanding, verse 63 suggests that a spiritual interpretation of the Supper is intended.

The shift from the motif of “bread” to “flesh” represents a narrowing of focus—from the Son’s incarnate “stepping down” (to earth as a human being) to the fulfillment of his mission through his death (as a human being). While the idiom of eating is the same in both instances, the emphasis of the “bread” motif is on Jesus’ heavenly origin (“bread from heaven”), while that of “flesh” (and “blood”) is on his sacrificial death. In both instances, “eating” refers to trust in Jesus (cf. above)—i.e., trust in his heavenly origin (“bread [from heaven]”) and trust in his sacrificial death (“flesh [and blood]”).

Trust results in receiving the Spirit, which the Son gives/sends to believers, having himself received it from the Father (3:34f). Only when the believer has come to be born “from above” (3:3-8)—that is, from the Spirit—is he/she able to recognize the heavenly origin and spiritual nature of Jesus’ words (cf. 3:31ff), and to begin to grasp their true meaning. Spiritual words can only be understood in a spiritual way (cp. 1 Cor 2:13ff).

In 4:10-15, the very idiom of eating/drinking is applied to the idea of believers receiving the Spirit, as the parallel in 7:37-39 makes clear. It is fair to assume that the “living bread” in chap. 6 (vv. 51) has a correspondingly similar meaning as “living water” in 4:10f; 7:38. In both instances the living (zw=n) nourishment is given by Jesus (4:10, 14; 6:27, 33, 51), just as he gives the Spirit (1:33; 16:7b; 20:22; cf. also 3:34f). Elsewhere in the Gospel, it is life (zwh/) that the Son (Jesus) gives (5:21, 26; 6:33, 57; 10:28; 17:2, etc). There is certainly a very close connection between Life and the Spirit, as stated here in v. 63.

Thus, what the believer takes in (i.e., ‘eats’ or ‘drinks’) is the Spirit, which is also living (zw=n)—which refers to the Divine/eternal life (zwh/) that God possesses. The Son gives life, but so does the Spirit (according to v. 63a); the implication is that the Son gives life through the Spirit. However, in the Bread of Life Discourse, the “living” bread is not just given by the Son, it is identified with the person of the incarnate Son (Jesus) himself. From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, this is best understood by the principle that the Son (Jesus) is present in the believer through the Spirit. Thus, one “eats” Jesus by trusting in him, and thus receiving the Spirit, which gives eternal life that the believer possesses (“holds”) within; the eternal Son (Jesus), who is life (1:4; 14:6), is also personally present through the indwelling Spirit. In so doing, one also eats/drinks the “flesh/blood” of Jesus, meaning that the life-giving (and cleansing) power of his death is communicated to believers, through the Spirit (cf. the earlier note on 1 Jn 1:7ff).

But what relation does this have to the specific words (r(h/mata) uttered by Jesus? In a sense, the believer also ‘eats’ these words, though in the Johannine idiom this is expressed more properly through the idea of the word(s) abiding within the believer, utilizing the key-verb me/nw (“remain, abide”). As discussed in the previous note, the singular noun lo/go$ can refer both to (1) a specific saying or teaching by Jesus, and (2) to the living/eternal Word of God (of the Johannine Prologue, 1:1-2, 14) with whom Jesus (the Son) is personally identified. In 1 John 1:1, these two aspects are blended together with the traditional use of lo/go$ to refer to the “account” of Jesus (i.e., the Gospel). The words abide through the presence of the abiding Word, though the repeated exhortations (in the Gospel and First Letter) indicate the importance of believers holding firm to the teachings (and example) of Jesus which they received. For the key Johannine references in this regard, using the verb me/nw, cf. 5:38; 6:27, 56; 8:31; 14:17; 15:4-10; 1 Jn 2:14, 24, 27-28; 3:9, 24; 4:12-13, 15-16; 2 Jn 2, 9. The words give life because the abiding Word gives life; both are Spirit, and must be understood and recognized according to the Spirit.

In the next daily note, we will look briefly at the confessional statement by Peter in verse 68.


August 6: John 6:63 (6)

John 6:63, continued

“The Spirit is the (thing) making (a)live, the flesh does not benefit anything!” (6:63a)

As I have discussed, there are two aspects of Jesus’ teaching in the Bread of Life discourse which would have caused difficulty for his disciples (v. 60): (1) the claim by Jesus that he has come down from heaven (implying a heavenly origin) [v. 41f], and (2) the idea that people need to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”) [v. 52]. Both points can only be understood from the standpoint of the Christology of the Gospel. In the previous note, we looked at the contrastive (Spirit/flesh) statement in v. 63a in terms of the first Christological aspect; today we will consider the second aspect.

Even without verses 51-58, the idea that people need to “eat” Jesus would have been difficult to understand (see the reaction in v. 41f). When one includes the eucharistic language of vv. 51-58, and the specific image of eating (human) flesh and drinking (human) blood, the concept would have seemed especially grotesque and offensive (see v. 52). The disciples’ response (in v. 60) surely indicates something of the same reaction.

When Jesus’ declaration in v. 63a is considered in relation to this particular difficulty (stated rather clearly in v. 52), the Spirit/flesh contrast takes on a different level of significance. In an earlier article (cf. also the supplemental note), I discussed this verse in the particular context of the Johannine understanding of the Eucharist (i.e. the Lord’s Supper rite). When verse 63 is read in relation to the eucharistic language of vv. 51-58, it strongly suggests a spiritual (rather than sacramental) interpretation of the Supper. We shall now follow up on this discussion, looking at the matter from a Christological standpoint.

If, from a Christological standpoint, “Spirit” (pneu=ma) designates the Divine nature and status of Jesus (as the eternal Son of God), then “flesh” (sa/rc) refers to the Son’s (incarnate) life and existence as a human being; cf. the discussion in the previous note. The implication, then, of the statement in v. 63 (“the flesh does not benefit anything”) is that one does not actually, physically, eat Jesus’ human flesh. I would maintain that this premise extends even to the physical consumption of the eucharistic bread (symbolizing the flesh). It is only the Spirit, not the flesh, that has life-giving power.

Why, then, is it necessary to eat Jesus’ flesh? It is important to understand the connotation of the terms “flesh” (sa/rc) and “blood” (ai!ma) in the theological context of the Discourse. As indicated above (and in the previous note), sa/rc refers to the Son’s life and existence as a human being; the term ai!ma (“blood”) takes this point further, by referring specifically to Jesus’ death (as a human being). This conceptual terminology is relatively rare in the Johannine writings, but, where it does occur, it has a vital significance that is emphasized by the author—Jn 19:34f; 1 Jn 1:7; 5:6-8; cf. also Rev 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11; 19:13. It is also a sacrificial death, which possesses the cleansing (and life-restoring) power of a sacrificial offering for sin (1 Jn 1:7; Rev 1:5; cf. Jn 1:29). This idea is expressed or alluded to repeatedly in the Bread of Life Discourse—especially in vv. 53-58.

According to the principle expressed in v. 63a, the efficacious power of Jesus’ sacrificial death (his “blood”) is communicated to believers by the Spirit. There are two components to this teaching:

(1) It is communicated to believers

In the Discourse, “eating” the living bread of Jesus means trusting (vb pisteu/w) in him; this is clearly stated or expressed throughout the discourse—vv. 29, 35f, 40, 47.

(2) It is communicated by the Spirit

The clearest indication of this, apart from v. 63 itself, is the parallel between the motif of “living bread” (v. 51) and the “living water” of 4:10-15; 7:37-39. In each instance, the motif refers to something, given by Jesus, which the believer consumes (eats/drinks), and which has the Divine/eternal attribute of “living” (zw=n). Since the Gospel writer understands the living water as referring to the Spirit, almost certainly the living bread has the same point of reference. The Son possesses the fullness of the Divine Spirit, having received it from the Father (3:34f); just as God the Father is Spirit (4:24), so also is His Son. The Life he possesses from the Father, the Son is able to communicate to believers (1:4ff; 5:26; 14:19, etc). This is expressed most clearly in the Discourse by the statement in verse 57:

“Just as the living [zw=n] Father sent me forth, and I live [zw=] through the Father, (so) also the (one) eating me—even that (one)—will live [zh/sei] through me.”

At the physical level of human existence (“flesh”), life is given/maintained through the eating of material food (“bread”); similarly, at the Divine level (of the Spirit), life is given (and preserved) through the eating of spiritual food. One “eats” the bread/flesh of Jesus himself, in a spiritual way, through the Spirit. This corresponds precisely with the contrast in 3:3-8, between an ordinary (physicial/biological) human birth and spiritual birth (“out of [i.e. from] the Spirit,” e)k pneu/mato$).

Once the believer receives the Spirit, it abides/remains (vb me/nw) within, functioning as a continuous source of (eternal) life which the believer possesses, even during his/her existence (as a human being) on earth. For this language and imagery here in the Discourse, cf. vv. 27, 35, 53, 55-57; elsewhere in the Gospel, esp. 3:34-35; 4:14; 7:38f; 14:17; cf. also 1 Jn 3:24; 4:13.

In the next daily note, we will examine the second part of verse 63[b], according to the same two Christological aspects by which we examine v. 63a.