November 18: John 15:16 (5)

John 15:16, concluded

“(It was) not you (who) gathered me out, but I (who) gathered you out; and I set you (so) that you should lead (yourself) under and should bear fruit, and (that) your fruit should remain, (so) that, whatever you would ask (of) the Father in my name, He should give to you.”

“(so) that, whatever you would ask (of) the Father in my name, He should give to you.”
i%na o% ti a*n ai)th/shte to\n pate/ra e)n tw=| o)no/mati/ mou dw=| u(mi=n

The conclusion of verse 16 echoes the promise from v. 7b—namely, that the Father will give the disciples whatever they ask for in Jesus’ name (“in my name”). The promise in v. 7 was conditional, governed by the particle e)a/n:  “if you should remain in me, and my words remain in you…”. The condition of remaining (vb me/nw) in Jesus, and in his word[s] (cf. 8:31), corresponds here to the expression “in Jesus’ name”. It reflects the character and conduct of the true disciple (or true believer); on the verb me/nw (“remain”) in this regard, cf. the discussion in the previous note (and in notes prior).

A similar promise, regarding the disciples’ prayers being answered, occurs at two other points in the Last Discourse (14:13-14; 16:23-24, 26). In both instances, prayer is described as making a request or “asking” (vb ai)te/w) God (the Father); and the same qualifying/conditional expression, “in my name”, is used as well.

The context of v. 16 suggests that the disciples’ requests will be tied to their mission. Indeed, there is no real indication that these prayer-references in the Last Discourse involve request for personal needs; on the contrary, the entire thrust of Jesus’ instruction would seem to assume that the disciples will be praying for others, more than for themselves. The duty to show love, as defined (13:34-35; 15:12-13), virtually requires that prayer be focused on the needs and well-being of others.

This is equally true with regard to the duty of guarding Jesus’ words (“remain in my word”). Since, in the Gospel of John, the message of Jesus’ words, centering on his identity as the Son of God, has life-giving power (6:63, 68), the words thus give (eternal) life to those who receive them. The disciples/believers who “guard” this word (lo/go$) are faithful to the witness of Jesus, and share in his mission. We may assume that any request by a true believer, made “in Jesus’ name”, will have this mission and duty in mind.

The prayer-references in the Last Discourse are also connected contextually with the Paraclete-sayings (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7b-15)—dealing with the promise of the coming of the Spirit. The coming of the Spirit also occurs “in Jesus’ name” (14:26), and involves a request made to the Father (14:16). In this regard, one is reminded of the collection of teachings on prayer by Jesus in Luke 11:1-13, which climaxes with a promise that the Father will give the Holy Spirit (v. 13), suggesting that the coming of the Spirit represents the very goal and purpose of prayer. In the Johannine Paraclete-sayings, the role of the Spirit is very much centered on the disciples/believers’ mission—specifically, on witnessing to the truth of who Jesus is (15:26-27; 16:8ff, 13-15).

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.

 

Spiritualism and the Opponents in 1 John (Pt 2)

Having summarized (in Part 1) my understanding of the evidence regarding both the opponents in 1-2 John and of the Johannine spiritualism, I will now attempt to bring together the results of my analysis, synthesizing it, to see in what ways the opponents (and the conflict surrounding them) may relate to this spiritualism.

Spiritualism and the Opponents: Synthesizing the Evidence

I will present three specific lines of interpretation, expounding and arguing them as far as the evidence may allow:

    1. The priority of the Spirit in teaching/guiding believers
    2. The abiding presence of Jesus through the Spirit, and
    3. Spiritualistic aspects of the Johannine Christology (i.e., regarding the person of Christ)
1. The Priority of the Spirit in Teaching/Guiding Believers

The key evidence for this particular aspect of Johannine spiritualism is: (a) the Paraclete-sayings in the Gospel (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7b-15), and (b) the xri=sma-statements in 1 Jn 2:20, 27. These statements emphasize the role of the Spirit in teaching and guiding believers. This role is suggested by the very title “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:12; 1 Jn 4:6, cf. also 5:6), obviously implying the truthfulness of the Spirit’s teaching and witness, but even more particularly by the promises in 14:26 and 16:13:

    • “that (one) [i.e. the Spirit/Paraclete] will teach you all (thing)s”
    • “when that (one) should come…he will lead you on the way in all truth”

In 1 John 2:20f, 27, the “anointing” (xri=sma) that abides/remains in the believer functions in much the same way:

“…you hold (the) anointing from the Holy (One), and you have seen [i.e. known] all (thing)s” (v. 20)
“…the anointing that you received from Him remains in you, and you do not have (any) need that any(one) should teach you…the anointing teaches you about all (thing)s” (v. 27)

The term xri=sma (“anointing”) here is best understood as a reference to the abiding presence of the Spirit, as I discuss in the article on this passage.

The opponents almost certainly shared this Johannine belief with the author of 1 John (and with the Community at large). If so, then it is fair to assume that the opponents, who would have regarded themselves as true believers, understood that they possessed God’s Spirit, and that the Spirit was the primary (and sufficient) source for Divine teaching and instruction. Moreover, they presumably believed also that Jesus (the Son) was himself teaching them through the Spirit (see esp. Jn 16:12-15).

On this basis, with the presumption that the Spirit of Truth (and Jesus through the Spirit) would not (and could not) teach them anything false, the opponents likely regarded their Christology, their understanding of Jesus Christ, to be true, confirmed by the internal witness of the Spirit.

The problem, then, for the Johannine Community, which apparently was experiencing a significant Christological division, was how to reconcile two contrasting (and opposing) views of Jesus with the one Spirit of truth. Significantly, the author does not deny the primacy of the Spirit as the guiding (and authoritative) source of truth, though this might have been useful as a way of combating the opponents. Instead of relying, for example, upon a personal apostolic authority (the noun a)po/stolo$ is essentially absent from the Johannine writings [cf. Jn 13:16]), the author seems to maintain the priority of the abiding (internal) presence of the Spirit, which is available to all believers. I tend to take seriously the author’s statements in 2:20, 27 as representing fundamental declarations of Johannine belief, doubtless understood as a fulfillment of the ‘new covenant’ prophecy in Jer 31:31-34 (vv. 33-34). The same focus on the (internal) witness of the Spirit is found in 3:24 [par 4:13], 4:4, and 5:6-8.

How, then, does the author combat the opponents? He does this two ways. First, in addressing his readers, he effectively treats them as true believers, assuming that they will thus be in agreement with the Community (of true believers)—with whom he also identifies himself. The underlying assumption, thus, is that, as true believers, the readers can trust that the indwelling Spirit will convince them of the truth, and that they will accept the Christology of the author (as representing the view of the Community), rather than that of the opponents.

Along with this rhetorical strategy, the author adds the implicit test that the witness of the Spirit will affirm, and will not contradict, the established witness of the historical (Gospel) tradition—regarding the person and work of Jesus. The author introduces this theme at the very beginning of his treatise, in the prologue (1:1-4), and it continues to run as an underlying thread throughout. In particular, the reality (and significance) of Jesus’ earthly life (as a human being) is emphasized—especially his sacrificial death (i.e., his “blood”, 1:7; 5:6-8, cf. Jn 6:53-56; 19:30). I have previously noted how the opponents combated by Ignatius of Antioch (see esp. his letter to the Smyrneans) seem to have similarly denied/devalued Jesus’ death, and how they resemble the Johannine opponents in certain respects.

Ultimately, the author summarizes the Gospel tradition by way of a trio of Christological confessional statements—in 2:22-23; 4:2-3 [par 2 Jn 7]; 5:5-6f—which he presents as a litmus test to distinguish between the true believers and the opponents.

2. The Abiding Presence of Jesus through the Spirit

A fundamental component of the Johannine theology is that Jesus (God’s Son) abides/remains (vb me/nw) in and among believers through the Spirit. God the Father, present in the Son, also abides in believers (and believers in Him)—cf. 1 Jn 3:24; 4:13, etc. Thus, even after his departure/return to the Father (in heaven), Jesus continues to remain with believers, teaching and guiding them. This is the principal message of the Gospel Paraclete-sayings (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7b-15), and it can be inferred from the other Spirit-references in the Gospel as well.

As I discuss above, there is little reason to doubt that the opponents shared this Johannine belief with the author of 1 John (along with the wider Community). This may help to explain how they might come to devalue or relativize the significance of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. After all, if he continues to remain with believers, continuing to teach and guide, then why should one place such importance on the things he said and did during the short span of his earthly ministry. Moreover, is not his presence in the Spirit greater that his limited presence in the flesh, as a matter of principle (cf. Jn 4:24; 6:63), far surpassing it in importance?

Again, the author does not in any way deny the fundamental Johannine belief—viz., of the Son’s abiding presence through the Spirit. However, as discussed above, he very much gives emphasis to Jesus’ earthly life (and death) as a human being. The idea of Jesus’ coming “in the flesh” (4:2f; 2 Jn 7) clearly refers to his life and existence as a (real) human being. Whether or not the opponents’ Christology was docetic, they do seem at least to have denied (or devalued) the significance of Jesus’ earthly life. Their denial, according to the author, was focused principally upon Jesus’ human death (“blood”)—its reality and/or importance. In my view, as I have discussed (cf. the article and supplemental notes), the confessional statement in 5:5-6ff informs the earlier ones in 4:2-3 and 2:22-23. In other words, the opponents’ false Christology (according to the author) was rooted in their understanding of his death.

One can see how a strongly spiritualistic view of Jesus (cf below) might tend to avoid emphasizing his death. After all, if “the flesh is not useful (for) anything” (Jn 6:63), how could this not include a person’s death in the flesh? By contrast, the author gives particular emphasis to Jesus’ death, especially in 5:6-8. This passage toward the end of the treatise is matched by the earlier reference in 1:7ff (cf. the earlier note), focusing on the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood. The implication is that this life-giving (and preserving/restoring) power is communicated to the believer through the Spirit. This idea is brought out more directly, it seems, by two passages in the Gospel: (1) the eucharistic language in 6:51-58, read in light of the statement of v. 63; and (2) the allusion to Jesus’ giving of the Spirit in 19:30 (also v. 34) at the moment of his death.

3. Spiritualistic Aspects of the Johannine Christology

It is reasonable to posit that the opponents’ view of Jesus Christ is rooted in the wider Johannine Christology, and represents a particular variation, or development, of it. As such, it is worth considering if there are any spiritualistic aspects of this Christology which may, in some respect, inform the opponents’ view. Here three lines of exploration will be considered briefly:

    1. Pre-existence Christology
    2. The Priority of the Spirit in the Gospel Narrative
    3. Jesus’ Role in the Outpouring of the Spirit
a. Pre-existence Christology

If, as would seem to be the case, the Gospel of John is representative of the Christology of the Johannine churches (when the Letters were written), then this was a pre-existence Christology—that is, characterized by a fundamental belief that identified Jesus Christ as the eternal (and pre-existent) Son of God, existing as such even prior to his earthly life. Once such a Christology had taken root throughout the Community, it created certain difficulties for the understanding of Jesus’ earthly life (as a human being). In particular, it became hard to explain Jesus’ death—indeed, how could the eternal Son of God die like any other ordinary human being?

Two relatively influential Christological trends—which are attested throughout the second and third centuries, but which likely originated sometime near the end of the first century—the Docetic and the Separatist, offered different explanations to navigate around this problem. In the various forms of the Docetic view, Jesus Christ only seemed (or appeared, vb doke/w) to be human, and thus only seemed to suffer an ordinary human death. Alternately, according to the Separationist view, the Divine Son/Christ and the man Jesus were two separate entities, who were joined together at the baptism and then separated at the moment of his death; this can be represented by the coming and departure of the Spirit, respectively (cf. Jn 1:26, 33; 19:30, [34]). Based on the evidence from the Ignatian letters (cf. throughout Smyrneans, also Trallians 10, etc), it is quite possible that the Johannine opponents held a rudimentary docetic view of Jesus, though a separationist view would accord better with the Johannine Gospel itself (cf. below).

The consequences of a pre-existence Christology to the Johannine spiritualism may be even more fundamental. One practical result of this Christology is to shift the focus from Jesus’ human nature to his Divine nature as Spirit (Jn 4:24); the Son receives the fullness of the Father’s Spirit (3:34-35). This is not simply the product of Jesus’ resurrection/exaltation (cp. 1 Cor 15:45; 6:17), it is intrinsic to his eternal identity as the Son (and he returns to it after the resurrection, Jn 17:1-5, etc). Thus the essential spiritual nature of Jesus may be seen as an important component of the Johannine Christology, even though (admittedly) this aspect is not particularly developed in the writings. It would, however, imply that the presence of Jesus (in believers) through the Spirit is the principal way that believers understand and experience him. The Gospel record of Jesus’ limited earthly life (and death), by comparison, could be seen as of only secondary importance. Possibly the opponents’ denial of Jesus Christ “having come in the flesh” is rooted in this basic Christological preference for Jesus as Spirit, rather than as flesh (cf. Jn 6:63).

b. The Priority of the Spirit in the Gospel Narrative

References to the Spirit frame the Johannine Gospel narrative, with the Spirit coming upon Jesus at the beginning of his ministry (1:32-34), and then being released (by Jesus) at the end (19:30, [34]; 20:22). The emphasis on Jesus ‘baptizing’ people in the Spirit (i.e., living water [cf. 4:10-15; 7:37-39], instead of with ordinary water), following the tradition of the Baptist’s saying (1:26, 33; cp. Mark 1:8 par), is a theme that dominates chapters 1-3. The statements about being born of the Spirit (instead of an ordinary human birth [out of ordinary water]) in 3:3-8 (cp. 1:12-13) is part of this thematic development. In the following Discourses of chaps. 4-8, the idea of Jesus giving the Spirit—through the idiom of giving living water/bread—also features as an important theme (cf. 4:10-15, 32ff; 6:35ff, 48ff, 51-58, 63; 7:37-39). Finally, the promise of the Spirit, as the abiding presence of Jesus the Son (and God the Father) with believers, is central to the Last Discourse (particularly in the Paraclete-sayings, 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7b-15), and is also alluded to in the chap. 17 Prayer-Discourse.

All of these theological (and Christological) points of reference strongly suggest that believers experience the presence and power of Jesus Christ (the Son of God) primarily, and directly, through the indwelling Spirit. This spiritual primacy of believers’ relationship with God (the Father, and Jesus the Son) is an essential component of Christian spiritualism. It would very much seem to reflect the understanding of the Spirit within the Johannine Community, and likely was influential in shaping the views of the opponents as well.

c. Jesus’ Role in the Outpouring of the Spirit

The Gospel references related to Jesus’ giving the Spirit are documented in section (b.) above, including the idiom of baptizing people in/with the Spirit and the motif of living water—both of which involve the image of pouring out water. There can be no doubt as to the eschatological significance of this imagery, drawn as it is from Old Testament (Prophetic) tradition regarding the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon His people in the New Age of Israel’s restoration (see the passages cited, with links to detailed notes, in the Introduction to this series). The end-time outpouring of the Spirit upon God’s people (believers) is ushered in by the work of Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah/Christ), culminating in his death, resurrection, and exaltation.

The Johannine churches shared this basic belief with all other early Christians. However, the particular emphasis on the Spirit—and on Jesus giving the Spirit to believers—has a special prominence in the Johannine tradition (and its Gospel, cf. above). It may be said that, for most Johannine Christians, the primary role of Jesus—and the purpose of his incarnate mission on earth—was as the giver of God’s Spirit to His people. Though Jesus (the Son) possessed the fullness of God the Father’s Spirit (cf. above), his giving of the Spirit to believers was made possible only after the fulfillment of his earthly mission—culminating in his sacrificial death. This would seem to be expressed clearly enough in the Gospel, and yet the opponents apparently did not recognize the significance of Jesus’ death in this regard. Even if they acknowledged the reality of his human death, they may have denied its importance (and salvific power).

How does this relate to Johannine spiritualism? It is possible that the opponents held that the Spirit was communicated to believers by Jesus apart from his death. This is one way of understanding the significance of the author’s distinction between Jesus’ coming “in/through water” and “in/through blood” (1 Jn 5:6ff). If “water” here refers to Jesus’ baptism, then this was the moment when the Spirit came upon Jesus. Typically early Christians saw a believer’s baptism as the moment when, similarly, the believer received the Spirit (from Jesus). Thus, it is the baptism that holds the significance for receiving the Spirit, not Jesus’ death (“blood”). Again, it is possible that this way of thinking informed, to some extent, the opponents’ view. I am more inclined to think that “in/through water” refers rather to Jesus’ birth as a human being (and “in/through blood” to his death), but I will admit that the water-baptism connection represents a plausible interpretation that must be seriously considered.

Some final thoughts regarding the opponents, and their relation to Johannine spiritualism, will be given in the conclusion to the studies (in this series) on the Johannine writings.

Saturday Series: Acts 2:1-13

Acts 2:1-13

In the Pentecost narrative proper (Acts 2:1-13), the author of Acts begins to develop a number of important themes that will carry through the book. These were established in the opening sections, beginning with the prologue (1:1-5, see the prior study), and presented more clearly in the opening narrative of 1:6ff (see last week’s study). Indeed, the central theme of Acts is stated in 1:6-8, with the brief exchange between Jesus and his disciples. Through this exchange, and Jesus’ answer (vv. 7-8) to the disciples’ question (v. 6), the author introduces the idea that the kingdom of God on earth, previously identified with the kingdom of God’s people Israel, is now to be identified with the early Christian mission, realized through two main aspects: (1) the coming of the Holy Spirit on believers (v. 8a), and (2) the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world (v. 8b).

Continuing this literary-critical study, let us consider how this theme is developed in the Pentecost narrative—the narrative of the sending of the Spirit during Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), which inaugurates the Christian mission. I divide this section as follows:

    1. Introductory statement (unity of the Disciples), verse 1.
    2. Manifestation of the Spirit, verses 2-4.
    3. Reaction of Jews in Jerusalem (united voice of the crowds), verses 5-13.

Let us examine each of these in turn.

1. Introductory statement (unity of the Disciples), Acts 2:1:

As I did for Acts 1:14 in the previous study, I break out the specific words of this short verse:

    • kaí (“and”)
    • en tœ¡ sumpl¢roústhai (“in the being filled up” [syn as intensive prefix, i.e. “filled completely”]—but here as a temporal clause = “when it was completely filled”)
    • t¢¡n h¢méran t¢¡s pentekost¢¡s (“the Fiftieth day”)
    • ¢¡san (“they [i.e. the Disciples] were”)
    • pántes (“all”—all of them, together)
    • homoú (“as one” or “at one”, i.e., together, the same; see the similar homothymadón [“of one impulse”] in 1:14)
    • epí tó autó (“upon the [same] thing” —this phrase occurs repeatedly in the early chapters of Acts, though somewhat obscured by conventional translations; it is indicative of the unity of the believers)

Here is the verse in literal translation:

“And in the Fiftieth day’s being filled completely, they were all at one upon the (same) thing [or, place]”

And in a more conventional translation:

“And when the Fiftieth day had been fufilled, they were all together in the same place.”
[As C. C. Torrey and other scholars have noted, the Greek may reflect an Aramaic expression “when the Weeks had been fulfilled” (e.g., û»mišlam š¹»û±ayy¹°), which is more intelligible]

The “Fiftieth” day (usually transliterated as “Pentecost”), is the festival of Weeks (š¹»¥±ô¾) in Israelite and Jewish tradition (cf. Lev. 23:9-22; Deut. 16:9-12). Fifty days (seven weeks) are counted from the offering of the firstfruit sheaf of grain at the time of Passover. Traditionally, it was also the time associated with the Sinai theophany and giving of the Law (Ex. 19:1ff). In the Exodus narrative, the entire camp of Israel was gathered together beneath the mountain “to meet God” (Ex. 19:17). Here, the disciples, too are gathered together in the same place and will “meet God”. Elements of the Sinai theophany also have their parallel in the manifestation of the Spirit, as we shall see.

2. Manifestation of the Spirit, Acts 2:2-4:

Here the manifestation of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) is recorded in dramatic fashion, in the language and imagery of Theophany. Since the manifestation of God at Sinai (occurring at Pentecost, by tradition) was mentioned above, it is worth looking at elements of that theophany:

    • Thunders (lit. “voices”) and lightnings (19:16)
    • A thick cloud
    • Fire went down upon the mountain; smoke (as of a furnace) went up from it (19:18), perhaps parallel to the cloud in v. 16.
    • The mountain “trembled” (or “quaked”); in v. 16 it is said the people trembled (same verb)
    • The sound (lit. “voice”) of a horn (shofar) (19:19, also mentioned in v. 16), which sounded long and grew louder

Consider also the theophany to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12):

    • A great and strong wind (or “breath”, “spirit” rûaµ = Grk pneúma) which swept through and tore at the mountain
    • An earthquake (“quaking”, “shaking” ra±aš)
    • Fire (°¢š)

all of which occur as God (YHWH) is “passing over” (or “passing by” ±œ»¢r), but God Himself is not in (b) the wind, quaking or fire. Then comes a quiet, thin voice.

Here is the manifestation of the Spirit as recorded in Acts (note the theophanic details in italics, with specific parallels in bold):

    1. “And suddenly there came to be out of the heaven a sound as of a violent wind [pno¢¡] being carried (along) and it filled the whole house (in) which they were sitting” (2:2)
    2. “And there was seen [i.e. appeared] unto them tongues as if of fire divided through(out), and it sat upon each one of them” (2:3)
    3. “And they all were filled of/by (the) holy Spirit [pneúma] and began to speak in other tongues even as the Spirit gave (to) them to utter forth” (2:4)

Clearly, there is wordplay with “tongues (as if) of fire” [glœ¡ssai hœseí pyrós] anticipating “with other tongues” [hetérais glœ¡ssais] in v. 4. There is at least one other occurrence of the phrase “tongues of fire” from roughly the same period in a Qumran text (represented by fragments of 1Q29 and 4Q376: these with 4Q375 and 1Q22 may all be part of the same work). 1Q29 fragment 1 can be restored on the basis of 4Q376 (ellipses indicate gaps [lacunae] in the text):

“…the stone, like… they will provide you with light and he will go out with it with tongues of fire [blšwnwt °š]; the stone which is at its left side will shine to the eyes of all the assembly until the priest finishes speaking. And after it [the cloud?] has been removed… and you shall keep and do all that he tells you. And the prophet … … who speaks apostasy … … YHWH, God of …”

Another tiny fragment reads: “… the right stone when the priest leaves … … three tongues of fire … … And after he shall go up and remove his shoes ….” (translations taken from García Martínez & Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Brill/Eerdmans 1997/2000, vol. 1 pp. 108-9). The words (possibly spoken by Moses) refer to an anointed Priest; the stones on the right and left (urim and thummim?) are associated both with light and the voice of the Priest as he addresses the assembly. It is possible the “three tongues” are also “divided out”, one over each stone, and one directly over the Priest in the middle.

There is some uncertainty whether the “other tongues” refer to an ecstatic ‘heavenly’ language or ‘earthly’ foreign languages. Other New Testament references (Acts 10:46; 19:6, and those in 1 Cor. 12-14) suggest the former, while the context here (cf. Acts 2:11) indicates the latter. Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional, in order to reflect both: (a) heavenly origin, and (b) the languages of the nations. Returning to the Sinai theophany, there is an old Jewish tradition that as the Torah (each word of God) went forth it was split into the seventy languages of the nations (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 88b); that is, each nation could hear the voice of God (the “thunderings”) in its own language (cf. Exodus Rabbah V.9). A tradition along these lines seems to be at least as old as Philo of Alexandria (On the Decalogue §46), and so nearly contemporary with the book of Acts.

3. Reaction of Jews in Jerusalem (united voice of the Crowd), Acts 2:5-13:

The following outline indicates the main elements of this section:

    • Jews “come together” in Jerusalem (v. 5, 6a)
    • Response of the crowd (vv. 6b-11) in two aspects:
      1) Each person hears in his/her own language
      2) Nations respond in a (symbolic) united voice
    • Confusion (v. 12, see also in vv. 6-7)— “What does this wish to be?”

The mocking retort in v. 13 serves as a lead-in to Peter’s address in vv. 14-40. Let us look at each element in a little more detail:

a. Jews “come together” in Jerusalem (v. 5, 6a)

The mention of “Jews” (Ioudaíoi) being in Jerusalem may seem unnecessary, but it is significant for at least two reasons: (1) to emphasize the underlying religious and cultural unity of the ‘nations’ present in the city, and (2) it draws attention to the (post-exilic) reality of the current situation. When Israel, and particularly the southern kingdom of Judah (centered at Jerusalem), was taken into exile, the people were dispersed among the nations; and it was in the “dispersion” (diaspora) that a distinctly Jewish identity developed. It is generally assumed that these Jews are sojourning in Jerusalem for the festival of Weeks (Pentecost); the verb katoikéœ often implies a more permanent residence, but here may simply mean generally “to dwell”. These Jews are “from every nation under heaven”, and have come together in the city (for the festival). At the coming-to-be of “this voice” (t¢¡ phœn¢¡), again Jews, symbolized as a specific crowd (pl¢¡thos), “come together” (sunérchomai) in confusion (being “stirred together” [sungchéœ]). It is interesting that, just in the tradition regarding the Sinai theophany, the multitudes are hearing different languages but one voice.

b. Response of the Crowd (v. 6b-11)

V. 6b and 7a reprise the confusion—they “stood out of (their minds)” and “wondered” in amazement as they heard the disciples speaking. It is unnecessary to ask just how, when, or where these people heard the disciples—and altogether beside the point. The author has crafted a marvelous dramatic scene, with events (at the historical level) certainly having been compressed together into a single moment. Similarly, it is rather unlikely that a single person or group of persons in the crowd would have said precisely what the crowd is recorded as saying here. Instead, various reactions and responses are represented by one voice. This is important thematically, and, one might say, theologically as well. Often a creative literary device conveys far more truth than a ‘sober’ record of events. Consider several of the themes inherent in the crowd’s response:

    • The reference to the disciples as “Galileans” (Galilaíoi), while serving to emphasize the wonder of the situation, also creates a subtle shift stressing ethnic (and geographic) identity. Most of the disciples, and certainly the Twelve were Galileans (“men of Galilee”, 1:11). The early Christian mission began in Galilee (cf. 1:1-2), is centered in Jerusalem (by the united community of the Disciples), and will spread from there into all nations (1:8).
    • Two key references to hearing the voices speaking “in our own language” (t¢¡ idía dialéktœ h¢mœ¡n, v. 8, see also v. 6) and “in our tongues” (taís h¢metérais glœ¡ssais, v. 11) bracket the list of nations in vv. 9-11a. The importance of this description should by now be apparent. It may be useful to consider the qualifying phrase accompanying each reference:
      (1) V. 8: “in our own language in which we came to be born” [en h¢¡ egenn¢¡th¢men]
      (2) V. 11: “(hear speaking) in our tongues the great (work)s of God” [tá megaleía toú Theoú]
      The first phrase clearly indicates ethnic sense; the second echoes Old Testament language whereby news of the great and glorious deeds of God is spread into the surrounding nations (cf. Ex. 15:11ff, and many others)—geographic sense.
    • The list of nations (vv. 9-11) has been a source of some confusion, as indicated by the number of textual variants and proposed emendations. However, much of the difficulty disappears when its literary nature is recognized, rather than simply being a list rattled off by someone in the crowd. The inclusion of “Judea” has seemed strange (since Jews are speaking, and they are already in Judea!) as well as its position, leading to many suggested emendations; however, as a separate geographical list it actually makes sense—moving from East (Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia) to West (Anatolian/Asian provinces, Egypt, Lybia, Cyrene and Italy) with Judea in the middle. While still a bit uneven (the final two, Cretans and Arabs, don’t fit in order as well) and not without difficulties, its significance as a list of the (known and relevant) surrounding nations is obvious.
c. Confusion (v. 12, cf. also vv. 6-7)

The confusion of the crowd is re-iterated, stating that they all were beside themselves (again exíst¢mi, lit. “stand out of [one’s mind]” v. 7) and “thoroughly at a loss” (diaporéœ). Their summary response is: tí thélei toúto eínai; (literally “what does this wish to be?”), often translated more conventionally as “what does this mean?” —however a more literal rendering preserves better a sense of the strange, dynamic nature of the situation in which the crowd finds itself: events almost seem to have a will of their own! The ironic, mocking retort that closes the crowd’s response (“they are filled with sweet [wine]!”), of course, serves to lead into Peter’s great Pentecost speech (vv. 14-40). The disciples are indeed “filled” (pl¢¡thœ) with the Spirit (v. 4), rather than “filled” (mestóœ, a somewhat cruder verb which can indicate “stuffed”, “intoxicated”) with ordinary wine.

In conclusion, it is perhaps worth considering again the theme of the “restoration of Israel” in light of the Pentecost narrative:

    • The disciples have returned (turned back) to Jerusalem
      • The Twelve have been reconstituted and are gathered together (in Jerusalem) in one place
        • Jews from all nations (the Dispersion) also are gathered together in Jerusalem
      • They again hear the voice (word of God) in the languages of the nations, spoken by the Twelve and other disciples (echo of the Sinai theophany)
    • The disciples go out from Jerusalem into the nations (even to the Gentiles)

Saturday Series: Acts 1:6-11ff

The first two chapters of the book of Acts are important for establishing all of the main themes that will be developed throughout the narrative. These sections also illustrate the distinctive way that the author develops the historical traditions related to the early Christian mission. There is thus much to explore in these chapters from a literary-critical and historical-critical standpoint. In this particular study, I will be focusing on the literary-critical aspects.

The role of the Spirit is central to this narrative, beginning with the prologue (see the discussion in last week’s study), and continuing through the Pentecost narrative of chapter 2. In order to gain a proper sense of the way that the themes are established, and the traditions utilized, in the Pentecost narrative, it is most helpful to keep in mind the context and structure of the early chapters, which I outline as follows:

    1. Lukan Introduction (1:1-5)—a long, complex and difficult sentence (cf. Luke 1:1-4), which turns into an historical summary (vv. 2-4a) and concludes with a direct address of Jesus to his disciples (vv. 4b-5).
    2. The Ascension (1:6-11), comprising:
      (a) the question regarding the Kingdom and Jesus’ reply to his disciples(vv. 6-8),
      (b) the visible ascension with theophanic/apocalyptic imagery (v. 9),
      (c) appearance of the (Heavenly) men and their address to the disciples
    3. A summary narrative (1:12-14) recording the return of the disciples to Jerusalem, and their united presence in the Upper Room (the Twelve [minus Judas Iscariot], some women, Jesus’ mother Mary and his brothers). This summary parallels Luke 24:52-53, and is an important bridge between the Ascension and the following narrative.
    4. The Reconstitution of the Twelve (1:15-26)—two key parts, both of which act as seminal motifs for the remainder of the book:
      a) Peter’s speech (vv. 15-22)—the first of many such speeches in Acts, centering on quotation/interpretation of Scripture (a tradition regarding Judas Iscariot has been inserted parenthetically, vv. 18-19)
      b) The selection/commission of a disciple (Matthias) for (apostolic) ministry (vv. 23-26)
    5. The Pentecost Narrative (chapter 2)
      5a. Narrative of the coming of the Spirit (2:1-13)
      5b. Peter’s Speech (2:14-40), again centered on quotation/interpretation of Scripture.
      5c. Historical/editorial summary (2:41-47).

This same structure will be carried out through much of Acts; for example, in the next two chapters:

    • Main historical narrative, including notable ministry work, miracles, etc. (“Acts”) of the Apostles (3:1-11; 4:1-22)
    • Speech (or intercourse), centered on a passage (or passages) of Scripture, and containing early Gospel proclamation (kerygma) (3:12-26; 4:23-30)
    • Historical/editorial summary (none in ch. 3; 4:31)

Each of sections 1-4 (which make up Acts 1) is important thematically for an understanding of the Pentecost Narrative. Here I summarize some key notes:

Section 1: Lukan Introduction (Acts 1:1-5):

  • The historical summary (vv. 2-4a), we we looked in the previous study, has at its heart the double phrase:
    hoís kaí parést¢sen heautón zœ¡nta metá tó patheín autón en polloís tekm¢ríois, di’ h¢merœ¡n tesserákonta optanómenos autoís kaí légœn tá perí t¢¡s basileías toú theoú
    “…and to whom [i.e. the disciples] he stood himself alongside [i.e. presented himself] alive after his suffering in many fixed marks [i.e. signs/proofs], through forty days being seen by them and recounting/relating the (things) about the kingdom of God”
    We can break down chiastically the elements of this phrase:

Living presence of God/Christ in his disciples
[to whom he stood himself alongside alive…]
— Demonstration that He is the Messiah and Son of the Living God
[…after his suffering in many fixed marks/signs]
— Ministry and proclamation
[through days being seen by them and recounting/relating…]
The Kingdom of God
[…the things about the Kingdom of God]

These are all seminal themes and motifs of the Book of Acts, and, one might say, form the core of the Gospel message.

    • The narration continues in v. 4a and blends into an address (in direct speech) of Jesus to his disciples. Again note the key elements:

a. Stay in (do not depart from) Jerusalem (see Luke 24:52; Acts 1:12)
b. Remain about (i.e. wait) for the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49) which you have heard from me (see Acts 1:13-14, also Luke 24:53)
c. Reprise of John’s testimony:
“(On the one hand), John dunked in water, but (on the other hand), you will be dunked in the Holy Spirit after not many (of) these days”

Section 2: The Ascension (Acts 1:6-11):

Note again how one can break this passage down chiastically:

    • Question regarding the Kingdom of God with Jesus’ reply, including a reiteration of the promise of the Holy Spirit (vv. 6-8)
      • The Ascension of Jesus (v. 9)
        —At their seeing/looking
        — He was raised up(on)
        — A cloud took him under
        —Away from their eyes
    • Angelic appearance and eschatological announcement about Christ’s return (vv. 10-11)

The theme of the Kingdom—shorthand for “Kingdom of God (or Heaven)”—is most significant; I have discussed it in some detail in earlier notes and articles. One can, I think, outline four principal ways of understanding the phrase:

    1. As the Eternal rule of God (in Heaven)
    2. As an eschatological (Messianic) Kingdom, on earth, the establishment of which will involve:
      (a) judgment/defeat of the nations and enemies of God, and
      (b) restoration of the Davidic inheritance to Israel.
    3. In the person and work of Jesus—the miracles, teaching, foundation of the church, atoning death and resurrection, etc.
    4. As the (spiritual) presence and power of God in the heart, mind, and lives of believers.

Other interpretations are possible, but they likely will end up being a variation on one of the above. These four meanings can be found in the New Testament—even, I think, in Jesus’ own teaching on the Kingdom—but probably #1 and 4 are most common. The thorniest question scholars raise is to what extent #2 is part of Jesus’ teaching. It is likely that his proclamation “the Kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15 par.) would have been understood in this manner—of eschatological/Messianic expectation—by his contemporaries; and this certainly seems to be what the disciples have in mind here at Acts 1:6.

Let us briefly examine the disciples’ question:

Kýrie, ei en tœ¡ chronœ¡ toútœ apokathistáneis t¢¡n basileían tœ¡ Isra¢¡l;
“Lord, in this time will you set down again the kingdom to Israel?”

A more literal rendering of apokathist¢¡nai would indicate setting the Kingdom down from (apó) where it is currently, back to its former condition; conventionally, we could translate “reconstitute” or “restore”.

Jesus’ reply comes in two parts: first—

“It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has set in (his) own exousía

The word exousía (from éxestin), almost impossible to translate literally, has the sense of “ability” or “authority” to do something. Jesus effectively dispenses with their question, without necessarily denying its validity—however, the brusque response may suggest a misunderstanding on their part. Earlier it is stated that Jesus, during the days following his resurrection, related to his disciples “the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (v. 3). Almost certainly this involved more than the sort of eschatological Messianic kingdom (meaning #2 above) common in popular religious thought. Yet this is what they ask about here. If the first part of Jesus’ reply does away with their question, the second part, in some sense re-establishes it:

“But you shall receive (the) power of the holy Spirit (which is) coming upon you, and you shall be my witnesses (both) in Jerusalem, and [in] all Judea and Samaria, and unto the end of the earth.”

Indeed, I would maintain that the idea of the “restoration of the kingdom”, or, one may say, the “restoration of Israel” is an important idea both in Jesus’ teaching and in the book of Acts.

Section 3: Summary narrative (1:12-14):

I have already mentioned a couple of themes found in this short passage; but, to reiterate, in light of the above comments:

    • The disciples “return (or turn back) into Jerusalem”, v. 12. On the surface this is a simple description; however, consider the language in light of the implied motif of the “restoration” of Israel:
      a) The dispersed Israelites will return to the land, and to Jerusalem
      b) The restoration of Israel is often tied to repentance (turning back)
    • The Twelve disciples are gathered together in one place (upper room), v. 13. If the Twelve represent Israel (see below), then here we also have an image of the twelve tribes gathered together again.
    • The initial words of v. 14 contain a number of related, seminal motifs:
      • hoútoi (“these” —the twelve, along with the other disciples)
      • pántes (“all” —that is, all of them, together)
      • ¢¡san proskarteroúntes (“were being strong” [sense of “endurance”, “patience”] “toward” their purpose/goal)
      • homothymadón (“with one impulse” —a key phrase that occurs throughout Acts, cf. 2:46; 4:24, et al. thymós is often translated as “soul”, “mind” [“with one mind”], but also as “passion”, “desire”; the primal sense of the word was something like a “[violent] stirring”)
      • t¢¡ proseuch¢¡ (“in prayer”)

Does this not seem a beautiful, concise image of what one might call the “kingdom of God” on earth?

Section 4: The Reconstitution of the Twelve (1:15-26):

Here it is important to emphasis again the theme of the Twelve. On purely objective grounds, the Twelve represent one of the earliest Christian traditions—a fixed tradition and symbol, separate, it would seem, from much of the actual historical detail. This appears clearly enough from passages such as 1 Cor. 15:5 and Matthew 19:28, where “the Twelve” are mentioned, even though only eleven disciples could be involved (Judas being dead or disqualified). Also, note the variant lists of the Twelve (Matt. 10:1-14; Mark 3:14-19; and Luke 6:13-16 / Acts 1:13). Most likely the Twelve were chosen (by Jesus) in part to represent the tribes of Israel. This is not stated directly, but note Matthew 19:28 (and the Lukan parallel 22:30) and the sending out of the Twelve in Matthew 10:5f. It is possible too, at least in early Christian tradition, that the twelve baskets in the miraculous feeding came to be thought of as symbolic of Israel re-gathered, as well as an image of Church unity (see Didache 9:4 on the Eucharist). In the book of Revelation 21:12-14, the twelve apostles are also identified in terms of the twelve tribes.

So here, in Acts, the choosing of a twelfth apostle, to take the place of Judas Iscariot, takes on great significance. According to the logic of the narrative, Israel (the Twelve tribes) cannot be restored until the Twelve are reconstituted. This may seem strange to modern thinking, but the symbolism was powerful indeed to early Christians, for whom Israel and “the Church” were closely connected.

This sets the stage for the Pentecost narrative (Acts 2:1-14ff) which I will discuss in detail next week, continuing our literary-critical study of the early chapters of the book of Acts.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: John: The Paraclete (4)

(The first Paraclete-saying [14:16-17] was discussed in the part 1 of this article; the second saying [14:25-26] in part 2.; the third [15:26-27] in part 3.)

Saying 4-5: John 16:7-15

The final Paraclete-saying(s) are found in the third (and final) discourse-division of the Last Discourse; on which, cf. again my outline:

    • 3:31-38Introduction to the Discourse (cf. above)
    • 14:1-31Discourse/division 1Jesus’ departure
      • The relationship between Jesus and the Father (vv. 1-14)
      • Jesus’ Words for His Disciples (vv. 15-31)
    • 15:1-16:4aDiscourse/division 2—The Disciples in the World
      • Illustration of the Vine and Branches: Jesus and the Disciples (vv. 1-17)
      • Instruction and Exhortation: The Disciples and the World (15:18-16:4a)
    • 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)
    • 16:29-33Conclusion to the Discourse

The theme of the third discourse, as I define it, is the departure of Jesus and his farewell to his disciples. In many ways, this has been the theme of the Last Discourse as a whole, but is especially emphasized here. In the central section of the discourse (vv. 16-24), Jesus discusses his departure and return. The context of the preceding vv.4b-15, which contain the Paraclete-saying(s), makes clear that he is referring to his ultimate departure (back to the Father) and subsequent (eschatological) return. During this period, he will be present with the disciples (and all other believers) through the Spirit.

Some commentators would demarcate two distinct sayings in vv. 7-15 (in which case, these would be sayings # 4 and 5); however, in my view, it is better to treat vv. 7-15 here as a single unit—treating it as a more complex and expansive single Paraclete-saying. Even so, structurally, we may divine this section of the discourse into three parts:

    • The Promise of the Spirit (vv. 4b-15)
      • Initial statement by Jesus on his departure (vv. 4b-7a)
      • The Coming of the Spirit (vv. 7b-11)
      • Concluding statement by Jesus on his departure (vv. 12-15)

The Paraclete-saying covers the final two parts, anchored by the central reference (vv. 7b-11) to the coming of the Spirit (Paraclete). These verses have proven to be the most difficult to interpret of all the Paraclete-sayings, and among the most difficult portions of the Last Discourse as a whole. For this reason, I discuss vv. 7b-11 in detail through a set of supplemental (exegetical) daily notes.

As noted above, the Paraclete-saying must be understood in the immediate context of Jesus’ impending departure (back to the Father), vv. 4b-6. Because Jesus will no longer be physically present with the disciples, his continued presence must be spiritual—realized through the Spirit. In this regard, Jesus declares in v. 7 that it is actually beneficial for the disciples that he leaves them (physically):

“But I relate to you the truth: it bears together (well) for you that I should go away; for, if I should not go away, (then) the (one) called alongside [para/klhto$] will not come toward you…”

The verb sumfe/rw literally means “bear together”; in English idiom, we might say, things “come together” for a person’s advantage, suggesting a convergence of beneficial circumstances. Jesus will be able to minister to believers, in perpetuity, through the Spirit, in ways that he simply could not do within the limited scope of his earthly ministry. And, indeed, his departure (back to the Father) is required for the coming of the Spirit:

“…but if I (do) travel (off), I will send him toward you.”

The Spirit comes from God the Father, and Jesus (the Son) must request and receive the Spirit from the Father so as to be able to send it along to the disciples (and other believers). Verse 7 here continues the progression of the prior sayings in this regard (note the shift of focus from the Father to the Son):

    • The Father gives the Spirit, at Jesus’ request (14:16)
      • The Father sends the Spirit in Jesus’ name (14:26)
        • Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father (15:26)
          • Jesus (the Son) sends the Spirit (16:7b)

Elsewhere in the Gospel, it is clearly indicated (or alluded to) that Jesus gives the Spirit to believers (1:33; 7:37-39, cp. 4:10-15; 6:51, 63; 19:30, [34]; 20:22), even though the Father is the ultimate source of the Spirit (cf. 3:34-35; 4:24; 6:32; 17:8ff).

As in the first and third Paraclete-sayings, the “one called alongside” (para/klhto$) is referred to by the title “the Spirit of truth”. In discussing the third saying (cf. Part 3), I mentioned that here “truth” (a)lh/qeia) refers principally, and most specifically, to the truth about who Jesus is. This Christological emphasis continues here in the final saying. However, the emphasis is expressed in a curious way, especially in comparison to the rather straightforward reference in 15:26 to the Spirit as a witness about (peri/) Jesus (“about me [peri\ e)mou]”). Here is how the matter is stated in v. 8:

“and, (hav)ing come, that (one) will show the world (to be wrong), about a(marti/a, and about dikaiosu/nh, and about kri/si$.”

I have discussed this verse in a recent note, which I would recommend reading before continuing with this article.

The verb e)le/gxw has the basic meaning of “expose, show (to be wrong)”. The Spirit will show the world (o ( ko/smo$)—that is, the current world-order, dominated by sin and darkness—to be wrong about (peri/) three things in particular:

    • a(marti/a (“sin”) [v. 9, note]
    • dikaiosu/nh (“right[eous]ness”) [v. 10, note]
    • kri/si$ (“judgment”) [v. 11, note]

As the parallel with 15:26 suggests, the Spirit’s witness “about” (peri/) these things is fundamentally Christological—that is, it relates to, and is defined by, the witness about Jesus (“about me”). This is expounded in vv. 9-11, where the Spirit’s role in relation to each of the three terms of the triad in v. 8 is explained. I have discussed these verses in detail in the supplemental notes (cf. the links above), so I will be giving only a summary of that analysis here.

    • a(marti/a (“sin”)Sin is defined, not as the world understands it, in a conventional ethical-religious sense, but principally in terms of trust (pi/sti$) in Jesus. From the Johannine theological standpoint, the great (and unforgivable) sin, of which the “world” is guilty, is an unwillingness to trust in Jesus as the Son of God.
    • dikaiosu/nh (“right[eous]ness”)—Again, true righteousness is not as the world understands or realizes it, but defined entirely by the righteousness of God (the Father) Himself, which is shared by, and manifest in, the person of the Son (Jesus). This righteousness follows the Son, in his exaltation and return to the Father, being otherwise invisible and hidden to the world. Only through the Spirit is this righteousness (of Father and Son) manifest, to believers.
    • kri/si$ (“judgment”)—The world also fails to understand the true nature of God’s judgment, in two main respects: (1) it is not limited to a future time, but is realized in the present; and (2) one experiences judgment based on whether one trusts and accepts the witness of who Jesus is. Those who trust in Jesus have already passed through the Judgment, while those who do not trust have, in a sense, already been judged (and condemned). Jesus may seem himself to have been judged by the world, under its authority, through his suffering and death; however, in reality, it is the world and its “Chief” (the Devil) that have been judged.

This witness by the Spirit, though it shows the world to be wrong, is directed primarily to the disciples (and other believers). This is clear from what follows in verses 12-15 (cf. the recent note). The theme of the Spirit’s teaching role is brought back into focus, from the earlier saying in 14:25-26 (cf. Part 2). The Spirit will continue Jesus’ role as teacher, continuing to teach believers (v. 12). The title “Spirit of truth [a)lh/qeia]” is particularly significant here, as Jesus declares that the Spirit with lead believers on the way [vb o(dhge/w] “in all the truth” (e)n th=| a)lhqei/a| pa/sh|). This association between the Spirit and truth reflects an important Johannine theme; indeed, the author of 1 John goes so far as to declare that “the Spirit is the truth” (5:6).

On the one hand, the Spirit becomes an additional link in the chain of relation: Father-Son-Believers. The Father gives to the Son, and the Son, in turn, gives to believers. He gives the Spirit to believers, and then, through the Spirit, he continues to give to believers. Thus, he gives the Spirit the words to speak, and the Spirit speaks, in Jesus’ name and on his behalf, to believers. This continues an important Johannine theme regarding the Son speaking the words of the Father (cf. the references in the supplemental note on vv. 12-15). The Son speaks only the words which he hears, and is given, by the Father. Jesus responds as a dutiful son, following his father’s example—he says (and does) what he hears (and sees) the Father saying (and doing).

At the same time, the Son (Jesus) is personally present with (and within) believers through the Spirit. It is truly he who speaks in and among believers. In this way, Jesus is able to continue teaching believers, as he still has “many (thing)s” to speak. Some commentators would limit this dynamic, applying it only to the original disciples. However, in my view, such a restriction distorts the message of the Last Discourse as a whole, and would contradict the thrust of the Johannine theology. In 1 John 2:20, 27, for example, which will be discussed in the next article of this series, it is rather clearly expressed that the Spirit continues to teach believers. This is an important aspect of Johannine spiritualism, and it will be explored further, and in considerable detail, in the studies on 1 John.

In verses 14-15, the Paraclete-sayings reach their theological (and Christological) conclusion, restating several fundamental Johannine themes. First, there is the contextual theme (in v. 14) relating to the exaltation of Jesus, utilizing the key-verb doca/zw (“show/give honor”). The “lifting up” and honoring of Jesus begins with his Passion (12:23, 28; 13:31-32; 17:1) and concludes with his receiving of the Spirit to give/send to believers. This entire process of exaltation, as expressed in the Johannine Gospel narrative, is characterized by the verb doca/zw (cf. 7:39; 12:16).

Second, the exaltation of Jesus is part of a more fundamental (and essential) dynamic relationship between Father and Son (on the use of doca/zw in this context, cf. 8:54; 14:13; 15:8; 17:1, 4-5). As noted above, the Spirit now becomes part of the fundamental chain of relation: the Father gives to the Son, who then gives to the Spirit, and the Spirit, in turn, now gives to believers.

Finally, the climactic verse 15 summarizes the core Johannine theological-Christological message (cf. especially 13:34-35; 17:7ff). As the Son sent to earth by God the Father, Jesus receives “all things” from the Father, so that he is able to give them, in turn, to believers. The Spirit is the foremost of what the Father gives to the Son, and which also the Son gives to believers. Through the Spirit, the Son will continue to give to believers. The focus is principally on Jesus’ words, his teaching, that he gives to believers; however, the theological formulation of the statement in v. 15 is more comprehensive than that. The Spirit receives from that which belongs to the Son—from the “all things” that the Father gives to the Son.

As a last point, the thematic emphasis of the great Prayer-Discourse of chapter 17 is also foreshadowed here, with an allusion to the unity between Father and Son: “all (thing)s, as (many) as the Father holds, are mine…”. In the Father’s giving to the Son, the Son shares in what belongs to the Father. Similarly, there is an allusion to believers’ unity with the Son (and the Father), since, through the Spirit, we (as believers) come to share in the things that belong to the Son. We must, however, emphasize again here that the communication of this to us takes place through the idiom of speaking and witnessing. The Spirit receives from what belongs to the Son and gives it forth as a message (vb a)nagge/llw) to us. The verbal aspect of this spiritual witness remains prominent throughout the Johannine writings, and is central to the Johannine spiritualism.

In the next article of this series, we shall begin to examine how the Johannine beliefs regarding the Spirit, as expressed in the Gospel, were realized in the wider Community. For this, we turn to the Johannine Letters, especially the work known as 1 John.

May 18: John 16:12ff

John 16:12-15

The Paraclete-saying in vv. 8-11 (discussed in the previous notes) continues in verses 12-15. Some commentators would treat these as two distinct units, however I prefer to consider vv. 7b-15 as a single Paraclete-unit. The main reason is that, in the prior three sayings (14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27), the statement on the coming of the “one called alongside” (para/klhto$) is followed by a reference to the parákl¢tos as “the Spirit of truth” (or “the holy Spirit”). Here, the parákl¢tos is called the “Spirit of truth” in verse 12, which strongly indicates that vv. 12-15 represents a continuation of the saying in vv. 7b-11, and that vv. 7b-15 constitutes a single saying, albeit expanded and more complex, according to the pattern in the Last Discourse.

The Spirit’s role and function was described in vv. 8-11: he will expose the world (o( ko/smo$), showing it to be wrong; this is fundamental meaning of the verb e)le/gxw, as previously discussed. The Spirit will show the world to be wrong on three points, each of which was discussed in some detail in the prior notes: (1) about “sin” (a(marti/a, note), (2) about “right[eous]ness” (dikaiosu/nh, note), and (3) about “judgment” (kri/si$, note). That the Spirit’s witness is aimed primarily at the disciples (believers), rather than directed at the world, is indicated by what follows in vv. 12-15. The world’s understanding of sin, righteous, and judgment is shown to be wrong, mainly for the benefit of believers. At the same time, believers (esp. the disciples) give witness toward the world, and the Spirit’s witness enables and guides them in this mission (cp. the Synoptic tradition in Mark 13:9-13 par, and throughout the book of Acts).

Thus it is that in vv. 12-15 the focus shifts back to the teaching function of the Spirit, emphasized in the second Paraclete-saying (14:25-26), an emphasis that is also reflected in the third saying (15:26f). In the articles on those sayings, I brought out the important point that the Spirit continues the mission of Jesus with his disciples (and future believers), and that Jesus is present, in and among believers, through the Spirit, continuing to speak and teach. This aspect of the Paraclete’s role is made particularly clear here in vv. 12ff, where Jesus begins:

“I have yet many (thing)s to relate to you, but you are not able to bear (them) now”

The verb he uses is basta/zw, which has the basic meaning of lifting something up and holding/supporting it. The disciples’ inability to “bear” Jesus’ teaching means that they are not yet ready to hear and understand what he has to say. The failure of the disciples to understand during the Last Discourse (e.g., 14:5, 8, 22) is part of a wider misunderstanding-motif that features throughout the Johannine Discourses. Jesus’ hearers are unable to understand the true and deeper meaning of his words. Only after the disciples have received the Spirit, will they be able to understand. Jesus still has “many (thing)s” to tell them, and he will communicate this further teaching through the Spirit:

“…but when that (one) should come, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you on the way in all truth; for he will not speak from himself, but (rather), as many (thing)s as he hears, he will speak, and the(se) coming (thing)s he will give forth as a message to you.” (v. 13)

The statement that the Spirit will guide believers “in all truth” corresponds to the claim  that the Spirit will teach them “all things”. In this regard, the identification of the Spirit-Paraclete by the title “the Spirit of truth” is particularly significant. The author of 1 John would take the connection a step further, declaring that the Spirit is the truth (5:6). For more on the expression “Spirit of truth,” cf. the article on the first Paraclete-saying.

Some commentators would limit these Paraclete-sayings in application to the original disciples, but such a restriction runs counter to the overall thrust of the Last Discourse, as well as to the Johannine theological-spiritual understanding. The Spirit continues to teach believers “all things”, as is clear from 1 Jn 2:20, 27 (to be discussed in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”). The focus in the narrative is, however, primarily upon the original disciples of Jesus, who are the first believers to receive the Spirit and to continue Jesus’ mission on earth.

The (correlative) neuter plural pronoun o%sa (“as many [thing]s as”) relates back to the neuter plural adjective polla/ (“many [thing]s”) in v. 12. The Spirit will hear the “many (thing)s” that Jesus has to say to believers, and will then speak them, on Jesus’ behalf; effectively, Jesus will be speaking through the Spirit, even as he will be present alongside believers through the Spirit. Interestingly, the statement in v. 12 (cf. above) seems, on the surface, to contradict what Jesus said in 14:30; note the formal similarity in expression:

    • not yet [ou)ke/ti] many (thing)s [polla/] will I speak [lalh/sw] with/to you” (14:30)
    • “yet [e&ti] many (thing)s [polla/] I have to say [le/gein] to you” (16:12)

This is another example of double-meaning in the Johannine discourses—where Jesus’ words can be understood on two different levels, or in two different ways. On the one hand, Jesus will not yet speak “many things” to his disciples, since he will not be present with them (on earth) much longer; but, on the other hand, he will yet say “many things” to them through the Spirit.

This chain of relation, between the Son (Jesus) and the Spirit, is given in verse 14, expressed very much in the Johannine theological idiom:

“That (one) will show me honor, (in) that he will receive out of th(at which is) mine and will give (it) forth as a message to you.”

The Spirit receives the words from Jesus, and gives them along to believers. This corresponds to the relationship between Father and Son, whereby the Son (Jesus) receives from the Father, and then gives it, in turn, to believers. The Spirit represents, in one sense, a further link in this chain; at the same time, Jesus himself is manifest in the Spirit, just as the Father is personally manifest in him (the Son). An important emphasis throughout the Gospel is how Jesus speaks the words he receives from the Father; in this regard, he is functioning as a dutiful son learning from his father and following the father’s example—i.e., the Son says (and does) what he hears (and sees) the Father saying (and doing). On this important theme, see esp. 3:31-34; 5:19ff, 30ff; 7:17-18; 8:26, 28, 38ff; 12:49f; 14:10; 15:15; 17:8, 14.

The Son speaks only what he hears from the Father; similarly, the Spirit speaks only what he hears from the Son. The precise expression is that he will receive “out [i.e. from] of th(at which is) mine” (e)k tou= e)mou=). Since the Father has given “all things” to the Son (3:35; 17:7, etc), the words of God which the Spirit receives come from the Son, and belong to him. In my view, the neuter plural participle (verbal noun) ta\ e)rxo/mena (“the coming [thing]s”) in v. 13 refers, not to news of future events, but simply to the words/teachings that are “coming” to the Spirit from the Son (the verb e&rxomai tends to have this Christological focus in the Gospel of John). The neuter plural has a general and comprehensive meaning, corresponding to the plural adjective poll/a (“all things”) in v. 12 (cf. above).

The disciples’ receiving of the Spirit marks the final stage of Jesus’ exaltation. The process of the Son being honored (vb doca/zw), which began with his Passion (cf. 12:23, 28), culminates in his receiving the Spirit from the Father to give to believers. The entire narrative of exaltation, from Jesus’ earthly suffering to communicating the Spirit from heaven, is characterized by the verb doca/zw (cf. 7:39; 12:16, etc).

“All (thing)s [pa/nta], as many as [o%sa] the Father holds, are mine; through this [i.e. for this reason] I said that he receives out of th(at which is) mine and will give (it) forth as a message to you.” (v. 15)

Verse 15 summarizes the theological message of the passage, stating quite clearly the key points of the Johannine theology which I have noted above. The neuter plural adjective pa/nta (“all [thing]s”) corresponds to the polla/ (“many [thing]s”) in v. 12, and the (correlative) neuter plural pronoun o%sa (“as many [thing]s as”) is repeated from v. 13. The adjective pa=$ (“all, every”) plays an important theological role in the Gospel; special attention should be given to other occurrences of the neuter (“every [thing], all [thing]s”)—cf. 1:3; 3:31, 35; 5:20; 6:37, 39; 10:4; 14:26; 16:30; 17:2, 7, 10; 18:4; 19:28.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: John: The Paraclete (2)

(The first Paraclete-saying [14:16-17] was discussed in the first part of this article.)

Saying 2: John 14:25-26

The second Paraclete-saying is very much parallel with the first, each occurring within the same main section of the first discourse:

    • 14:1-31Discourse/division 1Jesus’ departure
      • The relationship between Jesus and the Father (vv. 1-14)
      • Jesus’ Words for His Disciples (vv. 15-31)

The two Paraclete sayings are in the second portion (vv. 15-31), presenting Jesus’ words for his disciples; this unit can be divided into three parts:

    • Instruction to the Disciples: Love and the Commandments (vv. 15-24)
    • Exhortation for the Disciples: Farewell Promise of Peace (vv. 25-27)
    • Concluding statement by Jesus on his departure (vv. 28-31)

The first Paraclete-saying forms the first statement in the Instruction, while the second saying similarly holds place as the first statement in the brief Exhortation (vv. 25-27), which I would outline as follows:

    • Exhortation for the Disciples: Farewell Promise of Peace (vv. 25-27)
      —Initial statement: Promise of the Spirit (vv. 25-26)
      —Exortation: Jesus’ gift of his Peace (v. 27)

The Paraclete-saying in verse 26 is prefaced by the clause in verse 25, in which Jesus declares:

“These (thing)s I have spoken to you (while) remaining alongside you…”

The expression “these (thing)s” (tau=ta) is comprehensive, referring to all that Jesus has said to disciples in the Last Discourse (up to that point), but also alluding to everything that he has taught them during the time of his ministry. The simple prepositional phrase “(while) remaining alongside you” is theologically charged, and clearly alludes to the prior Paraclete-saying, where it was said that the Spirit would “remain [me/nei] alongside [para/]”. Now Jesus says that he, too, has remained (same verb, me/nw) alongside (para/) his disciples. The clear implication is that the Spirit will continue the work of Jesus when he was alongside the disciples. The preposition para/ (“alongside”) is, of course, fundamental to the meaning of the term para/klhto$ (parákl¢tos)—denoting one who is “called alongside” to give help and assistance.

The saying proper continues in verse 26:

“…but the (one) called alongside [para/klhto$], the holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that (one) will teach you all (thing)s, and will put under memory for you all (thing)s which I (have) said to you.”

I mentioned above that this saying is parallel to the first saying (in vv. 16-17, cf. part 1); this will be demonstrated by comparing each component here with that of the first saying.

1. In the first saying, the one “called alongside” was referred to as “the Spirit of truth” (to\ pneu=ma th=$ a)lhqei/a$); here, he is referred to as “the holy Spirit” (to\ pneu=ma to\ a%gion). Clearly, these are both references to the Spirit of God, comparable expressions emphasizing two distinct, fundamental attributes or characteristics of God—truth and holiness.

The parallelism becomes even more precise when we consider that the Hebrew expression corresponding to Greek [to\] pneu=ma [to\] a%gion is vd#q) j^Wr (“Spirit of holiness”). This expression is relatively rare in the Old Testament, occurring just three times, and always with a suffix—either “Spirit of His holiness” (Isa 63:10-11) or “Spirit of your holiness” (Psalm 51:13 [11]). It is much more frequent in the Qumran scrolls, where the Old Testament usage tends to be followed, referring specifically to the Spirit of YHWH’s holiness (i.e. His holy Spirit).

However, there is greater variety and diversity of expression in the Qumran texts. There is, for example, the form hv*odq= j^Wr (e.g., 1QS 3:7), which could be translated “Spirit of holiness” (with hv*odq= as a feminine noun) or “holy Spirit” (feminine adjective), which, in the latter case, would essentially be identical with the New Testament usage. The Qumran texts are able to speak of a “Spirit of holiness” (or “holy Spirit”), as an entity or reality distinct from YHWH Himself; however, it is not always clear whether the term j^Wr (“spirit”) refers to a personal being, the manifestation (or effect) of a particular attribute, or even of a characteristic or tendency within an individual human being.

The New Testament usage lies somewhere between the Old Testament (emphasizing that it is God’s Spirit) and the Qumran texts (where the focus is more on the characteristic of holiness).

2. In the first saying, the Spirit comes from the Father (He “gives” [vb didw/mi] it), but is sent at Jesus’ request. Also in this second saying the Spirit is sent (vb pe/mpw) by the Father, but He sends it in Jesus’ name (“in my name”). The relational dynamic (between Father, Son, and Spirit) is the same, but the emphasis—in terms of the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit—differs. Even so, early Christians would have been familiar with the idea that requests (to God the Father) were to be made “in Jesus’ name”, a point Jesus himself makes earlier in this discourse (vv. 13-14, cf. also 15:16; 16:23-24, 26), so clearly the two passages are related conceptually—Jesus makes a request of God the Father, and the answer is given ‘in his name’.

More important to the Johannine theology, is the idea that Jesus came in the Father’s name—that is, as the Father’s representative, doing His work and making Him known to humankind (to the disciples/believers). This is expressed earlier in the discourses (5:43; 10:25; cf. also 12:13, 28), and is very much integral to the Christological theme of Jesus as the dutiful Son, who does the will of his Father, doing what he sees the Father doing, and saying what he hears the Father saying. This name-motif becomes especially prominent in the Prayer-Discourse of chapter 17, where it relates to the union that believers have with the Father (through the Son)—reflecting the very union that the Son has with the Father (vv. 6, 11-12, 26).

The theme of the Son acting in the Father’s name is extended to the relationship between believers and the Son. Just as the Son came in His Father’s name, so believers, in continuing the mission of the Son (Jesus), come in his name.

Thus, we may bring together three important Johannine themes which are relevant to the idea of the Spirit being sent in Jesus’ name:

    • Jesus (the Son) came in the Father’s name
    • Through trust in Jesus (i.e., in his name, cf. 3:18; 20:31) we are united with the Father (through the Son), and are joined together “in His name”
    • Believers are to continue the mission of Jesus, going and acting “in his name”

3. The emphasis in the first saying is on the Spirit being with the disciples (believers), which is explained as being “alongside” (para/), but also “in” (e)n) them. Here in the second saying we gain a glimpse of what the Spirit will do while he is present “alongside” (and “in”) believers. The role and function of the Spirit here is defined by two verbs, presented in parallel expressions:

    • dida/skw (“teach”)— “he will teach you all things”
    • u(pomimnh/skw (“put under memory”)— “he will put under memory for you all things…”

Let us examine each of these in turn.

dida/skw (“teach”)

The verb dida/skw occurs 10 times in the Gospel, where it almost always refers to an action being performed by Jesus. On the surface, Jesus appears to be acting like an ordinary Jewish rabbi, teaching in the synagogue (6:59) and in the Temple precincts (7:14, 28; 8:2, 20); cf. also 18:20. However, the content of what he says makes clear that this is no ordinary teaching. Indeed, the Johannine Discourses play on the idea that Jesus’ hearers misunderstand his words, and are not aware of the true and deeper meaning of his teaching.

In any case, Jesus is the teacher in the Gospel; and yet, he only communicates what is taught to him by God the Father. As a dutiful Son (cf. above), he faithfully receives and follows the teaching of his Father (8:28). In this regard, the Spirit continues Jesus’ teaching mission. Moreover, the Son (Jesus) is able to communicate the Father’s teaching because the Father has given the Spirit to him (3:34-35). Now Jesus does the same for his disciples: he gives to them the Spirit, and they, through the Spirit, will continue his teaching. Ultimately, the teaching belongs to the Father—he is the source of the teaching. The Father teaches the Son, and the Son, in turn (through the Spirit) teaches believers.

In our discussion on the third Paraclete-saying (in Part 3), we will gain a better idea of the nature and content of this teaching.

u(pomimnh/skw (“put under memory”)

This verb is a compound form of the base verb mimnh/skw, “call to mind, remind”, which occurs in the middle voice (mimnh/skomai, “remember”) in the New Testament. The prefixed form, with the preposition u(po/ (“under”), literally denotes putting something under the memory; in English idiom, we would say “call to mind”, “have in memory”, “keep/put in mind”. The basic sense is causative—i.e., to cause a person to remember.

The compound verb occurs just 7 times in the New Testament, and only here in the Gospel (but also in 3 John 10). The regular mimnh/skw (mimnh/skomai) is used more frequently (23 times), and occurs 3 times in the Gospel (2:17, 22; 12:16). This Johannine usage is instructive for understanding the significance of u(pomimnh/skw here. In both passages, it is indicated that, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples remembered the things he said and did, and understood (for the first time) their real significance. The implication is that this remembrance, with understanding, is due to the presence and activity of the Spirit. Prior to their receiving the Spirit, the disciples were much like other hearers of Jesus’ words, being unable to understand their true meaning (cf. 5:33ff; 6:60-61ff; 12:16; 14:5ff).

pa/nta (“all things”)

Finally, we must discuss what it is that the Spirit teaches and causes the disciples to remember. The object of both verbs is the substantive (neuter plural) adjective pa/nta (“all [thing]s”). In the case of dida/skw, this adjective is given without qualification: “he will teach you all (thing)s.” However, for u(pomimnh/skw, the adjective is part of a longer phrase: “…all (the thing)s which I (have) said to you.” The focus is on what Jesus said to them in the past, which would necessarily be the case if the Spirit is causing the disciples to remember. As noted above, it is not simply an act of remembering, but of remembering so as to understand the true and deeper meaning of Jesus’ words. The Johannine Discourses themselves may be considered as part of this process of interpretive remembrance of what Jesus said (and did).

But what of pa/nta, without qualification, as the object of dida/cei (“he will teach”)? It should be understood in a comprehensive sense (indeed, “all things”), but delineated by the context of the Spirit continuing the teaching ministry of Jesus. The adjective could thus be qualified as “all things which I have to say to you.” Jesus has yet more to teach believers (16:12), and this teaching will be done through the Spirit. This is a point which will be expounded further when we discuss the next (third) Paraclete-saying in 15:26.

April 13: John 19:34

In the prior note (on John 19:30), we saw how the tradition regarding the moment of Jesus’ death underwent a certain theological development in the Gospels. From the simple historical tradition of Jesus’ giving out his last breath (and thus expiring/dying), we have, in the Gospel of Luke (23:46), the more theologically pointed idea of Jesus “giving along” his spirit. The concepts are distinct, but closely related, specifically since the Greek word pneu=ma (like Hebrew j^Wr) can mean both “breath” and “spirit”. The development is taken a step further in the Johannine version:

“Then, when he (had) taken the sharp [i.e. sour] (wine), Yeshua said ‘It has been completed’, and, bending the head, he gave along the spirit [pare/dwken to\ pneu=ma].” (19:30)

Given the central importance of the Spirit in the Johannine writings, there is strong reason to believe that the author is here alluding to (and foreshadowing) the idea of Jesus giving along the Spirit to believers (cf. below). This is supported by the predilection of the Gospel writer (and of Jesus as the speaker of the Discourses) to utilize double-meaning and theological wordplay. There is almost always a deeper (spiritual) meaning to Jesus’ words and actions than what appears on the surface. So it is here as well. On the one hand, to “give along the spirit” means to expire/die; at the deeper level, however, it is a reference to giving along the Spirit (of God).

Interestingly, the verb paradi/dwmi (“give along”) in the Gospels typically refers to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, and of the “giving over” Jesus to the authorities. That is the context of every other occurrence of the verb in the Gospel of John (6:64, 71; 12:4; 13:2, 11, 21, etc; cf. also 19:16). Elsewhere in the New Testament, it can also be used in reference to the “giving along” of teaching and the authoritative (Gospel/apostolic) tradition to believers. Most relevant to the context here in 19:30 are the references (in the Pauline letters) to Jesus’ giving himself (or being given by God the Father) up to death for the sake of believers, as an atoning sacrifice over sin (cf. Rom 4:25; 8:32; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25). In 1 Pet 2:23, in what is likely an allusion to Jesus’ Passion, we have the idea of Jesus’ entrusting himself (giving himself along) to God.

The use of paradi/dwmi here thus adds to the possible association between the Spirit and the death of Jesus.

John 19:34

Following the narrative statement in v. 30, the Gospel records a famous detail immediately following the death of Jesus. It is tied to the tradition in vv. 31-37, in which the soldiers are directed to break the legs of the crucified victims in order to hasten their death. But when they come to Jesus, we read:

“but coming upon Yeshua, as they saw (that) he had already died, they did not break down his legs, but (instead) one of the soldiers nudged in(to) his side with the spear-point, and straightaway water and blood came out [e)ch=lqenai!ma kai\ u%dwr].” (vv. 33-34)

This information, especially the detail in v. 34, is unique to John’s Gospel, though it may still have derived from the wider Gospel Tradition. The fact that a narrative statement akin to v. 34 is found following Matt 27:49 in a number of manuscripts makes this a definite possibility. Yet only the writer of the Fourth Gospel has included it as a significant element of the Passion narrative.

At the historical level, many attempts have been made to give a physiological explanation for the “water and blood” which came out of Jesus’ side. While such speculation is interesting, it is far removed from the Gospel writer’s interest. In the context of the narrative, the main point would seem to be a confirmation that Jesus had experienced a real (human) death. Yet, for the author, both the detail regarding the breaking of Jesus’ legs (spec. that they were not broken), and the pricking/piercing of his side, were also regarded as the fulfillment of prophecy (vv. 36-37). The citing of the Scriptures (Psalm 34:20 [cf. Exod 12:10, 46; Num 9:12] and Zech 12:10) follows verse 35, in which the author explicitly states the importance of these details:

“And the one having seen (this) clearly has given witness, and his witness is true, and that (one) has seen [i.e. known] that he relates (it) true(ly), (so) that you also might trust.”

While the recognition of the fulfillment of Scripture certainly could lead one to trust in Jesus, there seems to be special importance given to the detail of the “water and blood” coming out—it is this, primarily, which the trustworthy witness has seen and reported. How would this particular detail lead to trust in Jesus? Many commentators feel that there is a deeper theological meaning to the image of water and blood coming out of Jesus’ side, just as there likely is to the statement that Jesus “gave along the spirit” (cf. above).

Certainly, the idea of blood shed (“poured out”) at Jesus’ death was given sacrificial and soteriological significance in the earliest Gospel tradition (Mark 14:24 par; Acts 20:28; Rom 5:9; 1 Cor 10:16, etc). While there is nothing comparable to Jesus’ words of institution (of the Lord’s Supper) in the Gospel of John, there is strong eucharistic language and imagery in the Bread of Life discourse in chapter 6 (esp. verses 51-58); indeed, vv. 53-56 provide the only other reference to Jesus’ blood (and the only other use of the word ai!ma, apart from 1:13) in the Gospel. This will be discussed in an upcoming note in this series.

As there is nothing unusual about blood coming out from the pierced side, it is likely that the appearance of water, along with the blood, is what makes the event particularly noteworthy. And, if we consider how water—the word (u%dwr) and the image—is used within the discourses of Jesus, we note its close association with the Spirit:

    • John 3:5: “if one does not come to be (born) out of water and (the) Spirit…”
    • John 4:10ff: “living water…the water that I will give [v. 14]…in the Spirit and the Truth [vv. 23-24]”
    • John 7:37ff: “come to me and drink…rivers of living water…(He said this about the Spirit)”

The last two passages refer specifically to water which Jesus gives (i.e. to believers), and, elsewhere, that which Jesus so gives is identified with the Spirit (3:34; 6:63; cf. also 15:26; 16:7). There may be an even closer connection between 7:38 and 19:34, if “his belly” refers to Jesus rather than the believer (cf. the earlier article dealing with 7:37-39)—i.e. it is out of Jesus’ belly/stomach that rivers of living water flow to the believer. Many commentators would interpret 7:38 this way and hold that the Gospel writer has this in mind in 19:34.

It is possible that an association between water and blood may also be found in the Cana miracle scene in 2:1-11 (i.e. wine as symbolic of blood). If so, then there is a parallel between episodes at the very beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry; interestingly, Jesus’ mother Mary appears in both episodes (2:1-5; 19:25-27).

That water, blood, and the Spirit are closely connected in the thought of the Gospel writer would seem to be confirmed by 1 John 5:6-8ff. While the Letter may (or may not) have been written by the same author as the Gospel, at the very least the two works draw upon the same language, imagery and theology. This passage will be discussed in an upcoming note in this series.

At the close of the Gospel, we find the actual moment when Jesus gives the Spirit to his disciples:

“and, (hav)ing said this, he blew/breathed in(to them) and says to them, ‘Receive (the) holy Spirit'” (20:22)

For Christians accustomed to thinking of the coming/sending of the Spirit in terms of the narrative in Luke-Acts (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4ff), it can be difficult to know what to make of the description in John 20:22. Is this a ‘preliminary’ or ‘partial’ giving of the Spirit, prior to the day of Pentecost? Or perhaps it is a special gifting for Jesus’ closest followers (the Twelve), compared with the wider audience of Acts 1-2? I have discussed these critical and interpretive questions in my earlier four-part article “The Sending of the Spirit”. We must avoid the temptation of comparing John with Luke-Acts, and attempting to judge or harmonize on that basis. If we look simply at the Gospel of John, and how the Gospel writer understood things, and what he intended to convey, the following points become clear:

    • There is nothing in the Gospel to suggest that 20:22 is anything other than the fulfillment of what Jesus described and promised in 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15, and what the author himself refers to in 7:39. Indeed, there is no suggestion of a ‘second’ giving/sending of the Spirit. Not even in the “appendix” of chapter 21 (which might otherwise correspond to Acts 1:3) is there any indication that an event like Acts 2:1-4 is to be expected.
    • Jesus’ statement to Mary Magdalene in 20:17 suggests that, for the Gospel writer, Jesus “ascends” to the Father prior (logically and/or chronologically) to his appearance to the disciples in vv. 19-23, thus fulfilling his statements in the Last Discourse.
    • This giving of the Spirit in 20:22 is described in terms which almost certainly allude to the Creation narrative—God breathing/blowing life into the first human being (Gen 2:7). As such, there would seem to be a definite connection to the “new birth” which believers experience (3:5-8)—”born from above” and “born out of the Spirit”.
    • The giving of the Spirit is connected with two aspects of Jesus’ “commission” for the disciples (and, by extension, to all believers): (1) He is sending them out (i.e. into the world) just as the Father sent him—i.e. the are literally “apostles” (ones sent forth), and function as Jesus’ representatives (in his place). This explains the role and importance of the Spirit, who effectively takes Jesus’ place in and among believers. (2) He grants to them the power/authority to “hold” and “release” sins. Again, it would seem that this is a result of Jesus’ presence through the Spirit (cf. 16:8-11, etc).
    • There is nothing to suggest that 20:21-23 applies only to the original disciples (apostles), and not to all believers. The language used throughout the Gospel, including the Last Discourse (addressed specifically Jesus’ closest followers), whom seem to confirm this—Jesus is effectively addressing all believers.

June 21: Acts 4:31 (Lk 11:13)

Acts 4:31 (Luke 11:13)

The prayer-speech of the Jerusalem believers in Acts 4:23-31 follows the conflict-episode of 4:1-22, and comes in response to that episode. It is the first recorded instance of opposition to the Gospel message (by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem). Both the content of the speech and the framing of it (vv. 24a, 31) make clear that it truly is a prayer to God:

“And, (hav)ing made their request (to God)…” (v. 31)

The verb de/omai is largely synonymous with the common verb for prayer, proseu/xomai (“speak out toward [God]”)—compare 10:2 and 30. In the introduction to the prayer-speech (v. 24a) it is said that the believers “lifted (their) voice toward God”. The specific request they make relates to their mission of proclaiming the Gospel; the petition is two-fold:

    • That they would be enabled to proclaim the Gospel (lit. the account [lo/go$] of God, “your account”) with all outspokenness (parrhsi/a, i.e. boldness) [v. 29]
    • That God would continue to perform miracles through them (like the healing of the crippled man in chap. 3) [v. 30]; this miracle-working power is intended to support the preaching of the Gospel:
      “…to speak your account with all outspokenness, in the stretching out of your hand to (perform) healing and signs and wonders…”

It is recognized that the power to work miracles comes “through the name” of Jesus—that is, believers acting in Jesus’ name, with his power and authority, as his representatives. This is an extension of the authority given to the disciples by Jesus during the period of his earthly ministry (Luke 9:1-6 par; 10:1-12). Only now, with the departure of Jesus to heaven, this authority comes through the direct presence of the Spirit, given to the believers by Jesus himself. And, in fact, God answers the prayer, by gifting the believers with a fresh empowerment by the Spirit:

“And, (hav)ing made their request (to God), the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they all were filled by the holy Spirit, and they spoke the account (of God) with outspokenness [parrhsi/a].” (v. 31)

This essentially repeats the manifestation of the Spirit in the earlier Pentecost scene (2:1-4ff), when, it may also be assumed, believers had been gathered together and united in prayer (1:14, 24). The coming of the Spirit, and the manifestation of its presence, is thus the answer to believers’ prayer. In this regard it is worth considering Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Gospel (Lk 11:1-13), which includes the Lukan version of the Lord’s prayer. This teaching is distinctive in that it climaxes with a saying by Jesus that indicates that the true goal (and purpose) of the disciples’ prayer is the sending of the Spirit by God:

“So if you, beginning under [i.e. while you are] evil, have known (enough) to give good gifts to your offspring, how much more will the Father out of heaven give (the) holy Spirit to the (one)s asking him!” (11:13)

In the Matthean version of this “Q” tradition, the saying makes no mention of the Spirit:

“…how much more will your Father, the (One) in the heavens, give good (thing)s to the (one)s asking him!” (7:11)

This raises the strong possibility that the reference to the Spirit is a Lukan adaptation of the saying, interpreting (and explaining) the “good things” that God will give as referring primarily to the Spirit. This is consonant with the Spirit-theme of Luke-Acts, and, in my view, there is little doubt that the author is here anticipating the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in the early chapters of Acts.

In this regard, mention should be made of the interesting variant reading in the Lukan version of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer (11:2). In a handful of manuscripts and textual witnesses, in place of the request for the coming of the Kingdom (“may your Kingdom come”, we have a request for the coming of the Spirit; in minuscule MS 700 this reads:

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

While this reading almost certainly is secondary (and not original), it is fully in accord with the Lukan understanding of the true nature of God’s Kingdom. The key declaration by Jesus in Acts 1:8 serves as the primary theme for the entire book, and it defines the Kingdom according to the two-fold aspect of: (a) the presence of the Spirit, and (b) the proclamation of the Gospel (into all the nations). The answer to the believers’ prayer in 4:31 clearly encapsulates both of these aspects.