October 28: John 15:7

John 15:7

“If you should remain in me, and my utterances should remain in you, (then) you may request what ever you might wish, and it will come to be (so) for you.”

In the remainder of the exposition (and application) of the Vine-illustration, Jesus develops for his disciples (and for us as believers) the theme of remaining (using the verb me/nw) that is so vital to the illustration. The principal idea expressed is that the branch (the disciple/believer) must remain in the vine (Jesus). But this abiding relationship of unity is reciprocal, and works both ways: the believer remains in the Son (Jesus), and the Son remains in the believer. This is the fundamental theological principle expressed (and expounded) in verses 4-5, and is patterned after the relation between God the Father and Jesus the Son—viz., the Son remains in the Father, and the Father remains in the Son (see esp., 14:10).

All of this is essential to the Johannine theology, and can be found throughout the Gospel and Letters, utilizing both the relational participle e)n (“in”) and the verb me/nw (“remain, abide, stay”). I have discussed the verb me/nw and its distinctive Johannine theological usage in prior notes and articles; of the 40 occurrences of this verb in the Gospel, more than a quarter of them (11) are found in the Vine passage (15:1-17).

Here, however, the statement of reciprocity is framed a bit differently; compare the statement in v. 7a with those in vv. 4-5:

    • “You must remain in me, and I in you…” (v. 4)
      “the (one) remaining in me, and I in him…” (v. 5)
    • “If you should remain in me, and my utterances should remain in you…” (v. 7)

Instead of the Son (Jesus) himself remaining in the believer, it is his words that must remain. The reference to Jesus’ words (lit. “utterances,” r(h/mata) may seem abrupt at this point, but no more so than the reference to his word (lo/go$) in verse 3. There is, in fact, a thematic/conceptual chain of relation between these two nouns (denoting the spoken word) and the person of Jesus himself (“I”) as speaker:

    • r(h/mata (“utterances”)—individual things (teachings, etc) said/spoken by Jesus to his disciples =>
      • lo/goi (“words”)—synonymous with r(h/mata =>
        • lo/go$ (“word”)—all the things said by Jesus in a general or collective sense; they come from God the Father and have their origin in Him =>
          • Lo/go$ (“Word”)—the Son (Jesus) as the incarnation of the living/eternal Word of God the Father

Thus, there is a continuum of meaning connecting the plural r(h/mata and the singular lo/go$, spanning the full spectrum of Johannine thought and expression—its theology and Christology. One must be sensitive to this range of special meaning when considering the use of lo/go$ and r(h=ma throughout the Gospel, but especially here in the Last Discourse. There are several places in the Gospel of John where the noun lo/go$ and/or r(h=ma is used together with the verb me/nw, as it is here in 15:7. It will be necessary to examine these.

John 5:38

Toward the close of the great chapter 5 Discourse, Jesus directs the thematic thrust of his exposition against his opponents. A key theme of the Discourse has been the premise that Jesus (the Son) performs the work of his Father. The idea of “work” (e&rgon) in this context is defined in terms of the power of God the Father to give life. Jesus exercises this same power, as demonstrated by his ability to heal the crippled man (vv. 1-17); yet the Divine power extends even to the resurrection—the giving of life to the dead (vv. 19ff, 25-29)—and to the granting of eternal life in the Judgment (vv. 22-24).

In the remainder of the Discourse (vv. 30-46), the emphasis shifts from doing the works of God to speaking the words of God (for the interchangeability of these concepts in the Gospel of John, see esp. 14:10). This transition is realized through the thematic concept of witnessing (vb marture/w, noun marturi/a)—one both sees the Divine works, and hears the Divine words. The “words” (lo/goi) of this witness testify to Jesus’ identity as the Son (and the living “Word” [lo/go$]) of God; on this dual-meaning of lo/go$ in the Johannine writings, cf. the discussion above.

Yet Jesus’ opponents do not have trust in him as the Son/Word of God. Consider how he addresses this in vv. 37-38:

“And the (One hav)ing sent me, (the) Father, that (One) has (Himself) given witness about me. You have not heard His voice at any time, nor have you seen His appearance; and His word [lo/go$] you do not have remaining in you [e)n u(mi=n me/nonta], (in) that the (one) whom that (One) sent forth, you do not trust in him [lit. in this one].”

There is an extremely close connection, if not identification, between having God’s word (lo/go$) remaining in a person and that person trusting in Jesus as the Son of God (sent by the Father). See also below on the parallel in 8:37.

John 8:31

I have discussed this verse in a recent article. The same theological concepts and motifs from 5:37-38 are present here. In 8:31a, it is narrated how some of the people, who heard Jesus speaking/teaching, trusted in him; based on the principle in 5:38, this would imply that those who trusted had God’s word (lo/go$) “remaining” in them. In verse 31b, Jesus extends this idea, giving a directive to those who trusted in him, and who had begun to be his disciples:

“If you should remain [mei/nhte] in my word [e)n tw=| lo/gw| tw=| e)mw=|], (then) truly you are my learners [i.e. disciples]”

The focus has shifted from God the Father’s word to the Son’s (Jesus’) word (“my word”). And yet, in essence, it is the same word, since, as the Gospel repeatedly explains, the Son (Jesus) speaks the word(s) that he hears the Father speaking, and which the Father gives to him. On this important theme, cf. 3:31-35; 7:16-18; 8:26, 28, 38, 40ff, 55; 12:49; 14:10, 24; 15:15; 17:8, 14; cp. also 5:24ff, 32ff; 6:63; 10:35ff.

The true believer both remains in Jesus’ word (lo/go$), and has this word remaining in him/her. The opposite situation, parallel to Jesus’ statement in 5:37-38 (cf. above), is found in verse 37, in reference to Jesus’ hostile opponents, those who do not trust in him:

“…you seek to kill me off, (in) that [i.e. because] my word [o( lo/go$ o( e)mo/$] does not have (any) space [i.e. place] in you [e)n u(mi=n]”

John 12:46ff

The sayings by Jesus in 12:46-50 mark the close of his public ministry, and occur just prior to the beginning of the Passion narrative (including the Last Discourse). They effectively summarize the Gospel up to this point, beginning with the important declaration in v. 46:

“I have come into the world (as) light, (so) that every (one) trusting in me should not remain [mei/nh|] in the darkness.”

This important juxtaposition of trusting/remaining is, again, explained in terms of receiving (and having in oneself) the word(s) of Jesus:

“And if any (one) should not hear my words [r(h/mata], and should not guard (them), I do not judge him…(but) the (one) setting me aside, and not receiving my words [r(h/mata], holds the (one) judging him—the word [lo/go$] which I have spoken: that (is what) will judge him on the last day!” (vv. 47-48)

On the relationship between the nouns lo/go$ and r(h=ma, cf. the discussion above. Moving into the Last Discourse, as Jesus presents a deeper level of teaching to his disciples, the thematic motif of guarding / keeping-watch, utilizing the verbs fula/ssw and thre/w, takes on greater prominence. The concept of watching/guarding Jesus’ word is very much related to the idea of remaining in his word. See especially the instruction in 14:23-24:

“If any (one) would love me, he will keep watch (over) my word [lo/go$], and my Father will love him, and we will come toward him and will make our abode [monh/] alongside him. (But) the (one) not loving me will not keep watch (over) my word—and the word that you hear is not my (own), but (is) the Father’s, the (One hav)ing sent me.”

The noun monh/ is related to the verb me/nw, and refers to a place where a person remains or abides (i.e., an abode). Thus, to speak of the Father and Son having an abode (monh/) with the believer, is much the same as saying that they will remain in/with the believer.

All of this comparative analysis shows how closely related, from a theological standpoint, the concepts of Jesus’ word (lo/go$/r(h=ma) and of remaining in him (vb me/nw) are in Johannine thought. We must keep this firmly in mind as we continue with our study of verse 7 and following.

 

 

October 20: John 15:3 (continued)

John 15:3, continued

Having explored the parallel between vv. 2-3 of the Vine-illustration and the earlier foot-washing episode in 13:8-11 (part of the narrative setting for the Last Discourse) in the previous note, we shall now examine the statement in verse 3 in detail:

“Already you are clean, through the word that I have spoken to you.”
h&dh u(mei=$ kaqaroi/ e)ste dia\ to\n lo/gon o^n lela/lhka u(mi=n

As we proceed, it is important to keep in mind the close similarity of form (and theme) between v. 3 and 13:10b:

“Already you are clean…” / “and (so) you are clean”

The phrase “you are clean” (u(mei=$ kaqaroi/ e)ste) is identical in each statement, providing a clear indication that the intended meaning and significance of the two statements is quite similar.

h&dh (“already”)—The adverbial particle h&dh roughly means “even now”; it is fundamentally a temporal particle, giving a relative indication of time(frame), either for something past that has just (now) been completed or for something that is about to happen in the immediate future. The particle is used primarily in narrative (i.e., in the Gospels and Acts), and occurs rather more frequently in John (16 times) than the Synoptics (Matthew [6], Mark [8], Luke [10]). While it is tends to be used in an ordinary narrative context in John (e.g., 4:51; 5:6; 6:17; 11:17), there are few instances where it has special theological significance:

    • 3:18— “The [one] trusting in him [i.e. in the Son] is not judged; but the [one] not trusting in him has already [h&dh] been judged…”
    • 4:35— “…look at the (open) spaces [i.e. fields], (how) that they are white toward harvesting already [h&dh]”
    • 19:28— “…Yeshua, having seen that all (thing)s have now [h&dh] been completed, said…”

In the first two references, h&dh is used to express the ‘realized’ eschatology of the Johannine Gospel. The emphasis is on the present fulfillment of certain end-time events. The end-time “harvest” (of the Last Judgment, etc) is already realized in the present—both for believers and non-believers. Believers have passed through the Judgment safe (without being judged), while non-believers have been judged by God, since they have not trusted in Jesus as the only Son of God. The position of h&dh in 4:35, in particular, at the end of the verse, is emphatic (cf. the discussion in the earlier note).

In the third reference, the particle reinforces the important theological point that the Son’s mission (for which he was sent to earth by the Father) is completed (vb tele/w, in the perfect tense) at the very moment (“even now”) of his death on the cross.

Here in 15:3, h&dh occurs in emphatic position, at the beginning of the verse, and may also be deemed, based on the context, to be of genuine theological importance. But in what sense? Most likely, it is meant to establish a certain contrast with the prior statement in v. 2, much as the particle does in 4:35 (cf. above). The branches that bear fruit are to be cleaned by the land-worker (God the Father) at the proper time; but Jesus tells his disciples that they are “already clean”. Likely the ‘pruning’ of the vine in the illustration has an implied eschatological context, much like the harvest motif in 4:31-38. The time of pruning has already come.

u(mei=$ (“you” [plur.])—The plural second person pronoun refers to the disciples of Jesus whom he is addressing in the Discourse. The introduction of this mode of address, at this climactic point in the illustration, clearly identifies the disciples with the fruit-bearing ‘branches’ that are cleaned/pruned.

As always in the Johannine Discourses in which Jesus addresses his disciples, and especially here in the Last Discourse, it is not entirely clear whether (or to what extent) a distinction is intended between the immediate circle of Jesus’ disciples and all other (future) believers. Is Jesus addressing the disciples only, or all believers? I am convinced that the principal orientation of the Gospel addresses all believers, even if the original disciples are the primary reference within the historical context of the narrative. Here, the immediate statement addresses the disciples—those who are hearing his word as he speaks it—but also applies to all other believers who subsequently “hear” this same word.

kaqaroi/ (“clean”)—The adjective kaqaro/$, along with the related verbs kaqai/rw (in v. 2) and kaqari/zw (in 1 Jn 1:7, 9), was discussed in the previous note. The other three Johannine occurrences of the adjective are in 13:10-11, within the foot-washing episode (cf. above, and in the previous note). As I discussed, the cleansing motif in 13:10-11 refers to the cleansing of the disciples (i.e., believers) from sin, a point that is confirmed by the use of the verb kaqari/zw in 1 John 1:7ff. In both 13:10-11 and 1 Jn 1:7ff, the point of reference specifically involves the believer’s participation in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and thus partaking in the cleansing and life-giving power that his death brings. This participation in his death is symbolized by the disciples’ (represented by Peter) involvement in the foot-washing act by Jesus. By contrast, in 1 Jn 1:7ff, the effect of Jesus’ death (his “blood”) is communicated spiritually to the believer (cp. the context of Jn 6:51-58, in light of v. 63).

e)ste (“you are”)—As I have discussed on numerous occasions, the verb of being (ei)mi) often has special theological significance in the Johannine writings. The use of the verb of being in the Gospel Prologue (1:1ff) established a distinctive syntactical/grammatical association between the verb and the being of God. This same association is alluded to at various points throughout the Gospel, including here. To say that the disciples are (e)ste) clean, implies that they are, in some sense, sharing in the identity and attributes of God. Such sharing is realized spiritually, through the Spirit, as the result of the believer’s trust in the Son (Jesus). Through one’s union with the Son, the believer is united with the Father, and thus is able to partake of the life-giving power of His holy Spirit.

dia/ (“through”)—When the preposition dia/ is used with the genitive case, it tends to indicate instrumentality, i.e., the means by which something takes place. Here it is used with the accusative case, suggesting a cause or result (i.e., “because of”).

to\n lo/gon (“the word”)—The noun with the article is in the accusative, part of a prepositional phrase governed by the preposition dia/ (“through, because of”), cf. above. The noun lo/go$ has an extremely wide range of meaning that defies consistent translation into English. This is all the more true in the case of the Johannine writings, where lo/go$ carries a distinctive theological (and Christological) meaning. In such a context, for lack of any better option, the translation “word” is as good as any.

Within the Johannine theology, the noun lo/go$ has two levels of meaning: (1) referring to the person of the Son (Jesus) as the incarnation of the eternal/living Word (Lo/go$) of God, and (2) as a reference to things said/spoken (teachings, etc) by the Son during his earthly ministry. In a number of passages, the author (and/or Jesus as the speaker) likely plays upon both aspects of meaning. This, I believe, is such an instance.

o^n lela/lhka (“which I have spoken”)—The use of the verb lale/w (“speak”) would indicate that lo/go$ here refers, at least primarily, to things that Jesus has said to his disciples. In this regard, lo/go$ is largely synonymous with rh=ma (“utterance”) in the Gospel; rh=ma always occurs in the plural, in which case it differs little from lo/go$ in the plural (lo/goi, “words”)—both refer to the specific things that Jesus has said to his disciples, teaching and proclaiming the truth to them. When used in the singular, lo/go$ refers to this teaching generally, or in a collective sense. Here it is the singular, which governs the relative phrase “the word which [o^n] I have spoken”.

An important theological principle in the Gospel of John is that the word Jesus speaks is not his own—it comes from God the Father. As a dutiful Son, Jesus speaks only what he hears from his Father, things which the Father tells him. This cuts right to the heart of the intimate relationship (and union) between Father and Son, a central aspect of the Johannine theology that is clearly established in the Prologue (1:1-18). The word(s) that Jesus speaks, since they come from God, are themselves Divine, and are spiritual in nature (being of God’s Spirit). As the statement in 6:63 declares, Jesus’ words are Spirit, and they communicate the Spirit to those (believers) who hear it. It is just at this point that the two aspects of the Johannine theological meaning of lo/go$ blend together.

The verb lale/w occurs frequently in this theological context; the most immediate occurrences, in the Last Discourse (and just prior), are—12:48-50; 14:10, 25, 30; 15:11, 22; 16:1, 4, 6, 13, 18, 25, 29, 33.

u(mi=n (“to you”)—Again, the second person plural pronoun identifies the disciples with the fruit-bearing ‘branches’ of the illustration. They are the ones whom Jesus is addressing, and he has spoken the cleansing word (lo/go$) to them. The pronoun is in the dative case.

In the next daily note, we will draw some interpretive conclusions based on the above exegesis of verse 3.

 

August 10: John 6:68

John 6:68

Having discussed in detail the saying by Jesus in Jn 6:63 (over a set of eight daily notes), let us turn briefly to consider the confessional statement by Peter in v. 68, which essentially affirms, as a statement of faith, what Jesus has said in v. 63.

The difficulty posed by the teaching in the Discourse (see v. 60) proved to be a test and turning point for those following Jesus; at that time, apparently, many turned away and ceased following him (v. 66). Jesus had already made clear that some of those following him where not true disciples (i.e., believers): “But there are some of you that do not trust” (v. 64). The group of disciples was reduced considerably; the implication in the narrative is that only the Twelve remained. To them Jesus asks: “You do not also wish to go away(, do you)?” (v. 67).

This sets the stage for the confession by Peter, which, in certain respects, holds a similar place in the Gospel of John as that of the more famous Synoptic confession in Mark 8:29 par. Indeed, it has been suggest that the Johannine and Synoptic traditions, at this point, are drawing upon the same underlying historical tradition. Before considering that critical question, here is Peter’s initial response in verse 68:

“Lord, toward whom shall we go away? You hold the utterances [r(h/mata] of (the) Life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life]”

The question is rhetorical and hypothetical: even if we were to go away from [a)po/] you, toward [pro/$] whom else could we go? The question assumes a negative response: there is no one else we can go to, in place of you. Peter, speaking for the Twelve (that is, the eleven true disciples, vv. 64, 70-71), recognizes that there is something truly unique and special about Jesus; he may not yet understand completely Jesus’ teaching (in the Discourse), but he recognizes that the words have a special Divine inspiration.

Peter uses the same plural r(h/mata (“things uttered, utterances”) that Jesus does in v. 63. In an earlier note, I discussed how, in the Gospel of John, plural r(h/mata and singular lo/go$ can be used almost interchangeably (see v. 60)—referring to specific sayings or teachings by Jesus. Thus Peter essentially affirms the connection between Jesus’ sayings/teachings (“words”) and life (zwh/), very much as in verse 63. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, the noun zwh/ in the Johannine writings virtually always refers to the Divine/eternal life possessed by God—and to His life-giving power. Peter affirms the life-character of Jesus’ words through a genitival expression:

“(the) utterances [r(h/mata] of (the) life [zwh=$] eternal [ai)wni/ou]”

Above, I translated ai)wni/ou as “of the Age(s)”; however, it is an adjective, which here modifies the genitive noun zwh=$ (“of life”); therefore, to avoid complicating the genitive relationship, I have rendered it here as “eternal”.

Syntactically, the expression could be read either as a subjective or objective genitive. In the first instance, “eternal life” would be an attribute or characteristic of Jesus’ words; in the second instance, it would most likely refer to what Jesus’ words give or bring about. Both aspects are appropriate to the Johannine theology, in context; indeed, Jesus mentions both in v. 63:

    • Subjective: His words are life
    • Objective: His words (as Spirit) make live (vb zwopoei/w, i.e. give life)

Whatever Peter may have understood, precisely, at the historical level, in the literary context of the Gospel his confession combines together both of these theological aspects. It thus serves as a suitable conclusion to the entire Discourse-narrative of chapter 6. Anticipating the fuller understanding (for believers) that would come after Jesus’ exaltation (cf. the allusion to this in v. 62), Peter’s confession affirms two important theological points—points which are developed further (and more fully) elsewhere in the Gospel:

    • The Divine/eternal character of Jesus’ words (r(h/mata), since he himself (as the eternal Son of God) is the Divine Word (lo/go$) incarnate (1:14).
    • His words give eternal life. Since God is Spirit (4:24), His word possesses the life-giving power of His Spirit, clearly indicated by role of His Word in creation (1:3-4). The Son shares the same Divine Spirit, receiving it from the Father (3:34-35); his words thus have the same life-giving power, communicating (through the Spirit) the Divine/eternal life of God. As the Living Word, the Son’s words naturally bring life.

In the next daily note, we will look at the continuation of Peter’s confession in verse 69.

August 9: John 6:63 (8)

John 6:63, concluded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

August 8: John 6:63 (7)

John 6:63, continued

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

Having conducted an examination of the first part of verse 63(a) from a Christological standpoint (cf. the previous note, and the note prior), we now shall do the same for the second part of the verse (b). The Christological examination has proceeded according to the two main points of difficulty that Jesus’ disciples would have had with the teaching in the Bread of Life Discourse (see v. 60): (1) the claim by Jesus that he has come down from heaven (i.e., his heavenly origin), and (2) the idea that people need to eat Jesus (as “bread from heaven”). Let us now consider verse 63b from the standpoint of each of these Christological aspects.

(1) Jesus’ heavenly origin

The idea expressed by Jesus in v. 62 is that, once the disciples observe his exaltation (“stepping [back] up” to the Father in heaven), then they will realize that he, indeed, has “stepped down” to earth from heaven. It is this heavenly origin of Jesus (as the eternal Son of God) that underlies the type-image of the manna as “bread from heaven”; Jesus fulfills the figure-type in his own person, showing himself to be the true and living bread that has “come down from heaven”.

From a Christological standpoint, Jesus’ identity as the eternal (and pre-existent) Son of God means that he, like God the Father, possesses the fullness of the Spirit, along with the Father’s life-giving power. If God the Father is Himself Spirit (4:24), then so also is the Son, having received the full measure of the Spirit from his Father (3:34f). The creative, life-giving power of God is also possessed by the Son, being intrinsic to his identity; the Son receives everything that belongs to the Father, including His life-giving power—on this important theme in the Gospel, see esp. 1:4ff; 5:26; 6:57; 14:19.

These attributes of Spirit (pneu=ma) and Life (zwh/) are things which the Son (Jesus) possesses, and which he, in turn, is able to give to believers. He communicates them directly to believers by his presence in/with them through the Spirit. And a principal idiom of this communication is that of the word, of speaking. As the Paraclete-sayings, in particular, make clear, Jesus speaks to believers through the Spirit (see esp. 16:12-15).

From a theological standpoint, if the Son shares in the Divine Spirit (as God, 1:1; 4:24; 10:30), having received the fullness of God’s Spirit (3:34f), then also his words are Spirit; Jesus says as much here: “the utterances which I have spoken to you are Spirit”. This can be understood several ways, according to several specific implications of the theological premise:

    • The Son’s words have a spiritual source. The Divine/heavenly origin of Jesus’ words is expressed quite clearly in 3:31ff, and in v. 34 the connection between the Son’s speaking and the Spirit is explicit:
      “For the (one) whom God (has) sent forth speaks the utterances of God, for not out of a measure does He give the Spirit.” (cp. 8:47)
      Elsewhere in the Gospel we find the repeated theme of the Son saying what he has heard from the Father (7:17; 8:26, 28, 38, 40; 12:49; 14:10, 24; 15:15), implying that his words ultimately come from God the Father (who is Spirit, 4:24).
    • The Son’s words have a spiritual nature. This is explained best in terms of the association between the Spirit and life; in the Gospel of John, the noun zwh/ almost always refers to the Divine/eternal life possessed by God, but this can also be related to the physical motif of resurrection-life (as in chaps. 5 and 11). The life-giving (i.e., Divine/Spiritual) power of the Son’s words is most clearly expressed in 5:21, 24-29, but the implication is also present in 5:39-40; 8:31-32; 10:10, 16; 12:50; 17:2-3, 14, and elsewhere.
    • The Son’s words must be received and understood in a spiritual manner. This principle is implicit throughout the Gospel Discourses, in which Jesus’ words always have a true and deeper meaning that goes beyond the apparent meaning. The audience typically misunderstands the key sayings or statements of Jesus, which utilize images and motifs from tradition or the natural world; this provokes questions which lead to further explanation/exposition by Jesus. The exposition, which points to the true (spiritual) meaning of the sayings, is of a Christological nature, focusing on Jesus’ self-identity as the (eternal) Son and his relationship to the Father (including the mission for which the Father sent him to earth from heaven). Only a person who has been “born from above”, from the Spirit, is able to see/know the true meaning of the Son’s words (3:3-8; cf. also the Paraclete-sayings 14:26; 15:26; 16:7ff, 13-15).

Along with these points, there is the fundamental theological theme of the Prologue, identifying Jesus, the eternal Son, also as the eternal Word/Wisdom (Logos) of God (1:1-2, 14). The close connection between the Divine Word (lo/go$) and the Divine Life (zwh/) is also a central theme of the Prologue (v. 4), assuming the theological tradition of the role of God’s Word (and Wisdom) in creating life (v. 3).

In 6:63 (also v. 68), the plural r(h/mata (sing. r(h=ma) is used; often translated “words”, r(h=ma properly refers to something spoken or uttered (i.e., “utterance”). In the Gospel of John, r(h=ma is always used in the plural, referring to specific things said by Jesus (the incarnate Son) during his time on earth. However, there can be no real doubt about the relationship between these “words” (r(h/mata) and the eternal Word (lo/go$) of the Prologue. The noun lo/go$ has a broad semantic range that resists easy or consistent translation in English. It can refer to a specific saying or teaching, as by Jesus, cf. 2:22; 4:41; 7:36, etc. This is how it is used by the disciples here in their complaint: “This word [lo/go$] is hard…” (v. 60).

At times, lo/go$ in reference to the saying(s)/teaching of Jesus, hints at the deeper theological meaning of lo/go$ in the Prologue. Of particular importance in this regard is the statement in 5:24:

“the (one) hearing my word [lo/go$], and trusting in the (One hav)ing sent me, holds (the) Life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life]” (cp. 17:3)

Another Johannine theme is of the Son’s word (lo/go$) abiding/remaining in the believer, being kept/held within—8:31, 37, 51ff; 12:48; 14:23-24; 17:6, 14ff; on the theme in 1 John, cf. 1:10; 2:5ff, 14. It is hard to separate this from the related idea of God’s eternal Word, identified with the person of the Son (Jesus), abiding within (and among) believers; cf. this important theological use of the verb me/nw (“remain, abide”) in the Gospel and Letters of John. Particularly in 1 John, the twin ideas of God’s word (identified with the Gospel and teaching [of Jesus]) and of God Himself (through the Son) abiding in the believer can scarcely be separated; cp. the use of lo/go$ in 1:1 with the me/nw-passages in 2:14, 24, 27-28; 3:6, 9, 14-15, 24; 4:12-13, 15-16.

It is understandable that the disciples, unable to discern the true meaning of Jesus’ words, or recognize their spiritual nature, or comprehend their Christological significance, would complain of their difficulty (6:60). Moreover, in the context of the Johannine theology, it is quite appropriate that they would declare “this word [lo/go$] is hard!”

In the next daily note, the last of this series, we will examine v. 63b in the light of the second Christological point of difficulty (cf. above). At the same time, in conclusion, we will consider v. 63 in relation to the confessional statement by Peter in v. 68.

 

 

July 14: 1 John 5:20

1 John 5:20

The author closes the section 5:13-20 with the last of three successive declarations that each begin with oi&damen (“we have seen [that]…”, i.e., “we know…”); cf. the previous notes on vv. 18 and 19. These statements reflect the author’s declaration of his intent and purpose for writing in v. 13 (cp. Jn 20:31). Verse 20 serves an effective summary of the Johannine theology:

“And we have seen that the Son of God is here, and (that) he has given to us dia/noia, (so) that we might know the (One who is) true, and (that) we are in the (One who is) true, in His Son Yeshua (the) Anointed—this is the true God and Life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life].”

This relatively long theological statement is comprised of six clauses or phrases. It may be helpful to look at these, two at a time, dividing the verse into three parts (a-c).

Verse 20a:
    • “And we have seen that the Son of God is here,
      and (that) he has given to us dia/noia,”

The first clause, beginning (like vv. 18 and 19) with the verb form oi&damen (“we have seen”), emphasizes again the unity and solidarity between the author and his readers, representing (together) members of the Community of true believers (cf. the previous note). The three oi&damen-statements may be compared:

    • “We have seen that the (one) having come to be (born) out of God does not sin…” (v. 18)
    • “We have seen that we are of God…” (v. 19)
    • “We have seen that the Son of God is here…” (v. 20)

The identity of believers as those born of God (v. 19), and thus protected from sin (v. 18), is realized through the abiding presence of Jesus Christ (God’s Son). The verb h%kw here in v. 20 could be understood in terms of Jesus having come here—viz., as a reference either to the incarnation and/or to the coming of the Spirit. However, I think that the present tense of the verb (h%kei, lit. “comes here”) properly reflects the idea of the Son being present here, in and among believers—that is, his abiding presence through the Spirit (cf. Jn 14:17ff, etc).

The second, following clause in v. 20a is:

“he has given to us dia/noia

The subject (“he”), based on the first clause, must be the Son of God—i.e., Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Son, through his abiding presence in believers, gives to them dia/noia. The noun dia/noia is a bit difficult to translate literally into English, and I have left it untranslated above. Fundamentally, it denotes the ability (and/or the process) of thinking things through (vb dianoe/omai, dia/ + noe/w mid.). For lack of a better option, the noun can be translated generally in English as understanding— “he has given to us understanding”.

According to the Johannine theology, as expressed principally in the Gospel Discourses, the Father gives to the Son, and the Son, in turn, gives to believers (see esp. Jn 3:34-35; 5:21; 6:27, 32ff, 57; 10:28-29; 17:8-9ff). The noun dia/noia is not mentioned elsewhere as one of the things that is given (indeed, the word occurs only here in the Johannine writings); however, the idea that the Son (Jesus) gives knowledge and understanding to believers is present at a number of points (e.g., 8:32; 10:38; 14:4ff; 16:30; 18:37). In particular, Jesus, as the Son, makes the Father known—cf. 8:19, 28f, 38ff; 10:14-15, 38; 12:50; 14:6-7ff, 20ff; 15:15; 17:3, 6-8ff, 26. And is certainly the principal focus of the understanding (dia/noia) the Son gives to believers, here in v. 20a—viz., the ability to understand about God the Father, the True God.

This understanding comes as the Son is present here, in and among believers. Based on the famous Paraclete-sayings in the Gospel Last Discourse, and confirmed here by the author in 1 John, we must regard this understanding (dia/noia) to be the product of the Spirit teaching believers “all things” (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-13ff; 1 Jn 2:20, 27). The teaching ministry of the Son, making the Father known to us, continues through the abiding presence of the Spirit. A particularly important point, however, for the author of 1 John, is that this continued teaching (through the Spirit) does not—and will not—contradict the historical tradition (in the Gospel) of the teaching of Jesus when he was present on earth (in the past) with his disciples. In an upcoming article, I will be exploring how the spiritualism of the Johannine Community may have been realized differently, by the author and the opponents [in 1-2 John], respectively.

In the next daily note, we will look at the next two clauses, in v. 20b.

Spiritualism and the New Testament: John: 1 Jn 2:18-27

1 John 2:18-27

In these articles, dealing with the spiritualism in the Johannine Writings, we now turn to the Letters of John, with special attention to the First Letter, the work known as 1 John. As virtually all commentators recognize, there is a close relationship between the Johannine Gospel and the Letters. The Gospel writer and the author of 1 John, if not the same person, share a similar literary style, mode of expression, thought-world, and theological vocabulary. The precise relationship between the Gospel and First Letter, in terms of the sequence and when each was composed, continues to be debated, with no consensus having yet been achieved. However, in my view, there is relatively strong evidence that at least a first edition of the Gospel had been completed and distributed (within the Johannine churches) prior to the writing of 1 John.

The closeness of thought and expression, between the Gospel and First Letter, means that there is methodological validity in turning to the Gospel for elucidation of passages in 1 John, and vice versa. Throughout these upcoming articles, I will be making frequent mention of the prior notes and studies on the Johannine Gospel. The discussion of spiritualism, and the role of the Spirit, in the Gospel is, in my view, entirely applicable to our study on 1 John.

The recent daily notes, covering significant portions of 1 John 1:1-2:17, are, in many ways, preliminary and supplemental to these articles. I will be referencing them at numerous points below. Our initial article here is focused upon 2:18-27, the first of the two “antichrist” passages. It is worth summarizing the structure of the Letter leading up to this passage:

    • Prologue (1:1-4)
    • First Section: Contrast of the Light of God vs. the Darkness of the World (1:5-2:17)
      • “Walking about” in light or in darkness: Sin and the Believer (1:5-2:2)
      • “Walking” in light/darkness defined in terms of the (two-fold) duty (e)ntolh/) believers are required to complete (2:3-11)
      • Believers have overcome the darkness of evil, and should not be drawn to the world (in its darkness) (2:12-17)

The dualistic light/darkness theme developed in 1:5-2:17 is used by the author as a way of contrasting the true believer with the false believer. The ‘opponents’ of 1 John are specifically characterized as false believers (cf. below).

It is generally considered by commentators that the author is referring to his opponents, alluding to their beliefs and positions, throughout 1:5-2:17. However, in the “antichrist” section of 2:18-27, he begins to discuss them more directly. He does so by placing the crisis, posed by these opponents, in an eschatological context:

“Little children, the last hour is (here), and, just as you (have) heard that (one) ‘against-the-Anointed’ [a)nti/xristo$] comes, (so) even now there have come to be many ‘against-the-Anointed’ [a)nti/xristoi], from which we know that the last hour is (here).” (v. 18)

The author clearly believes that he and his readers are living in the “last hour”, and that the end of the current Age is very near; cf. my earlier article on the imminent eschatology of first-century Christians. A basic premise of Jewish and early Christian eschatology was that, just before the end, things would get much worse in the world, with sin and evil becoming more prevalent and pervasive, including an intensive (and increasing) persecution of the righteous. This worldview is clearly reflected, for example, in the Synoptic Eschatological Discourse of Jesus (Mark 13 par). The presence of false prophets and false Messiahs was one feature of this end-time period of distress (cf. Mk 13:5-6, 21-22 par); the false Messiahs (i.e., false Christs), in particular, could properly be referred to as “anti-Christ” (cp. 2 Thess 2:7-12).

The specific word a)nti/xristo$ (antíchristos) occurs only in the Letters of John (here, and also v. 22; 4:3; 2 John 7). It likely was coined by early Christians, patterned after the comparable a)nti/qeo$ (antítheos), when used in the (admittedly rare) sense of a rival God (qeo/$) or something imitating the Deity. The fundamental meaning of the preposition a)nti/ is “against”, but it can also mean “in place of”, and both of these aspects apply to the Antichrist Tradition as it was developed. And, indeed, the author does appear to be drawing upon an established eschatological tradition involving the use of a)nti/xristo$. He refers to an expectation that (one) “against the Anointed” (anti/xristo$, singular) will come in the “last hour”; whether this refers to an evil human leader or a spirit-being is not entirely clear, but probably the author has the latter in mind (cf. 4:3). For more on the background and development of the Antichrist Tradition, cf. my earlier three-part article (Part 1, 2, 3) on the subject.

Whatever tradition the author is referencing, he clearly interprets it in a new way, applying it specifically to the presence and activity of the ‘opponents’, considering them to be “many (who are) against the Anointed” (a)nti/xristoi polloi/). He continues in verse 19:

“Out of us they went out, but they were not out of us; for, if they were out of us, they would have remained with us; but (this happened so) that it might be made to shine forth [i.e. be made apparent] that they were not all out of us.”

The author plays with a dual-meaning of the preposition e)k (“out of”). In the opening phrase, it is used in the spatial sense of leaving, of going away from a group of people. However, in the remainder of the verse, it used in the sense of belonging to a group, being “of” a group of people. Thus, at one and the same time, the opponents are “out of” the Community, and also not “out of” it. Moreover, that they went “out of” it shows that they were never really “part of” it.

The author identifies himself (and his readers) with this Community, characterized as the Community of true believers. The opponents, having left the Community, show themselves to have been false believers. In all likelihood we are dealing with a genuine separatist movement, and a factional split within the Johannine churches. In this regard, the use of the preposition e)k and the verb e)ce/rxomai (“go/come out”) refers to a concrete division, and not simply a conceptual departure in terms of the opponents’ beliefs.

In verses 20-27, the author applies this crisis-situation to his readers, continuing the true-vs-false believer contrast established in 1:5-2:17. These verses may be divided into three subsections, each of which begins with an emphatic use of the pronoun u(mei=$ (“you [plur.]”)

    • Vv. 20-23: Kai\ u(mei=$… (“But you…”)
    • Vv. 24-26 (Umei=$… (“[But as for] you…”)
    • Verse 27: Kai\ u(mei=$… (“And [as for] you…”)

In each unit, the author addresses his readers as true believers, to be distinguished from the opponents (false believers and “antichrists”), and fully able to recognize the truth of the matter. This is expressed thematically through a chiastic structure:

    • The anointing (xri=sma) which believers hold within them (vv. 20-23)
      • That which is “from the beginning” (a)p’ a)rxh=$) remains in them (vv. 24-26)
    • The anointing (xri=sma) remains in them (v. 27)

The discussion is thus framed by a pair of references to the “anointing” (xri=sma) which is present in believers; in between, we find the expression o^ a)p’ a)rxh=$ (“that which [is]…from [the] beginning”), with which the author began his work (in the prologue, 1:1; cf. also 2:7, 13-14). A clear sense of the author’s use of these keywords is vital for an understanding of his entire line of argument.

For my part, I have no real doubt that the noun xri=sma here refers to the presence of the Spirit. It is worth noting, however, that these three instances (in vv. 20, 27) are the only occurrences of xri=sma in the New Testament. It occurs 10 times in the LXX, primarily in the Pentateuch (Exod 29:7; 30:25; 35:12, 19, etc), where it refers to the oil used for the consecrated anointing of people and objects. Quite possibly, its use here in 1 John alludes to the practice of anointing with oil as part of the baptism ritual. However, we cannot be entirely certain of this practice in the first-century; the earliest attestation is found in Tertullian, On Baptism 7, cf. also Cyprian Epistle 70[69].2, and the Apostolic Constitutions 7:27.

Even so, it is likely that the oil/anointing symbolism was part of the ritual from very early times. Its association with the Spirit would follow naturally from the common idea that it was in connection with baptism that a believer first received the Spirit (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:12-13ff; 9:17-18; 10:45-48; 19:5-6, etc). The association goes back to early Gospel tradition, in both the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:10 par) and the saying by the Baptist about Jesus (Mk 1:8 par). In Luke-Acts, this coming of the Spirit upon Jesus (at his baptism) is clearly understood as an anointing (Lk 4:18ff; Acts 10:38; cf. also the quotation of Ps 2:7 in Lk 3:22 v.l.). This is no mere Lukan invention, since the idea relates to the early application of Isa 61:1ff to Jesus as the Anointed One [Messiah] of God; on the similar idea of God placing his Spirit upon Jesus (as His chosen Servant), cf. Isa 11:2 and 42:1 (and the use of the latter in the Gospel tradition).

This Messianic concept of being anointed by the Spirit is part of a wider Prophetic tradition describing the activity of God’s Spirit in the New Age of Israel’s restoration. Of special significance is the motif of the Spirit being poured out, as liquid (water, oil, etc) upon God’s people—cf. Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28-29 [cited in Acts 2:17-18].

For all of these reasons, we may safely assume that xri=sma in 1 John 2:20, 27 is a more or less direct allusion to the presence of the Spirit in believers. Believers hold (vb e&xw) this anointing in them (v. 20), and it remains (vb me/nw) in them. Both of these verbs have special theological meaning in the Johannine writings, and refer here to the abiding presence of Jesus (the Son), along with God (the Father), through the Spirit.

What are the consequences of this abiding presence of the Spirit (the xri=sma) in believers? The author explains this, to some extent, in each portion of his discussion:

    • “…and you know all (thing)s. I did not write to you (in) that [i.e. because] you have not seen [i.e. known] the truth, but (in) that you have seen it, and (also) that every false (thing) is not out of [i.e. does come from] the truth.” (vv. 20b-21)
    • “…and you do not have need that any(one) should teach you, but, as His anointing teaches you about all (thing)s, and is true and not (something) false, and, just as it (has) taught you, you must remain in him.” (v. 27)

The anointing (i.e., the Spirit) teaches believers “all things”, and so there is no need for anyone (else) to teach them. This touches to the heart of the Johannine spiritualism. It reflects the promised role of the Spirit in the Paraclete-sayings of Jesus in the Last Discourse (14:26; 16:13ff; cf. also 15:26). Through the Spirit, Jesus will continue to be present with believers, and to teach them. It is this emphasis on the spiritual presence of Jesus which may have led to the opponents devaluing the earthly life and ministry of Jesus (including his death).

This is particularly important, it seems, for the author’s rhetorical strategy here. On the one hand, he fully accepts and affirms the Johannine spiritualistic principle of the primacy of the Spirit—it is, indeed, the Spirit who teaches believers “all things,” and the true believer has no need to rely on any other human teacher. This apparently radical concept is actually inspired by the Prophetic tradition (cf. above) regarding the role of God’s Spirit among His people in the New Age. In this time of a New Covenant, the Spirit will lead all people to serve as prophets (Joel 2:28f), effectively fulfilling the wish expressed by Moses in Num 11:29; moreover, because God will write his Law upon the heart of each person, they will all know Him, without the need for anyone else to teach them (Jer 31:34). In this regard, the Johannine emphasis simply reflects an early Christian version of this Prophetic ideal, an eschatological hope for God’s people that is realized among believers in Christ.

The Spirit, being the Spirit of Truth (4:6; 5:6; Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), will always teach believers what is true, and will never say anything that is false. As a result, with the Spirit’s guidance, the true believer will be able to recognize any false teaching, including the false teaching of the opponents (v. 22, cf. below). If the Spirit teaches believers “all things,” with no need for anyone else to teach them, then why is the author bothering to give the instruction that he does? Even though the Spirit may be primary, there is still value in human instruction and exhortation. The guidance of the Spirit does not happen automatically, but requires a measure of faithfulness and cooperation by the believer. There is thus a place for human teaching and exhortation within the congregation, such as the kind that the author gives here. He expresses the contingency in two ways:

    • “I have written these (thing)s to you (warning you) about the (one)s leading you astray.” (v. 26)
    • “…just as he/it has taught you, you must remain in him” (v. 27)

The first point indicates the real danger, in the mind of the author, that the false teaching of the opponents could lead some believers astray (vb plana/w). How could this possibly happen to a believer? The concluding words in v. 27 make this clear: the believer must consciously and willingly remain in the Spirit, in order for the Spirit to continue guiding him/her in the truth.

The verb me/nw is a fundamental Johannine keyword, as I have noted above. The form used here, me/nete, could be read as an indicative or an imperative; in my view, the author intends an imperative, even as he does in the following v. 28. The Spirit teaching believers the truth depends upon the believer remaining in the Spirit. The actual phrase is “you must remain in him [e)n au)tw=|]”, and it is not entirely clear whether the pronoun (“him”) refers specifically to God the Father, Jesus, or the Spirit. In terms of the Johannine theology, the latter two—Jesus and the Spirit—would be principally in view, since a person remains in the Father through the Son (Jesus), and, in turn, remains in the Son through the Spirit. Much the same is expressed in the Last Discourse, cf. especially the illustration of the Vine (15:4-9).

The author tells us something about the false belief of the opponents in verse 22; I have discussed this at length in a set of three supplemental notes (1, 2, 3). The title o( xristo/$, as used in the Gospel of John, indicates that it refers specifically to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Another possibility, however, is that it functions here as a shorthand for the fuller Christological statement in 4:2—viz., regarding Jesus Christ as having “come in the flesh,” usually understood specifically in terms of his earthly life. Either way, it seems likely that the opponents of 1 John, in some fashion, denied or devalued the importance of Jesus’ earthly life (and death). This may have extended to a denial of Jesus’ identity as the Jewish Messiah.

A devaluation of Jesus’ earthly life could be explained on the basis of both the Johannine Christology and its spiritualism. The high Christology of the Gospel, emphasizing Jesus’ identity as the eternal (and pre-existent) Son of God, could easily have led some Johannine Christians to question the importance of his earthly life and ministry. Moreover, if Jesus continues to be present with believers in the Spirit, continuing to teach “all things”, then of what value are the traditions of the things that Jesus said and did in the past?

In the prologue (1:1-4), the author clearly establishes the importance of the historical Gospel tradition—of the things Jesus said and did, preserved and transmitted to future generations by the first disciples (functioning as eye/ear-witnesses). It is no coincidence that the author essentially repeats the opening phrase—o^ h@n a)p’ a)rxh=$ (“that which was from [the] beginning”)—here in the central unit of his exposition (vv. 24-26). In between the two references to the teaching of the Spirit, he includes this reference to the Gospel tradition: “that which you heard from (the) beginning”.

In an earlier note on 1:1ff, I discussed how there are two aspects to the expression a)p’ a)rxh=$ in 1 John: (1) Christological, referring to Jesus as the one who was with God “from the beginning” (Jn 1:1, etc); and (2) Evangelistic, referring to the message about Jesus, which believers have heard “from the beginning”, i.e., from the time of the first disciples. The Christological aspect is primary, but it cannot be separated from the Gospel witness. This is essentially the message of the author of 1 John, and he states it again here in vv. 24ff:

“(As for) you, that which you (have) heard from (the) beginning, it must remain in you. If that which you heard from (the) beginning should remain in you, (then) indeed you will remain in the Son and in the Father.”

According to the Johannine mode of expression, the person of Jesus (“the one from the beginning”) must remain in the believer; but this is not possible if the truth of the message about Jesus does not also remain in the believer. Here is a key sign distinguishing the true and false believer, in the context of the crisis caused by the opponents. The true believer remains faithful to the authoritative Gospel tradition(s) about Jesus, preserved from the first disciples, while the false believer has forsaken or has distorted those traditions. Put another way, the internal teaching of the Spirit will (and must) conform to the Gospel tradition; and any such teaching which contradicts that tradition, and is thus false, cannot come from the Spirit.

This will be discussed further, along with a further examination of the nature and beliefs of the opponents of 1-2 John, in the upcoming study on the second “antichrist” section (4:1-6). However, first I will consider the spiritualism of 1 John as expressed in the central section (2:28-3:24), where the marks of the true believer are most clearly enunciated.

Notes on Prayer: Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:28, 35

After a short hiatus this Spring, the Monday Notes on Prayer feature returns. This week I offer a short discussion on prayer for one’s enemies, in light of the past Sunday Psalm Study on Psalm 72. In that particular Psalm, the poet presents a prayer to God on behalf of the king. In the opening verse, YHWH is asked to give sound judgment and right decision-making to the Israelite king, so that the king’s reign will be peaceful and prosperous, characterized by justice and righteousness, especially on behalf of the poor and oppressed in society.

I have to wonder how many Christians today actually pray for the nation’s leaders and governing officials, in a similar way, asking that God might grant to them wisdom and sound judgment. In the vicious partisan climate of modern politics—which characterizes the darkness of the world, and not the light of God—it is much easier to speak ill of people in positions of government, mocking and berating them. The tendency (and temptation) to respond in such a way is all the greater when the governing officials hold views and positions that are opposite to those which we, as Christians, might hold. In that regard, the nation’s leaders could be considered opponents, or enemies, and one might well be inclined to speak ill or evil of them. But this is not the way of Christ, who taught his disciples to pray, even for their enemies—on behalf of all those who might be hostile to them.

Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-28, 35

Jesus’ clearest sayings in this regard are found in the Matthean ‘Sermon on the Mount’, and the parallel Lukan ‘Sermon on the Plain’ —that is, part of the so-called “Q” material. In the Sermon on the Mount, the sayings occur within the “Antitheses” of 5:21-47, so-called because of the way that Jesus contrasts a customary/traditional saying with his own teaching—e)gw\ de\ le/gw u(mi=n (“but I say to you…”). Jesus’ argument differs in each Antithesis; the customary saying may reflect a distortion of the original meaning and intent of the Law, or he may argue that simply following the letter of the Law is insufficient. The six Antitheses may be divided as follows:

    1. On murder/anger (vv. 21-26)
    2. On adultery/lust (vv. 27-30)
    3. On divorce (vv. 31-32)
    4. On swearing (an oath) (vv. 33-37)
    5. On revenge/retaliation (vv. 38-42)
    6. On love for one’s enemies (vv. 43-47)

The sayings in question are part of the six and final Antithesis, on showing love toward one’s enemies.

On love for one’s enemies (vv. 43-47)

    • Customary saying:
      “you shall love your neighbor [lit. the one near] and (you shall) hate your enemy [lit. the one hostile]” (v. 43)

    • Jesus’ saying:
      “love your enemies and speak out toward (God) [i.e. pray] over the ones pursuing [i.e. persecuting] you” (v. 44)

Relation to the Law:

The saying is extracted from Leviticus 19:18 [LXX], a verse frequently cited in the New Testament (Matt 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; James 2:9, cf. below); however here the phrase “as yourself” (w($ seauto/n) is not included as part of the citation, presumably to better fit the second part of the saying. The second half of the saying does not come from the Old Testament Scripture at all, but should be regarded as a customary and natural (logical) extension—if one should love one’s friends and neighbors, the opposite would seem to follow: that we should hate our enemies. For the principle expressed in ethical-philosophical terms, see e.g., the Delphic aphorism (“to friends be of good mind [i.e. be kind], with enemies keep [them] away [i.e. defend against, ward off]”) and the famous maxim in Xenophon Mem. 2.6.35 etc. (“a man is virtuous [on the one hand] in prevailing [over] friends in doing good, and [on the other] [over] enemies in [doing] ill”).

Jesus’ Exposition:

Jesus flatly contradicts the conventional wisdom, commanding his disciples instead to love one’s enemies and to pray to God on their behalf. This relates both to personal enemies and to those who persecute [lit. pursue] Jesus’ followers (cf. in the Beatitudes, vv. 10-12). Of all Jesus’ statements in the Antitheses, this represents the most distinctive Christian teaching, and the one which is perhaps most difficult to follow. As in most of the other Antitheses (see above), Jesus extends the Torah command and gives it a deeper meaning—in addition to loving one’s friends and relatives, one must also love one’s enemies.

Example/Application:

As the basis for this command, Jesus cites as an example (verse 45) God the Father himself who:

    • makes the sun to rise upon the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ people alike
    • sends the rain upon the ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ people alike

In some ways this is a curious example, drawing from simple observance of natural phenomena, apart from any ethical or religious considerations—for certainly, we see many instances in Scripture where God brings evil and judgment against wicked/unjust people. However, the emphasis here is on the more fundamental nature of God as Creator—giver and preserver of life.

Verses 46-47 provide a clearer application of Jesus’ teaching, and is parallel to the statement in verse 20. The so-called “love command”, with its extension even to one’s enemies, proved to have immense influence in subsequent Christian teaching, even if the force of it was sometimes softened—cf. Rom 12:19-21 (citing Prov 25:21-22). In Galatians 5:14 Paul refers to the love-command (as represented by Lev 19:18) as “all the Law fulfilled in one word”. There are various forms of Jesus’ saying in verse 44 preserved elsewhere in early Christian writings, which may reflect independent transmission: Luke 6:27-28; Romans 12:14; Didache 1:3; 2 Clement 13:4; Justin Martyr First Apology 15.9; Athenagoras’ Plea for Christians 11.1; Theophilus of Antioch To Autolycus 3:14; cf. also 1 Corinthians 4:12; Justin Dialogue 35:8; 85:7; 96:3; Clementine Homilies 12:32.

Ultimately the purpose (and result) of following Jesus’ teaching is stated in verse 45a:

“how that [i.e. so that] you may come to be sons [i.e. children] of your Father in the heavens”

This demonstrates a clear connection with the language and imagery of the Beatitudes (esp. v. 9); by following God’s own example (in Christ), we come to be like him—the same idea which concludes the Antitheses in verse 48.

The Lukan Version

In the Lukan version of this material, the contiguous sayings of Matt 5:44-45 are shown to be two separate and distinct sayings. That corresponding to v. 44 is found at Lk 6:27-28:

“But I say to the (one)s hearing (me): ‘Love your enemies, do good [kalw=$ poiei=te] to the (one)s hating you, give good account of [i.e. speak well of, bless] the (one)s bringing down a curse on you, (and) speak out toward (God) [i.e. pray] over the (one)s (hurl)ing insults upon you‘.”

The portions in bold match the shorter Matthean saying, the only difference being that, instead of praying for those who persecute (lit. pursue [after]) them, Jesus’ disciples are to pray for those who “hurl insults upon (them)” (vb e)phrea/zw). However, since e)phrea/zw can also connote putting forth threats against a person, the two versions of the saying may not really differ all that much.

However, the Lukan saying is more extensive, citing four kinds of hostile acts (instead of two in Matthew), thus placing even greater emphasis on the disciples responding with love, and the challenge that is involved in doing so. No matter how such people mistreat us or act as our enemies, we, as believers in Christ, must not respond in a like manner, but instead do good to them and pray for them.

The saying corresponding to Matt 5:45 occurs at Lk 6:35, which includes a separate (second) command to love one’s enemies:

“(But) all the more you must love your enemies, and do good [a)gaqopoiei=te], and lend (to them) without expecting (anything) back from (them)—and (then) your wage [i.e. reward] will be much, and you will be sons of (the) Highest…”

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.