Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John 7:37-52

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten cycle, most recently Feb 23, 2014.

There are a number of preaching directions that examination of this text offers.  I think the biggest however is not simply a Greek work, but a Hebrew festival, namely, the feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus turns it all around!

Key words (by key I mean I found them interesting):
κοιλια ("stomach" or "womb" 7:38)  Elsewhere in John and throughout the Gospels/Acts, this word refers to womb.  (See John 3:4 and the first encounter with Nicodemeus or Luke 1:41).  In this case, it cannot be womb because Jesus isn't just talking about women; in fact, the possessive adjective here is "his"; "his womb" doesn't make sense.  But what does make sense is "belly", certainly not heart (NRSV).  This however, doesn't sound so good:  "Out of a believer's gut will come living waters."  But there might be something there to preach on!

χριστος ("Christ", 7:41)  Just a simple reminder that messiah in Hebrew = christ in Greek = anointed in English.  Calling Jesus the Christ is a huge confession of faith.  But it is also an interesting play on cultures and languages, where "Messiah Joshua" becomes "Jesus Christ" if not "Joshua Christ" a mismash of cultural terms, which is happening again and again in John's Gospel.

σχισμα ("schism"; 7:43)  Alas,  there is division because of Christ.  Always was and will be until Jesus comes again.  See note on feast here

εορτη ("feast"; 7:37).  This term appears a great deal in John's Gospel.  John 2:23  Feast of Passover
John 5:1  Feast, perhaps Pentecost
John 6:4  Passover
John 7:2  Tabernalces
John 10:22 Hannakah
John 11+ Final passover of Jesus

In John 7, the focus is on the tabernacle.  This concluded, on the last and great day, with a procession involving the proclamation of Psalm 118:25
"Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!"

This perhaps gets at the heart of the division around Jesus.  What is success?  What do we want Jesus for?  What do we want for a Messiah?

A number of other preaching directions also come about reflecting on what else is happening during this festival:

During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. The Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply. During this ceremony the people looked forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Some records reference the day spoken of by the prophet Joel.
In the New Testament, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38 NIV) The next morning, while the torches were still burning Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NIV)

Textual criticism:
The actual reading of John 7:39 regarding the "coming" or "existenance" of the Spirit is really interesting.  There are three to four common ways the ancient texts read:
"the spirit was not yet"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet upon the them"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet given"
The reading "the spirit was not yet" has the best internal evidence, but a number of the manuscripts line up behind the final two readings.  Many of the readings have corrections suggesting that many were not comfortable with the original!  Therefore, I agree with the NET assessment (which uses the "not yet given") translation
"Although only B and a handful of other NT MSS supply the participle dedome,non (dedomenon), this is followed in the translation to avoid misunderstanding by the modern English reader that prior to this time the Spirit did not exist. John's phrase is expressed from a human standpoint and has nothing to do with the preexistence of the third Person of the Godhead."

Back to me:  In John 1, the Spirit is already existing (John the Baptist sees it).  So I don't think we can really argue that the Spirit doesn't exist in John's Gospel before the resurrection.

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