“Peter” in John’s Gospel

June 15, 2012

I’ll be posting some thoughts (and hopefully updating them), as I study John 21 in the coming weeks. Here’s round one: Why does Jesus never use the name that he gave to Peter in the Gospel of John?

Jesus calls Peter Simon son of John once when he meets and names him Cephas and three times at his reinstatement in John 21.  Why does Jesus never call Peter “Peter”?


Tabernacle to Temple to Revelation: Temple Magnitude

June 6, 2012

While recently reading through the book of Exodus, and all the instructions on how to build the Tabernacle, I found myself wanting to skip through it all. I’m going to be honest, it is a little boring. But after walking away from it, and thinking about the measurements, and comparing them to the Temple, and then to the city in Revelation, I got an interesting idea in my head. One criticism I’ve heard from atheist when they map out the city as explained in Revelation is that the size and shape of the city would throw off the revolutions of the earth, destroying any sort of ecosystem on the Earth. Now I’ve heard Christians come back with the answer, “Well God could keep the Earth in place.” Sure, why not.

But as I made my way through classes at Multnomah, and specifically the book of Ezekiel, the new temple described in Ezekiel is never built by those dimensions, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why the new city is so huge. But Dr. Kutz and Dr. Harper, in two separate classes, placed the idea before us that maybe they aren’t supposed to be literal buildings, so much as a growing in magnitude of the temple, sort of like the size of the fish you caught; it gets bigger every time. They didn’t use the big fish story, but you get the point. Rather the growing of the temple paints the picture of a growing knowledge of God in the world.

So I started thinking about the Tabernacle, and it’s relative size to the wandering people of Israel. They were a large group of people, but still covered little land. And then I thought about Israel the nation, with David/Solomon’s temple built, a nation covering more land, with more peoples coming in contact with the Law and YHWH. And it got me thinking that maybe the city in Revelation (which I should point out has a cube shape, like the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God is) isn’t just a big fish story, so to speak, but a future image of hope, that the presence of God, and His works, will not just be in a small group of wanderers, or a tiny nation, but will one day be known throughout the entire world. And as the entire world becomes the people of God, thus the entire surface of the earth becomes the temple, with the holy of holies in a cube like place.

Just a thought on what that could all be about. Thoughts?


Genesis 34: Circumcision, and “That’s messed up!”

January 11, 2012

In Genesis 34 there is a little story about Dinah, the sister of Simeon and Levi being sexually assaulted by Shechem. Once this happens Hamor and Shechem seek to make things right by having Jacob give his daughter to Shechem for a wife, and in this same way they will give their daughters and sisters as wives to the sons of Jacob, and the two people will become one. The sons of Jacob require the men to become circumcised first, claiming that they cannot be defiled by uncircumcised people. Shechem and Hamor agree, gladly, and tell the people to become circumcised so they may be at peace with the sons of Jacob, and intermarry. Sadly, the sons of Jacob use this ruse to kill all of the men, and then to plunder the city. And then the story ends like this:

34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought ruin on me by making me a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land – among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I am few in number; they will join forces against me and attack me, and both I and my family will be destroyed!” 34:31 But Simeon and Levi replied, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?”

Two things came to me while reading this story. First, circumcision is not so much an act you do, but rather something you become. They didn’t just go circumcise themselves, and that was it, but by doing the act of circumcision, it became a description of their being, much like someone would call a person an American, or Russian, or African. Circumcision was more about becoming something, much less just having something done. It was a way of setting themselves apart for something, rather than just an act. That fascinated me.

And secondly, and more importantly, they full on kill all the men and then take their wives and animals anyways! That’s messed up! Or at least, that is our response. But what I find so interesting is that ending to that story. So much detail is given, so much description about how they kill the men and then take their women and their cattle, and yet the story ends with Jacob afraid of his honor among the people, fear that because they are small they will be wiped out. But the sons reply, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?” I feel like some men would agree with them, that they were right to defend their sister’s honor, and that Jacob was just being a pansy, more worried about his own life than to care about his daughter. And others would condemn the actions of the brothers for murdering the people that attempted to make things right, and even show how the sons are deceiving people around them just like their father.

But the author of the story? He almost doesn’t seem to say a word. He just reports Jacob’s speech, the sons rebuttal, and then leaves it there. He continues on to the next story. It kind of makes us wonder what is really going on by telling us this story.


Genesis 26 in John 4?

January 11, 2012

Whenever I read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well I always get a little bit curious about the reference to Jacob’s well. What well is it, and why does that matter to John? But I stumbled across something a little interesting the other day while reading in Genesis in the original Hebrew:

26:19 When Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing water there

What is so interesting is that in the original Hebrew the word for “fresh flowing” is actually the word living. The sentence literally says “a well waters living.” And what is funny is that many commentators of John point out that Jesus use of the phrase, “living water” is also the same phrase for fresh flowing water, thus a possible reason for the Samaritan woman’s confusion. Now albeit this story is about Isaac, and yet the parallels (and reversals) are just too interesting:

In Genesis the servants go out and find the living water whereas in John it is the Samaritans and not the disciples

In Genesis Isaac quarrels with the inhabitants whereas in John Jesus actually converses and calls them to him

Both stories have a child of promise dealing with wells

Isaac goes to Beer Sheba and worships God in that place, whereas in John Jesus claims that time is coming when worshippers will worship in spirit and truth

There is the promise of descendants that was given to Abraham, but in John we see that this is truly the son of the promise

It is hard to imagine that John isn’t in some way referencing back to Isaac’s own quarrels over living waters. And by doing so, we see that Jesus reverses the division that was established long ago in Genesis.


The Breath of Life

May 11, 2011

I’ve been thinking recently about the creation of humanity (Genesis 1 and 2) with a couple questions stirring in my mind:

  • Is our being created from dust similar or analogous to the waters swarming with swarms (Genesis 1:20) teeming with life?
  • Twice God says, “Let the land produce…” (Genesis 1:11, 24)–are these to form the backdrop against which the “Let us make” by which humanity enters the narrative (Genesis 1:26)?  Are they set as contrasting or synonymous pairs?
  • Is there significance to the fact that we have been formed from another part of creation?  Does Eve’s creation from within Adam also bear significance?
  • The animals also appear to have the breath of life in them (Genesis 1:30; 7:22)–is it really accurate for us to say that humanity is specially  for humanity to be filled

Aside from sorting out a few questions related to the telling of humanity’s creation and the avenues we typically see as expressions of our uniqueness (i.e. formed from the dust, having life breathed into us), one thought in particular has stuck in my mind as something I’ve wanted to pass by you.  Here it goes:

Is it possible that man is filled with the breath of life (rather than being spoken in to existence) as another expression of many’s function as God’s vice regent-stewards?  In other words, does God refrain from creating man by a word so that man, newly enlivened by the breath of life, might expel that breath in words of our own as we multiply and fill the earth with God’s image and glory?

What do you think?

Chronicles: Pace

April 16, 2011

I Chronicles 11-II Chronicles 9 covers 80 years of kingly reign, split evenly between two kings.  That’s nearly approaching glacial speeds.  II Chronicles 10-28 on the other hand flies by.  12 kings, 270 years, 19 chapters.  That’s fast.  Kings are filling up chapters or even parts of chapters as the story speeds by.  We’ve already seen how willing the Chroniclers is to shape the story using whatever narrative tools he deems necessary.

So, what intention is expressed in the quick pace of this section?

  • It allows Israel to build a reputation of sin.  Only one of the 12 kings in this period rules without a stain on his record.
  • It sets Israel firmly on the path to judgement.  We’ve known it all along, its just becoming more certain along the way.
  • Perhaps most important of all, the quick pace puts distance between God’s promises to David/Solomon and the current narrative situation, allowing doubt to creep in.  With all this mess, could God really still honor his promises?  Would he really heal us if we turn to him?  Will he still send his king to rule?
As the book progresses, the Chronicler speeds up the pace as a major movement toward the book’s final climax.

Chronicles: Solomon’s Covenant

April 14, 2011

I Kings 9:1-9 lays out God’s response to Solomon’s build and dedicating of the Temple:

After Solomon finished building the LORD’s temple, the royal palace, and all the other construction projects he had planned, the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, in the same way he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The LORD said to him, “I have answered your prayer and your request for help that you made to me. I have consecratedthis temple you built by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. You must serve me with integrity and sincerity, just as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. Then I will allow your dynasty to rule over Israel permanently, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will notfail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.

“But if you or your sons ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecratedwith my presence, and Israel will be mocked and ridiculed among all the nations.  This temple will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be shocked and will hiss out their scorn, saying, ‘Why did the LORD do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God, who led their ancestors out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why the LORD has brought all this disaster down on them.’”

Good old Solomonic covenant right.  So, Chronicles just repeats the same thing right?  No.  Ooooooh, no my friends!  Here’s the Chronicler’s take:

After Solomon finished building the LORD’s temple and the royal palace, and accomplished all his plans for the LORD’s temple and his royal palace, the LORDappeared to Solomon at night and said to him: “I have answered your prayer and chosenthis place to be my temple where sacrifices are to be made.  When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray,seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.  Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place. Now I have chosen and consecrated this temple bymaking it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there.  You must serveme as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations.  Then I will establish your dynasty, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor ruling over Israel.’

“But if you people ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove you from my land I have given you, I will abandon this temple I haveconsecrated with my presence, and I will make you an object of mockery and ridicule among all the nations.  As for this temple, which was once majestic, everyone who passes by it will be shocked and say, ‘Why did the LORD do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors, who led them out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why he brought all this disaster down on them.’”

Whereas Solomon’s covenant makes sense of exile in Kings, it more precisely clarifies how the post-judgment people are to make their way back to God (in bold above)–a very pertinent bit of information for the inferred audience of Chronicles.