“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”?


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.

Chronicles: David/Solomon

April 13, 2011

Think about David.  What do you think of?  Goliath?  “Saul killed his thousands, David his ten thousands”?  Saul chasing David?  David and Jonathan?  David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah?  Tamar’s rape?  Absolom’s rebellion?  David the old man who can’t keep himself warm?  David’s psalms?  Adonijah’s attempt to usurp Solomon?  If that’s what you think when you think “David”, then you’re not thinking Chronicles.

Think about Solomon.  What do you think of?  700 wives?  300 concubines?  Solomon the idolater whose heart is drawn away? Solomon the worshipper of Astarte, Milcom and Chemosh?  Solomon the king beset by enemies from Edom and Syria?  Solomon the one whose sin caused God to tear ten tribes away from David’s line?  If that’s what you think when you think “Solomon”, then you’re not thinking Chronicles.

Chronicles spends very little effort portraying either David as the great warrior or Solomon as the great breaker of Deuteronomy’s description of Israel’s ideal king (Dt. 17).  Alternately, the identities of both kings are almost completely related to the Temple.

  • David becomes king and captures the Holy City (I Ch 11-12)
  • David moves the Ark to Jerusalem (I Ch 13-15)
  • David leads in worship (I Ch 16)
  • David wants to build God a house (I Ch 17)
  • David consolidates the kingdom, amasses wealth.  Result: collecting necessary gold, silver, bronze, etc. for building the Temple (I Ch 18-20)
  • Sin in the census leads David to purchase the Temple site (I Ch 21-22:1)
  • David commissions Solomon to build the temple and prepares everything (I Ch 22-27)
  • Solomon made king, people contribute, David celebrates and dies (I Ch 28-29)

Temple, temple, temple.  The idea spends basically his whole self consumed with leading the people in worship and preparing for the building of God’s house (Remember the questions supplied by Chronicles genealogy).

Similarly, Solomon is not the horrible guy we’ve come to know from I Kings.  Take a look:

  • God gives Solomon wisdom (II Ch 1)
  • Solomon builds the temple (II Ch 2-4)
  • Solomon leads the people in worship, dedicates the Temple, God responds by fire (II Ch 5-7:10)
  • God’s responds to Solomon (II Ch 7:11-22)
  • Solomon spends the rest of his reign amassing wealth and gaining worldwide acclaim (II Ch 8-9)

Yes, Chronicles mentions some of Solomon’s sin (horses and gold; leaving out the wives and idolatry), but for the most part, Solomon is a positive example.

Again, the Chronicler is not bent on showing us how sinful the kings are (thus justifying exile), but answering the question of what God’s coming king will be like.


Chronicles: Genealogy

April 12, 2011

Remakes and reruns–always compared to the first and always trying to differentiate themselves from the first.  Growing up I know I took Chronicles as a kind of rerun.  “How did two of these make it in here?  Is this some kind of warm up for the New Testament’s Gospel fourpete?”

Last week I got a great chance to study Chronicles as a whole, finally setting it apart from Samuel/Kings as I’d never gotten to before, and oh was it good.  Here’s round one of where I settled in the story…

Chronicles begins with what to modern ears might seem like the narrative version of a nice 2×4 to the face: a genealogy.  And this one is a big one too.  Nine chapters big!  This has got to be the second graveyard of many read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans (Second to Leviticus of course).  Painful as it may be though, Chronicles initial desert has bloomed–at least for me–as it has come to express much of the questions that drive the following narrative.

Beginning his story with a Genealogy, the Chronicler has…

  • …framed his story/questions within the context of all of humanity.  Not only does the story begin with Adam, but in a highly extraneous move, the author includes a fairly extended table of nations (53 verses)
  • …reminded us of God’s promise to Adam.  By beginning with Adam, we cannot help but remember that through the woman God had promised to crush evil.
  • …alerted us to the story’s prominent characters: Levi and Judah.  Half of the genealogy’s 400 verses are spent on these two sons of Jacob and their progeny.  As with Adam, these characters remind us of worship/priesthood and ruling/kingship–again, harkening back to God’s promise that the scepter would not depart from Judah until he comes to whom it belongs (Genesis 49:10-12).  And the Chronicler wastes no language in reminding us that the leader would come from Judah (I Ch 5:1-2)
  • …given us a new ending.  Chronicles begins with the knowledge that Israel is headed in to exile (I Ch 5:26; 6:15; 8:6-7), they will live there for an extended period of generations (I Ch 3:17-24) and they will return from the exile (I Ch 9:1f).  There’s no question over whether exile is coming.  Instead the question surrounds life as post-exiles.  Moses has already described post-exile life (Dt. 30:1-10), but this isn’t it.

Equipped with the opening genealogy, the reader has to ask: 1) How will God crush evil as he promised to Adam? 2) What is this Judahite ruler going to be/rule like?  3) How are we supposed to live as post-exilic people?

Jesus the Prophet

April 3, 2011

I’ve posted this on a couple other blogs I write on, but I wanted to put it up here for your consideration and because the content fits so well within the scope of this blog.  So, here it is…

In Deuteronomy 18:18-19 the Lord said something amazing to Moses: “I will raise up a prophet like you from them, from their fellow Israelites.  I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.  I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.”  What grounds for expectation, right?  What if you missed his coming?  What if you fail to pay attention to what he speaks?  I mean who wouldn’t be looking for this person?

It is no surprise then that one of the first questions the Jews put to John the Baptist is “Are you the Prophet?” (John 1:21).  Thousands of years after Moses and this prophecy is still in the front of their minds.

Not long after this Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about” (John 1:45).  Though Nathanael is incredulous over Jesus’ origin, he goes to see him nonetheless.  Upon meeting Jesus, “the one Moses wrote about”, we find Jesus speaking prophetically about Nathanael and what the disciples will experience and see in the future (John 1:47, 50-51).  And it is not the last of his prophecies in John either (John 4:44; 13:21).

In John Jesus is clearly displayed as the one who makes the Father know, who speaks by the Father’s authority what the Father has told him (John 12:49-50) and who is himself the Truth (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Prophet who not only speaks but also fully embodies God’s truth and makes the Father fully known.  This is Good News, because it tells me that we can stop looking for truth apart from him.  He is our teacher.  He is the one who tells us what is true and what is not.  He shows us the Father, sanctifies us by his truth (John 17:17) and has sent us the Spirit to lead us in to all Truth (John 16:13).  No longer must we search asking “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Now is the time to know him and to believe the truth he shows us and to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).