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The Johannine Writings Gospel, Epistles, and Revelation Background and Context Interpretation—Epistles and Revelation Part 4.

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Presentation on theme: "The Johannine Writings Gospel, Epistles, and Revelation Background and Context Interpretation—Epistles and Revelation Part 4."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Johannine Writings Gospel, Epistles, and Revelation Background and Context Interpretation—Epistles and Revelation Part 4

2 The Letters of John Introduction Because of a vocabulary and style that are quite similar to the Gospel of John, the three letters known as 1–3 John are regarded as part of the “Johannine Writings.” Although by no means certain, these letters were probably written after the publication and circulation of the Gospel of John, with the first letter possibly written, in part, as a commentary on the Gospel. This seems to be the case because 1 John appears to be interpreting the Gospel in such a way as to avoid the potentially Gnostic interpretation towards which certain aspects of the Gospel appear to lean. This is seen in the way the physical, fleshly reality of Jesus is emphasized (1 John 1:1; 4:2; 2 John 7), as well as the emphasis upon Jesus’ messiahship (as aspect for which the Gnostics cared little; 1 John 2:22).

3 1 John Outline of 1 John 1:1–4Prologue 1:5–2:6Fellowship with God 2:7–17The New Commandment 2:18–27The Christian and the Spirit of the Antichrist 2:28–3:10Children of God 3:11–18Love One Another 3:19–24Confidence 4:1–6The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error 4:7–21God is Love 5:1–5The Victory of Faith 5:6–12The Witness to the Son 5:13–21The Knowledge of Eternal Life

4 Principal Themes of 1 John Jesus is from God (4:3), came in flesh (4:2), and is the Messiah (2:22). True Christianity results in love for and fellowship with one another. True Christianity necessitates the confession of sin. Faith provides the Christian with victory.

5 2 John Background of 2 John: The “Elder” (perhaps the Apostle John or his successor, who probably had something to do with the final form of the Gospel of John and with 1 John) has written to the “Chosen Lady” (either an actual woman and her actual “children,” or a church and its members). The letter warns of itinerant false teachers (vv. 7–11). Outline of 2 John 1–3 Salutation 4–6 The Command to Love 7–11 The Need for Sound Doctrine and Avoidance of False Teaching 12–13 Conclusion and Final Greetings

6 3 John Background of 3 John: A certain Diotrephes was refusing those commended by the elder. Some think that Diotrephes was an arch-conservative who resisted the pneumatic activities of the “Elder” and his following. Others think that Diotrephes was a false teacher with Gnostic leanings. In any case, the “Elder” gives notice to a certain “Gaius” that he will confront this Diotrephes to his face over his behavior. In contrast to Diotrephes is Demetrius of whose behavior the “Elder” approves. Outline of 3 John 1 Salutation 2–4 Following the Truth 5–8 Hospitality 9–12 Diotrephes and Demetrius 13–15 Conclusion

7 Raymond Brown’s Construct of the Johannine Community Some years ago Raymond E. Brown published a book (The Community of the Beloved Disciple [New York: Paulist, 1979]) in which he attempted to trace the stages of development of the Johannine community. He proposes the following four stages: (1) A group of followers of John the Baptist was joined by a group of Samaritan converts (echoed in 4:42). This group was led by the “ Beloved Disciple, ” who was not one of the original Twelve Apostles (a departure from Brown ’ s earlier view as seen in vol. 1 of his AB commentary). The group's christology became the chief reason for conflict with “ the Jews ” (or “ Judeans ” ). This period can be dated between 50 and 80 CE. (2) The second phase is initiated with the publication of the Gospel of John (90 CE). The Jamnia expulsion of “ heretics ” in 85 CE (see 16:2). Brown identifies various groups in this period: “ secret ” Christians (such as Nicodemus [19:39], Joseph of Arimathea [19:38], and others [12:42]), Jewish Christians, and “ apostolic ” Christians. cont ’ d

8 Brown’s Construct (cont’d) (3) By 100 CE the Johannine community is torn by a schism. This is seen by the writing of the letters by the “ Elder ” who is confronting the heresies of the secessionists. The latter are not naive docetists, but adherents of a very high Christology in which the human death of Jesus was viewed as unimportant. They believed very strongly in Jesus' continuing presence in the community through the Spirit, which, by virtue of their special anointing, made them superior to the other believers. 1 John functions in part as a commentary on the Fourth Gospel. “ What was from the beginning, what we have heard ” harks back to the opening words of the Gospel: “ In the beginning was the Word. ” Brown further suspects that the expression, “ this is the message, ” of 1 John 1:5 should be translated: “ this is the gospel, which we have heard, ” etc. ajggeliva can just as easily be rendered “ gospel, ” as the more customary eujaggevlion. (4) The secessionists continue to advance flesh-denying views of Jesus and wind up full-fledged docetic Gnostics by 125 CE, while in reaction the “ conservatives ” emphasize more and more the historicity of the Jesus traditions and eventually merge with the “ Great Church ” and so become part of what would eventually be regarded as “ orthodoxy. ”

9 Epistles of John Early signs of heresy 1 John 1:1 “What was from the beginning [ajrchv], what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld [qeavomai] and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life [oJ lovgo" th'" zwh'"].” cf. John 1:1 “In the beginning [ajrchv] was the Word [oJ lovgo"]... in it was life [zwhv]” (v. 4); “and we beheld [qeavomai] its glory” (v. 14). 1 John 4:2 “By this we know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Messiah having come in the flesh is of God.” cf. John 20:31 “These things are written that you believe that the Messiah, Son of God, is Jesus.” John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” 2 John 7 “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, who do not confess Jesus as the Messiah having come in the flesh.” cf. ibid. 1 John 2:22 “Who is the liar, other than the one who denies, (by saying,) ‘Jesus is not the Messiah.’” cf. John 20:31

10 More heresy “ 7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world, who do not confess Jesus as the Messiah having come in the flesh. 8 Watch yourselves, lest you lose what you worked for, but should receive a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes too far and is not abiding in the teaching [didachv] of the Messiah does not have God; the one abiding in the teaching [didachv] has both the Father and the Son. 10 If someone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [didachv], do not receive him into your home and do not speak to him a greeting. 11 For the one who greets him partakes in his evil deeds” (2 John 7–11). Note: An early collection of the teaching of Jesus is in fact called the Didache, i.e., “The didachv of the Lord.”

11 and finally schism “ 9 I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first over them, does not receive us. 10 For this reason, if I should come, I shall recall his deeds that he does, slandering us with evil words, and not satisfied with this, he does not receive the brothers, and those who are like-minded he forbids and casts out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate the bad, but the good” (3 John 9–11a).

12 The Revelation of John More heresy Ephesus — 2:2 “I know your deeds... that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” 2:6 “You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans.” Smyrna — 2:9 “I know your tribulation... and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Pergamum — 2:14–15 “You have some who hold the teaching of Balaam.. you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Thyatira — 2:20 “You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads astray...”

13 Judaic traditions in the seven letters Ephesus — false apostles, Nicolaitans, lampstand, Tree of Life, Paradise of God Smyrna — blasphemy, Jews, synagogue of Satan Pergamum — Satan, Balaam, Balak, sons of Israel, things sacrificed to idols, immorality, Nicolaitans, manna Thyatira — Jezebel, things sacrificed to idols, Satan, morning star Sardis — Book of Life, angels Philadelphia — key of David, opens/shuts, synagogue of Satan, Jews, new Jerusalem Laodicea — amen, the beginning of creation of God

14 Revelation and state-sponsored persecution “I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation... was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9). “And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child... and the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:13, 17). “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea... and the dragon gave him his power and his throne and authority... and it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them... Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:1, 2, 7, 18). “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (Rev 17:6; cf. 18:24).

15 Judgment of the Wicked Salvation of the Saints An illustrated overview

16 John’s Vision of the Exalted Christ

17 The four horses

18 Seven trumpets

19 Michael fighting the Dragon

20 The holy city, the new Jerusalem

21 Qumran and the New Jerusalem Several scrolls from Qumran concern a vision of a New Jerusalem: 1Q32 2Q24 4Q554–555 5Q15 11Q18 Sample passage: “… of the bread, and they shall take the bread [ … outside the temple to the south-]west, and [the bread] shall be divided [ … and they will be accepted … ] and while I watched, [the bread was distributed to eighty-four priests … from all seven sections of the tables of … ] the marks [written … ] the elders among them, and fourteen priests [ … ] the priests. (vacat) Two loaves of bread that were [covered with incense … and while] I was watching, one of the two loaves was given to the [high] priest …” (2Q24 frag. 4 lines 9 – 14).

22 11Q18 cols. 1–2 1 [... and] its four sides were high: [...] cubits, [...] living waters 2 [... and the chan]nel near the wall which surrounds the [...] this(?) is of pure gold 3 [... its width is] two [cubits] and its height two cubits [...] water from 4 [...] is beautiful and all is of pure gold [...] vacat

23 How do we interpret Revelation? The Problem of Interpretation: There are at least four approaches to the interpretation of Revelation that are or have been adopted by commentators and theologians down through the centuries: 1. Futurist Interpretation: Revelation is understood as a prophecy of future events. Chapters 6 – 21 are seen as futuristic. 2. Historicist Interpretation: A favorite among the Reformers, this approach attempts to relate chapters 6-21 to the history of the Church. However, this approach is quite subjective. 3. Allegorical Interpretation: Some have seen in Revelation no prophecy, but a symbolic, or allegorical, presentation of the struggle between good and evil. The popular symbols of apocalyptic have been employed, but should not be taken literally. 4. Preterist Interpretation: Traditionally, a favorite among non-conservative scholars, this view sees Revelation, especially chapters 6 – 21, as describing either contemporary events (from the point of view of the author) or past events. It is pointed out that this was quite often done with apocalyptic literature (e.g., Daniel appears to have been written during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and descendants, when in fact it was written during the Maccabean period as a message of hope for the Jews struggling against Antiochus IV).

24 A suggested approach Preterist-Futuristic Interpretation: This view combines the scholarly insights of the Preterist view, but allows for the prophetic possibilities inherent in the Futuristic view. Although much, if not most, of the contents of Revelation 6 – 21 should be viewed against the time in which they were written, the assertion that Christ will return and vanquish his foes should be taken seriously by evangelicals who believe in Christ ’ s return. Main Theme: Although the Church is portrayed in a life-and-death struggle against evil in the last days, she is to be encouraged by knowing that her Lord is sovereign and will conquer her enemies and will vindicate her.

25 Introductory Matters Who wrote Revelation, when and why? Introduction: No other book in the NT is subject to more speculative interpretation than the Revelation of John. Of the five so-called Johannine Writings only in this one does the author identify himself as “ John ” (1:4). But who this John is was debated in the early Church and is still unresolved today. Background: The author claims to be in exile for the testimony of Christ (1:9), at which time he received the vision which he was to send to the seven churches (1:10 – 11). As to date Revelation may have been written during the period of persecution under Emperor Domitian, (c. 96 CE) or perhaps as early as during the reign of Emperor Nero (c. 64 CE). Composition: Most scholars believe that the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 – 3 are edited versions of longer letters originally sent to these (and perhaps to other) churches. These letters originally had been exclusively concerned with false teachings and immoral practices (such as eating meat sacrificed to idols), an element which is still present. In their shortened and rewritten form eschatology has been introduced thus making the letters fit the context of the whole new book better. What prompted the rewriting of these letters was the vision described in chapters 4 – 5 and the vision of the end times of chapters 6 – 21.

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