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John8(1)

August 13th, 2018
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Before we go through John 8 there is a question about the story of the adultress women. Was it in the original gospel or was it added later?

We will discuss this as it is informative of how scholarship works in these matters.

In most of your Bibles, you notice that John 7:53 to John 8:11 is either set off in brackets or is in a footnote. The reason for this is that most New Testament scholars do not think it was part of the Gospel of John when it was first written, but was added centuries later.

For example:

Don Carson, who teaches at Trinity, and is a respected conservative New Testament scholar, writes, “Despite the best efforts . . . to prove that this narrative was originally part of John’s Gospel, the evidence is against [them], and modern English versions are right to rule it off from the rest of the text (NIV) or to relegate it to a footnote (RSV).” (The Gospel According to John, 1991, 333)

Bruce Metzger, one of the world’s great authorities on the text of the New Testament until his death in 2002: “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the periscope of the adulteress is overwhelming.” (The Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1971, 219)

Australian Scholar Leon Morris: “The textual evidence makes it impossible to hold that this section is an authentic part of the Gospel.” (The Gospel According to John, 1971, 882)

Andreas Köstenberger: “This represents overwhelming evidence that the section is non-Johannine.” (John, 2004, 246)

And Herman Ridderbos: The evidences “point to an unstable tradition that was not originally part of an ecclesiastically accepted text.” (The Gospel of John, 1997, 286)

What are the reasons given for this Section not to be in the original to John’s Gospel?

The evidence goes something like this:

1. The story is missing from all the Greek manuscripts of John before the fifth century.

2. All the earliest church fathers omit this passage in commenting on John and pass directly from John 7:52 to John 8:12.

3. In fact, the text flows very nicely from 7:52 to 8:12 if you leave out the story and just read the passage as though the story were not there. (READ)

John 7:52

They replied, ‘Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.’

John8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

4. No Eastern church father cites the passage before the tenth century when dealing with this Gospel.

5. When the story starts to appear in manuscript copies of the Gospel of John, it shows up in three different places other than here (after 7:36; 7:44; and 21:25), and in one manuscript of Luke, it shows up after 21:38.

6. Its style and vocabulary is more unlike the rest of John’s Gospel than any other paragraph in the Gospel.

Where does this information comes from?

The Science of Textual Criticism

The New Testament that we know was originally written in Greek. The first printed Greek New Testament — that came off a printing press — was published by Erasmus in 1516. It turned the world upside down.

This means that for 1500 years the manuscripts of the biblical books were passed down to us through handwritten copies. This is how we have access to the actual words that the New Testament writers wrote with their very hands.

So the books of the New Testament were preserved for us by faithful, hardworking copyists.

Some of these copies were in a script called uncials (referring to manuscripts with all capital Greek letters), others were in a script called minuscule (referring to manuscripts with small Greek letters).

A smaller number are called papyri because they are very early and written on the special paper-like material made from the Papyrus plant that was prevalent in the Nile Delta.

One last group of manuscripts is the lectionaries — which were collections of texts for reading in public worship.

What’s Simply Staggering

Now here is what’s amazing. The abundance of these manuscripts of the New Testament, or parts of the New Testament, as compared to the number of manuscripts for all other ancient works is simply staggering.

There are 10 existing manuscripts of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.). And all of these date from the tenth century or later.

There are 20 manuscripts of Livy’s Roman History written roughly during the time when Jesus was alive. Some fragments from 5 th century. Most copies are from 10th century or later.

Only two manuscripts exist for Tacitus’s Histories and the Annals which were composed around A.D. 100 — one from the ninth and one from the eleventh century.

There are only eight manuscripts of the History of Thucydides who lived 460-400 B.C. And all of these date from the tenth century or later.

Compare those numbers with the manuscripts and partial manuscripts for the New Testament. These numbers are from the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Muenster, Germany, which is the most authoritative collection of such data in the world. There are:

322 uncial texts, 2,907 minuscule texts, 2,445 lectionary portions, and 127 papyri, for a total of 5,801 manuscripts.

These are all hand-written copies of the New Testament or parts of the New Testament preserved in libraries around the world and now captured electronically.

No other ancient book comes close to this kind of wealth of diverse preservation.

What that wealth does is create problems and solutions at the same time. These copies do not all agree on what the wording was in the original manuscripts. So the more manuscripts you have, the more variations you find.

On the other hand, the more manuscripts you have, the more control you have over which readings are the original ones. The more manuscripts you have the more variations you find, and yet the more they tend to be self-correcting.

For example, if you had only two ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of John and one has the story of the woman taken in adultery and the other doesn’t, you would be hard put to choose.

But if you have a hundred manuscripts of John, even though you may find more variations, you will be able to tell by the number and age and geographical diversity of the manuscripts whether the story was there or not.

This is what the science of Textual Criticism has done with hundreds of variations in the manuscripts.

Here’s the way F.F. Bruce put it a generation ago:

If the great number of manuscripts increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is . . . in truth remarkably small. (The New Testament Documents, 19).

But what is most significant for the reliability and authority of the New Testament is that the variations that Textual Critics are unsure of are not the kind that would change any Christian doctrine.

For example, in our passage from John 7:53–8:11, no truth that this Gospel teaches is changed by omitting this story.

Bruce says :

The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affects no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice (The New Testament Documents, 20).

In 2006, Paul D. Wegner reaffirmed F.F. Bruce’s assessment (A Student’s Guide To Textual Criticism of the Bible, Downers Grove: InterVarsity):

It is important to keep in perspective the fact that only a very small part of the text is in question. . . . Of these, most variants make little difference to the meaning of any passage.

Then he closes his book by quoting Fredric Kenyon:

It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable Word of God. (Frederic G. Kenyon, The Story of the Bible, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 113, quoted in Wegner, 301).

We can be thankful that God has, in his presence over the transmission process for 2,000 years, ordered things so that the few uncertainties that remain alter no doctrine of the Christian faith. That is really astonishing when you think about it, and we should worship God because of it.

So how do we use this text?

Read more…

Message for the Day ,

John7(3)

July 24th, 2018
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Jesus divided the people of his time. He didn’t fit what anyone was expecting. Which tells us that we humans of ourselves have no idea who God is and how he does things. Just studying the creation as it is and even observing humans as they are do not reveal that the most fundamental truth of the universe: the reality behind all existence is that God is love.

And that this love is not a maudlin sentimentality or an easy going niceness that anything is all right as long as feels good to you.

It is a practical love flowing from the real relationship that exists in God. This home life of God was seen throughout Jesus’ life from conception to his resurrection and going back to his Father.

And God will never allow anyone to be part of that home life who doesn’t believe and receive the God centred life of Jesus that we have seen described in John 7.

Jesus’ brothers were just as unbelieving as the Temple leaders. They would all need to change so they could truly see and really believe.

So lets look at the division Jesus created in Jerusalem.

John7:25-39

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah?

Jesus is in Jerusalem teaching a divided crowd of listeners. Some want him arrested. Why? Because they saw him as a pretender who can’t possibly be the Messiah. Notice how they argue in

27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’

There was a popular view among the people that the Messiah would appear suddenly, as out of nowhere. But here Jesus is, a man from Nazareth, with no sudden appearance, and looking nothing like a Messiah.

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from.

But only at a very superficial level.

I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.’

Don’t miss the words “him you do not know.” You, the most religious, the most privileged, the most well-taught people in the world, the people with the very oracles of God, the Scriptures — you do not know God. This is why you want to kill me. I know God. I am from God. God sent me.

And since you don’t know him, you can’t recognize me.

Over and over in this Gospel, Jesus makes plain that if we reject him as God’s Son, his Messiah, and as the supreme Treasure of our life, we don’t know God or honor God or love God or have God as our Father — no matter how religious and zealous in our practices, and no matter what people say their relationship with God is.

There is only one way to know God. Do we know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified for sinners as the only hope of the world? What we make of him reveals whether we truly know God, or honor God, or love God, or have God as our Father.

If people do not have Jesus as Lord and Saviour, they do not have God as Father.

This is why the Temple influenced crowds wanted him arrested.

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?’

But others thought he was the Messiah — at least it was a good chance.

In other words, they were really impressed with his miracles. Maybe their faith was real; maybe it wasn’t (like his brothers’ in verse 5).

So they were divided. But the reason the opposition intensified in verse 30 (“seeking to arrest him”) was not merely because he failed to look like a Messiah, but because of what he said. The most offensive part was what he said about them, not about himself: You do not know him.

But some thought he just might be the Messiah. And when the Pharisees heard that, they took action:

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

Jesus responds with calm and authoritative words.

33 Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’

Jesus is saying: You can’t take me early. And you won’t keep me here when I choose to leave. And you can’t follow me later. Your plans with me are futile. I have come to do my Father’s will, not yours. And it will be done. Exactly on time. And in the way he has designed it.

They have no idea what he is talking about.

35 The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?
36 What did he mean when he said, “You will look for me, but you will not find me,” and “Where I am, you cannot come”?’

So the situation we have is that the crowds have been told that they don’t know God, and the Pharisees have been told that they are powerless in their plots.

Now what? What will Jesus do? What will he say?

The Feast of Tabernacles, that brought him up to Jerusalem in the first place, is almost over. There’s one more day. He is surrounded by people that want him arrested. The Pharisees have sent officers to do it.

So what Jesus is about to do at this moment into the face of Pharisees and chief priests and hostile crowds and arresting officers is speak words that no one has ever spoken.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John7(2)

July 19th, 2018
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Last time we were aware that in John7 there are two types of disbelief: Jesus’ brothers and those influenced by the Temple leadership.

Is the cause of their unbelief the same?

The brothers of Jesus pursued belief through his miracle-working. The brothers wanted to boast in the miracles of their brother. The wanted to be identified with a winner, not a loser in the eyes of their society.

But what about the unbelief of the Temple leaders?

We know they wanted to kill him. And this goes back to his miracle of healing a blind man on the Sabbath back in John 5.

Lets return to where we finished last week.

John7:14-16

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.

Not to do miracles.

15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having been taught?’

Just like the brothers were amazed at Jesus’ miracle-working, the crowds were amazed at Jesus’ teaching. How could this carpenter from Galilee who was not credentialled by the Temple speak like this at this time at this place.

This was not a godly amazement. They were judging by appearances, not by right judgment

If we jump ahead to verse 24 we read

 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

They were amazed that it perhaps sounded learned, or scholarly, or literary, or articulate, or profound. They were impressed by something – perhaps his confidence, the way he used words.

He was impressive. But they were not touched spiritually. All they heard was the surface of his words.

So Jesus did the same thing with this unspiritual admiration of his words that he did with his brothers’ unspiritual admiration of his miracles: he deflected it.

John7:16

 Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.

He took the admiration directed to his words and pointed them to God.

Of course, he could have said, “I’m the divine Son of God, the eternal Word incarnate! What did you expect?”

But at this point in his ministry, he is confronting human pride and human love of praise. Human nature wants others to look to it. To be impressed.

Jesus exposes this by showing what it is to be truly and deeply human and what it means to be a human Son of God.

He is the God-man, and there are times in John’s Gospel where one is foremost, and times when the other is foremost.

So he deflects their amazement away from himself to God and says that the reason his teaching is astonishing is that it comes from God. That’s what human sons of God are to do. All praise goes to God.

Now the question rises: How can they know if he is telling them the truth? How can they know whether Jesus is an impostor, or if he is actually speaking on behalf of God. Is he true, or is he false? How can we know?

It is clear that the Jewish crowds do not know that his teaching comes from God. Their question in verse 15 shows they don’t know. “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” That question shows they’re not even close.

They are focusing on the shell of his teaching, not the meaning of it. “How is it that this man has learning?” Who cares if he has learning? The question is: What does he mean, and is he true? “Learning” is the shell.” Truth is the kernel.

That’s true of anyone we hear. How something is said does not determine its truth. A skilled debater can persuade us by arguing for or against.

Verse 24 again: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

How do you form a right judgment? How can we know? How can we know if he is true? How can we know if anybody is true?

And here is his astonishing answer in John7:17-18

17Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

Right willing is the foundation of right knowing. The intellectual task of knowing truth suddenly becomes a moral task, and a spiritual task. To discern if Jesus is speaking God’s words requires a change in the hearer.
Jesus explains more.

18  Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

Remember, when the crowds were impressed with Jesus’ learning, he said to them in verse 16: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”

In other words, he deflected attention away from self-exaltation to God-exaltation. If you are going to be impressed, be impressed with God. My words are his.

So we have two requirements : one affects the hearer and the other affects the messenger.

So how do we put verses 17 and 18 together?

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Message for the Day