Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Thoughts on John 6

Has anyone else seen the movie "The Gospel of John"? I have this movie on DVD. It is so good to watch. I love that my young children become engrossed in it. "Hearing" the Word is different than reading it.

I noticed something. When we get to the part that represents John 6 ... frankly ... and I say this with the utmost respect for the Word ... it starts to sound really strange. Now, I am not talking as a non-Calvinist here. I mean it sounds strange in the sense that He doesn't seem to be trying to draw anyone to himself, but rather, it sounds like He is trying to shock people, especially when you hear the drama of the audible presentation of His words. For example:
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
I would think that many there would have thought He was quite off his rocker. Actually, the Bible indicates that they did think something like that.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
Now, I can't ask Christ directly why he spoke this way. Surely He could have said things in an easier-to-understand way. I have often wondered why he did this. Then, I found a pretty good explanation. Actually, when I think back, Matthew tried to explain this to me before, but it didn't become clear to me until I went to this link. I will cut and paste from the link that which I found helpful below. I don't agree with several of the things that I read there, but this makes so much sense:

" [Let's look at] ...the peculiar historical circumstances of this discourse in the general dispensational scheme. This discourse occurred in a Jewish setting, BEFORE Christ died on the cross. There was a specific dynamic occurring during Jesus' public ministry that is NOT occurring now. That dynamic is the partial blinding of Israel so that the crucifixion could occur. John 6 must be understood against the background of the following passages.

Mark 4:10-12,33-34 10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; LEST AT ANY TIME THEY SHOULD BE CONVERTED, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM. ... 33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples. (KJV)

Jesus spoke to the Jewish crowds in PARABLES for the expressed purpose of keeping them in the dark! He spoke in riddles. But, He expounded the true meaning of these parables to His disciples! Why? If not, the crowds might have believed on Him! And having the crowds on their side was necessary for the religious leaders to carry out the crucifixion. Also, if the religious leaders had understood the Mystery that God had hidden, they would NEVER have crucified Him! Paul states this clearly in the following passage.

1 Cor 2:7-8 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (KJV)

The crowds had a lot of power. The leaders were afraid of the crowds. And any uprising of the people would most certainly bring down the wrath of the Romans on the Jewish leadership! That is why the Pharisees had such heartburn on Palm Sunday, when some of the worshippers cried "Hosanna" at Christ's entrance into Jerusalem for Passover. The ONLY WAY the crucifixion could be carried out was IF the crowds and the leaders rejected Jesus! So, Jesus' words and actions were designed to force the Jews to reject Him! This is very apparent in John 6. The RIDDLE about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, and about His being the "bread from heaven" was more than most could bear! The whole "Bread of Life Discourse" was intended to DRIVE AWAY the crowds!

Now, this may seem absurd, given the fact that God desires to save all men. But, let me quickly point out that after the crucifixion and resurrection, this situation no longer existed, and many of the Jews who had been hardened against Jesus, who were part of the mob that cried "away with him, crucify him," were also converted on the Day of Pentecost, and 3000 of them were baptized and added to the Jerusalem Church! This is proven from Acts 2.

Acts 2:22-24,36-41 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. ... 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, WHOM YE HAVE CRUCIFIED, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, THEY WERE PRICKED IN THEIR HEART, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (KJV)

No longer did God blind the Jews! (Although many of them continued willfully in their blindness). Some of the very same Jews who abandoned Jesus in John 6, and cried "away with Him," turned to Christ and were saved on the Day of Pentecost. John 6 MUST be understood within this framework.

God elected certain Jews to be saved during Jesus' ministry, as the core of His church. He spent three years preparing them to be missionaries to the whole world. All the while, He kept the crowds and the religious leaders in the dark about what His real purpose was, by using parables. Mark said that without a parable He did not speak to them! In this way they were "blinded" to the Gospel."



  • That is a good article. But Readers should watch out for the author's denial of eternal security and dogy position on baptism.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 6/27/2007 10:21 AM  

  • Indeed, Matthew. That is why I said I do not appreciate everything there.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/27/2007 10:29 AM  

  • Although Jesus does use rather cryptic language here, it seems to be the case that Jesus did this a lot. And sometimes, he didn't seem to be doing it to blind people. Take Nicodemus for example who stumbled over the idea of being "born again" or the Samaritan woman at the well who was offered "living water" and thought he spoke of natural water. Yet both of these individuals came to faith in Christ despite the cryptic language of Jesus. Consequently, is it wise to argue that Jesus was using this metaphorical language to cause people to stumble over his words? Sure some did, but was that Jesus' purpose here?

    By Blogger Andrew, at 6/27/2007 1:48 PM  

  • My expression "to blind people" in my second sentence should be understood in the sense of "for the purpose of blinding people". Sorry about that!

    By Blogger Andrew, at 6/27/2007 1:50 PM  

  • Thank you for your thoughts, Andrew. Think about the examples you give - he didn't really use "cryptic" language, but figurative. Here - it is very heightened - so much so that he turned the people off. I actually think it makes sense to think that he did this on purpose. He really did usually get the results he was looking for.

    Also, to your examples - when he spoke to Nicodemus, he explained about being "born again". The woman at the well did come to see what he meant. These in John 6 were just turned off, were they not?

    I do love Peter's response so much, though. It expresses such a sweet and beautifully desparate need for His Messiah.

    I get your point, though. Thanks so much for contributing and for making me think about that. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/27/2007 8:36 PM  

  • I suppose my use of "cryptic" wasn't the best word choice and I see what you mean about Christ's use of this figurative language in relation to others such as Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman.

    Your post raised a very interesting idea that I haven't come across before - that is, the purpose of the blinding of unbelievers so that the cross could come about. I'll have to think some more about it! Thanks Rose.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 6/28/2007 4:28 AM  

  • Andrew, I am glad you found those thoughts helpful. Matthew actually sent me to the link.

    Thank you Matthew!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/28/2007 11:39 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Two thoughts. If God purposely blinded the Jewish minds in order to bring abou the Cross then are the Jews responsible for being blind? If so, and it being sinful blindness, to use an non Calvinist argument, does it make God the author of their sin?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 6/28/2007 12:01 PM  

  • Hello Goodnight (that sounds like a Beatles' song or something),
    I was wondering who was going to be the first Calvinist to bring that up! I am glad it was you.
    Well, what do you think? What is your answer to your own question? Are they responsible? You give me your answer and I will give you mine.

    Thanks. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/28/2007 12:06 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I take the line that God is under no obligation to give the sinner anything. Withholding of information is not a sin if it withheld from one has no claim upon it. The sinner forfeits everything by the fact that he is a sinner. Furthermore, there is a positive blinding when previous light has been neglected and/or rejected. There does not seem to have been many who looked for the consolation of Israel, even though the OT was full of Him. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. Much of this blinding was self imposed and therefore sinful.

    God is neverthe author of man's sin, even though He ordains that sinful things should take place. Man is always treated as a responsible being and his part in any sinful action or sequence of actions is always that of a willing participant. We do not have to know the how of God's involvement in such sinful events without being responsible for the sin, but the Bible assures us that it is so, and by faith we accept the Divine assurance. The shining of the suns rays may cause the dunghill to stink, but it is not the corruption of the dunghill is not the fault of the sun. When all is said and done, those found guilty in such God ordained events will be silent (i.e. without any excuse or defence) when they stand as guilty before God. None can neither sta His hand nor say unto Him, What doet thou?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 6/28/2007 1:28 PM  

  • I changed my mind. I don't want to answer your question. haha!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/29/2007 10:16 AM  

  • Just kiddin -

    If God purposely blinded the Jewish minds in order to bring about the Cross then are the Jews responsible for being blind?

    yes, because they were actively resisting the truth as well as being blinded by God.

    If so, and it being sinful blindness, to use an non Calvinist argument, does it make God the author of their sin?

    No. Even if it did, the main point is that it was only temorary! In the Calvinist scheme of things, God permanently blinds people, so that is a different question altogether. This was a temporary blinding and He later allowed them to hear the truth and many of them received Him. It is a lot different than the idea of reprobating people for all eternity from all eternitya and then holding them responsible. Don't you think? :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 6/29/2007 10:22 AM  

  • Rose: "No. Even if it did, the main point is that it was only temorary! In the Calvinist scheme of things, God permanently blinds people, so that is a different question altogether. This was a temporary blinding and He later allowed them to hear the truth and many of them received Him. It is a lot different than the idea of reprobating people for all eternity from all eternitya and then holding them responsible. Don't you think? :~)"

    Hi Rose and a big Amen! This is how I see it.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 6/30/2007 2:10 AM  

  • Good morning Rose,

    I am wondering how that if God inflicts any blindness and that it was sinful, then how is He not the author of their sin seeing that it was He who inflicted that sinful blindness? You say "Even if He did…it was only temporary" but surely we cannot have God being the author of sin, even on a temporary basis? Of course, I agree with you 100% that such infliction does not make God the author of sin, but it seems that those who profess to be Calvinists get lumbered with this indictment, while those who don't can just say, " No" and are not called to account. We are in the same boat on this one and if I sink, you sink as well.

    The questions needs to be asked: Who is reprobated? Answer: Sinners. Do they start off in a state of neutrality before they are reprobated? Answer: No. Reprobation does not make them sinners, but treats them as sinners. As sinners they (as indeed we all) deserve nothing more than damnation. That God has mercy on those whom He has elected to salvation (freely, for nothing foreseen in them, but purely on the basis of His Free Grace alone) does not change one iota the justice of leaving others to perish in their doom. We cannot put God under an obligation to save any (else it cannot be by grace) and therefore He is under no obligation to save all. Your odium against reprobation would only carry weight if it was the reason or cause why men are sinners. Calvinists would share this odium with you. But it's not the reason or cause and therefore Calvinists see no need to defend it as if it were.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 6/30/2007 6:58 AM  

  • As with my previous reflections on the last post, I would have to say that this passage makes the most sense within the context of the post-Pentecost schisms and tensions within the church over-and-against the Judaizers that were prevalent within the life of the early church. In this light, Jesus' words (here represented as quotations) would be understood as direct legitimizers of the Christian practice of Eucharist which would have been a particular scandal to the celebration of the Passover Feast of the Judaizers. By positing the location of salvific efficacy solely (note the words "unless") within the body and blood of Christ (understood by the early church to be truly present and manifested in the elements of the Eucharist), the early Christians would have been making a quite radical statement about the insufficiency of the Jewish practices of cultic Passover celebrations and the general Hebrew worship cult altogether to effect justification with God. In another way, to say that reconciliation is realized only in the participation of the Eucharist (which was understood by the early church as part and parcel of the epi-drama of God's salvation being manifested in the community of believers), is for the early Christians to outright deny the legitimacy of justification with God through participation in the Jewish religious/cultural cultus, the very place in which the Judaizers placed the exclusivity of reconciliation with God.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 6/30/2007 10:54 PM  

  • In light of my recent comments, I must say that a viewpoint (such as which I have been offering) requires a much larger concern for contextualization than is often appropriated by interpreters. That is, most interpretive paradigms consider only the historical and linguistic patters that exist within the text. What I am suggesting is that the motivations of the author should be questioned and brought to bear upon the meaning of the text as well. That is, as the Scriptures were not written in a vacuum, but were rather based upon the need to respond to specific cultural/religious circumstances, so should these same influences be taken into consideration in interpretation. After all, surely the apostles had a greater repository of Jesus' sayings than are recorded in the writings which are extant in the canon. Why, then, did they choose to use those which they did? Certainly, their choice was motivated by certain situations and intentions which ultimately shaped the motivations for which their selections were made. Therefore, any interpretative methodology which will not consider the potential intentions of the authors will fail to consider a incredibly significant portion of the interpretive puzzle.

    Thanks for listening, Rose.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 6/30/2007 11:01 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve,
    Do you believe in the inspiration of Scripture as Evangelicals/Fundamentalists do?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/03/2007 9:50 AM  

  • Do you believe in the inspiration of Scripture as Evangelicals/Fundamentalists do?

    The short and easy answer would be "no."

    However, I should point out that I am not aware of an entirely consistent nor uniform understanding of inspiration within evangelicalism/fundamentalism. That is, while verbal dictation is certainly something which I would vehemently deny, I have a measure sympathy for more "verbal plenary" understandings of inspiration (although I would certainly not agree with the ends towards which these understandings are plied). My experience within Evagelicalism/Fundamentalism is that the notion vacillates somewhere between these two, shifting in one direction or another depending upon the context in which the idea of inspiration is being defended. That is, while many will become uncompromising dictationists/literalists when the subject of origins is at play, the lines seems to be much more pliable when the subject of grammar, sentence structure, etc. are under discussion.

    ANYWAY, I know that is much more of an answer than you asked for, so I will stop. If you are interested, I have written on the notion of inerrancy at my blog. You can find the article here.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 7/03/2007 12:28 PM  

  • Sorry, here's the right link: http://existdissolve.com/results.cfm?postID=20

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 7/03/2007 12:28 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve,
    Yea, it almost sounded like you were saying that the apostle John may have "put those words" into Jesus' mouth to try and buttress a certain cause. Is that right?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/04/2007 12:23 PM  

  • Yea, it almost sounded like you were saying that the apostle John may have "put those words" into Jesus' mouth to try and buttress a certain cause. Is that right?

    I wouldn't necessarily go that far. While I think the apostles' probably took certain liberties with Jesus' quotations (after all, they probably did not have the standards of "quotation" that we would think of today...), I also think there was a well-developed corpus of Jesus' teachings/sayings from which to draw. Therefore, my point in what I said previously is simply that the writers of Scripture, when quoting Jesus, quoted what they did for specific reasons. That is, their writings are not "historical" records in the way that we would think of them (i.e., interested in merely reporting history, facts, events, etc), but were rather written for very specific theological and, potentially, political reasons. Among these reasons, I would suggest, is the constant battle represented in the NT corpus surrounding tensions in the Jewish community out of which Christian belief arose concerning the relationship of this new system of belief to the old cultus of Jewish worship. As the Judaizer's theological and ecclesial programme was clearly a threat to the apostles' teaching and greater efforts in establishing a redefined community of believers, it stands to reason that the quotations of Jesus that they chose were deliberately inserted, at least in part, to counter the threat that they perceived within the opposition.

    So as I wrote earlier (in another thread), to quote Jesus' teachings in the midst of such a theological discussion was tantamount--for the apostles--to an affirmation of the argument they were making over and against their detractors within the Judaizer community.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 7/05/2007 11:06 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve,
    Thank you for your thoughts. You certainly bring things to these discussions that are atypical. I appreciate that. Have a good weekend!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 7/06/2007 8:36 AM  

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