Monday, May 03, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: John 18-21 and Acts 1

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through John, chapters 18-21 and Acts, chapter 1.

Chapter 18

  • Verses 4-8 – Why do the soldiers draw back when Jesus confirms his identity for the first time? Why do they not simply arrest him? Also, although Judas is clearly present for this arrest, I find it interesting that John does not have Judas explicitly identify Jesus (neither by a kiss, as elsewhere, nor by any other means).
  • Verse 15 – We haven't really talked about “the disciple who Jesus loved” yet (although the phrase has been used since Chapter 13), and “the other disciple” here may or may not be the same one, but I suspect that he is, or else why would John use such circumlocution to refer to the disciple allowed into the high priest's courtyard? I wonder how it was that this disciple was known to the high priest in the first place?
  • Verses 19-24 – Why does John insert this interlude between Peter's first and second denial of Jesus? Indeed, if John's going to break them up at all, why not include something between the second and third denial as well?
  • Verse 38: “What is truth?” - Quite a lot has been written about Pilate's question. I don't pretend to fully understand precisely why he asks it, myself. But it's clearly significant.
Chapter 19
  • Verse 12 – We are told here that Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but apparently could not because of the Jewish leaders. This reason rings a little hollow. Surely Pilate had authority over the Jewish leaders. If he wanted to set Jesus free, he had the authority to do so. I assume that Pilate gives in because he is afraid of the Jewish leaders. But why should he be so afraid of them?
  • Verses 21-22 – Afraid of the Jewish leaders or not, Pilate still manages to send a message that seems deliberately designed to insult them.
  • Verse 35 - “The man” is not specifically identified here, but is referred to in such a way that it seems obvious the John's original audience must have known exactly who the man was.
  • Verse 39 - Nicodemus makes his final appearance.
Chapter 20
  • Verses 1-2 – The resurrection seem ironically anti-climactic. We don't see any angels yet. We don't see the stone rolled away. It's all already happened by the time any of our protagonists are on the scene.
  • Verse 22 – Just how is the Holy Spirit transmitted?
  • Verse 24 – Thomas is referred to as Didymus/The Twin again.
Chapter 21
  • Verse 2 - John's really intent on calling Thomas by his nickname quite a bit, isn't he?
  • Verse 11 - John goes to some trouble to point out the number of fish caught. Why?
  • Verses 15-19 - Although I've heard a number of preachers and teachers make a lot out of the fact that Jesus and Peter alternate between different Greek words for “love” in this exchange (a point lost in translation to English), I agree with Michaels that the distinctions are not really important to what is going on here. Rather the “fondness for synonyms” (“Lamb” and “sheep” are used interchangeably here, as well, as are alternating “feed/tend” words.) is intended to convey that “the narrator's interest is in the repetition of the same thought, not in the subtle differences in the meaning of particular words. It is all but certain that the threefold question-and-answer sequence here is intended to coincide with Peter's threefold denial earlier.1
  • Verse 24 – a very similar formula to verse 35 in chapter 19. Is John referring to the same witness (and is that witness indeed John himself)? Why use the formula twice, rather than just now, at the end of the Gospel?
Chapter 1
  • Verse 11 – I'm not sure I understand the question asked to the disciples. If Jesus will indeed come back in the same way that he was taken up into heaven, is that not a reason why they should be looking up into the sky?
  • Verse 12 – For those who are checking, this list does indeed match list of the Twelve written in Luke (by the same author as Acts), minus Judas, although not in quite the same order.
  • Verses 23-26 – I wonder what Matthias did, after he was added to the Twelve. We never hear of him again within the Bible itself? For that matter, I wonder what kind of ministry Joseph Barsabbas had? One doesn't assume that, simply because the lot failed to fall on him, that he therefore left the larger group of Jesus' followers. Yet, like Matthias, he is only mentioned here.

1J. Ramsey Michaels, John (New International Bible Commentary), Hendrickson, 1989, p. 360.

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