Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Rough Draft of Daft Stuff, Referring to John 1
John is probably the most interesting of all of the gospels. He's my favorite NT writer, and ties with Solomon (Cantica Canticorum) for my favorite Scriptural author. So, here is a brief intro to reading his gospel, and then a briefer overview of John 1.
John should be read as a יוֹם כִּפּוּר (yom kippur) entrance into the temple: the first five chapters deal with water (ceremonial washing), then light and bread (holy place), then the blood and death, then the High Priest returning from the presence of God alive, signifying the Divine acceptance of the offering and the atonement for the sins of the nation. Of course, this is simplistic: taken with Revelation, it forms a chiastic whole, it has tremendously complex themes of marriage (as the Second Adam follows the footsteps of the first up a hill, into a deep sleep, has his side opened and a bride created from it as well as obeying God on a tree to be the faithful guard of the garden), Eden (his resurrection occurs in a garden, he is seen in a garden, etc), and many more that I've never discovered, but it still works well for a general overview.
Now, for chapter one. Or rather, as far into chapter one as my sleep-deprived mind feels like going. The first two divisions are quite interesting, and are made numerically: the three repetitions of Word in 1 is the foundation of 1-3, then the seven repetitions of light in 4-9 lead to the natural division that takes place between 13 and 14. 14 is lightly distinguished from what came before by a very explicit chiasm (14-18: only begotten, only begotten; grace and truth, grace and truth) that centers yet again--just in case you happened to miss the rather prevalent preceding theme of the Divinity of Christ--that centers yet again on the eternal existence of Christ: "He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me." It also calls himself as his first witness, along with Peter and James. His second witness he calls immediately after; John the Baptist.
19 is the opening bookend of another chiasm that closes in 28: from Jerusalem, Bethabara; Christ Elijah and the Prophet, Christ Elijah and the Prophet; those who sent us, those who were sent; you say, Isaiah said, with the center being focused on the office of John as the prophesied forerunner of the (Incarnated) Deity.
Verse 29 opens another chiasm, in which is a trilogy of John's actions: said, bore witness, testified. It is also the first mention of the Spirit, making this the end of the natural section of 1-34 as an exposition of God, and of Christ as God. Christ was in heaven with God; the Spirit of God is with Christ on earth. This could be viewed as another witness, but the text flows far better as a chiasm: The Word with God in the beginning, the Spirit (of God) on Christ (the Incarnation of the Word) after John; the witnesses (which are bookended by the "He who comes after is preferred before") are at the center.
29-34 (Lamb of God, Son of God); 30-33b (He was before me, He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit); 31-33a (I did not know, I did not know); Center, 32: And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him."
Also, I don't yet know what to make of it, but the trilogy of "He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me" is repeated for emphasis, but probably also for some structural theme. Were I to guess, it is a part of the overall chiastic structure, the damning Arche chiasm of the passage: 1. only begotten, 3. Lamb of God: center: 2. you don't know Him. But that's a guess, and I haven't yet gotten to the big picture, to the loose chiastic structure.
That is as far as I will go with the structural analysis for the moment. The prevalent, inescapable theme is the utter Deity of Christ, which John asserts completely by verse 14.
So, this is the focus of the first section of John 1. The Word, the second member of the Godhead, was with the First, and comes bearing the Third, as witnessed by a couple of John's, and the Pharisees, parallel to the darkness, did not comprehend the One standing among them (5, 26).