Gospel of John and the Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles plays an important role in John’s gospel.  It was an important Jewish festival that brought to mind the provision of God while the children of Israel were wondering in the wilderness for forty years en route to the promised land.  It occurred after the Day of Atonement and marked the end of the festival calendar [1].  It was full of rich symbolism that Jesus comes to fulfill.  During the festival water would be poured out in commemoration of Number 28:7 and Isaiah 12:3.  As Andres Kostenberger explains, “The Feast of Tabernacles came to be associated with eschatological hopes [2].”  On the last day of the festival Jesus tells the crowds that that he is the living water.  This is seen in John 7:37 which states, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink [3].”  By doing so Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit which had not been given as of yet.

The Old Testament background regarding the words of Christ would have been clearly understood by those listening to Christ.  By saying what he say our Lord is referencing Isaiah 58:11 and Isaiah 12:3.  The later describes that joy will come from the waters of salvation.  This, of course, is something only Christ can give.  Isaiah 58:11 speaks of one being well waters which is a metaphor for someone being a blessing to those around them.  By fulfilling this symbolism and doing so at the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus is doing something very profound.  He is telling those around him that he is the one who gives the Holy Spirit, and those who come to faith in him will be a blessing to others.  D.A. Carson writes in regard to this fulfillment, “If Isaiah could invite the thirsty to drink from the waters (Is. 55:1), Jesus announces that he is the one who can provide the waters [4].”

 

Works Cited

1.  Andreas J. Kostenberger.  Encountering John.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2013), 91.

2.  Ibid, 91.

3.  John 7:37, New International Version.

4.  D.A. Carson.  The Gospel According to John.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 323.

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The Word

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”- John 1:1

John 1:1, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful passages in scripture.  Jesus is described as “the Word” who became incarnate and dwelt among us.  In referring to Jesus as the “Word” John is drawing a parallel to the creation account in Genesis.  As D.A. Carson explains, “The ‘Word’ in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation and salvation [1].”  In doing so John is saying that Jesus existed before all creation, and even had a hand in creation.  There are many sources that show this depiction of Christ, and some are even extra-biblical.  The Greek word that underlies this is the word logos.  The stoics used the word to describe the principle by which everything exists [2].  There are also many places in the Old Testament which describe “the Word” as God’s act in creation.  These verses include such passages as Genesis 1:3, Psalm 33:6, and the “word of the Lord” in Isaiah 38:4, Jeremiah 1:4, and Ezekiel 1:6 [3].

 

The topic in question is the “Word” and it has huge implications on John’s gospel.  It lays the very foundation for his Christology, and describes just who Jesus is and what he has already done.  In stating that “the Word was with God and the Word was God” John is giving us a crucial understanding of the Godhead.  He is saying that the “Word” is pre-existent before all creation, is with God, and is God.  So how is John relatable to the modern reader?  The message that he wrote were is still very applicable to us today.  We live in a increasingly postmodern society who says that things like Jesus and scripture do not matter.  Some will go so far as to say that Jesus never existed despite historical evidence to the contrary.  To the modern reader I would say that using John 1 we can see that Jesus was around before creation, was not a created being, was creator of everything that was made, and through him is grace.  This grace through faith in him allows us to become the children of God.  He calls us to follow him.

Works Cited

1.  Carson, D.A.  The Gospel According to John.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 116.

2.  Ibid, 114.

3.  Ibid, 115.

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Book Review: Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis is one of the most popular Christian writers of the twentieth century.  He is better known as C.S. Lewis and is the author of such works as Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, and the Narnia series.   In Reflections on the Psalms Lewis takes a look at this great book of scripture, and strives to help the unlearned discover the meaning of the book.
This can be seen in the opening paragraph of the introduction.  In it Lewis writes, “This is not a work of scholarship.  I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archaeologist.  I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself (Introductory, page 1).”  Lewis was not only known as one of the brightest minds of the twentieth century, but he was also known as a lay theologian and apologist.  These opening sentences display a great amount of humility.
He continues his introduction by giving examples of how the unlearned can learn from each other.  He gives an example that most of us can relate to.  He described two children who are trying to solve a problem.  When one goes to the expert one becomes confused, but when he goes to another student they work through it together.  He takes this example from his time as a teacher, but is quick to point out that he is writing from one amateur to another (page 2).  This is on display throughout the work as Lewis discusses his view on every topic brought about in the Psalms.  He does so in a relatable manner that is easily understood.  One more thing to consider while reading the work is that Lewis was a high church Anglican.  Thus, there is some language that may not familiar to mainline Protestants, but are familiar to Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox.  Those are very rare, and Lewis does a masterful job of explaining what is meant.  He accomplished what he set out to do with this excellent work.
The first aspect of the Psalms that Lewis discussed is Judgment.  In the second paragraph of the chapter Lewis describes a great surprise.  In regards to this surprise Lewis writes, “It is therefore with great surprise that I first noticed how the Psalmists talk about the judgment of God (page 9).”  He sees the parallel in the Jewish and Christian view of judgment.  That being that both see it as a court on Earth.  Lewis describes the Christian view of judgment and does an excellent job of defending his position.
Lewis follows the chapter on judgment with a chapter about the cursings.  The cursings in the Psalms are interspersed with forgiveness, mercy, and pleas for help.  They are uncomfortable to read, and to those who do not understand it as poetry, can be very troubling.  Lewis describes those who are troubled as “Almost comic in its naivety (page, 20).  In the cursings he finds man at fault for misinterpreting the text.  Lewis writes at length about the necessity of understanding allegory.  The Psalms were written as songs, should be seen as poetry, and thus allegory is vital in determining the meaning of the cursings.
In Chapter four Lewis moves on to death in the Psalms.  He describes the Jewish idea of sheol and the thought of the afterlife in the Old Testament.  In describing sheol Lewis is not sure how an ancient Jew thought about it.  He concludes that the idea is not pleasant and can be compared to Hades in Greek literature.  It is a place that is neither Heaven or Hell.  In regards to the Old Testament Lewis writes, “It seems clear that in most parts of the Old Testament there is little or no belief in the future life (page 36).”  He then describes the change that came about in the New Testament.
Chapter five discussed the Beauty of the Lord, and one can almost see how much more relaxed Lewis is now that he is on a pleasant topic.  Lewis states that the Psalms describe the Beauty of the Lord better than any other book in existence.  He goes into detail about how the Psalms describe this.  Perhaps what is most fascinating is how he describes someone who is truly worshipping God, or someone who is going through the motions.
Chapter Seven has the interesting title of “Sweeter than Honey.”  This describes the Law that is present throughout the Psalms.  This concept is hard for our modern ears to fathom.  Describing this Lewis writes, “One can well understand this being said of God’s mercies, God’s visitations, His attributes.  But what the poet is actually talking about is God’s law (page 54).”  God’s law is sweeter than honey because it leads us on the path of a moral and just life.  However, it is an area that all too often taken for granted.
In Chapter seven Lewis takes on the topic of Connivance.  Connivance is the act of being involved secretly in wrongdoing.  He discusses the dishonesty that was occurring in his day.  How people were leading double lives to cheat and steal.  He does discuss politics and public life briefly, but points out that the Psalms are concerned with our private lives.  Lewis concludes the chapter by discussing sins of the tongue.  Lewis writes about the war and strife that plagued the period in which the Psalms were written.  He admits that he thought that violent crimes would be written about more in the Psalms, but to his surprise this is not the case.  The crime to which the Psalms speak of most are sins of the tongue.  That is something that still plagues mankind today.
Lewis then turns to the concept of nature in Chapter seven.  This goes beyond the aspect of the trees, animals, and other things we things of when discussing nature.  Here the Psalms, and Lewis, are concerned with the nature of being and nature itself.  It is emblematic of the poetry with which the Psalms were written.  The ancient Israelites were more agricultural than we think.  At the times the Psalms were written there a piece of land could be called a country, or a country was allegorically known as the world.  To Lewis these are important considerations when reading the Psalms.
Lewis moves on to the topic of praising in chapter eight.  The opening line of the chapter states, “It is possible (and it is hoped) that this chapter will be unnecessary for most people (page 90).”  He goes into detail about the importance of praising God, and why it is necessary to do so.  He closes the chapter by saying that it will only be helpful to handful of readers.  He lets his sense of humor shine though by saying that everyone else will get a good laugh from it.
The following three chapters conclude the work and are involved with second meanings, scripture, and second meaning in the Psalms.  These three chapters are where the intellect of Lewis is on full display.  He discussed how these topics relate to modern Christianity.  He describes how he had been treating the Psalms in a manner in which the original poets intended, but this is not the method used by Christians today.  Lewis describes the second meaning, one that lies beyond face value, and what we call the allegorical meaning.  According to Lewis allegorical meaning can be seen throughout the Old Testament.  Lewis writes, The full significance of what the writers are saying is, on this view, apparent only in the light of events which happened after they were dead (page 99).”  This is not a new concept in Biblical exegesis, and has been used by many church fathers.  The well-known church fathers Origen and Augustine have been quoted extensively regarding this method.  Augustine writes in his Anti-pelagian writings, “This grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages, forasmuch as God knew how to dispose all things .”  Augustine repeats this concept repeatedly in his commentary on the Psalms.
Reflections on the Psalms has many strengths.  Lewis’s writing style is accessible, and not intimidating.  In other words, it is written in an everyday style that everyone can understand.  Another strength is the pure mastery in which Lewis gets his point across.  He uses everyday circumstances, mixed with historical examples, to teach what he believes the Psalms portray.  Weaknesses in the work are hard to come by, but as stated in the introduction, some terms are not known by Christians that do not have a liturgical background.
In Reflections on the Psalms Lewis accomplishes what he set out to do.  He writes a summary of the Psalms that is not scholastic or academic, but meant for the everyday person sitting in the pew.  The work is recommended for Christians of all stripes, from minsters to layman.  Everyone will benefit from Lewis’s mastery to define terms, and ability to paint vivid descriptions to the Psalms.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
“Npnf1-05. St. Augustine: Anti-pelagian Writings,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed November 27, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf105.xi.xxx.html.
Lewis, C.S.  Reflections on the Psalms.  New York:  Harvest Books, 1986.

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Guest Post: Separated at Rebirth

Special thanks go out to Tyler Alexander for submitting this post as a Guest Blogger.  Please check out Tyler’s blog at https://tyleralexander1986.wordpress.com.  Thanks again Tyler, and God bless you!

 

1:Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2:(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3:Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4:And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5:By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6:Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Romans 1:1-6 KJV
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Paul, a servant of Christ called, separated unto the Gospel of God.
That verse, that powerful statement, stopped me dead in my tracks early in the reading of Romans. There are  a few things I want to touch base with on how Paul is introduced in this greetings to the Roman Church.  I was moved on the delivery of Paul’s spiritual resume or background, this description of who he has been made into through Jesus Christ. Though, I think to really be able to appreciate the dynamics of this formal introduction of who Paul is, you really have to fully grasp who and what he was before his conversion to Christ.

If there’s any pedigree, if there’s anyone who had anything to benefit or offer the world in a self righteous way of saying so, it was Paul. Paul says in Philippians chapter 3 “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:” Paul says “If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in flesh, I have more”.  That’s a bold statement, some would even say condescending. I believe it to be true. Given the settings and timeline Paul was the prototype. That is, if you’re looking from a carnal perspective at least. He goes on to say that he was circumcised, born of Israel, from the tribe of Benjamin, and a ” Hebrew of Hebrews”. Such an emphasis on the ending as in a modern way of saying a man’s man, an alpha male of the Israelites if you will. Those traits almost just build up as a checklist marking the blocks of why Paul was more than “good enough”.  He follows with as to being found righteous in the law and early commandments he was “blameless”. As to zeal, a ” persecutor of the church”.  This guy was like the Gladiator of the Pharisees.
I enjoy how he looks back on it a few verses after this building himself so highly and considers it all as dung. Now, I haven’t done a big biblical background search on this whole meaning of dung but I’m fairly certain in where Paul is leading the reader here.

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 3:7

Looking back into the  greeting again I want to magnify what message has been put on me to share on his spiritual identity in Christ.
Separated unto
To be set apart
Paul has been separated from the tribe of Benjamin, separated from the safe zone of legalisms in circumcisions, separated from the idea of being born in Israel and of the Hebrews.
Paul had been clamped unto the Gospel of God. He was attached and clinging to Christ. Assigned as a bondservant of Jesus.

The more we become separated into the ambitions that are outside of the will of God, the more focused we are on the world, and the more we become stapled onto it.

Once he had been separated from God in being of a tribe, a culture, a religion. Being one of the world and all it had to offer. Here he is set apart and called, a servant, separated to the gospel of God.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 2 Corinthians 6:17

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I believe after the meeting with Jesus on Damascus road Paul ran from the idea of fulfilling the law because at one point he literally had beaten it into so many people. Paul’s new life becomes specific in which he was called to in this gospel of God in verse 3.

“Concerning his son, Jesus Christ, our Lord”.

If we are to turn an eye to our own resume, how we would be introduced before a holy God, what would it say? Would it be highly decorated with the things of this world, fulfilling the criteria of the modern society requirements? Would it be ironically familiar with the chapters of Ecclesiastes filled with vanity?

Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
Romans 1:6 KJV

Have we been separated, according to our calling, concerning His son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Three Law Codes

When we read through the books of the Pentateuch something extraordinary happens.  To one who is just getting started in Biblical study it would be logical to think that there would only be one set of laws.  However this is not the case and we, in fact, find three different codes of the law.  There is the Covenant code which contains laws that are appropriate for a rural economy.  There is a separate Holiness code that was set aside for priests.  Lastly there was the Deuteronomy code which revolved around an urban kingship or monarchy.

The Covenant code not only contained the Ten Commandments, but the Book of the Covenant.  The laws are designated for a rural settlement or community.  As Collins puts it “these laws were formulated in a settled, agrarian, community; they are not the laws of nomads wandering in the wilderness (Collins, page 130).”  The deal with consequences of violence against ones neighbor.  This is where the phrase an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” originates.

The next law code is the Holiness code found in the book of Leviticus.  This code is specialized in that it is for priests alone.  Though these laws are interwoven with the Decalogue they deal in specifics in regard to the ritual laws of the priests.  It lays out specific ways to slaughter and sacrifice an animal.  It also goes into detail about relations with other nations.  In we find that the Israelites are not to be like other nations.  Though not all activity of others is forbidden the way they acted sexually certainly was.  These are important because “these abominations are said to defile the land (Collins, page 149).

Lastly we have the third code which is the Deuteronomy code.  This code was in effect in an urban based monarchy.  Though the Decalogue is important there seems to be somewhat of an emphasis on the “laws of sabbatical release (Collins, page 165).”  Humanitarian care for the poor and the widow are emphasized, as well as the forgiveness of debts every seven years.  Another prominent feature is the release of slaves.  In Deuteronomy we also find the centralization of worship in Jerusalem.  People would now have to make a pilgrimage to offer sacrifice instead of going to the local shrine.  This was significant in the growth of Judaism as the rural people were still persuaded to worship other gods such as Baal .

 

 

References

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

 

Book Review: NKJV Know the Word Study Bible

[Note:  This book was received free of charge from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

I have many Bibles in my personal library, and many of them are study bibles.  The NKJV Know the Word Study Bible is similar in format and scope to others I own.  The study notes for the verses are helpful, and assist the reader in learning more about a particular passage.

This particular study bible touts that one can learn the Bible book by book, verse by verse, or topic by topic.  As previously stated there are footnotes that assist the reader in understanding passages.  The book summaries at the beginning or a book are helpful as they give highlights of the book and the passages that correspond with it.  This Study Bible also has articles on 21 topics spread throughout the Bible, and each topic has 5-7 articles that correspond with it.

Overall this Study Bible is much smaller than others that I own.  The notes it contains are not as detailed, and the topical articles are fairly short.  The paper is also a lot thinner than other Bibles I own.  This could be a concern for someone who is not using care when turning the page.  This study Bible is good for the new believer, or someone who is new to what study Bibles have to offer.