[This post continues the lines of thinking begun with blogpost #1000.¹ John 9 has long been a favorite chapter, and it’s not because I memorized it as a child or because it was read at a family funeral. This chapter is of deep impact on me because the story highlights Jesus in a way that will not let me go.]
In restarting an honest study of the gospel of John, I’ve begun in a somewhat different way — a way indicated by my relatively newfound penchant for finding concentric (chiastic) structures in the text. Actually, to be fair, I started with John chapter 9 for personal, opportunistic reasons, but I stuck with it for more objective ones, moving outward in both directions from chapter 9, feeling that I might have happened onto the very epicenter of this gospel. If John 9 turns out to be the center-core, or part of said core, it makes sense to become familiar with this immediate, literary context first. So, I’ve re-read chapter 9 and then have read chapters 8 through 11.
Starting in the middle of something flies in the face of how I was taught to process information. Linear thinking, i.e., from left to right and from beginning to end, is more common. (I still feel a twinge of guilt for not reading the introduction of a book, or for selecting a chapter, or for not finishing one I find lacking.) But I suspect I could use a few things flying into my face-shield about now, as I “drive” through the next few weeks and months. So, forget Julie Andrews and the “Do-Re-Mi” song from The Sound of Music. Starting at the beginning (“a very good place to start”) is not best here, now, for me. The middle it is!
Restarting in chapter 8 was an arbitrary choice; I suspect chapters 5, 6, and 7 are anything but disconnected. At any rate, below are a few jottings from this current reading of John 8. (I plan to add to this with notes on chapters 10 and 11, adding some “personal application” as I go.)
8:1-11 — The story of the woman caught in adultery contains details such as the double-stooping and writing on the ground, imbuing it with a ring of truth, as though it were an eyewitness account. This story is not included in the most ancient manuscripts and is almost universally regarded as a later addition, i.e., not original to John. Still, it does no injustice to John’s message(s): it trumpets rebuke of a Pharisaic emphasis on law-keeping, as do other incidents in this gospel. The episode is likely quite true — although possibly, e.g., from Luke’s hand and not John’s — and it is easy to see why some scribe or compiler included it in the middle of John.
8:12 — “light of the world” may be related to a similar expression in 9:5 (same key words, but in a slightly different order, with this former instance stressing the “I am”)
8:13f — the theme of testimony/proof is carried on in chapter 9 (blind man, parents)
The oneness of the Son and Father is a theme in John — chapters 8 and 17, at least.
Are the mentions of dying in sin (8:21, 24) related to the supposed connection between sin and birth defects (9:1-3)?
A terrific adjectival (actually a perfective, active participle, but adjectival in effect) word appears in 8:31, and this may be as significant as the often-quoted “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” in the next verse. The word is pepisteukotas, and the whole expression might well be rendered “the having-believed-in-Him Jews.” My agenda — and I acknowledge it as such — says that there is a problem here for those who want to paint the Jews as being safe with God by virtue of their affiliation with the originally chosen people group. (For more on this, wait for chapter 10. And keep in mind the intervening material in chapter 9 on spiritual blindness of the Jews/Pharisees.)
In the same breath as they trace ancient heritage to Abraham, the Jews claim never to have been enslaved to anyone. Really? Have they not known of Egypt? Have they not heard of Babylon? Seems like careless hyperbole.
8:37-39 — all the mentions of father, lineage, and Abraham in these verses caused me to look for chiastic structure. I’m not sure it’s present, but “sperm/seed of Abraham” (37a) could be set against “children of Abraham” (39b).
8:41 — the use of porneias here is intriguing, given the topic of 8:1-12. Incidentally, the word for “adultery” in the earlier, disputed passage is a different one, but it’s striking that the topic of sexual immorality is present in both sections.
8:44 is unrelentingly accusing; there’s a contrast set up here between 1) Jesus, whose desires are one with the Father God’s, and 2) the Jews, whose desires are one with the devil’s. Further, this whole section (through 8:47) asserts that truth does not in fact dwell with the Jews but rather dwells in Jesus. Inasmuch as they accepted Him, they accepted truth.
8:53 — I once knew a man who was researching rocket fuels as part of his doctoral program; he could honestly say, “Why, yes, I am a rocket scientist.” Here, Jesus could honestly (and obviously more significantly) say, “Why, yes, I am greater than your father Abraham.” And the Jews, quite significantly sadly, could not see that great reality.
Chapter 9 will of course carry on this theme of the Jews’ inability to see what is right before their eyes.