Thursday, March 25, 2010

We finished 1 John tonight. Throughout, he interpreted the text as a polemic against former members of the Johannine community which have split away. And that, in speaking well of his intended audience, he implies the exact opposite is true of the ones who left.

So, when a verse says, like 4:7 and many others -
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
We may suppose the ones who have left weren't loving and so weren't begotten of God and didn't know Him.

He observed that the text is a little confusing on its teaching about sin. On the one hand, the author says that no one who remains in him [Christ] sins (3:6) but that, if we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves (1:8).

Maybe drawing upon the chapter/verse parallel with the Gospel, he called out 1 John 3:16 -
The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
Of course, the idea of laying down one's life is in the Gospel, 15:13, which he quoted, but he also alluded to a passage by Paul in Romans about laying down one's life. I suppose it would have been more impressive if I'd recited the Romans passage from memory, but I wanted to get it right - let Scripture speak for itself - so I read aloud Romans 5:7-8 -
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
He wondered aloud about the nature of the Passover in Jesus' day. It wasn't exactly as described in Exodus because the Jerusalem Temple was in operation. He wanted to know how the lamb was understood because the apostolic teaching is that Jesus is the lamb of God and his blood is atoning in the same way. Paul even calls Jesus our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). I said something about the Apostles' track record being rather irresponsible in applying Old Testament prophecies toward Jesus and why should the Passover themes be any more appropriate?

Now, you can find just about anything on the Internet, but I found this page that seems to say that very thing:
The Torah never states or even implies that the Passover sheep or goat atones for sin. ... In the pagan Egyptian society ..., the lamb was considered a sacred god. In ancient Egypt, molesting a lamb in any way was considered a crime punishable by death. ... In Exodus 8:26, Moses explained to Pharaoh that if the Israelites were to kill these animals before the Egyptians, they would be stoned to death. The Almighty, therefore, used this to test the faithfulness of the Jewish people by commanding them to not only kill Egypt's sacred god, but also to publicly place the lamb's blood on their doorposts for all to see.
In reading 1 John 5:1, he said that he probably shouldn't say this but it isn't particularly important for him whether Jesus is the Christ or not. Of course, the tendency is to define "Christ" in purely political terms. But he very quickly covered his tracks with a mention of the promise to David. I was able to put to use the Great Adventure Bible Study material and find God's promise in 2 Samuel 7, that a descendent would be on David's throne forever.

The part I had the most difficulty with was the language about love. Like 1 John 4:20 -
If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
I just couldn't get over my own sin on this point. My sin was staring me in the face and I really hated it.

Next time, we'll do the other two Johannine letters and then probably 1 Peter. 2nd and 3rd John are short, you know, so I copied them out in Greek and tried to recognize the repeated words, love, truth, walk, command. While 1 John struck me as having some original teaching to commend it, I struggled to find anything apostolic in the other two letters attributed to him. It is as if the author is reluctant to say anything original out of fear his audience would reject it ... and him. This Bible blog here says the letters are written to actual people but I think "the chosen Lady" (NAB) refers to a church, especially when taken with the closing -
The children of your chosen sister send you greetings.

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