a Virginia Mission Parish in the Orthodox Anglican Church
Serving Poquoson and surrounding communities.
A Vesture Dipped in Blood.
A few years ago, when I went on sabbatical from seminary, I decided to look at three of the most vexing questions in Bibilical Criticism: 1) The Synoptic Problem 2) the Author of Hebrews and 3) the authorship and purpose of the Johannine corpus. Our study is based upon the results of these investigations - particularly the third.
Specifically, I wanted to know: Why are John's writings so different? How are they integrated with the rest of the New Testament Materials? Is the author of the Gospel, the Epistles and the Revelation the same man?
In four different Gospels giving us four different perspectives of Christ we have not a problem - we have a solution. One perspective would give us a view of the world that would show no depth. This is the way we read the Gospels now – they are just a canvas of flat facts upon which has been accidently spilled the contents of a theological textbook. This is why we don’t understand the Gospels or the Epistles. No matter how hard we try to fit them together as homogeneous jigsaw pieces, they will never give a meaningful picture of the Gospel of the living God. Unless we realize that the drama of the New Testament - including the writing of the New Testament materials themselves - is a three dimensional, historical, human, literary phenomenon. And until we resolve to read it like this – that is, the way it was written, we will continue to deny its divine power and inspiration. And we will remain spiritually powerless in a post-Christian world.
The marriage feast in Matthew that God gives for his Son and all the marriage metaphors that Paul uses in his theology to describe his relationship with Christ, suddenly come together forcefully in the unique personality of John. No longer is John being influenced by the flow of events in the Apostolic Church. Now he steps onto center stage and begins himself to influence the flow of events.
If we are right about John’s spiritual catharsis, when John arrived in Ephesus, he must have immediately began to pour over the works of Paul and also Matthew’s Gospel. Although John’s Gospel follows the general contours of Matthew’s gospel and is heavily inundated with ideas from Paul’s first block of letters (I Thessalonians through II Corinthians) - especially Romans and Galatians - there is also an undeniable “Corinthian Connection” which can be seen throughout his entire Gospel. If John is a blend of the over-all structure of Matthew with some of the major ideas of Romans and Galatians, it is also written in the thematic dialect of Corinth. Though John’s phraseological relationship to Paul peaks at Romans, the scope of the Corinthian connection is like no other book.
If you look at The Corinthian Connection handout, you can see the constant sharing of themes between the Gospel of John and the Paul's first letter to the Corinthains: unity, denomination over John Baptist’s baptism, worldly and spiritual knowledge, the marriage of the soul to Christ, the relationship to an abiding love, the first and second Man, communion in the body and blood of Christ, and an out of this world religion. It is our thesis that prior to his imprisonment Paul has laboriously sown his soul into Corinthian ground like no other Church. Now John, like Caleb, will enter in upon his labors and reap its fruits.
When Paul came to Jerusalem to present his Uncircumcised Gospel to those who seemed to be pillars of the Church – Cephas, James and John, John, I think, was stung by the fact that he was not only holding on to a physical Israel - he was holding on to his physical love of the physical Jesus. For Paul was a fully converted man who was not loving a memory of a physical relationship. Here was a man who was loving the risen Christ. And this Christ had undeniably revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus and in subsequent revelations that Paul talks about in his letters to the Churches.
The notes for week three consisted in various charts which display some of the distinctive features of John's gospel. John emphasizes seven signs - the first table is a list of all of them. The second chart was a list of various phrases that John constantly repeats throughout his Gospel. The third chart illustrates a remarkable phrase relationship between John's Gospel and Pauls epistle to the Romans. Another graph displays a clear relationship between the ideas of John's Gospel and Romans. And there are more.
Imagine you are a soldier fighting overseas in the trenches during World War I. You are wounded and separated from your unit. But a French family takes you in and their young daughter nurses you slowly back to health. But something else happens. You fall in love. But it is more than love. It is something that borders on finding your long lost soul-mate. Although she can only speak a smattering of English and you a smattering of French, you nevertheless understand each other and fall deeply in love. But now recovered you must go back to the front lines and rejoin your unit. And as you fight for the remainder of the war, you exchange letters with her. Her letters are the only thing that get you through the hell of war. But you can hardly understand them. You can just about make out what they say. In such a situation, what will you do? WIll you read a history of France to understand her better?
The New Testament is not the story of the re-emergence of Judaism. It is not the story of the continuance of Judaism. It is about a new religion that has been built upon the ruins of Judaism, upon the temple stones that had been ignominiously and permanently thrown down by the Romans in 70AD, a religion that was built with a corner stone that the builders of Judaism, themselves, had rejected. This is not my commentary about the relationship between the religion of the OT and the religion of the NT. This is the commentary of the NT itself. Thus the New Testament does not exclusively or even primarily build upon what has gone before; it is like a phoenix that rises from the ashes of Judaism in a completely unexpected way.