It’s always good to keep a world-renown, New Testament scholar up your sleeve.
Your good questions deserve great answers.
That’s why I’m leaning into my friend and New Testament professor, Craig Blomberg, to answer your tricky and tough questions about the Gospel of John. These are the first round of questions.
Craig Blomberg’s latest book, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, released from B&H Academic last year.
So let’s dive in…
ON JOHN 1:19-29:
I’m confused why John says, “I did not know Him.” Is he referring to the Spirit, or to Jesus, the Man? They’re cousins, are they not? –Arlene
He’s probably referring to his messianic identity. John would have grown up in Judea (Luke 1:39-40) so we have no idea how often the families would have seen each other—probably not as often as we might imagine in our world.
At any rate, no one had yet seen Jesus do anything miraculous. The silent years between ages 12 and roughly 30 are simply that.
Jesus was probably working for “Joseph and Sons Carpentry, Inc.” faithfully but without fanfare.
Whatever prophecies he had been told in his childhood about Jesus or stories about his remarkable birth, eighteen years have passed with no sign of anything more. John needed divine guidance to be assured that Jesus indeed was the Messiah.
When they asked John who he was and they asked him if he was Elijah, and he responded in the negative, they then proceeded to ask him if he was the prophet, which prophet are they possibly referring to? The question is so specific, if it were not, they would have asked him if he was A prophet. Who is the prophet they were referring to? -Sam
Probably the prophet that Moses had predicted in Deuteronomy would arise like him in Deuteronomy 18:18-19. In the years between the Old and New Testament Jewish thinking about that individual had often merged him with the Messiah.
Why were the Pharisees so intent on placing John as the Messiah? It seemed like they were more willing to believe John was the Messiah rather than Jesus. Also, why ask John if he was Elijah? –Madeleine
The text doesn’t suggest they “were so intent” on it. It just says they asked him a series of questions—was he the Messiah, was he Elijah, was he the prophet? John was doing unusual and prophetic things and while the Messiah would be more than a prophet he was not less. So all three questions are natural.
Elijah had not died but was taken up to heaven by a chariot in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1-12), so when Malachi later prophesied that God would send Elijah again before the Day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5), it was natural form some to imagine that a literal Elijah returned from heaven might appear. Luke 1:17, however, makes it clear that John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
Why does John refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God? Does he know about Jesus’ destiny as the sacrificial Lamb? –Arlene
ON JOHN 1:35-42:
The two disciples who had been followers of John and had responded to John’s command to see Jesus, why was their response in the form of asking Jesus where he was staying when Jesus asked them what they wanted? Secondly, we are told that it was about 4 in the afternoon in the NIV or the tenth hour in the KJV, what is the relevance of this detail? –Sam
The two questions dovetail nicely. In the ancient world when everything happened much more slowly than in our world, if it was 4:00 PM, they would have a couple hours of sunlight left and would need to think about walking back to wherever they were staying.
The disciples presumably wanted more time with Jesus and learn more about him and his message, so in essence they are hoping they may be invited to join him on the walk and maybe for dinner, which would have been a gesture of hospitality and acceptance.
ON JOHN 2:
Regarding Jesus’ interaction with his mother’s request. Could it be that while she was asking for literal wine for the feast, Jesus was thinking ahead to the communion wine (His blood shed) on the cross? If that’s the case then his response “it is not yet my time…” would make sense. This also reminds me the wine is often used in scripture in reference to blood. This miracle shows our purification by Jesus’ work (turning water into wine) rather than by ceremonial washing with water (our works). –Gail
It is hard to ever say conclusively Jesus could or could not have been thinking something but presumably his response to Mary was intended to be at least partially intelligible to her, and there is no way she could have known anything about the Last Supper yet.
Jesus talks repeatedly in John’s Gospel about “his hour” (or in some translations, “his time”) and it does eventually refer to the hour of his crucifixion. But he also tells his disciples in 7:8 that he is not going to the Festival (Tabernacles) when they ask him because his hour has not yet fully come and then he does go up midway through the festival.
What both John 2 and 7 have in common is a request of Jesus by a family member that he seems to interpret as them trying to dictate what he should do and by what timetable, and he is distancing himself from such requests in part, as if to say “I do what my Father tells me on his timetable and not yours.”
Mary seems to get at least part of this because she doesn’t seem to be that put off. She still tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (2:5).
So my radical, ridiculously interpretive paraphrase of Jesus’ words in both contexts, which should never be put in a formal translation, of “my time has not yet come,” is something like, “This isn’t the precise moment for me to fulfill your request,” with the understanding at the same time that, “but I will do something about it in my own way at the right time.”
As we dive deeper into the Gospel of John, keep asking great questions! You are making all of us sharper, better, wiser, stronger, more beloved.
Day 16: John 8:1-1 Discussion Questions:
- Who are the other unnamed women that appear in John 1-7. What do they share in common?
- Of those with stones who left, who do you imagine was the first to leave? The last? Where would you be in the crowd?
- In what area of your life do you sense Jesus saying, “Go and sin no more”?
- Using the Color Method, what stood out to you most from today’s reading?
- What do you find most challenging about today’s reading? What do you find most comforting about today’s reading?