Friday, November 25, 2011

Circular Logic

We have just studied Jesus being rejected in His hometown. In our studies, we have been following the timeline as it is laid out in Matthew, but we are going to take a small diversion now to cover a section of John. The Gospel of John covers a two year (at least) ministry of Jesus (based on the explicit mention of three separate Passovers), whereas the other Gospels seem to suggest a ministry of less than one year. This makes it impossible to fit John into the timeline of any other Gospel, especially when roughly 90% of the material John covers is unique to John. So the other Gospels must instead be put into John, but there is a lot of gray area in determining the right way to do so.

According to John, before the speech we will study today, Jesus healed an official's son remotely and then later heals an invalid man who was waiting by a pool for a miraculous healing (John 5:1-15).

Circular Logic
The Gospel of John is always a bit of an enigma. John records no exorcisms, despite exorcisms being one of the most common miracles performed by Jesus according to the other three Gospels. John records no parables, despite the fact that Jesus supposedly did not speak to the crowds without using parables. John records Jesus giving many lengthy explanations about Himself, often using figurative language, which are not in any other Gospel. These explanations are very useful for fleshing out Christian theology, which is probably why John became part of Biblical canon despite such a contrast from the other Gospels. Yet along with the helpful verses come puzzling ones as well.

John 5:1-15 records how Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath, which angered the Pharisees. Jesus then told them that His Father also works on the Sabbath, which really pissed them off, inciting them to try “all the harder to kill Him” (John 5:16-18). For John, this is the first mention of the Pharisees trying to kill Jesus, so it appears that any effort in that direction would be counted as trying harder. :-)

Despite the Pharisees trying to kill Jesus, He manages to get a long-winded, and somewhat confused, response to them in John 5:19-46. Below are conceptual highlights from that speech. I think that the absurdity is pretty self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to raise a protest if it seems logical to you. I could be wrong...

Jesus can do nothing by Himself (John 5:19, John 5:30)
Jesus does only what He sees God doing (John 5:19)
Whatever God does, Jesus also does (John 5:19)
God judges nobody (John 5:22)
Jesus has been entrusted by God to judge everyone (John 5:22)
Jesus judges based only on how God tells Him to judge (John 5:30)
Jesus will not judge the Pharisees (John 5:45)
Moses will judge the Pharisees (John 5:46)

God gives life to people (John 5:21)
Jesus gives life to whoever it pleases Himself to give it to (John 5:21)
Jesus seeks only to please God instead of Himself (John 5:30)

If you do not honor Jesus, you do not honor God (John 5:23)
Jesus does not accept praise from men (John 5:41)

Jesus' testimony about Himself is not valid (John 5:31)
The work which God has given Jesus is doing testifies for Jesus (John 5:36)
God testified about Jesus (John 5:37)
The Scriptures (divinely influenced by God) testify about Jesus (John 5:39)
Who ever hears Jesus' words and believes God will be saved (John 5:24)
Jesus and God are one (John 10:30) (OK, I did have to reach outside this section for that one.)

John the Baptist testified about Jesus (John 5:33)
Jesus does not accept John the Baptist's testimony (John 5:34)
Jesus mentions John the Baptist's testimony so that the Pharisees will be saved (John 5:35)
The Pharisees would accept the testimony of someone else (John 5:43)
The Pharisees do not accept Jesus (John 5:43)

The Pharisees believe only in the Scriptures (John 5:39)
The Pharisees do not believe the Scriptures (John 5:47)

That last set is probably the only thing which needs a little further explanation. According to Jesus, the Pharisees thought that the Scriptures (John 5:39), and the scriptures supposedly written by Moses in particular (John 5:45-47), held the key to eternal life (which they clearly do not). Jesus claims that the eternal life they reference is through Jesus, which Moses wrote about (John 5:46).

Moses supposedly wrote Genesis through Deuteronomy, the first five books of the Bible. The best Christian scholars have come up with for prophesies concerning Jesus from Moses are Genesis 3:15 (the curse applied to the snake from the garden of Eden), Genesis 12:3 (God says that all people will be blessed through the Jews), Numbers 21:9 (where Moses made a bronze snake on a stick), and Deuteronomy 18:14-20 (where God will provide a prophet who is explicitly not God and should be proved). The way Jesus speaks, you might expect Moses to have said “the son of God will come to you and make atonement for the sins of all of mankind and offer eternal life to everyone,” but that is very, very far from the truth. The message is cryptic at best, with a biased eye, and non-existent for those who tend to be a little more skeptical.

Altogether, this is just a tangle mess of confusion.


  1. I agree, the gospel of John is pure confusion. It is poetically beautiful, which makes the romantics of the world fall for it, I think. But no facts can be derived from such poetic rendition of the so-called life of Jesus.

  2. I would have to agree with you there; there is a lot of poetry to the gospel of John. It seems that the author got a little too wrapped up in building romanticism into Jesus' words to worry about accuracy. :-)