Friday, March 9, 2012

Full Circle

This study will continues and completes a conversation which Jesus had with some of the Jews on the Temple grounds of Jerusalem. Many of these Jews had believed what Jesus was saying, and even put their faith in Him. In turn, Jesus told them that they had no place for His word, that they were trying to kill Him, and that they were the offspring of the Devil.

Full Circle
In the conversation we began studying in John, Jesus told a group of Jews, who had believed Him and had put their faith in Him, that their intent was to kill Him. Do not worry. As we conclude this conversation, we will surely find Jesus' words made true, even at the expense of logic.

We left off at John 8:42-47, with Jesus telling the Jews that they could not understand His words because their father was the Devil. (Blessed are the peacemakers.) If these Jews had no reason to want to kill Jesus before, a comment like that might be reason enough to provoke such anger, but that is not what we find. In John 8:48, the Jews instead reply in inexplicable unison like so:
The Jews answered [Jesus], "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?" NIV
A Samaritan and demon-possessed? Let us look at these claims a little closer, but "the first will be last." ;-) The phrase "demon-possessed" is used here in place of "crazy" or "insane," as this was the common explanation of that era for someone who was suffering from mental illness, or who was deaf, or mute, or any number of medical conditions which cause someone to act abnormally or disabled without an obvious cause.

Now, about Jesus being a Samaritan... There are a couple angles to look at. The first is Jesus' origin in the region of Galilee. This region was part of the old Kingdom of Israel after the split from the Kingdom of Judea. This kingdom had also taken on the name "Samaria," which was its capitol city. However, this is not likely the sense in which "Samaritan" is used here.

Instead, the second, and most likely, angle is the use of Samaritan as an ethnoreligious group. When the kingdoms had split, their shared religion effectively split too; it was a schism which was almost similar in basis to that of the later Islamic one for Sunni versus Shia. As John 4:9 reports, the Jews did not associate with the Samaritans, despite having the same foundations.

So these Jews replied to Jesus by essentially saying that He was a crazy person who believes in a perversion of the true religion. Through the repeated discouragement of His chosen words and direction of the conversation, Jesus converted Jews who had faithfully believed Him (John 8:30-31) into Jews who thought that He was a crazy heretic. This is hardly behavior worth emulating.

As the conversation continues, Jesus claimed that He was not demon-possessed, that He seeks glory for God, and if anyone obeyed His words, they would not taste death. The Jews balked at this, said that they now knew that He was demon possessed (crazy), and asked Jesus if He thought He was better than Abraham. Jesus replied that God glorifies Him, and that Abraham was happy to see Jesus' day come. The Jews scoffed at this, because Jesus was not old enough to have seen Abraham (John 8:49-57).

The episode concludes in John 8:58-59, with Jesus incontrovertibly claiming to be part of God, and the Jews, instead of thinking that Jesus was just a harmless lunatic, trying to kill Him:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the Temple grounds. NIV


  1. It seems like the writer was being sloppy in pasting together a story to tell us that:
    -- Jesus existed from the beginning (Logos)
    -- Believing Jesus wins eternal life
    -- Jesus and his God are one and the same
    -- The Jews were confused

    Those seem the take home message -- someone should have proofed the story for "John".

  2. Indeed, Sabio, I think you have the gist of John right there!

    I think that the language used by its author(s) is convoluted just enough that it takes someone with a critical eye to realize the issues with the text to do a proper proofreading. The fact that it arrives to us in this form today as an official Gospel speaks volumes about how credulous the early Christians were.