New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 16: John 9-10 (Updated)

Two chapters of John today.

John 9:1-3

These verses (as well as other scriptural or historical examples) demonstrate that prophets and apostles tend to share the world views and/or assumptions of their time. We would call these “incorrect” from our own cultural perspective, but certainly our own views on various things can be judged to be incorrect from a different cultural perspective. The specific idea that misfortune was caused quasi-directly by sin was a partial corollary to Deuteronomy’s repeated promise of “If you are righteous, you shall prosper in the land” (see Deuteronomy 28, for example.) Job takes up the problems with this, but John 9:1-3 shows that it was still a common assumption, made by Jesus’ disciples. (BTW, if you haven’t read Michael Austin’s book on Job, it’s fantastic.) Reality is much more complicated than they understood.

We have to stop thinking of the world as a kind of moral slot-machine, where people put in a coin (a good act, say, or an evil one) and get out a particular result (a reward or a punishment). Of course, actions always have consequences. Good things often happen as a result of good actions (kindness produces gratitude), and bad things often happen through bad actions (drunkenness causes car accidents). But this isn’t inevitable. Kindness is sometimes scorned. Some drunkards always get away with it.
In particular, you can’t stretch the point back to a previous ‘life’, or to someone else’s sins. Being born blind doesn’t mean you must have sinned, says Jesus. Nor does it mean that your parents must have sinned. No: something much stranger, at once more mysterious and more hopeful, is going on. The chaos and misery of this present world is, it seems, the raw material out of which the loving, wise and just God is making his new creation.- Wright, John for Everyone

Indeed, Jesus does affirm a cause to his particular blindness, namely, “so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Presumably this refers to his healing, and we cannot thus extrapolate to all such conditions that there is divine purpose to them. “The answer of Jesus does not have in view human suffering generally but this particular individual in relation to his mission.”- Word Biblical Commentary.

To comfort people in similar situations that such is “God’s plan” is, ironically enough, to play the role of Job’s friends.

9:7 Jesus sends the man to the pool of Siloam to wash. The name shifted slightly in the New Testament, as it was known as Shiloah (Isa. 8:6) or Siloah (Neh. 3:15). Both draw on Heb. shalach (that’s a guttural ch) “to send.” It appears related to an Akkadian term meaning “watercourse, part of a canal.”
John points this the connection between Siloam and sent in the text “ ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent)” probably to make some connection to Jesus. Jesus too was sent (John 9:4, 20:21, Hebrews 3:1).

 

 

Pool of Siloam at bottom right, and the road back up into the temple mount.

Pool of Siloam at bottom right, and the road back up into the temple mount.

Pool of Siloam, looking east

Pool of Siloam, looking east over the stairs down into the pool

The uncovered pool of Siloam, looking west.

The uncovered stairs into the pool, looking west towards the uncovered stairway/road up to the temple mount. Parents and wife.

The newly uncovered road up to the temple mount

 

 

It gets narrow

It gets narrow

 

John 10

10:30 “the father and I are one.” The issue of how to define deity and just how many there are has been a vexing problem since Old Testament times. Back then, the question was, who was God, how many divine beings were there, who were they aligned with? As time went on, Israel became more monotheistic (although never monotheist, as people commonly understand the term today.) By the early Dead Sea Scroll/New Testament period, those divine beings thought to exist below Israel’s god were now called “angels” instead of gods or “sons of God” and opposing divine beings were “demons.” Jesus was worshipped as divine very early on in Christianity, but this proved a problem of sorts. If God were one, how was there both a father and a son? The question became, what kind of unity and oneness is it? Nicea attempted to answer this question from a philosophical perspective. Most Mormons, however, lack familiarity with the Nicene Creed and misunderstand the classical trinitarianism it established. The First Vision does nothing to undermine classical trinitarianism, because it did not and does not claim that Jesus and the Father were the same personage.  What it does say is that they are of the same substance… but of course, they weren’t speaking English. The father and son are homoousian, and here it gets technical and philosophical, so I’ll quit. Suffice to say, this is a long long question, and both Mormons and others need to do their homework before labeling, declaring heretical, etc., whether Mormons are being accused to polytheism (it’s not) or traditional Christians are accused of something they don’t believe.

To sum, here’s an helpful bit of humor on the trinity.

As to John 10:30 where Jesus declares that he and the father are one, two notes.
First, later on in John 17:11, Jesus will pray that the disciples become one as he and the father are one. This should contribute to our understanding of 10:30.
Second, more technical, the “one” there is neuter in Greek, not masculine. As the Protestant Word Biblical Commentary points out that
“The setting of v 30 in relation to vv 28–29 shows that a functional unity of the Son and the Father in their care for the sheep is in mind. From earliest times it has been observed that Jesus says, “I and the Father are ἕν,” [neuter] not “εἷς,” [masculine] i.e., one in action, not in person.”
For further reading, see

I actually have a good bit of material on this, so if you want further readings, I’ll go dig through my notes.

John 10:34– Jesus quotes Psalm 82, about which there has been much discussion. Part of it is connected with the monotheism question above, part with deification, part with Jesus’ interpretation, and part with the divine council. For further reading, see Dan Peterson’s paper here, as well as this discussion, these posts and references by Dan McClellan. FARMS (now the MI) printed a productive response to Peterson’s paper by Evangelical scholar Michael Heiser (who runs thedivinecouncil.com), followed by a rejoinder by David Bokovoy, followed by a brief note by Heiser. Reading these will get you a long way in understanding.

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