Many Dwellings

“In my Father’s house are many mansions ( mone ),” Jesus says (John 14:2). It’s normally taken as a reference to a mansion in the sky. Mary Coloe ( Interpretation , 2009) disagrees. She points out that the chapter repeatedly uses the verb form of “dwelling” ( meno ), always with reference to God dwelling with Jesus and the disciples (vv. 10, 17, 23, 25).

Coloe concludes: “the subject of the verb ‘dwell’ throughout ch. 14 is not the believer but God. The action therefore is not the believers coming to dwell in God’s heavenly abode, but the Father, the Paraclete, and Jesus coming to dwell with the believers. It is a ‘descending’ movement from the divine realm to the human, not an ‘ascending’ movement from the human to the divine. Given that the emphasis in ch. 14 is on the divine dwellings with the believers, it is not surprising that this theology is introduced with an image that draws on Israel’s symbol of the divine Presence in its midst—the temple, Israel’s House of YHWH, renamed as my Father’s house (2:16) and now as my Father’s household (14:2).”

Jesus’ statement is thus “best understood to mean a series of interpersonal relationships made possible because of the indwellings of the Father, Jesus, and the Paraclete with and in the believer. The divine indwellings in the midst of a believing community makes it appropriate to speak of the community as a living temple, where God can now be found.”

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