John the Jew, Kingship, Priesthood, and Divinity: Enoch Seminar Day 3

The morning sessions I attended both focused on John 5. We explored fascinating questions such as: whether the argument that an obedient son does what he sees his father doing requires a particular ontological understanding of divine sonship, or works equally well if it is the relational sonship of the Davidic king that is in view; whether the Son of Man in Daniel and elsewhere is a priestly figure; and whether the Gospel of John is entering into an ongoing ancient Israelite debate about whether the roles of king and priest may legitimately be combined in a single person, or must be kept separate.

After lunch we hiked up the mountain to the hermitage, and were privileged to be shown their library, highlighting particular attention on manuscripts related to the Gospel of John. One that I found particularly striking was a polyglot edition that included not only Syriac but Aramaic versions of the New Testament writings. I was also fascinated to see the Camaldoli Psalter, which is an ancient setting of the psalms. I will share photos from that excursion on Facebook when I am able to.

The final paper of the day explored whether the idea of Jesus as bridegroom in John is messianich in character, or relates Jesus to Jewish traditions about God as bridegroom. In fact, neither is obviously the case, since the texts that were preeminent in both traditions are not clearly echoed in John. I found myself wondering about both the role of Wisdom as bride (e.g. in Wisd.8) in relation to John, and also the sacramental and purification background of John 3 and whether it might suggests connections with a bridal chamber sacrament known to the author and readers.

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  • John MacDonald

    It would be interesting to know if John read Matthew. Under the law, it was impossible for one person to be both the king of Israel and the high priest at the same time. But Matthew presents Jesus as the new and greater Moses, so maybe this offered a path for reconciling the kingship with the priesthood (not under the old covenant, but under the new covenant).

    Neither king David nor Solomon ever went into the most holy place of the temple. For anyone other than the descendants of Aaron entering, it meant certain death. This is shown in the following verses:

    Numbers 4:15 “And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die…

    (19) “But thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden: (20) But they shall not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they die.”

    • John MacDonald

      Maybe the tearing of the veil of the temple meant overcoming the gulf between God and man caused by sin, overcoming the sacrificial system, and reconciling the priestly class and the kingly class in one person (Jesus).

      • John MacDonald

        In a sense, the veil was symbolic of Christ Himself as the only way to the Father (John 14:6). This is indicated by the fact that the high priest had to enter the Holy of Holies through the veil. Now Christ is the superior High Priest, and believers in his finished work partake of his better priesthood. Followers can now enter the Holy of Holies through Him. Hebrews 10:19-20 says that the faithful enter into the sanctuary by the “blood of Jesus, by the new the way which he opened for them through the veil, that is, through his flesh.” Here we see the image of Jesus’ flesh being torn for us just as He was tearing the veil for his followers.

    • http://www.porterblepeople.com/ Chris Porter

      There are several suggestions that John knew one of the Synoptics, usually Mark but sometimes Luke or Matthew and this is the “many other things” referred to in John 20:30-31.
      Helen Bond gave an interesting paper on this at the St Mary’s Twickenham conference last fortnight.

      • John MacDonald

        Interestingly, this also raises the issue of information sources for the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. If John read one or more of the Synoptic Gospels, and Mark read Paul, then the sources of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection may all go back to (not multiple attestation but ) one source (the pre Pauline Corinthian creed that Paul received). Paul writes:

        “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, (1 Cor. 15:3-5).”

        – One source, the author of the Pre Pauline Corinthian creed, who cites only scripture and visions as evidence.