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Re: [John_Lit] Water and Blood in 1 John 5:6

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  • Matthew Estrada
    Hi Matthew, I, too, am enjoying our dialogue. Thanks for taking the time to seriously consider how I have come to understand John s  water symbolism (I owe
    Message 1 of 33 , Aug 17 5:01 PM
      Hi Matthew,

      I, too, am enjoying our dialogue. Thanks for taking the time to seriously
      consider how I have come to understand John's "water" symbolism (I owe it to you
      to seriously consider your understanding of "water" being connected to the Holy
      Spirit: I will respond to your points in my next post). I can see from your
      closing paragraphs that you are beginning to get excited about this
      interpretation. If there is anyway you can now go back and re-read my paper:), I
      think it will help on things you may have missed the first time. The Cana
      Miracle is like a "Magic Eye"- the more you get focused, the more you see what
      is hidden underneath.

      I would like to include here a piece from my paper that will hopefully reinforce
      what you are now beginning to seriously consider:

      "Perhaps Matthew (and the Synoptic authors) had already worked out a system for
      using John the Baptist to personify
      “the Law and the Prophets” in their gospels, based on Paul’s writings, and John
      borrowed from both their’s and Paul
      writing’s this idea?
      In Mark 6:20 we read:
      “…because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous/
      If we read Paul’s description of the Law in Romans 7:12, there we find the same
      two Greek words employed that
      were also used by Mark to describe the Baptist:
      “So then, the law is holy/
      John, noting the similarities in the Synoptics between John the Baptist and the
      function and description of the Law
      and the Prophets elsewhere, may have picked up on these parallels and decided to
      carry the comparison one step
      further- namely, to turn John the Baptist, along with Moses, into a
      personification of the Law and the Prophets (if
      indeed this had not already been done by the Synoptic authors).
      So not only is Jesus being used as a Moses-type by the author of the gospel of
      John, but so too is John the Baptist
      being used as a Moses-type, but for different purposes. Jesus is compared to
      Moses in that both are “redeemers”.
      Jesus is shown to be the greater redeemer. John the Baptist is also compared to
      Moses, but for a different purpose.
      He is compared to Moses because both are representative of the Law and the
      Prophets (one is the first, and the other
      is the last). John the Baptist is, therefore, a Moses figure in that he, too,
      represents the Law. But unlike Jesus, John
      the Baptist is not portrayed to be greater than Moses. The reason for this is
      because he, like Moses, represents the
      Law and the Prophets. Both Moses and John the Baptist are on the same level. But
      Jesus is on another level
      altogether. For this reason, both Moses and John the Baptist are shown to be His
      So in the Moses figure we discover both 1) the Lawgiver, whose role is to show
      humanity their sin and point them to
      the remedy- the Lamb of God, and 2) the redeemer, but an imperfect redeemer, who
      foreshadows the perfect
      Redeemer who was to come. The gospel author takes these two aspects of Moses and
      uses the historical figure of
      John the Baptist to symbolize and equal the one, and the historical figure of
      Jesus to fulfill and surpass the other.
      Now, with this interpretation in mind, in John 1:6-9 we are told about John the
      Baptist and his role as a witness, and
      a witness only, to the light (to Jesus). The scholars have noted how different
      the Baptist’ role in the gospel of John is
      from the Synoptics. In John’s Gospel, the author emphasizes that the Baptist
      came only as a witness. The Greek
      word “to bear witness” (
      (John 1:7-8, 15, 19, 32, 34; 3:28, 32; 5:31ff). The scholars have noted that
      John’s role is being downplayed in its
      comparison with the role of Jesus. But why? According to many of the scholars,
      there was a John the Baptist sect
      that was rivaling the Jesus sect. The author of the gospel, by placing John in a
      “servant” role, is making it clear to
      those who would follow John the Baptist over following Jesus that they are in
      error. John A.T. Robinson, in his
      book entitled
      “For ever since Wilhelm Baldensperger Johannine criticism has been dogged by the
      notion that the entire treatment of John the Baptist in this Gospel is
      motivated- and
      thoroughly distorted- by polemic against the Baptist groups opposed to the early
      There are a string of denials and disclaimers which, it is said, can make sense
      only as
      rebuttals of counter-claims that John the Baptist
      cf. 5:35), the superior in rank (1:15, 30; 3:30), the Messiah, Elijah, the
      prophet like
      Moses (1:19-21; 3:28). That there is theological motivation at work here- as
      the Gospel- cannot be doubted. The sole question is whether it distorts the
      history and
      provides evidence merely for the life-setting of the Johannine community rather
      affording any reliable information about the Baptist and his mission”
      Then, providing us with his own opinion on the matter, Robinson states,
      “In fact, there is no element of dispute between John and Jesus (as opposed to
      between the disciples of John and ‘a Jew’), and their relations are represented
      uniformly friendly throughout the Gospel. There is absolutely no evidence for
      such a
      statement…that John regarded Jesus as a renegade. Indeed if my interpretation is
      Jesus saw the mission of the Baptist as sowing the seeds of his harvest (4:38)….
      It is
      much easier to think that the fourth evangelist had an eye to
      him?) were brought up on the Baptist’s teaching to believe in Jesus as the one
      to whom
      John pointed” (pp.171-72).
      Robinson correctly faults the view that sees the author of the gospel echoing an
      existing polemic in his day between
      disciples of the Baptist and those of Jesus. Robinson also correctly sees the
      mission of the Baptist as preparing the
      way for Jesus. And finally, Robinson also correctly sees the intention of the
      author of the gospel to be that of
      persuading those who were discipled by the Baptist to come over to Jesus’
      teachings. But what Robinson and the
      scholars have not understood thus far is that, and most importantly, John the
      Baptist, at least in the gospel of John
      (and most likely in Acts as well), has been cast as a symbolic figure for Moses,
      conveniently so because of where he
      stands in history. Even as John the Baptist was the last of the Law and the
      Prophets in Israel’s history, so was Moses
      the first of the Law and the Prophets in Israel’s history. John is “binding”
      these two great figures in history together
      into one- to represent, in either figure wherever they appear in his gospel, the
      Law and the Prophets. For sure, Moses
      can, by himself, be a representative figure for the Law; for he is that
      important of a figure in Israel’s history. He was
      the Lawgiver. For the Jews, Moses was the Law. So why do we need John the
      Baptist to perform the same function?
      Perhaps for two reasons. First, the author of the gospel of John uses the
      Baptist as a representative figure for Moses
      (or the Law and the Prophets) so as to include all the other prophets of Israel
      since Moses up until the arrival of the
      historical figure of the Baptist. Secondly, in using John the Baptist to
      represent Moses (= the Law and the Prophets),
      he can give a superficial historical continuity to his story on the literal
      level when telling the story of Jesus, while at
      the same time, use the Baptist as a type of Moses, and therefore as a
      personification of the Law and the Prophets (on
      the symbolic level) to call the Jews to switch from their faith in Moses to
      their faith in Jesus. The author is revealing
      that all of the Law and Prophets from Moses to John the Baptist testify that
      Jesus is the long-awaited messiah. Even
      though the emphasis of the meaning of the symbolic figure of the Baptist goes
      back to Moses, since he was the
      Lawgiver, it is from Moses up through John the Baptist what is being symbolized.
      So when we read about John the
      Baptist (or Moses) in John’s Gospel, we should automatically put in his place
      what it is he represents for the author
      of the Gospel- the Law and the Prophets, and allow that voice (the voice of the
      Law and the Prophets) to speak to us
      instead of the individual characters (whether that be the Baptist or Moses). If
      we do this, and reread John 1:6-9, then
      what we discover is a statement from “the Church” (John’s community) that the
      Law is a witness, and a witness
      only, to the One that would come after it. The Law is not Israel’s salvation. It
      came only to serve as a witness to the
      One who would be Israel’s salvation. The Law is not “the Light”, as claimed to
      be in Bar 4:1-2, Wis 18:4, and in T.
      Levi 14:4:
      “the light of the law which was granted to you for the enlightenment of every
      The Law only came as a witness to “the True Light”. John the Baptist, who is
      really the Law, “cries out”, “Behold,
      the Lamb of God!”. The Law, who demands that a sacrifice be made for sin, calls
      Jesus that perfect sacrifice. The
      Law, whose primary purposes are to convict humanity of its sin and point the way
      to the Savior, is now saying,
      through John the Baptist, who represents the Law and the Prophets, Jesus is the
      Christ, the sacrificial offering for
      So there is no riff between the disciples of the Baptist and Jesus (and His
      disciples). The riff is between those who
      would misinterpret the Law (those who would misinterpret John the Baptist) and
      the true interpretation of the Law
      (which is represented in John the Baptist, Jesus and His disciples). It is not
      so much the Baptist by himself who has
      prepared the way for Jesus, but it is the whole Law and the Prophets (who the
      Baptist represents) who have prepared
      the way. It is not the intention of the gospel author to persuade those who were
      disciples of the Baptist to come over
      to Jesus’ discipleship. His intention is rather to persuade those who were
      disciples of the Law (what the Baptist
      symbolizes) into seeing Jesus as the Law’s fulfillment!
      Paul was doing the same thing in his books to the Romans and Galatians. Paul was
      demonstrating that the Law and
      the Prophets were
      used them as source materials in the writing of his gospel. He used the Law and
      the Prophets in the same way Paul
      used them- namely, to testify concerning Jesus, to support Jesus as the Christ
      of the Jews, but not only of the Jews.
      In Romans 3:21, 22a, and 31 Paul states:
      “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which

      Law and the Prophets testify
      This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who
      Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather,
      John, too, in his gospel, is upholding the Law, showing the Law and the Prophets
      to “testify” (the same word used
      by Paul to describe the function of the Law) concerning Jesus’ true
      identity.dikaion and holy/agion man”.agioV, and the commandment is holy/agia,
      righteous/dikaia and good/agaqh.”marturew) is used over and over again as
      emphasis in describing the role of the BaptistThe Priority of John, states,was
      all these things- the true light (1:8;persuading those who (likea witness to
      Jesus (John has most likely borrowed from Paul the word “witness/testify”
      (marture), and not in opposition to Jesus. Paul was not trying to abrogate the
      Law. John had read Paul’s documents, andthe(marturoumenh upo tou nomou kai tvn
      projhtvn).we uphold the law.”

      Matt Estrada

      From: Matthew Miller <logosmadeflesh@...>
      To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tue, August 17, 2010 2:38:20 PM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Water and Blood in 1 John 5:6

      I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this conversation. For a long time
      I've looked for others who know the literature of John well enough they can
      challenge me and my blind assumptions. Thank you. I hope this discussion
      has been equally profitable to all who have been reading.

      Matt you said,

      "it only makes sense to follow the rhythm of the first four chapters in
      trying to figure out what the term "water", by itself, refers to.
      Jn 1: the Baptist's "water" compared and contrasted to the Holy Spirit.
      Jn 2: the "water" from the jars compared and contrasted to the "wine" that
      Jn 3: the "water" of Nicodemus birth compared and contrasted to the birth of
      Holy Spirit (I do not believe that you make a good case for these two to be
      interpreted as one and the same).
      Jn 4: the "water" from Jacob's well compared and contrasted to "the living
      water" that Jesus provides."

      I understand what your saying. I recognize the pattern that you see. But
      instead of limiting yourself to an exact verbal correspondence I ask that
      you open your eyes to see the conceptual one.

      Jn 1: Water from Above = Holy Spirit (Based upon an allusion to Genesis
      Jn 2: Water become Wine = Holy Spirit
      Jn 3. Water (from Above) = Holy Spirit It might be helpful to here quote
      from D. A. Carson in his commentary on the gospel of John (pgs 194), "First,
      the expression is parallel to 'from above' (anothen, v.3) Second, the
      preposition 'of' governs both 'water' and 'spirit'. The most natural way of
      taking this construction is to see the phrase as a conceptual unity: there
      is a water-spirit source (cf. Murray J. Harris, NIDNTT 3. 1178) that stands
      as the origin for this regeneration." At the very least I might suggest
      taht 'born of water and spirit' like much of John's terminology is
      purposefully ambigious. Perhaps John wants us to see water as both a
      representation of a physical birth and at the same time a representation of
      the Spirit.
      Jn 4. Living Water = Holy Spirit

      Instead of a singular description of water which equals the Holy Spirit we
      have four (water from above, water become wine, water ('from above' implied)
      and living water. While 'living water' in John 4 may be the clearest
      statement of a 'water' which equals the Holy Spirit up to this point in the
      gospel it is not the first time Christ's water is described nor is this the
      only description of water used in reference to the Spirit. John 4 is simply
      the continuation of a theme and a motif that John has been developing. The
      material water of earthly ritual is impotent to perform the genuine
      transformation that God requires. Only the Holy Spirit represented as water
      weather described as living, wine, or from above can bring it about.

      If water does equal the law and the prophets, I 'm at the moment truly
      wrestling with this possibility, than John is revealing through these
      stories that the Law and the prophets have come up short. While this lower
      water looks forward to the work of Christ (in the same way that John's
      baptism in water points to Jesus baptism in the Holy Spirit) this lower
      water is impotent (in the same way that the wine has given out and the
      waterpots are empty, in the same way the Samaritan woman must continually
      come and draw, and the lame man waits for its stirring) to perform the
      transformation that only Jesus can perform. Just as this water testifies to
      Christ's water so the Old Testament testifies to the fuller revelation
      brought about in Christ. I should have seen this before. John is saying
      the Old Testament and earthly rituals of purification and worship are
      profitable if and only when they point to Christ (John 5:39). John is not
      hostile to water baptism, as I once believed, just as he's is not opposed to
      the Old Testament. Both are entirely appropriate when they fulfill their
      proper role in leading people to Christ.

      Thanks Matt for being patient with me on this point. I hope just as I've
      found a new interpretation of the lower water you also will see that the
      higher water, the Holy Spirit, is represented in more than just the phrase
      'living water"

      Matthew Miller
      Canby Bible College

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Matthew Miller
      ... Essentially.
      Message 33 of 33 , Aug 20 2:37 AM
        > I believe that I understand your argument: You want to interpret the first thing
        > in the comparison (water) in a literal fashion- as normal earthly "water" that
        > can only do what it was meant to do in whatever context it is found within John,
        > and then you want to interpret the second thing being compared/contrasted as
        > referring to something "symbolic"- something "more" than what the first thing
        > can do that is being compared/contrasted. Thus your "earthly" and "heavenly"
        > descriptions. Am I correct?

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