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«BY JEFF SCOTT KENNEDY 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION -1 JESUS IS MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS OPPONENTS1 JESUS IS MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS FOLLOWERS3 JESUS ...»

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MISUNDERSTANDING JESUS:

DID THE DISCIPLES MISUNDERSTAND JESUS’ MESSAGE AND MISSION?

BY

JEFF SCOTT KENNEDY

2

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1

JESUS IS MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS OPPONENTS--------------------------------------------------1 JESUS IS MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS FOLLOWERS--------------------------------------------------3 JESUS PROMISES A REMEDY: THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH---------------------------------------------4 THE SPIRIT WILL GUIDE THEM INTO ALL TRUTH---------------------------------------------- 10 AFTER THE RESURRECTION, THE DISCIPLES STILL MISUNDERSTAND----------------------- 13 AFTER THE RESURRECTION, THE DISCIPLES RECEIVE THE SPIRIT----------------------------14 AFTER RECEIVING THE SPIRIT, THE DISCIPLES UNDERSTAND -------------------------------14 CONCLUSION-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------15 BIBLIOGRAPHY-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 18 ii 1

INTRODUCTION

Jesus knew that his disciples would not fully understand his message or his mission until after he had risen and imparted the Spirit to them. To prepare them for his impending departure, Jesus promised to send them another Advocate, the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17). Jesus made it clear that after his departure, the Spirit would be in them and not just with them, explaining and revealing the truth to them. The shift to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is therefore critical in our understanding of how the disciples came to conceptualize and interpret the purpose of Christ and his teachings.

This study will endeavor to show that after Jesus was glorified, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to understand and perceive the message and the mission of Christ.

In order to do this, we will first track the various misunderstandings of Christ’s hearers prior to his resurrection, offer an analysis of Christ’s remedy for this by sending the Spirit who will guide them into all truth, and address the corresponding change in the disciples’ understanding after receiving the Holy Spirit.

JESUS IS MISUNDERSTOOD BY HIS OPPONENTS

John portrays Jesus’ opponents as having largely misunderstood his purpose and message.1 At times, this lack of understanding is due to a faulty world-view (e.g. the prevalent view of a one-dimensional messianic theocracy).2 In other instances, they fail 1 D.A. Carson, “Understanding Misunderstanding in the Fourth Gospel,” Tyndale Bulletin 33 (1982): 68. Carson argues that because of the obvious uniqueness of the disciples situation prior to the resurrection and glorification of Christ, these “misunderstandings” would not be misunderstandings at the time of the writing of John’s Gospel. It is therefore unwarranted to read an alleged anachronistic conflict back into the Gospel.

2 Craig Keener, The Gospel of John (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 1:285-290. Keener observes that the Messianic expectancy among Jews at this time was high due to their understanding of Daniels 70 weeks prophecy. Though the dominant view was that the Messiah would be a political savior, 1 2 to perceive the spiritual underpinnings of Jesus’ language (e.g. “I am the bread of heaven” 6:32-24). They also fail to grasp the somewhat cryptic use of typological language (e.g. “tear down this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days” 2:19). On other occasions, they demonstrate a fundamentally flawed understanding of scripture altogether, as is the case with their misunderstanding of the Messiah’s origin (7:27). In yet another place, John records that the crowd failed to grasp Jesus’ use of a figure of

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educated and accomplished rabbinic crowd was immune to misconstruing Jesus’ words (3:9-11).4 This isn’t to say that the unbelieving Jews could not understand anything they heard Jesus say. The quintessential example of this is Jesus stating that “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (8:58). The response of the pious Jews is to stone him for blasphemy.

Jesus does not censure them for their accusation because they have correctly understood this as an overt claim of deity. Though they apprehend the meaning of Christ’s claim, they fail to accept it because they are operating under a flawed messianic framework and they do not have a personal revelation of its truth by the Spirit.5 Keener notes that Jewish eschatology was flexible enough to accommodate Jesus’ re-interpretation of what the Messiah ought to be.

3 William Bradley Simon, “The Role of the Spirit-Paraclete in the Disciples’ Mission in the Fourth Gospel” (PhD. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2002), 141.

4 As is the case with Nicodemus, whom Jesus chastised as “Israel’s Teacher,” yet he apparently could not grasp the most fundamental truth of participation in God’s Kingdom. This was inexcusable to Jesus who challenges him with regards to re-birth. Inner transformation was a seminal theme in John’s Gospel.

5 Simon, “The Role of the Spirit-Paraclete,” 156. See also Carson, “Understanding Misunderstandings,” 82. It is puzzling that Carson does not include the giving of the Spirit as a possible solution to the disciples misunderstandings. He emphasizes the “passage of time” as the most critical component, but Simon strongly asserts that additionally, it is the giving of the Spirit-Paraclete.





3 The opponents of Jesus do not understand him, or at best have a partial

–  –  –

communicates to them that without a willing heart to believe, they can not possibly understand that he is in the Father and the Father is in him (10:38). Obedience to Christ was essential if they were to later receive the Spirit of Truth who would provide an explanation of “all things.”

–  –  –

To be fair, it is apparent that not even Jesus’ closest followers understood his larger mission and message. The tendency to misread Jesus was a systemic problem

among his hearers.6 The disciples’ misunderstandings of Jesus fall into three categories:

First, they simply fail to fully understand something he says or does. Such is the case when Jesus rides into Jerusalem. The Scripture in the NIV states that, “at first the disciples did not understand all of this [emphasis added].” The text makes it clear that they had a partial understanding at the time, and a fuller understanding later after Jesus had been glorified (12:15-17). Second, they fail to recognize the symbolic significance of Jesus’ teaching and actions. This can be seen in the washing of the disciples’ feet and the future understanding of its significance they will receive after receiving the Spirit (13:7-13). Third, they fail to perceive Jesus’ real mission, namely, his passion and resurrection (16:18; 20:9). Thus, John points out in many places that even the twelve disciples were not immune to misinterpreting Jesus’ teachings or his larger program of

–  –  –

atonement. The future resurrection of Christ and his subsequent explanation would provide the new conceptual framework for their understanding, and the Spirit would awaken their newly transformed inner man to the inescapable truth of Christ’s claims.7 To conclude the matter, one narrative in particular appears to capture this issue of misunderstanding and response. John contains a scene in which Jesus cleanses the Temple, and answers his opponents by saying that if they tear down “this Temple” he will restore it again in only three days. His opponents do not understand and reject him.

The disciples also do not understand but choose to follow him. Their faith in Jesus’ unprecedented miracles is not shaken despite their apparent lack of understanding. As Carson states, “Thus, of these two groups which fail to grasp the significance of Jesus' temple saying, one explicitly misunderstands, and the other implicitly fails to understand 8 until a specified time.” Those who “explicitly” misunderstand are those in darkness to whom the light has shown, but have failed to comprehend it (1:5).9

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As has been demonstrated above, John has constructed his Gospel to show us that Jesus has been repeatedly misread. Jesus then pledges to remedy this situation by sending the Spirit to those who truly love him and obey his commands (John 14:16, 26;

15:26; 16:1-17). After stating to the disciples that he himself is the truth (14:6), Jesus

–  –  –

then assures them that he will send another Advocate who will be with them forever – the Spirit of Truth (14:16-17). The wording of this passage has been the subject of endless discussion and exegesis. It is therefore necessary to briefly provide a working definition of the terms “another” (Gk. allon), “Advocate” (Gk. parakletos), and “Spirit of Truth” (Gk. ta pneuma tes aletheias).10 We will then examine what this other Advocate will do once he is sent to them.

allon: It is clear from the Greek text that Jesus does not promise to send them another Advocate who is completely foreign or alien to them. The fact that Jesus has told them that the Spirit had been “with” them, but not yet “in” them (13:7), demonstrates that they were familiar with the workings and power of the Spirit. Had John wanted to communicate that the Spirit was entirely “other” than Christ or “other” than what they’d already experienced, he would have used a word such as heteros, meaning “another of a different kind.”11 Instead he uses allon, meaning “another of the same kind.”12 Thus, while heteros primarily means another of a contrasting type, allon refers to another of a comparative type.13 Barrett suggests that either allon or parakleton may be translated adjectively, which slightly effects how we render the passage.14 Either it is rendered that Christ himself through the agency of the Spirit will be the paraclete (which would fit the 10 Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland, The Greek New Testament, 4th rev.ed. (Stuttgart: United BibleSocieties, 1994), 380.

11 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Rev. by Fredrick W. Danker, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 315.

12 Carson, The Gospel According to John, 500. Though Carson warns us against making too much of this, based on John’s usage of αλλον in the rest of his text.

13 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 40.

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epistolary usage in 1 Jn 2:1); or the Spirit of Truth is the paraclete who provides communion and continuity with Christ’s presence (which would fit the successor motif of John regarding the Spirit).15 Arguably, both constructions allow Jesus to continue his ministry of truth through the Spirit.

parakletos: This term comes into English as “paraclete” and has been translated in various ways. The primary thrust of the term according to Bauer (Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker) is “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.”16 Thus it clearly has a defensive thrust. Though BAGD states that the forensic or legal use is more rare, Liddell, Scott, and Jones lists the legal sense as the first definition for the classical period and assigns it a secondary intercessory capacity.17 Though it is likely a forensic term, it is probably not as restrictive as the Latin advocatus, which appears to be the favorite of the Patristic Fathers starting with Tertullian.18 Keener argues that parakletos is used frequently in both classical and rabbinic texts and states, “Rhetors could function as advocates for their friends; while the image is not so specific as ‘friendadvocate’ here, the idea is consistent with the context.”19 Referring to the other passages

regarding the Paraclete, he goes on to state:

A forensic reading of these passages fits the trial motif throughout the Fourth Gospel and is becoming increasingly popular. This is, as noted above, a quite

–  –  –

natural way to read the “Paraclete”; the problem is that some scholars find difficulty relating this as a forensic term to what appears to be nonforensic functions in the Paraclete passages. Shafaat admits the forensic connection of 15:18-16:7, which is inescapable once one recognizes that synagogues (16:2) also functioned as judicial assemblies.20 Barrett recognizes that the primary meaning of the paraclete is that of “legal assistant, or advocate” 21 and does affirm the forensic aspect in 16:8-11, yet he declines to press the legal nuance out of John’s other contexts. Instead he sees a clear connection with other cognates such as parakalein and paraklesis. Barrett argues that both words are important links and both may be taken in a dual sense. On the one hand, they may mean to “prophetically proclaim,” and on the other hand may mean, “to console or offer help.”22 Keener, however, feels this type of interpretation leans too heavily on etymology, and does not put enough weight on the normal sense of the noun.23 Brown also feels that the legal aspect of parakletos is very strong. Jesus is judged and convicted to die on a cross and then sends the Spirit to reverse that judgment and conviction of the world (16:8-11).24 The trial motif is also found in the Old Testament text in Zech. 3. In this

–  –  –

passage, Satan stands as the accuser while the Lord’s angel takes on a defensive role.

This passage has undoubtedly given rise to various non-biblical expansions of that theme.

This trial motif of the heavenly courtroom is expanded in the Dead Sea texts and has

clear ties to the imagery of Zech. 3. Neusner states:



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