1 tn The referent of ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) here is more difficult to determine than most, because while there are both ἵνα (Jina) and ὅτι (Joti) clauses following, it is not clear whether or not they are related to the ἐν τούτῳ. There are actually three possibilities for the referent of ἐν τούτῳ in 4:17: (1) it may refer to the ἵνα clause which immediately follows, so that the love of believers is brought to perfection in that they have confidence in the day of judgment. The main problem with this interpretation is that since the day of judgment is still future, it necessitates understanding the second use of the preposition “in” (second ἐν [en]) to mean “about” or “concerning” with reference to the day of judgment in order to make logical sense. (2) The ἐν τούτῳ may refer to the ὅτι clause in 4:17b, meaning “love is perfected with us…in that just as he [Christ] is, so also are we in this world.” This makes logical sense, and there are numerous cases where ἐν τούτῳ is explained by a ὅτι clause that follows. However, according to this understanding the intervening ἵνα clause is awkward, and there is no other instance of the phrase ἐν τούτῳ explained by a following ὅτι clause where a ἵνα clause intervenes between the two in this way. (3) Thus, the third possibility is that ἐν τούτῳ refers to what precedes in 4:16b, and this also would make logical sense: “By this – by our residing in love so that we reside in God and he resides in us – is love brought to perfection with us.” This has the additional advantage of agreeing precisely with what the author has already said in 4:12: “If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us.” Thus option (3) is best, with the phrase ἐν τούτῳ referring to what precedes in 4:16b, and the ἵνα clause which follows indicates the result of this perfection of love in believers: In the future day of judgment they will have confidence. The ὅτι clause would then give the reason for such confidence in the day of judgment: because just as Jesus is, so also are believers in this world – they are already currently in relationship with God just as Jesus is.
3 sn The naming provides the climax and summary of the story. The name of “Moses” (מֹשֶׁה, mosheh) is explained by “I have drawn him (מְשִׁיתִהוּ, mÿshitihu) from the water.” It appears that the name is etymologically connected to the verb in the saying, which is from מָשָׁה (mashah, “to draw out”). But commentators have found it a little difficult that the explanation of the name by the daughter of Pharaoh is in Hebrew when the whole background is Egyptian (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 20). Moreover, the Hebrew spelling of the name is the form of the active participle (“the one who draws out”); to be a precise description it should have been spelled מָשׁוּי (mashuy), the passive participle (“the one drawn out”). The etymology is not precise; rather, it is a wordplay (called paronomasia). Either the narrator merely attributed words to her (which is unlikely outside of fiction), or the Hebrew account simply translated what she had said into Hebrew, finding a Hebrew verb with the same sounds as the name. Such wordplays on names (also popular etymology) are common in the Bible. Most agree that the name is an Egyptian name. Josephus attempted to connect the biblical etymology with the name in Greek, Mouses, stating that Mo is Egyptian for water, and uses means those rescued from it (Ant. 2.9.6 [2.228]; see also J. Gwyn Griffiths, “The Egyptian Derivation of the Name Moses,” JNES 12 : 225). But the solution to the name is not to be derived from the Greek rendering. Due to the estimation Egyptians had of the Nile, the princess would have thought of the child from the river as a supernatural provision. The Egyptian hieroglyphic ms can be the noun “child” or the perfective verb “be born.” This was often connected with divine elements for names: Ptah-mose, “Ptah is born.” Also the name Rameses (R’-m-sw) means “[the god] Re’ is he who has born him.” If the name Moses is Egyptian, there are some philological difficulties (see the above article for their treatment). The significance of all this is that when the child was named by the princess, an Egyptian word related to ms was used, meaning something like “child” or “born.” The name might have even been longer, perhaps having a theophoric element (divine name) with it – “child of [some god].” The name’s motivation came from the fact that she drew him from the Nile, the source of life in Egypt. But the sound of the name recalled for the Hebrews the verb “to draw out” in their own language. Translating the words of the princess into Hebrew allowed for the effective wordplay to capture the significance of the story in the sound of the name. The implication for the Israelites is something to this effect: “You called him ‘born one’ in your language and after your custom, but in our language that name means ‘drawing out’ – which is what was to become of him. You drew him out of the water, but he would draw us out of Egypt through the water.” So the circumstances of the story show Moses to be a man of destiny, and this naming episode summarizes how divine providence was at work in Israel. To the Israelites the name forever commemorated the portent of this event in the early life of the great deliverer (see Isa 63:11).
3 tn Heb “hole.” Probably “latch-hole” or “key-hole,” but possibly a euphemism (double entendre). The noun חֹר (khor, “hole”) is used in OT in a literal and metaphorical sense: (1) literal sense: hole bored in the lid of a chest (2 Kgs 12:10); hole in a wall (Ezek 8:7); hole in the ground or cave used as hiding places for men (1 Sam 13:6; 14:11; Isa 42:23); hole in the ground, as the dwelling place of an asp (Isa 11:8); and a hole in a mountain, as the den of lions (Nah 2:13); and (2) figurative sense: hole of an eye (metonymy of association), that is, eye-socket (Zech 14:12) (HALOT 348 s.v. II חֹר; BDB 359 s.v. III חֹר). While the meaning of חֹר in Song 5:4 is clear – “hole” – there is a debate whether it is used in a literal or figurative sense. (1) Literal sense: The lexicons suggest that it denotes “hole of a door, that is, key-hole or latch-opening” (HALOT 348; BDB 359). Most commentators suggest that it refers to a hole bored through the bedroom door to provide access to the latch or lock. The mention in 5:5 of כַּפּוֹת הַמַּנְעוּל (kaffot hamman’ul, “latches of the door-bolt”) suggests that the term refers to some kind of opening associated with the latch of the bedroom door. This approach is followed by most translations: “the hole in the door” (JB), “the latch-hole” (NEB), “the latch-opening” (NIV), “the latch-hole” (NEB), “the latch” (RSV, NJPS), and “the opening of the door” (KJV). The assumption that the hole in question was a latch-hole in the door is reflected in Midrash Rabbah: Rabbi Abba ben Kahana said, “Why is the hole of the door mentioned here, seeing that it is a place where vermin swarm?” The situation envisaged by his actions are often depicted thus: In ancient Near Eastern villages, the bolting systems of doors utilized door-bolts and keys made of wood. The keys were often stored either on the outside (!) or inside of the door. If the key was placed on the inside of the door, a small hole was bored through the door so that a person could reach through the hole with the key to unlock the door. The key was often over a foot in length, and the keyhole large enough for a man’s hand. Apparently, he extended his hand through the hole from the outside to try to unbolt the door latch on the inside. He could put his hand through the hole, but could not open the door without the key. (2) Figurative sense: Because of the presence of several erotic motifs in 5:2-8 and the possibility that a double entendre is present (see notes below), several scholars suggest that the term is a euphemism for the female vagina (HALOT 348). They suggest that חֹר (“hole”) is the female counterpart for the euphemistic usage of יָד (“hand”) in 5:4. See A. S. Cook, The Root of the Thing: A Study of Job and the Song of Songs, 110, 123; Cheryl Exum, “A Literary and Structural Analysis of the Song of Songs,” ZAW 85 (1973): 50-51; M. H. Pope, Song of Songs (AB), 518-19.
4 sn The term שׁוֹשַׁנָּה (shoshannah, “lily”) or שׁוֹשַׁנִים (shoshanim, “lilies”) appears eight times in the Song (2:1, 2, 16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2, 3; 7:2). Of these five are unequivocally used figuratively as descriptions of a woman or women (2:1, 2), the color and softness of her breasts (4:5), the attractiveness of his lips (5:13), and her waist (7:2). The closest parallel to 6:2 is the description “the one who grazes among the lilies” (2:16; 6:3) which is a figurative expression comparing his romancing of his Beloved with a sheep feeding on lilies. However, this still leaves a question as to what the lilies represent in 2:16; 6:2, 3. The phrase “to gather lilies” itself appears only here in the Song. However, the synonymous phrase “to gather myrrh and balsam spice” is used in 5:1 as a figure (euphemistic hypocatastasis) for sexual consummation by the man of the woman. There are three basic options as to how “lilies” may be taken: (1) The lilies are real flowers; he has gone to a real garden in which to repose and she is picking real lilies. (2) The term “lilies” is a figure for the young woman; he is romancing her just as he had in 2:16 and 5:1. He is kissing her mouth just as a sheep would graze among lilies. (3) The term “lilies” is a figure expression referring to other women, such as his harem (e.g., 6:8-9). Two factors support the “harem” interpretation: (1) Solomon had recently departed from her, and she was desperate to find him after she refused him. (2) His harem is mentioned explicitly in 6:8-9. However, several other factors support the Beloved interpretation: (1) She expresses her confidence in 6:3 that he is devoted to her. (2) The immediately following use of “lilies” in 6:3 appears to refer to her, as in 2:16 and 5:1. (3) He praises her in 6:4-7, suggesting that he was romancing her in 6:2-3. (4) Although his harem is mentioned in 6:8-10, all these women acknowledge that he is disinterested in them and only loves her. (5) Her exultation “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; the one who grazes among the lilies” (6:3) is a statement of assurance in their relationship and this would seem quite strange if he was cavorting with his harem while she said this.
2 sn Many have associated this unnamed other disciple with the beloved disciple, that is, John son of Zebedee, mainly because the phrase the other disciple which occurs here is also used to describe the beloved disciple in John 20:2, 3, 4, and 8. Peter is also closely associated with the beloved disciple in 13:23-26, 20:2-10, 21:7, and 21:20-23. But other identifications have also been proposed, chiefly because v. 16 states that this disciple who was accompanied by Peter was known to the high priest. As C. K. Barrett (St. John, 525) points out, the term γνωστός (gnwstos) is used in the LXX to refer to a close friend (Ps 54:14 LXX [55:14 ET]). This raises what for some is an insurmountable difficulty in identifying the “other disciple” as John son of Zebedee, since how could the uneducated son of an obscure Galilean fisherman be known to such a powerful and influential family in Jerusalem? E. A. Abbott (as quoted in “Notes of Recent Exposition,” ExpTim 25 [1913/14]: 149-50) proposed that the “other disciple” who accompanied Peter was Judas, since he was the one disciple of whom it is said explicitly (in the synoptic accounts) that he had dealings with the high priest. E. A. Tindall (“Contributions and Comments: John xviii.15,” ExpTim 28 [1916/17]: 283-84) suggested the disciple was Nicodemus, who as a member of the Sanhedrin, would have had access to the high priest’s palace. Both of these suggestions, while ingenious, nevertheless lack support from the text of the Fourth Gospel itself or the synoptic accounts. W. Wuellner (The Meaning of “Fishers of Men” [NTL]) argues that the common attitude concerning the low social status and ignorance of the disciples from Galilee may in fact be a misconception. Zebedee is presented in Mark 1:20 as a man wealthy enough to have hired servants, and Mark 10:35-45 presents both of the sons of Zebedee as concerned about status and prestige. John’s mother appears in the same light in Matt 20:20-28. Contact with the high priestly family in Jerusalem might not be so unlikely in such circumstances. Others have noted the possibility that John came from a priestly family, some of which is based upon a statement in Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3.31.3) quoting Polycrates that John son of Zebedee was a priest. For further information on possible priestly connections among members of John’s family see L. Morris (John [NICNT], 752, n. 32). None of this is certain, but on the whole it seems most probable that the disciple who accompanied Peter and gained entry into the courtyard for him was John son of Zebedee.
5 sn John 20:31. A major question concerning this verse, the purpose statement of the Gospel of John, is whether the author is writing primarily for an audience of unbelievers, with purely evangelistic emphasis, or whether he envisions an audience of believers, whom he wants to strengthen in their faith. Several points are important in this discussion: (1) in the immediate context (20:30), the other signs spoken of by the author were performed in the presence of disciples; (2) in the case of the first of the signs, at Cana, the author makes a point of the effect the miracle had on the disciples (2:11); (3) if the primary thrust of the Gospel is toward unbelievers, it is difficult to see why so much material in chaps. 13-17 (the last meal and Farewell Discourse, concluding with Jesus’ prayer for the disciples), which deals almost exclusively with the disciples, is included; (4) the disciples themselves were repeatedly said to have believed in Jesus throughout the Gospel, beginning with 2:11, yet they still needed to believe after the resurrection (if Thomas’ experience in 20:27-28 is any indication); and (5) the Gospel appears to be written with the assumption that the readers are familiar with the basic story (or perhaps with one or more of the synoptic gospel accounts, although this is less clear). Thus no account of the birth of Jesus is given at all, and although he is identified as being from Nazareth, the words of the Pharisees and chief priests to Nicodemus (7:52) are almost certainly to be taken as ironic, assuming the reader knows where Jesus was really from. Likewise, when Mary is identified in 11:2 as the one who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil, it is apparently assumed that the readers are familiar with the story, since the incident involved is not mentioned in the Fourth Gospel until 12:3. These observations must be set over against the clear statement of purpose in the present verse, 20:31, which seems to have significant evangelistic emphasis. In addition to this there is the repeated emphasis on witness throughout the Fourth Gospel (cf. the witness of John the Baptist in 1:7, 8, 15, 32, and 34, along with 5:33; the Samaritan woman in 4:39; Jesus’ own witness, along with that of the Father who sent him, in 8:14, 18, and 18:37; the disciples themselves in 15:27; and finally the testimony of the author himself in 19:35 and 21:24). In light of all this evidence it seems best to say that the author wrote with a dual purpose: (1) to witness to unbelievers concerning Jesus, in order that they come to believe in him and have eternal life; and (2) to strengthen the faith of believers, by deepening and expanding their understanding of who Jesus is.
5 sn There are a number of important issues that need clarification in the interpretation of this section. First, it is important to note that “I am Yahweh” is not a new revelation of a previously unknown name. It would be introduced differently if it were. This is the identification of the covenant God as the one calling Moses – that would be proof for the people that their God had called him. Second, the title “El Shadday” is not a name, but a title. It is true that in the patriarchal accounts “El Shadday” is used six times; in Job it is used thirty times. Many conclude that it does reflect the idea of might or power. In some of those passages that reveal God as “El Shadday,” the name “Yahweh” was also used. But Wellhausen and other proponents of the earlier source critical analysis used Exod 6:3 to say that P, the so-called priestly source, was aware that the name “Yahweh” was not known by them, even though J, the supposed Yahwistic source, wrote using the name as part of his theology. Third, the texts of Genesis show that Yahweh had appeared to the patriarchs (Gen 12:1, 17:1, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 26:12, 35:1, 48:3), and that he spoke to each one of them (Gen 12:7, 15:1, 26:2, 28:13, 31:3). The name “Yahweh” occurs 162 times in Genesis, 34 of those times on the lips of speakers in Genesis (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:340-41). They also made proclamation of Yahweh by name (4:26, 12:8), and they named places with the name (22:14). These passages should not be ignored or passed off as later interpretation. Fourth, “Yahweh” is revealed as the God of power, the sovereign God, who was true to his word and could be believed. He would do as he said (Num 23:19; 14:35; Exod 12:25; 22:24; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14). Fifth, there is a difference between promise and fulfillment in the way revelation is apprehended. The patriarchs were individuals who received the promises but without the fulfillment. The fulfillment could only come after the Israelites became a nation. Now, in Egypt, they are ready to become that promised nation. The two periods were not distinguished by not having and by having the name, but by two ways God revealed the significance of his name. “I am Yahweh” to the patriarchs indicated that he was the absolute, almighty, eternal God. The patriarchs were individuals sojourning in the land. God appeared to them in the significance of El Shadday. That was not his name. So Gen 17:1 says that “Yahweh appeared…and said, ‘I am El Shadday.’” See also Gen 35:11, 48:2, 28:3. Sixth, the verb “to know” is never used to introduce a name which had never been known or experienced. The Niphal and Hiphil of the verb are used only to describe the recognition of the overtones or significance of the name (see Jer 16:21, Isa 52:6; Ps 83:17ff; 1 Kgs 8:41ff. [people will know his name when prayers are answered]). For someone to say that he knew Yahweh meant that Yahweh had been experienced or recognized (see Exod 33:6; 1 Kgs 18:36; Jer 28:9; and Ps 76:2). Seventh, “Yahweh” is not one of God’s names – it is his only name. Other titles, like “El Shadday,” are not strictly names but means of revealing Yahweh. All the revelations to the patriarchs could not compare to this one, because God was now dealing with the nation. He would make his name known to them through his deeds (see Ezek 20:5). So now they will “know” the “name.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) means more than “aware of, be knowledgeable about”; it means “to experience” the reality of the revelation by that name. This harmonizes with the usage of שֵׁם (shem), “name,” which encompasses all the attributes and actions of God. It is not simply a reference to a title, but to the way that God revealed himself – God gave meaning to his name through his acts. God is not saying that he had not revealed a name to the patriarchs (that would have used the Hiphil of the verb). Rather, he is saying that the patriarchs did not experience what the name Yahweh actually meant, and they could not without seeing it fulfilled. When Moses came to the elders, he identified his call as from Yahweh, the God of the fathers – and they accepted him. They knew the name. But, when they were delivered from bondage, then they fully knew by experience what that name meant, for his promises were fulfilled. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 79) paraphrases it this way: “I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in My aspect that finds expression in the name Shaddai…I was not known to them, that is, it was not given to them to recognize Me as One that fulfils his promises.” This generation was about to “know” the name that their ancestors knew and used, but never experienced with the fulfillment of the promises. This section of Exodus confirms this interpretation, because in it God promised to bring them out of Egypt and give them the promised land – then they would know that he is Yahweh (6:7). This meaning should have been evident from its repetition to the Egyptians throughout the plagues – that they might know Yahweh (e.g., 7:5). See further R. D. Wilson, “Yahweh [Jehovah] and Exodus 6:3,” Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, 29-40; L. A. Herrboth, “Exodus 6:3b: Was God Known to the Patriarchs as Jehovah?” CTM 4 (1931): 345-49; F. C. Smith, “Observation on the Use of the Names and Titles of God in Genesis,” EvQ 40 (1968): 103-9.
1 sn Do we take this commission at face value? Does the Lord really want to prevent his people from understanding, repenting, and being healed? Verse 9, which ostensibly records the content of Isaiah’s message, is clearly ironic. As far as we know, Isaiah did not literally proclaim these exact words. The Hebrew imperatival forms are employed rhetorically and anticipate the response Isaiah will receive. When all is said and done, Isaiah might as well preface and conclude every message with these ironic words, which, though imperatival in form, might be paraphrased as follows: “You continually hear, but don’t understand; you continually see, but don’t perceive.” Isaiah might as well command them to be spiritually insensitive, because, as the preceding and following chapters make clear, the people are bent on that anyway. (This ironic command is comparable to saying to a particularly recalcitrant individual, “Go ahead, be stubborn!”) Verse 10b is also clearly sarcastic. On the surface it seems to indicate Isaiah’s hardening ministry will prevent genuine repentance. But, as the surrounding chapters clearly reveal, the people were hardly ready or willing to repent. Therefore, Isaiah’s preaching was not needed to prevent repentance! Verse 10b reflects the people’s attitude and might be paraphrased accordingly: “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their mind, repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they?” Of course, this sarcastic statement may also reveal that the Lord himself is now bent on judgment, not reconciliation. Just as Pharaoh’s rejection of Yahweh’s ultimatum ignited judgment and foreclosed, at least temporarily, any opportunity for repentance, so the Lord may have come to the point where he has decreed to bring judgment before opening the door for repentance once more. The sarcastic statement in verse 10b would be an emphatic way of making this clear. (Perhaps we could expand our paraphrase: “Otherwise they might…repent, and be restored, and they certainly wouldn’t want that, would they? Besides, it’s too late for that!”) Within this sarcastic framework, verse 10a must also be seen as ironic. As in verse 9 the imperatival forms should be taken as rhetorical and as anticipating the people’s response. One might paraphrase: “Your preaching will desensitize the minds of these people, make their hearing dull, and blind their eyes.” From the outset the Lord might as well command Isaiah to harden the people, because his preaching will end up having that effect. Despite the use of irony, we should still view this as a genuine, albeit indirect, act of divine hardening. After all, God did not have to send Isaiah. By sending him, he drives the sinful people further from him, for Isaiah’s preaching, which focuses on the Lord’s covenantal demands and impending judgment upon covenantal rebellion, forces the people to confront their sin and then continues to desensitize them as they respond negatively to the message. As in the case of Pharaoh, Yahweh’s hardening is not arbitrarily imposed on a righteous or even morally neutral object. Rather his hardening is an element of his righteous judgment on recalcitrant sinners. Ironically, Israel’s rejection of prophetic preaching in turn expedites disciplinary punishment, and brings the battered people to a point where they might be ready for reconciliation. The prophesied judgment (cf. 6:11-13) was fulfilled by 701
1 sn John 2:14-22. Does John’s account of the temple cleansing describe the same event as the synoptic gospels describe, or a separate event? The other accounts of the cleansing of the temple are Matt 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; and Luke 19:45-46. None are as long as the Johannine account. The fullest of the synoptic accounts is Mark’s. John’s account differs from Mark’s in the mention of sheep and oxen, the mention of the whip of cords, the Greek word κερματιστῆς (kermatisths) for money changer (the synoptics use κολλυβιστῆς [kollubisths], which John mentions in 2:15), the scattering of the coins (2:15), and the command by Jesus, “Take these things away from here!” The word for overturned in John is ἀναστρεφω (anastrefw), while Matthew and Mark use καταστρεφω (katastrefw; Luke does not mention the moneychangers at all). The synoptics all mention that Jesus quoted Isa 56:7 followed by Jer 7:11. John mentions no citation of scripture at all, but says that later the disciples remembered Ps 69:9. John does not mention, as does Mark, Jesus’ prohibition on carrying things through the temple (i.e., using it for a shortcut). But the most important difference is one of time: In John the cleansing appears as the first great public act of Jesus’ ministry, while in the synoptics it is virtually the last. The most common solution of the problem, which has been endlessly discussed among NT scholars, is to say there was only one cleansing, and that it took place, as the synoptics record it, at the end of Jesus’ ministry. In the synoptics it appears to be the event that finalized the opposition of the high priest, and precipitated the arrest of Jesus. According to this view, John’s placing of the event at the opening of Jesus’ ministry is due to his general approach; it was fitting ‘theologically’ for Jesus to open his ministry this way, so this is the way John records it. Some have overstated the case for one cleansing and John’s placing of it at the opening of Jesus’ public ministry, however. For example W. Barclay stated: “John, as someone has said, is more interested in the truth than in the facts. He was not interested to tell men when Jesus cleansed the Temple; he was supremely interested in telling men that Jesus did cleanse the Temple” (John [DSBS], 94). But this is not the impression one gets by a reading of John’s Gospel: The evangelist seems to go out of his way to give details and facts, including notes of time and place. To argue as Barclay does that John is interested in truth apart from the facts is to set up a false dichotomy. Why should one have to assume, in any case, that there could have been only one cleansing of the temple? This account in John is found in a large section of nonsynoptic material. Apart from the work of John the Baptist – and even this is markedly different from the references in the synoptics – nothing else in the first five chapters of John’s Gospel is found in any of the synoptics. It is certainly not impossible that John took one isolated episode from the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry and inserted it into his own narrative in a place which seemed appropriate according to his purposes. But in view of the differences between John and the synoptics, in both wording and content, as well as setting and time, it is at least possible that the event in question actually occurred twice (unless one begins with the presupposition that the Fourth Gospel is nonhistorical anyway). In support of two separate cleansings of the temple, it has been suggested that Jesus’ actions on this occasion were not permanent in their result, and after (probably) 3 years the status quo in the temple courts had returned to normal. And at this time early in Jesus’ ministry, he was virtually unknown. Such an action as he took on this occasion would have created a stir, and evoked the response John records in 2:18-22, but that is probably about all, especially if Jesus’ actions met with approval among part of the populace. But later in Jesus’ ministry, when he was well-known, and vigorously opposed by the high-priestly party in Jerusalem, his actions might have brought forth another, harsher response. It thus appears possible to argue for two separate cleansings of the temple as well as a single one relocated by John to suit his own purposes. Which then is more probable? On the whole, more has been made of the differences between John’s account and the synoptic accounts than perhaps should have been. After all, the synoptic accounts also differ considerably from one another, yet few scholars would be willing to posit four cleansings of the temple as an explanation for this. While it is certainly possible that the author did not intend by his positioning of the temple cleansing to correct the synoptics’ timing of the event, but to highlight its significance for the course of Jesus’ ministry, it still appears somewhat more probable that John has placed the event he records in the approximate period of Jesus’ public ministry in which it did occur, that is, within the first year or so of Jesus’ public ministry. The statement of the Jewish authorities recorded by the author (this temple has been under construction for forty-six years) would tend to support an earlier rather than a later date for the temple cleansing described by John, since 46 years from the beginning of construction on Herod’s temple in ca. 19
2 sn What was the controversy concerning ceremonial washing? It is not clear. Some have suggested that it was over the relative merits of the baptism of Jesus and John. But what about the ceremonial nature of the washing? There are so many unanswered questions here that even R. E. Brown (who does not usually resort to dislocations in the text as a solution to difficulties) proposes that this dialogue originally took place immediately after 1:19-34 and before the wedding at Cana. (Why else the puzzled hostility of the disciples over the crowds coming to Jesus?) Also, the synoptics imply John was imprisoned before Jesus began his Galilean ministry. At any rate, there is no reason to rearrange the material here – it occurs in this place for a very good reason. As far as the author is concerned, it serves as a further continuation of the point made to Nicodemus, that is, the necessity of being born “from above” (3:3). Note that John the Baptist describes Jesus as “the one who comes from heaven” in 3:31 (ἄνωθεν [anwqen], the same word as in 3:3). There is another lexical tie to preceding material: The subject of the dispute, ceremonial washing (3:25), calls to mind the six stone jars of water changed to wine at the wedding feast in 2:6, put there for “Jewish ceremonial washing.” This section ultimately culminates and concludes ideas begun in chap. 2 and continued in chap. 3. Although the author does not supply details, one scenario would be this: The disciples of John, perplexed after this disagreement with an individual Jew (or with the Jewish authorities), came to John and asked about the fact that Jesus was baptizing and more and more were coming to him. John had been preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin (see Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3). Possibly what the Jew(s) reported to John’s disciples was that Jesus was now setting aside the Jewish purification rituals as unnecessary. To John’s disciples this might also be interpreted as: (a) a falling away from Judaism, and (b) a break with John’s own teaching. That Jesus could have said this is very evident from many incidents in his ministry in all the gospels. The thrust would be that outward cleansing (that is, observance of purification rituals) was not what made a person clean. A new heart within (that is, being born from above) is what makes a person clean. So John’s disciples came to him troubled about an apparent contradiction in doctrine though the explicit problem they mentioned is that Jesus was baptizing and multitudes were coming to him. (Whether Jesus was or was not baptizing really wasn’t the issue though, and John the Baptist knew that because he didn’t mention it in his reply. In 4:2 the author says that Jesus was not baptizing, but his disciples. That reference would seem to cover this incident as well, and so the disciples of John are just reporting what they have heard, or thought they heard.) The real point at issue is the authority of Jesus to “overturn” the system of ritual purification within Judaism. John replied to this question of the authority of Jesus in 3:27-36. In 3:27-30 he reassured his disciples, reminding them that if more people were coming to Jesus, it did not threaten him at all, because “heaven” had ordained it to be so (v. 27). (After all, some of these very disciples of John had presumably heard him tell the Jewish delegation that he was not the Messiah but was sent before him, mentioned in John 1.) Then John compared himself to the friend of the bridegroom who stands by and yet participates in the bridegroom’s joy (v. 29). John was completely content in his own position as forerunner and preparer of the way.