Jun 29, 2015

Revelation, Its About My Now



The last of the four schools of interpreting John’s Book of Revelation is the spiritualist view.  Spiritualistic interpretation is a relatively new theory that tends to over emphasize symbolism.  The spiritualist believes that the book focuses on the struggles of all Christians in any age, not specifically the original readers, the past, or future.  Revelation is intended to inspire Christians being persecuted.  The spiritualist argues that looking for meaning in the past and constructing meaning is a future forward view is guesswork at best.  Any attempt at a literal interpretation is absurd.  Furthermore, any attempt to find such meaning may conflict with the spiritual meaning for which the spiritualist is searching. 

This type of reading is inspirational, except it does ignore the fact that John’s book is written as a letter to be publicly read.  John wrote and sent this letter to seven specific Churches.  John also stressed that events would soon take place.  This sets the letter in a specific time and place with a sense of immediacy. 
That being said, the spiritualist view has some great strengths.  Because the spiritualist believes in a timeless interpretation, the symbols are not tied to specific events. Therefore the conflict is a spiritual war fought between good and evil.  The spiritualist will view the beast from the sea as a satanically inspired political persecution or oppression.  Whereas the beast from the land may represent a corrupt religion opposed to Christianity.  The harlot represents the seduction of the world.  The seven seals and trumpets represent the catastrophes and disasters that occur naturally and/or motivated by evil.

Ultimately, then there is no one single “best” method.  It is my opinion that when reading and studying John’s Book of Revelation, it needs to be regarded first as a letter written in the first century and second as a part of the New Testament with spiritual and theological significance to Christians in every age.  Thus we need to combine elements of the preterits, historicist, and spiritualist methods.  We need to examine it critically from a historical, literary, and symbolic perspective without losing sight of sound Catholic Christian doctrine that builds a united Kingdom of God no a divisive one.

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Sources
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.
Harrison, Wilfred J. O.P. Sacra Pagina: Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Senior, Donald, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller, and John J. Collins, . The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible (NAB). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Zukeran, Patrick. Probe Ministries: Four Views of Revelation. April 20, 2009. https://www.probe.org/four-views-of-revelation/ (accessed June 27, 2015).
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Revelation, Its The Final Countdown!



The futurist view is the modern extension of the historicist view.  It is wildly popular in the United States.  While it makes for great works of fiction it is questionable if it is Christian at all.
The futurist divides the book of revelation into three sections. 
  • Chapter 1: The Past
  • Chapters 2-3: The Present
  • Chapters 4-22: The Future
In this view, John still sees visions and writing what he sees. The seven Churches are no longer regarded as seven actual Churches.  Instead, they represent the history of the Church is broken into seven different stages.  Laodicea, the dead Church, being the present apostate Church.  The climatic “final battle” between good and evil is interpreted quite literally.  The futurist holds that it will result in a world-wide nuclear war.  It will be at this time that Christ returns to usher in a 1000 Kingdom for his faithful followers.   This is followed by the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.  This is the hope of the futurist, God’s impending total destruction of earth. 
Leading up to this the futurist believes that God will rapture up his faithful to spare them the time of tribulation.  These terms and ideas are based on gross misinterpretations of scripture.  First, the idea of rapture comes from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians.

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4: 15-17 RSV-CE)

Once this rapture has occurred, the antichrist will reign for seven years.  During that time the world will experience hardship, persecution, disease, war, famine, and death as described in Revelation.  This all culminates in the final battle. 

The futurist bases this interpretation on Revelation 1:19, “Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter.”  It is argued that these events will come to pass.  This is a literal interpretation and map of future events.  Like the historicist view, the book was irrelevant to the original readers.  Contrary to the Gospel teachers, it predicts the end.  Thus, it is incompatible with Johannine Theology.  Furthermore, the idea that an elect will be spared and that the Lamb is the destroyer are also contrary to New Testament Theology.  

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Sources
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.
Harrison, Wilfred J. O.P. Sacra Pagina: Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Senior, Donald, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller, and John J. Collins, . The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible (NAB). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Zukeran, Patrick. Probe Ministries: Four Views of Revelation. April 20, 2009. https://www.probe.org/four-views-of-revelation/ (accessed June 27, 2015).
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Revelation, Its All About Now



The historicist view in contrast to the preterist view makes the message of John’s book relevant to the reader in whatever age it is being read.  Historicism teaches that the events described in Revelation chapters 4 through 20 describe the history of the Church from the time of the first century to the second coming of Christs.  This view is most common among conservative Christian Protestant denominations.  As a young boy this type of thinking was very exciting.  After all, it is the material of a good television special or a History Channel show about end time’s prophecy.  Wrapped into all of that speculative thinking is the highly creative task of re-thinking all of human history to match key world players and events with the apocalyptic imagery.  This is Dan Brown style fiction, interesting but inaccurate and definitely dangerous.

As Catholics we must be on guard against this view and its promulgation.  This mode of interpretation was the standard Protestant method during the Reformation.  In recent times it has diminished in popularity in favor the futurist view (will be addressed later).  Using the same study of Gematria, the Jewish practice of assigning numeric value to words, the historicist suggest that the mark of the beast refers to the Pope/Papacy and the Roman Church not Emperor Nero or the Roman Empire.  Both groups arrive at the same numeric value (666) for the same word lateinos.  The difference is the filter, historicists were persecuted Protestants.  As such they, like the preterits identified the beast and restrictions of commerce as the oppression experienced by the medieval Church and state.  


The major problem with this method is not that it portrays the Catholic Church as the beast, but that it will never be accurate.  This inherit inaccuracy invalidates many of its conclusions.  Because the historicist model applies chapters 4-20 to the history of the Christian Church it changes with every age, invalidating its previous conclusion.  More so, we can conclude if this view is true, the book would have had no meaning to the original readers.  

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Sources
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.
Harrison, Wilfred J. O.P. Sacra Pagina: Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Senior, Donald, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller, and John J. Collins, . The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible (NAB). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Zukeran, Patrick. Probe Ministries: Four Views of Revelation. April 20, 2009. https://www.probe.org/four-views-of-revelation/ (accessed June 27, 2015).
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Jun 27, 2015

Revelation, Its All Done



The word preterist comes from the Latin praeteritus meaning “gone by”.  As such this view holds firmly that John’s Book of Revelation was fulfilled at the time of it being written or shortly thereafter.  If this method of interpretation is true, then Revelation had enormous meaning to the first century Christians were facing or would face intense persecution.  John’s message was to “hold firm” and remember that God vindicates his faithful people. 

This view was introduced by a Jesuit priest, Louis de Alcazar who wrote in response to the Protestant Reformation. This view challenged scholars to interpret events and images in the Book to coincide with events affecting the early Christians.  So the great conflict in the text between good and evil is a conflict between Christians and Rome and Jerusalem, i.e. Christians and the Empire and Christians and the Jews.  When viewed symbolically in its Hebrew form, the “mark of the Beast”, 666, is viewed as a representation of Emperor Nero.  The 42 months of the beasts reign in Revelation 13:5 coincides with the length of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, which began in 66 A.D.

Using historical-critical methods of research scholars deconstruct the text to uncover the many symbolic references to determine meaning.  Consequently, Revelation would have little to no theological meaning to us today.  Sadly, scholars would only examine the book for his historical implications for the Church in Asia Minor at the turn of the first century. This view requires that a reader immerse him or herself in the life of the early Church and draw meaning from a first century perspective. One could argue why the Church Fathers included it in the Cannon and why it was officially adopted as a book in the Bible, which is God’s Word for His people (past, present, and future). 

That being said, we cannot completely ignore this method.  Recall from the first post that apocalyptic literature has meaning within in the lifetime of the author and to future generations.  A preteritic interpretation and critical examination will shed insight into the life belief of the early Church.  Understanding God’ role in the past, reveals His role in our present and the future.  
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Sources
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.
Harrison, Wilfred J. O.P. Sacra Pagina: Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Senior, Donald, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller, and John J. Collins, . The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible (NAB). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Zukeran, Patrick. Probe Ministries: Four Views of Revelation. April 20, 2009. https://www.probe.org/four-views-of-revelation/ (accessed June 27, 2015).
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Revelation, its how you read it



The Book of Revelation is arguably one of the most problematic books in the Christian Cannon for us to interpret.  Before anyone begins reading the Book of Revelation or any other apocalyptic literature like the Old Testament prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, or the New Testament “little apocalypses” in Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 17, 21 one must understand the nature of the genre. We must keep in mind that writing is wiring, regardless of where we read it or the value that we place upon the document.  When we read a how-to manual we do so carefully usually stopping frequently to follow the steps involved.  Whereas a piece of fiction is usually read quickly, some (like my wife) read the end before reaching the plot intensifies.

Biblical literature was written to an ancient people in an historical context using popular genres of the time, with images more easily understood in the author’s time.  Holy Scripture is considered inspired because it in more that human created literature, it is God’s word to His people.  So, we must also look at scripture not only as ancient writing, but also at God’s transformative message for us today.  Understanding God’s Word is called interpretation, a task that is much easier when reading a biography or historical document.  Apocalyptic literature is much more challenging and multiple methods of interpretation.   

Apocalyptic literature defends God’s justice against the evil acts of humanity and the opposition of Satan.  It was intended to encourage believers in the then “present” age as well as show God’s blessings to the future age (both our present and our future).  The Book of Revelation and other similar Biblical passages were not and should never be intended as predictions of the future.   In Matthew 24 (a little apocalypse), Jesus tells of the destruction of the Second Temple, a great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of Man.
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, * but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36 RSV-CE)

Jesus is quite clear that the hour of judgement is only known by God the Father, therefore we are to read this literature to make our path’s straight and not project the images as concrete examples happing in our present.

This 5 part series of posts will address the four methods, interpretation: preterist, historicist, futurist, and idealist. It is important to keep in mind that these are the “big ideas” many interpreters create hybrid views combining aspects of each of these.
  • The preterist view suggests that Revelation was fulfilled in the past, at the time of its authorship.
  • The historicist view suggests that Revelation is predictive of the stages of the “future” New Testament Church from the first century to the end of time.
  • The futurist view suggests that Revelation was not correctly understood in past ages. It can only be truly understood as the “end of time” approaches.
  • The idealist view suggests that Revelation is a symbolic description of the ongoing spiritual struggle faced by every believer in every age.
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Sources
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.
Harrison, Wilfred J. O.P. Sacra Pagina: Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008.
Senior, Donald, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller, and John J. Collins, . The Catholic Study Bible. New American Bible (NAB). New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
Zukeran, Patrick. Probe Ministries: Four Views of Revelation. April 20, 2009. https://www.probe.org/four-views-of-revelation/ (accessed June 27, 2015).
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Jun 26, 2015

I AM the Vine and You are the Branches, my Father is the Gardner


I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (RSV-CE Jn. 14: 6-7)



This is the last of the seven self-identifying statements in John’s Gospel.  Chapter 15 is still part of the “Farewell Discourse”.  In this Jesus recalls Old Testament imagery that describes the relationship between Israel the vine and God the vineyard owner who planted, prunes, and nurtures the vine. 

"Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill… and now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness" (Is. 5:1, 5-7)

Jesus is the true vine, planted by the Father for mankind.  The disciples are connected to the mission of Christ as the branches are connected to the vine.  The vine is strong supporting its branches, and the Father will prune (cleanse) their branches to ensure they continue to bear fruit. 


This is the final image of Christ as Church.  We have seen that Christ is a gift from the Father to call us from sin, freeing us from temptation and evil.  He willingly sacrificed Himself so that humanity could unite with the Father leading to eternal life.  Now in this final passage, John tells us that the Church is an extension of Christ.  The Church continues to impart God’s saving grace, that the Father loves His Church as He loved Jesus. 

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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
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Jun 25, 2015

I AM the Resurrection and the Life


I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,  and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (RSV-CE Jn. 11:25-26)

Some context and background is necessary to unpack the meaning behind this self-identifying statement.  First, Mary and Martha, longtime friends and supporters of Jesus believe in the then contemporary teaching of a final resurrection of the dead.  The common teaching was that the resurrection was God’s final victory, His vindication of the righteous.  Second, ancient Jewish burial custom required that the family keeps vigil at home for the first seven days after a person was laid to rest.  The spirit of the deceased person was thought to have left the body after three days.  Lazarus was in the tomb for four days.  This meant that he was really dead.   



When Jesus tells Martha that her brother Lazarus will rise, he was originally speaking of the final resurrection.  Martha’s faith was greater.  Even though her brother was “truly” dead, she believed Jesus could still heal him.  She believed God would grant Jesus anything he requested.  I am the resurrection and the life shows the power of Christ.  He is the one who will raise the dead.  He is the one through baptism who gives new life.  Because of that new life through belief in Him, the faithful will rise. 

True to form, Jesus put the question back to Martha and asked her if she believed this. 

…and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27* She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.’” (11:26-27)


Martha’s faith is the faith that we should have, that is we should have faith in God’s gift of Jesus to lead us to eternal life in Him, because of Him, that through Him. 

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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
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I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life



I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him. (RSV-CE Jn. 14: 6-7)

The setting of this self-identifying statement is extremely important.  Jesus is dining with His disciples at the “Last Supper”.  He and they are well aware of His impending death.  The second part of this passage is central to the one of John’s themes, Jesus and the Father are one.  To know Jesus is to know the Father and know the Father one must know Jesus.  It is fitting those scholars count this chapter part of the “Farewell Discourse”. 



Jesus is reassuring his closest followers that death is not the end, death is a path to the Father.  More importantly, Jesus is quite clear that He is the one way to the Father.  Without Jesus humanity would be cut off from the Father.  Instead, Jesus reveals the way, and that way is Him.  His way is true because he was sent from above to dispel sin and error, guard His flock, and guide his sheep to the new life in the resurrection. 

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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
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Jun 24, 2015

I AM the Good Shepherd Keeping the Sheep Gate



“I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (RSV-CE Jn. 10:7,9,11,14)



Chapter 10 begins what is known as the “Shepherd Discourse”.  John does not transition into this, instead he abruptly begins.  In John’s Gospel, this discourse marks a transition.  The conspiracy and planned violence against Jesus intensifies.  In this post I will address two self-naming statements of Jesus, “I am the Gatekeeper” and “I am the Good Shepherd”.  Unlike the previous statements, these two appear in the same chapter and are directly related. 

In this discourse the meaning is quite clear and easy to follow.  Jesus the sheep are the people of God and a shepherd is a teacher and leader.  Jesus introduces to this imagery the symbol of the thief and robber.  Jesus describes Himself as the “door of the sheep” (the gatekeeper).  As Gatekeeper, Jesus is the only way for sheep to ether the flock, he guards against robbers and thieves.  It is not clear who John is describing as robber and thief, but given its place in the text and the escalation of tension in the book, most interpret it as the Pharisees and Jewish Leadership in the first century.  Later in the passage, Jesus introduces the image of the wolf and hired hand.  All four of these images taken together show the negative view of the religious leadership.  The robber and thief seek personal profit from the sheep by taking them away and slaughtering them. The hired hand cannot be trusted and works for pay and is not personally connected to the sheep, they do not belong to the hired hand.  The wolf brings death. 

As the gatekeeper, Jesus protects the flock and allows each sheep to enter.  The title “Good Shepherd” describes the intimate bond of mutual knowledge of each other “I know mine and mine know me”.  This connection is emphasized in the idea that only a “Good Shepherd” would sacrifice his life for the sheep.  Instead of the sheep being slaughtered, the shepherd is willing to offer himself. 




This passage is of great significance.  Jesus is reflecting on his own death and resurrection.  Because Jesus is the Good Shepherd, guarding the flock given to Him by the Father who sent him to dispel the darkness of sin and error, He will willingly offer His life.  The death that he suffered at the hands of His persecutors (who plotted His death after hearing this discourse) is not something imposed, but something allowed by Him. 

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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.
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Jun 23, 2015

I AM the Light of the World


Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.(John 8:12)



Light is a powerful symbol and practical necessity.  Without it, we wouldn’t have night time events.  In chapter 8, Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem during the feast of Tabernacles.  Large lamp stands were placed in the Temple Court to illuminate the way for pilgrims.  Light takes on a symbolic and theological image in this context as well.  We understand light as a reference to the darkness of sin, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1:4-5) 





Looking further into chapter 9, we see that light is more appropriately juxtaposed with blindness.  Those who are confident in their own “light” (idea that they possess the wisdom to turn from darkness” are blind.  Jesus is the light which guides the pilgrims and restores sight.  He gives the true direction and dispels the darkness of sin. 

Thus far, Jesus is a gift given by the Father, to dispel sin and error curing our ignorant blindness.  




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Sources:
  • Bergant, Dianne C.S.A., and Robert J. O.F.M Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1986.
  • Brown, Raymond D. S.S., Joseph A, S.J. Fitzymer, and Roland E, O. Carm. Murphy, . The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Vol. I and II. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1968.
  • Hunt, Michal. "The 7 Symbolic "I Am" Metaphors of John's Gospel." Agape Catholic Bible Study. AgapeBibleStudy.com, 2007. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Seven%20Days%20and%20Seven%20I%20AMs%20in%20John's%20Gospel.html>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "Christology in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 8 July 2013. Web. 21 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fcatholic-resources.org%2FJohn%2FThemes-Christology.htm>.
  • Just, Rev. Felix, Ph. D. "I AM" Sayings in the Fourth Gospel." Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art, and Theology. Felix Just, S. J., 11 July 2012. Web. 12 June 2015. <http://catholic-resources.org/John/Themes-IAM.htm>.
  • Lewis, Scott M. The Gospel According to John and the Johannine Letters. Collegeville, MI: Liturgical, 2005. Print.
  • Martin, Francis. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015. Print.
  • Mays, James L., et al., . Harper's Bible Commentary. New York City, New York: Harper San Francisco: a Divison of Harper Collins Publishers, 1988.
  • Wilson, Neil S., and Linda K. Taylor. Handbook of Bible Charts & Maps. Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001.

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