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EFAC Australia

Bible exposition

Michael Bennett tells us why he thinks John's  gospel did come first.

Since first beginning to study at theological college (Moore 1965-68) I have been taught that the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke were composed before John’s Gospel.

The evidence for this seems to rest on a number of proofs:

  1. It is argued that the “Word” theology of John Ch.1 is too advanced to have been written at an early date. John may have also have been influenced by the Jewish philosopher Philo (d. 50A.D.) who also emphasised the central role of the “Word” in the Old Testament scriptures.
  2. John 21:18-19 refers to death of Peter. It is argued that this could not have been written until after the Neronian persecutions of 64 A.D.
  3. Most telling is the statement by the early church father, Irenaeus: “John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast, published a Gospel while he was resident at Ephesus in Asia.”(Against Heresies iii.1.2) When John moved to Ephesus is unknown (and even disputed), but it was probably precipitated by the approaching fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This seems to point to a late date of composition.

But as D.A. Carson admits, “almost any date between AD 55 and AD 95 is possible.” (Commentary on John’s Gospel Eerdmans p82) and adds “More by way of default than anything else, I tentatively hold to a date about AD 80”.

John Wilson responds to Andrew Malone’s introduction to Leviticus.

Andrew Malone in the last issue of Essentials has provided us with a helpful introduction to the book on Leviticus with the aim of getting it, along with other neglected parts of the Old Testament, back on the agenda. He sees it as fertile soil for nurturing believers in biblical theology. He has listed five possible themes to be explored.

‘Lectures for Lent’ assumed that Leviticus could form a sermon series in Lent. How will the congregation know what Lent is? How will they be reminded that the weeks of Lent have traditionally been set aside for congregations to do some extra study? Will there be a clear linking between Jesus’ 40 days being tested in the wilderness and the period between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as the church has traditionally done, so that people see this period as an opportunity for reflection on their own progress and purpose as Christians and also the opportunity to do some extra Bible study?

 Ben van der Klip sheds light on an interesting aspect of the letter of James.

The aura of mystery surrounding the Lone Ranger left people asking, ‘Who was that masked man?’ An aura of mystery also surrounds the identity of the rich person in James 1:9–11; is the rich person a Christian or an unbeliever?1

A literal translation of the Greek of James 1:9–11 would look something like this:

9 And let the humble brother boast in his high position, 10 but the rich man in his humiliation, for like a flower of grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with the scorch­ing wind and withers the grass and its flower falls away and the beauty of its face perishes; likewise also the rich man will disappear in the midst of his activities.

There are a number of exegetical issues tucked away in these verses, but I will focus here on the issue of the rich person’s identity. The question of the rich man’s identity arises because James doesn’t explicitly identify the rich man as a ‘brother’.2

Peter Adam identifies the good works we have been created to do.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Five lessons on good works

1. We are saved by grace, not by good works. The pressure is on to do good works: from ourselves, from ambitious family or friends, from our supervisors and employers, from God, from our heroes, from our fears, from our guilt, from our need to be needed. And there is an endless supply of good works that need to be done! People give us good feedback on good works. So it is easy to think that we are saved by achievement, by increased productivity, by success, by usefulness. We are not saved by these things: we are saved by God’s grace. I frequently tell myself that if I were to wake up tomorrow paralysed, unable to do or say anything, I would still be as saved as I am today!

Peter Brain reminds us of the biblical foundations.

That there is an endemic confusion about our sexuality is clear in our society. So many are hurt by this confusion. Some nurse broken hearts as trust has been betrayed in serial sexual relationships. Growing numbers experience ongoing harm from sexually transmitted infections (evidenced by the alarming increase in chlamydia). Our deep longing for intimacy fails to find consummation since it is increasingly sought outside of the God-ordained parameters of a committed and mutually considerate, sexual relationship between a man and a woman, who are married to each other. Sex without commitment or even friendship can never deliver God’s gracious purposes.

The fundamental texts for the proper expression of our sexuality are to be found in Genesis 1:26–27 and 2:24. Being found in Genesis, they are creational, applying to all people of all cultures for all time. The two passages are found in the complementary creation accounts and teach us fundamental truths about ourselves, marriage and the sexual relationship.

Genesis 1:26–27 reminds us that God created both men and women in his own image, thus establishing our equality in God’s eyes and our dependence on God. The truth established here is that we are real people as individuals, independent of our being married or in a sexual relationship. Intimacy is not found primarily in our human relationships, but in our relationship with God. Procreation is clearly seen to be a reason for the male–female relationship, which is so clearly evident from our anatomical makeup. That same-sex relationships are unable to procreate is evident to all.

Reflections on John 13:1-17
The episode recorded in John 13 of Jesus' washing the disciples feet is usually seen as an example of servant leadership. Of course it serves this purpose well, as Jesus says: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). However, there is more to be gained from this footwashing exercise of servant leadership.
The setting of Jesus' actions is the upper room on the night he was betrayed. John introduces the scene with Jesus' reflection upon going to the cross. With a deliberate echo of the words of the Prologue (“he came unto his own, but his own received him not - but to all who did receive him, who believed on his name, he gave power to become children of God”), Jesus prepares to return to his Father, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1). Thus the immediate context is the death of Jesus and the application of that death to his disciples.

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