Wednesday, August 16, 2006

De-historicized history

Reading and thinking through John's gospel, I'm struck afresh with some of the seemingly anachronistic statements on the lips of Jesus. In 3:13, Jesus seems to be speaking of His ascension as though it were already past, "No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man". Is this a Jewish aphoristic, proverb-like way of speaking which would have been easily undeerstood by Nicodemus? Is this a post-resurrection creedal affirmation in which the apostle is calling his readers to subscribe to the JCF (Johannine confession of faith)? It is as if he is saying, "Hey early church, the incarnation-death-resurrection-exaltation are true, so believe them". There may be other explanations.

In any case, assuming Jesus' ascension is in view, the statement seems to de-historicize history, if but for a moment. It transcends the particular moment in time of its utterance and speaks to all future horizons of readers. It has a patently 'confessional', atemporal feel to it, when seen in the context of the conversation with Nicodemus.

Of course, de-historicized, confessional statements are common to John. Notably in 7:37-38, Jesus speaks 'dogmatically' of Belief/Spirit-work, "Whoever believes in me.....out of his heart will flow rivers of living water", a creedal assertion made intelligible only in light of later redemptive-historical events (resurrection and ascension), "Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".

Does this mean that these creedal affirmations - the JCF - though genetically related to, are a function and subset of, Redemptive History in John? His confessionalism seems situated within a larger historical framework. Still more, is there here, an implicit affirmation that future historical periods always hold the promise of greater doctrinal clarity - a 'progressive confessionalism' as it were? Ughh.....that may be stretching it a bit.

Let me stop before I try to squeeze any more doctrinal juice out of this textual orange.

1 comment:

Mark Traphagen said...

One of the things I love about reading blogs by thoughtful people such as you is the continual experience of running into startling new aspects of the Biblical text, things of which I say to myself, "Doh! I should have seen that."