Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 A. The Paradoxical Nature of Soteriology: Tension Between the Realized and the Futurist Dimensions The first crucial factor stems from his understanding of salvation. Johannine soteriology must be understood as both already accomplished and not yet consummated. It has been noted that unlike the Pauline epistles, John does not seem to place much emphasis on repentance and seems to focus on “belief” rather than “faith.” This is primarily because the sin of the world, for John, is identified as lack of belief in Jesus and subsequent rejection of him and his claims (cf. especially 8:21-24; 15:21-24). However, while the differences noted in the writings of John and Paul regarding soteriology are true, they both reflect a consistency in thought with regard to the fact that salvation is always conditioned upon acceptance of the person and the teaching of Christ. While disagreements arise on a number of issues regarding this Gospel’s view and presentation of salvation, textual evidence clearly shows that John expresses his theme of salvation in terms of analogies that place Jesus Christ as the source of salvation. Jesus refers to himself as the light of the world (8:12; 9:5; 12:46), in the prologue he is the true light(1:9), he is the way, the truth and the life (14:6), he is the bread of life (6:35, 48), he is the resurrection and the life (11:25), he is the one that provides living water (4:10), he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (10:11, 14), he is the true vine (15:1, 5) and so forth. Indeed, the major purpose of the Gospel is to inspire belief in Christ (cf. 20:31). This is reflected in the plot development which is structured around both the recognition, and the lack thereof, of Jesus’ identity.10 Having arrived at an understanding of who Jesus is, the characters in the story, and the readers, must make a choice either to believe in him or to reject him. This is especially prominent in the second section of the Gospel, which is dominated by Jesus’ signs. As the plot develops, John continually displays the conflict between belief and unbelief in the face of these signs. The signs that he performs become the evidence that prove his messiahship, authenticating his claims that he is indeed God’s true representative, 10 R. Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 85-88. 5 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 work must have an impact with regard to present existence. 2) John wrote from two standpoints—both before and after the resurrection.22 Indeed, since John was significantly impacted by the Christ-event, his post-resurrection narration of the salvific work of Jesus Christ would naturally reflect this dual emphasis. B. John’s Dualistic View of Soteriology Johannine soteriology has both a vertical and a horizontal dimension both of which clearly display dualistic elements. As R. E. Brown eloquently expresses, “the Johannine view of salvation is both vertical and horizontal. The vertical expresses the uniqueness of the divine intervention in Jesus; the horizontal aspect establishes a relationship between this intervention and salvation history.”23 The vertical dimension has to do with John’s presentation of the world below contrasted with the world above. In the prologue itself, John begins by equating the world below with darkness and contrasting this against the light that Jesus Christ brings and is. The dualism is expressed in the statement, kai. to. fw/j evn th/| skoti,a| fai,nei( kai. h` skoti,a auvto. ouv kate,laben (“and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome /comprehend it” cf. 1:5). Here, John expresses the superiority of the light over the darkness. It can neither be overcome nor understood by the realm of darkness. However, as Ashton points out, the dualism expressed in this contrast is a modified dualism because while both light and darkness coexist in the world, the light must at the very least partially dispel the darkness.24 The world below is also a realm of satanic power, sin and death which Jesus has invaded and overcome (cf. 5: 21, 24, 27; 8:34-47; 1 John 2:1; 3:4-10; 4:17). Through his life, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus has delivered people from darkness, sin and death and given them the life of the Spirit.25 This eschatological dualism of the two 22 C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 68. 23 Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (2 vols.; AB 29–29A; NY: Doubleday, 1966–1970), 1:cxvi. 24 John Ashton, Understanding the Fourth Gospel (2d. ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 390. 25 See discussion in Ladd, Theology, 265. 9 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 C. The Johannine w[ra: The Coming Age Already Broken into the Present John clearly demonstrates his understanding of the coming age already broken into the present in his use of w[ra. His emphasis on Jesus’ hour has already been noted above. However, there is another use of w[ra that is particularly significant by virtue of its linguistic combination. It is found in the phrase avlla. e;rcetai w[ra kai. nu/n evstin (“but a time/hour is coming and now is”) in 4:23 and 5:25. This is a phrase that accurately captures the essence of the already-not yet motif in Johannine soteriology. In order to fully comprehend how w[ra is used within this phrase, it is necessary to set it in its historical, literary, theological and semantic contexts. Particularly in cases where not just a word, but the concept it represents, is being determined (in this case the already-not yet concept), it is generally accepted that isolation of a word from its synonyms, antonyms and even figurative language connected with it leads to inadequate findings.37 What is this w[ra to which Jesus refers, this w[ra that “is coming and now is” in 4:23 and 5:25? The Jewish literature written around the time of the New Testament provides us with the most accurate data regarding usage of w[ra in this instance, particularly where similar linguistic combinations exist.38 In the New Testament, w[ra generally refers to “the time set for something” (cf. Luke 14:17, Acts 3:1). In these instances, “hour” and “set time” were used synonymously. It also refers to “the divinely appointed time” with reference to the actualization of apocalyptic happenings (Rev 9:15; 14:7; 14:15). Particularly in Revelation 14:15, the linguistic combination is somewhat similar to 4:23 with the use of the verb e;rcomai (o[ti h=lqen h` w[ra qeri,sai). However in this case, w[ra is modified by the infinitive verb qeri,sai “to reap.” This combination 37 G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 42, notes that words and concepts only rarely coincide. Most words cover a variety of concepts, and all concepts are expressed by a complex assortment of synonyms and antonyms. 38 The synchronic/descriptive approach focuses on the study of language within particular time frames, not on the developmental changes that take place over time. It is generally more reliable than a diachronic/historical one as it reflects the current usage of a word in certain linguistic combinations. 13 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 syntax, the verb e;rcetai should be understood as mostly futuristic or ingressive-futuristic. Wallace points out that “The addition of kai. nu/n evstin defines the coming hour as having already partially arrived.” 62 The syntax of these verses clearly reflects an already-not yet nuance. In addition, the general literary context of these two verses reflects the concept of the already-not yet. w[ra therefore constitutes an eschatological marker that pertains to the end times inaugurated or realized by Jesus’ coming.63 D. Eschatological Salvation in the Qumran Community As in the Gospel of John, there is no rigid division between the present age and the age to come: the eschatological dualism of the two ages was held in perfect tension. The Qumranites believed, and this is expressed in their literature, that eschatological salvation was not only a future certainty, but a present reality that was experienced in the active life of the community. Aune notes that we can attribute a variety of realized eschatology to them because unlike a large segment of late Judaism, the Qumran community believed in the active presence of the Spirit within their community.64 In his work, Kuhn effectively shows that the activity of the Spirit was predominantly limited to the past and the future in rabbinic, apocryphal and pseudepigraphical Jewish literature. This is in contrast to the Qumran community whose consciousness of the Spirit of God in their community reflected the fact that eschatological salvation had already entered the present age in the history and experience of the community. Kuhn identifies texts such as 1QH 3:19-36, 1 QH 11:3- 14; 1QH 11:15 and following, and 1 QH 15 which demonstrate a realized eschatology experienced by those qualified to be a part of the community. His thesis is that even while the Qumran community still 62 That is, an event begun in the present time but completed in the future. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 537. 63 Köstenberger, John, 155. 64 Aune, Cultic Setting, 103. Similarly with regards to the Gospel of John he points out “The necessity of reading the Fourth Gospel against the background of first century Judaism both in its orthodox and heterodox forms and presuppositions means that it is also necessary to view the belief of the Johannine community in their present possession of the Spirit as an indication of the radical distinction which existed between them and contemporary Judaism.” 22 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 characteristics that result from the direct influence of the ‘spirit of truth’, and includes amongst other things character traits such as meekness, patience, generous compassion, eternal goodness, trust in God and dependence on his mercy, love for members of the community, a concealment of the truths revealed to the community, and so forth. The rewards for those who walk in this way of truth include healing, plentiful peace in a long life, fruitful offspring with all everlasting blessings, eternal enjoyment with endless life and a crown of glory with majestic rainment in eternal light (cf. 1QS 4.6c- 8). The blessings of eschatological salvation are clearly both earthly as well as eternal, reflecting the experience of salvation both in the present era and in the era to come. The experience of the age to come in the present era can therefore be attributed to the following: 1) The community was conscious of the active presence of the Spirit of God. 2) This community had a unique identity which characterized the present life of the community, bringing the future age into the present. 2) In light of the existing microcosmic and macrocosmic dualism, rewards in the present age were experienced by allowing the ‘spirit of truth’ to function in the lives of the members as he should. E. Contribution of Qumran There is evidence that in his writing, John was influenced by Qumran language and symbolism at various points, particularly in his use of truth terminology.80With regard to the present experience of eschatological salvation, the involvement of the Spirit in worship is clearly emphasized in both the Gospel of John and the Qumran literature. While the linguistic combination ‘worship in spirit and truth’ (cf. John 4:24) does not occur in the Qumran literature, there is nevertheless a close relationship between John and Qumran with regard to the role of the Spirit in worship. Brown writes, Schnackenburg, “Anbetung,” has shown how the close connection between spirit and truth in the Qumran writings offers some interesting parallels to John’s thought. At Qumran in an eschatological context God pours forth His spirit on the sectarians and thus purifies them for His service. This spirit is the spirit of truth in the sense that it instructs the sectarians in divine knowledge, that is, the observance of the Law insisted on at Qumran (1 QS iv 19-22). The purity thus 80 See Mburu, Qumran. 29 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 A significant difference, however, is that the Qumran community viewed darkness as disobedience to the Law, whereas John understood darkness in terms of the rejection of Jesus Christ, who is himself the light. Another important distinction is that whereas the Gospel calls people to believe in the light, the scrolls assume that the members of the community are already in the light.87 In addition, it should be noted that whereas the Rule reflects a conflict between two spirits, John describes a conflict that is between the world and its ruler, children of light and children of darkness. These are not two spirits ruling over two distinct classes of people, but rather all are human beings in darkness, who are invited to come into the light, by the Light himself, Jesus Christ. Moreover, the psychological function of the two spirits warring in an individual is not represented in John. This is unlike the Synoptic Gospels which frequently speak of demon possession and exorcisms. The coming of the light also represents a realized eschatology that is not reflective of Qumran theology.88 Nevertheless, even given these differences, the very conflict itself, the present and future rewards and punishment, the use of the light/darkness imagery and the expression ‘sons of light’ are illuminated by the Rule’s use within a similar dualistic paradigm. This is not to say that John depended entirely on the Qumran conception of realized eschatology in his own understanding. However, in this instance, clear parallels exist with regard to 1) The role of the Spirit in cultic worship. 2) The expectation surrounding the temple. 3) The dualism expressed in both corpora. Conclusion This tension between the already accomplished and the not yet consummated aspects of salvation must be accepted as a characteristic feature of the fourth Gospel. As Keener points out “Documents like the Fourth Gospel and the Qumran Hymns might stress realized eschatology without much emphasis on future eschatology, yet be employed without contradiction by the communities that also used Revelation and the War Scroll. If the communities envisioned no 87 Köstenberger, John, 387. 88 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 271. 32 .
Testamentum Imperium – Volume 3 – 2011 unique identity which characterized the present life of the community, bringing the future age into the present. 3) In light of the existing microcosmic and macrocosmic dualism, rewards in the present age were experienced by allowing the ‘spirit of truth’ to function in the lives of the members as he should. In both John and Qumran, clear parallels exist with regard to the role of the Spirit in cultic worship, the expectation surrounding the temple and the dualism expressed in both corpora. As noted in the introduction, John allows both realized and futuristic aspects but given his particular authorial intent, his primary emphasis is on the realized. John does this so that readers might understand that this salvation that Christ brings is both a foretaste as well as an assurance that what has been promised will indeed come to fruition. Bibliography Ashton, John. Understanding the Fourth Gospel. 2d. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Aune, David E. The Cultic Setting of Realized Eschatology in Early Christianity. Testamental Supplement 28. Leiden: Brill, 1972. Aune, David E. “Dualism in the Fourth Gospel and the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Reassessment of the Problem.” Pages 281-303 in Neotestamentica et Philonica: Studies in Honor of Peder Borgen. Edited by David E. Aune, Torrey Seland and Jarl Henning Ulrichsen. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 106. Leiden: Brill, 2002. Barrera, Julio Trebelle. “The Essenes of Qumran: Between Submission to the Law and Apocalyptic Flight.” In The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices. Edited by Florentino García Martínez and Julio Trebelle Barrera. Translated by Wilfred G.E. Watson. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Barrett, Charles K. The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978. Bauckham, Richard. “The Qumran Community and the Gospel of John.” Pages 105- 115 in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after their Discovery. Edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman, Emmanuel Tov, James C. VanderKam, and Galen Marquis. Proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, July 20-25, 1997. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society in cooperation with The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, 2000. Beasley-Murray, George R. John. 2d Ed. Word Biblical Commentary. Volume 36. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999. 34 .