Good News for Everyone!
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world…
John, the Gospel writer, opened his account of the life of Jesus with a declaration that spoke to both the Greek and Jewish worlds. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus had introduced His disciples to the larger world where His Church was to be built. The Gospel of John was likely written in Ephesus, completed between 85-95 B.C. John’s record was intended to unify Jewish and Gentile Jesus followers with the unifying facts concerning His life.
Greek – A Global Language
John’s Gospel wasn’t written in Hebrew or Aramaic but Greek. Alexander the Great introduced Judea and the Jews to Greek philosophy and culture. The Greek language was the “lingua franca” of that time.
The Greek and Jewish worlds had an incredible impact on one another. Synagogues in Israel adopted some of the teaching strategies of Socrates. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was nothing like the pagan gods of Greece. Greeks were curious. Josephus records that Alexander recognized the uniqueness of the Temple system in Jerusalem. He admired the Jews. So it is natural that John’s Gospel would speak to the worldview of the Greeks in their language while borrowing concepts they could understand. The idea of “logos” was one of those concepts.
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1
But, John was not a Greek philosopher. At the time of his writing (Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd, & 3rd John, Revelation), he was an elderly Jewish fisherman teaching what Jesus taught in the Greek-speaking world. There is a saying, “You can take a cowboy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the cowboy.” That idea applies to John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. God took John out of Israel. He did not take Israel out of John.
Rabbinic Judaism Meets Greek Philosophy
Woven into the fabric of the prologue to John’s Gospel account is a very Jewish way of thinking in the 1st Century.
Davar = Memra = Logos = Word
Hebrew Aramaic Greek English
While the New Testament was written in Greek, the Aramaic word in focus today is “Memra,” equivalent of Davar, Logos, and Word. The rabbis of the 1st Century identified the Memra as the mechanism by which God made Himself known. The religious leaders of John’s time taught six truths concerning the Memra.
- The Memra is both distinct from God and also the same as God.
- The Memra is the agent of creation.
- The Memra is the agent of salvation.
- The Memra is the agent of revelation.
- The Memra is how God became visible.
- The Memra is how God signed His covenants.
The rabbis got it right. All six of the truths being taught by the rabbis concerning the Memra found their realization in the person of Messiah Jesus! Those truths concerning the Memra formed an outline for the entirety of John’s Gospel.
Jew & Gentile, No Distinction
Before time began, God intended that Jews and Greeks alike would find their common identity in Jesus. John walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him, and did life with Him for three and half years. He wanted everyone to know Jesus as he did. His passion took him out of Israel to be a witness of Jesus in the nations.
Where is Jesus leading you?
New Testament Lessons
Read John 1:1-5,
- God raised up three nations during the 400 years between Malachi and the birth of Jesus. Together, God used them to complete His plan for the world and everything in it.
- Greece was the first of those powers. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. The Persians ruled over Israel at the close of the Old Testament period.
- The Greeks dreamed of uniting the entire world through the spread of their culture and their language. They established centers (gymnasiums) of education in all the subjugated countries of their empire. By God’s design, the Greek language became the dominant language of the known world at that time.
- The New Testament was originally written in Greek. By the time of Jesus, the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament was translated into Greek. Uniting the world through a common language was a significant step in undoing what happened in the Garden of Eden.
Points To Ponder
- Think about the unity experienced in the Garden of Eden. What happened between Adam and Eve, between the first couple and the One whose image they bore?
- Read Genesis 11:1-9. Before the Tower of Babel, everyone spoke the same language. Seventy nations, speaking different languages, was the result.
- There is a balance to be found between seeking unity and embracing diversity. How might you be out of balance?
- Truth must be spoken in love. The Gospel is for everyone. It is at the same time both exclusive and inclusive. How did Jesus make everyone comfortable in His presence? What are the exclusive claims the Bible makes about the person of Jesus Christ?
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