New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John’s Gospel (Part 1) -- By: Robert H. Gundry

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 17:1 (NA 2007)
Article: New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John’s Gospel (Part 1)
Author: Robert H. Gundry


New Wine in Old Wineskins: Bursting Traditional Interpretations in John’s Gospel (Part 1)

Robert H. Gundry

Westmont College

The following article, which will be continued in the next issue of BBR, offers disparate exegetical notes on six passages in the Fourth Gospel. Part 1 argues (1) for the menorah as at least partial background for the portrayal of the Word as light and life in John 1:4; (2) for the angels in John 1:51 as representing Christ in his function as a message-bearer going up and down Jacob’s ladder between heaven and earth; and (3) for the profuse passing of water in consequence of drinking it in John 7:37-39 as a symbol of the superabundance of life given believers by the Holy Spirit.

Key Words: menorah, tree, life, light, lamp(stand), tabernacle, angels, ladder, ascending, descending, communication, living water, drinking water, belly, rivers, passing water, urination

To replace inadequate if not erroneous traditional interpretations, the following exegetical notes propose nontraditional interpretations of three passages in John’s Gospel.

The Word as the Menorah, a Tree of Life and Light (John 1:4)

According to John 1:4, “life was in him [‘the Word’], and the life was the light of human beings” (compare John 8:12, where Jesus, who is the Word, says, “The person who follows me … will have the light of life”).1 Generally recognized echoes of Gen 1 in John’s prologue (“In the beginning” and references to creation) make us think that John borrows light at least in part from God’s creating light on the first day of creation, though in John’s prologue the light is the uncreated Word, God’s agent in the creation of light along with all else. Jesus will call himself “the light of the world” (8:12, 9:5; similarly 12:46) and by so doing will associate himself with the sun, as in 11:9: “There are twelve hours of day, aren’t there? If anyone walks about

during the day, he/she doesn’t stumble, because he/she sees the light of this world.” For John 8:12, the lighting of four huge lamps to illuminate Jerusalem during the Festival of Tabernacles provides additional background, as is regularly noted, inasmuch as Jesus is in Jerusalem for that festival (

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