The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

The Problem of the Apparent Nonfulfillment of the Levitical Covenant

It is important to recall how the Levitical covenant lasts until the destruction of the Second Temple, although the Zadokite priesthood may not have endured nearly as long. The Zadokites apparently managed to retain the high priesthood until the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. What became of the Zadokite priesthood thereafter remains a matter of debate.136 This raises the very difficult question of the apparent nonfulfillment of the Levitical grant-type covenant of perpetual priesthood, as well as Ezekiel’s prophetic oracle regarding the Zadokites. A comprehensive treatment of such questions is well beyond the scope of this study.137 Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that there are canonical considerations that argue both for and against the permanence of the Levitical covenant. In other words, there is a tension concerning the status of the Levitical covenant/priesthood in the Bible itself.

To begin with the considerations against its permanence, these may be enumerated as follows. First, the Levitical priesthood arose as a result of Israel’s sin (Exod 32:25–28). The second consideration is closely related: the original intent of God was a royal priestly primogeniture for all Israel (Exod 4:22; 19:6).

To recapitulate what we have seen above, a natural royal priesthood of the firstborn son seems implicit in the biblical narrative from Adam through the end of the patriarchal period, that is, throughout the Genesis narrative. In Exodus, this royal priestly primogeniture was offered to Israel in both a collective and individual sense: Israel was to be God’s firstborn son with a priestly role toward the nations (Exod 4:22; 19:6) and within Israel the firstborn sons (apparently) were to serve as ministerial priests (Exod 19:22, 24:5).138 This priestly firstborn role was forfeited by Israel to the Levites after the golden calf incident (Exod 32:25–28; Num 3:40–51). Thus the Levites were appointed to assume the covenant of priestly primogeniture in Israel, but they, in turn, forfeited the fullness of their covenant, first to Phinehas and his descendants (Num 25:12–13), and then further to the Zadokites (Ezek 44:9–15).

This in itself suggests that the Levitical covenant economy was not God’s original intent for Israel, but a remedial response to their hardheartedness. It may be viewed primarily as a corrective arrangement that naturally retains something of a provisional character. Israel stood in need of some temporary Levitical remediation, during which time the Levites would instruct and guide Israel in the practice of holiness, while retaining a subordinate share and a mediatory role in the original covenant vocation that God issued to his “firstborn son” to serve as “a kingdom of priests” (Exod 4:22; 19:6). In fact, future generations of Israel’s twelve (lay) tribes are nowhere forbidden from aspiring to merit the royal priestly call their fathers forfeited at Sinai and in the wilderness. This may have been the overarching purpose behind God’s dual covenant plan with Israel.

To use an architectural metaphor, the whole Levitical economy was a scaffolding erected around the House of Israel in order to repair it. The divine architect was free to use the Levitical priesthood for as long as it took to restore the House of Israel fully to the covenant. Thus, in the eschatological age when Israel’s idolatry (e.g., the sin of the calf) would be definitively overcome and the hard-hearted sinfulness of the people completely removed (Jer 31:31–34; Ezek 36:25–27), the Levitical economy would no longer be necessary, precisely because it had served its purpose. The scaffolding could be removed since the house had been repaired: the people would be restored to their original royal priestly primogeniture promised them before they sinned with the calf (Exod 4:22; 19:6).139 The Levitical covenant may be viewed primarily as a corrective arrangement, then, in which case it naturally retains something of a provisional character.

Third, the Levitical grant-type covenant is anomalous in that it is nowhere founded on an oath. We have observed that in general, an oath by the suzerain is a formal necessity for the establishment of a covenant of grant. Nonetheless, while having all the other features of a grant-type covenant, no divine oath for the Levitical covenant can be found in the Law, the Prophets, or the Psalms. This fact may be another indication of its apparent provisional character described above; in any event, we will see in Chapter 10 that the author of Hebrews sees in it evidence for the transience of the Levitical covenant.

Fourth, certain prophetic texts more or less explicitly suggest an eschatological change of the Levitical covenant economy. We leave out of consideration for the moment certain texts that imply the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood’s Temple (e.g., Isa 66:1–2), sacrifices (e.g., Isa 1:11; 66:3–4; Ps 50:7–15; 51:16–17), and covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Mal 2:1–9), since the interpretation of these texts is complex. A more obvious challenge to the perdurance of the Levitical priesthood is found in certain other texts of Isaiah which suggest an eschatological opening up of the priesthood to all of the Lord’s people and even foreigners:

For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations … and they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their cereal offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. (Isa 66:18–21 RSV)

The antecedent of “them” in v. 21 is ambiguous: it could refer to “your brethren” (presumably Israelites) from v. 20 or it could be the same “them” as in v. 19, namely, “all nations and tongues.” In either case, it suggests an eschatological age in which “priests and Levites” will no longer be selected only from the descendants of Levi but either from all Israelites or from all nations.

A general priesthood of all Israelites seems suggested by Isaiah 61:5–6:

Aliens shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their riches, you shall glory.

On the other hand, a priestly status even for foreigners seems suggested by Isaiah 56:6–7, which speaks of non-Israelites being able “to minister” (see Jer 33:21) to the Lord, “to be his servants” (see Num 4:28; 8:11, 15, 19, etc.), and (apparently) to offer acceptable sacrifices:

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isa 56:6–7 RSV)

Thus, we have four canonical considerations that would argue for the provisional nature of the Levitical covenant and its eventual alteration or cessation in the future age. On the other hand, certain biblical texts affirm the unbreakable perpetuity of the Levitical covenant of the priesthood. Besides Exodus 40:15 and Numbers 25:13, the most compelling prophetic texts in this regard are found (surprisingly) not in Ezekiel but Jeremiah:

For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever.…” Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me. (Jer 33:17–18, 20–22 RSV)

Here, in no uncertain terms, the Levitical covenant is made as permanent as the covenant with David and the covenant with all creation (cf. Sir 45:15, 24–25).

The tensions between this text and the considerations we have raised above are palpable. Is it possible that there is a biblical-theological solution to this tension which recognizes the Levitical covenant as, in some sense, both perpetual and provisional?

The status of the priesthood between the old and new covenants is addressed in the New Testament most directly by the Epistle to the Hebrews and First Epistle of Peter. Between these two epistles it is possible to construct a new covenant theology of priesthood in which the Levitical covenant is in one sense replaced, and in another sense, maintained and fulfilled.

Hebrews stresses the discontinuity between the priesthood of Christ and the Levitical priesthood. As we will see at greater length in Chapter 10, the author of Hebrews points out not only the lack of the requisite divine oath (Heb 7:20–21) but many other indications of the impermanence of the Levitical covenant economy as well. According to Hebrews, with the coming of Christ, the natural, royal priesthood of the firstborn son—lost to Israel since the golden calf—is restored (cf. Heb 1:2, 6; 7:1–28; etc). Since there is now adequate atonement, healing, and forgiveness for Israel’s sin (and that of all humanity), the Levitical economy that arose as a result of that sin is no longer necessary (Heb 10:11–18). To return to the architectural metaphor, the scaffolding of the Levitical covenant may be removed, because the purpose for which it had been constructed—the restoration of Israel’s royal priestly primogeniture—had been accomplished in Christ.

But is there any participation of the Lord’s people in this royal priesthood of Christ? The author of Hebrews suggests there is. In Hebrews 1:6, the author applies to Christ the theologically charged term ho prōtotokos, the firstborn, a status that entitles him to royal and priestly privileges (cf. Heb 7:15–17). The term is used only once more near the end of the Epistle, this time in the plural, when the author refers to his readers as the ekklēsia prōtotokōn, “the assembly [or church] of the first-born” (Heb 12:23 RSV). The faithful participate in Christ’s status as firstborn. It follows that the privileges of the firstborn, namely kingship and priesthood, accrue also in some sense to the individual believer.

This is made more explicit in 1 Peter 2:5, where the author speaks of his readers being “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Those “who believe” (v. 7) become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (v. 9). This brief verse clearly echoes Exod 19:5–6 as the author applies the concepts of sĕgullâ (“special possession”), mamleket kōhănîm (“royal priesthood”),140 and gôy qādôš (“holy nation”) to the Christian community. The theological message is clear: for those who believe in Christ, the corporate royal priestly primogeniture promised to Israel prior to the calf incident (Exod 19:5–6) is restored. Everyone “born anew” through Jesus Christ (see 1 Pet 1:3) partakes of this priesthood, including those who were priests and Levites under the old economy. The numbers of old covenant priests who came to faith in Christ were not negligible, according to Acts 6:7. These descendants of Levi who entered into the new covenant did not cease to be priests but became priests of a different sort. In Christ, the royal priestly firstborn, they became royal priestly firstborns (Heb 12:22). Thus, the promise of the grant-type covenant to Levi is never broken. The promise of the Levitical covenant was not that every single descendant of Levi (or Phinehas or Zadok) would serve as a priest, nor that his descendants and only his descendants would be legitimate priests, but simply that he would never lack descendants who would be priests before the Lord (cf. Jer 33:18; Sir 45:7, 15, 24; Exod 40:15, Num 25:13). In the new covenant, all God’s people participate in Christ’s priesthood—thus, nothing is taken away from the Levites who enter the new covenant. However, the rest of God’s people gain what previously only the Levites enjoyed. In this way, the covenant with the Levites is not broken, even though the bicovenantal economy under which the Levitical priesthood operated is replaced. The canonical tension between the permanence and transience of the Levitical covenant is resolved.

Finally, although no definitive treatment of the subject is possible here, we may note that Luke, in his account of the presentation (2:22–38), portrays Jesus as a holy firstborn Israelite with a natural priestly status.141 Most commentators note that this Lukan narrative is quite anamolous on careful reading. Luke describes Jesus as being dedicated or presented in the Temple in fulfillment of the Law. However, the Law did not require the presentation of each firstborn. Exodus 13:13 required all firstborn males to be redeemed, like an unclean donkey. Yet Luke’s quotation concerning the firstborn (2:23) is based not on Exodus 13:13 but on Exodus 13:1–2, which speaks not of the redemption of the firstborn but of their consecration to the Lord. Furthermore, Luke records no redemption ritual being performed for Jesus.142 C. H. Talbert describes the situation succinctly:

The prescription of Exod 13:2 concerning the first-born son was literally fulfilled in the case of Jesus, the firstborn (Luke 2:7), who was not ransomed (Exod 13:13; Num 3:47; 18:16). Contrary to normal custom, Jesus was dedicated to God and remained his property.… The closest parallel to this emphasis is found in 1 Samuel 1–2, where Hannah gives Samuel, at his birth, to the Lord for as long as the child lives.… If Jesus, in a similar manner, was dedicated to God and not redeemed, he belonged to God permanently. This would explain the reason Jesus would not understand why his parents did not know where to find him in Jerusalem (2:48–49): since he was God’s he could be expected to be in his Father’s house, as in the case of Samuel. At the plot level of the narrative, Jesus had made a personal identification with the decisions his parents had made about him at his birth.143

Talbert’s findings agree with those of B. Reicke: “Thus Lk 2:22 uses παραστῆσαι τῷ κυρίῳ [parastēsai tō kuriō, to present to the Lord] in connection with the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and we best understand this in terms of the presentation of a sacral minister to his master. The author would seem to mean that like Samuel or a Nazirite Jesus is basically set in and dedicated to the service of God. In this Messianic sense the law of the consecration of the firstborn (Ex 13:2, 12–15) is here fulfilled, v. 23. The narrator is not implying, then, that this kind of presentation is normal for all Israelites.”144 Thus, Luke presents Jesus as a righteous firstborn who—unlike other Israelite males since the calf incident—is not redeemed from service to the Lord (Exod 13:13) since he is not unclean, but consecrated as a firstborn (Exod 13:1–2). As H. D. Park observes: “On the basis of the fact that Jesus is dedicated to the Lord not as a Levite or a priest but as a firstborn son in Lk 2:22–23, it seems justifiable to conclude that Jesus is consecrated to the Lord in the sense of a firstborn male and in the sense of a voluntary gift to the sanctuary.”145[1]

 

136 Some scholars believe that the origin of the (Essene?) community at Qumran may stem from the Zadokites losing the high priestly office. See F. M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961) 127–69; idem, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 334–42. But to the contrary, see A. Schofield and J. C. Vanderkam, “Were the Hasmoneans Zadokites?” JBL 124 (2005) 73–87; and more generally, J. C. Vanderkam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after the Exile (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004).

137 The apparent cessation of the Davidic and Levitical covenants gave rise to messianic hopes, but the subject of “messianism” in later Judaism is fraught with complexity. Variations of Davidic and Levitical forms of “priestly messianism” emerged, like those found in the Qumran scrolls. See J. Marcus, “The Jewish War and the Sitz im Leben of Mark,” JBL 111 (1994) 441–62, who notes: “Even at Qumran, where two Messiahs are expected, a Davidic one (‘the Messiah of Israel’) and a priestly one (‘the Messiah of Aaron’), the term ‘the Messiah,’ used absolutely, refers to the Davidic figure” (457 n. 76). On the larger subject, see D. L. Olayiwola, “Messianic Metaphor in Levitical Covenant,” Bible Bhashyam 17 (1991) 221–32; Zerafa, “Priestly Messianism in the Old Testament,” 318–41; W. M. Schniedewind, “King and Priest in the Book of Chronicles and the Duality of the Qumran Messiah,” JJS 45 (1994) 71–78; G. J. Brooke, “The Messiah of Aaron in the Damascus Document,” RQ 15 (1991) 215–30.

138 See N. H. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991) 107, who comments on the identity of “the priests” in Exod 19:22: “According to Exodus 28 and 29, the priesthood was not established in Israel until after the Sinaitic revelation, which would make the present reference to priests, like that in verse 24, an anachronism. Many modern scholars regard these verses as reflecting a different strand of tradition about the origins of the priestly institution. Jewish commentators understood ‘priests’ here as referring to first-born males, in that the latter functioned as priests until they were replaced by the Aaronids, as recounted in Numbers 3:11–13 and 8:16–18.” See also the comments of Wenham (Numbers, 97–98), on the dedication of the Levites at Sinai on the occasion of the “second passover” in Numbers 8–9: “Thus the dedication of the Levites to take the place of the first-born is very appropriate here [Num 8], for the next chapter describes the second passover.” Wenham also states: “The Levites are being substituted for the first-born Israelites, who as a result of the passover were given to the Lord” (98).

139 Briggs (Messianic Prophecy, 103) comments: “This is the way in which the seed of Abraham is to be a blessing to the world.… Thus Israel was called to a universal priesthood. This priesthood was prior to the establishment of any priestly office in Israel.… This universality in the calling of Israel as a nation is at the basis of all the Mosaic institutions, and was not abrogated by any subsequent legislation. The selection of an order of priesthood in Israel, at a subsequent time, did not do away with the universal priesthood of the nation. The establishment of a royal dynasty did not supersede the royalty of the nation. The promise maintained its validity in all the subsequent history of Israel.… In the priesthood of the nation there is the generic priesthood which advances through the Levitical, Aaronic, and Zadokite lines, until it culminates in the Messianic priest.”

140 On the translation, “royal priesthood,” rather than “kingdom of priests,” see John A. Davies, A Royal Priesthood: Literary and Intertextual Perspectives on an Image of Israel in Exodus 19:6 (JSOTSup 395; London: T. & T. Clark, 2004).

141 Note Luke’s description of Jesus as the firstborn of Mary in Luke 2:7, and commentary by J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke 1–9 (AYB 28; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980; reprint, New Haven: Yale University Press) 407.

142 R. Brown comments: “It has been argued that the reason why Luke does not mention the redemption of the child Jesus through the payment of the five shekels is that he wants the reader to think that Jesus stayed in the service of the Lord” as a priest (The Birth of the Messiah [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979] 449). See discussion in P. Gadenz, “The Priest as Spiritual Father,” in Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God (ed. S. Hahn and L. Suprenant; Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 1998), 228–29.

143 C. H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1989) 36. See also B. Reicke, “Jesus, Simeon, and Ana (Luke 2:21–40),” in Saved by Hope: Essays in Honor of Richard C. Oudersluys (ed. J. I. Cook; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 100: “In the present case, the prescription concerning the firstborn in Exod 13:2 was fulfilled literally, so that Jesus was really given to the Lord and not ransomed like other males in accordance with the instruction about substitute offerings added in Exod 13:13.… Against normal custom the child Jesus was thus dedicated to God, and remained his property. This exceptional obedience to God’s will implied fulfilling the law on its messianic level, that is, the law understood as evidence of the Lord’s dispensations for the salvation of his people.” Jesus is much like Samuel, Hannah’s firstborn son, who was dedicated to the Lord’s service (1 Sam 1:28), served as priest (1 Sam 2:11, 18), and replaced Eli the high priest as judge of God’s people (cf. 1 Sam 2:22–33, 4:18, 6:15). This fits into a larger Samuel-Christ typology-evident in the infancy narratives: one has only to compare the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with Hannah’s song (1 Sam 2:1–10) or the accounts of the growth of Samuel and Jesus in stature and favor (1 Sam 2:26; 3:19–4:1; Luke 2:40, 52). The possibility that Luke, in his description of the relationship of John to Jesus, is showing the provisional Levitical priesthood giving way to its fulfillment in a righteous firstborn Israelite who will be raised up as a faithful priest (1 Sam 2:35) and so restore the true priesthood of Israel, poses an intriguing avenue for further research.

144 B. Reicke, “παρίστημι, παριστάνω” TDNT 5:837–41, here 840–41. See also the following note.

145 H. D. Park, Finding Herem? A Study of Luke–Acts in the Light of Herem (LNTS 357; New York: T. & T. Clark, 2007), 160.

[1] Hahn, S. W. (2009). Kinship by covenant: a canonical approach to the fulfillment of God’s saving promises (pp. 166–172). New Haven;  London: Yale University Press.

Priesthood of All Believers

Priesthood of All Believers

“The Priesthood of All BelieversThe Priesthood of All BelieversThe doctrine of the priesthood of all believers emerged in reaction to the sacramentalism that dominated church life and work. Sacramentalism is the belief that in the observance of the sacraments of the church special grace is conveyed to the participants—even saving grace. The priest, according to sacramentalism, has precedence over the laity in exercising the office of the church and particularly in consecrating and distributing the elements in the Lord’s Supper (called the Eucharist in some churches).Luther advocated the priesthood of all believers, which forms a central doctrine of all Protestantism. Priesthood, to him, meant that we stand before God, pray for others, intercede with God, sacrifice ourselves to Him, and proclaim the Word to one another. Universal priesthood never meant “privatism” or religious individualism. Luther believed this right was given to the community of the saints, who are a priestly generation, a royal priesthood. The priesthood of all believers means that believers have the right and duty to share the gospel and teach God’s Word. He recognized no community that did not preach the Word and no community that did not witness the gospel.In his book Concerning Ministry Luther spelled out seven rights of this universal priesthood:• to preach the Word of God• to baptize• to celebrate the sacrament (the Lord’s Supper)• to minister the office of the keys (announce divine forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name)• to pray for others• to judge doctrine• to discern spirits.8Luther even went beyond these functions to urge Christians to engage in the mutual encouragement of the Word to each other in the church.In Luther’s day Thomas Münzer of Zwickau, Germany, denounced the immorality and abuse of priests. To Münzer, restoration would come from common people, whom he called “custodians of truth they cannot theologically articulate.” These people of God, he felt, should be able to elect their pastors. He also believed that the words that consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper should be said by the whole congregation as a royal, priestly people.The Reformation principle of sola fide (“faith alone”) also led to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Rank-and-file believers throughout Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries found in this doctrine new freedoms to express their faith. The Anabaptists, Martin Bucer in Strasbourg, and many others began to address ministerial (magisterial) reform. Some felt that Martin Luther had not gone far enough in his reforms.Among Radical Reformers the question arose over the legitimacy of any ordination. The nature of the apostolate—apostolic succession—was crumbling. In their yearning to avoid cheap grace and an unholy ministry, the Anabaptists sought to transform the church. They were the true evangelicals calling on a shared ministry in the Spirit of all the people of God.Their views also extended to interpreting and handling the Word of God. They appealed to the right of the whole congregation, the laity along with the divines (clergy), to judge difficult passages of the Bible together. Baptists later developed this insight into what is known as “soul liberty,” the right of individual believers to interpret the truth of the Scriptures under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. These Radical Reformers pushed the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of all believers in the direction of a lay apostolate.9The floodgates of the Reformation were thus opened, allowing the common people to engage in full exercise of their spiritual gifts in the church.Before we leave this doctrine, it may help to look at the importance of the biblical truth on the subject. After all, a central tenet of the Reformation was the centrality of biblical authority.As stated earlier, the New Testament does not make a distinction between clergy and laity. Both refer to the same people. The word clergy comes from the Greek word klētos, meaning “the called,” and we get our word for laity from the word laos, meaning “people.” Both words occur in some form in 1 Peter 2:9–10. Believers in general are the called of God (Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Cor. 1:2; 24; 1 Pet. 3:9; 5:10). The terms elect, saints, disciples, and brothers all refer to the people of God who have been called by Him.The church exists in the world as a group of people who have received God’s mercy by divine grace. Believers are ordained to carry out good works, both in a personal way and in a collective way. John Wesley understood this to mean there is no such thing as private Christianity. Believers belong to a fellowship of the called.”

8 Luther’s seven rights of the universal priesthood of all believers are summarized in Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966), 313–18.9 For a fuller investigation of the views of the Anabaptists, see George Huntston Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962); William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, 3d ed. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1996); and C. Arnold Snyder, Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchen, Ont.: Pandora, 1995) Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Understanding Christian theology (pp. 1119–1121). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

“The Priesthood of Believers. This (royal) high priesthood of Jesus Christ connects to the “royal priesthood” of believers: “you are … a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9a). The obvious reference to Exodus 19:6 suggests that the church functions in this present age as God’s New Testament kingdom of priests much like the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament. As such we are responsible to carry out the ministry of proclaiming to the world “the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9b).

A closely related idea (but without the “royal” connections) is Peter’s earlier description of the church as a group of believers who are being (niv), or should allow themselves to be (nrsv), “built into a spiritual house [Jesus himself being the living and choice cornerstone, 1 Peter 2:4, 6–8] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Thus, as fellow priests with Jesus we offer up to God our sacrifices of praise (Heb. 13:15), our doing good and sharing (Heb. 13:16), and ultimately our present physical bodies in the interest of conforming to his standards (Rom. 12:1–2). It is important to observe that here the corporate priesthood of the church shades into the priesthood of the individual believer. Moreover, our ministry in the gospel can be described as an offering of our very life in priestly service to the church (Phil. 2:17), by which we can produce a harvest of sanctified people whom we present to God as an acceptable offering.

Finally, corporate Israel in the Old Testament functioned as a kingdom of priests in both its mediation between God and the other nations and in its service of worship to the Lord in the sanctuary (Exod. 19:5–6). Similarly, the priesthood of the church has mediatorial features as well as aspects that correspond to the sanctuary worship of the Old Testament, sometimes expressed separately and sometimes jointly in the various New Testament passages related to the priesthood of believers.”

niv New International Version
nrsv New Revised Standard Version
Averbeck, R. E. (1996). Priest, Priesthood. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 637). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

 

“Priesthood of Believers. A Protestant principle whereby each believer has immediate access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ. One of the great principles of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, as expounded by Martin Luther, was the priesthood of all believers. Joined with justification by faith alone and the authority of Scripture alone, it cut through the tangles of medieval Catholicism that tended to place barriers between the individual Christian and God. The implications of the principle were that no priest was necessary, no saints, no Blessed Virgin Mary, to intercede for the ordinary believer. The whole medieval system of salvation, so dependent on a strong distinction between laity and clergy and the power of the latter to administer or withhold the sacraments, was thus for Protestants abolished.

The general effects of this Protestant principle were at least threefold. First, it meant that lay-people prayed directly to God through Jesus Christ, thus increasing lay involvement in private and public worship. Second, it meant that God communicated directly to the individual Christian through his Word, the Bible, thus encouraging the production of vernacular versions of Scripture and the pursuit of lay Bible study. Third, it meant anew sense of Christian liberty for the ordinary Christian, who felt no longer bound by the authority of extrabiblical traditions or by ecclesiastical hierarchies.

Transported to the American environment, without bishoprics and generally established churches, the priesthood of all believers provided a basis for greater lay influence than had characterized European Christianity. In many instances churches could form only where ministers had sufficient powers of persuasion to gather a lay following. In Puritan settings it was not uncommon for regular “private meetings” of laypeople to have as much influence as the church services and to comprise a church within the church. In some groups, such as the Quakers and later the Plymouth Brethren, the priesthood of believers came to mean that there was no recognized clergy at all.

On the negative side, the American expression of the priesthood of believers could manifest itself in a lack of reverence and in a lack of respect for the institutional church. It has contributed also to the spawning of numerous parachurch organizations, many of which have special effectiveness but frequently lack accountability.”

Bibliography. W. S. Hudson, Religion in America (1965); L. Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (1906); C. E. Hambrick-Stowe, The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century New England (1982).

Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

 

Structure Outline 1 John

Structure Outline 1 John

A part of the process of exegesis and hermeneutics is outlining what you are reading for clarity of understanding. Concerning the 1 John there are many opinions. Here are a few noted by New American Commentary

“7. Structure and Form of 1 John52
Few issues are more difficult in Johannine studies than the structure of 1 John. There are almost as many opinions as there are commentaries on the book. The problem lies, in part, in the fact that the genre of 1 John is something of an enigma.53 Sloyan points out that “1 John seems the least letter-like in its lack of the identification of a sender or an address to any recipients except the nonspecific ‘little children.’ It appears to be more a treatise sent broadcast to some in the John tradition.”54 Approaches to determining a structure or outline to the book can be divided into three groups: (1) traditional scholars who seek to discern basic topic or subject divisions (even sources) and an overarching outline through inductive analysis; (2) discourse analysis—linguist scholars who apply principles of semantic structural studies or “discourse linguistics” to discover the semantic relations that weave the epistle together as a unified whole; (3) rhetorical criticism—students of ancient rhetoric who seek to discover what, if any, rhetorical strategies common to the author’s world were used to set forth and further his argument.55
(1) Traditional Approaches
R. Brown provides an extensive survey of other scholars who have divided 1 John into two, three, and seven parts. His own approach will be explained later.
Sample Proposed Divisions of 1 John

Division into Two Parts

1:5–2:28
2:29–5:13

Chaine, Verde, Tomoi

1:5–2:29
3:1–5:12

Feuillet, Francis

Division into Three Parts

1:1–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:21
Thüsing

1:1–2:17
2:18–4:6
4:7–5:21
Ewald

1:1–2:26
2:27–4:6
4:7–5:21
Smit Sibinga

1:5–2:14
2:15–3:18
3:19–5:12
Erdmann

1:5–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:12
Hort, Hauck, Nestle,
Pratt,
Schnackenburg,
Schneider, THLJ,
Vogel, NEB

1:5–2:17
2:18–3:24
4:1–5:21
Gaugler

1:5–2:17
2:18–4:6
4:7–5:21
Westcott

1:5–2:27
2:28–3:24b
3:24c–5:21
Lutthart

1:5–2:27
2:28–3:24
4:1–5:12
Balz

1:5–2:27
2:28–4:6
4:7–5:12
Häring, Brooke, Jones

1:5–2:27
3:1–24
4:1–5:20
de Ambroggi

1:5–2:28
2:29–3:22
3:23–5:17
Huther

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:12
F.-M. Braun, de la
Potterie, Sk̭rinjar, SBJ

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:13
Malatesta

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:19
Nagl

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:21
Law

1:5–2:28
2:29–4:12
4:13–5:13
Dodd

1:5–2:29
3:1–4:6
4:7–5:13
JB

1:5–2:29
3:1–5:4a
5:4b–21
Bonsirven

2:3–28
2:29–4:6
4:7–5:21
Oke

Division into Seven Parts

Lohmeyer

1:1–4; 1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–3:24; 4:1–21; 5:1–12; 5:13–21

Wilder

1:1–4; 1:5–2:17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–5:12; 5:13–21

Giurisato

1:5–2:6; 2:7–17; 2:18–28; 2:29–3:10; 3:11–22; 3:23–5:4; 5:5–17

Houlden

1:5–2:11; 2:12–17; 2:18–27; 2:28–3:24; 4:1–6; 4:7–21; 5:1–1256

Each of these proposals has some measure of merit, and each has gained at least a small following. Each has also been subject to criticism, usually because they, at some point, fail to account for the “flow of argument” in the epistle.
(2) Discourse Analysis
This approach is usually applied by linguists and Bible translators. Rooted in the structuralist theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, this method looks at how grammar works on both the paragraph and discourse level. Surface structure and deep structure issues are examined. Speech-act theory and rhetorical strategies are also studied, and the text, as it is, is carefully examined. K. Pike and R. Longacre are well-known representatives of this approach to the study of texts. The following are several proposals set forth by this school.
1 John (R. Longacre)
INTRODUCTION—1:1–2:29—Embedded discourse of seven paragraphs
1:1–4
1:5–10—Covert exhortation not to profess to be sinless but to “walk in the light,” confess our sins, and enjoy forgiveness.
2:1–6—Covert exhortation not to sin.
2:7–11—A new/old command is announced and inferentially connected with a covert command to love.
2:12–17—Ethical peak of this embedded discourse. Here the writer develops his reasons for writing the epistle and warns against loving the world.
2:18–27—Doctrinal peak. Remain in Christ and in his teaching in spite of adverse teaching and practice.
2:28–29—Closure. Echoes previous paragraph: “Hold steady; don’t get sidetracked.”
BODY—3:1–5:12—Embedded discourse containing seven paragraphs
3:1–6—Mitigated covert command to purify ourselves in v. 3.
3:7–12—Mitigated covert command not to practice sin (v. 9).
3:13–18—Mitigated command (not covert) to love by laying down our lives for the brethren (v. 16b; note use of “ought”).
3:19–24—“Hortatory essence” of book given in v. 23: “We should believe on Jesus and love one another.”
4:1–6—“Doctrinal peak” of the book; believe correctly regarding Jesus Christ.
4:7–21—“Ethical peak” of the book; composed of two paragraphs (7–10 and 11–21). No mitigation now but covert exhortation: “Let us love one another.”
5:1–12—Conclusion of this embedded discourse (body) in that v. 1 refers to those who believe and love, harking back to the two previous paragraphs.
CONCLUSION—5:13–21. Theme of book clearly stated in v. 13, “that you may know.” Purpose in writing is Assurance.57
A second discourse approach comes from a student of Longacre, Helen Miehle. She builds on his treatment but reaches different conclusions at certain points.
1 John (H. Miehle)
INTRODUCTION 1:1–10
A. 1:1–4
B. 1:5–10
BODY 2:1–5:12
I. 2:1–3:6
2:1–27
2:1–17
2:1–11
2:1–6
2:7–11
2:12–14
2:15–17
2:18–25
2:26–27
2:28–3:6
II. 3:7–5:5
3:7–24
3:7–18
3:7–10
3:11–18
3:19–24
4:1–6
4:7–5:5
4:7–10
4:11–21
5:1–5
5:6–12
CLOSURE 5:13–2158
D. T.-C. Wu attempts something of an intersection between rhetorical and linguistic (discourse) approaches. Drawing upon the work of G. Guthrie and his work on Hebrews (Guthrie speaks of “rhetorico-discourse analysis”), he offers a more eclectic study.59 One will observe that his analysis is quite similar to more traditional approaches, but his method for arriving at his conclusions is not.
1 John (D. T.-C. Wu)
I. PROLOGUE: THE WORD OF LIFE (1:1–4)
II. LIGHT AND DARKNESS (1:5–2:27)
A. Walking in the Light (1:5–2:2)
(a) God is Light (1:5–1:7)
(b) Renouncing Sin (1:8–2:2)
B. The Command to Love (2:3–2:11)
(a) Knowledge of God and Keeping His Commandments (2:3–2:6)
(b) New Commandment (2:7–2:11)
C. A Digression about the Church (2:12–14)
D. Three Warnings (2:15–2:27)
(a) Warning against the World (2:15–2:17)
(b) Warning against the Antichrist (2:18–2:23)
(c) Warning against the Lie (2:24–2:27)
III. The Privileges and Responsibilities of God’s Children (2:28–4:6)
A. The Revelation of God’s Children (2:28–3:10)
(a) The Confidence of God’s Children (2:28–2:29)
(b) The Identity of God’s Children (3:1–2)
(c) God’s Children and the Children of the Devil (3:3–3:10)
B. The Community’s Message (3:11–3:12)
C. The Marks of God’s Children (3:13–3:24)
(a) Love in Community Life (3:13–3:18)
(b) Shoring up Christian Confidence (3:19–3:24)
D. Test the Spirits (4:1–6)
IV. FAITH IN GOD AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER (4:7–5:12)
A. God’s Love Evokes Human Love (4:7–4:11)
B. Confidence in God’s Love (4:12–4:18)
C. Appealing to Love Each Other (4:19–4:21)
D. The Victory of Faith (5:1–5:5)
E. Testimony to the Son (5:6–5:12)
V. EPILOGUE: FINAL REMARKS (5:13–5:21)
A. The Confidence and Certainties of Believers (5:13–5:20)
B. The Final Exhortation (5:21)
In a work prepared, in part, to assist missionaries in Bible translation, G. Sherman and J. Tuggy argue persuasively, in concert with Longacre, that 1 John “is a hortatory discourse, based on the occurrence of imperative verbs and other command forms.”60 They also point out that the surface form of 1 John is somewhat similar to modern English free poetry, making it difficult to always discern the relationship between various parts of the discourse.61 Concerning this latter observation, we would imagine all students of 1 John would heartily agree. Building on the insights of several discourse approaches to 1 John, they structure and organize the epistle as shown in the chart on p. 48.
(3) Rhetorical Criticism
The application of rhetorical criticism and strategies to the biblical material became quite popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. Although the results have been somewhat uneven, a better understanding of how biblical authors sought to persuade their audiences to see their perspective and hear their argument has certainly been enhanced.
First John has received significant attention because of both its brevity and the difficulty in deciphering its structure. As we have seen, previous approaches have failed to produce a consensus, and it is the case that this approach also fails to bring a definitive solution. A number of scholars have argued for a chiastic structure for 1 John. Note the following examples:
1 John (P. Berge)
A. The word of life 1:1–4
B. God is light 1:5–4:6
B′. God is love 4:7–5:5
A′. The witness of faith 5:6–2162
J. C. Thomas63 acknowledges the insights of Brown64 and wisely builds his proposal around “the use of similar catch words/phrases and sections which parallel one another in terms of content.” He goes on to argue that the structure of 1 John was intended to aid in its memorization.
1 John (J. C. Thomas)
A. 1:1–4—Prologue—Eternal Life
B. 1:5–2:2—Making Him a Liar (Walking)
C. 2:3–17—New Commandment
D. 2:18–27—Antichrists
E. 2:18–3:10—Confidence—Do Not Sin
F. 3:11–18—Love One Another
E′. 3:19–24—Confidence—Keep the Commands
D′. 4:1–6—Antichrists
C′. 4:7–5:5—God’s Love and Ours
B′. 5:6–12—Making Him a Liar (Testimony)
A′. 5:13–21—Conclusion—Eternal Life
In an excellent article that surveys various approaches to 1 John, P. J. Van Staden also argues “that the observance of the so-called chiastic styles presents an important key to a better understanding of the structure of 1 John.” He does not argue for an overall chiasm but believes the letter can be divided into three main sections (1:5–2:17; 2:18–3:17; 4:1–5:12), which themselves contain numerous chiastic or parallel units.65 K. Hansford argues in somewhat the same vein, stating that “the form of 1 John is a highly structural text, probably a homily or sermon, with poetic parallelisms and chiastic structures that the writer deliberately created to make his message more pleasurable and memorable for all time.”66 E. Wendland and K. Tollefson have recognized the contrastive or antithetical or dialectical strategies John employs in making his argument.67
D. Watson has attempted consistently to apply classic Greco-Roman rhetorical style and invention to 1 John. He argues:
Repetition and emphasis, so common in 1 John, is integral to the rhetor’s use of amplification techniques of Greceo-Roman rhetoric. These techniques include strong words, argumentation, comparison, accumulation, expolitio, reflexio, regressio, conduplicatio, distributio, synonymy … antithesis, personification, hyperbole, emphasis and development of commonplaces. Amplification is correctly found throughout the epistle. It must be pointed out that virtually every known rhetorical technique for amplification is utilized in the epistle.68
He identifies 1 John as primarily epideictic rhetoric (as opposed to judicial or deliberative) because its goal is to increase the readers’ commitment to values they already hold. First John was written to the faithful community as an appeal to strengthen their devotion to stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, a value held by both the speaker and his audience.69
Talbert believes 1 John (like 1 Peter) alternates between the twin concerns of ethics and Christology.70 Strecker focuses on the polemical nature of 1 John and outlines the book alternating Parenesis and Dogmatic Exposition.71
H. York argues that when a comparison is made between discourse analysis and rhetorical criticism, significant similarities exist and common results are gleaned. The methods can be complementary. He provides as an example a side-by-side comparison of the discourse model of Longacre and the rhetorical analysis of Klauck.
Comparative Structural Analysis of 1 John

Longacre (Mitigated Hortatory)
Klauck (Deliberativum)

I. Introduction (1:1–2:29)
1:5–2:17
Capitatio Benvolentiae

1:1–10

1–4

5–10

2:1–6

2:7–11

2:12–17 (ethical peak)

2:18–27 (doctrinal peak)
2:18–27
Narratio

2:28–29 Closure
2:28–29
Propositio

II. Body of the Book (3:1–5:12)

3:1–6
3:1–24
Probatio

3:7–12

3:13–18

3:19–24

4:1–6 (doctrinal peak)
4:1–21
Exhortatio

4:7–21 (ethical peak)

5:1–12
5:1–12
Peroratio

III. Closure of Epistle (5:13–21)72

York’s conclusion is basically correct. There are genuine areas of compatibility, synthesis of methodology, and agreement between the two approaches. Neither method alone or together, however, has decisively settled the issue of the structure of 1 John. Significant disagreement still exists within both disciplines, though it is clear major strides have been made in better understanding the structure, strategies, and argument of 1 John.
A Proposal: The outline we propose attempts to utilize the best insights from traditional studies, discourse analysis, and rhetorical criticism. First John does exhibit a hortatory and epideictic rhetorical strategy. We also find Brown’s proposal persuasive, which states that 1 John is modeled on the same general structure as the Fourth Gospel. Both have a fourfold division overall, with the themes of light and love developed variously in sections II and III. Note his comparison:
The Gospel of John
I. The Prologue (1:1–18)
II. The Book of Signs (1:19–12:50): “To his own he came; yet his own people did not accept him.” The public revelation of the light brought a judgment, which separated believers who came to the light from the world and “the Jews” who preferred darkness to light.
III. The Book of Glory (13:1–20:29): “But all those who did accept him he empowered to become God’s children.” The “hour” of Jesus’ glorification where he speaks and acts on behalf of a new “his own”—the believers.
CONCLUSION (20:30–31): A statement of the author’s purpose.
IV. The Epilogue (chap. 21)
I John
I. The Prologue (1:1–4)
II. Part One (1:5–3:10): The Gospel that God is light, and we must walk in the light as Jesus walked.
III. Part Two (3:11–5:12): The Gospel that we must love one another as God has loved us in Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION (5:13–21): A statement of the author’s purpose.73
This commentary’s outline does the following:
1. It recognizes the two dominant themes of the epistle as being Light (1:5–3:10) and Love (3:11–5:12)
2. It seeks to utilize rhetorical devices such as “hinge verses” (e.g., 2:28; 5:20) and other structural markers that most scholars use to separate one subject from another.
3. The outline is itself hortatory, admonishing the reader to heed John’s expected response to his word of instruction. R. R. Reno summarizes the situation well when he writes:
The text of 1 John shimmers with what has been seen, heard and touched. The text speaks plainly, directly and clearly, and what is said is a proclamation that has the power of fellowship: our fellowship with each other, our fellowship with God and the fellowship of the Father with his Son. Like the name of God which the Psalmist invokes as the very power of salvation, a power of invocation which the author of 1 John echoes when he explains, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13), so does the particular linguistic structure of 1 John contain the power to draw us into the fullest possible destiny in God’s love.74

52 The form and structure of 2 and 3 John are examined as part of the commentary on those letters.
53 Talbert, Reading John, 6.
54 G. S. Sloyan, Walking in the Truth (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1995), 1.
55 Grayston notes: “Despite the common agreement that the Epistle lacks a discernible structure or logical progression of thought, even the most pessimistic critics attempt an analysis” (The Johannine Epistles, 4). He proposes a sixfold division dependent on emphasis rather than subject matter. J. Hill argues that 1 John is an example of the “community rule” or “church order” (“A Genre for 1 John,” in The Future of Early Christianity, ed. B. A. Pearson [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 367–77). His argument, though interesting, is not adequate.
New English Bible
Brown, Epistles of John, 764. Law, Tests of Life, 1–24; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), 366–67; and D. Jackman, The Message of John’s Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 18, are representative of those who see the letter structured in the form of a spiral, inverted pyramid or cone whereby John again and again returns to address certain themes. There is certainly some truth to this perspective. Marshall (The Epistles of John, 22–30) gives a more detailed analysis of the outlines of Law, Brooke, Dodd, Malatesta, P. R. Jones, Schnackenburg, and Feuillet. He does not find any of these approaches adequate overall. He goes on to examine the redactional theories of K. Tomoi, E. von Dobschütz, Bultmann, Windisch, Preisker, Braun, Nauck, and O’Neill. He concludes that these theories also fail to account for the structure of the letter.
57 R. E. Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44.
58 H. Miehle, “Theme in Greek Hortatory Discourse: Van Dijk and Beekman—Callow Approaches Applied to 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Arlington, 1988. Miehle obviously sees chiastic patterns in various sections. For our purposes we are more interested in simply showing her paragraph/section divisions. See G. H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis (Leiden: Brill, 1994). Guthrie’s work is warmly commended by W. L. Lane in his commentary on Hebrews in WBC (xc).
59 D. T.-C. Wu, “An Analysis of the Structure of 1 John Using Discourse Analysis,” Ph.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1997.
60 G. Sherman and J. C. Tuggy, A Semantic and Structural Analysis of the Johannine Epistles (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1994), 6.
61 Ibid., 7.
62 P. S. Berge, “The Word and Its Witness in John and 1 John: A Literary and Rhetorical Study,” in Word and World, Supplement Series 3 (1997): 143–62. As the title suggests, Berge sees a parallel literary relationship between the Gospel of John and 1 John. He also presents internal chiasms within his four major divisions (p. 151). The argument at this latter point is not very compelling.
63 J. C. Thomas, “The Literary Structure of 1 John,” NovT XL 4 (1998): 369–81.
64 Brown, Epistles of John, 371–72.
65 P. J. Van Staden, “The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” Hervormde Teologiese Studies 47/ 2 (1991): 494. M. Sweazey makes a similar argument, though she divides the epistle at 1:5–2:28; 2:29–4:6; 4:7–5:13. See her “Chiastic Study of the First Epistle of John,” Master’s Thesis, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1986.
66 K. L. Hansford, “The Underlying Poetic Structure of 1 John,” JTT 5 (1992): 125–74.
67 E. R. Wendland, “ ‘Dear Children’ Versus the ‘Antichrists’: The Rhetoric of Reassurance in First John,” JTT 11 (1998): 40–84; K. D. Tollefson, “Certainty within the Fellowship: Dialectical Discourse in 1 John,” BTB 29, no. 2 (1999): 79–89. His outline of 1 John (p. 84) is helpful and interesting. D. Neufeld draws somewhat similar conclusions through the use of speech act theory (Reconceiving Texts as Speech Acts: An Analysis of 1 John (Leiden: Brill, 1994). His analysis is helpful at points, but many of the positions he takes on historical issues are unnecessarily skeptical and unduly suspicious.
68 D. F. Watson, “Amplification Techniques in 1 John: The Interaction of Rhetorical Style and Invention,” JSNT 51 (1993): 117–18.
69 Ibid., 119. See also Watson, “An Epideictic Strategy for Increasing Adherence to Community Values: 1 John 1:1–2:29,” in Proceedings: Eastern Great Lakes and Midwest Biblical Societies 11 (1991), 144–52.
70 Talbert, Reading John, 7.
71 Strecker, The Johannine Letters, xliv.
H. W. York, “An Analysis and Synthesis of the Exegetical Methods of Rhetorical Criticism and Discourse Analysis as Applied to the Structure of 1 John,” Ph.D. diss., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993. The two outlines come from Longacre, “Exhortation and Mitigation in First John,” in Selected Technical Articles Related to Translation 9 (1983): 3–44 (previously noted); and H.-J. Klauck, “Zur rhetorischen Analyse der Johannesbriefe,” ZNW 81 (1990): 204–24.
73 Brown, Epistles of John, 124. A. Feuillet concurs with Brown’s assessment that 1 John is patterned after the Gospel of John, though he outlines the letter differently. See his “Structure of 1 John,” BTB, vol. III, No. 2 (1973): 194–216. Van Staden’s criticism of Brown’s proposal, in our judgment, is unconvincing (“The Debate on the Structure of 1 John,” 489–90).
74 R. R. Reno, “The Marks of the Nails: Theological Exegesis of the First Letter of John for Easter,” Pro Ecclesia, Vol. VI, No. 1 (1997): 53.

Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Page . Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:02 PM July 16, 2017.

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

If you would like to offer a response or discuss this topic further please visit our forum 

https://www.divinesoteriology.com/forums/topic/did-the-church-begin-with-paul/

“Critique of the Idea That the Church Began With Paul

(1) This confuses the beginning of the revelation about the church with the beginning of the church itself.
(2) It makes distinctions without real differences (e.g., gospels of circumcision [Peter] and uncircumcision [Paul]). While these are different audiences, they are not different gospels.
(3) It creates distinctions where there are none (e.g., no signs with gospel of grace).
(4) It confuses Old Testament prophecies that Gentiles would be blessed with there being no predictions as to how they would be on the same level with Jews.
(5) It manifests gnosticlike tendencies, such as (A) avoiding “earthly” elements (e.g., water baptism) and (B) special, exclusive, in-group knowledge of the mystery of Christ’s body.
(6) It unjustifiably assumes that there are two kinds of Spirit baptism.
(7) It fails to note that Gentiles were baptized into Christ in Acts 2 and 8, which defeats the argument that there was no joint-body before Paul’s ministry.
(8) It claims “that there just was no joint-body until some Gentiles as such were saved, and we know that could not have been until the salvation of Cornelius at least” (BT, 32); there were Gentiles in Acts 2 and in Acts 6, well before Paul was saved (Acts 9).
(9) Its assertion that “we must not confuse the Persons of the Trinity, and yet that is exactly what they do who make these two Spirit baptisms one and the same; for they have Christ baptizing into Christ” (BT, 32) confuses the procession in the Trinity—Christ sent the Spirit to do His work for Him (John 15:26).
(10) It claims that “if anything is evident from the pages of the epistles it is that the ritual has given place to the spiritual” (BT, 32–33), but the Lord’s Supper involves a ritual using physical elements.
(11) It leads to unorthodox (works-based) soteriological views of the Old Testament and early New Testament, claiming that Peter’s plan of salvation for Jews (Acts 2:38) is different from Paul’s message of grace (ibid., 19–20).
(12) It claims there are “different Gospels” (URC, 97), which opposes scriptural teaching (Gal. 1:8; cf. 3:8).”
Geisler, N. L. (2005). Systematic theology, volume four: church, last things (pp. 687–689). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

Defining Kabbalah

Defining Kabbalah

For more discussion on the Kabbalah visit our forum https://www.divinesoteriology.com/forums/topic/definingkabbalah/

“KABBALAH [kə bälˊə] (Heb. qabbalâ “tradition”). † According to the Midrash, those books of the Hebrew scriptures contained in the Prophets and the Writings, as well as the corpus of oral law.
More commonly the term designates the system of Jewish theosophy and mysticism which developed after A.D. 1200, according to which God manifests himself through ten mysterious emanations. Of particular interest are aspects of creation and the visionary portions of Scripture. Abbreviations of words and the transposition of letters, with emphasis on their numerical values and symbolism, are the concern of gematria, a method of interpretation which seeks hidden meanings. In a less technical sense the Kabbalah comprises all esoteric Jewish doctrine from the beginning of the Christian era on.”
Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (pp. 616–617). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

“Kabbala (Rabbinic Heb. קַבָּלָה, qabbālāh, ‘tradition’). A system of Jewish *theosophy which, by the use of an esoteric method of interpretation of the OT, including cyphers, was believed to reveal to its initiates hidden doctrines, e.g. the creation of the world by means of emanations from the Divine Being. It was a development of tendencies akin to *Gnosticism, and reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and at the Renaissance. A Christian form of it also had considerable vogue in the 15th-16th cents., its Christian exponents such as J. *Reuchlin and *Paracelsus professing to deduce by its means such doctrines as the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Divinity of Christ.

The Zohar tr. into Eng. by H. Sperling, M. Simon, and P. P. Levertoff (5 vols., 1931–4). Extensive extracts ed. F. Lachower and I. Tishby, tr. D. Goldstein, The Wisdom of the Zohar (3 vols., Oxford, 1989), with introd. by I. Tishby, 1, pp. 1–126. Shorter selection tr. by D. C. Matt (Classics of Western Spirituality, 1983). Other material tr. by R. C. Keiner, The Early Kabbalah, ed. with introd., by J. Dan (ibid. [1986]). G. G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Jerusalem, 1941; 2nd edn., New York, 1946; 3rd edn., London, 1955); id., Zur Kabbala und ihre Symbolik (Zurich, 1960; Eng. tr., 1965); id., Ursprung und Anfänge der Kabbala (Studia Judaica, 3; 1962; Eng. tr., Princeton, NJ [1987]); id., Kabbalah (Jerusalem [1974]); M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, Conn., and London [1988]); S. Shokek, Kabbala and the Art of Being, ed. M. Leavitt (2001). J. L. Blau, The Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (New York, 1944); F. Secret, Les Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964). G. G. Scholem, Bibliographia Kabbalistica (Berlin, 1933; additions in Kirjath Sepher, Jerusalem, 1933 ff.). Id. in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 10 (Jerusalem, 1971), cols. 489–653, s.v. ‘Kabbalah’; R. Goetschel and O. Betz in TRE 17 (1988), cols. 487–509, s.v., both with bibl.”
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 923). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

“Cabala (reception).—The secret tradition of the Jews, the origin of which may be traced to pre-Christian times, but which grew up mainly after the beginning of the tenth century, and flourished for many generations. The Cabala was employed first in a mystic explanation of the Deity and cosmogony, and in the creation of hidden meanings for the sacred Hebrew writings, thus drawing into its province all the Hebrew law and theology. Later, Cabalists pretended to find wonderful meanings even in the letters and forms of the sacred texts, and made for themselves elaborate rules of interpretation.”

Thein, J. (1900). In Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (p. 127). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.
“Kabbalah n. Hebrew (kah-bah-LAH) Literally, “to receive.” The Jewish mystical tradition. Through the ages, Kabbalah has been primarily transmitted orally from a teacher to a disciple who was over 40 and well versed in the teachings of the Torah and Talmud. Rabbis worried that the Kabbalah would be misinterpreted or used for superstitious practices if it were studied by someone unfamiliar with Jewish texts; in its early years, it was practiced in secret. Kabbalists have developed meditative practices and distinctive theories on heaven, reincarnation, the coming of the Messiah, and creation. They use a system called gematria, in which each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value, to uncover the secrets that they believe are hidden in the Torah.
Kabbalists believe that these teachings were revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai as a secret part of the Oral Law. In the 2nd century C.E., Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph was a leading figure in Jewish mysticism; his search for paradise is mentioned in the Talmud. The earliest known Kabbalistic text is Sefer ha-Bahir, edited in Provence in the mid-12th century. It describes the 10 sefirot, through which the hidden God is revealed. Around 1290, the Spanish mystic Moses de Leon compiled the teachings of Kabbalah in the Zohar, which remains the classic text of this tradition. He credited the Kabbalah teachings to the 2nd-century writings of the talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Kabbalah was practiced by large numbers of Jews following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s. In Safed, in the mid-16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria furthered Kabbalistic thought with theories about the Ein Sof, the creation of the universe, the origins of evil, and how to repair the world (tikun olam). Lurianic Kabbalah played a major role in the development of Hasidism. Today, there is revived interest in Jewish mysticism among Orthodox Jews and those in the Jewish Renewal movement; synagogues and schools offer courses on Kabbalah and other topics of Jewish mysticism”
Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 76). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“A form of Jewish mysticism known as the kabbalah arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among those who contributed to the religious and intellectual style of kabbalah was Moses de Leon (1240–1305). De Leon composed the majority of the Zohar, a multivolume work that includes a commentary on the Torah. His writings develop the idea that the stories and laws found in Scripture create a map or pattern for God. De Leon believed that a holy life, marked by an accurate execution of rituals, allowed humanity to reinstate God’s perfect order. By the sixteenth century, the Zohar was read far and wide and remains at the core of kabbalah practice.”

Rusten, S. with E. Michael. (2005). The complete book of when & where in the Bible and throughout history (p. 187). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
“BOOKS ON THE QABBALA

Reuchlin, De Verbo Mirifico. Basle. 1494.
——De Arte Cabbalistica. Hagenau. 1517.
Raymond Lully, De Auditu Cabbalistico. Strasb. 1651.
Kircher, Œdipus Ægyptiacus. Rome. 1635.
Jellinek, Beiträge zur Gesch. d. Kabbalah. Leipzig. 1852.
Franck, La Kabbale. Paris. 1843. Uebersetzt vom A. Jellinek. Leipzig. 1844.
Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, its Doctrines, Development, and Literature. London. 1865.
——Coheleth, London. 1861.
Munk, Mélanges de Philos. Juive et Arabe. Paris. 1859.”
Farrar, F. W. (1886). History of interpretation (p. 482). London: Macmillan and Co.

“Moses Cordovero (1522–1570)

Focusing upon Talmudic and legal commentators, we have not discussed important figures such as Moses de Leon, whose role in the production of the Zohar cannot be minimized, or Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic Movement. Still, we cannot ignore the special contributions of Moses Cordovero, known as Ramac, whose role is pivotal in the history of Jewish understanding of sacred texts. Ramac was the student of Joseph Caro, the composer of the Shulhan Arukh, and of the great Kabbalist Solomon Alkabez. His students were the powers behind the school of Lurianic Kabbalah in Sefad, which wholly integrated Kabbalah into a halakhic framework. What is generally viewed as the great, new impulse of Isaac Luria—the Ari—was already expounded, without detail, by Ramac: the mystical doctrines of tzimtzum, the four levels or worlds of emanation, and the configurations of the sefirot. The Ari developed and refined these ideas and became the master teacher of the new movement in Kabbalah. Ramac’s Or Yakar is a complete commentary to the Zohar, and he wrote many other books as well, such as Or Ha-Shamayim, Sefer Shiur Ha-Koma, Tfilah le-Moshe, Or Neerav, and Tamar Devora. Sermons of his and a commentary to the Pentateuch remain in manuscript, as yet unpublished.”
Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, p. 1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“JEWISH MYSTICISM: AN INTRODUCTION
J. H. Laenen
Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, 292 pp.\

In the preface to his book Laenen declares that he seeks to bridge the gap between scholarly studies and popular works on Jewish mysticism. His aim is to provide a book which, while based on scholarly research, will be of use to the interested non-specialist who does not have a broad knowledge of Judaism. In the introduction he answers the question, ‘What is Jewish mysticism?’. He then proceeds to describe the emergence and history of Jewish mysticism from biblical times to the present day. He works his way from ancient Jewish mysticism, through classical, Lurianic, and Hasidic Kabbalah. An extensive chapter is devoted to the seventeenth century mystic, Sabbatai Zvi and further sections discuss language mysticism and popular literature on Kabbalism.
Laenen is at his best when he is describing and explaining the complex systems of Kabbalah, such as the ten Sefiroth which are characteristic of Lurianic thinking, and describing the importance of major writings such as the Zohar. He is also very good at biographical descriptions of the main individuals and provides interesting and clear accounts of figures such as Joseph Caro and Sabbatai Zvi (although the reader may wonder why so much space has been devoted to this ‘heretical’ character).
The most satisfying parts of the book are those which deal with specific themes, for example the chapter on language mysticism. The main problem with the book lies in its attempt to provide an introduction to Kabbalism while assuming that the reader has little knowledge of Jewish thought and history as a whole. Repeatedly we find that the basic ideas of Judaism itself have to be introduced. Kabbalah is such a complex subject in its own right, that unless the book is going to be very ‘popular’ in its target group, there needs to be some understanding of the ‘first principles’ of the Jewish religion. Thus, Laenen finds that it is necessary, in his chapter on Lurianic Kabbalah, for example, to give a short history of Messianism within Judaism. This rather confounds the chronological pattern which he has set himself to follow. Moreover, although one could see why he has opted for the chronological schema, this writer found herself wishing that he had taken more account of his own observation that the mystical tradition in Judaism did not develop in a straight line (105). The desire to avoid ‘lumping all Jewish mysticism together’ without recognising differences between movements and times is laudable, but unfortunately has sometimes resulted in a rather confusing picture. It would have been very interesting to learn more of the place of Kabbalah in present day Judaism.
Undergraduates and graduate students wishing to have a basic knowledge of the subject will find this book most useful if ‘dipped into’ rather than read through from beginning to end. In other words, the readers should use the index to guide them to themes and characters rather than pursuing the chronological method of the book. There is a good bibliography to aid further study.”
Carson, M. (2003). Review of Jewish Mysticism: An Introduction by J. H. Laenen. Themelios, 28(2), 118–119.

“Sefer Yetzirah n. Hebrew Literally, “Book of Creation.” The first classic text of Kabbalah. It is considered to be an early Babylonian or Palestinian work dating from the 2nd century C.E. The Sefer Yetzirah theorizes that the 10 sefirot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the building blocks of creation and the channels through which Divine consciousness flows into creation.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Tree of Life n. English 1. One of the two trees in the Garden of Eden. Fruit from the Tree of Life gave immortality to those who tasted it. 2. An image, used in Kabbalah, to depict the sefirot. In this tree of life, the roots are in heaven and the branches extend toward earth. 3. The wooden poles to which a Torah scroll is attached. This is a metaphor, in that the teachings and laws of the Torah are a “tree of life” to those who believe and follow them. In Hebrew they are called atzei chayim. 4. A common artistic representation of a tree, used in synagogue art and Judaica. Because halakhah does not allow the use of human figures as ornamentation, trees of life, along with animals and fruit, are popular themes.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 174). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“sefirah n. Hebrew (seh-fee-RAH); pl. sefirot (seh-fee-ROTE) One of the 10 emanations, or varying aspects, of the Divine presence. This is one of the theories central to the Jewish mystical tradition, or Kabbalah. According to Kabbalistic teaching, sefirot are the 10 attributes that Ein Sof, the infinite unknowable God, created and through which He can be known to man and the universe. sefirot, sometimes called the building blocks of creation, are often depicted as spheres, pillars, or a tree of life, in which the roots are in heaven and the branches extend down toward earth. The sefirot are said to correspond with parts of the body. The 10 sefirot are keter, hokhmah, binah, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. Da’at, literally “knowledge,” is sometimes used in place of keter.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 142). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

“Radbaz was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt. He introduced the practice of counting years on documents from the Anno Mundi as was the custom in the West, and he reintroduced the silent recitation of prayer that Maimonides had abolished in Egypt. He left there and resettled in the Holy Land, where he had first gone after he was expelled from Spain in the great expulsion of 1492. His printed responsa number close to 2500, but there are more in manuscript. He deals with questions of every type, and his personal authority is stamped in every answer. He defended the study of philosophy and science and was an avid student of Kabbalah himself, so that his commentaries are in a Kabbalistic manner. His comments on issues in Talmudic study are cited in Shita Mekubetzet by Bezalel Ashkenazi, his student. Keter Malkhut, his work on the liturgy for Yom Kippur, remains very popular.”

Neusner, J., Avery-Peck, A. J., & Green, W. S. (Eds.). (2000). In The encyclopedia of Judaism (Vol. 3, pp. 1216–1217). Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill.

“Zohar n. Hebrew (ZOE-har) Literally, “radiance.” A mystical book that is the core text of Kabbalah—one of only three canonized Jewish sacred texts (the other two are the Torah and the Talmud). The Zohar, written in Aramaic, includes interpretations and commentaries that explore the secrets and symbols in the Torah. The Zohar proposes a distinct theory of Creation in which emanations from Ein Sof created a secret spark of awareness, from which emerged and radiated all light. Levels of creation, sefirot, and the worlds above and below are discussed throughout the Zohar. The Zohar holds that The Song of Songs, with its allusions of love and eroticism, contains more secrets of the universe than any other Jewish text. The Zohar was introduced into Spain around 1290 by the mystic Moses de Leon, who claimed it was the mystical 2nd-century writings of talmudic sage Shimon bar Yochai. Most scholars believe that de Leon authored the text himself.”

Eisenberg, J., & Scolnic, E., Jewish Publication Society. (2001). In The JPS dictionary of Jewish words (p. 195). Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.

 

 

Defining Citizenship

For more discussion visit our forum https://www.divinesoteriology.com/forums/topic/citizenship/

“Citizenship. The concept of spiritual citizenship is most clearly expressed in Philippians 3:20, where Paul writes, “Our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven.” This is the only place in Scripture where the word is used, but the idea is found in both Jewish and Christian literature. In fact, the development of the idea may be traced from the record of Abraham’s experience to the writings of the apostolic fathers.
Abraham viewed himself as a stranger (gēr) and a sojourner (māgûr) in the land of promise (Gen. 23:4). The same words are used consistently to describe the experience of the patriarchs (Gen. 17:8; 28:4; 47:9; Exod. 6:4). Even when Israel resided in Canaan, the people were to recognize that the land was God’s and that they were merely aliens (tôšābɩ̂m) in it (Lev. 25:23; 1 Chron. 29:15; Pss. 39:12; 119:19). The Rechabites chose not to build houses, sow seed, or plant vineyards; they lived in tents as a reminder of their status as sojourners (Jer. 35:6–10).
Christ’s teaching on the kingdom has a strong heavenly orientation. His followers are to seek the kingdom that the Father has chosen to give them (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:32). The kingdom, however, is not of this world (John 18:36). Believers are to lay up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19–21). While Christ is absent, Christians are to take comfort in his promise that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:1–4). Ultimately, they will inherit the kingdom he has prepared for them (Matt. 25:34).
Paul reminds Christians that it is “the Jerusalem above” to which they are related (Gal. 4:21–31) and that they are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1–4). Peter describes Christians in the same language used to describe Abraham in the Septuagint. They are elect “refugees” (parepidēmoi) whose time on earth is a “temporary stay” (paroikia) in a foreign country (1 Peter 1:1, 17). Their status as “strangers” (paroikoi) and temporary residents provides an incentive for holy living (1 Peter 2:11).
The author of Hebrews brings these various themes together in the most comprehensive way. Abraham and the other patriarchs lived as strangers and exiles on earth, seeking the city designed, built, and prepared for them by God (11:8–16). Similarly, Christians do not have a lasting city; they seek the city that is to come (13:14). That city is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God and the capital of an unshakable kingdom (12:22–23, 28).
JOHN D. HARVEY”
Harvey, J. D. (1996). Citizenship. In Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 99–100). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

“5255
citizenship

The privilege of belonging to a city or country. Scripture portrays believers as living in two realms, being members of both human society and of the heavenly city. In both realms there are duties as well as privileges.

Dual citizenship
Mt 22:21 pp Mk 12:17 pp Lk 20:25 See also Ezr 7:26

Earthly citizenship
Privileges and duties of citizens Ro 13:1-7 See also Ecc 8:2; Mt 17:27; Tit 3:1; 1Pe 2:13-17

Privileges and duties of Roman citizenship Ac 16:37; 22:25-29; 23:27; 25:10

Heavenly citizenship and the Christian hope
Php 3:20; Heb 13:14 See also Lk 22:29-30; Jn 14:2; 1Pe 1:4; Rev 21:2,27; 22:3-5

Gentiles are included in the citizenship of heaven Eph 2:19 See also Eph 2:12-13″
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

“The citizenship of Abraham in the NT

Echoes of Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan may be heard in Paul’s statement that Christians are citizens of ‘the Jerusalem above’ (Gal. 4:21–31). Peter’s description of believers is reminiscent of the terms used for Abraham in Genesis. They are ‘temporary residents’ (‘refugees’, parepidēmois) whose time on earth is a brief stay among strangers (‘time of temporary residence’, paroikia, 1 Pet. 1:1, 17).
The author of the letter to the Hebrews makes more explicit references to Abraham’s experiences. In Hebrews 11:8–16, the lesson drawn from Abraham’s faith is that while he, Isaac and Jacob were living in tents in Canaan, they were actually seeking the ‘city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God’ (11:10). This reference to the semi-nomadism of the ancestral sojourn states clearly that Abraham’s faith was rewarded beyond his comprehension. The city he inherited was the ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’, the city of the living God (Heb. 12:22–23), which is the capital of an unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28). He expected to inherit the cities of Canaan, which were difficult to defend and vulnerable to many aggressors, but was rewarded with a far greater city. Likewise, Christians ‘have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come’ (Heb. 13:14).
The two cities in the NT

The eschatological picture of the two cities, Jerusalem and Babylon, had significant implications in the NT and subsequent Christian theology. The clash between the city of God and the city of Satan will come to a head in the eschaton.The clearest expression of this eschatological conflict is found in the book of Revelation, where both the fall of the new Babylon and the arrival of the new Jerusalem are described. The horrors of the new Babylon are detailed in Revelation 17–18 (specifically 16:17–18:24). First-century readers would have undoubtedly understood ‘Babylon’ as a code name for Rome. As ancient Babylon had been the wicked and ruthless enemy of God’s people in OT times, so here she symbolizes the evil and violent thirst for power so typical of earthly kingdoms. But Babylon’s downfall will be swift and total (18:10, and see vv. 17 and 19).

Most of the book of Revelation is an account of persecution and death (chs. 6–20). But in chapters 21–22, the book moves from time into eternity as it foretells the glorious outcome of God’s redemptive plan. The first paragraph (21:1–8) describes the new heaven and new earth in general terms, relying largely on images from the prophecy of Isaiah (65:17; 66:22). The old creation has passed away, making room for this new creation, ‘the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ (Rev. 21:2). The second literary unit describes the new Jerusalem in more detail (21:9–21). The holy city of Jerusalem will be the new home for God’s people. It is described as perfectly symmetrical, and radiant like pure jewels. Finally, the book gives a glimpse of life in the eternal city (21:22–22:5). Some things necessary and taken for granted in the former city will be absent from the new Jerusalem. It has no temple, for the temple represented the presence of God in the midst of Jerusalem. Instead, God himself will be the temple in the new city (21:22). It has no sun or moon, for it will have the glory of God (21:23); no night, because the Lord God will be light for its inhabitants (21:25; 22:5). Life in the new city will surpass the experiences of the first couple in the Garden of Eden, for this city has ‘the river of the water of life’, and ‘the tree of life’ (22:1–2).

The contrast between the two cities encourages believers of every generation to have the faith of Abraham, who was a resident alien in Canaan, but whose citizenship was in heaven (Phil. 3:20). While living in tents here below, we must live a life worthy of our calling, aware that our time here is brief and that we are on a journey to that eternal city.”

Arnold, B. T. (2000). City, Citizenship. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 415–416). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Heavenly Citizenship.While explicit language related to heavenly citizenship is rare in Paul, the metaphor of heavenly citizenship is clearly an influential force in his theology. In both ethical injunctions and eschatological descriptions, it is clear that Paul uses this citizenship to describe the believer’s participation in the kingdom of God.

2.1. Ethical Injunctions. Paul’s idea of heavenly citizenship is communicated with full cognizance of his church members’ participation in their local societies as citizens (1 Cor 5:9–10; Rom 13:1–7). In this sense it is possible that Paul has in mind the legal status of dual citizenship (see Phil 1:27). The fact that Christians are citizens of both earth and heaven leads to Paul’s ambassadorial language in 2 Corinthians 5:18–21 and Ephesians 6:19–20. As citizens of heaven, Christians have the responsibility to think consistently with their citizenship (Col 3:1–4) and live holy lives (Rom 13:12–14). Paul’s own idea of his heavenly citizenship allowed him to live in a way that freed him to be all things to all people (1 Cor 9:19–23). Paul’s doctrine of heavenly citizenship and its implications for living are close to 1 Peter 2:11, although Paul does not use the metaphor of sojourning as strongly as Peter. Philippians 3:20 (in the light of Phil 1:27) provides the best example of heavenly citizenship terminology in Paul. This citizenship here provides the ground for Paul’s commands to avoid thinking in an earthly way (Phil 2:3–4; 3:19), and instead to follow his example (Phil 3:17) as befits one who rejoices in God’s goodness, praying and thinking in a God-centered way (Phil 4:1–9). The description of Christians’ heavenly citizenship in Philippians 3:20 also is linked to the expectation of the parousia and the physical transformation to occur at that time (Phil 3:20–21).

2.2. Eschatological Descriptions. The sense that Christians are headed for a citizenship in the next life is a powerful force in Paul’s theology. Thus we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:24 how an understanding of the rights and destiny of the heavenly citizen leads to a certain pattern of behavior. In Romans 8:12–30, the prospect of participation as a citizen in the new creation is inextricably linked both to one’s status as a child of God and the concomitant behavior that such future citizenship and adoption necessarily implies for the present. Paul’s eschatological understanding of heavenly citizenship includes the conviction that the Christian is not ultimately subject to death, and ought therefore to live for values that will outlast life on earth (1 Cor 15:53–58).”

Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (Eds.). (1993). In Dictionary of Paul and his letters (pp. 140–141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.