Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ramblings and Ruminations on John (1)

01.Ramblings and Ruminations on John

Shallow enough for a babe to bathe in, deep enough for a elephant to swim – this well describes the Gospel of John! Its waters run deep yet never mock our inability to negotiate these depths and remain in the shallows. Wherever we are with God there is something for us in this magnificent story. There is always more for us here; we never exhaust its depths. This is so in part because of the author’s insight and subtlety in telling a multilevel story in a variety of hues and textures that continually invite us to go deeper and deeper.

I don’t know where I am with God as I encounter John again. We are never good judges of these things about ourselves. I only know I feel it beckoning me to swim again in its waters and discover what is there for me to find. These notes are my report on what I find. They take no systematic shape; traverse diverse grounds from points of Greek grammar to reflections on Christian faith and life in our postmodern world. That’s why I’ve entitled these notes “Ramblings and Ruminations.” They are the notes of a way-farer seeking sustenance and direction wherever he may find it.

John 1:1-5

“In the beginning” – radicalizes its Old Testament prototype, Genesis 1:1. John begins with claim that deconstructs the orthodoxy of our postmodern world. “In the beginning” rather than “once upon a time” frames John’s and the Bible’s story as a claim to reality, not simply an “as I see it” story constructed from the thought and experiences of its author.

I don’t mean this as a naïve claim to “historicity.” My point is hermeneutical – regardless of our ultimate evaluation of his work, John thinks he addresses reality in its deepest and profoundest form. A hermeneutics of respect must precede a hermeneutics of suspicion. This claim to reality, I believe, cannot be deconstructed a priori by application of a hermeneutics of suspicion. Rather, if it be deconstructed, that can only come a posteriori, after John has been engaged on his own terms with at least a theoretical openness to his claim’s truth.

John’s use of "arche" (“beginning) radicalizes the same word used in the Greek Old Testament of Genesis 1:1 by pushing it back to the absolute beginning. Yet at the same time, by using the same word is it possible that John means us to understand a degree of continuity between the two “beginnings,” between what we traditionally call eternity and time?

-Perhaps “eternity” is not timeless and there is something analogous to what we call “time” in God’s own being and experience?

-Perhaps understanding God as triune, a community of shared love throughout all “eternity,” allows us to posit a “timefulness” in God that enables this divine relationality to be echoed in our own human experience of relationships?

-Perhaps being made in God’s “image” (Genesis 1:26-28) implies something like this?

More on John 1:1-5 next time. This has been pretty “heavy” stuff, I confess, but that’s because John is at times a “heavy” writer. Give him his due and think with him (and me) about these things.


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