Well, Fresh Read has a library card at the local state university. It is a very good investment of $30 per year. For there are lots of resources there for biblical study. Not all books help us read the text, in that they are so clouded with their own theories of meaning or origin that they never bother to read, listen and ponder. However, there is nothing quite like a library browse to stimulate the grey cells. Even if we don’t buy the ideas presented, they can jump start the cerebellum into action.
So in reading about 6 commentaries on John 15 – the vine and branches image – we were looking for insight into what “abiding” or “remaining” means. It is clear enough how a branch remains in the vine, but how does that translate.
We discovered that most commentators punt and say that “abide” means something like “commune” or “fellowship”. Ok, but are we talking about dim lights, candles and liver-shivers?
Two (i only picked out 5, so there are others out there) helped. One “The Message of John” by Bruce Milne, IVP, 1993, gave a nice pastoral sort of application of how that meant 1. being pruned = cleansed 2. dependence with obedience 3. fruitful is evangelism, justice (Isaiah 5:7) and character (Gal 5). 4. prayer that is built on his teaching and 4. love of fellow believers on Christ’s model. Well, that is something to hang your hat on – or since Fresh Read preaches, there is a 4 point sermon.
The other surprise is a commentary by Ben Witherington III, of Asbury Seminary, “John’s Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth gospel” , Westminster, 1995. Now BWIII (who blogs http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/ ) opens a new door, and connects John with another FRESH READ passion – Wisdom Literature. The book suggests that John is written as an ancient biography (distinct from the modern genre) and that “The Beloved Disciple” is the primary source for eyewitness accounts of Jesus expressed through the wisdom literature’s mood (hmmm, kind of like “muse”). Wow, I’d never thought of that. WL has an interest in Wisdom (Logos – word – Jesus), in beautiful language (how we enjoy John’s elevated style), is international (Samaritan woman), and more than we were able to digest in one sitting. the Synoptics, because of the use of parables seems a more obvious wisdom literature connection, but BWIII seemed to make his point. Watch the Wisdom Lit tag line for more on this in the future.
Our Point? Even though the goal ought to be a Fresh (uncluttered by dulled expectations and dogmatic presuppositions) Read, a trip to the library can be an aid.