Biola Broadcaster - 1969-03

position to the heretics’ differentia­ tion between Jesus and the Christ, John adds that the One who so came was even Jesus Christ, one Person who was simultaneously from His birth to His death and for evermore (this is he, present tense) both the man Jesus and the Christ of God. Cerinthus and his followers are dead, and their particular creed has no adherents today. Yet all who deny the incarnation, whether or not they believe that the Person of Jesus un­ derwent a change at the baptism to fit Him for His public ministry, deny that He came by water and blood. This is no trivial error. It under­ mines the foundations of the Chris­ tian faith and robs us of the salvation of Christ. If the Son of God did not take to Himself our nature in His birth and our sins in His death, He cannot reconcile us to God. So John emphasizes not just that He came, but especially that He came by wa­ ter and blood, since it is His blood which cleanses from sin (1:7). Having accepted that the primary reference of this verse is to the his­ torical events of the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus, it is not im­ possible that it also contains second­ ary allusions, since the past events remain present witnesses (8). “Wa­ ter and Blood,” which occur together in some of the Levitical rituals, are intelligible symbols of “purification and redemption” (Plummer). Cand- lish, who insists much on this inter­ pretation, draws the distinction be­ tween “precious blood to atone for all guilt” and “pure water to cleanse from all pollution,” and refers the symbols to the blessings of justifica­ tion and sanctification a v a ila b le through the gospel. To these aspects of salvation Jesus Himself had re­ ferred in the discourses which John recorded in chapters 3, 4 and 7 (“wa­ ter”) and vi (“blood”) of his Gospel. Perhaps John also saw them set forth once in the issue of blood and water from the side of the Crucified, 31

to His divine-human Person. The third and most satisfactory interpre­ tation, first given by Tertullian, does this. It takes water as referring to the baptism of Jesus, at which He was declared the Son and commis­ sioned and empowered for His work, and blood to His death, in which His work was finished. True, “water” and “blood” remain strange and surpris­ ing word symbols, and we can only guess that they were thus used in the theological controversy which had engulfed the Ephesian church. At least, this meaning of the expres­ sion tallies with what Irenaeus dis­ closed of the heretical teaching of the Corinthian Gnostics. They dis­ tinguished between “Jesus” and “the Christ.” They held that Jesus was a mere man, born of Joseph and Mary in natural wedlock, upon whom the Christ descended at the baptism and from whom the Christ departed be­ fore the cross. According to this theory of the false teachers, Jesus was united with the Christ at the baptism, but became separated again before the cross. It was to refute this fundamental error that John, knowing that Jesus was the Christ before and during the baptism and during and after the cross, described Him as “He who came through water and blood.” Neither word has the def­ inite article. The author is stressing the unity of the earthly career of Jesus Christ. He who came (from Heaven, that is) is the same as He who passed “through” water and blood. For further emphasis he adds (using the definite article this time before each noun, and changing the preposition from dia, “through,” to en, “in”), “not with the water only,” since the heretics agreed that at least He was the Christ at His baptism, “but with the water and (with) the blood” (RV, RSV). “The statement is as precise as grammar can make it” (Brooke), and it is disappointing that the NEB does not express this precision. For full measure, in op­

Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker