Thursday, October 9, 2014

John 4:14 and its Edenic motif

In The Theme of Temple Christology in John's Gospel, Stephen T. Um comments about the relationship between John 4:14 and "new creational blessing of life" mentioned throughout biblical and post-biblical literature, but especially its imagery used throughout Isaiah's prophecies. Some noteworthy remarks regard the significance of the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 44:3. He argues that the translator has "metaphorically interpreted" the 'thirsty land' as as "the thirsty people who walk in a dry land."1  Because the barren land represents its thirsty people, the translator of the Septuagint related the two metaphors of drinking and irrigation "to show that the act of irrigating the barren land can also be interpreted as an act satisfying those who are thirsty."2 

Um then makes numerous connections between water and Edenic motifs of the Bible. He writes: 
Although many of the Deutero-Isaiah passages do not explicitly refer to Eden, they do, however, develop the garden theme by describing a new creational place of blessedness where there will be wells of salvation and abundant fertility (Isa. 12.3; 35.6-7; 41.17-19; 44.3; 58.11). Once again, Isa. 58.11, 'you will be like a well-watered garden like a spring whose waters never fail', clearly connects water with the garden motif. These irrigation metaphors of water as a symbol of promoting life are highlighted by the revitalizing power of water restoring a barren desert to a luxuriant garden. These rivers, waters, streams, and bubbling springs representing elements leading to life describe a future paradisiacal garden of complete restoration. These Isaianic texts highlight the unique identify of God by attributing to him the source of eschatological, life-giving water.3
By illustrating further connections between the Edenic garden and the Temple, Um convincingly argues that John portrays Jesus as the true Temple in whom Israel's worship reaches its climatic goal.4 The old covenant expectation for building an end-time Temple reaches its telos or goal in the Messiah, Jesus, and out of that temple-of-his-body flows abundant new creation life to the rest of the world around Eden--the rest of the world around Jesus and his Body--irrigating it and quenching its thirst. Um sees this abundant new creational blessing of life culminating at the end of human history, but the significance of its beginning is worth further reflection and meditation as well. If Jesus began a new creational blessing of life for the whole world, that means his life-giving presence remains in the world until it reaches it's culmination at the end. That means people can always have hope in this world to be the hope of this world. In other words, the life giving waters flow in abundance from the Temple of Christ's body throughout the world to irrigate its land, and the Church, which is Christ's body, is the life of this world while the new creational temple-building process awaits its culmination. 

1. Stephen T. Um, The Theme of Temple Christology in John's Gospel [New York, NY: T&T Clark; 2006] p. 142
2. Ibid. p. 143
3. Ibid. p. 147
4. Ibid. p. 152

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