David, the Man of God

In contemporary English parlance, to call someone a “man” or “woman of God” substantially means that individual is “godly” or “pious.” As such, the phrase is a descriptor of a person’s moral or religious standing in relation to some perceived measure.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, אישׁ (ה)אלהים ([the] man of God) regularly designates a “prophet.” To be sure, these prophets were often “godly” or “pious,” but even here, there were occasional exceptions to this behavior (e.g., 1 Kgs 13). Rather, when the Hebrew Bible applies this same phrase to David, it fits him into the framework of the broader tradition of the prophet as Yahweh’s representative (Neh 12:24, 36; 2 Chron 8:14). In these particular texts, David’s status as an אישׁ אלהים (man of God) revolves around his plans for the temple’s administration. Even so, scarcely can at least the Davidic psalms be separated from vocation as a royal אישׁ אלהים (man of God).1

1. Cf. 11QPsalmsa 27; Augustine, Civ., 17.14 (NPNF1, 2:352–53).

The Christ of His Christ

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, "Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli"
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, “Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli” (c. 1665; photo credit: Wikipedia)

In due order within The City of God’s longer discussion of Hannah’s prayer at Samuel’s dedication,1 Augustine arrives at the clause, “[a]nd [he] shall exalt the horn of His Christ” (1 Sam 2:10). Here, Augustine ponders:

How shall Christ exalt the horn of His Christ? For He of whom it was said above, “The Lord hath ascended into the heavens,” [1 Sam 2:10 LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] meaning the Lord Christ, Himself, as it is said here, “shall exalt the horn of His Christ.” Who, therefore, is the Christ of His Christ? Does it mean that He shall exalt the horn of each one of His believing people, as [Hannah] says in the beginning of this hymn, “Mine horn is exalted in my God?” [1 Sam 2:1 LXX, Vg.] For we can rightly call all those christs who are anointed with His chrism, forasmuch as the whole body with its head is one Christ.2

Although Augustine does not appear to cite 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17 in developing his interpretation of Hannah’s prayer, these texts may well be reading 1 Sam 2:10 [LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] along a similar, Christological trajectory.3 Boasting is to be in Jesus alone, who has ascended into heaven and with whom the church is united as a “collective person[—as] ‘Christ existing as church-community.’”4

1. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:339–43).

2. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:343); cf., e.g., 1 Cor 6:14–17; 12:27; 1 John 2:20, 27; Justin, Dial., 86.

3. See J. David Stark, “Rewriting Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence: A Window on Paul’s Hermeneutic,” BBR 22, no. 2 (2012): 236–38; J. Ross Wagner, “‘Not Beyond the Things Which Are Written’: A Call to Boast Only in the Lord (1 Cor 4.6),” NTS 44, no. 2 (1998): 283–86, for discussion.

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church (ed. Clifford J. Green and Joachim von Soosten; trans. Reinhard Kraus and Nancy Lukens; Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 141; cf. Eph 1:15–23; 2:4–7; N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991), 41–55.

An Unfriendly Bodyguard

All four Gospels report Peter’s adamant affirmation of fidelity Jesus, no matter what may come (Matt 26:33–35; Mark 14:29–31; Luke 22:31–34; John 13:36–38). A key feature in the Synoptics’ presentation is Peter’s persistence about remaining with Jesus (Matt 26:35; Mark 14:31; Luke 22:33). In so presenting his declaration, Matthew and Mark focus exclusively on Peter’s commitment to die with Jesus (Matt 26:35; Mark 14:31). Beyond this affirmation, Luke also explicitly mentions Peter’s readiness to accept the lesser affliction of imprisonment with Jesus (Luke 22:33).

For John, Peter’s affirmation of fidelity still draws in Peter’s continuing presence with Jesus (John 13:37a). Here, however, Peter goes a step farther: Not only will he be present with Jesus, whatever may come, but he will die in Jesus’ behalf (John 13:37b; τὴν ψυχήν μου ὑπὲρ σοῦ θήσω; underlining added). The extent to which ὑπέρ indicates substitution (so: ὑπὲρ σοῦ ≈ in your place) is sometimes debatable.1 Particularly given the Synoptics’ preference for accompaniment language, John’s ὑπὲρ σοῦ could have a more general sense and indicate Peter’s profession of a willingness to die in keeping with how highly he values Jesus (so: ὑπὲρ σοῦ ≈ for your sake).2

Yet, in John’s Gospel, Jesus has already affirmed that the good shepherd will die in behalf of his sheep (John 10:11, 15, 17), and Jesus will shortly suggest that the one who has the greatest love will die in behalf of his friends (John 15:13). In both these analogous cases, the one who dies seems to do so at least in hopes that those may be spared in whose behalf he dies. Thus too in John 13:37b, Peter seems to be offering to serve as a kind of bodyguard for Jesus.3 Tied up as this offer is in John’s narrative with the rest of the Farewell Discourse (John 13:31–17:26), when Jesus says in this discourse “no one has greater love than this: that someone should lay down his life in his friends’ behalf” (John 15:13; μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ), Peter can hardly miss hearing this statement at least partly as a comment on his own offer that he has just made to die in Jesus’ behalf.

Although it would have been expressed differently in different contexts, “friendship” involves some kind of reciprocity, so that the one who lays down his life in his friends’ behalf is himself part of that friendship’s circle of influence.4 Within this circle of friendship, Jesus himself is preeminently the one who dies for his friends (John 15:13–15). Peter has promised to do the same for Jesus (John 13:37b), but Peter does not sufficiently comprehend the agenda on which Jesus is operating (John 18:10–11). So, when the time for Jesus’ death actually approaches, Peter rather distances himself from than interposes himself in behalf of Jesus (John 13:38; 18:15–18, 25–27).

Despite these failures, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter is ready enough to confess his friendship with Jesus (φιλεῖν ≈ to love, to be a friend of) and to hear Jesus’ summons to shepherd his sheep (John 21:15–16). Jesus’ meaning has, however, not completely come home. Only when Jesus asks whether Peter is his friend does it seem that the reality his inquiry becomes clear (John 21:17).5 Semantically, ἀγαπᾶν (≈ to love) and φιλεῖν are closely related terms (John 21:15–17),6 but it is in the latter verbiage that Jesus has interpretively tied his own sacrifice to Peter’s unfilfilled promise of the same (John 13:37–38; 15:13–15).7 Although Peter has failed to make good on his friendly promise to die in Jesus’ behalf, he still affirms his friendship with Jesus (John 21:15–17). As the Chief and Good Shepherd, Jesus has died in behalf of his sheep and his friends, and this vocation he freshly commends to his friend Peter:

Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you would dress yourself and walk where you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and will bring you where you do not want to go. (John 21:17d–18; βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου. ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες· ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις.)

“And he said this to show by what kind of death he would glorify God” (John 21:19a; τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν θεόν). Peter had shrunk back from his previous espousals, but it was still his vocation to follow the Good Shepherd and to do so faithfully to the end.8

1. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 383–89, for a discussion.

2. See BDAG, s.v., ὑπέρ, §A.1.a.ε.

3. Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 1004–5.

4. Ibid., 1004–15; cf. Augustine, Doctr. chr., 1.30.31 (NPNF1, 2:531); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 43.2 (NPNF1, 7:240).

5. Cf. BDAG, s.v., φιλέω, §1.

6. See D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996); Keener, John, 1235–36; Moisés Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 96–97, for a discussion.

7. Cf. Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 596–98.

8. Andreas J. Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 495–96n151.

Like Father, Like Son—Only More So

Lindisfarne Codex (fol. 27r, Incipit to Matthew; 8th cent.; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Chronicles 16 reports the ark of the covenant’s placement in the tent David had prepared for it (1 Chron 16:1). The middle of the chapter is a poetic section that celebrates Yahweh’s greatness toward Israel (1 Chron 16:8–36). The first part of this section (1 Chron 16:8–22) corresponds to Ps 105:1–15, the second (1 Chron 16:23–33) to Ps 96:1–13, and the third (1 Chron 16:34–36) to Ps 106:1, 47–48.1 The Chronicler does not explicitly describe David as this hymn’s composer, although this supposition appears reasonable.2 In any event, the hymn is offered in David’s presence and at his behest (1 Chron 16:7, 37).

In part, the hymn seeks to rehearse its audience’s identity as Yahweh’s covenant people.3 Given the ark’s recent completion of its previously only partial return from Philistine captivity, drawing the people’s attention afresh to Sinai would have been entirely understandable (Exod 24:1–25:22; 1 Sam 4:3–7:2; 1 Chron 13:1–15:29). Instead, as the most explicit locus of covenantal identity, the hymn enjoins those gathered to remember Yahweh’s covenant with the patriarchs and this covenant’s accompanying promise of Canaan as an inheritance (1 Chron 16:15–22).4 Yet, both this hymn and the promise to Abraham and his seed project the worship of Yahweh much farther than Israel’s boundaries in Canaan (Gen 17:1–8; 1 Chron 16:23–34; cf. Rom 4:13). As David thus commissioned agents to hymn Yahweh’s greatness, so too has David’s Son commissioned agents through whom he even also effects among the nations the extension of Yahweh’s praise and the full actualization of the promise to Abraham (e.g., Matt 28:18–20; Acts 1:6–8; 26:15–18; Rom 15:7–13; 1 Cor 5:16–21).5

  1. C. F. Keil, 1 and 2 Chronicles (trans. Andrew Harper; K&D 3; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866), 513; cf. Origen, Ep. Afr., 15 (ANF, 4:392). On these texts’ compositional relationships, see William Doan and Terry Giles, “The Song of Asaph: A Performance-critical Analysis of 1 Chronicles 16:8–36,” CBQ 70, no. 1 (2008): 32n7; Keil, Chronicles, 513–18; R. Mark Shipp, “‘Remember His Covenant Forever’: A Study of the Chronicler’s Use of the Psalms,” ResQ 35, no. 1 (1993): 29–39. For a concise description of their substantive differences, see Doan and Giles, “The Song of Asaph,” 38. 

  2. Keil, Chronicles, 511, 513. 

  3. Doan and Giles, “The Song of Asaph,” 38. 

  4. Ralph W. Klein, “Psalms in Chronicles,” CurrTM 32, no. 4 (2005): 267; R. Mark Shipp, “‘Remember His Covenant Forever’: A Study of the Chronicler’s Use of the Psalms,” ResQ 35, no. 1 (1993): 35–36; cf. Eusebius, Hist. eccl., 1.4 (NPNF2, 1:87–88). 

  5. Origen, Cels., 6.79 (ANF, 4:610); cf. Keil, Chronicles, 513; Shipp, “Remember His Covenant Forever,” 36–37; see also Rom 3:25; Heb 9:5. 

Timing Blindness

Healing of the Man Born Blind
Healing of the Man Born Blind (illumination, Codex Egberti, fol. 50; 980–993; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The account of the man who had been born blind (John 9:110:21) shares some significant features with the story of the woman at the well (John 4:4–42). In both cases, the individuals’ births place them at or outside societal margins (John 4:9, 27; 9:2). Yet, in the end, it is such marginal individuals whom the narrative situates as most in step with Jesus’ mission and, therefore, most in step with Yahweh’s purposes for his people (John 4:23–24, 39–42; 9:35–38), when a different situation would typically have been expected (John 4:20, 22; 9:13–34, 40–41; 10:19–21).

Still, in the later narrative, the reversal is even stronger because of the lengthy opposition that the staunchest part of the “in group” develops to Jesus’ timing in healing the man who had been born blind (i.e., on the Sabbath; John 9:14, 16). In Jesus’ initial response to his disciples’ question about how the man came to have been born blind, Jesus affirms that the end was “that the works of God might be manifest in him” (John 9:3; ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ). Without specifically mentioning the Sabbath, Jesus immediately continues with three temporal assertions: “it is necessary for us to work the works of the one who has sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one is able to work. When I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4–5; ἡμᾶς δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι τὰ ἔργα τοῦ πέμψαντός με ἕως ἡμέρα ἐστίν· ἔρχεται νὺξ ὅτε οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι. ὅταν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ὦ, φῶς εἰμι τοῦ κόσμου). These statements likely have referents beyond the scope of the immediate pericope (e.g., John 13:30), but they set up an important link with Jesus’ forthcoming criticism of the Pharisees for their “blindness” (John 9:39–41).1

At issue here are competing versions of Yahweh’s agenda for his people. The Pharisee’s admission of blindness would have been tantamount to repentance.2 Having been sent by the Father, Jesus claims for himself the right to pronounce and act according to the Father’s agenda (John 9:4, 39).3 To their own detriment, however, the Pharisees remain skeptical of this claim (John 9:16, 28–29, 39; cf. John 7:27).4 Instead, they prefer discipleship to Moses while not recognizing even Moses’ support for Jesus (John 5:39; 9:28–29; cf. John 10:1–21).5 Therefore, because they have stood their ground in asserting insight that they did not actually possess, what remains in the light of their encounter with Jesus is only a blindness for which such opponents are fully culpable (John 9:39–41).6

1. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 56.3 (NPNF1, 14:200–1); F. F. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John (combined ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 1:209, 220–21; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 795.

2. Cf. Origen, Cels., 7.39 (ANF, 4:627–28).

3. Cf. Origen, Comm. Jo., 1.24 (ANF, 9:311).

4. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John, 1:220; cf. Augustine, Grat., 44 (NPNF1, 5:464).

5. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 33.1 (NPNF1, 7:197).

6. Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 81.7, 97.4, 135.12 (NPNF1, 8:392, 475, 626); Augustine, Faust., 21.2 (NPNF1, 4:265); Chrysostom, The Power of Demons, 2.4 (NPNF1, 9:189); Irenaeus, Haer., 3.24.2 (ANF, 1:458–59). See also Augustine, Serm., 86 (NPNF1, 6:514–17); Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (ed. and trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall; 2nd ed.; New York: Continuum, 2006), 354.

Finding Faith in Samaria

Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well
Angelika Kauffmann, “Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well” (1796; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 4:4–42 records Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Although the woman had come to the well for water (John 4:7, 15), after her conversation with Jesus, she leaves her water jar, returns to the town, and tells the people there to “come see a person who told me all the things that I have done. This one is not the Messiah, is he?” (John 4:29; δεῦτε ἴδετε ἄνθρωπον ὃς εἶπέν μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα, μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός;).1 Others from the town then come, presumably following the woman, to see Jesus (John 4:30, 39–40). Even before the group reaches Jesus, however, many in it have believed in him based on the woman’s report (John 4:39–40a). At the group’s request, Jesus stays with them two additional days, and upon hearing his own teaching, the group believes all the more (John 4:41–42a).2

Earlier, the woman had expressed the expectation that, when he arrived, the Messiah would teach the Samaritans (John 4:25).3 Although the woman expresses uncertainty about how far Jesus’ messiahship will seem viable to the other townsfolk, her perception of his behavior at least seems to make this claim not unreasonable for her (John 4:26, 28–29).4 Still more striking is the townsfolk’s reaction when Jesus teaches them directly: “we ourselves have heard, and we believe that this one is truly the Savior of the world” (John 4:42b; αὐτοὶ . . . ἀκηκόαμεν καὶ οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου).5 In so doing, these Samaritans recognize the particular shape in which the salvation that originates with the Jews has come,6 even when notable figures among the Jewish leadership themselves have difficulty with Jesus in this respect (cf. John 3:1–21; 4:21–24; 9:110:19).7

1. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:117).

2. See also Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 627.

3. Cf. John 4:17b–18, 29a; Augustine, Serm., 51.2 (NPNF1, 6:422–23); Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2 (NPNF1, 14:115); Origen, Comm. Jo., 1.6 (ANF, 9:300).

4. Cf. BDF, §427.2; cf. NASB95 and NET, sub. loc.; Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2, 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:116, 118).

5. Cf. Ephraim Syrus, Hymns on the Nativity, 3 (NPNF2, 13:230).

6. Keener, John, 627.

7. The phrase “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24; ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ) may include a hendiadys (Keener, John, 615–18). Or, the two objects of the preposition “in” (ἐν) may be “separate . . . but epexegetically related” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, John [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 156n50). In either case, because of the close connection that John 4:23–24 proposes between “spirit” and “truth,” “truly” (John 4:42; ἀληθῶς) in the mouths of the Samaritans may well situate them as or among the “true worshipers” (John 4:23; ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταί) of the Father in that “hour [that] is coming and now is” (John 4:23; ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν).