"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 9 Deepening Conflict (Jn 9.1- 10.42)
Section 9.3 Jesus at the Feast of Dedication (Jn 10.22-39)
COMMENTS ON SPECIFIC VERSES
The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, as it is better known today, lasts for eight days and takes place in November or December according to
the Gregorian calendar. It commemorates the purification and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the forces of the
Seleucid kingdom in the early second century BCE. A popular story, committed to writing in the Talmud, recounted that when the Temple was cleansed, only a day's
supply of consecrated oil was found to light the menorah (which was required to burn daily from evening to morning
Even if the story of the miracle of the oil was not yet widely associated with the holiday in the evangelist's time, it seems likely that the association with light already was. Josephus was after all a younger contemporary of both Jesus and the Elder. Thus we see in chapters 7-10 a unit bracketed at either end with a feast associated with light as well as by common themes of light and darkness, spiritual perception and spiritual blindness, along with Jesus' claims of revelations from the Father and of self-revelation in words and deeds as he does the work of the Father who sent him. In the course of this unit Jesus twice proclaims that he is the Light of the World.
Solomon's Portico, or Porch, is one of two places in the Temple named in association with Jesus' preaching in John -- the other is the treasury (Jn 8.20). As the plan shows, the Temple was a rectangular building contained within a square perimeter (shown in the inset plan at the bottom left). This structure was oriented on an east-west axis, with the east to the viewer's right on the plan (so that the Holy of Holies is at the far left, or westmost, side of the plan). The treasury was in the Court of Women, the outermost of the courts from which Gentiles were restricted, while Solomon's Portico was a colonnade along the eastern side of the Temple, outside the Court of Women. It was bounded on the east by the wall of the Temple precinct, which apparently could be entered through a gate known as the Shushan Gate. In winter the wall would have blocked the prevailing east wind and provided an appealing site for those listening to Jesus' teaching.
The word "sheep" here links back with the previous teaching from Jesus about shepherds and sheepfolds. The true sheep of v27 presuppose a true shepherd, such as was described earlier in ch10.
In this verse Jesus shocks his hearers with the assertion that he and his Father are one. Later in the dialogue, he says (in v37) that
It is at the end of ch8 that a group of Jesus' listeners first takes stones in their hands to throw at him (Jn 8.59). Here they are moved by
Jesus' statement that he and the Father are one, which they believe to be blasphemous. After his answer in Jn 5.17 to the charge of healing on the Sabbath, Jesus
is said to have been condemned by the authorities in Jn 5.18:
The quotation from the Bible here is from the Psalms, and so not technically from the Law; the word "Law" is being used in a broad sense, to refer to the whole canon of Scripture. As before (in Jn 8.17), the use of the possessive "your" seems intended as an ironic comment on these Jerusalemites' presumed devotion to the Law in contrast to their apparent ignorance of the implications of this Psalm in the context of Jesus' life and teaching. It would, I think, be a great strain on the word to interepret it as suggesting a gap between Jesus himself and the Law or Second Temple Judaism. That is, we should understand it to mean "the Law to which you are so attached", not "your Law as opposed to mine".
The argument from Scripture is a little complicated. Part of the problem is in the interpretation of the Psalm itself (Ps 82).
What is this about? Who are being addressed in v6, part of which Jesus actually quotes (
Here the same verb ("hagiazein") is used to refer to Jesus as is used to describe the consecration of the Tent (also know as the Tabernacle) and its altar in the book of Numbers. There it is said first of the Tent and its appurtenances and then of the altar and its appurtenances that Moses anointed them and then consecrated them. We have already seen in the Prologue that there is a sense in which Jesus takes over the role of the Tent as the place in which the Lord's Presence is made manifest to human beings. That Jesus describes himself as consecrated when speaking during the feast that celebrated the Dedication of the Temple seems intended to remind us of what the Prologue had said. For more discussion, see Brown 1966 pp 402, 404, and 411.
The theme of witness is a repeated one in this gospel. It begins with the first chapter, where John the Baptist is shown again and again to have been a witness to who Jesus is. It is mentioned prominently in chapter 3, in the dialogue with Nicodemos and later in John's reaction to Jesus' successful ministry. But in chapter 5 the emphasis switches from a human witness (John the Baptist) to the witness of Jesus's deeds, the works he does, works that the Father has given him to do. The intervening chapters, from 6 to 9, are full of accounts of such works. Here in chapter 10 Jesus begins again to cite his works as witness in arguments and discussions with his opponents, making it clear that those who refuse to take these works into account are unable to realise who he is or to put their trust in him, the precondition for becoming one of his sheep. Thus they reject what Jesus says about himself throughout this section of the text, even going so far as to threaten to stone or arrest him.
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