Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Visiting Bethany (part 3)

To this point, it seems that the author of the Gospel has been building a case for Jesus as a royal personage---the ruler of the world in fact---with this especially noticeable when viewed in the light of that which was thought of and said about the Caesar---the one who was then looked upon as the ruler of the world. 

To the end of presenting Jesus as royalty, this particular Gospel narrative begins with Jesus (personifying “the Word”) being heralded as the Creator God (John 1:1).  It is said that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.  And the light shines on in the darkness…  We saw His glory---the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth… For we have all received from His fullness one gracious gift after another” (1:4-5a,14b,16). 

A bit further on, Jesus is referred to as the “one and only Son” of the God of Israel (an epithet that had also been applied to Israel itself) and that “everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (3:16b-17).  Shortly thereafter, one again reads “that the light has come into the world” (3:19b), and later on also finds Jesus speaking of Himself as “the light of the world” (8:12).  These things are said about Jesus in a world that is provided context by the presence and rule and worship of the Caesar. 

Interestingly enough, in an inscription from 9BC, Caesar Augustus is hailed as  “The most divine… we should consider co-equal to the beginning of all things… for when everything was falling [into disorder] and tending toward dissolution, he restored it once more and gave to the whole world a new aura; …the common good fortune of all…The beginning of life and vitality. …All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine as the new beginning of the year…  Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence…has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us (this man), whom it [Providence] filled with strength…the welfare of men, and who being to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in Order; and [whereas] having become [god] manifest, has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times… in surpassing all the benefactors who proceeded him… and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the good news concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth].” 

Though this was written of Augustus, who was the first of the Caesars to be hailed as the son of god, all subsequent Caesars were accorded the same title, which provides information about the way in which the emperor was viewed, with this being so even at the time of the writing of the Gospel of John (presumably late first century).  The parallels between the things that are here said about the Caesar in the Augustus inscription, and the things that are said about Jesus in the Gospel of John, are quite interesting and inescapable.  Similar claims are being made for both, while a stark and clear contrast is being drawn.  A person could be forgiven for believing that the author of John had the Ceasar cult and such inscriptions in mind (along with Genesis naturally) when penning the opening of his work.  

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