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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When you read "We" don't forget to think "She"

When you read "We" don't forget to think "She"

I personally believe that the New Testament (the 27 books we have in our English Bibles today) were all written in the First Century. This opinion is not one which many modern scholars hold.

There are some exceptions (J.A.T Robinson is one in his book 'Redating the New Testament.'), but most scholars believe that the New Testament came together a long time after all of the letters were written.

Many of us who have grown up in the English speaking world have grown up with the basic understanding that the Bible was written over a 1500 year period by about 30 different men. Yes, this is what we have all been brought up to believe, but I think that if we limit ourselves to this kind of thinking, we may miss out on some opportunities for learning.

Now, in the process of the New Testament coming together, I think that one woman in particular played an important role which is not often recognized. She is a woman we are all familiar with, but after the Gospels, we seem to lose track of her. Who is this woman?

It is Mary, the mother of our Lord.

In the book of Acts, Mary is mentioned only at the very beginning in Acts One. We see at the scene of the crucifixion that Jesus told the apostle John to take care of his mother, Mary, and we understand that this took place. (John 19:26-27)

After Acts though we don't hear from Mary anymore. Or do we?

There is a very interesting passage talking about Mary and I think it is important for a number of reasons. It is found in Luke 2:51. In talking about the experience of Jesus visiting the Temple, Mary is noted as having "treasured up all these things in her heart."

Let's be clear. Mary was one of the most important witnesses to who Christ was and her testimony is an important one.

Do we find Mary's testimony in the Gospel of John?

As I have mentioned, Mary was to become a member of the family of the apostle John. We have four of his books in the New Testament. These are the Gospel and the three epistles of John.
In those books, we have some interesting passages which use the term "we" (not I, as in John himself speaking, but appealing to a group of people).

I personally believe that Mary, who joined the family of John, is included in these witnesses to the truth of the message of Christ. This is a quote from my late father's book "Restoring the Original Bible" (ASK Publications: Portland: OR 1994):

"The best place to start in order to observe this circle of John's helpers is at the very end of John's Gospel. Throughout his twenty-one chapters we find the apostle recording what Christ taught along with John's own comments being given from time to time. But when one reaches John 21:24 (just before the end of the Gospel) there is a remark in the text that interjects what others besides John had to say about the Gospel of John. Notice the verse.

"This is the disciple [John] who bears witness about these things (and WE know that the witness he gives is true)." Notice the abrupt change from the third person singular to the plural. The last part of this verse is introducing further witnesses, other than John (who are identified only by the pronoun "WE")." (Martin, pg. 398)

There are other "we" passages.

"But there is more. The "WE" passages do not stop with the single verse at the end of John's Gospel. They occur elsewhere in John's writings. Notice the short epistle called Third John. John began to speak to a man called Gaius in the first person singular: "I pray that in all things you may be prospering and having good health" (verse 2). Then we find a long string of "I rejoiced" (verse 3), "I am thankful" (verse 4), "I wrote" (verse 9), and "I will call to remembrance" (verse 10). But then, and out of the blue, John introduces a plural intrusion into the text. In this book it says: "in fact, WE also are bearing witness, and you know that the witness WE give is true" (verse 12). Then immediately the context of Third John returns to: "I had many things to write you, yet I do not wish to go on writing you with ink and pen. But I am hoping to see you directly" (verses 13,14)." (ibid. pg. 399)

"There is even more. In John's First Epistle we find the insertion of another "WE section." Notice I John 4:11. After John told his readers that "I am writing" (I John 2:1), followed by further references to "I am writing" or "I write" in verses 7,8,12,13 (three times), 14 (twice) as well as "I write" in verses 21 and 26, there is then interjected into the context: "In addition, WE ourselves have beheld and are bearing witness that the Father has sent forth his Son as Savior of the world." (I John 4:14) (ibid.pg. 400)

This shows, once again, an intrusion into the text. This was a deliberate attempt to interpose the witness of a body of men other than the apostle John. And after these men had their chance to include their witness, we find John returning to his "I write you" motif (I John 5:13). These references indicate that there were other men, clearly known by the original readers of John's Gospel and his First and Third epistles, who wanted to make sure that they also were giving their testimonies to the truth of what John was saying. Scholars are aware that this interjection is the separate witness by John's assistants or editors (Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, vol.I,pp.880,881), but the vast majority of readers of the New Testament simply pass over this reference so quickly that they do not notice the relevance of it." (ibid. pg.402)

Notice an important "WE section" at the very start of John's Gospel.

"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and WE beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) (ibid. pg.401)

Now here is where I get to disagree with my dad and were he here today, I think he would agree that I have a valid point.

Is it only a "body of men" as my father referred to? I don't think so.

If Mary spent the rest of her life with the apostle John, which there is every indication to believe in the historical records, who would be a more reliable witness to appeal to than the mother of Jesus Christ?

I personally cannot think of one.

So, when you read "we", don't forget to think "She."

I welcome your comment.

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~ octomom said...

It's true. Who would be a better confirmation or witness to the truth of all that John was saying about Jesus than His mom? She's the one who knew Him from the moment He was a fertilized egg...till He ascended into Heaven. She saw Him when He was at home and "His real self." She saw how He reacted to EVERYTHING and so who would know Him and His true character BETTER than she? I think it's another instance of how the attacks on the Bible for being anti-women are unfounded 'cause this is just another example of God giving great honor to a woman. The greatest witness of Christ...is a woman. :)

Byker Bob said...

Wow. I never made this connection, that Mary would have been a continuing influence in St. John's life's work.
Thank you for this, Samuel! It is indeed profound!


Anonymous said...

We know from the text itself that St. John wrote his Gospel account at an advanced age in Ephesus--after his exile to Patmos and after the death of St. Peter.

We also know that when Mary died in Jerusalem, all the disciples were at her side except St. Thomas. Peter wasn't yet dead, John wasn't yet exiled.

While John writes in the first person, every time he verifies his testimony, he does so by appealing to the witness of the Church of Ephesus and the consensus of the testimony of eyewitnesses. He says, "I'm telling you this, but I'm not the only one who says this."

There's a lot of commentary on this verse from over the ages. Early church fathers like St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril, and St. Augustine all discuss it. Scholarship in the modern day questions if John wrote the Gospel himself or if it was later collated, but as you rightly point out that hypothesis does not pan out as everything indicates it was St. John himself who wrote the account in Ephesus, most likely with St. Prochorus as his scribe.

Mary fell asleep long before John traveled to Ephesus and wrote his gospel. While her eyewitness testimony was among those that agreed and supported St. John's, Mary's previous death means she cannot be especially included in the use of the word we in John's gospel as if she is actively joining him in verifying this testimony.