Friday, January 8, 2010

Another interesting "eternal Life" connection

I haven't been doing much theology blogging recently. Sorry guys.
However, I realized something pretty interesting recently. It actually strikes me as something I may have seen earlier and forgotten.

As most of you know, a central premise to my first book on Christianity is that the term "Salvation" is misunderstood today, taken to mean something that 2nd temple Jews living in Jesus day would not have meant. Indeed, even the church did not see "salvation" in the sense of "saving people from hell" sense for hundreds of years. [Note, for example, Athanasius' understanding of the term presently indirectly on page 18 of my extra topics pdf.]

Anyways, part of the argument for this understanding comes from the way that John [and I think Paul, but it is less clear] used the Greek term often translated "eternal life." My claim is that this referred to the Jewish O'lam Ha-ba in general and the New Covenant and its attendant indwelling of the Holy Spirit in particular.

I give several reasons for considering this plausible in chapters 3 and 4 of my book, but one that I don't think I referenced is this interesting pair of verses:

John 4:13-14 says:
Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

And then John 7:37-39 says:
Now on the last day, the great {day} of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' " But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet {given,} because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Note how similar these passages are...not only do they both speak about water, but they also speak about the water flowing out from the inside him, they both include a message about people coming to receive something from Christ, and they both come right before a reference to Jesus as Christ. If we can take these as being connected in their metaphor, we are left with another at least reasonable argument for "eternal life" being a reference to the indwelling of the Spirit.


Nick said...

Hi David,

I'm (slowly) working through your Bible Study you sent.

I just wanted to quickly talk on this issue.

I believe Paul and John use the term "eternal life" differently. When John uses it, he is speaking of sharing in God's Life in our soul. I think the best proof of this is 1 John 3:15 that says "no murder has eternal life ABIDING IN HIMSELF". This means a Christian who commits grave sin lose 'eternal life' (unless they repent). It is certainly reasonable to equate this with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

p.s. some translations omit "abiding" in 1 Jn 3:15, but it's there when I check a Greek Lexicon. ALso, the word "Abide" is the same Greek word as Jn 15 where we "abide in Chris" who is the "Vine" who's life flows into the "branches". Same for John 6:56 and partaking in the Eucharist).

David Rudel said...

Hi Nick,
I think the clearest "prooftext" for this meaning of "eternal life" is John 17:3. One thing I find really powerful about that verse is that it uses the same "definitional" semantics John uses elsewhere when he wants to say EXACTLY what something is.

Glad to hear from you again!

Bev said...

Hi David! In John 4:14, it sounds to me like eternal life is the result of the water; in John 7:39, the water is a metaphor for the Spirit. The spirit (living water) is the cause; eternal life the effect.

the spirit gives life - John 6:63

"the law of the spirit of life" vs. "the law of sin and death" - Romans 8:2. Note here that we know that the wages (result/effect) of sin is death (this is the law of sin and death) and how it balances with the law of the spirit of life. Cause and effect: sin=death; spirit=life.

the last Adam became a life-giving spirit - 1 Corinthians 14:45

the spirit gives life - 2 Corinthians 3:6

will from the spirit reap eternal life - Galatians 6:8

This is why it is so important to nurture and "walk by/in" the holy spirit given to us, and not to grieve (Ephesians 4:30-32) or quench it (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Maintaining a holy spirit is the key to eternal life.

David Rudel said...

I was combining the various aspects of the new covenant into the single term, which is why I was saying that "eternal life" was both a reference to the Spirit and the life one has after receiving it.

Thus, I'm perfectly fine with the division that you've made here, but I'm not sure it is one John was too concerned about when using the term "water" in two slightly different ways to refer to the same topic.

sweetdreams said...

Yes David I see what you are saying being in the covenant is eternal life and in the age to come.
What do you make of this?

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant …For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Jerm 31:31-34) “For I will be merciful toward their evil deeds, and their sins I will remember no longer.” (Hebrews 8:12)

David Rudel said...

The passages you quote both refer to the new covenant promised to "Israel and Judah" in Jeremiah.

After writing up this remark, I realized I wanted to make it a true see the new post for my response ;)

Kevin said...

Have you considered John 17:3 as a definition of "eternal Life? "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

also along the same lines of thought... Do you believe man has a "mortal" or an "immortal" soul by default? Your thoughts?

David Rudel said...

Hey Kevin, welcome to the blog!

The verse you quote is actually the foundational verse that validated the understanding of "eternal life" I had seen elsewhere in John.

You can read a bit about my spiritual journey in this regard in the first four chapters of my book.

It is posted online here.

The 3rd and 4th chapters ["The Frame" and "From Eternal Life to Salvation"] are particularly focused on this question.

As for the nature of our soul [outside of God's intervention], I am not certain, but I think that our souls are not "immortal" in the sense that God's is. I believe Paul's remarks in Romans 1:23 support this (more clearly in the Greek, I think, than in our English translations).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for good stuff