Dissertation Abstract

On November 8th, from 8:30 to 11:00, I will defend my PhD dissertation. The title is THE REALIZATION OF THE HEAVENLY TEMPLE IN JOHN’S GOSPEL: JESUS AND THE SPIRIT.  The following paragraphs are the abstract of my dissertation. . . .

The dissertation seeks to demonstrate that the Gospel of John’s “temple replacement” theme is more accurately described as a “heavenly temple realization” theme. When examined through the lens of Johannine pneumatology, Jesus comes into focus as the realization of the heavenly temple.

Many first-century Jews believed that the true temple was located in the heavens. The Jerusalem temple was considered an earthly focal point of that heavenly reality. The eschaton would realize the heavenly temple on earth, and from this new temple would flow a world-wide restoration. In the post-A.D. 70 shadow of the destroyed temple, the Fourth Evangelist described Jesus as the embodiment of this heavenly/eschatological reality. While the destruction of the second temple removed a man-made gateway to heaven, Jesus’ removal to heaven (or “glorification”) was a return to his original heavenly habitation. From heaven, the eschatological Spirit would flow from the exalted Jesus to the people of his name. Jesus embodied the more transcendent reality of the heavenly temple, and his return to heaven occasioned an expanded and internalized realization of God’s presence through the renewing Spirit.

In order to substantiate the above position, the dissertation adopts a biblical-theological approach to the Fourth Gospel and treats the canonical text in its final form as the primary source. Although the presence of the temple and Spirit themes will be demonstrated from the text itself, many secondary works also will be utilized as stepping stones from which these recognized themes will be given greater definition. Such a reading will not read greater definition “into” the text but rather read the themes in light of the religious/cultural context of the literary work.

The literature of the Second Temple period will serve as the primary-source window into the religious/cultural context of John’s Gospel. From the OT and Second Temple literature, this dissertation will establish: (1) the ubiquity of the concept that an earthly temple was a gateway to the true heavenly temple; and (2) the expectation for Yahweh’s renewed presence with an eschatological temple from which restorative waters would flow throughout the earth. In addition, the eschatological temple was expected to realize something of the true heavenly temple. (3) The Spirit was a common depiction of Yahweh’s presence among his people, in the temple, and in the eschaton. (4) Many expected the Spirit to accomplish an intensified and expanded eschatological renewal in God’s people that would spread to the nations. (5) The Spirit-filled Messiah would usher in this eschatological age.

By establishing the widespread occurrence of the above antecedents, John’s utilization of these concepts becomes more historically probable. In his presentation, the Fourth Evangelist combines these antecedent notions and makes implicit connections explicit. John’s ultimate goal in utilizing these concepts is to urge belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31). For John, all the eschatological promises are focused upon Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is the eschatological center in heaven, from whom flows the living water of the Spirit.

In addition to the OT and Second Temple literature, John’s temple realization theme shares affinity with other NT writings. Revelation 21:22 describes the Lamb himself as the new temple in the eschaton. Other NT texts demonstrate the early and prevalent belief in the Messiah seated at the right hand of God’s heavenly throne as well as the belief that the Messiah would be the one who pours out the Spirit. The Fourth Evangelist simply pulls the eschatological promise of the new temple into the Messiah’s résumé since the eschatological temple is expected to be the source of renewing waters.

When the Fourth Gospel is read in light of these recognized concepts, John’s literary presentation argues that he incorporated and developed the above ideas into a heavenly temple realization theme.

A careful reading of John’s Gospel demonstrates the validity of the thesis. In the first half of the Gospel, the framework for a heavenly temple realization theme is set in the prologue, which prepares the reader to understand the Jesus story within a heavenly framework. Within this heavenly framework, John’s presentation progresses from Jesus as the tabernacle (1:14), to the new Bethel (1:51), to the temple (2:21), to Jerusalem being obsolete as the sole place of worship (4:21), and then to Jesus as the eschatological temple from whom flows the promised Spirit (7:37–39). The Spirit-streams do “not yet” flow until Jesus returns to his heavenly glory. At that time, the eschatological water of the Spirit would be given—the efflux of the heavenly temple would flow throughout the earth via “those who believed in him.” John 11:48–52 provides a final ironic treatment of the Jerusalem temple, reinforcing that Jesus has fulfilled the temple and its cult. Those who believe in Jesus will be gathered together as the messianic children of God with the Messiah himself as the new cultic center.

John weaves his story such that Jesus fulfills the temple in the first half of his Gospel and the corollaries of that are spelled out in the second half as Jesus prepares the community for his departure. In the second half of John’s Gospel, the temple theme recedes because it is a type that supports Jesus’ identity. The type has given way to reality, and that heavenly reality is the personal presence of the glorified Son. The reality of the personal presence of the Father and Son is mediated to the community through the Spirit. For this reason, the Spirit grows more personal and significant in the last half of John’s Gospel.

From heaven, the Son sends the Spirit-presence who is no longer a cultic manifestation as much as a realization of the familial presence of Father and Son. Temple imagery has been eclipsed by relational imagery signaling a true realization of the Father’s personal presence to his children. This language dominates the Farewell Discourse and its Paraclete passages. The glorified Jesus sends the Spirit Paraclete to realize the heavenly realities in the community. The messianic community then is tasked with testifying and spreading these heavenly truths throughout the world (20:21–22).

Throughout John’s Gospel, several interwoven themes and terms support a heavenly realization theme. For instance, the Fourth Evangelist applies “glory, presence, and name” terminology to Jesus throughout his Gospel, first in temple imagery and then in personal imagery. In the Farewell Discourse this terminology is used to describe the glorified Jesus realizing the divine presence in, and through, the disciples. The occurrence of this terminology supports a heavenly temple realization theme, especially in combination with the themes related to Jesus’ origin and return to heaven. Jesus’ return to heaven, “from above/heaven,” “ascending/descending,” and “sending” themes consistently set Jesus’ identity and origin in the heavens. Because these themes also assume that Jesus will continue a ministry that spans from heaven to earth, they offer collaborating support for Jesus realizing heavenly realities.

Johannine dualism and eschatology also cohere with a heavenly temple realization theme. Jesus bridges the dualistic divide between heaven and earth to realize presently eschatological blessings. These blessings include the renewing waters of the Spirit flowing from Jesus, the heavenly temple.

The dissertation’s reading of the temple and Spirit themes in John’s Gospel provides an original and coherent understanding of these themes firmly based in the historical/religious context of the Fourth Evangelist. The data from the Second Temple period, combined with the Fourth Evangelist’s own pneumatological presentation, argue that John’s temple replacement theme is described more accurately as a heavenly temple realization theme.


Leave a comment

Filed under Academic

Proverbs, Proofreading, and Boy George

As I have been finishing up my dissertation and ignoring this blog, I also have been homeschooling my son. One of our “slogans” for learning is Proverbs 12:15, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” There are several ways to “listen to advice.” Reading books and studying the work of experts constitutes a type of receiving advice. Apprenticing, mentoring, and discussion involve more give and take, which certainly imparts wisdom. The methodology, however, is secondary to the attitude.

This verse counters the human (and teenage) propensity to assume that we have arrived. We think we “know” something because we heard about it or watched a television special. The way of wisdom humbly recognizes our limited knowledge and that other people often know more. One of the tasks of advanced research is compiling other people’s knowledge to augment areas outside our specialty. Although I am about to receive my PhD., I feel like I know less than when I received my Bachelors degree.

Make no mistake, Proverbs 12:15 is more about attitude than education. Even when education and experience levels are the same, another person’s input adds an additional perspective and layer of wisdom. This truth can be illustrated through proofreading. A fellow PhD. candidate, Paul Himes, proofread my dissertation (note the link to his blog on the right). He found an instance where instead of “through,” I had typed “though.” I had read though [sic] that dissertation at least six times and never noticed that mistake. Although I was the author of the work—the expert—another person was able to give me advice to make that work better. A more pervasive mistake in my writing was my misuse of commas. Even after countless writing projects I must admit that I am a “comma chameleon—they come and go” (those of you who grew up in the 80’s understand the Boy George reference now). Paul’s advice, and advice from writing manuals, made my writing more “right.”

Proofreading, parenting, cooking, repairing . . . life presents countless opportunities to apply wisdom. From these opportunities leads a path of mere self-reliance with its limited perspective that mostly seems right—an Ed McMahon in our mind that always agrees with us (Johnny Carson) and laughs at our jokes. But there is another path with a greater perspective that points out our limitations and errors. “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotional

Paper presentation at regional ETS

On March 24th @ 10:35 am I will be presenting a paper in Adams Hall at the regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Wake Forest, NC. Many other fine presentations will be going on at the same time, but please stop by if the subject interests you. The following introduction from my paper will serve as an adequate abstract.


The New Testament (NT) assumes a close correspondence between the Holy Spirit and God’s presence in the temple. This assumption is most clearly expressed in passages such as 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Eph 2:22 where believers are called a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” This concept is alluded to in other contexts such as John 14:17 where Jesus (in fulfillment of the temple) promises to mediate God’s indwelling presence through the Holy Spirit. This NT concept seems to be drawing from antecedent notions concerning the temple and yet no Old Testament (OT) scripture explicitly refers to the Spirit indwelling the temple. Despite the lack of direct references, many scholars presuppose that the NT relationship between the Holy Spirit and the temple is based upon OT antecedents. The gap between the OT and NT data is often addressed by simply incorporating the NT assumption without an investigation as to how the unstated in the OT became assumed in the NT. This paper’s purpose is to address this gap through an investigation of the temple and Spirit concepts in the OT and literature of the second temple period.

Starting with the OT and moving into the second temple period I will argue:

1) One of the most important functions of the tabernacle/temple was mediating Yahweh’s presence to his people.

2) In the OT, Yahweh’s presence was depicted with the terms “cloud” and/or “glory” in the sanctuary. The term “Spirit” was usually reserved for Yahweh’s presence or empowerment among the people outside the sanctuary. Because these three terms variously denoted Yahweh’s presence, they provided a point of overlap and intersection with one another.

3) The destruction of Solomon’s temple and exile spurred on a shift in perspective concerning God’s presence in the temple. That shift called for a depiction of God’s presence that emphasized his transcendence of the temple while still being close to his downtrodden people. The Spirit, more than the other concepts, better depicted God’s presence in the needed manner. The Spirit’s presence after the exile was not a blinding glory or cloud as much as Yahweh’s active presence in the midst of his people. God’s presence among the people was the same presence that dwelt in the holy sanctuary. The historical trajectory of the Spirit-temple relationship is corroborated by later developments in the post-A.D. 70 Jewish literature and NT.

3a) The Spirit’s role in the eschatological renewal also contributed to the increased use of the Spirit to depict God’s presence. The Spirit would usher in the promised presence of God among his people as “all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num 14:21) in the eschatological age (Is 6:3; Hab 2:14).

4) All of the above factors help explain the NT assumption that the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in the temple. In the NT, Jesus (not the temple) becomes the mediator of God’s presence and the Spirit (because of his dual function in antecedents) becomes the dominant way to express God’s presence not simply among, but in his people. The increased depiction of the Spirit as God’s presence is a necessary adaptation since the presence of God is no longer centered on the temple but is going throughout the world. Wherever Jesus’ body is present, Jesus mediates the presence of God through the Spirit.

While the thesis will not subvert scholarly assumptions, it will hopefully provide some firm data to warrant such assumptions. Many scholars have rightly intuited the correspondence between the Holy Spirit and the temple-indwelling presence of God. An investigation into the possible development of this correspondence will give historical background and perhaps further insights into NT passages.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic

Silent Night?

Some thoughts I recently shared with my congregation:

Merry Christmas and congratulations—you survived the day after Thanksgiving! Of course there are more days of shopping peril left, but ‘tis the season to take it one day at a time. Many of us need to take the Christmas season one day at a time just to maintain our sanity in the midst of the holiday busyness and the shoppers’ angst.

When we look at all we have to do between now and Christmas the temptation is to simply try to reach the end. You know what I mean, the relieved collapse on the sofa on Christmas night. For most of us the words to the beloved carol, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm…” have no meaning until December 26. In order to put the silent nights back into the Christmas season we have to take it one day at a time. We also need to practice self-discipline. Yes, self-discipline is a scary and foul word in our culture, about as welcome as a stale fruit cake this time of year. Even a little self-discipline, however, can bring some silence and calm back to our holiday season.

Take a time out every night until Christmas. Intentionally set aside a block of time to soak in the silence and calm, even 10 minutes will work wonders. No television. No cleaning. No wrapping presents. I enjoy turning all the lights off except the lights on the Christmas tree and in my mind traveling to Israel 2,000 years ago. I imagine being a shepherd watching my flock under the stars. I imagine the surreal wonder of looking on the Christ child and realizing what this gift means about God’s love for the world—God’s love for me. What if every night we took a moment to hear the still small voice of THE Reason for the season?

We won’t take this time out without self-discipline. We would all like to experience silent and calm nights but we forget and quickly give up. The best friend of self-discipline is often creativity. Make a sign saying, “Silent night, Holy night” and hang it on the refrigerator as a reminder. Get together with a friend or loved one to remind each other to take a time out at an agreed upon time. Leave a note on your pillow to jog your memory before bed. Even a short time of a “silent night when all is calm” will change your Christmas season—one day at a time. I guarantee it.

One of the high points of most Christmas Eve services is singing Silent Night by candlelight. Oftentimes the words to that song seem to be more of a far away pipe dream than the reality of our Christmas. What a joy it would be this year to sing Silent Night as an expression of what we have experienced and felt already in the days leading up to Christmas. I pray that this will be the case and that God would bless you with self-discipline and the wonder of His still small voice this Christmas season.

1 Comment

Filed under Devotional, Pastoral

Dissertation Abstract

Haven’t blogged lately due to comprehensive exams and preparing my prospectus.  Here is a rough abstract of my dissertation. I welcome any input on potential sources or problems.  I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at Southeastern Baptist Seminary. My focus is the Gospel of John.



The Gospel of John’s pneumatology supports reading the “temple replacement” theme more accurately as the “temple realization” theme. When examined through the lens of Johannine pneumatology, Jesus comes into focus as the realization of the heavenly temple.

Many first-century Jews believed the true temple was located in the heavens and the Jerusalem temple was an earthly focal point of that heavenly reality. Jesus came from above as an embodiment of that heavenly reality, beginning the realization of the eschatological, worldwide spread of God’s glory.  In agreement with second temple Judaism, John presents the Holy Spirit as a necessary component to both the temple and the eschatological renewal.

Jesus, like the temple, is the gateway to the heavenly realm and the focus of God’s presence. Unlike the Jerusalem temple, however, Jesus descended from heaven and not only reflected heavenly realities, but was the heavenly reality. While the destruction of the second temple removed a man-made gateway to heaven, Jesus’ removal to heaven (or “glorification”) was a return to his original heavenly habitation. From above, the Spirit was poured out to wherever Jesus’ “name” dwelt.  Jesus embodied the more transcendent reality of the heavenly habitation and could therefore mediate the transcendent presence of the Spirit in an intimate way. In so doing, Jesus was not replacing the temple as much as being the eschatological realization of the temple in spreading God’s glory (which is also associated with his name, Spirit, and presence) to the ends of the earth.

John weaves his story such that Jesus replaces the temple in the first half of his Gospel and the corollaries of that are spelled out in the second half as Jesus prepares the community for his departure. Literarily, John removes the ambiguity of the Spirit’s ministry as Jesus’ glorification draws near.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic

NH’s Old Man of the Mountain

My wife and I recently visited New Hampshire’s White Mountains, home of the late “Old Man of the Mountain.”  The Old Man was a granite formation which hung on the cliff side of Canon Mountain. From Profile Lake, the formation resembled the face of a man and inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “The Great Stone Face.”  The Old Man is NH’s state emblem and appears on NH license plates, road signs, their state quarter, and a myriad of tourist souvenirs. On May 3, 2003, after approximately 12,000 years (although his formation took place over millennia) the Old Man fell.

As I looked up to the barren cliff where the Old Man once hung, my mind was flooded with many thoughts.

Images of previous trips to this place came to mind – when the Old Man still stood and before my children were born.  These images appeared as from another life, a life when my marriage was brand new and my precious Abigail and Isaiah had not entered this world.  Yet there my wife and I stood, celebrating our 15th anniversary as we paid our respects to the dearly departed Old Man. What is 15 years? The passage of time feels like riding downhill on a skateboard.  The speed increases the longer you stay on the board.

In addition to the personal memories a deeper resonance (one not connected to physical senses) rumbled within my ephemeral mind. “What can be more certain than basing an identity, an emblem, on something that has stood for millennia? Indeed the bureaucrats were wise. Man-made things come and go but the Old Man, he is granite, he has watched over NH since before Columbus. The Great Stone Face will be the emblem; he will represent the great state of NH. Who can find a better, more stable icon than this Ancient Face of Granite?”

Yet, the Old Man has fallen. He had always teetered on the edge of a precipice. The Old Man is himself bound to the Earth which totters precariously on a skateboard as it races downhill.

“Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days;

Let me know how transient I am.

Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,

And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;

Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.

Surely every man walks about as a phantom;

Surely they make an uproar for nothing;

He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait?

My hope is in You.”

Psalm 39:4-7

1 Comment

Filed under Devotional


Some thoughts I will share with my church this month:

On July 4th we celebrate the founding of our nation and the freedom that living in this country brings.  In America we have freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and free, democratic elections. As Americans, we have many institutional freedoms for which we should be thankful.

However, having all the external, institutional freedoms does not necessarily mean that we are living in freedom.  Freedom is not just an external situation that exists in some nations and not others.  Freedom is also an internal state, a way of living that contains many options that we can actually take. If we are enslaved to addiction can we speak of being free? If we can never live beyond self-centeredness or personal interest are we truly free? Where is the freedom in continually serving a falsehood? If life is confined to an 80 year sentence of meaningless existence, how free are we?

All the external freedoms we enjoy in America do not guarantee that we will live a life of freedom.  A part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that freedom can be a living, working reality in our lives.  Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” and “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32,36). Before I took the Christian plunge, I had no idea what this freedom meant.  I thought I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. In reality I was in a 5 ft, 8 inch cell of self (even if you are not as short as I am, you are still pretty restricted).  From my cell I had a very limited perspective – one small window.  All activities had to be approved by the twin guards of self-interest and expediency. Because I only knew cell life, I didn’t realize my lack of freedom until Jesus sprung me free.

I confess that sometimes the familiarity of the old cell beckons me to return and I have the freedom to go back.  But thank God I also now have the freedom to leave. This independence day I am so thankful for freedom, both external and internal.

1 Comment

Filed under Devotional