Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church
Archpriest Steven C. Kostoff
4285 Ashland Ave, Cincinnati OH 45212 - (513) 351-0907

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Join us for our Summer Bible Study Finale!

August 14, 2017

 

This Summer's Bible Study will end on Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m.) when we will read and discuss Ch. 20 of St. John's Gospel. This is the chapter describing the event of Christ's Resurrection. If you find the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the death of some interest, then perhaps you will consider joining us for the final session this Wednesday as we will take a careful look at the wonderful events narrated by St. John in this captivating chapter.

 

Join us for this splendid finale!

 

 

Study Questions for August 9 Bible Study, JN Ch 19

August 9, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

The Bible Study will begin this evening at 7:30 p.m. There is no service before the study.


For the Bible Study on Wednesday (JN. 19) here is one way that we can divide the actual Crucifixion into a series of five scenes:



1. The Crucifixion of Jesus under a Title Affixed to the Cross: 19:16b-22

     • Why is the actual crucifixion of Christ not described in a any of the brutal details?

     • What does the inscription on the Cross of Christ reveal about his identity?

     • What could be signified by the use of the three languages: Hebrew, Latin and Greek?

2. The Division of Jesus' Garments: 19:23-24

     • Is there any symbolic value to the seamless character of Christ's tunic?

3. The Bequest of Jesus' Mother to the Beloved Disciple: 19:25-27

     • How many women stood by the Cross of Christ - two, three or four?

     • How could Mary, "wife of Clopas" be the "sister" of the Virgin Mary?

     • Why would Jesus call out to his mother as "Woman"?

     • Is there symbolic meaning to the new relationship that Jesus establishes between his mother and the "beloved disciple"?

 

4. The Death of Jesus: 19:28-30

     • What is signified by the vessel full of vinegar offered to Christ?

     • What is meant by the words of Christ: "It is finished?"

     • What could handing over his spirit signify?



5. The Piercing of Jesus' Side: 19:31-37

     • What does the flow of blood and water from the side of Jesus signify?

     • Why is it important that the events described in the crucifixion were in accordance "with the Scriptures?"

 

Follow-up Notes on John Ch 18 Bible Study Session

Christ before the Sanhedrin
Christ before the Sanhedrin
Christ before the Sanhedrin
August 3, 2017

 

Dear Bible Study Participants,


Once again, a very stimulating session yesterday evening with another large group as we enter into the profound mystery of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection as narrated by St. John the Evangelist and Theologian. By the grace of God, St. John's account is theologically profound, and told with great drama and an unerring eye for the symbolic. The chiastic structure that the evangelist employs from 18:28 - 19:16 - which we looked at briefly yesterday evening - is a brilliant artistic devise for conveying both the pathos and irony that fill this section of the Gospel. For it is Pilate and the world that are actually on trial when it is seemingly Christ.

Prior to the trial, Jesus was arrested in "the garden." St. Cyril of Alexandria brings out the full import of this garden in the history of fall and salvation:


"The place was a garden, typifying the paradise of old. For in this place, as it were, all places were recapitulated and our return to humanity's ancient condition was consummated. For the troubles of humanity began in paradise, while Christ's suffering, which brought us deliverance from all the evil that happened to us in times past, began in this garden." COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF J0HN. 11.12.


Jesus would not allow Peter to defend Him by lifting his sword and using it against the soldiers in the garden. Yet, Christ defended His disciples in the process. According to St. John Chrysostom:


"When Jesus says, "I have not lost one," he was not referring to temporal but eternal death here, although the Evangelist also understood him to be talking about temporal death. And one might wonder why they did not seize the disciples with him and cut them to pieces, especially when Peter had roused their anger by what he did to the servant. Who then restrained them? It was no other than that power that cast them backward. And so the Evangelist, to show that it did not happen through their intention but by the power and decree of him whom they had seized, has added, "That the saying might be fulfilled which he spoke, 'Of those which you have given me, I have lost none'."  HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 83.1.


At one point Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king. Christ's response is neither a firm "yes" or "no," but according to St. Augustine it is "nuanced" for a particular purpose:


It was not that Jesus was afraid to confess himself a king, but the phrase "you say" in nuanced enough that he neither denies himself to be a king (for he is a king whose kingdom is not of this world), nor does he confess that he is such a king as to warrant the supposition that his kingdom is of this world. For, since this was the very idea in Pilate's mind when he said, "Are you a king then?" the answer Pilate received was, "You say that I am a king." For it was said, "You say," as if it had been said, since you are worldly, you say it in a worldly way."  TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 115.3.


Then there was Pilate's famous - or rather infamous - question put to Jesus, after Jesus revealed to the procurator that He has come into the world to bear witness to the truth: "What is truth?" According to St. Cyril of Alexandria:


"in order that he might show that the difficulty in Pilate's perception came from his stubborn heart and from his reluctance to admit the truth, Christ appropriately adds, "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." For the word of truth is readily accepted by those who have already learned and loved it. But it is not the same for everyone. In fact, the prophet Isaiah said to some, "If you will not believe, neither shall you understand." (Is. 7:9 LXX) Pilate showed at once how true this was when he said, "What is truth?" For there are those whose sight has been injured or who have entirely lost their use of their eyes and their sense of color has been entirely annihilated. They would not even be able to tell is someone placed gold before them or a brilliant precious stone. In fact, even the very light of the sun's rays does not engage them in any kind of wonder since they have lost all perception and can gain no profit from any of these things. In the same way, no people whose minds have become warped, truth seems a foul and ugly thing even as it instills a spiritual and divine brilliance into the minds of those who behold it." COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 12.



Next week we will go further into the Lord's passion when we read and discuss JN. 19.

Looking forward to it!

Fr. Steven

 

Join us Wed. Aug 2 at 7:30pm as our Summer Bible Study resumes!

'Ecce Homo', by Antonio Ciseri (1871)
'Ecce Homo', by Antonio Ciseri (1871)
'Ecce Homo', by Antonio Ciseri (1871)
August 1, 2017

 

 Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,


"Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." (JN. 18:37)


After a week off our Bible Study will resume this Wednesday evening (7:30 p.m.) for the final "stretch run" of three more sessions. These three sessions - August 2, 9 & 16 - will coincide almost exactly with the two weeks of the Dormition Fast. Hence, an excellent opportunity to increase your study of the Holy Scriptures - certainly a basic yet essential component of any fasting season.

In these final three sessions, we will read and study the Passion and Resurrection narratives of St. John's Gospel, and these chapters are the culmination of the Gospel as they reveal the purpose of the coming of the Son of Man. Even though the entire Gospel is one consistent story, these final chapters stand out as something of a narrative unit as they bring us to the "hour" when Christ will glorify His Father by ascending the Cross and then rising in glory.

So, if you missed the Bible Study up to this point, these final three sessions are just what the Doctor (i.e. the divine Physician of our souls and bodies) ordered for your illumination and enlightenment!


The Passion Narrative in St. John's Gospel can be presented in five stages. The questions below are designed for our discussion of Ch. 18 this Wednesday.

1. The Arrest of Jesus: 18:1-12

Questions:

   • Why do some of those who come to arrest Jesus fall to the ground once He identifies Himself?
   • Who is in control of the entire passion narrative sequence of events?



2. Jesus Before the High Priest; Peter's Triple Denial: 18:13-27

   • Why do the Jewish authorities bring Jesus to Pilate for condemnation?
   • Has there been - or is there - a situation in your life when you were afraid to identify yourself as a disciple of Jesus?

3. Jesus on Trial Before Pilate: 18:28-19:16a

   • What kind of kingship is Jesus referring to?
   • How does Jesus "bear witness to the truth"?

4. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus: 19:16b-37

5. The Burial of Jesus: 19:38-42

 

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Bible Study Cancelled for July 26, to resume Aug. 2

July 25, 2017

 

From Fr Steven:

Vasilios Kontos fell asleep in the Lord on Sunday. He is the father of one of our parishioners, Elva Hill. His body will be brought to  the church late Wednesday afternoon and there will be visitation from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. followed by a Memorial Service at 7:00 p.m.  The funeral service will be held on Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m.

May his memory be eternal!

The Bible Study scheduled for Wednesday evening will therefore be cancelled this week. We will meet again on Wednesday, August 2.

 

Study Notes Posted for Tonight's Bible Study - Join us at 7:30pm!

July 19, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,


For those planning on the Bible Study this evening.  We will begin at 7:30 p.m. No Vespers this evening.


We will read and discuss the Gospel accoding to St. John, Ch. 17, containing the sublime "High Priestly Prayer" of Christ.  The Prayer can be broken down as follows:



1. Reflecting on His Mission, Jesus Prays for His Glorification: 17:1-5

   • Jesus seems to speak in the past tense in v. 4. Why is this so?

   • What does v. 5 tell us about the identity of Christ?



2. Jesus Reflects upon His Disciples: 17:6-8

   • How does Christ's positive assessment of the disciples "fit in" with His prophecy of their impending betrayal in 16:31-32?



3. Jesus Prays for His Disciples, Who Are To Continue His Mission: 17:9-19

   • Why does Jesus not pray for the world together His praying for His disciples?

   • What are the implications of v. 18, "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world?" How does this relate to 20:21, "As the Father has sent me, even so have I sent you?'

   • Jesus speaks of His joy "fulfilled in themselves (the disciples)." How can we understand this?

   • What does it mean for the disciples to be sanctified in the truth?



4. Jesus Prays for the Unity of Future Believers: 17:20-23

   • How does this part of the prayer reach out to later generations of believers?

   • How does Christian disunity undermine the prayer of Jesus?



5. Concluding Personal Invocation to the Father: 17:24-26

   • How does this concluding part of the prayer tie in with I JN. 3:2 and even St. Paul's "Hymn to Love," especially I COR. 13:12-13?

   • On what kind of a "note" does Christ's High Priestly Prayer end?

 

Notes for July 12 Bible Study Session - Come & Join the Discussion!

July 12, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

For those who plan on attending the Bible Study this evening. We will read and study JN. 16 (Actually we will begin at 16:5, since we covered 16:1-4 last week).


The Work of the Spirit (16:5-15)

     • How does the role of the Paraklete differ in this passage from Jn. 14:26 & 15:26-27?


What are 'these things" of 16:4b?

     • Why is it "advantageous" that Jesus goes away?


Sorrow Will Turn Into Joy (16:16-24)

     • What is the meaning of the "little while" and "again a little while" of v. 16?  What time intervals are being envisioned by Jesus?

     • On the image of the woman in labor rejoicing after the birth of her child, one scholar has written: "It is really for women who have gone through this experience to assess the aptness of the image."


Peace for the Disciples (16:25-33)

     • What does Jesus mean by saying "I have overcome the world?"  How does this "fit in" with the fact that he has not yet experienced death and resurrection?

 

Scroll down to catch up or review notes from previous week's classes. At bottom is a background article on the Gospel According to St John by Fr Thomas Hopko.

 

Notes for Our July 5 Bible Study Session - Join us!

Christ the True Vine (Athens, 16th c.)
Christ the True Vine (Athens, 16th c.)
Christ the True Vine (Athens, 16th c.)
July 5, 2017

 

Dear Bible Study Participants,

On the principle "better late than never," I have prepared this for this evening's Bible Study at 7:45 p.m. (Vespers at 7:00 p.m.)


We will read and study JN. 15 this evening (actually, we will need to include 16:1-4 also). Here is a brief outline of the major themes with a question or two:

JN. 15 falls into two basic parts:  "Jesus the True Vine" (1-17); and "The World's Hatred" (15:18 - 16:4)


"The True Vine"   15:1-11

Does the image of a vine or vineyard exist elsewhere in the Scriptures? What does it mean to be "pruned" by the Father?

  • Isaiah 5:1-7


"Love One Another" 15:12-17

How does the love spoken of here differ from the basic human need and practice of love? What does it mean to "abide" in the love of Christ?

  • JN. 13:34-35
  • philein and agapan are both used in JN. with the same basic meaning of "to love."


Hatred from the World 15:18-19

What are some of the various ways that the word "world" is used by St. John in his Gospel?

  • "It is the world as it has been structured  by human will and rationality, but also and especially by human self-absorption and selfishness in opposition to God and to the good of other people. In short, it is human society as such, as it is organized and maintained for the good of some but to the harm of others and to the detriment of the love of God."  (David Rensberger - Johannine Faith)


Persecution from the World 15:20-21

Why will the world hate and persecute the followers of Jesus?

  • "A servant is not greater than his master."


The World has no Excuse 15:22-25

Why does the world have no excuse ?

  • "God loves us ... And God's taste is excellent. Whatever other people may think of us, God thinks a lot of us, and he's right. Sin consists in disagreeing with God's estimate: in saying, "No, I'm really nothing to write home about." Sin is the failure to love ourselves as God loves us. Sin ... makes nonsense out of the beauty of creation and knocks the life out of everything." (Sebastian Moore, Before the Deluge)


The Paraclete as Witness 15:26-27

What is the filioque?  Based on JN. 15:26, why did the Christian East not accept the filioque?

How will the Paraclete "bear witness" to Christ? How does this fit in with the words of Jesus in the Synoptics: "For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father?" (MATT. 10:20)


Expulsion from the Synagogue 16:1-4

How should this effect how a contemporary Christian community relates to the world?

  • Muslim persecution of Christians in the contemporary world.

 

 

Summer Bible Study resumes Wed. July 5!

July 2, 2017

 

Due to the liturgical schedule for the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul we did not have Bible Study this past Wednesday, June 28. We will resume this Wednesday, July 5, and will be exploring chapter 15 of the Gospel according to John.

 

Join us for Vespers at 7:00pm, followed by Bible Study at 7:45pm.

 

Watch for study questions from Fr Steven to be posted here soon, and if you missed any of our ealier sessions, or just want to review, scroll down for class notes plus background info on the Theological Gospel of John.

 

We hope to see you this Wednesday evening!

 

 

 

Reflections on Session 3

June 22, 2017

 

Dear Bible Study Participants,


"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (JN. 14:1)


I believe we had yet another stimulating session yesterday evening as we read and discussed the extraordinary text of JN. 14. With this chapter we have now entered deeply into the unfathomable depths of Christ's Farewell Discourse. At 14:6, we heard one of the great "I AM" statements from Christ:  "I am the Way (odos), the Truth (aleithia), and the Life (zoe)." In a prayerful way, St. Ambrose reveals the quality of this self-disclosure by Christ:



"Lord Jesus, we do follow you, but we can come only at your bidding. No on can make the ascent without you, for you are our way, our truth, our life and strength, our confidence, our reward. Be the way that receives us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that invigorates us." Death as a Good, 12.55.



Following those words, Christ added: "No one comes to the Father, but by me."  Many of the Church Fathers have offered insightful commentary on these strong words of Christ. One example from among many is found in St. Hilary of Poiters:



"Except through him there is no approach to the Father. But there is also no approach to him unless the Father draws us. Understanding him to be the Son of God, we recognize in him the true nature of the Father. And so, when we learn to know the Son, God the Father calls us. When we believe the Son, God the Father receives us. For our recognition and knowledge of the Father is in the Son who shows us in himself God the Father. The Father draws us by his fatherly love, if we are devout, into a mutual bond with his Son." (On the Trinity, 11.33)



Later in the Discourse, Jesus offered powerful words of reassurance to his disciples, and to us, through them:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (JN. 14:27).  I read a passage from the contemporary biblical scholar, Brendan Byrne, yesterday evening, that I would like to share again for its fine insight into the huge difference between the "peace" that comes from Christ, and the "peace" that the world gives:



"This is a peace that the world is utterly incapable of giving. Worldly authority can from time to time bring about an absence of hostilities between human beings and human societies; it cannot erode the fundamental insecurity and anxiety at the root of human existence. The peace Jesus is leaving with the disciples extends God's grace and love deep into the human heart. That is why, in the face of his departure, he can repeat the injunction with which he began: 'Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid'. (JN. 14:1)"



At our next session, we will read and study Ch. 15, considered to be at the heart of the Farewell Discourse. As I said yesterday evening, I am still not sure if we will meet next week or in two weeks. That depends on how we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul next week. I will keep everyone informed.

Either way, looking forward to our next meeting and discussion. This is one of the major highlights of my week!

Fr. Steven

 

Study Questions for Session 3

June 21, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,


For the Bible Study this evening: Com' on down! You will like it - guaranteed!


We will read and discuss JN. 14. Here are the sections of the chapter with a few questions to think about:


Many "Rooms/Mansions (14:1-3)

   + What are these "room/mansions" mentioned by Jesus? Why or how are there so many?

Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:4-7)

   + In today's world how can we explain the words of Christ:  "No one comes to the Father, but by me?"

Knowing the Father (14:8-11)

   + What does Jesus mean when he says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father?"
   + What is meant by the words of Jesus, "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves?"

Greater Works (14:12-14)

   + How can a disciple possibly do "greater works" than Christ himself?

Another Paraklete (14:15-17)

   + Who is this other Paraclete and what is the role of this other Paraklete?
   + How else can we translate Paraklete?

Not Orphans (14:18-24)

   + How does Jesus reassure his disciples that they will not be/remain as orphans?

Living Within the Divine Communion (14:25-31)

   + In JN. 10:30, Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Yet, in 14:28, he says that "the Father is greater than I." How can we reconcile this seeming contradiction and maintain a consistent understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ?

 

Reflections and Notes from Session 2

June 15, 2017

 

Dear Students of the Scriptures,


A very lively, stimulating and enjoyable discussion yesterday evening over JN. 13!  And, I hope ultimately, fruitful in that we come a bit more closer to the mystery of Christ. Also, another very large group that was quite encouraging.

I read a passage from the renowned biblical scholar Raymond Brown who wrote concerning the Farewell Discourse of JN. 13:31-17:26:



"The Last Discourse is best understood when it is the subject of prayerful meditation and that scientific analysis does not really do justice to this work of genius."



That being the case, I would strongly recommend that you find the time to read through the entire discourse carefully and prayerfully at once, just as we hear it on Thursday evening of Holy Week. For these words of Christ are directed to us as the contemporary generation of Christians who claim to be His disciples. Then, we will break it down (beginning with Ch. 14 next Wednesday), perhaps not with "scientific analysis," but according to our own more modest attempt to properly interpret and understand some of the great depth of this discourse, for as R. Brown also wrote: "The one who speaks here speaks as no man has spoken."

We discussed the possible reasons why the command to love was a "new commandment" since it already existed in the Old Testament. And the key in this new commandment was "to love one another even as I have loved you" (13:34).  St. Cyril of Alexandria offers the following:



"The law of Moses mandated the necessity of loving our brothers as ourselves, yet our Lord Jesus Christ loved us far more than he loved himself. Otherwise, he would have never descended to our humiliation from his original exaltation in the form of God and on an equality with God the Father, nor would he have undergone for our sakes the exceptional bitterness of his death in the flesh, nor have submitted to beatings, to shame, to derision, and all his other sufferings too numerous to mention. Being rich, he would never have become poor if he had not loved us far more than he loved himself. It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that! Christ commands us to love as he did, putting neither reputation, wealth or anything else before love of our brothers and sisters. If need be, we even need to be prepared to face death for our neighbor's salvation as our Savior's blessed disciples did, as well as those who followed in their footsteps. To them the salvation of others mattered more than their own lives, and they were ready to do anything or to suffer anything to save souls that were perishing." (Commentary on the Gospel of John 9)



And St. John Chrysostom wrote the following:



"Passing over miracles that they were to perform, he makes love the distinguishing mark of his followers.... Miracles do not attract unbelievers as much as the way you live your life. And nothing brings about a proper life as much as love." (Homilies on the Gospel of John 72.5)



When you read JN. 14 for next week, be mindful for what is called the "triadic section" of the Discourse.  Here Jesus speaks of the abiding presence - what we may call the mystical presence - of the Spirit (v. 15-17); the Son (v. 18-22); and the Father (v. 23-24). The entire Last Discourse is profoundly trinitarian, and this section makes that very clear in a deeply moving manner.

Looking forward to our discussion next Wednesday!

Fr. Steven

 

Study Notes for Session 2

June 13, 2017

 

Dear Students of the Scriptures,

For those who plan on attending the Bible Study on Wednesday: We will read Ch. 13 of The Gospel According to St. John. Here are some titles for the various sections of Ch. 13, together with a few questions:

 

Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet (13:1-5)

  • What is the setting of the Supper?  Is this a Passover meal?  What are some possible reasons as to why the Eucharist is not mentioned in this entire section?
  • How does the divine and the human interact in this event of the foot washing?
  • Can we read this as the possible "priestly ordination" of the apostles? (See Ex. 40:12, 30-32; Lev. 8:6)

 

The Dialogue With Peter (vv 6-11)

  • Is there a reference to Baptism in this passage?
  • What is the connection between the footwashing and the Cross in the words of Jesus to Peter?

 

The Footwashing as an Example of Love (vv 12-20)

  • How is the foot washing an example (hypodeigma) to be followed?
  • What does it imply for Christian service within the world?

 

Jesus Foretells His Betrayal (21-30)

  • What is the source of Judas' betrayal?
  • How does this passage relate to 13:12-20?

 

The New Commandment (31-35)

  • How can we "unpack" v. 31-32?
  • Why is v. 31 considered the actual beginning of the "Farewell Discourse?"
  • How has our failure to "love one another" undermined our Christian witness to the world?

 

Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial (36-38)

  • What was Peter's mistake in this passage?

 

Bible Study Notes for Session I

June 6, 2017

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

For those planning on coming to the Bible Study on Wednesday or eventually planning on joining us: We will actually begin with JN. 12:20 and continue through the remainder of JN. 12.

We can divide this section of Ch. 12 in the following manner, with a question or two to think about from each subdivision:

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus (12:20-26)

  • Who are the Greeks mentioned in this passage?
  • What does there seeking after Jesus mean within the unfolding of His ministry (the divine economy)?

Jesus Speaks of His Death (12:27-36)

  • What does Jesus mean when He says, "Father, glorify your name?"
  • What does it mean that "the Son of Man must be lifted up?"

The Unbelief of the People (12:37-43)

  • How can we explain the difficult words of the Prophet Isaiah quoted by Christ?
  • What does it mean for us to love the praise of men more than the praise of God?

Summary of Jesus' Teaching (12:44-50)

  • What does Jesus mean by the words "he who sees me sees him who sent me?"
  • How are we judged by Christ "on the last day?"

 

Looking forward to the start of this summer's Bible Study?

Fr. Steven

 

Join us for our Summer Bible Study!

 

2017 SUMMER BIBLE STUDY

The Gospel according to Saint John, Chapters 12-21

'Now is the Son of Man glorified...' ~ JN 13:31

 

Dear Parish Faithful,

"Christ has Ascended in Glory!"

Attached is the flier promoting the upcoming Summer Bible Study, beginning on Wednesday, June 7.  Sounds very exciting to me as we will continue and complete what we began last summer - a study of the Gospel According to St. John.  We will take a careful look at  all of those lengthy discourses that we hear each year during Holy Week; and then the Passion and Resurrection narratives (JN. 12-21).

I always have full confidence that all those who have been to a Bible Study will return. In addition, it would be great to see some "new faces." As my mother used to tell me: "Try it, you might like it."
 
I am further confident that not only will you like it - but you will learn a great deal in the process and get to know fellow parishioners and guests on a deeper level.
 
Fr. Steven

 

2017 Summer Bible Study Flier (PDF)

 

 

 

An Introduction to the Gospel according to John

Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)
Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)
Icon of St John the Theologian (Russian, 18th c.)

 

The Gospel according to St John

by Fr Thomas Hopko

 

The gospel of Saint John is very different from the synoptic gospels. It is undoubtedly the latest written, being the work of the beloved disciple and apostle of the Lord at the end of his life near the close of the first century. In most Orthodox versions of the Bible, this gospel is printed before the others as it is the one which is first read in the Church’s lectionary beginning at the divine Liturgy on Easter night.

 

The gospel of Saint John begins with its famous prologue which identifies Jesus of Nazareth with the divine Word of God of the Old Testament, the Word of God Who was ‘in the beginning with God,’ Who ‘is God,’ the One through Whom ‘all things were made’ (1.1–3). This Word of God ‘became flesh,’ and as Jesus, the Son of God, He makes God known to men and grants to all who believe in Him the power of partaking of His own fulness of grace and truth and of becoming themselves ‘children of God’ (1.14ff).

 

From the first pages of this gospel, following the prologue, in the account of Jesus’ baptism and His calling of the apostles, Jesus is presented as God’s only begotten Son, the Messiah and the Lord. Throughout the gospel, He is identified as well, in various ways, with the God of the Old Testament, receiving the dd vine name of I AM together with the Yahweh of Moses and the prophets and psalms.

 

The gospel of Saint John, following the prologue, may be divided into two main parts. The first part is the so-called book of ‘signs’ [which we studied in our 2016 Summer Bible Study], the record of a number of Jesus’ miracles with detailed ‘commentary’ about their significance in signifying Him as Messiah and Lord (2–11). Because the “signs” all have a deeply spiritual and sacramental significance for believers in Christ, with almost all of them dealing with water, wine, bread, light, the salvation of the nations, the separation from the synagogue, the forgiveness of sins, the healing of infirmities and the resurrection of the dead, it is sometimes thought that the gospel of Saint John was expressly written as a ‘theological gospel’ for those who were newly initiated into the life of the Church through the sacramental mysteries of baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the eucharist. In any case, because of the contents of the book of ‘signs,’ as well as the long discourses of Christ about His relationship to God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the members of His faithful flock, in the latter part of the gospel, the apostle and evangelist John has traditionally been honored in the Church with the title of The Theologian.

 

The latter half of Saint John’s gospel concerns the passion of Christ and its meaning for the world (11–21). Here most explicitly, in long discourses coming from the mouth of the Lord Himself, the doctrines of Christ’s person and work are most deeply explained. As we have just mentioned, here Christ relates Himself to God the Father, to the Holy Spirit and to His community of believers in clear and certain terms. He is one with God, Who as Father is greater than He, Whose words He speaks, Whose works He accomplishes and Whose will He performs. And through the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father to bear witness to Him in the world, He remains abiding forever in those who are His through their faith and co-service of God.

 

From ‘The Orthodox Faith’, by Fr Thomas Hopko

Online Version at OCA.org

 


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