The Resurrection in John 5: A Time is Coming: Chiasmus in John 4-5- Guest Article by Jerald Davis
I am glad to share an excellent article by my friend Jerald Davis (M.Div.). This article discusses the popular notion that in in John 5:24-29, when Jesus referred to “the hour is coming and now is” and “the hour is coming” that he must have had two different resurrections, of two different kinds, at two totally separated times. But, in his discussion of the chiastic nature of the text, Jerald exposes that idea and proves that the resurrection of John 5 is one resurrection. Take a look! Also, I have discussed the issue of “the hour now is” and “the hour is coming” in a YouTube video. Be sure to watch it as well.
It is often difficult to recognize certain literary structures in ancient documents when we are not immersed in the language and customs of the day. The language and literary forms of the Bible often present a challenge to us because we do not easily recognize them. One literary form that is getting the attention of students of the Bible is a form of inverted parallelism often called chiasmus.
Chiasmus is a structure where at least two parallel units are structured where the first and the last correspond, and the central units correspond. An example in English would be: Winners never quit and quitters never win. The structure is [A]Winners[B]never quit and [B’]quitters [A’]never win. Put diagrammatically:
B never quit
B’ and quitters
A’ never win.
Many passages throughout the Bible show this kind of structure. One such is Luke 16:13 ESV No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
A No servant can serve two masters
B for either he will hate the one
C and love the other
C’ or he will be devoted to the one
B’ and despise the other
A’ You cannot serve God and money.
Another example: Rev 3:7 ESV And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
A who opens
B and no one will shut
B’ who shuts
A’ and no one opens.
Recognition of this structure can help us in interpreting the meaning of scripture. For instance, consider how different translations render Matthew 7:6:
(ASV) Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
(ESV) “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(NIV) “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
(GNB) “Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot.
(ERV) “Don’t give something that is holy to dogs. They will only turn and hurt you. And don’t throw your pearls to pigs. They will only step on them.
(CEV) Don’t give to dogs what belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don’t throw pearls down in front of pigs. They will trample all over them.
Why the difference in the translations? The first three basically follow the order of the Greek text. The last three recognize that we probably have a chiasmus here:
A Do not give dogs what is holy
B and do not throw your pearls before pigs
B’ lest they trample them underfoot
A’ and turn to attack you.
It is more likely that dogs would be the ones attacking people than pigs. This understanding of the verse was recognized by Adam Clarke in his commentary:
Give not that which is holy – Το αγιον, the holy or sacred thing; i.e. any thing, especially, of the sacrificial kind, which had been consecrated to God. The members of this sentence should be transposed thus: –
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,
Lest they turn again and rend you:
Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
Lest they trample them under their feet
The propriety of this transposition is self-evident. There are many such transpositions as these, both in sacred and profane writers. The following is very remarkable: –
“I am black but comely;
“As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.”
“I am black as the tents of Kedar,
“Comely as the curtains of Solomon.”
See many proofs of this sort of writing in Mr. Wakefield’s Commentary.”
In John chapters 4 and 5 we have some identical wording that seems to be presented in a chiastic structure:
Joh 4:21 NRSV-CE Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
Joh 4:23 NRSV-CE But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
Joh 5:25 NRSV-CE ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
Joh 5:28-29 NRSV-CE Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (29) and will come out–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
In Jesus’ discussion with the woman of Samaria, she raised the question as to where the proper place for the worship of God was. In answering her question, Jesus said that even in the present time of his ministry (the hour is coming and is now here) what God wanted was people to be “true” worshippers of Him. As the Good News Bible renders it, “But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants.” The place was not important; the attitude of people’s hearts was.
In Jesus’ confrontation in chapter 5 with those Jews who were condemning him because he healed a lame man on the Sabbath, he asserted that the Father had given the Son the full right to render judgment. Jesus goes on to assert that in the present time of his ministry (the hour is coming and is now here) the “dead” will hear what he is saying and those who hear (and obey is implied) will live. Most interpreters recognize that the “dead” here are those who are spiritually dead. Those who are spiritually dead who respond with belief will experience new life in the Spirit. John 4:23 and 5:25 correspond because both are reflecting what God wants to happen in the present reality of the time of Jesus’ ministry.
In John 4:21 Jesus gives a response to the specific question of the woman in regard to the place of Jerusalem for the worship of God. There had been a rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans going all the way back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah as to the proper place for worship of God. When rejected by the Jews in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4), the Samaritans built a temple on Mount Gerizim to worship Yahweh. John Hyrcanus had destroyed that temple in 129 B.C. but the Samaritans had continued to offer sacrifices there. In Jesus’ answer to the woman he indicated that there would be a time in the future (the hour is coming) when worship would not be done at either location. When would that time be? This certainly seems to indicate that time would be when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. and its location became like that of the Samaritans in Mount Gerizim. The Jews would no longer worship God in the temple as he had authorized them to do with the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices.
What about John 5:28? What is the coming hour that Jesus asserts will have those in the grave hearing his voice and coming out? If indeed we do have a chiastic structure here in John 4 and 5 there is some correspondence between the time of John 5:28 and John 4:21. “The hour is coming” would be the same time for both. This would support the position that the time of the resurrection of 5:28-29 is the time of the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. This would be the time of the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3: ESV And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (3) And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:8-13 indicates that the time of the resurrection would be at the time when the “abomination that makes desolate” would occur. Matthew 24:15-34, Mark 13:14-30, and Luke 21:20-32 all indicate that the destruction of Jerusalem was the time of the “abomination that makes desolate.” The resurrection of John 5:28-29 was a first century resurrection.
DKP – Be sure to get a copy of my new book: The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Future or Fulfilled? for an in-depth discussion of the resurrection. This book proves beyond dispute that the Bible does not predict a resurrection of human corpses out of the ground.