In Accordance with the Scriptures – Part 2


Another candidate for consideration within the New Testament (particularly the New Testament as Interpretation) is the Johanine Corpus, the writings of St. John.  I am particularly intruiged by its development of a theology of “glory.” Glory is not new to the Jewish Community. The glory of God inhabits (or once inhabited) the Temple. I would grant, in a mood of generosity, that early Christians might describe Christ as “glorified.” What becomes utterly astounding in St. John’s writings is the identification between glorification and crucifixion. There is not a logical step between one and the other, and yet it is there. In the 13th chapter in particular, Christ’s glorification and crucifixion are synonymous.

It is one thing for us to make that observation this many centuries along, but to say such a thing within the first century itself is an amazing leap! There is a radical reinterpretation of terms. This very paradoxical quality seems to be the hallmark of all of the teachings of Christ as we have received them in the canon of the New Testament. The first are last; the last are first. Love of enemy. Lose yourself to find yourself. On and on the list goes. And here, in its most extreme form is His glory which is nothing other than His crucifixion.

Admittedly there are the “suffering servant” passages in Isaiah with which we have become familiar. Their reading automatically echoes with sounds of Handel’s Messiah in our heads. But when we speak of the first century it is not a suffering servant that came to mind with the idea of a Messiah. Even after the resurrection the disciples are largely clueless, asking, “Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

It is the development (which again I can only posit as originating with Christ Himself) of a radical hermeneutic, an interpretation of the Scriptures in which the story is no longer the conquering of Rome, or Egypt or any other worldly entity, but the conquering of Death and Hades, and that through the paradoxical means of weakness and death. This is new and it carries with it not only that stirring climax of resurrection, it also has an ethic that is of a piece with this same action.

It is not just Christ who loves His enemies – now we are to do the same. It is not only Christ who takes up His cross, but we must do the same if we are to be His followers.

This is not the evolution of the Christian gospel over the centuries, but the gospel as it has been heard from the beginning. The Orthodox faith has not moved from this interpretation other than to push deeper into its life and implications.

This is not an evolved faith – but a teaching which shows every hallmark of what is claimed – this teaching was handed down to us from God.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





2 responses to “In Accordance with the Scriptures – Part 2”

  1. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Here you write of the juxtaposition of glorification and crucifixion. In the previous post you quote the Elder Sophrony as he explains the situation of experiencing the joy of repentance out of despair seemingly at the same time. Indeed, the real spiritual paradoxes (to man’s mind) with which Christ presents us are far more impenetrable to the worldly mind than the artificial paradoxes of Buddhism and Zen. Of course it all begins with the most unfathomable paradox of all, God becoming man without mixture or confusion.

    So much opportunity for deep communion with our Lord that we throw away when we conflate and reduce His teaching simply to make it “understandable”.

  2. Fatherstephen Avatar

    Indeed. I recall that GK Chesterton once said that only an insane man is perfectly consistent – because reality is not perfectly consistent. Or something to that effect. Paradox to me is a genuine sign of reality.

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