Reflections is an occasional series of short articles produced by members of the Shaw & Royton Circuit.
By Norman Unsworth — Local Preacher on Trial
The second letter to Timothy offers a picture of Paul at the end of his ministry, just before his death. Certain personal details in the letter reveal a man settling his accounts and preparing for the inevitable. At the close of the letter, Paul mentioned a significant number of people--some who had wronged him and others who had served faithfully alongside him (2 Timothy 4:9-21). It is as if Paul were giving Timothy a "state of the church" address, updating Timothy on the current state of their acquaintances and friends so that the young pastor could carry on after Paul's departure.
Paul understood that the ministry would only become more difficult for Timothy with the apostle's impending death. (Indeed, at some point after this letter from Paul, Timothy was imprisoned for his faith Hebrews 13:23). Paul knew that Timothy's task of keeping the church within the bounds of sound doctrine while encouraging believers to live their lives well for the sake of Christ would be an often thankless and difficult task. Though hardship would come, Paul wanted Timothy to continue in those things he had learned, drawing on the rich heritage of faith that had been passed down to the young pastor, not just from Paul but also from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5-6;3:14-15).
The most striking feature of Paul's encouragement comes when the aging apostle used a phrase that showed up prominently in his letter to Timothy four years prior. In that earlier letter, Paul exhorted Timothy to "fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18;6:12). But in this letter, Paul turned that phrase on himself, writing that he had "fought the good fight . . . finished the course . . . and kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). What a great encouragement it must have been to the young pastor of the church at Ephesus to know that his mentor boldly modelled his perseverance in the faith, even to the point of death
Have you ever noticed how, when reading Scripture, we so often we see it with fresh eyes on each occasion? The Bible will speak to individuals in different ways and at different times, in other words what I understand or get from a reading, someone else will receive a different understanding. Not only that, but when you go back to the same reading later, the message you perceive may be different. There is a vast difference between reading a novel where the story is fixed or a non-fiction book in which the content remains constant. So, let us consider the passage from 2 Timothy as we reflect upon what is happening.
2 Timothy is believed to be one of the last letters to be written by Paul, who was held captive in Rome, at the Mamertine prison prior to his execution. it has been called a Pastoral Epistle along with Timothy 1 and Titus. due to it being addressed to individuals and principally dealing with church administration and the threat of growing heresies within the developing church. It exhorts Timothy to fulfil his duties faithfully and install in his congregation traditional beliefs, he encourages Timothy to "guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit"
Timothy at this time had spent four years in the Church at Ephesus carrying on the work that Paul had started. If you read this epistle you can almost feel the anxiety within Paul, he knows his time is short and is desperate that the message is not watered down or brough into heresy.
Nicky Gumbel speaks of the apostle Paul describes all scripture as "God breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is not just inspired in the way artists, poets, composers, and musical performers can be said to be inspired. It has God's breath, his Spirit, in it. Through the Bible, God speaks to you (Quote from the Bible in one year by Nicky and Pipa Gumbel)
The Bible says in Timothy 2 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (ESV version)
There are differing views on what the beginning of this verse means.
John W Rittenberg states that at the time Paul wrote this, "all scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable" referred to the Old Testament. Paul probably did not know that what he was writing would become Scripture. (Norman — please put the reference for this statement)
John Gill writes that Paul mean all holy Scripture... not only the books of the Old Testament, but of the New, the greatest part of which was now written; for this second Epistle to Timothy is by some thought to be the last of Paul's epistles. (Norman — please put a reference for this statement)
Whichever view is right, does not deter from the fact that the Bible we read today in its many English translations has at its core a message for all people. The essential message remains constant, even when slightly different words are used, and even though individual understanding of verses or structure may differ.
Either way, the importance of this verse cannot be understated, if we accept the first proposition that the Bible is inspired by God. Anyone who reads and applies the principles will certainly profit from the wisdom to be found in the words. There is the reproof and correction which we all need at some time, we all need to be brought back to the right path. The proposition leads us to acknowledge that the answers to life's questions are found in the book inspired by God.
If we look at the situation of Paul facing imminent death, he writes the second letter to Timothy as a reminder of the time spent with him, the immense importance that the message should be held onto, encouraging Timothy in a sense to carry on Paul's legacy. This is also true for us today, if not more so, with the multitude of distractions and dare I say watered down version of the message. We who are saved must hold onto and build our faith and share our it with others in word and action.
We have a great debt to pay to the writers who risked all to translate the Bible into English. The first to translate the Bible into English was John Wycliffe and his associates. They took over 20 years to produce their translation around 1382, but this was from Latin to English. The Bible had previously been translated from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin. What does this mean in reality? I believe that these translators who risked everything to bring God's word to the people were inspired or driven by God for the benefit of others, and the writers today are led by the Holy Spirit to interpret God's word to bring better understanding to God's people, so that all people can be saved, obviously today the Bible is translated in numerous languages, all for the betterment of people who desire to read God's word for themselves.
We need to remember that, prior to the English translations being available, only priest could read Latin. So, the only exposure people had to scriptures was through the priests who would expound their own or their Churches view to the people.
We now have the great privilege, that we can access the scriptures in our own language and can meet with God through his word and the Holy Spirit. That is why I believe the Bible is inspired by God. Even with differences that may appear in translations, the key message will always come through. I believe that God guides us, through the Holy Spirit, as we read the Bible. We have a debt of gratitude to those who interpreted the word from Hebrew to Latin and then to English. God led these people to do this for the benefit of all people, so enabling us to read and interpret the text, discus, and develop a deep personal relationship with God.
by Norman Unsworth, Local Preacher on trial
The phrase, 'The disciple whom Jesus loved' is only found in the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is a message of evangelism, although the final version we currently have was completed between 90-100 CE within this there are original text back to 70 CE. According the Britannica.com which proposes the language of the Gospel and its well-developed theology suggest that the author may have lived later than John and based his writing on John's teachings.
Given the timeline we are presented with and the statement in chapter 21 v:24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. There is a theory that this was written by a follower or followers of John in the last part of this verse. WE KNOW THAT THIS TESTIMONY IS TRUE. Which would indicate the people putting this gospel into writing this had personal knowledge of the Apostle John. So, we may never know for certain who wrote this Gospel as much as we cannot be sure who wrote the synoptic gospels.
Like all the other gospels, the Gospel of John does not actually name the author of the Gospel nor does it identify the Disciple whom Jesus Loved. Although in John: 21 v 20-23 we have a clue. 20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "LORD, who is going to betray you?") 21When Peter saw him, he asked, "LORD, what about him?" 22Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." 23Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
What we do see in the reading of John's Gospel that it concludes at chapter 20 and then we have an appendix chapter 21 seems to have been added later Barnabas Lindars theorises "may be accepted as authentic work of the evangelist, even though it was not part of the Gospel"
Lidars goes on to propose that verse 24 was added to indicate it is actually the author of the Gospel.
The common thought is that this Gospel is written by the Apostle John the son of Zebedee and Salome (also named as Mary Salome) and it is himself that is the unnamed "Disciple whom Jesus loved." John is usually listed as the youngest of the twelve apostles. By tradition all the disciples suffered martyrdom, apart from John who is reported as having died a natural death.
This statement "The one Jesus loved" appears five times in addition to the same statement used for Lazarus in John's Gospel, but in no other New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus. All these statements appear later in the Gospel and only appear at the Lord's supper onward.
John 13:23, One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. This is the first time the one Jesus loved is stated. This was as at the Lord's Supper.
John 19:26, When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman,a here is your son," The second time we have the statement is as Jesus in crucified.
John 20:2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" This was when Mary returned to the disciples with news of the risen Christ.
John 21:7, Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. Peter and the others had been fishing all night and found nothing, Jesus was on the shore and called out to them.
John 21:20, turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") As Peter was walking with Jesus, we assume John follows behind.
In John for Everyone by Tom Wright it is reaffirms the idea that John was the youngest of the disciples and may have been a cousin of Jesus on his mother's side. He looked up to Jesus and followed him with joy and devotion, and Jesus had, as we say. A special affection for him, a soft spot. (Page 50)
We can also find other evidence of why we suspect John was young and the one Jesus loved, at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus women were not deemed as a threat so were allowed near to the cross and John being young was also not considered a threat. (page 128)
If this is the case, then John may well have known Jesus from an early age in his childhood. It is interesting if Jesus is related to John that John was willing to follow a close relative, as we begin reading the gospel of John in 1: 35-42, Jesus calls his first Disciples, we are introduced to John the Baptist in v:36 He( John the Baptist) saw Jesus walking by said, "Look there goes God's lamb." Two of John the Baptist disciples went after Jesus and asked him where he was staying, Jesus tells them to "Come and see" v:39.
We are given the name of only one of the Disciples, Andrew, the other is unnamed, it is not a stretch to the imagination to suggest that the other Disciple was John the writer of the Gospel.
So why would John describe himself as "The one that Jesus loved?" We know he was one of the chosen to be closest to Jesus along with Peter and James. These where the ones who went with Christ upon the mountain in Matthew 17:1. After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
Although this account only appears in the synoptic gospels, and not in John's it is alluded to in John 1:14. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Love is a major theme in John's Gospel and in the letters John 1, 2 and 3 which are accredited to him, there are more than twenty-five references to love.
It has been suggested of that this mysterious character of "the One who Jesus Loved" could have been Lazarus one reason given being in John 11:3 "he whom you love" referring to Lazarus. (Fleming, Filton, Sanders, Eckhart) but if this was the case why only name him is this passage, it is difficult to see why he wasn't named in chapter 13,19,and 20. For me the raising of Lazarus which only appears in John's Gospel so this could fit in with John's driving theme of love, love for one another. So, it would not seem out of the ordinary that the love of Jesus for all his followers would lead to such a statement. The other point I would raise is that in Mathew's and Mark's Gospel the last supper is attended by the twelve disciples of which Lazarus was not one.
We can find in Luke 22:8 So Jesus sent Peter and John saying, "Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it." In acts 3:1 One day Pater and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. So, we see several occasions were Peter and John appear or are called together, although this does not conclude the argument.
Another verse the that stands throws another question in this enigmatic disciple we find in John 21:2 Lindars says the Appendix lists seven disciples including " the sons of Zebedee and two other of his disciples" So from this information the one whom Jesus loved must be one of the four disciples from this verse.
We do however see in John's Gospel he recounts the life of Jesus, from the beginning of his ministry to the resurrection and it would indicate that the Disciple was there from the start of Jesu's ministry to the very end in Matthew 4:18 we find Jesus calling Simon Peter, Andrew his brother and then James and John. So, these Apostles where with him from the very beginning.
The final verses Say. 21: 24-25 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
From the research I have gathered for this article there is as always, some doubt as to the writer of the Gospel or even who the disciple Jesus loved refers too. But consensus leads me to believe the one who Jesus loved is the Apostle John, and the writings we have are based on the preaching given by John, and does not distract from evangelical message from the "One that Jesus Loved"
I think the last line of the introduction to John in the Bible for Everyone by John Goldingay and Tom Wright sums up my understanding and belief.
"Nobody knows when John's gospel was written. Scholars have suggested dates as late as AD 120 and as early as the middle 30s. It doesn't matter. The revelation of divine love and glory in the true man, Jesus, continues to evoke faith and life, as John intended that it should."
Sources for background From the Preachers Commentary I Ogilvie. Lloyd John, II Fredrickson, Roger L.
John for everyone by Tom Wright Alan Rudnick http://alanrudnick.org/2017/04/13/john-was-not-the-disciple-whom-jesus-loved/ Barnabas Lindars Bible quotes from NIV and NRSV