Abstract of Greene, Joseph R. “The realization of the heavenly temple in John’s Gospel: Jesus and the Spirit.”

Note: Most universities now require the author of a PhD dissertation to write an abstract.  The following abstracts have been taken from the author’s written summary of his/her work.

Greene, Joseph R.  “The realization of the heavenly temple in John’s Gospel: Jesus and the Spirit.”  PhD diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012. [Israel/Christian/New Temple]

Abstract: This 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. 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, this 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.

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 (John20:31). 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.

A careful reading of John’s Gospel demonstrates the validity of the thesis. In the Book of Signs, 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 Book of Exaltation. 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).

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