In 2017 and into Lent 2018, I’m reading through the Bible and taking informal notes on the readings. Since we so often read verses and passages and passages of the Bible without appreciating context, I’m especially focusing on the overall narrative and connections among passages.
One more set of notes about the Gospel of John. I’m always interested in discovering connections between the Old and New Testaments. At the recent Social of Biblical Literature meeting, I found a fascinating book by Brian Neil Peterson, John’s Use of Ezekiel: Understanding the Unique Perspective of the Fourth Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015). Those are two books I’d never thought to connect!
In his first chapter, Peterson summarizes several of the differences between John’s gospel and the Synoptics—including the fact that John seems to allude to or quote the Old Testament less often than the Synoptics (27 times, compared to 124 for Matthew). But Peterson argues that Ezekiel was a major influence for John. Some of the connections include:
The vine imagery in Ezekiel 15 and John 15 (p. 13).
The shepherd imagery in Ezekiel 34 and John 10 (p. 13).
The emphasis in Ezekiel upon God’s majesty and holy name, compared to passages in John like chapter 1, and Jesus’ self-identification with God (pp. 14-15).
Ezekiel’s use of extended oracles, and Jesus’ longer speeches (instead of the Synoptics’ pericopes and parables) (p. 15).
The ministry of Ezekiel in a foreign land, and the “foreignness” of Jesus who relates to people outside the usual circles (pp. 15-16).
The way both John and Ezekiel begin with a vision of majesty (John 1 and Ezekiel 1-3) (chapter 2).
The way the John emphasizes Jesus’ miracles as “signs,” and Ezekiel’s several sign acts (chapter 3).
The departure of God’s Glory from the Temple (Ez. 8-11) connects to Jesus’ “cleansing” of the Temple, and John’s early placement of the event in Jesus’ ministry (chapter 4).
Ezekiel’s vision of a restored Temple (Ez. 40-43), and Jesus’ own teaching of a restored Temple—in his own person (chapter 7).
Ezekiel’s frequent use of the expression “that they/you will know that I am Yahweh”, compared to Jesus’ several “I am” statements in John’s Gospel (chapter 5).
Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones (Ez. 37), and Jesus’ teaching of resurrection and unity, particularly John 17 and Ez. 37:15-28, and John 20 with Ez. 37 (chapter 6).
Overall, the setting of Ezekiel is the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE and the hardships of the aftermath, while the background of John (likely a late first-century document) was the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the hardships faced by Jews and Christians (p. 205). Ezekiel—whose prophetic-priestly ministry required personal suffering—became a useful prophet that shaped John’s vision.
Peterson makes numerous interesting points of analysis in this book, recommended for your study!