Friday, February 16, 2007

It's Not About the Ladder

Over at Euangelion, Joel Willets has just posted on John 1: 50-51. This is a bit spooky, because I have been reading around this for a sermon this coming Sunday. It was Carson's commentary that really flicked the switch on this passage for me. Carson sees the importance of the imagery in Jacob's vision in Genesis 28 as being not the ladder, but Jacob himself as the 'target' of the ladder. He argues that the sense of the text in Genesis 28:12 should be that the angels of God were ascending and descending on 'him', that is Jacob, not on 'it', the ladder. Then verse 13 would have Yahweh standing not above the ladder, but above Jacob, speaking to him. To be honest, I've always found the focus on the ladder to be a bit bizarre, especially when coupled with the NT interpretation of Jesus as the Ladder. It just seems to be a metaphor that's out of place. If however, you follow Carson, then the whole emphasis of the vision is that the angels are descending to Jacob - it's about him, not the ladder. This better fits with the reaffirmation of the covenant that follows and the undoubted focus on the land in this reaffirmation. In this light, John 1: 50-51 then points to the Son of Man, not as some kind of ladder, but as the new source or locus of God's covenant people. The vision at Bethel reaffirms Jacob as the locus of a covenant fulfilment that will result in dominion over the land. He gives his new name Israel to the people as a whole, who will occupy that land. Jesus is saying 'you will see me affirmed as the new locus of covenant fulfilment for the fulfilment of the promise of a land'. In this context, Jesus' use of Son of Man is important for the Danielic association of that title with the dominion given by the Ancient of Days. Coupled with Nathanael's use of 'King of Israel', I agree with Joel Willets that Jesus is taking Nationalistic Messianic expectation beyond Israel...
his dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his kingdom is is one which will not be destroyed. Dan 7:14
Check out 'The Gospel According to John', p163 for Carson's argument and his acknowledgement to Ed Clowney for the key to the Genesis 28 vision.