Friday, May 29, 2009

In My Fathers House There Are Many Rooms...

This post comes in response to a question posed by Tabatha at Tabatha (a self-proclaimed Jew) writes:
There is, I seem to recall, a beautiful piece of writing in the Christian bible; I don't know all of it but it starts with, I think: 'My father's house has many mansions'...?

I've always liked it, though I don't remember where I first read or heard it. It would just be great to learn a bit about the full piece of text?

How do you interpret that first line?

Thanks for asking, Tabatha. I have to admit that I'm hesitant at first--knowing from our past exchanges that you're much more familiar with Jewish tradition than I--to add my commentary on this passage, but I trust that what the Lord has to say through this passage will not be hindered by my commentary. I hope, in fact, that He uses me to illuminate in a way that's glorifying to Him.

The passage comes from John 14:2, during what is called the Passion Week that led up to Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus had predicted his own death in chapter 12, to His own disciples' dismay. Then, in the scene that immediately precedes this text, Jesus then foretells that it will be the denial and betrayal of His own disciples that will lead to His death. Peter, specifically, says He will "follow" Jesus where He goes--which is of course, to death--but Jesus predicts just the opposite for Peter.

Now, we also know from the other parallel accounts of this occasion (the synoptic Gospels) that it was at this very meal where Jesus declares the "New Covenant" in His blood. This brings us, at last to the context of the house and the rooms. One of the clearest descriptions of the old and new covenants is found in Jeremiah 31:32, where God describes the new covenant in this way:
"It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"

Both covenants, New and Old are likened to that of marriage. God was a "husband" to Israel, leading them by the hand--an affectionate term. Likewise, the Church is called the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5:32. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the covenant of marriage is modeled after God's covenant with His people, rather than that His covenant is modeled after marriage. (See The Nuptial Gospel for deeper discussion)

And so, at last I've laid the contextual groundwork for dissecting the passage of Scripture in question. In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."

Although the Latin Vulgate and the King James versions both translated "rooms" as "mansions"--the better understanding would be "rooms." Literally, it's a dwelling place. But, whereas we consider a dwelling place to be it's own freestanding home, not so in the lower classes of this culture--such as the fisherman, carpenters, and so on. The custom practice was for a bridegroom to work during the year of his engagement on building a new addition, like a lean-to, onto his father's house. This would be where he and his new bride would live in the years after their marriage until, hopefully, someday he could begin his own family or inherit his father's house.

Jesus' message here to His disciples is that, though He is leaving them for a while, He is still their groom. He goes to prepare a place for them in the Father's house. Similar to the first covenant, which was established by the blood of a bull and mediated through Moses, Jesus here is giving a poignant metaphor for the love and care that is represented in the New Covenant, which He was about to confirm by His own blood (Luke 22:20) and would mediate Himself as our high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15).

And if He is departing temporarily, but remains their promised groom, then He certainly will return for them. That is the assurance He offers in verse 3. The eschatological meaning of this is still debated, but whether it is a pre-tribulation rapture that is in view, the descent of the new Jerusalem, or simply a metaphorical description of their reuniting at their own death, the end result cannot be mistaken. We will live in an everlasting loving relationship with God.

In the verses that follow, Jesus goes on to describe the mysterious relationship between Himself and God, their unity as one God-Head, and yet the distinction of Jesus as "the way" to the Father. For a more in depth look at this topic, refer to We Beheld His Glory, We Beheld His Glory Part II, Learning from the Kenosis, and Christ the Mediator.

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  • Many thanks for responding to my query :) I'm just about to start reading and really looking forward to finally learning more about this particular bit of Christian scripture :)

    Firstly, just to clarify: I'm not a 'self proclaimed jew'.

    I am a Jew according to the criteria of Judaism. period.
    In other words: I am a Jew - period.

    Just thought I'd better clarify :)

    Right - now to start learning!

    By Blogger Jew With A View, At May 29, 2009 at 10:16 AM  

  • Right... that wasn't intended as a "dig" for you, I added the words self-proclaimed to let the other readers know that I wasn't labeling you myself. In other words... "She said it herself, it's not just me making this up."


    By Blogger Nick Carter, At May 29, 2009 at 10:54 AM  

  • Nick - cheers :)

    I realise you may feel I'm being very pedantic, but honestly, this is the result of having done battle with many, many Messianics. As you kindly read and commented on my article on this I hope you'll appreciate :)

    I have really enjoyed our exchanges :)

    I'm going to have to read and re-read this post and make sure I'm grasping it properly. It's a truly lovely piece of writing.

    I'm also reading the information and posts you asked me to look at yesterday; I'm having to read very slowly to make sure, again, that I'm understanding it correctly, but I'll post any thoughts that occur to me.

    I think Christianity is a far more complex religion than Judaism. From what you know of both, do you tend to agree with this? :)

    By Anonymous Jew With A View/ Tabatha, At May 29, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

  • I would tend to agree. I think I would put it differently, though. Christian theology is much more complex. The practice itself is much easier. I can eat port, a cheeseburger, and lobster :-)

    Our theology, however, a bit more complicated. Like how 1+1+1=1 (the Trinity). Yikes! I tend to appreciate it, however, that God is so uncomparably incomprehensible that is one of the many things that make him praiseworthy.

    Thanks for reading. I eagerly await your comments.

    By Blogger Nick Carter, At May 29, 2009 at 11:53 AM  

  • I agree, yes, that's true. Christianity theology is far more complex, but easier in practice, whereas I think Jewish theology is far simpler but as you note, more complex and demanding in other ways...

    I will definitely be commenting on the post. Shabbat is coming in fairly soon so I'll be offline for a while - thanks again for answering my query on this lovely Scripture. I'll be back :)

    By Anonymous Jew With A View, At May 29, 2009 at 1:38 PM  

  • I would just like to comment on the translation of mone. I want to preface this with 2 Timothy 2:14 "Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers." I agree with the spirit of what you wrote, and I think the truth has been presented. I only comment to enhance your point. If it seem to distract from your point I would rather it be forgotten.

    Strongs defines mone as "3438 mone mon-ay' from 3306; a staying, i.e. residence (the act or the place):--abode, mansion. see GREEK for 3306". I don't see a compelling reason for translating 'mone' as rooms rather than mansions. I think there is poetry in mansions, and considering the context of Heaven(paradise) it seems appropriate. You have a great point with the cultural context (i.e. adding onto the Father's house), and while Christ was not wealthy on the Earth, we need not use His Earthly context when considering His glorious abode in paradise.

    By Anonymous Will Kerr, At June 10, 2009 at 3:39 PM  

  • Will,

    I don't think of it as a quarrel, but I do want to respond. Strongs is a wonderful tool. I use it almost daily. However, it's use of the term "Mansions" as a translation is based on the same translation error that the KJV made. There's no contextual merit wherever this word is used for us to get the understanding that he means "mansions."

    Now, poetically speaking, I can see the value. My point was not to diminish the riches of our Heavenly Father, but I don't think the "poem" in question here is meant to draw attention to riches. It's meant to draw attention to the intimacy of the relationship.


    By Blogger Nick Carter, At June 10, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

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