Born Again . . . and Again . . . and Again

Was Jesus open to the idea of reincarnation? The question may seem odd, but it’s one that many people, even biblical scholars, contend has a positive answer. The idea comes from a passage you’ve likely read dozens of times:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but in order that the works of God might be made manifest in him (he was born blind). We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:1–4) [Read more…]

What Walking on Water Really Means

Tales of tempests battering ships inspire respect for the sea. En route to Capernaum, Jesus’ disciples watched these stories become reality as the roaring wind transformed the waters around them. As they fought against the waves and wind, they witnessed a miracle: “They saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat” (John 6:19).

Appearing in three of the four Gospels, this event inspires Sunday school lessons and has become ingrained in our portrait of Jesus’ life. As spectacular and unforgettable as the event is to us, however, a Jewish audience would have seen in it a profound theological meaning against the backdrop of the Old Testament.

An Old Testament Symbol

In the Old Testament, the unpredictable sea is a common symbol of cosmic disorder—conditions contrary to God’s design for an ordered world. This symbol for cosmic anarchy is also personified as a sea monster, known as Leviathan or Rahab. The image of chaos as an untamed monster in a churning, erratic sea was common throughout the ancient world. People accustomed to land would naturally view the vast, raging ocean as uncontrollable and potentially deadly, filled with terrifying unknown creatures.

Religions across the ancient Mediterranean often depicted their important deities destroying or subduing the sea dragon, thereby calming the sea and restoring order. In the Old Testament, it is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who conquers the forces of chaos and imposes order in the cosmos (Job 26:12–13; Psa 89:5–14). This imagery is applied even to the exodus from Egypt (Psa 74:12–17), where God split the sea to deliver his people, thereby conquering the forces of evil that sought their demise.

Final Victory

God’s ultimate victory at the end of the age is also depicted as God dominating the forces of the sea: “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the twisting serpent, Leviathan the crooked serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea” (Isa 27:1). This is why the description of the final paradise of the new heaven and new earth contains the phrase, “the sea was no more” (Rev 21:1).

The prophet Daniel’s vision of the end of days and the kingdom of God includes four beasts that emerge out of a storm-tossed sea (Dan 7:1–8). These beasts are not aquatic creatures by nature. They come from the sea because they represent chaos. God’s heavenly court sentences the beasts to death (Dan 7:9–12), after which the “son of man” arrives immediately to receive the kingdom of God (Dan 7:13–14). All of this imagery informs John’s account of Jesus walking on the sea during the storm.

Jesus Christ, Lord over the Sea

John identifies Jesus as the Son of Man to whom the Father has given the authority to execute judgment (John 5:27; compare Matt 26:57–68). John also asserts repeatedly that Jesus is God incarnate. In John’s Gospel, Jesus invokes the divine name (“I AM”) seven times in reference to himself (e.g., John 6:35; 15:1). He declares oneness with the Father (John 10:30), and he proclaims that the Father is in him and he is in the Father (John 10:37–38).

For John, a Jew familiar with the Old Testament, the image of Jesus walking on the sea was a dramatic portrayal that Jesus is Yahweh—the one who subdues the forces of chaos and imposes his will on the waters and everything the waters represent. The kingdom of the Son of Man had begun, and all forces opposing God’s ordained order would now be defeated. Like Jesus’ disciples, we can find comfort in knowing that the one who treads upon the volatile sea can subdue whatever chaos threatens to overwhelm us.

QUICKBIT: The three accounts of Jesus walking on water are found in John 6:16–21, Matthew 14:22–33 and Mark 6:45–52—the Gospels authored by Jewish writers. Luke doesn’t include this detail, likely because he was a gentile writing to a gentile friend, Theophilus (Luke 1:1–4).

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What Walking on Water Really MeansDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

Discover more fascinating aspects of the Bible with Dr. Heiser

Keep exploring the strange, perplexing, and mysterious aspects of the Bible with these excerpts from Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Or dive deeper into the supernatural world of the Bible and pick up a copy of The Unseen Realm today.

Someone Plagiarized My Book a Century Before I Was Born

In my recent book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, I argued that there were two major kinds of archaic words in the KJV, not one.

And in the most flagrant example I’ve ever seen of plagiarism by time machine, I just discovered a commentator from 150 years ago saying precisely the same thing.

In his Lectures Exegetical and Practical on the Epistle of James, published in 1871, Robert Johnstone quotes a verse from the King James Version: [Read more…]

Search Original Languages for Word Meaning with Unique Logos Tools

When you’re studying Greek or Hebrew, searching morphological forms with Logos is a huge timesaver. Ἀγάπη (agape) in the dative singular? Got it! A third-person singular Hebrew verb in Qal stem with a 3MS pronominal suffix? Bam!

But Logos can see something else in the Bible that you might not realize: meaning.

A computer can parse forms fairly well given a few rules; that is, a lot of such work can be done automatically. But it takes many man-hours and coffee breaks to teach the computer to see meaning in the Bible. It literally takes years to mark up the Bible with all that data. But it’s worth it. Now you can search the original languages for a meaning—like the figurative use of “brother” as opposed to the literal, or like the most frequent subjects or objects of a given verb. And that means you can execute more targeted searches, with fewer but more accurate results. You can find what you need to find in your Bible study. [Read more…]

Know What You Believe about Baptism

Baptism is a hotly contested topic in the Christian faith. It’s not about whether you sprinkle or dunk. It’s not even about whether you baptize children of believers or believers only. Christians continue to debate what the sacrament of baptism actually symbolizes. Is it a sign of the covenant, or is it a seal? Or is it simply a memorial of God’s salvific work? [Read more…]

How to Do a Bible Word Study in English the Easy Way

I love writing for sharp readers; they keep me on my toes. And recently, on my post “The Easy Way to Do a Responsible Bible Word Study,” after studying the word hilasterion, one of them presented me with a challenge: [Read more…]

Bible Study Magazine Goes Digital

The digital edition of Bible Study Magazine is here!

For a limited time, you can get the print and digital bundle of Bible Study Magazine for just $27.99—a 30% savings. [Read more…]

Who Took John 5:4 out of My Bible?

Most of us have read John 5:1–9—the story of the blind, paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda—many times. But I’ll bet there’s something that escaped your attention.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (John 5:1–9 NIV) [Read more…]

The Two Most Overlooked Pauline Epistles

The letters to the Thessalonians are often overlooked within the Pauline corpus. Paul’s meatier theological writings, such as Romans or Colossians, often get most of the attention, but 1 and 2 Thessalonians are packed with theology, too. In his letters to the church in Thessalonica, Paul helps his brethren consider the true nature of Christ. They also contain some of the clearest eschatological teachings in all of his writings. [Read more…]

Four Reasons to Get 60 Years of Christianity Today in Pre-Pub

Christianity Today has been the leading evangelical source of timely and insightful Christian news and analysis for over 60 years. Now you can get all of Christianity Today’s content digitized and integrated right into your Logos library at a great price while it’s still in Pre-Pub. [Read more…]