Tuesday, December 15, 2015

'Not written in this book'

(by Daniel Petersen deseretnews.com 12-10-15)

" And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25).

So ends the gospel of John, forthrightly acknowledging that it has omitted a very great deal of information about Jesus. And the gospel’s previous chapter closes with a similar sentiment:

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31).

In other words, John’s gospel itself admits that it represents only a selection of Jesus’ miracles and deeds.

We also know that some teachings of Jesus were excluded from the four gospels. The apostle Paul, for example, reminded the leaders of the Christian church at Ephesus, among other things, that disciples of Christ “... ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

This is a very famous teaching of Jesus, yet it appears nowhere in any of the four Gospels — which probably hadn’t been written by the time Paul met with those Ephesian leaders, anyway. Plainly, Paul knew of at least one saying from the Savior that didn’t find its way into the Gospels. And there seems no good reason to assume that it’s the only such omission. (Moreover, only Luke 23:43 includes Jesus’ promise to the penitent thief on the cross that “... To day you will be with me in paradise”; the other three Gospels fail to mention it.)

Neither the New Testament Gospels nor, for that matter, the other books of the New Testament contain everything that Jesus taught or that we would like to know.

The apostle Paul’s tantalizing account of his visit to “paradise” and “the third heaven” (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4), for instance, leaves us wanting very much more, but it informs us only that he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Jesus himself shows similar reticence at John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say unto you,” he tells his disciples the night before his trial and crucifixion, “but ye cannot bear them now.”

So when would they be ready? When would he tell them? One possibility is that he taught those things to them after his resurrection. After all, Acts 1:3 records of Christ and the apostles that “after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God” (New International Version).

But the New Testament tells us nothing about what he taught during that 40-day span.

Another possibility, perhaps more helpful, can be found in John 16, where the Savior explains (in verses 13-14) that after his departure, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears ... He will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you” (NIV).

Put another way, after the departure of Jesus, the church will be led by revelation through the Holy Ghost — revelation that will include information not taught by the Savior during his mortal ministry. This is why the apostle Paul, probably writing from Rome to the Ephesian saints in the early A.D. 60s, after his departure from Miletus, encouraged them to seek revelation, praying “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Ongoing revelation is clearly the biblical way to run a church, not mere dependence on finite and incomplete written texts — however useful, important, sacred and inspired those texts may be. The demonstrable incompleteness of the ancient written record makes the cry of so many — predicted by the Book of Mormon at 2 Nephi 29:3 — rather puzzling: “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”

To devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, any new information about him would, one would expect, be a desirable treasure of infinite value.



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