Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lost Scripture

John 7:38: "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

What is the scripture passage Jesus is referring to? The exact phrase cannot be found in the Hebrew books we have, nor the Greek Septuagint.

So what happened?
  1. Jesus was summarizing several scriptural ideas
  2. That particular phrase has been lost or mis-copied to not match exactly
Usually, "scripture says" passages will match exactly, so that gives more weight to number two. A miscopy does not invalidate inerrancy. We must look at the impact of this idea, and compare it with the rest of scripture. In short, is this idea consistent with the rest of scripture?

The scriptural support for Jesus' quote is somewhat overwhelming. The references from Matthew Henry alone are: Isaiah 12:3, Exodus 17:6, John 4:14, Jeremiah 2:13, Proverbs 4:23, 1 John 5:10, Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 5:15-16, Proverbs 1:23, Joel 2:28, Isaiah 44:3, Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 58:11, (Song of Solomon 4:15 compare John 4:15), Ezekiel 47:1, Zechariah 14:8.

Let's look at a couple. Isaiah 12:3 "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." That's pretty close, but the edit distance is probably too far for a mis-copy. Another close one is Ezekiel 47:1b "behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward". This is in a description of the new temple. Clearly a reference to how all Christians are now temples of God.

There is also Exodus 17:6b "thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink." The rock in this case is a shadow for Jesus Christ. The interesting thing here is that Jesus is telling us the river will be inside of us, shedding light on the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Compare Numbers 20:8, where we are told to "speak to the rock")

Given this brief overview, it would appear that Jesus was exegeting scripture for us. This is not entirely unheard of. There are cases where Jesus expanded on the meaning of scripture over what was commonly held at the time (passages on divorce, the resurrection, etc.).


TheDen said...


I don’t know if you’re reading this correctly.

First off, I think you’re right about Exodus 17:6. I think that’s what Christ is referring to. But if you read the verse before (v. 37), Christ says, "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” What Christ is saying is that we need to drink of the water that’s flowing out from His belly (not drink out of the water flowing out of us) for like the Jews, when they drank of the water from the rock, it will sustain us. It will give us life. As Christ, when we drink of the water that flows out of Him, it will sustain us and give us life.

When does John tell us the water flows out of Him? At Calvary when He is pierced and water and blood flows out from Him. (John 19:34) It’s that which we drink. We are purified by the water that flows out of Christ at Baptism and we drink of His Blood (Catholics at least) to gain eternal life. Exodus 17:6 refers to this. At His crucifixion, we “smite the rock” and when the staff hits the rock, the water flows out which saves God’s people.

I think the way it’s written is a translation problem and we should probably go back to the Greek to get the proper understanding.

braverdave said...

Hi Ned & Theden, excellent points all around.

Ned, while I agree that your conclusion that Jesus was providing a further explanation is possible it is also possible that he was quoting a passage that has been lost.

Theden, here are two slightly different literal translations of Greek Text (Textus Receptus and Byzantine/Majority Text (2000) - the Greek in both is the same) of John 7:38;

He believing into Me, as said the Writing, rivers out of the belly of him will flow waters of living.

he who is believing in me, according as the Writing said, Rivers out of his belly shall flow of living water;

And of course we have to remember that the New Testament texts we read are translated from Greek but Jesus was a Jew and didn't speak Greek so what we have is a Greek translation of what Jesus said.

Lost Scripture or not, aside ... one could make a study of the Biblical references to water. Using the Unbound Bible here are several passages I found enlightening from a search of "water" in scriptures;

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
(Exodus 17:6)

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
(Exodus 32:20)

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
(Psalm 63:1)

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
(Proverbs 25:21)

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.
(Isaiah 12:3)

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
(Ezekiel 36:25)

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.
(Joel 3:18)

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
(Matthew 10:42)

For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.
(Mark 9:41)

Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
(John 2:7-11)

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
(John 4:7-15)

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
(Ephesians 5:26)

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
(James 3:11-12)

And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
(Revelation 22:6)

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
(Revelation 22:1)

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
(Revelation 22:17)

... and even a couple from the Apocrypha

When they were thirsty, they called upon thee, and water was given them out of the flinty rock, and their thirst was quenched out of the hard stone.
(Wisdom of Solomon 11:4)

For the dumb water and without life brought forth living things at the commandment of God, that all people might praise thy wondrous works.
(2 Esdras 6:48)

... this last passage is very interesting (for reasons other than that which are under discussion here) and prompted me to enjoy the whole chapter.

nedbrek said...

I think braverdave has the gist of the Greek. My amateur translation would be, "He that trusts in Me, as says the Scriptures, 'a river of living water will flow from his heart'". So 'his' could refer to the believer or to Jesus. My Greek isn't good enough to say.

Either way, the water originally comes from Jesus, I think we all agree on that.

I think it is also interesting to look at Numbers 20:8b "speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock".

For us, this seems to be a reference to prayer and sharing the Good News. It is certainly comforting, that when we are thirsty, we are to look to God, our source.