Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Eureka Theme of John 1

One of the interesting minor themes of John 1 is the eureka theme. The word eureka occurs in the English language as an exclamation that is used upon finding or discovering something important. It is a classic expression that is used, for example, when miners find gold. The word eureka is a transliteration of the Greek word εὕρηκα, which means I have found.

The word εὕρηκα does not occur in John 1, but on five occasions in two adjacent pericopes the verb εὑρίσκω find is employed. The relevant pericopes are John 1:35–42 and John 1:43–51.

It is recorded in John 1:41 that Andrew first finds (εὑρίσκει) his brother, Simon. He then told Simon, “We have found (εὑρήκαμεν) the Messiah.” John 1:35–42, therefore, contains a double eureka. Andrew found his brother, and then told him about what they had found regarding Jesus being the Messiah. When a person finds something precious or important, it is natural to want to share that news with others.

In John 1:43–51 we have a triple eureka. Jesus finds (εὑρίσκει) Philip, and asks him to follow him (John 1:43). Jesus’ mission on earth can be thought of as involving Jesus going out and finding disciples. Philip then finds (εὑρίσκει) Nathanael, and tells him, “We have found (εὑρήκαμεν) the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and the prophets, Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth” (John 1:46). Once again, having found Jesus, Jesus’ disciples go out to find others to share with them what they have found regarding Jesus Christ.

By way of summary, in the two pericopes of John 1:35–42 and John 1:43–51, εὑρίσκει he finds occurs three times (in vv. 41, 43, 45), and εὑρήκαμεν we have found twice (in vv. 41, 45). The effect of this is to create a finding or eureka theme. Jesus finds disciples; his disciples then find others, and tell them what they have found in Jesus.

From this it is possible to speak about a triple eureka purpose to life. Having been created to know God, our job is to find and to follow the Messiah, Jesus. Following Jesus then involves us finding others, and telling them what we have found regarding Jesus. If we have found Jesus, and if we are convinced that he is the God-appointed Savior of the world, then going out and telling others about this should be natural. Evangelism is not about bashing people over the head with the Christian religion; but as opportunity presents itself, it should be natural for Christians to share what they know about Jesus with others. Evangelism is not about selling an idea or a product. According to John 1, evangelism is sharing with others our eureka experience regarding the messianic status of Jesus of Nazareth.

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