Here is the 2nd half of my Bible Survey class assignment of making mock Bible dictionary entries. The first half of the assignment required three Old Testament entries (read here), and the second half required three New Testament entries. One entry for a Biblical character, one for a book of the Bible, and one for a place mentioned in the Bible. For my New Testament project, I choose to review the Gospel of John, Barabbas, and the Jordan River. I received a 100% grade on this assignment. Yay! Not only that, it was a lot of fun to research and write! Double-win!
Gospel of John
The Gospel of John, which can be classified in the narrative genre, was written between 70 and 100 A.D. (Hindson & Town, 2013; Smith, 2002). The author’s only title for himself is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:20-24), but most likely he is John, son of Zebedee. John’s gospel theme of Christ’s divine identity is revealed through seven metaphors: Jesus as the “bread of life” (6:35), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the door of the sheep” (10:7), “the good shepherd” (10:11), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6), and “the true vine” (15:1). John explicitly stated that his purpose for writing his gospel was so “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (20:31). The main events of the book, such as Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana, the cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and the Samaritans, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus’ acquittal of the adulterous woman, the healing of the blind man, Lazarus’s resurrection, and Jesus’ triumphant entry, almost all contain references such as “that you may believe” (11:15) or “Lord, I believe!” (9:38). The last nine chapters are devoted to a detailed account of the last supper, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the events of his forty, post-resurrection days on earth. Jesus Christ, His twelve disciples, and friends of His like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are the main personalities of these stories. The religious leaders are the major antagonists.
Biblical mentions of Barabbas are limited. His lifespan, birthplace, and other facts are unknown. Matthew, Mark, and John label him as a “notorious prisoner” (Matt. 27:16) who had “committed murder in the rebellion” (Mark 15:7) and was a thief (John 18:40). The rebellion mentioned could indicate that Barabbas was a Zealot, the Zealots being radical Jews who resorted to violence in their efforts to overthrow the Romans by force (Horn, 1960). Another possibility is that Barabbas actually claimed to be the promised Messiah and attempted, along with his band of “fellow rebels” (Mark 15:7), to save Israel from the tyranny of Rome. This conclusion is supported by a Syrian manuscript of the New Testament, which translates Barabbas in Matthew 27:17 as “‘Jesus son of Abba’” (Ferrell, 2006, p. 187), signifying that Barabbas claimed to be the savior of the people. In the trial of Christ in Pilot’s court, Pilot gave the Jews a chance to choose which prisoner they wanted released, a custom of the time (John 18:39). The defining event that makes Barabbas remembered in history is not his violent campaign, but rather the moment when the Jews unanimously voted to have him, a criminal, released and to have Jesus, who was innocent, crucified instead. Barabbas, then, leaves a legacy that highlights Jesus’ role as our Substitute, the One who died in the place of criminals, thieves, and sinners so that they can live to believe on Him.
The tiny Jordan River finds its source on Mount Hermon (Ps. 42:6) and passes southward through the Sea of Galilee, stretching along the border between modern Israel and Jordan. It ends its 200-mile course (Smith, 2002) in the Dead Sea. Though there is little rainfall in the area (Nault, 1990), the valley surrounding the river is extremely lush and fertile, a credit to the fact that it is “well watered” (Gen. 13:10-12) by irrigation and flooding. This little river, which is only 100 feet across at its widest point (Horn, 1960), played a very big role in many biblical narratives. When the Children of Israel entered Canaan, the Lord miraculously parted the flooded waters of this river so they could cross on dry land (Josh. 3:14-16). The river is mentioned dozens of times throughout the stories of First and Second Kings and Samuel, as the ancient kings crossed over it and camped near it during their many battles. The waters of the Jordan parted when Elijah struck them with his mantle (2 Kings 2:7, 8). As Elisha was returning, he also parted the waters with Elijah’s mantle, signifying that he had been given the spirit of Elijah (vs. 13-15). A pagan, Syrian captain was healed of leprosy when, according to Elisha’s instruction, he dipped seven times in the muddy Jordan waters (2 Kings 5:10, 14). Perhaps of the most significance, Jesus Christ was baptized by John in this very river (Mark 1:9) around 30 A.D. (Hindson & Towns, 2013).
Ferrrell, V. (2006). The fabulous first centuries of Christianity. Altamont, TN: Harvestime Books.
Hindson, E., & Towns, E. (2013). Illustrated Bible survey: An introduction. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.
Horn, S. H. (1960). Seventh-day Adventist Bible dictionary. Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing Association.
Nault, W. H. (1990). The world book encyclopedia. Chicago, IL: World Book, Inc.
Smith, W. (2002). Smith’s Bible dictionary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version.