The longest recorded prayer prayed by Jesus is recorded in John 17. In verse 6, He summarized His entire teaching ministry with a most unusual statement. He said, "I have revealed Your name to them..." What did He mean by that? There is no historical evidence in or outside of the Bible to indicate that Jesus gave a new name for God to the Disciples. Yet, in this prayer, Jesus appears to make this "revelation" the main point of all that He had done in the preceding 3+ years. Then He added, "I have kept them in Your name. " and later, "Father, keep them in Your name." The disciples knew the four letter word usually pronounced "Yahweh" or "Yahveh." In their day, the high priest still pronounced that name out loud at Yom Kippur each year. Jesus did not invent the use of the term "Father". That happened in the Old Testament and is also present in some pre-Christian non-Biblical texts as well. So what did Jesus reveal?
My idea is this. The first century AD was dominated by Greek ideas, which included the steady state universe, without beginning or end. The Sadducees, who controlled the Jewish Priesthood in Jesus' days were Hellenists, and would have somehow reconciled this with the Genesis Creation account. Remember, the Sadducees did not believe in angels or life after death, just like the Greeks. So they had abandoned the basic idea of God as Creator. The universe needed no creator. Even today, the greatest question asked by scientists is "Why is there anything instead of nothing?"
Many cosmologists now emphasize the belief that the laws of nature, such as "e=mc2", are identical throughout the entire universe. The only way that is possible is for all of those laws to have been in existence at the instant of the Big Bang. That means the information came first, then the creation was the result. I know that is oversimplified, but the point is, if all the information which makes the universe possible has existed from the beginning, then the idea that the Creator is "all knowing" can be considered a fact, at least from the perspective of physics. Something, that knew everything, and put it all to use to make the universe, must exist.
God's name means "I Am" or "I Exist."
What if Jesus intended, as the main point of all of His teaching, for the disciples to develop an immutable belief in God as Creator, and that all truth flows from that reality? Perhaps this is behind James 1:17, which says "…every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…" If everything Jesus taught intentionally began with God’s eternal self-existence, then He really could have summarized His teaching ministry as one in which the meaning of God’s name had been revealed. Imagine how important this would have been 2000 years ago, when the Greek’s eternal universe theory was becoming the dominant world view, and even the Jewish Sanhedrin was dominated by it. Try to imagine what Christianity would be like today if its early leaders were not in agreement about the existence of God? Oh, sorry, there is Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, Columbia, Duke, Emory, and numerous other formerly Christian universities which appear to operate without any agreement about the existence of God.
Perhaps most of us are guilty of living as if God did not matter, until something goes wrong and we suddenly “get religion”.
I don’t know of any way to test these ideas except to see if there is anything in the Bible that modifies or corrects them. At the moment, I know of none. I am open to comment, just leave me a note on the Guestbook.
In the meantime, I am going to focus more intentionally on the reality and implications of the existence of God as the Creator, and try to see how that assumption underlies all of Jesus’ teaching. This is not really different from what I have been doing, but now I have a new kind of context, and perhaps a clearer goal to keep in mind.