Water as an Image of the Spirit in the Johannine Literature

by Seung-In Song (Author)
©2019 Monographs XXII, 168 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Literature, Volume 171


The central aim of Water as an Image of the Spirit in the Johannine Literature is to propose two sets of indicators that can be used to assess the symbolic reference of water imagery in the Johannine literature. The first set, comprised of five indicators, can be used to decide whether a given instance of water imagery in the Johannine literature represents the Spirit. The other set, comprised of six indicators, can be used to determine whether a given instance of water imagery has a symbolic meaning instead of or in addition to its literal meaning. The validity of these indicators is demonstrated by applying them to six disputed water passages (1 John 5:6–8; Rev. 22:1–2; John 3:5, 4:10–14, 6:35, and 19:34). The author draws on narrative and exegetical methodologies to stage new claims that will incite further debate and discussion regarding the role of water imagery—and symbolic devices more broadly—in the Johannine texts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Relation Between the Gospel, 1 John, and Revelation
  • 1 Water Passages in Johannine Literature
  • 2 Johannine Water Imagery in Ancient and Recent Writers
  • Johannine Water Imagery in Early Church Writers Including the Apostolic Fathers
  • Johannine Water Imagery in More Recent Writers
  • Summary
  • 3 A Survey of Water Imagery in the Old Testament and Ancient Jewish Writings
  • Water Imagery in the Old Testament
  • Water Imagery Relating to the Spirit
  • Water Flowing from God’s Temple
  • Water as Human Words or Wisdom
  • Water as an Image of Life or Salvation
  • Purification
  • Living Water in the Old Testament
  • Water Imagery in the Second Temple Literature
  • Water Imagery Relating to the Spirit
  • Water Flowing from God’s Temple
  • Water as Human Words or Wisdom
  • Water as a Symbol of Torah
  • Water as an Image of Life
  • Purification or Atonement
  • Living Water in Ancient Jewish Writing
  • Conclusion
  • 4 Symbolism in Johannine Literature
  • The Definition and Nature of Symbol
  • Symbolism in the Gospel
  • Classification of Symbols in the Gospel
  • Relationship and/or Tension Between Literal and Symbolic Readings
  • Symbolism in Revelation
  • Summary
  • 5 Identifying Exegetically Significant Indicators Relating to Johannine Water Imagery
  • Identifying Exegetically Significant Indicators from Passages Where Scholars Generally Agree That Water Represents the Spirit
  • John 7:37–39
  • John 1:33
  • Identifying Exegetically Significant Indicators from Passages Where Scholars Generally Agree That Water Does Not Represent the Spirit
  • Passages in the Gospel Where the Water Image Has a Possible Symbolic Meaning, But Not Relating to the Spirit
  • Passages in Revelation Where the Water Image Has a Specific Symbolic Meaning
  • Passages in the Gospel Where Scholars Agree the Water Imagery Is Purely Literal
  • Passages in Revelation Where the Water Image Has No Specific Independent Symbolic Sense Even Though It Occurs within a Larger Symbolic Vision
  • Conclusion
  • 6 Exegesis of the Six Disputed Water Passages
  • 1 John 5:6–8
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to 1 John 5:6–8
  • Revelation 22:1–2
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to Revelation 22:1–2
  • John 3:5
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to John 3:5
  • John 4:10–14
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to John 4:10–14
  • John 6:35
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to John 6:35
  • John 19:34
  • Exegetical Analysis
  • How the Indicators Identified in Chapter Five Relate to John 19:34
  • 7 Summary and Conclusion
  • Summary and Implications with Respect to the Exegetically Significant Indicators
  • Summary and Implications with Respect to My Exegetical Conclusions on the Six Disputed Water Passages
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

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Seung-In Song’s examination of water imagery in John, 1 John, and Revelation stands at the intersection of two major areas of scholarly interest, Johannine symbolism and Johannine pneumatology. Everyone agrees that symbolism plays an important role in the Johannine writings, but this symbolism comes in a variety of forms and in many cases the meaning of an image—the message the writer sought to convey or the feelings they sought to evoke—remains a matter of debate. In some cases, especially with objects, actions or characters in the narrative passages of the Gospel, there is disagreement over the prior question of whether a particular element is actually intended to carry symbolic meaning at all. Given the bios-like generic features of the Fourth Gospel, under what conditions should a detail that functions well enough at the narrative’s surface level be judged to carry an additional meaning at the level of symbol? With respect to the important Johannine image of water, then, the question is first which references to water function as symbols and, second, whether those that do always allude to the same thing. These questions are important for Johannine pneumatology because they help us determine the range of material that addresses that theme. They also contribute to our overall understanding of Johannine symbolism, because lessons learned from a careful examination of the single image of water can fruitfully inform our understanding of the broader range of imagery within these writings. ← xi | xii →

The criteria for identifying and interpreting John’s symbols may not be neat and perfect, but Seung-In Song’s patient, systematic search for patterns successfully identifies a number of exegetically significant factors that enable firmer conclusions about disputed passages. In the process he provides strong arguments concerning which Johannine water passages refer to the Spirit and which do not.

Timothy Wiarda

Senior Professor of New Testament Studies at Gateway Seminary

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More than ever the horizons in biblical literature are being expanded beyond that which is immediately imagined; important new methodological, theological, and hermeneutical directions are being explored, often resulting in significant contributions to the world of biblical scholarship. It is an exciting time for the academy as engagement in biblical studies continues to be heightened.

This series seeks to make available to scholars and institutions, scholarship of a high order, and which will make a significant contribution to the ongoing biblical discourse. This series includes established and innovative directions, covering general and particular areas in biblical study. For every volume considered for this series, we explore the question as to whether the study will push the horizons of biblical scholarship. The answer must be yes for inclusion.

This volume, a revision of Seung-In Song’s Ph.D. dissertation, explores the various indicators that could serve to identify the water imagery in the Johannine literature as to whether such imagery refers to the Holy Spirit. The author notes that there are two such explicit references (1:33 and 7:37). There are however six passages in particular (John 3:5; 4:10−14; 6:35; 19:34; I John 5:6−8; Rev 22:1−2) with water imagery that are disputed as to whether or not they refer to the Spirit. In this study, Song examines what are the possible indicators to determine whether water imagery in these texts refer to the Spirit. There are five potential characteristics that ← xiii | xiv → the author examines in this regard: (1) Water that is given by Jesus; (2) Water linked to the crucifixion of Jesus; (3) Water imagery in Old Testament texts relating to the Spirit; (4) Vocabulary in other New Testament texts where there is reference to the Spirit; (5) The Spirit is mentioned in immediate proximate texts. Using exegetical and narrative methodologies, with copious notes and a carefully crafted argument, the author establishes the various indicators.

This study will undoubtedly add to the literature in this field, and the conclusions drawn here will certainly be reckoned with as the scholarly research on this significant area continues. It is a study that is certain to generate ongoing discourse, and will not only further expand the biblical horizon, but will do so in a direction that invites further conversation.

The horizon has been expanded.

Hemchand Gossai

Series Editor

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First of all, I offer heartfelt thanks to God who has given me his wisdom and has meticulously guided me throughout this whole project. This project could not have been completed without his grace and mercy. He has answered my prayers whenever I prayed at my apartment at Gateway Seminary and Yonghyundong Church in South Korea.

This book is a revised version of my Ph.D. dissertation that was submitted to Gateway Seminary in 2015. My special interest in the Gospel of John began last semester of my Th.M. program with Dr. Gerry Wheaton’s class at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I was initially interested in Pauline theology when I studied at Chongshin University. So, at Gordon-Conwell, I was looking for a dissertation topic on Paul’s theology, mainly taking courses on the Letters of Paul from Drs. Scott Hafemann, Roy E. Ciampa, and Sean McDonough. However, as I listened to the lecture of Dr. McDonough on Revelation, my interest moved to Johannine literature and Dr. Wheaton’s class on the Gospel of John was decisive. Dr. Wheaton analyzed and interpreted the Gospel verse by verse in its original language (as all other Professors at Gordon-Conwell did), and I was immersed in the narrative world of John’s Gospel. Through this encounter with Dr. Wheaton, I decided to pursue my doctoral studies in this Gospel. ← xv | xvi →

My Ph.D. advisor Dr. Timothy Wiarda is the one who led such interest to a specific and viable dissertation topic. At the time of my two-year Ph.D. coursework at Gateway Seminary, I was still not sure on which topic to choose for my doctoral studies. When I had to submit my doctoral prospectus to the Ph.D. committee, I was fascinated by the intertextuality between the Gospel of John (Jesus’ promise to flow rivers of water from the believers’ heart in John 7:38 and 153 fish in John 21) and Ezekiel 47 (eschatological temple that issues water from its threshold in vv. 1–2 and fishermen in v. 10). When I mentioned this idea to Dr. Wiarda, he suggested me to write about water image in Johannine literature. That was how I had begun this project. Ever since I began this project with him, I have learned a lot. It was time to learn how to use a methodology, how to analyze the text, how to interact with other scholars, and how to arrive at a robust and convincing argument. Even today, the advisor’s meeting with him remains to me as an unforgettable and precious memory. With a cup of coffee on a regular basis, we met at his office. Even after I returned to South Korea after my Ph.D. program, Dr. Wiarda gave me practical advice via email regarding on what I need to publish my dissertation. The fruit of these continued dialogues with him and research is this book. Graciously, he also wrote foreword of this book. I cannot thank him enough.

This project owes much to several other people and institutions for their support. I had an opportunity to take a Ph.D. seminar from Dr. Mary L. Coloe at Graduate Theological Union, who taught as a visiting Professor from Australian Catholic University during the sabbatical year of Dr. Sandra M. Schneiders. This seminar, early in my development as a scholar, deeply influenced me. My readers were Dr. Daniel M. Gurtner (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Dr. R. Michael Kuykendall (Gateway Seminary). Their thoughtful interactions and comments significantly improved my dissertation. After reviewing my manuscript, Dr. Gurtner proposed to strengthen and revise chapter four (“Symbolism in Johannine Literature”). This suggestion made my dissertation sharper and more persuasive. This revision process was done through an independent study with Dr. Paul D. Wegner (Gateway Seminary) who interacted with me regarding Johannine symbolism.

I am deeply indebted to the Professors at Chongshin University who have laid the foundations of my theology. Special thanks go to Drs. Han-Soo Lee, Sang Beop Shim, Sang-Hoon Kim, Jichan Kim, Hyeon Woo Shin, Hyung Dae Park, and Poong-In Lee who have helped me have an opportunity to teach at Chongshin when I returned to South Korea after my Ph.D. program. I am also grateful to the Professors at Gordon-Conwell who have helped me equip with biblical ← xvi | xvii → languages and various exegetical methods. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to Drs. Richard R. Melick, John W. Taylor, Paul D. Wegner, R. Michael Kuykendall, George H. Guthrie, R. Gregg Watson, David Howard, and Tremper Longman at Gateway Seminary who have helped deepen my enthusiasm for biblical research and scholarship. I am grateful to Dr. Hemchand Gossai (General Editor of Studies in Biblical Literature Series) for including my dissertation in the Series. I am profoundly grateful to Drs. Gurtner and Gossai who have generously accepted to write endorsement and preface respectively. I also remember with gratitude, Drs. Sukmin Cho (Ezra Bible Institute for Graduate Studies), Yoon Man Park (Daeshin University), Daehoon Kang (Reformed Graduate University), Sung Soo Kwon (Dong Shin Church), Eung-Yul Ryoo (Korean Central Presbyterian Church), and Young Ho Ahn (The Light of Life Church) helping and encouraging me various ways. I am also thankful to the staffs at Gateway Seminary Library and GTU Library. Thanks go to Meagan Simpson, Liam McLean, Janell Harris, and Rachel Raiola at Peter Lang. I am also grateful to Boston Central Church, Richmond Baptist Church, and Yonghyundong Church.

I am deeply appreciative of the love and prayers of my parents, PanDol Song and BongSoon Park, and my parents-in-law, YoungTae Park and JongOk Choi. They have supported me both financially and spiritually during the course of this project. Much appreciation goes to my beloved and long-suffering wife, Jinhee, who has always been with me, has spent many hours solving stylistic and formatting problems, and has taken care of our two daughters, Saerome and Seyoung. They have been a source of joy and strength. Whenever I was tired of my research, they made me smile and refreshed. This work is dedicated to Jinhee, Saerome, and Seyoung. I hope my humble study can be used as a little tool for God’s kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria!

February 11, 2019

Chongshin University, South Korea ← xvii | xviii →

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XXII, 168
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (September)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXII, 168 pp.

Biographical notes

Seung-In Song (Author)

Seung-In Song received his PhD from Gateway Seminary in Ontario, California. He teaches at Chongshin University in Seoul, South Korea. His publications include the article "Seeing Johannine Last Meal as a Covenant Meal (John 13 and Exodus 24)" in Biblica (2019).


Title: Water as an Image of the Spirit in the Johannine Literature