The Bible: distant connections

Biblical authors sometimes use connections between the Old Testament and New Testament to help pry open deeper meaning than at first reading.

An example is found at the end of John 1 where Jesus talked to some new disciples. They were impressed because he told one of them when he was sitting under a fig tree, before he came to to Jesus.

Jesus almost pooh-poohed their awe and said, “ “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

Jacob's dream (c. 1639), by Jose de Ribera, at...

Jacob’s dream (c. 1639), by Jose de Ribera, at the Museo del Prado, Madrid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was referring to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28. Jacob, over 2000 years earlier, was on the run from his angry brother when he had a dream that a ladder extended to earth from heaven. Angels were going up and down the ladder.

God spoke to Jacob in the dream, making several promises to him including the pledge to stay with him.

Jacob awoke and set up a stone as a symbol of God’s presence, naming the place Bethel. Bethel means house of God.

Jacob’s Bethel was the place where heaven and earth met.

Jesus chose that event to declare that heaven and earth again met.  This time, the presence of God wasn’t limited to a stone pillar. This time, Jesus was preparing his disciples for this connection of heaven and earth  – which would be seen in him. Jesus was the new Bethel, the new Temple.

By connecting to an ancient story, John the author provided a deeper meaning.

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