THE PROPHETIC AND PROLEPTIC NATURE OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
This following will be taken from a book written by friends of mine called One God, One Lord. I am using it to help us understand how John wrote his gospel. The 4 Gospels depict Christ as a man, a servant, a king and in John as the son of God.
“The Gospel of John in many respects paints a portrait of Jesus has already glorified even before his resurrection. In John the glory to Jesus as Messiah is pictured as a present reality not a future one as in the other three Gospels. The projecting of his post-resurrection glory back onto the past is accomplished through the figures speech prolepsis, which is an anticipating; especially describing of an event is taking place before it could have done so, the treating of a future of event as if it had already happened.
It is not surprising that this bold proleptic picture of Christ could be misunderstood and taken literally, thus breaking down the literal, historical and crucial importance of the resurrection. The resurrection becomes devalued by the assertion of Jesus’ apparent innate glory as a pre-existent divine being.
Figures of speech are legitimate literary devices employed to give vigor and emphasis to verbal communication. In addition to prolepsis John employs a related figure of speech called heterosis, which is the exchange of one verb tense for another, in this case, the present for the future tense.
The Gospel of John, therefore, is a profoundly profoundly literary portrait of the Messiah that is emphasizing his post-resurrection glorification at the right hand of God. It goes beyond being prophetic (i.e., foretelling of his future glory) and becomes proleptic by portraying him already glorious. The use of these figures of speech heterosis and prolepsis is not incidental and occasional–is the very warp and woof of the tapestry of John’s Gospel.
Misunderstanding figurative language accounts for many misconceptions because Our Western minds assume that we understand what seems to be the plain meaning of language. The perspective from which the Gospel of John is written is actually “Back From The Future.” There has been a major disturbance of biblical “time-space continuum,” and it is caused by proleptic nature of the Gospel of John.
More evidence that John’s view is proleptic is the fact that John has no record of Jesus’ temptation by the Devil or his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. The risen Lord is beyond such temptation and to struggle in the flesh with an assignment from God is unthinkable. The essence of what Jesus is doing in the Gospel of John is looking down upon his earthly life and reinterpreting it in light of his exalted position at the right hand of God.
This prophetic and proleptic nature of the Gospel of John is made even clearer from the many other verses that attribute to Christ functions and qualities that properly belong to God, which will actually be delegated to him after his resurrection. The Jesus in John is already at the right hand of God, invested with all authority.”