In what way, exactly, are we a "home" to God's spirit?

I am interested in getting more insight ino the Greek word "monen" used in John 14:23 and in its plural form in John 14:1. I read that that word is only used twice in the NT; is there any specific intent/purpose with the use of that specific word? I am exploring home/temple metaphors and I find the John 14:23 passage interesting from that point of view. God is in the temple shifts here to God is in you.

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In or With?

From the Greek verb mέnw menō “to stay, stand fast, remain, abide” comes the feminine noun monή moné “a staying, abiding, tarrying.”  In John 14:2 we find the noun’s nominative plural monaί monaí which can be translated “dwelling-places.”  In John 14:23 we find the noun’s accusative singular monήn monén which here can be translated “abode” or “dwelling-place.”  Thus the respective verses can be translated “In my Father’s house are many dwelling-places” and “we will…make our abode/dwelling-place with him.”  To “make one’s abode/dwelling-place” with someone is a common Greek expression meaning simply to take up residence and dwell or live with someone.

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling-places” (14:2).  What does that mean?  Al-though in the Synoptic Gospels “the house of God” or “my Father’s house” means the physical temple in Nob or Jerusalem, the use of that latter phrase in the Gospel of John means something else…not least in the light of John 4:21, and because by the time John was writing—toward the end of the first century—the Jerusalem Temple had already been destroyed some 30 years earlier.  What then does that phrase mean in John?  The obvious meaning is God’s heavenly abode, where Jesus is going to prepare a place for the disciples, and from which he will return (14:2-3).  But even before the coming of God’s heavenly kingdom, John may also be thinking about the Christian Church, already in John’s day an international institution in many different “dwelling-places,” and even more so in our own day. 

“We will come to him and make our abode/dwelling-place with him” (14:23).  What does that mean?  On the face of it, of course, it means that Jesus and his Father will come and dwell not “in” but with the one (par atpar’ autō, “with him”) who loves Christ and keeps his word. – Thus, finally, we see that if in John 14:2 the disciples are going to live with God in God’s house, in 14:23 the direction is reversed: here God and Jesus Christ will come to Jesus’ true disciples and live with them. 

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Dwelling on the Subject

It is true that mone (nominative singular form, usually translated “dwelling place”) only appears twice in the New Testament: once in its nominative plural form monai in John 14:1 and once in its accusative singular form monen in John 14:23. It is the noun form of the verb meno, “I dwell,” which appears throughout the New Testament, but especially in the Gospel of John, particularly in chapters 14 and 15 (see 14:10, 17, 25; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16). 

In my book Word and Soul: A Psychological, Literary and Cultural Reading of the Fourth Gospel (Liturgical 2001) I connect John 14:1 with John 2:19, 21, so that the temple is now Jesus’ body, where believers now have dwelling places (monai). Near the end of the chapter, however, Jesus flips the image and says that he and the Father will come to his beloved and make their home, or dwelling place (monen), with the beloved. Jesus says much the same kind of thing in John 17:21-23 in speaking about those who will believe in the disciples’ word: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us. . . . I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” In John, the Temple—that is, the place of God’s presence--is Jesus’ body, and after Jesus’ return to the Father, it becomes the community of believers.
The scholar who has pursued most vigorously this idea of the dwelling of God in the Gospel of John is  Australian scholar Mary Coloe, who has written two books on the subject, God Dwells with Us: Temple Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel (Liturgical 2001) and The Dwelling in the Household of God: Johannine Ecclesiology and Spirituality (Liturgical 2007). You can read excerpts of the former book here, and the latter book here. You can also read a brief review of the latter book at here , and a longer review here.
Is John saying that God dwells only in Jesus and only in the Christian community? What about God dwelling in all things, which includes not only all religious traditions, but also all humanity and indeed all the created order?  Perhaps we will “dwell” on that question later.

Author: Michael Willett Newheart




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