I love studying the Bible and for some reason I am especially drawn to those scriptures that we tend to find challenging and difficult to understand. I am intrigued by passages which have significant variations in translation among the Bible versions and also those where something slightly strange or unexpected happens. These things can be indications that there may be something more to the text than first meets the eye – perhaps even a ‘hidden’ truth that we might not have fully appreciated from what we see or read on the surface. Admittedly, some explanations you find for such texts are a more speculative than others but it is fascinating to look into them.
Proverbs 25:2 says:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
And Jesus himself said in Matthew 13:52:
…“Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
We may have heard the well known scriptures and Bible stories taught on time and again but how refreshing it is when someone brings out something new that we have not seen or heard before. It excites me to come across these in the Bible, whether I hear of them from others or discover them myself.
There is such a ‘hidden treasure’ buried in the story of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. This is found in John Chapter 18 where in v1-14 we see Judas leading a detachment of soldiers and officials to arrest Jesus. The Greek word translated ‘detachment’ in v3 (speira) was used for a cohort of Roman soldiers. This was the tenth part of a Roman legion which in those days contained around 5,000 men. This tells us that the Chief Priests and Pharisees (probably worried that the followers of Jesus might put up a fight) sent over 500 soldiers and officials along with Judas – all to arrest just one man!
After Jesus asks who it is they have come for in v4, we read in the NIV:
…5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
The question we might ask here is: Why exactly did 500+ men draw back and fall to the ground when Jesus spoke to them?!
A clue is found if you read the same verses in one of a small number of Bible versions that word it slightly differently, such as the ISV:
…5 They answered him, “Jesus from Nazareth.”Jesus told them, “I AM.” Judas, the man who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus told them, “I AM,” they backed away and fell to the ground.
This is actually a more accurate translation than the NIV because Jesus really does just say “I am” here – the word ‘he’ added in most Bible versions is not in the original Greek. Every word (or lack of it!) is significant in the Word of God and as we heard from Hannah a couple of weeks ago, ‘I AM’ is one of the names of God (from Exodus 3:14) and is connected to the divine name YHWH (Yahweh).
From this we can now see that Jesus actually revealed something of his deity at this point. It seems that he also allowed them a small glimpse of his divine power – enough to instantly knock 500 highly disciplined soldiers to the ground!