What Part of Adam Became Eve?

James David Audlin

From The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volume I, as published by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by James David Audlin.

All worldwide rights reserved.

Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.



In Genesis 2:21 God takes a צְלָעֹת from the unnamed and hermaphroditic first human, splitting it into male and female. Only in Genesis 2 is this word, tselah, traditionally translated as “rib”, and I say incorrectly so; this passage’s author(s) surely knew perfectly well that male and female have the same number of ribs. As noted on pages 925f. herein, Scott F. Gordon and Ziony Zevit (American Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 101, July 2001) suggest that the צְלָעֹת (tselah) in Genesis 2:21 is mistranslated as “rib”, and that it means there the baculum, the penis bone present in the male of every other mammal species except the wooly monkey and spider monkey (which would have been unknown to ancient Israelites), and that Genesis may also mean to explain the raphé, the “scarline” along the lower side of the penis and scrotum, as from when God “closed over” the wound in Genesis 2:21. This might additionally help us understand the sexual overtones in the entire passage, into which “rib” does not fit. And indeed these ancient writers were farmers and hunters, and would have been well familiar with the bacula of cattle, sheep, and game animals, and inevitably wondered why among the species they knew the human was the only mammal lacking the baculum.

There are possible problems with this hypothesis, including most obviously that the Hebrew says אַחַת֙ מִצַּלְעֹתָ֔יו, usually rendered as “one of his ribs”, which would make no sense if the reading is “one of its bacula”, since the First Human would have had only the one baculum. The critical word, אַחַת֙, can be slippery in meaning – it often means “one”, but it can also mean “only” (“took only its baculum” or “took its only baculum”) or “altogether” (“took altogether its baculum”). Interestingly, the Targum and Peshitta have “took one from his side”; the direct object is not named. Another question is how and why “rib” was chosen as a substitute for “baculum”. I suspect this was partly because ribs are curved (צְלָעֹת comes from an ancient root, אָכַף, meaning “to curve”), and perhaps even to “explain” why women have breasts on their ribcages.

Possible issues aside, I agree with Gordon’s and Zevit’s proposal, but I do not think they go far enough.

In Genesis 2:21 the word צְלָעֹת (tselah) is usually translated as “rib”, but never elsewhere. As noted, its root means “to curve” and, while ribs too are curved, the baculum in this mythic first undivided human would have curved around the penis as it does in other male mammals, an open tubular receptacle enclosing the penis, as if the penis were within its own vagina.

There are several alternatives offered in the Talmud for what body part is fashioned into Eve. Relevant to this hypothesis is the one in Bereshith Rabbah 18:2, Rabbi Joshua of Siknin’s third-century midrash that Elohim created Eve אלא ממקום שהוא צנוע באדם אפי’ בשעה שאדם עומד ערום אותו המקום מכוסה (“from the concealed part in the person, for even when it [the person] stands naked that part is covered”).

Note that in this midrash I renderצנוע as “concealed”; it is usually translated “modest”, but that is imposing a later prudery on the text; its rootטמן means “to hide/conceal”: if one stands naked, then by definition nothing is modestly hidden. And when a person stands naked, neither the ribs nor the thigh nor any other traditional candidate for the tselah is covered, except only the penis: it hides in the foreskin if it is uncircumcised, and in both the foreskin and the baculum if this is the First Human yet unseparated into male and female.

Note also that the wordצנוע is related to צִנָּ֖ה (“shield” or “protective covering”) and צִנּוֹרִ (“gutter” or “tube”), both of which could well apply to the baculum. Also, I translate באדם as “in the person”, not “in a man”, as is traditional: אדם (adam) means “the human being” or ”humanity”, and here refers to the not-yet-divided First Human; being the first and only one of its kind, this being needed no name, and “Adam” only became a name when later there was another human. Finally,אותו , traditionally translated “he” here, is actually an untranslatable accusative marker in Hebrew, providing a direct object when a verb requires one, but it is inspecific: it can suggest “him” or “them” in English, but just as easily “her” or “it” or even “you” (singular or plural); in this case, “it” is correct because it refers to a hermaphrodite, the First Human.

The meanings tselah carries elsewhere in the Tanakh include “leaf”, which may help us understand why Adam and Eve cover themselves with leaves in Genesis 3:7; the word there (עָלֶה, aleh), is related to צְלָעֹת (tselah): they may be trying to hide their pubes with new bacula. Tselah also can occasionally mean “carrying beam”, which again may suggest the baculum carrying the penis. Now and then it is used to refer to something that protrudes from the side, and in later times it became associated with side-chapels in temples; something that protrudes from the side of the male human body would be the penis, especially erect. The word also sometimes has the meaning of “chamber”, and the baculum is in species that have it an enclosing chamber for the penis. Finally, the author surely meant this word צְלָעֹת (tselah) to invoke the near-homonym צֶ֫לֶם (tselem, “image”) found in Genesis 1:26-27, where the first human is made male-and-female-as-one in the image (צֶ֫לֶם) of Elohim.

This midrash not only can help clarify the first part of Adam’s exclamation in Genesis 2:23, “This is at last bone of my bone…”, but also the second part, “…flesh of my flesh”, since בָּשָׂר (“flesh”) is frequently in the Tanakh a euphemism for “penis” or “foreskin”. This may be to say that, just as Adam was created in the image of Elohim, Eve was created from that very same image, from the penis-baculum. The story further tells us that Eve and Adam are literally one flesh: both are part of the First Human. Hence, spouses, together, especially in those sacred moments when at orgasm they are out of their “little I” (atman) and into the Great I AM (Brahman), are the very image of Elohim. As the Qur’an says, “Be blankets for each other. We complete each other.

This story, if I am correctly midrashing it, may point to a subsequently lost ancient Israelite rationale for circumcision, requiring a man’s foreskin be cut off as a substitution/representation for the baculum, as a sign of being part of the covenant.

The phallus-like serpent tells Eve (Genesis 3:5) that eating the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden would make them “like Elohim” or “like gods” (depending on how it is rendered); in Genesis 3:22 Elohim complains that by eating the fruit the man “has become like one of us”, i.e., like the masculine aspect of Elohim, and presumably Eve has become like the feminine aspect of Elohim – and that the couple know they are like the two halves of Elohim’s united nature! – but we their human descendants did not have the “knowledge of good and evil” of our divided nature until Jesus not only explained it but demonstrated it by becoming one with Mary.

If my midrash is correct, then in terms of this myth when a couple makes love, the penis is once again restored to its natural place inside its baculum, and thus is restored the image of Elohim, God conceived of as male-and-female-as-one (the noun is feminine, but in this name it takes a male plural suffix). This would help explain why the Talmud places so much emphasis on the married state. In John 20:16, as restored herein from several early Greek and Aramaic manuscripts, Mary Magdalene runs to Jesus to embrace him and to be one with him – they are naked of course (Jesus’s funeral wrappings are in the tomb, and Mary will have performed a ritual called קריעה [keriah], the tearing apart and away of one’s clothing to vent one’s grief), and they are in a garden – clearly the author’s intention was to imply the Garden of Eden and the restoration of unity of male and female in Elohim’s image – so I wonder if at least by implication they make love, such that penis and baculum are reunited. [Ed.: The resurrection scene is discussed over hundreds of pages in the complete work from which this passage is extracted.]


Satan’s Angel

Satan’s Angel:

Quotations from the Gospel of John in the Letters of Paul

James David Audlin

Adapted and abridged from The Gospel of John, copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin, and The Writings of John, copyright © 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin, published by Editores Volcán Barú. All worldwide rights reserved.

Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.



The later gospels of Luke and Matthew could not have used the Gospel of John, yet unpublished, as a textual source, but they may have been influenced at least indirectly by John the Presbyter as an oral source. Paul N. Anderson (The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus) convinces me that Luke dozens of times follows the oral Johannine tradition rather than Mark.

Anderson also brilliantly argues (in Bible and Interpretation, September 2010) that Acts 4:20 could be a genuine oral statement by John, echoed later in his written work, such as at I John 1:3 and John 3:32. If so, this puts the Presbyter among the eyewitness apostles and has him at least orally preaching about Jesus decades before Luke-Acts was released in the 90s.

In addition to Anderson seeing evidences of quotations in Matthew and Luke-Acts from John as an oral source, there are structural similarities. Luke and Matthew put an equal focus on Jesus’s words and deeds, like John and unlike “sayings gospels” like Thomas, and also unlike Paul’s letters and the pseudo-Pauline letters, which put the focus neither on Jesus’s message (nearly nothing of what Jesus said is recounted) nor on his deeds (likewise hardly mentioned). But these two gospels recount Jesus’s words and deeds mainly to support what Paul does emphasize: his radical reinterpretation of Jesus as being divine and his resurrection as with a spiritual, non-mortal body that his followers too will be given. And in their un-Pauline attention to Jesus’s words and deeds Luke and Matthew could have emulated not only oral John, as might be construed from Anderson, but Mark and perhaps the Gospel of Peter. In this sense they take a median position between the Johannine and Pauline views.

Anderson’s excellent hypotheses regarding quotations of John as an oral source in Luke-Acts raises the question whether there are other such references in the New Testament. And it is my conclusion that there are – specifically, in the letters of Paul.


We begin by noting that there is obviously a verb missing in John 20:11 in Greek: παρεκυψεν εις το μνημειον, “…crouched down [__] into the tomb”. One cannot crouch down into a tomb, since the feet do not change position in the act of crouching down; crouching is a vertical action and “into the tomb” requires a horizontal motion, unless the entrance were a most untraditional aperture in the tomb ceiling, but in that case she wouldn’t crouch into the tomb but drop in. But one can crouch down to look into a tomb or to enter into a tomb. That is the exact succession of verbs in 20:5-6 – in verse 5 Lazarus crouches down (the same verb in Greek) to look, but, the text adds immediately, he does not enter; then in verses 6-8 Simon and he do enter the tomb. In another early gospel, Mark 16:5, Mary and the other women are said to enter the tomb, as apparently also did Marcion’s Gospel of the Master (cf. Tertullian, Against Marcion 4:43:6). In the pre-dawn darkness, looking into the tomb from outside would have been futile, since unlike the women and the two disciples, Mary did not have a lamp and her body crouched at the small entrance would have blocked what little sunlight there was. It is harder to see into a dark chamber from an even slightly brighter outside, since one’s eyes will not be sufficiently dilated to see the particulars within.

All of this raises the likelihood that “to enter” or “to look about” is the missing verb here. The verb in my reconstruction of the original text in 20:11 is εμβατευω (embateuō), which means “entered in” and also “scrutinized carefully”. Ironically, it is Paul who confirms this verb; he uses it in Colossians 2:18, which as I will discuss shortly, is Paul criticizing John for relying on Mary’s witness about seeing angels in the tomb. This verb conforms with the Aramaic text as found in the Syriac Sinaiticus and Peshitta of 20:11. They both say she ܐܰܕ݂ܺܝܩܰܬ݂, “inspected” or “looked about” the tomb, which presumes that she has entered into it in order to do just this. The same Aramaic verb appears in verse 5 to say Lazarus looked about the interior, but it is qualified, stating clearly that he did not go in – a qualification missing in verse 11, which in its absence in verse 11 confirms that Mary did go in, especially after the intervening verse 6, in which Simon goes in. Further, in verses 1-11 the Aramaic always says ܩܒܘܪܐ (t qbūrā), literally “the house of the body-niche(s)”, meaning the tomb as a whole, but in 11a it says she was standing in front of the ܩܒܪܐ (qbūrā), the body-niche itself, and in 11b, while weeping, she looked about the t qbūrā. This can only mean she was by then in the tomb. And verse 12, in which Mary sees angels above the body-niche, further suggests she had entered the tomb, since such details would be impossible to discern from outside, given the viewing angle and lack of light.

In the tomb, according to the Greek text of John 20:12, Mary saw δυο αγγελους εν λευκοις, “two messengers in light”. The word λευκοις (leukois), usually translated “white”, means more an effulgence or radiance, flickering and shimmering, composed of light itself. And, notwithstanding the usual translation, the word εν does not mean here “in” light in the English sense better expressed as “of” light. If they were made of light, the word would be λευκόινος. This is to say, the shapes were not composed of light, but were within light, that is, outlined by, surrounded by, a faint, shimmering light, etched out on the far wall of the tomb above the body-niche by the first rays of morning shining through the tomb opening. The word λευκοις could be another example of John’s homonymic doubles entendres, this one evoking εκόνες (eikones), “images” or “phantoms”, especially phantoms of the mind – which instantly brings to mind this word’s appearance in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which the Presbyter is clearly referencing in this passage. The Aramaic supports this dual interpretation of the Greek: the word in the Peshitta and Syriac Sinaiticus is ܚܰܘܪܳܐ (iwwār), though it can mean “white”, it can also mean (in II Timothy 1:13, for example) “form”, “outline”, or “pattern” – and the Aramaic prefix ܒ݁ means “in” in exactly the same sense of “within”, not of “of”. In conclusion, then, these shape are shadows, silhouettes, limned out by the dawn light.

Confirmation of this reading comes again from Paul. In II Corinthians 11:14, in the midst of one of his diatribes against John the Presbyter, he suggests that John has been preaching about “an angel in light” (αγγελον φωτος), and avers that the manifestation was really Satan disguising his appearance as its own opposite (μετασχηματίζεται); that is, the demon of shadow taking on a cloak of light, thus with the outer seeming of an angel, but still a shadow within. Scholars have never been able to point to any such reference in the Tanakh, or even in what was to become the New Testament. But does not the phrase sharply evoke the image of δυο αγγελους εν λευκοις in John 20:12, the “two angels in shimmering light”, the two shadows etched out by light?


These apparent connections between John 20 and comments in two of Paul’s letters call for further examination of the latter.

Colossians 2:18 reads thus:


μηδεις υμας καταβραβευετω θελων εν ταπεινοφροσυνη και θρησκεια των αγγελων α εορακεν εμβατευων εικη φυσιουμενος υπο του νοος της σαρκος αυτου


Let no one disqualify you who brags about his humility, nor one who venerates angels whom she saw while entering in / inspecting carefully, vainly hyperventilating over the thought of his body.


In the first phrase Paul uses a sports term, καταβραβευω (katabrabeuō, referring to when an umpire declares a play to be out of bounds or ejects a player from the game), to say John, simply because he knew Jesus, thinks he gets to judge the actions of others. No doubt Paul was still rankling over being judged by the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15). Three men, Simon Peter, James, and John, spoke against Paul, which tells us that this trial was deemed a capital case requiring a minimum of two or three credible witnesses, conducted in accordance with Jewish law (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).

John is mentioned by Paul in Galatians 2:9 as participating in this trial. He is not mentioned by name in Acts 15, just in 15:5 as a Pharisee. He was indeed a priest and no doubt a Pharisee too; according to a letter written by Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, paraphrased by Eusebius, John, he “who sleeps [was buried] in Ephesus”, τ πέταλον πεφορεκς (“wore the petalon”, the breastplate of the high priest). Since there is no record of a high priest in this time named John this would be that he substituted for the high priest when the latter was sick or travelling. So it is John who insisted (Acts 15:5) and argued strongly (verse 7) that Paul’s gentile converts be circumcised, but he was overruled by Simon and James, who gave conciliatory speeches in Acts while John sat silent. (Since John is never again mentioned in Acts, this disagreement may be part of why he moves to Ephesus.) Paul’s gentile converts were accepted (Deuteronomy 10:17-19); though John’s insistence on circumcision was rejected, the compromise did require Paul to hold his converts to “remember the poor” and to obey the so-called Noahide laws, including not eating food containing blood, food offered to idols, or food that came from strangled animals; and refraining from ritual sexual impropriety, such as the ceremonial sexuality practiced at both the Jerusalem and Samaritan Temples at various times. Given Paul’s astonishing success at evangelizing, he couldn’t be harnessed and the three leaders knew it; their only leverage was the imprimatur of their good will.

Paul says in Galatians that the circumcision issue was brought up by “false brothers” (ψευδαδελφους) secretly invited (παρεισάκτους) to appear unexpectedly (παρεισλθον) before Paul: this would be the mentioned Pharisee, John. Paul makes it all sound very positive and chummy (Galatians 2:9); still, one hears the hissing sarcasm in Galatians 2:6, where Paul describes the leaders, mainly the just-mentioned Pharisee, as


…των δοκουντων ειναι τι οποιοι ποτε ησαν ουδεν μοι διαφερει προσωπον ο θεος ανθρωπου ου λαμβανει εμοι γαρ οι δοκουντες ουδεν προσανεθεντο


… those esteemed (by others) to be something – whatever they used to be makes no difference to me (since) God does not accept a man’s outward seeming – these esteemed had, indeed, nothing to add.


Note that the adjective δοκουντων, dokountōn, has a barb in its tail. In this quotation it appears to suggest the meaning of “esteemed” or “held in high opinion”. However in his next phrase Paul suggests that the people hold these three in such high esteem because of their former-but-no-more achievements (that once upon a time they were Jesus’s disciples, or that John was a high priest, for instance) and so they have been taken in by their claims to fame, the show that they give the world; literally, the “face” that they show the world. At any rate, Paul is in no position to make such insinuations, considering his own rather despicable past deeds, though at least to his credit he often mentions them. But God is not so taken in, he goes on, adding with arch piety that though their followers are fooled God is not, and so God’s one faithful follower Paul is likewise not fooled. Yet that he alludes to their past greatness at all implies it does make a difference to him, and he sounds both envious and gossipy simply for hinting at it.

Paul uses the adjective δοκουντων again in verse 9 to modify the noun στυλοι (styloi), which usually means “pillars”, hence “esteemed pillars”, in the modern sense of “pillars of the church”. But the latter word was also used to refer to writing styluses (in fact the English word is descended from it), and δοκουντων can also mean “opinionated” or even “judgemental”. Thus, no doubt intentionally, Paul intends this phrase to carry a second meaning: “judgemental styluses”; by implication, “judgemental writers”; the equivalent in modern English would be “poison pens”. (Paul might have had in mind the עט שקר (“deceitful styluses”) of Jeremiah 8:8.) And immediately after this taunt, Paul drives it home by relating the story about Simon being hypocritical about demanding Paul to keep kosher when Simon himself does not.

If as suggested above this trial was conducted in accordance with Jewish law (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15), for Paul to ignore the verdict, as he did, was not only to break relations with these three men but moreover with Jewish law and the Jewish faith. No wonder his subsequent letters say faith in Jesus eradicates any need to obey the Torah. Paul now had little choice but to seek respect among the gentiles.

So James, John, and Simon broke off relations with Paul, never again to communicate except for one last council described in Acts 21. Paul for his part refused to travel and preach any longer with either Barnabas or John Mark, whom he replaced with another young man of an apparently more amenable disposition, named Silas. After pushing Barnabas and John Mark aside (despite one being the man who had given Saul his start in the movement and the other being the son of the Messiah he claimed to represent!) he redoubled his efforts alone, as missionary to the Roman Empire, at least according to the book of Acts, but there is little reason to doubt this, since the sheer numbers of converts racked up by Paul conferred on him considerable power, if not authority, in the early years of this spiritual movement.


In the second phrase of Colossians 2:18 Paul turns his invective on Mary. It is she, according to John 20:11-12, who entered into the tomb and inspected it (the verb εμβατευω) the interior of Jesus’s tomb and saw two angels (John 20:11-12; the Greek word means “messengers”); Paul accuses her of worshipping (θρησκεια) the angels. And Paul increases the outrage: Mary’s testimony is untrustworthy, he avers, because, as John himself concedes in the gospel, she was sexually aroused at the resurrection, “vainly hyperventilating over the thought of his body.” (Note that The Gospel of John studies at considerable length the strong erotic implications of John 20, particularly through isolating quotations from the Song of Songs, Sappho, and Homer.) Thus, Paul concludes, using his sports imagery, Umpire John did not see the event in question, relying on the questionable testimony of Mary, and is therefore a hypocrite for saying he is an eyewitness of the risen Jesus. It was Mary, not John, who professed she saw these messengers and Jesus, Paul points out, and her testimony is worthless because of her sexual desire. On the other hand, Paul often vigorously claims to have really seen the risen Christ, albeit in visions.

The “hyperventilating” comment points clearly to Mary. The second-century Greek philosopher Celsus wrote a book giving his logical arguments against Christianity. Picking up on Paul’s accusation, he insisted we cannot take seriously the witness of a frenzied female that Jesus rose from the dead; she may have only had a wish-fulfillment fantasy or deliberately pretended to a vision. He says the solitary resurrection witness (Mary, according to John 20), was


… εί τις άλλος των έκ της αύτης γοητειας, ήτοι κατα τινα διαθεσιν όνειρωξας και κατα την αύτου βουλησιν δοξη πεπλανημενη φαντασιωθεις, όπερ ήδη μυριοις σθμβεβηκεν, ή, όπερ μαλλον άπο γε τουτων, οίς άπαγορευει πειθεσθαι Μωωσης ή Μωυσεα εξ ών έτεροθς περι σημειων και τερατων διεβαλε


… perhaps one of those engaged in that kind of magic, who had either undergone a dream of this, having been willing to let her mind wander causing images to form in it, as many people have done; or, more likely, one who desired to impress others with this sign, and by such a falsehood to furnish support for other impostors like herself.


Apparently these matters were still widely known in the second century, to be known even by a critic, and have since been forgotten, deliberately so by the institutional religion.

Paul’s view is that Mary was in vain “hyperventilating over the thought of his [Jesus’s] body” because, so Paul believed, Jesus didn’t have a normal human body of flesh but rather a spiritual body, one without sexual desire, without sin. Thus it was not just in vain for Mary to “hyperventilate” over such a body, but a sin against God to want to sin with a body made of heavenly material.

So Paul here calls John a false apostle for basing his apostolic claim on not his own witness of the resurrected Jesus but that of a crazy woman, and further calls him a servant of Satan since, so Paul alleges, it was Satan who appeared in the tomb to Mary as an angel in light.

Still rankling some years later, and never at a loss for words to express his views, Paul lets loose again in his second surviving letter to his community of followers in Corinth (II Corinthians 11:12-15):


ο δε ποιω και ποιησω ινα εκκοψω την αφορμην των θελοντων αφορμην ινα εν ω καυχωνται ευρεθωσιν καθως και ημεις οι γαρ τοιουτοι ψευδαποστολοι εργαται δολιοι μετασχηματιζομενοι εις αποστολους χριστου και ου θαυμα αυτος γαρ ο σατανας μετασχηματιζεται εις αγγελον φωτος ου μεγα ουν ει και οι διακονοι αυτου μετασχηματιζονται ως διακονοι δικαιοσυνης ων το τελος εσται κατα τα εργα αυτων


So what I am doing I will keep on doing in order to cut off the opportunity for those who seek one, to be taken in their boasting as equal to us. For such are pseudo-apostles, workers of deceit, turning themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder; Satan himself transforms his appearance into an angel in light! So it is no surprise if his servants also masquerade as servants of justice, whose end will be in accordance with their deeds.


Here Paul says he himself is an apostle, and that John is not – an astonishing statement, when in fact it was the other way around –and that John et al. who judged Paul in Jerusalem will be judged in the end. In the early usage, an apostle was someone who had heard and seen Jesus, and whose life had been changed by Jesus, and who then dedicated his life to spreading his first-hand accounts of Jesus’s teachings. Paul never witnessed Jesus in the flesh (be that flesh physical or spiritual) as the Presbyter did, and Paul’s demand to be accepted as a full apostle therefore grated on the real apostles, especially Jesus’s closest friends and family in the leadership community based in Jerusalem until its destruction in 70 C.E. Much of John’s surviving correspondence include defenses of John’s claim to apostleship as genuine (especially I John 1) and a condemnation of Paul’s false claim to apostleship, such as this warning in Paul in II John 7,9:


οτι πολλοι πλανοι εξηλθον εις τον κοσμον οι μη ομολογουντες ιησουν χριστον ερχομενον εν σαρκι ουτος εστιν ο πλανος και ο αντιχριστος … πας ο προαγων και μη μενων εν τη διδαχη του χριστου θεον ουκ εχει ο μενων εν τη διδαχη ουτος και τον πατερα και τον υιον εχει


For many misleaders have gone off into the cosmos, those who do not say as we do that Jesus the Anointed One came in flesh. … Anyone who leads (others) outside of, who does not abide within, the teaching of God, does not have God.


and John’s praise of his own congregation in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2:


οιδα τα εργα σου και τον κοπον και την υπομονην σου και οτι ου δυνη βαστασαι κακους και επειρασας τους λεγοντας εαυτους αποστολους και ουκ εισιν και ευρες αυτους ψευδεις


I know your [the synagogue’s] works and your labor and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evildoers, and that you tested those who call themselves apostles but are not, and that you found them to be liars.


In II Corinthians 11 Paul goes further with his allegation made in Colossians 2:18. The latter verse simply accuses John and Mary of “venerating angels”, but here he says in actuality those supposed angels were Satan having transformed (μετασχηματίζεται, metaschēmatizetai) his appearance into “an angel in light” (αγγελον φωτος, angelon phōtos). The verb μετασχηματίζεται here suggests that Satan is disguising himself (Josephus so uses this word in Antiquities 8:11:1) by turning his outer appearance into its exact opposite: the demon of shadow takes on a cloak of light: it is still a shadow within, but with the outer seeming of an angel. As noted, scholars have never been able to point to any such reference in the Tanakh, or even in what was to become the New Testament, but I think the phrase echoes δυο αγγελους εν λευκοις in John 20:12, the “two angels in shimmering light” (λευκοις, leukois, is a poetic synonym for φωτος).


It is entirely possible that Paul or one of his acolytes attended a sermon by John and heard him talking about what Mary had told him about the resurrection of Jesus. (Spying on competitors seems to have been common; cf. e.g., Galatians 2:4.)

John, of course, would have emphasized that the hierogamy of Jesus and Mary beside the tomb, their total union physical and spiritual, sexual and mystical, shows us how to heal the spiritual wound caused by Elohim’s separation of the first human into Adam and Eve, the aloneness and emptiness in every human individual, and that it opens the way to the Æon. But Paul, who was not only rather misogynistic but strongly disgusted by the very idea of sexuality, found it most offensive that John was preaching Jesus in an erotic embrace with Mary at his resurrection, and outright heretical that John suggested Jesus showed the way to heaven in (to borrow Blake’s lovely phrase) “the lineaments of gratified Desire”.

Thus Paul paints John as a charlatan who, despite claiming to be an eyewitness, relies on hearsay. And, even if John was an eyewitness disciple of Jesus, Paul says he is better than John (and Peter and James, for that matter) because they falsely claim to be Jesus’s disciples when he, Paul, is the only true and best disciple of Jesus because, by way of his vaunted visions, Paul claims he still is in close contact with Jesus. Thus Paul, with his usual skill at debating, seeks to turn his biggest deficit – that he never even met Jesus – into a strength. As always, Paul judges others to be judgemental and vindicates himself as unjudgemental; he brags about his lack of braggadocio, he is loudly proud of his humility. Paul indulges in self-effacement with all the illogic of the famous paradox about the chronic liar who says, “I am lying.”



The Anointing Priestess

Adapted and abridged from The Writings of John, published by Editores Volcán Barú.

Copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved.

Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.





John 2:20 – This verse makes it clear exactly to whom John intended to send this letter (actually never sent, or even completed, before his exile to Patmos). Unlike the disciples of Paul, this branch of the followers of Jesus was still fully Jewish, and as such their clergy were anointed, just as the Davidic kings had been, and the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem still were. John had been one of those priests, and so surely he administered the rite to those who were chosen to pastor the local congregations. Thus the letter recipients were meant to be the seven bishops of the local churches under his purview as regional bishop of the Roman province of Asia (Anatolia, now western Turkey), to read aloud to their congregations.

John says their anointing serves to teach them about all things; a phrase that comes from John 14:26 (“But the Paraclete, the Sacred Spirit/Breath/Wind whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of all the things that I said to you.”), which tells us that John closely associated this anointing with the Paraclete, the Spirit of God. The Presbyter came to believe that the Paraclete was incarnated into (i.e., that its physical form was) the Gospel of John, which as he drafted this letter he was in the final stages of completion (he never would entirely finish it). It is all but impossible that all seven of these local congregational leaders had written copies of the gospel, since it was still being drafted; John is referring rather to its oral equivalent, his witness (μαρτυρια, martyria) that he has shared with them to the teachings and deeds of Jesus.

John further says they were anointed by the αγιου (hagiou), usually translated as “the Holy One”, with the standard assumption usually being that this means God, sometimes Christ. But always practical John cannot mean God appeared, nor in some spiritual sense Christ (as opposed to the man Jesus) and poured oil over these seven disciples. As to who it was, recall that Jesus anointed no one himself, but was anointed by Mary (John 1:32, 12:3), so these John’s disciples may too have been anointed by Mary. The word αγιου actually means “set apart”, set apart from the world, from common, ordinary things. It is an adjective being used here as a noun; here it appears in its masculine form, which is why scholars assume the “one set apart” to be either God or Jesus.

But Jesus was not the only one set apart, and the Peshitta version of this verse mentions the other one. The Aramaic word here is ܩܕܝܫܐ (qadīša), which has the sense as an adjective of “sacred”, “pure” as in ritually clean, or “set apart” from the mundane; but, as a noun, which is how the word appears here, it specifically means “priestess”: a Temple priestess. Mary is also called the holy priestess in the Aramaic of John 17:11b and Revelation 3:7. The latter verse refers to her not just as ܩܕܝܫܐ in the Aramaic, but as αγιου in the Greek too.

The Aramaic forces us to take another look at the Greek, αγιου. This word is often used to refer to the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and this sacred place is associated in the Johannine writings with Mary (see The Gospel of John, pages 991ff.). Revelation 3:7 also specifically refers to Mary as the αγιου. What is more, the word αγιου may also be used to refer to a priest or priestess, someone “set apart” for a sacred calling.


2:27 – In first-century Greek the third person pronoun (αυτου, autou) is not specific as to gender, which reflects correctly the pronomial suffix of the Aramaic particle ܡܢܗ (meneh, “from”); it too is gender inspecific, implying either “from him” or “from her”. As a result, scholars, with chauvinist lenses firmly fixed over their eyes, declare the person referred to by this pronoun is a male, and always render the phrase as “the anointing that you received from him”. However there the consensus ends. Some scholars associate the pronoun with Jesus, who is mentioned in passing in verses 22-24, and others with αγιου (hagiou), “the Holy One” of verse 20, which they usually take as referring to God. These scholars fail to see that the confusion over who the “him” is might be because they are wrong to assume that it means “him” rather than “her”. The reader will recall, however, that the Aramaic in verse 20 is best rendered as not “the Holy One” but “the priestess”, which is to say Mary. If as I suspect this letter was originally composed in Aramaic and translated into Greek, then I think we need to take seriously the possibility that this αυτου refers not to a man but to a woman, in which case the referent is Mary.

It would have been nice if, in writing this letter, John had made it as plain as possible who he meant in verses 20 and 27. But he and his recipients knew perfectly well to whom he was referring, and so there was no need to make things clear that were already clear to them – still, I think the text is clear enough for those who study it with care. The first pronoun is the only one really imprecise, being gender neutral in Aramaic and Greek. But the verse’s other pronouns in Aramaic are quite specific as to gender, and they will help us determine if “him” or “her” is intended here. The verse goes on to say that since the anointing received from the person is ultimately from God, “everything ܗܝ (me) teaches is true”, so these disciples must “remain with what ܗܝ has taught you.” This ܗܝ is a feminine pronoun, and since such a pronoun is modified by the previous noun, and translators have thus assumed it refers to the anointing, which in Aramaic is a feminine noun. They ignore the obvious fact that acts of anointing do not teach. They ignore the contrast drawn between this anointing person and someone else whose masculine status is emphasized in the phrase “you need no male to teach you” (this phrase to be discussed below), strongly suggesting that the anointing person is not a male, hence a woman. They further neglect the pronoun-suffix to ܡܢܗ, the one which refers to the person who did the anointing, and that this suffix is closer in the sentence to ܗܝ than the noun “anointing”, hence by Aramaic grammatical custom more likely to be the antecedent for ܗܝ. And even those scholars who correctly assume the pronoun-suffix refers back to ܩܕܝܫܐ (qadīša) ignore its primary meaning of “priestess”.

But ܩܕܝܫܐ does mean “priestess”, and this priestess is the object of the pronomial suffix to ܡܢܗ (meneh, “from”), and that suffix is the closest precedent noun to the feminine pronoun ܗܝ. I see consistency in seeing all three as referring to the same woman: the priestess is the anointing person who later in the verse is said to be teaching them truth. So I conclude that ܗܝ refers to the woman, not the anointing, that it means “she” here, just as it does in the Aramaic of John 21:24, where it tells us that the Beloved Disciple was a woman. This priestess who anointed them had to be Mary, wife of Jesus. Since English requires masculine or feminine pronoun in reference to an individual human being, this identification tips the scale to “she” in my translation of the gender neutral ܡܢܗ earlier in this verse.

These appearances of the Aramaic feminine pronoun ܗܝ are sharpened by the reference to a “male”, ܐܢܫ (ˀĕnāš ), who is the very man condemned in this passage: the liar, the anti-Anointed-One – mainly, Paul. By emphasizing Paul’s gender (which I do in the translation with “male” rather than “man”), John is implying Paul’s attacks on Mary as a mere woman and hence an untrustworthy source of the truth about Jesus (see pages 33ff.), when quite to the contrary Jesus treated women with equal respect, and Mary herself was favored by Jesus as the εκλεκτη κυρια (eklektē kyria), the “chosen Masteress”, the συνεκλεκτ (syneklektē), the “chosen-with” (I Peter 5:13), the Beloved Disciple, and the priestess (not only here but in Revelation 3:7. Paul himself implies her priestess status in Colossians 2:18 (see The Gospel of John, page 196), as does Celsus (ibid.). With this “male” epithet John may even be implying that Paul is not really a man at all but a eunuch (op. cit., pages 232f.), and that he is not really an apostle of Jesus at all but a power- and publicity-seeking sham.

Mary was united with Jesus at the resurrection in a hierogamy that undid the separation of the first human into Adam and Eve (see op. cit., pages 995-1006). As his feminine aspect she could easily have taught these seven about Jesus and then, as a priestess, anointed them. Thus we must conclude that John is referring to the Mary, the Masteress as he calls her in the beginning of II John, who is one with Jesus, and that Mary anointed these seven. Her centrality to the Johannine community is discussed throughout this book; see also Jane Schaberg’s The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene. This understanding of the text is far more logical and practical than the tortured standard reasoning that sees God as coming down to anoint these seven disciples, and that the anointing ceremony itself somehow taught them the truth about all things. Scholar Ariadne Green has pointed out to me the irony that Mary who ordained seven bishops was later demoted by dogma into a prostitute with seven demons inside her.

Fluffy Blue-Eyed Jesus Exploded

Taken from The Gospel of John Restored and Translated,

copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved.

Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.



It is not certain whether the language of the original text [of the Gospel of John] was Greek or Aramaic. … There is throughout the gospel a reliance on not only the Greek language, especially in the Prologue, but also on Greek literature, for instance, the allusions to Herakleitos and Plato in the Prologue and to the Odyssey in chapter 20. Though often stated as fact, it is not true, however, that doubles entendres like ανωθεν (meaning either “from above” or “again”) in John 3:3 are only possible in Greek, as is discussed in the commentariesñ though, as is well known, the references to the πνευμα, the חוּר, work equally well in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic (both terms mean “wind/breath/spirit”).

On the other hand, several words or phrases are in the Hebrew-related language Aramaic, the lingua franca of Judæa and Galilee at that time. There are several passages where the Syriac Aramaic versions reveal doubles entendres (in which the gospel author frequently indulges) that only make sense in Aramaic, and not in Greek, such as the subtle eroticism in chapter 4, the puns founded on the Aramaic word for manna and “What?” in chapter 6, and most especially the extremely complex mary/Mary word associations in chapter 20 that actually encompass a third Semitic language, Egyptian. What is more, some passages that are quite confusing in Greek, such as Jesus’s statement at John 8:39 and the beginning of chapter 10 become much clearer when read from those very early Aramaic versions.

Both Mary [the Beloved Disciple, and eyewitness source for much of the gospel] and John [the Presbyter, its author and its secondary eyewitness source] would have had Aramaic as their first language, and at least John knew Greek. John’s two other major works, the Revelation and the Songs of the Perfect One, appear to have been composed in Aramaic and later translated (the Songs by John himself, the Revelation by someone else) into the lingua franca of Greek. My theory is that the earliest drafts of the gospel were in Aramaic, and that there was a transitional period when refinements and additional information were recorded a mix of both languages, likely sometimes both appearing even in the same phrase, and that the final draft – that from which Polycarp, who knew virtually no Aramaic or Hebrew, prepared the published gospel – was mostly or entirely composed in Greek, with the Presbyter doing his best to render the Aramaic doubles entendres in Greek, but evidently giving up on transposing some; that these latter are retained in the Syriac texts suggests that an original Aramaic text of at least some passages was available in the first century. In the final stages of John’s composing it, the quotations from the Tanakh were added that obviously come from not the Hebrew original but the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanakh by Jewish scholars, widely popular among Jews in the first century, especially in the Diaspora. The many references to secular literature, which rely on Greek, of course – Homer, Plato, Euripides, and so on – were surely also brought into the manuscript by the amanuensis at this late stage.

By referring to the greatest poet and philosopher and playwright of what was then still the indispensable central Western literature, John the Presbyter signified his belief that this gospel belonged in their company. And this melding of Jewish and Greek literature suggests that the authors’ intended audience was universal: Jews steeped in the Tanakh and gentiles familiar with their own literature and philosophy.


This passage [John 10:1-18] is one that strongly suggests it was originally composed not in Greek but in Aramaic. The Syriac Sinaiticus version is very clear in meaning, and more in line with Jesus’s teachings as presented in this gospel. Like other passages, chapters 4 and 20 for example, it may preserve an early author’s text drafted in Aramaic. A careful analysis deflates the usual image of smiling blue-eyed Jesus in fluffy pastel colors guiding people of European features in favor of a hard verbal thrust against the Temple hegemony of Jesus’s day. Let us first review the very different Old Syriac version:


10:1 ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܪܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ ܕܡܢ ܕܠܐ ܥܐܠ ܡܢ ܬܪܥܐ ܠܕܪܬܐ ܕܐܝܬ ܒܗ ܥܢܐ ܐܠܐ ܣܠܩ ܠܗ ܡܢ ܕܘܟܐ ܐܚܪܢܝܐ ܗܘ ܓܝܣܐ ܘܓܢܒܐ 10:2 ܘܐܝܢܐ ܕܡܢ ܬܪܥܐ ܥܐܠ ܗܘ ܪܥܝܗ ܗܘ ܕܥܢܐ 10:3 ܢܛܪ ܬܪܥܐ ܦܬܚ ܠܗ ܬܪܥܐ ܘܥܢܐ ܫܡܥܐ ܩܠܗ ܘܚܝܘܬܗ ܗܘ ܩܪܐ ܥܪܒܐ ܒܫܡܗ ܘܗܘ ܡܦܩ ܠܗ 10:4 ܘܡܐ ܕܐܦܩ ܚܝܘܬܗ ܩܕܡܝܗ ܐܙܠ ܘܚܕܐ ܕܝܠܗ ܒܬܪܗ ܐܙܠܐ ܡܛܠ ܕܝܕܥܐ ܥܢܐ ܩܠܗ 10:5 ܒܬܪ ܢܘܟܪܝܐ ܕܝܢ ܠܐ ܐܙܠܐ ܥܢܐ ܐܠܐ ܡܬܦܣܩܐ ܥܢܐ ܡܢܗ ܡܛܠ ܕܠܐ ܝܕܥܐ ܩܠܗ ܕܢܘܟܪܝܐ

10:6ܗܠܝܢ ܡܠܠ ܥܡܗܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܒܦܠܐܬܐ ܘܗܢܘܢ ܠܐ ܡܣܬܟܠܝܢ ܗܘܘ

10:7ܬܘܒ ܐܡܪ ܠܗܘܢ ܝܫܘܥ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܪܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ ܕܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܬܪܥܗ ܕܥܢܐ 10:8 ܘܟܠ ܐܝܠܝܢ ܕܐܬܘ ܓܢܒ̈ܐ ܐܢܘܢ ܘܓܝܣ̈ܐ ܐܠܐ ܠܐ ܫܡܥܬ ܐܢܘܢ ܚܝܘܬܐ 10:9 ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܬܪܥܗ ܕܥܢܐ܂ ܘܒܝ ܟܘܠ ܕܢܥܘܠ ܢܝܚܐ ܘܢܥܠ ܘܢܦܩ ܘܪܥܝܐ ܢܫܟܚ 10:10 ܓܢܒܐ ܕܝܢ ܠܐ ܐܬܐ ܐܠܐ ܕܢܓܢܒ ܘܢܩܛܠ ܘܢܘܒܕ ܐܢܐ ܕܝܢ ܐܬܝܬ ܕܚ̈ܝܐ ܢܗܘܘܢ ܠܗܘܢ ܘܝܘܬܪܢܐ ܢܗܘܐ ܠܗܘܢ 10:11 ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ ܘܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ ܝܗܒ ܢܦܫܗ ܥܠ ܐܦܝ ܥܢܗ 10:12 ܐܓܝܪܐ ܕܝܢ ‍‍‍‍>ܢܩܘܕܐ‍>‍ ܕܠܐ ܗܘܬ ܕܝܠܗ ܥܢܐ ܡܐ ܕܚܙܐ ܕܐܒܐ ܕܐܬܐ ܫܒܩ ܠܗ ܠܥܢܐ ܘܥܪܩ ܘܐܬܐ ܕܐܒܐ ܚܛܦ ܘܡܒܕܪ 10:13 ܡܛܠ ܕܐܓܝܪܐ ܗܼܘ ܒܗ ܘܠܐ ܒܛܝܠ ܠܗ ܥܠܝܗ

10:14 ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ ܘܝܕܥ ܐܢܐ ܠܕܝܠܝ ܘܝܕܥ ܠܝ ܕܝܠܝ ܘܡܬܝܕܥܢܐ ܡܢ ܕܝܠܝ 10:15 ܐܝܟܢܐ ܕܝܕܥ ܠܝ ܐܒܝ ܘܝܕܥ ܐܢܐ ܠܐܒܝ܂ ܘܢܦܫܝ ܣܐܡ ܐܢܐ ܥܠ ܐܦ̈ܝܗ ܕܥܢܐ 10:16 ܘܐܝܬ ܠܝ ܥܪܒܐ ܐܚܪܢܐ ܐܝܠܝܢ ܕܠܐ ܗܘܘ ܡܢܗ ܡܢ ܕܪܬܐ ܗܕܐ܂ ܘܐܦ ܠܗܘܢ ܘܠܐ ܠܝ ܠܡܝܬܝܘ ܐܢܘܢ ܘܐܦ ܗܢܘܢ ܩܠܝ ܢܫܡܥܘܢ ܘܬܗܘܐ ܥܢܐ ܟܘܠܗ ܚܕܐ ܘܚܕ ܪܥܝܐ 10:17 ܘܐܒܝ ܡܛܠ ܗܢܐ ܪܚܡ ܠܝ ܕܣܐܡ ܐܢܐ ܢܦܫܝ ܕܬܘܒ ܐܣܒܝܗ 10:18 ܘܠܐ ܐܝܬ ܐܢܫ ܫܩܠ ܠܗ ܡܢܝ ܐܠܐ ܐܢܐ ܣܐܡ ܐܢܐ ܠܗ ܡܢܝ ܫܘܠܛܢܐ ܓܝܪ ܕܐܣܝܡܝܗܝ ܘܬܘܒ ܐܫܩܠܝܗܝ ܡܛܠ ܕܗܢܐ ܦܘܩܕܢܐ ܩܒܠܬ ܡܢ ܐܒܝ


10:1 “Amen amen, I tell you, anyone who does not enter into the courtyard/social group by the gate, though he is among the flock he rises in rank there from another place/house. He is an invading army and a thief. 10:2 But the one who enters in by the gate is the shepherd of the flock. 10:3 He (the shepherd) watches over/guards/is at readiness at the gate; he opens the gate. And when the flock reacts to the voice of the wild animals, he calls the sheep by name, and he goes out with them. 10:4 And so he goes out to face the animals, and behind him they rejoice because the flock responds to his voice. 10:5 After an alien / a non-family-member the flock will not go, but the flock will break away from him because they do not respond to his voice.”

10:6 Jesus said this figure of speech to them but they did not know what it was that he said to them.

10:7 So Jesus said again to them, “Amen amen, I tell you, I AM (is) / I am the gatekeeper for the flock. 10:8 And all who come are thieves and band-of-raiders but they (the flock) do not respond to animals. 10:9 I AM (is) / I am the gatekeeper of the flock, and all who enter within will live and find pasturage. 10:10 But the thief does not enter except to steal / to do secretive mischief, and to destroy. I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. 10:11 I AM (is) / I am the true/correct/proper shepherd. The true/correct/proper shepherd puts on the breath-of-life for the flock. 10:12 But the hireling is a <liar>, who is not with the flock, who does not watch for the wolf who comes, who leaves the flock and flees, and the wolf seizes and scatters them, 10:13 because he is a hireling, since he is not concerned about the flock.

10:14 “I AM (is) / I am the true/correct/proper shepherd. I know myself and I also know my own. 10:15 Just as my father knows me, so I know my father, and I put on my breath-of-life for the flock. 10:16 And I have other sheep who are not of this fold; it is necessary for me to bring them too, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 10:17 For this my father loves me, because I put on my breath-of-life and that furthermore I undertake (my task). 10:18 And there is no one who can bear (this task) but me; I put on (my breath-of-life), I!, from authority; indeed, I put it on and undertake it because of this command I have received from my father.”


Jesus is not using allegory but imagery. In allegory, there is a specific relationship between each image and what it represents; in imagery, the relationship is broader and more flexible. The Greek loses the sense of Jesus entering the Temple inner courts, turning image into allegory of cosmic Jesus pastoring the gentile Christians of future centuries. But Jesus herein speaks of himself as the shepherd of the Jews, not Christians, and as gatekeeper to the Temple, not the sheepfold of Christendom. The owner of the farm is, presumably, God. The stranger, the thief, and the hired hand are all, presumably, these religious leaders who oppose Jesus and his message, in this gospel not the Pharisees but the Sadducees, Levites, and priests who control the Temple without godly sanction, not as heir. Here he speaks of them as thieves, wild animals, who take what they want from the defenseless sheep. The Greek mentions no wild animals until verse 12; the Aramaic introduces them in verse 3.

By calling himself the gatekeeper, the true/correct/proper shepherd, Jesus is heavily implying that he is Messiah: he is the legitimate king and high priest, not these Levites. The Aramaic word can mean “gate” or “gatekeeper”; the Greek Textus Receptus appears mistranslated when Jesus says he is the gate for the flock.

The Greek word σωζω (sōzō) that appears in verse 9 is usually translated to say a person who enters by the gate that Jesus opens will be “saved”, but that is anachronistic, reflecting the creeds of the later, dogmatic Christian religion. The word means “safe” or “protected from harm”, and is exactly the word that would have been used in common speech about sheep in the sheepfold protected from carnivorous animals and thieving humans. And the Aramaic, if as I believe it is closer to the original text, confirms this.

Jesus saying he is the gatekeeper is the same as his message at 14:6, that he is the Way: he represents in his teaching and person the way to God. He is one who can open a tirtha, a gate from this mundane cosmos to the Æon, where God can be found.

That Jesus enters the Temple inner courts by the gate is to say he is legitimately a Jew, and more so of royal blood. His words are a stab at the Herodians, Jewish wannabes, who had control of the Temple in Jesus’s time, as not a legitimate priesthood; foreign conquerors had forced entry through the walls into the inner courts. The Presbyter may also have heard in this remark an anticipation of Paul, likewise a Jewish wannabe, who similarly took control of what was to become Christianity.

Note that the gate to the high priest’s compound is mentioned in 18:16, and the gatekeeper in that and the following verse is a slave girl. Here the gate is to the “sheepfold”, the inner court of the Temple; Jesus is the gatekeeper, and the wild animals and thieves are the priests and Sadducees. Since there is almost certainly an intended parallel between the two gates, that puts the slave girl as congruent to Jesus, the spiritual shepherd/gatekeeper.

The Tanakh often analogizes the Jewish people and their leaders to sheep and shepherds; Exodus 3:1 and II Samuel 5:2, for example. As he spoke, Jesus probably had most in mind Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 33:11-31, in which God promises to take back direct shepherding of his sheep from the “false shepherds”. The imagery is also common in the classical myths; in the religions of Dionysos, Demeter, Inanna, and Cybele, among others, wherein the consort of the Goddess, made by her the Shepherd of the Land, is publicly humiliated, stripped, and beaten (John 19:1-5), and then killed, in some versions as an expiation for the sins of the people and in others for continued fertility of the land. In most versions of this archetypal myth he comes to life again. While this imagery was familiar to everyone in the first century – not only Jews but people in nearly every part of the Western world – most readers of the Bible today have not the slightest familiarity with sheep and shepherding. Sheep have virtually no natural defenses against predators, and they have a tendency to wander off and get into trouble; therefore, they need to be constantly well-secured and attentively watched over to protect them from harm.

That Jesus calls the sheep by name (verse 3) echoes his calling of the disciples in chapter 1 and especially his calling Mary by name in 20:16. That the sheep know his voice (verse 4) anticipates dead Lazarus coming at Jesus’s call in 11:43-44, and again Mary.

The Syriac Sinaiticus has a clear mistake in verse 12, calling the hireling a shepherd (ܢܩܘܕܐ‍, nāqdā) instead of a liar (ܫܩܘܪܐ, šāqōrā).

The “other sheep” in verse 16 are most likely the Jews in the Diaspora, but perhaps also gentiles who accept Jesus’s teaching. Since John’s seven congregations included gentiles, the latter surely were also acceptable to Jesus.

The later Christian dogma is probably behind the Greek rendering that Jesus intended to die and take up his life again. But the Aramaic says rather that Jesus takes up the breath of life and his God-given task at the behest of his father, God. And the thrust of this passage, aimed primarily at Jews and Samaritans in the homeland, secondarily at the Diaspora, and tertiarily at sympathetic gentiles, is: Hold fast to your faith in these dangerous times when internecine struggles and rebellion against Roman repression are imminent, and your faith will give you safety. It is not a celestial Jesus promising future gentile converts to a faith not yet invented that he as God incarnate will always be spiritually protecting them.