About James David Audlin

Born in the Thousand Islands. Retired; after decades as a pastor, newspaper editor, university professor, caregiver, musician, editor. Most recently lived in southern France; now lives in rural mountainous Panama; married to a Spanish-speaking local lady. Two children in Vermont. Author of 18+ books, with a dozen more on the way.

That Joseph of Arimathæa was also Joseph Caiaphas

That Joseph of Arimathæa was also Joseph Caiaphas

James David Audlin

The following text comprises material from the upcoming third edition of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, from all three volumes, published by Editores Volcán Barú, copyright © 2012-2018 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

Joseph of Arimathæa is always called this in English as if it were his full proper name, but only “Joseph” is his name. The “of Arimathæa” is not even a cognomen, but merely an additional comment to specify which Joseph is meant, that this one disposing of Jesus’s body is not his legal father, whom the reader could otherwise understandably assume was the Joseph who took charge of it. It is not a cognomen in the synoptic gospels: Mark 15:43 introduces him as Joseph and adds that he is ο απο αριμαθαιας (“the one from Arimathæa”). Matthew 27:57 calls him ανθρωπος πλουσιος απο αριμαθαιας τουνομα ιωσηφ (“a rich man from Arimathæa named Joseph”). Luke 23:50 presents him as named Joseph, and only after two informational clauses does it mention, in the next verse, that he is from Arimathæa.

The early Greek versions of John 19:38 vary somewhat; 01 says, like Mark, ιωσηφ ο απο αριμαθαιας (“Joseph, the one from Arimathæa”), 𝕻66 and 03 have ιωσηφ απο αριμαθαιας (Joseph from Arimathæa”), while 02 has ο ιωσηφ ο απο αριμαθαιας (“the Joseph from Arimathæa”). The only surviving early Aramaic texts, the Peshitta and the Palestinian Lectionaries refer to him as ܝܘܣܝܦ ܗܕܝܢ ܡܢ ܪܡܬܝܣ (“Joseph, who was from Ramtys”). This location name will be discussed shortly, but again it is clear that “of Arimathæa” should not be taken as a cognomen, but just a phrase specifying which Joseph is meant.

Like his associate Nicodemus, Joseph was clearly a man of considerable substance, and without doubt another Sanhedrin member, as is implied by the word βουλευτης (“counsellor”) in Mark 15:43. John 19:38 in Greek adds that he was a follower of Jesus but secretly because of his “fear of the Jews”; i.e., of other members of the Sanhedrin. This makes little sense, because surely Joseph realized that the religious authorities would quickly learn that he had secured the body and might take action against him.
The much earlier Palestinian Lectionaries say, far more subtly, that ܝܘܣܝܦ ܗܕܝܢ ܡܢ ܪܡܬܝܣ ܕܗܘܐ ܬܠܡܝܕܗ ܗܘܐ ܕܝ ܛܡܝܪ ܡܢ ܠܓܠܠ ܕܚܠܬܗܘܢ ܕܝܘܕܝܝ ܘܫܠܛܗ ܝܠܛܘܣ (“Joseph, who was from Ramtys, who was among his disciples, but hidden as such because of their fear of the Jew[ish authoritie]s and Pilate’s power”). This phrase will be discussed at greater length in the commentary on this verse; suffice it to say here that clearly Joseph was a very powerful ally, and so his association with Jesus’s following was kept secret such that the religious authorities might not take action to prevent him from utilizing it in behalf of that following in serious situations, such as this one.

Joseph bought a costly Egyptian grade of linen to wrap the body in, and Nicodemus provided a hundred pounds of embalming spices. This tells us that both men were very rich, as Luke confirms. It can only be concluded – even though he is not mentioned in the canonical gospels except in reference to this disposal of the body – that the man was closely connected to Jesus, especially inasmuch as he could persuade Pilate to give him the family’s right of disposal, and the man was wealthy enough to be taken very seriously by Pilate. The early apocryphal Gospel of Peter describes a supposed conversation between Joseph and Pilate; while this text is not necessarily reliable as a source of factual information, it is very early, and may reflect oral reports of a reasonably amicable connection between the two men.

A persistently repeated bit of misinformation in modern Christian apologetics insists that the Talmud (an exact location in this massive collection of writings is never given, because this is an invented attribution) claims that Joseph of Arimathæa was the younger brother of the father of Jesus’s mother Mary. And that claim I cannot with certainty trace back farther than Mediæval British polemical writing. However always with rumors of this sort we must ask ourselves if there might be a kernel of truth imbedded in them, just as (as noted elsewhere in this book), Pope Gregory the Great’s declaration that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute was in high probability derived from the likely fact that she had been a priestess in the Samaritan religion on Mount Gerizim. Therefore I wonder if this Mediæval legend simply names the wrong Mary (because the Magdalene was perceived as a “fallen woman” and thus could be countenanced as having no more relationship with Jesus than would any pitiable, humble supplicant), and that in fact Joseph of Arimathæa was the younger brother of not the father of Mary Jesus’s mother, but the mother of Mary Magdalene, Salome, who was married to a man variously known as Simon the Leper, Simon the Pharisee, Simon ben Nathanael, and Simon Iscariot. As the maternal uncle of Jesus’s wife, Joseph would be a logical family member to take a fatherly role during and after the crucifixion of her husband, given that Jesus’s own father Joseph is evidently out of the picture at this point.

There may be valuable information hidden in plain sight.

Though this man (at least in his appearance here) has gone down in history as if his name were Joseph of Arimathæa, the canonical texts always call him Joseph, with his place of origin specified. By the common style of writing at the time, in both Aramaic and Greek, this indicates that more than one Joseph has been mentioned before, and the descriptive phrase may be to say this is an additional Joseph newly mentioned, but we must entertain the possibility that the Joseph here named is one of those mentioned before. Indeed, in John and the synoptics, two Josephs have been mentioned previously – Joseph Jesus’s legal father and Joseph called Caiaphas. If this Joseph were Jesus’s adoptive father surely one of the four gospels would say so. Let us consider instead the possibility, strange as it may sound, that this is Joseph Caiaphas.

Let us look again at the Greek descriptive ο απο αριμαθαιας (“the one from Harimathaias”). Despite its common pronunciation in English, the Greek for Arimathæa has a diacritical mark on the first “a” that indicates a very un-Greek aspirated “h” sound is supposed to precede it: “Harimathaia”. The name is, in fact, a Greek version of the Hebrew הרָמַת (ha-Ramata; literally, “toward Ramah”), a town in the Shfelah Hills region, just south of Samaria, where, or close to where, the modern West Bank Palestinian town of رنتيس‎ (Rantis) is located. In the Peshitta version of 19:30 Joseph is said to come from ܪܡܬܐ (ramtā), which is exactly how the Aramaic Tanakh has “Ramah” in, for instance, I Samuel 1:19. In the Galilean Aramaic of the earlier Palestinian Lectionaries the name is ܪܡܬܝܣ (Ramtys). A colophon in that source (see https://www.academia.edu/35996071/The_Gospel_of_John_in_the_Palestinian_

Lectionaries_A_Mere_Caesarean_Anomaly_or_the_Closest_Text_We_Have_to_the_Original) suggests, probably a step along the way to the modern name Rantis. But keep in mind that Arimathæa is הרָמַת (ha-Ramata), “toward Ramah”, and not actually Ramah itself. That places his home farther northeast and closer to the Samaritan capital, Shechem, and hence nearer to where Jesus and Mary met at the side of a spring (John 4).
The cognomen “Iscariot” is usually understood as a Greek garbling of “Ish-Kerioth”, “Man from Kerioth”, the latter being a town in far southern Judæa. On the face of it, that is reasonable, but there is nothing else to connect Judas or Simon to this distant community. A stronger alternative is that it refers instead to Kohath: אּישׁ קְהָת would be “Ish-Kohath”. The “sh” diphthong does not exist in Greek and would become an “s” sound. There being no way in Greek to put an “h” sound into the middle of a word, it was transliterated with a ρι (ri) substituting for the “h”. And since Greek words never end with the “th” diphthong (represented by θ in Greek), the last sound would have become a “t” (τ) in Greek. The result would make this word, rendered into Greek, the familiar “Iscariot”. Thus, if indeed Joseph and Simon were brothers-in-law, they may have both come from Ramathaim (Arimathæa) in Kohath.

Mary Magdalene’s cognomen also could refer to this same region. One common theory is that it comes from ܡܓܕܠܝܐ (magdala, “tower” but also suggesting “elegant” or “great”, likewise related to μαγδωλος). That brings to mind the two Zophs in the Shfelah Hills region where her family originated, a pair of mountains named from the wordצָפָה (tsaphah), which means “watchers”, even “watchtowers”. Mary, who by her “five husbands” is depicted at her introduction in John 4 as a Temple priestess on Mount Gerizim (Note: this is discussed elsewhere in the book), is closely associated in this gospel with the Samaritans. The Gospel of John also associates her at the death of Lazarus with Rachel, who wept for her “lost sons” in this land of Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15-16): Mary and Jesus met in chapter 4 at Jacob’s Spring, just as Jacob and Rachel met at a well, perhaps the same well. With all of these close family ties to Samaria, there were quite likely Samaritans in the family, which may help explain how it is that Mary Magdalene was able to enter service as a Samaritan priestess. Indeed, this raises the possibility that she often visited, even lived with, her uncle, especially considering how his brother her father Simon the Leper had pretty much rejected her.

Joseph, as the wealthy businessman brother-in-law of the wealthy businessman Simon the Leper, could go to Pontius Pilate, saying his appearance was on behalf of both father and widowed daughter, with sufficient leverage to take control of the body of Jesus before others (especially the Roman authorities and those among the Sanhedrin who thought ill of Jesus) tried to do the same. Roman practice was for a crucified body to be left for days on the cross as a “lesson” to the populace, pecked at by vultures, consumed by insects, and gnawed at by carnivores; Horace refers to crucified victims as feeding crows (Ep. 1:16:46-48). The body of Jesus, with all its volatile political implications, would need to be disposed of quickly, to say nothing of the laws in the Torah requiring this. Additionally, if Joseph and/or Nicodemus were aware of the possible plans for Jesus to take drugs, in the soured wine of 19:28-30, to put him into a deep coma (see the essay on page 395), then there was all the more reason to gain speedy control of his body.

Roman practice was for a crucified body to be left for days on the cross as a “lesson” to the populace, pecked at by vultures, consumed by insects, and gnawed at by carnivores; Horace refers to crucified victims as feeding crows (Ep. 1:16:46-48). The body of Jesus, with all its volatile political potential, would need to be disposed of quickly, to say nothing of the laws in the Torah requiring this. What is more, if Joseph and/or Nicodemus were aware of or the agents of the possible plans for Jesus to take drugs in the soured wine of 19:28-30 to put him into a deep coma (see the essay on page 395), then there was all the more reason to gain speedy control of his body. In John 19:38 the Presbyter tells us that Joseph ηρωτησεν (ērōtēsen, “asked”) Pilate if he might take control of Jesus body; this verb denotes not a humble supplication but a request made with the full expectation that it will be granted because of the close personal relationship between the one who asks and the one asked. The Peshitta and the Palestinian Lectionaries have the verb ܒܥܐ (bˁā), which carries the same sense as the Greek, especially in the latter’s Galilean Aramaic dialect, in which it can mean “to require” or even “to assert”.

That Joseph of Arimathæa went to Pilate on short notice knowing he could secure the body of Jesus argues that he was quite highly placed indeed. If Joseph could do this and maintain his “secret weapon” status that the Palestinian Lectionaries ascribe to him, such that he could collect Jesus’s body and dispose it in the tomb without fear of the Sanhedrin, requires us to conclude that he could do so because Pilate was the sole authority in Judæa with more power than the Sanhedrin. This confident request of Pilate supports the theory that this Joseph of Arimathæa must be Joseph Caiaphas, who as all early texts, notably Josephus, confirm had a strong, trusting simpatico with Pilate; their many years of tenure holding the two most powerful positions in Judæa are nearly identical. Joseph, wealthy businessman brother-in-law of the wealthy businessman Simon the Leper, could go to Pontius Pilate, saying his appearance was on behalf of both father and widowed daughter, with sufficient leverage to take control of the body of Jesus before other forces (especially those among the Sanhedrin who thought ill of Jesus) tried to do the same.

The Tosefta (Yevamot 1:10) passingly mentions Caiaphas thus: “the family of the house of Caiaphai of Beth Mekoshesh … and some of them were high priests”. Ben-Zion Rosenfeld identifies Beth Mekoshesh with Khirbet Marah el-Jum‘a (Nabi Daniy’al), in the northern Hebron Hills, based on the preservation of the word Mekoshesh in the Arabic name of the spring north of the site, ‘Ein Qusis. And David Amit, exploring the site, found plenty of archæological evidence to support this. Supporting this contention that the family of Caiaphas was from that region, the well-known Miriam ossuary is inscribed thus: מרימ ברת ישוע בר קיפא כהנמ מעזה אמרי (“Miriam daughter of Y’shua son of Caiapha, priests [of the priestly course of] Ma‘aziah, from Beth ’Imri”). Boaz Zissu and Yuval Goren (in an article in Israel Exploration Journal 61:1, 2011) conclude that, if Beth ’Imri is a toponym, then it names a place in the northern Hebron Hills. Putting these two hypotheses together, the probable locus of Caiaphas’s family, Nabi Daniy’al, is a mere fifteen kilometers southwest of Rantis, the theorized location for Joseph of Arimathæa’s family, in the area where the northern Hebron Hills meet the Shfelah Hills. This puts Joseph Caiaphas from exactly the same region as Joseph of Arimathæa, in the Shfelah Hills. Given that Rosenfeld and Amit are offering only a theoretical locative, there is a reasonable chance that Mekoshesh and Ramah were originally not just close but identical. And that raises in my mind the possibility that Joseph Caiaphas and Joseph of Arimathæa were at the least related.

As further support of that conjecture, note the following facts:

John’s gospel presents Joseph as working closely together with Nicodemus to dispose of Jesus’s both quickly yet carefully before the beginning of the Passover. Note that not only were both men allies in the Sanhedrin but, according to the Talmud (Erub 3:17), Nicodemus also had an estate in Ramah (Arimathæa). Thus he and Joseph were not just colleagues and friends but neighbors as well.

Joseph of Arimathæa is very highly placed in the Sanhedrin, according to Mark 15:43; and indeed the very early Syriac Sinaiticus version of that verse doesn’t mince words, calling him ܓܒܪܐ ܡܝܩܪܐ ܒܘܠܘܛܐ (gbra myqra bwlwṭa) which means the most honored man among the counsellors; i.e., members of the Sanhedrin. The body is placed in his own previously prepared and unused tomb, wrapped in an incredible amount of spices and fine cloth, according to John; signs of Joseph being wealthy and powerful to accomplish all this in the very short time between Jesus’s death and the sundown beginning Passover.

Consider further that according to Josephus the high priest’s name was Joseph, and Caiaphas was a Greek cognomen based on his family name, similar to how Buni took the Greek cognomen of Nicodemus and Simon that of Peter. Caiaphas, καιαφας, mentioned twice in Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews, is the Greek rendition of ܩܝܦܐ in Aramaic orקיפא in Hebrew (both pronounced qypā), which as noted above is mentioned in Yevamot 1:10 and on the Miriam ossuary. There is no scholarly agreement on what the name actually means. Still, in the context of the ossuary inscription, together with the names Miriam and Y’shua, Mary and Jesus, it may possibly have meant to convey the meaning of ܢܩܝܦܐ (nqypā), “followed” or “agreed with”, since Caiaphas agreed with Jesus as to a messianic death and Arimathæa followed him, albeit secretly. Also note that ܙܩܝܦܐ (zqypā) is the Aramaic word for not exactly the “cross” of dogma, but still the instrument of torture on which Jesus was executed. Such allusions may even more have been in John’s mind as he wrote.

Annas, who ruled the Temple, had two daughters. One was married to Caiaphas, also known as Joseph of Arimathaea, the high priest. The other, Anna, was married to John the Presbyter, the sagan (second in command) in the Temple, and author of this gospel. His son was Prochoros, who served as his father’s scribe for many years. Caiaphas had a daughter named the same as Jesus’s wife, and she had a son named the same as Jesus. I have elsewhere established that Joseph of Arimathaea is the maternal uncle of Mary, Jesus’s wife. That makes Caiaphas, like Salome Mary’s mother, a direct descendant of the great rabbis Hillel and Gamaliel, explaining his rise to the high priest position. Salome was married to Simon the Leper, of little innate quality, who managed through marriage to become a priest and a Pharisee, and even get quoted once in the Talmud. Their daughter is Mary, to whom Lazarus is born before her marriage to Jesus.

Caiaphas’s intervention in John 11:49-52 was not antagonistic toward Jesus, as later Christian dogma has characterized it, but meant to give Jesus exactly what he wanted: a messianic death (see Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain’s brilliantly persuasive article “To Die for the People: A Kabbalistic Reinterpretation of the Crucifixion of Jesus”, The Priest: A Journal of Catholic Theology [April 1996]). Indeed, the Miriam ossuary suggests Caiaphas had a son named Y’shua (Jesus) and a granddaughter named Miriam (Mary); while neither name was unusual at the time, it is curious that his direct descendants have the names of Jesus and his mother and wife.

Finally, note that the early Gospel of Peter refers to Joseph of Arimathæa as ο φιλος πειλατου, “the friend of Pilate” and calls the burial site κηπον ιωσηφ, “the Garden of Joseph”.

If my hypothesis is correct it explains how Joseph of Arimathæa was able to secure Jesus’s body. It explains why Caiaphas cuts a brilliant course between two undesirable alternatives, managing to get the Sanhedrin to give Jesus exactly what he wants. If Jesus was married to Caiaphas’s niece, for above I conclude that Joseph of Arimathæa is her uncle, it further explains (in addition to several other reasons provided in the commentaries in this book) why the usually brutally decisive Pilate was uncustomarily delicate in his treatment of Jesus, and why the Sanhedrin took the entire issue so extremely seriously. This identification also tells us why Jesus had Judas arrange the arrest (13:27): he would thus have been nephew to Caiaphas, who worked quite collegially with Pilate.

Before he left to become a student of Jesus John the Presbyter was the sagan in the Temple, so we can gather from Polycrates and others, which is to say he was lieutenant to Caiaphas the high priest. Hence few knew him better than the author of this gospel. If we read the narrative with clear eyes we see Caiaphas presented fairly, and indeed positively. This is even more evident if we conclude that Joseph of Arimathæa is another name for Caiaphas. Indeed, the phrasing of 19:38 suggests that John assumed the reader knows just who Joseph is – he tells us no more than this Joseph disposing of the body is the one from Arimathæa, and not Jesus’s legal father.

It is also worth noting in passing that two later works of relatively dubious worth as sources, but which yet might recall an oral tradition, list Caiaphas as a secret believer in Jesus. One is a Syriac text called The Teaching of the Apostles, not to be confused with the Didachē, which is also known as The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles; the former does bear some similarities to the latter and may have been in portion based thereupon. The other is the so-called Syriac Infancy Gospel, the extant version of which was put down around the sixth century.

The problem is that two millennia of dogmatic indoctrination are hard to shed, and so scholars and general readers alike cannot see any chance that these two names point to the same man. Yet I think they do. I remind the reader that the gospel simply calls him Joseph, with the “from Arimathæa” added simply to make it clear which Joseph is meant. And indeed I think this is another sign of the Presbyter’s literary artistry: he refers to the man by his Greek cognomen, Caiaphas, when Joseph is negotiating “like a Greek” with his powerful confrères, but by his Jewish name when he exhibits compassionate humanity, as at the end of chapter 19.

There is nothing further known with any degree of certainty about Caiaphas after his removal from office in 36, at about the same time as his ally Pontius Pilate. But certainly he was by that removal free from the need for secrecy about his support for Jesus, and perhaps also he wanted or needed to get away from the seething chaos in Jerusalem that in 70 culminated in its destruction. There is also nothing further on Joseph of Arimathæa in the canonical record, though later Christian writers suggest Joseph went on to travel through Europe as a missionary beyond the reach of Paul’s dogmatic heirs; very early texts even say he reached the British Isles. Some texts make him a worker and trader in metals. None of this is incomprehensible; already in this time Ireland in particular was well on its way to being gloriously if briefly Europe’s intellectual and artistic capital.

Mediæval legends add that he bore the mystical Holy Grail, which today is the name for the common cup Jesus shared with the disciples at the Last Supper, often said to have magical properties, and often said to have been used by Joseph of Arimathæa to collect blood draining from Jesus’s body as he died. The word “grail” is without a genuine pedigree, though etymologists try to explain it as coming from gradalis, Latin for “plate, as in the flat item on which a meal is served. It more likely began as a misunderstanding of the Old French sang réal, “royal blood” (to say that the King of the Jews and possibly progeny came to Gaul) as san gréal, “Holy Grail”; you can see the confusion, since this supposed cup was used to collect Jesus’s “holy blood”, but in the literal sense. Yet when the word first appears, in a romance by Chrétien de Troyes, it is not yet the Cup. While I love Chrétien’s works, they are to be taken as entertainment, and not in any sense as good history. In his Perceval he mentions un graal (“a grail”). The indefinite article indicates that it is not unique, and that a Communion waver is served on it tells us it is a plate, not a cup. For Wolfram von Eschenbach, one of the world’s greatest poets, it was a stone, the lapsit exiliis, now best known as the Philosopher’s Stone, which transmutes common substances into gold. It is only much later, in the writings of Robert de Boron, comparable to Chrétien’s for the lack of hesitation to make things up for the sake of a good story, that we have the Grail take the form of a cup. Several scholars have traced how this grail business hooked up with pre-Christian indigenous legends of Northern Europe about the Fisher King dying of his “dolorous wound”, and so on. These matters also hooked up with Mediæval popular tales that asserted Joseph of Arimathaea came into France and England after the New Testament events. I must emphasize that the rise of the Grail legends was concurrent with the height of the Cathar movement, (see the indexed references) and then its genocidal decimation by the Roman Catholics; the Cathars believed Jesus and Mary Magdalene – who as his consort carried his seed, his sang réal – came in later years to Gaul, and even travelled up to Great Britain. Indeed, Joseph Goering (The Virgin and the Grail) describes early Grail imagery in twelfth century wall paintings in Cathar churches of Occitania, depicting for instance images of Mary bearing a bowl that radiates tongues of fire., which may be depictions or perhaps memories of a bowl or chalice that Joseph as metalworker might have made, among images of Jesus with his wife and children. These wall paintings serve as a record of the stories widely believed as truth about the sang réal coming to the fields of Gaul, as does also the Matter of Britain, all of which the organized Roman Catholic Church sought to extinguish.

The Gospel of John in the Palestinian Lectionaries: A Mere Caesarean Anomaly or the Closest Text We Have to the Original?

The Gospel of John in the Palestinian Lectionaries:
A Mere Cæsarean Anomaly or the Closest Text We Have to the Original?

James David Audlin

The following text comprises material from the upcoming third edition of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volumes I and III, in three volumes, published by Editores Volcán Barú, copyright © 2012-2018 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

A sample page from the Palestinian Lectionaries, of Matthew 27:24-32.

In my reconstruction of the original gospel the standard Greek text is the “base text”, appearing wherever it appears to be reasonably close to that original. But in my view an Aramaic text, found in the so-called Palestinian Lectionaries, is the most important source for reconstructing the original version, and so they appear very often herein. Therefore I think they need a special introduction. Lectionaries are collections of readings from the New Testament, in the earliest centuries specifically from the gospels. The readings are not in the original narrative ordering of the gospels themselves but passages taken out and arranged in a special way that conforms to the needs in various seasons in the liturgical year.

There are three manuscripts of the Palestinian Lectionaries: A was inked in 1030, B in 1104, and C in 1118. A transcription of all three published in 1899 by Agnes Smith Lewis is my textual source. Lewis also provides fragments of a fourth lectionary, scant bits of John chapters 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, and 15-17, which can be conveniently referred to as Palestinian Lectionary D. Other very similar lectionaries have been found, mostly in Greek, but these four are uniquely in Galilean Aramaic. Sadly, these Palestinian Lectionaries have never been translated even in part, and indeed this work may be the first in any modern language to translate and analyze most of the passages quoted herein. Since Lewis’s publication it has been customary to call them the Palestinian Lectionaries as she did, but the text is is more properly called Galilean Aramaic, as I do herein. Curiously, the script, that is to say the alphabetary used in these manuscripts, is not Galilean but Syriac, a matter that will be explained presently.

One of the first things scholars ask about an unfamiliar New Testament manuscript is which text-type it is. There are three generally accepted families of manuscripts, recognized by certain peculiar features of phrasing, vocabulary, and the like: The Alexandrian (on which the Textus Receptus of today is based), Western, and Byzantine. Some scholars include a fourth, the Cæsarean, but this one is an embarrassment poorly if at all defined, basically just a place to put a manuscript that doesn’t fit comfortably into one of the other three. Some scholars categorize these Lectionaries as Cæsarean, and therefore also the gospels from which they were evidently arranged, but that just begs the question. The fact of the matter is that these Galilean Aramaic texts are their own text-type: throughout the gospels we find an abundance of remarkably different readings that almost never even vaguely resemble anything found in any other manuscript. I hereby propose that they be denoted as the Galilean text-type.

So far as we know, such lectionaries began to appear in the eighth century, taking their liturgical readings, of course, from earlier New Testament or gospel manuscripts. The question is whether these Palestinian Lectionaries drew their material from manuscripts in Aramaic or whether they were translated from Greek sources. George Henry Gwilliam (The Palestinian Version of the Holy Scriptures, 1893) argues for the former, while Eberhard Nestle (as quoted in Lewis’s A Palestinian Syriac Lectionary containing Lessons from the Pentateuch, Job, Proverbs, Prophets, Acts, and Epistles, 1897) and Bruce Metzger (New Testament Tools and Studies, Vol. X, 1977) propound the latter view. Nestle and Metzger point out how sometimes the same verses are translated more than once in a given lectionary, but often with a number of variations, mostly minor (spelling or word order), and conclude that each reading was independently translated from a Greek source rather than just copying a previous rendering into Aramaic. The same text in the different Lectionaries have manifold variations of the same minor nature, and occasionally significantly wide differences in meaning. Metzger highlights the fact that common and familiar names, even originally Aramaic names like those of Jesus, John the Immerser, Mary, and Simon Peter are transliterations of the Greek versions, rather than the Aramaic originals. Metzger also points out how verses that in the Greek purport to explain the meanings of Aramaic words are translated so literally that the result is nonsensical: in John 1:42, for example, Jesus says “You shall be called Kephas” and the narrative then explains that “being interpreted this is Petros”. If this were an English text it would be like saying “You shall be called Rock” and then informing the English reader that what “Rock” means is ܟܝܦܐ.

If each reading was independently translated into Aramaic from a Greek gospels collection or a Greek lectionary, that would easily explain the variations in wording of the same passage in the different Lectionaries and between different appearances of the same text in a single Lectionary. However different wordings can still record the same meaning, and this hypothesis fails to explain how the very meaning of a text can be extremely different from one Lectionary to another (this issue is not found when the same text appears more than once in the same Lectionary). Metzger accepts Sebastian Brock’s belief (Journal of Semitic Studies, X [1970]) that the Lectionaries are indirectly based on a Greek source, though the direct source or sources might be in either Greek or Aramaic, either in lectionary form or gospels collection form. If the Greek is at second hand, Brock goes on to say, then “where differences do occur these should be attributed to revision made on the basis of [the] Greek manuscripts.” That is to say sometimes a given Lectionary scribe double-checked his immediate Aramaic source against an earlier Greek New Testament, and sometimes not.

I personally think the direct source(s) must be one or more of certain Galilean Aramaic gospel collections, some fragments of examples of which have been published (by J[an] P[ieter] N[icolaas] Land in Anecdota Syriaca, Agnes Smith Lewis in Codex Climaci Rescriptus, and Friedrich Schulthess in Christlich-Palästinische Fragmente). The wording of the John fragments published by Land is very close to that of their equivalents in the Palestinian Lectionaries, and so this text or a close relative is the likeliest source for the latter. The other fragmentary gospels are less similar. Land provides very little analysis of the Evangeliaria Londinensia as he calls the main Galilean Aramaic gospels collection that includes the relevant John fragments, but I think it is safe to assume that the gospels collection(s) used by the Lectionaries scribes was composed closer to their own time as a daughter or granddaughter of the original gospels collection copied from the original source, of which I shall speak presently.

Obviously the three complete Lectionaries we have, plus a very fragmentary fourth, differ from each other in their wording, almost always simply in spelling and wording with pretty much the same sense and rarely in significant ways; this suggests that they did not copy their texts from the same gospel collection but different ones, similar but not identical, of which the published fragments just mentioned would be typical and/or that they adapted the older Aramaic spellings found in their source to the forms prevalent in each scribe’s time and place. And clearly the Lectionaries scribes did not scruple to add certain perceived improvements, such as a far more liberal use of colons to separate phrases than is the case in the gospels collections – though (at 2:4 for instance) not always in the right place.

On this subject of Greekified names it is interesting that Jesus’s name is always represented in the Lectionaries and the Evangeliaria Londinensia (but not the others) as ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ (Mrā Ysws, “Master Jesus”). This usage must go back to the original sources, John’s Aramaic drafts inked by Prochoros and the first Greek fair copy for publication inked by Papias with guidance from Polycarp and Prochoros, and so it must point to how these men, at least two of whom knew him personally, spoke of Jesus. The first word, ܡܪܐ, is used in place of YHWH, the Name of God, in such early Aramaic copies of the Tanakh as the Biblica Petropolitana or in the Syriac Tanakh as the nearly identical ܡܪܝܐ (Mryā), though of course in the Lectionaries it is mainly a title of respect for Jesus. But note too that ܝܣܘܣ is orthographically very similar to ܝܗܘܗ, which is how that very Name, YHWH, is written in Syriac letters. And note that is ܡܪܐ close to how Mary’s name is written in the Lectionaries, ܡܪܝܡ (Mrym) in Lectionaries B and C, and even closer in the oldest, Lectionary A, as ܡܪܝܐܡ (Mryām). I suspect that this ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ was, therefore, a kind of theological statement about Jesus and Mary as united together recreating the First Child made in Elohim’s image in Genesis 1:26-27. Note that when in my original text reconstructions I quote the Lectionaries, for the most part I do not translate the title ܡܪܐ but just Jesus’s name, unless the context demands me to do so.
Scholars generally say these Galilean lectionaries first arose sometime in the third to sixth centuries, and I agree. On the other hand, the extremely unusual meanings of many verses and passages (which nearly always appear in the restored text) would certainly have been considered heretical by the second century, even as early as the first centuries in congregations following the Pauline dogma – for instance for suggesting the beloved disciple was a woman and that she and Jesus were sexually involved. Here Brock’s and Metzger’s two-stage source theory again has merit: I conclude that the immediate source was an Aramaic gospels collection that preserved the wording of an extremely early text written down before the later dogmas were to stamp out such heresies, and though that version has disappeared entirely it must have survived long enough for these Lectionaries to be indirectly based thereupon. Though lost, this putative source behind the Lectionaries and the gospel collection(s) is in my view at least close and arguably all but identical to John’s original text, barring later changes in the Lectionaries.

My contention is that the source was an Aramaic version by Prochoros of the original fair copy Greek manuscript of the gospel prepared for publication in the early 90s by Polycarp, Papias, and John’s son Prochoros, but utilizing as much as possible the early drafts dictated by John to Prochoros in Aramaic.

I support this conclusion first with logic. Galilean Aramaic was never widely spoken anywhere but in Galilee, Samaria, and northern Judæa, and by the time these Aramaic lectionaries first appeared in the third to sixth centuries Syriac Aramaic was universal, even in the Holy Land. These texts would have seemed as archaic to most Aramaic-speaking Christians as the King James Version is to English-speakers today. That they were still being copied suggests the texts were valued for their origin, and that indicates Galilean-speakers, hence individuals from the Holy Land itself. And that suggests they were, or were closely associated with, one or more of the original apostles. As noted, a colophon to be discussed next indicates the source text was prepared in Ephesus in Greek, based on John’s original drafts in Galilean Aramaic. In the third and perhaps the fourth centuries the Greek publication manuscript was publicly available in Ephesus (Pseudo-Hippolytus quotes from it in the second century, Tertullian in the early third century, in his Against Marcion 4:5 and The Prescription Against Heretics 36:1, urges his readers to go to see it Ephesus as he did, and a century thereafter, Peter of Alexandria saw it in Ephesus and quotes from it), and likely also its equivalent prepared by Prochoros in Galilean Aramaic. Hence the minor spelling and wording differences among the Lectionaries and the gospels collection(s) from which they took their texts may simply be because each scribe consulted that display copy in Greek when he had questions about one or another passage, but not always the same passages and not always did they correct their Aramaic the same way. Also, consider the fact that many passages in the Lectionaries fly in the face of what was already dogma in the nascent Christian religion – especially the Lectionaries’ depiction of eroticism between Jesus and Mary when the view of Paul was widely accepted that Jesus inhabited a “spiritual body” that lacked appetitive desires such as for sexuality. Elsewhere at this time scribes who found something that ran counter to the dogma in their source texts were bound to “correct” the wording to agree with (depending on where one was located) the Alexandrian, Western, or Byzantine standardization. Yet the Lectionaries never seem to embrace the later dogmas, including most notably in passages emphasizing Jesus’s union with Mary, which was after all a central theme in John’s œuvre. Only if there were some unquestionably superior force that prevailed over a standardized text can I imagine a scribe choosing not to conform his copy to the latter. And I submit that the only such force with this supremacy would be the wording found in Ephesus manuscript, then believed to be the original handwritten monograph of the apostle himself. Elsewhere – in Syria, Alexandria, Byzantium, and Rome, for instance – scribes had no access to the primal copy on display in Ephesus, so they would be sure to adhere to the common reading. But in and near Ephesus, at least with the Gospel of John, scribes had a choice – and given a choice between a standardized text and what the apostle himself wrote, any reasonable scribe would certainly choose the latter.
Thus I think that the first Lectionaries scribes, like the gospels collections scribes before them, were able to peruse that original display manuscript in Greek to clarify any textual questions they may have had. And, given this conclusion I further conclude that these Lectionaries provide us with the best surviving source of anything approximating John’s original intention for the gospel.

Proof of this logical conclusion is found in the lectionary readings themselves. The “partitions” first described by Bultmann are in their familiar disorder, and the marginal additions put into the original manuscript by John are found in their customary incorrect location – for instance the verses about John the Immerser in chapter 1. These are both characteristics of the display copy prepared by Prochoros et al., as I argue in the first volume. And if as I theorize Prochoros also produced the organized gospel text in Aramaic at about the same time as the Greek text, he would have conformed it to the decisions as to order made for the Greek text by Polycarp, Papias, and himself – because there was no overall order to the original drafts in Aramaic, being separate pericopes each on its own sheet of papyrus (as discussed in the first volume).
An interesting confirmation that the Greek publication manuscript is the main source of the Lectionaries is derived from a certain set of colophons found in the Lectionaries. Colophons are comments added by scribes at the end of manuscripts that say something about their production or, especially in the Middle Ages, that take the form of a brief prayer of thanksgiving or petition, or, especially in the Middle Ages, even humorous “I’m glad I’ve finished at last!” kinds of comment. Such colophons served in a way something like a modern copyright notice to certify the textual contents: the scribe was in effect attesting to his work as a faithful copy of the source text. They also protected the integrity of the contents: no unscrupulous person could add material to the end of the work as if it were part thereof.

It is a strange fact that all three Palestinian Lectionaries have colophons following the John 7:37-8:2 lection. But why, then, do these colophons appear in in the middle of the Lectionaries, neither at the end of the Lectionaries nor at the traditional 21:25 end of the actual gospel, nor even at the gospel’s original end, 20:31? I think J. Rendel Harris (paraphrased by Agnes Smith Lewis on page xv in her 1899 æditio princeps) offers a plausible theory. He suggests that the gospels collections positioned 7:37-8:2 after the final chapter of John probably because though these verses were considered part of the gospel in the milieu that prepared the collection, but yet there was a lack of clarity regarding its proper location. So then a colophon was added after this episode, he continues, at what was now in effect the end of the gospel text, after 8:2, to indicate that the gospel was now complete. Finally, he surmises, 8:3-11 was added too, after the colophon, indicating that that passage was not necessarily to be considered part of the gospel proper. This location indicating uncertainty about the pericope led the B and C scribes not to include 8:3-11 in their Lectionaries. Only Palestinian Lectionary A contains it. Harris concludes that the scribes of these three Lectionaries manuscripts “were not highly endowed with intelligence”, since they copied the colophons after verse 8:2 as if they were part of the gospel text and so necessarily part of the particular lection they were preparing.

So far as I know none of the surviving fragments of relevant Aramaic gospel collections includes John 8:2, so I cannot ascertain if any might have included a similar colophon. A fragment of Codex Romano published by J. P. N. Land does include 21:25, but either there was no colophon or Land saw fit not to transcribe it. Nevertheless, I agree with Harris in every particular but his final remark, since I believe there was a very good reason (other than stupidity) for these colophons to follow 8:3-11 into the interior of the Lectionaries. To my thinking, the natural place for a colophon is just beneath the conclusion of the gospel as a narrative whole, where to the classical mind the colophon acted as a part of the gospel presentation, its effect being something like a modern copyright notice to certify and protect the textual contents. Therefore the scribes probably reasoned that the colophon should accompany that conclusion in the Lectionaries, since the end of the gospel is still the end of the gospel, no matter where the end of the gospel may wind up relocated in the liturgical year, and the colophon is functionally part of the work to the classical mind just like the copyright notice today.
What is more, if I am right that the source from which the Gospel of John text was drawn, directly or indirectly, was the very manuscript believed by the faithful in Ephesus to be written by sacred inspiration by the apostle himself, and if they believed the apostle himself wrote the colophon, then who were they to fail to faithfully copy what the apostle had been moved the Spirit to write? So of course they would carry the colophon along with the 7:37-8:2 text! (But by the time of Lectionary C, either its scribe was not so impressed with the apostolic source or didn’t care, and so replaced the original colophon with his own.) The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist was at the time one of the biggest tourist destinations for faithful pilgrims, who came to stand before the tomb and look at the manuscript written by the apostle himself. Such ordinary visitors cared not for textual precision, but visiting scholars like Peter of Alexandria very much did so, as pointed out on page 413. In short, no scribe would have dared make up what by this time was considered heresy and put it in a lectionary for common use, and if he had it would have been burned. No, only if it were taken directly from the original writing of the Blessed Presbyter himself would these Lectionaries contain such wordings.

Indeed logic insists that the colophon had to come from the original manuscript. None of the other three gospels has a colophon in the Lectionaries, just John – and the two colophons in the Lectionaries both speak of only the completion of the copying of the Gospel of John. Yes, John is customarily the last gospel in a collection, but still if a gospels collection scribe had composed such a colophon, he would take note of the completion of the entire lectionary, not just of John. Likewise, if a lectionary scribe had written it it would again note completion of the entire lectionary, since the four gospels are throughout jumbled together in it, and he would have placed it at the end of the Lectionary, not in the middle. But, no, the colophons we find mention only the Gospel of John, which means they could only have originated at the end of a source (scroll or codex) that contained only the Gospel of John. And in this textual history there is only one such manuscript, and that is the one that was on display in Ephesus.

In addition it is worth noting that all three scribes of all three Lectionaries did the same thing, and I doubt all three were as stupid as Harris concludes; besides, the rest of their work was discharged excellently well. And besides, if it was a stupid mistake in Lectionary A, then surely someone would have noticed during the seventy-four years that that book of readings was in constant use before B was undertaken, to say nothing of the fourteen more years that lapsed between B and C, and so, if such a someone noticed, he would certainly have ensured that the later scribes did not make the same stupid mistake. After all, A mistakenly included 8:3-11 as a lectionary reading, and this mistake was corrected in B and C!

But there is more to consider. As just noted, seventy-four years passed between the composition of Lectionaries A and B, and yet, though B is not a direct copy of A, they both have the same colophon in the same spot, notwithstanding two minor differences in spelling. The Evangeliaria Londinensia fragments that survive do not include any passages whereafter a colophon might be found, unfortunately, nor do other less similar gospels collection fragments, so nothing is known about colophons in any Galilean gospels collection colophon. Still it is self-evident that this colophon in Lectionaries A and B came from the gospels collection that was the source for both sets of lectionary readings.

The colophon says: ܫܠܡ ܒܣܘܪܗ ܕܝܘܚܢܝܣ ܗܝܠܢܣܛܝ ܒܐܦܣܝܣ (“It is completed in accordance with the Syriac of John, in Greek, in Ephesus”).

The first word, ܫܠܡ (šlm), appears immediately after most of the lections to mark their termination (“it is completed”), especially in A, but here marks the end of the entire gospel by beginning the colophon. The word can also mean “peace”, being cognate to the familiar Hebrew “shalom”.

The second word, ܒܣܘܪܗ (b’syrh), begins with a prefix that usually means “in” or “within”, but in this case it takes the meaning “in accordance with”, as best noted in the Payne-Smith dictionary; hence the word here is “in accordance with his Syriac”. The author of the colophon would most likely have written in Greek εβραιστι (Hebraisti), the general Greek term at the time for Hebrew or Aramaic. This term occurs, in fact, five times in the Textus Receptus of this gospel and twice in the Revelation. But by the time the Greek text that concluded with this colophon was back-translated into Aramaic again, the language had shifted from the Galilean dialect of Jesus and John to the dominance of the Syriac dialect throughout the Middle East into Central Asia. Syriac was rising rapidly in the third century and remained prominent until about the eighth century, which coïncides with my estimation of when the Greek text of the Gospel of John was back-translated into Aramaic again. Thus, the scribe who did the translation would have translated the term for the language as “Syriac”. But, to be very clear, “the Syriac of John” which the colophon mentions was not Syriac, properly speaking, for the text we have in the Palestinian Lectionaries is that older dialect, Galilean Aramaic, which goes a long way toward confirming that this is a first-century text, and that it originates from an apostolic source, someone who came to Ephesus from the Holy Land – someone such as John the Presbyter.

The same word ends with a suffix denoting “his”, and the next word, ܕܝܘܚܢܝܣ (d’ywḥnys), with its ܕ (d’) genitive prefix, means “of John”; thus the colophon says the preceding text is in accordance with John’s Aramaic; since ܕܝܘܚܢܝܣ (“of John”) is acting as a possessive adjective modifying ܒܣܘܪܗ (“his Syriac”) and not anything resembling “his gospel”, this reference to John is to the man, not to the gospel.

The penultimate word, ܗܝܠܢܣܛܝ (hylnsṭy, “in Greek”), is a borrow-word from Greek, ελληνιστι (hellēnisti); it appears in the Lectionaries version (but not the Peshitta) of 19:20 in reference to the notice Pilate had put on Jesus’s cross. And the final word, ܒܐܦܣܝܣ (b’āpsys, “in Ephesus”), confirms that the scribe prepared this translation-transcription of John’s Syriac in Ephesus.

The colophon appears virtually identically in Lectionaries A and B despite the seventy-four-year gap between them, which confirms a common source. Its location in the middle of the Lectionaries also signals that it is not original thereto. Indeed, the author of the colophon claims to have put John’s gospel into Greek from a source manuscript in Aramaic, so neither the Lectionaries nor the gospels collection(s) on which they were based can be the original location of the colophon, since they are in Aramaic.

The next step was a scribe translating this fair copy in Greek of John’s Aramaic drafts back into Aramaic. This was not necessarily done in Ephesus with access to the Aramaic manuscript by John himself mentioned in the colophon – but it is possible that the scribe was in Ephesus and could check his Aramaic against the original. This scribe copied the colophon, translating it from Greek into Aramaic as he copied it. Either this scribe was putting John directly into an Aramaic gospels collection or he made a codex or scroll containing only John, and a later scribe put it into the gospels collection. Then, as the last step, yet another scribe arranged this gospels collection text into the lections of the Gospel of John for the Palestinian Lectionaries, with the colophon still following along in its original position following 8:2. In the first of these two last steps the scribes switched from the old Galilean alphabet, by then largely neglected and forgotten, to the Estrangelo (Syriac) forms that were far more common by that time. This we know because the gospels collections fragments, like the Lectionaries, are in the latter script.
The guarantee of fidelity to John’s Aramaic applies only to the original Greek copy of the Syriac text ascribed to John. We have fragments of later Aramaic gospels collections published by J. P. N. Land, and of course the Lectionaries were composed after centuries had passed, between 1030 and 1118, and so surely their scribes did not have the advantage of which the collections scholar could have availed himself of being able to check their work against the original copy displayed in Ephesus. Thus we might expect the scribes of these Aramaic versions to conform their wording at least sometimes to the Textus Receptus, and in fact there are a few rare instances where this may be the case, which I will discuss in the Commentaries. But there is such a weighty preponderance of passages, in at least the Gospel of John, that differ radically from the Textus Receptus that we must conclude that the scribes held the source text in such awe and respect that they chose to abide by it rather than the Textus Receptus. The only text that could supersede the Textus Receptus in later centuries would be an original New Testament Text. Further, there is an impressive fidelity between especially Lectionary A and Land’s fragments; they differ only in minor spelling variations and once or twice copying errors, such as a missing or doubled word.

Therefore Land’s fragmentary gospels collections and the Lectionaries themselves are very probably, on the whole, faithful copies of John’s original Aramaic draft of his gospel. As such, the importance of both cannot be understated. And this theoretical history behind the Lectionaries coheres perfectly with the history of the original text on page 406, that the drafts dictated by John to Prochoros in Aramaic were sent away for safekeeping in Sinope upon John’s arrest in 68, returned to Ephesus twenty or more years later by Marcion, and then translated into Greek by Papias, surely with the assistance of Prochoros and Polycarp.

What is more, a fragment from his long-lost five-volume masterwork επιγεγραπται λογιων κυριακων εξηγησεως (Explanations of the Sayings of the Master, found in the Vaticanus Reg. Lat. 14, quoted in full on page ###), Papias says that he … descripsit vero evangelium dictante Iohanne recte verum (“… indeed transcribed, accurately and truly, the gospel dictated by John”). Both this and the colophon were composed in Greek, yet even though this comment survives only in an execrably bad Latin translation and the colophon comes down in no manner other than an Aramaic rendering, they are astonishingly similar. I conclude, therefore, that the colophon is most likely by Papias, and that the Greek copy that the colophon originally followed was the publication manuscript on display for a few centuries in Ephesus.

Surely those successor-leaders of John’s spiritual flocks in Anatolia considered this first Aramaic version highly important, since the language was increasingly prevalent not only in that region but also to the east, to Edessa and beyond: just as prevalent as Greek was to the west of Ephesus. Who, then, produced the Aramaic retranslation that served as the basis for the gospels collections and the Palestinian Lectionaries? My tentative conclusion is that it was done by Prochoros, the son of John. First, note that the text is in Galilean Aramaic, which indicates it was done early, no later than the second century, when the Syriac dialect was beginning to surpass Galilean in popularity, and probably that it was done by someone from Judæa. Second, it remains faithful to the Urtext, despite its wide divergences from the later Textus Receptus.
A number of early texts, in fact, assign Prochoros this role of secretary to John. Some early works attribute to him the inking of the first fair copy of the Revelation in its original Aramaic, in the years between the gospel’s Aramaic rough drafts and its formal publication version in that tongue. So I believe Prochoros was the scribe as John dictated the original drafts for the gospel in Aramaic, and so he knew the text well in that language. He would have had access to these drafts as Papias prepared the Greek version for publication, and so could have retained as much of the original drafts as possible but revising his new version such that it cohered with the Papian text in ordering and phrasing.

If this is so, that the Aramaic version preserves to some degree John’s initial drafts dating from between the years 43 and 68, decades before they were edited, refined, and translated into Greek by Papias with the help of Prochoros and Polycarp around 95, then to the same degree this Aramaic text is more precious than the lost first Greek manuscript. Recovery of the latter would be invaluable to scholars, to be sure, but it would certainly prove to be far closer to the Textus Receptus than the Lectionaries because it would retain far less of John’s original writing and embrace all of the revisions by Papias, Polycarp, and Prochoros; the main differences would mostly be no more than the other random errors that crept into the text in later times. This Aramaic text, however, if it utilized as much as possible the prototypical gospel drafts dictated by John to Prochoros, should be relatively free of the changes wrought around 95 – and indeed as passages therefrom are introduced and discussed herein, that will again and again prove to be the case.

Another question deserves to be addressed, though a full examination is beyond the scope of this work. There will be occasion to quote from the Palestinian Lectionaries’ versions of passages in the other three canonical gospels, which will prove no less divergent from the Textus Receptus as many from John itself. I have not read the other three gospels in their entirety in the Lectionaries, but what I have studied assures me that they too are not uncommonly quite different from the standard text. Some of these will be quoted in passing in the Commentaries.

My provisional answer takes note of the fact that at about the same time that Papias was inking the publication manuscript of John’s gospel Polycarp of Smyrna was engaged with editing a number of manuscripts that would become the main part of the New Testament, and Papias himself was equally occupied with the composition of his just-mentioned five-volume analysis of Jesus’s teachings found in the four gospels that would eventually be recognized as canonical, as well as other sources; indeed, part of Papias’s intent was to further the petition of the Fourth Gospel to be accepted as canon by his equal treatment of it in his work with the synoptics. My suggestion is that this group of scholars personally knew the writers of these other gospels, or at least persons closely associated with them. John the Presbyter knew John Mark, the son of Jesus and Mary, and indeed wrote a kind of “review” of his gospel, which appears in The Writings of John. As universally recognized leaders of the Jesus movement, they would have had access to these gospels just about as soon as they were initially published, perhaps even before, to read and offer suggestions before publication.

Here is one interesting example of a variant text in the Gospel of John from the Palestinian Lectionaries. The story of the healing of the young blind man is different in many respects, but I will share just the last scene, where Jesus comes to where some friendly Pharisees have hidden the young man, who can be identified in this version as the son of the gospel author, John the Presbyter. Commentaries follow, but note first that this pericope continues into chapter 10, such that the famous Good Shepherd discourse is not found in this early version. Also note that the Lectionaries offer evidence in support of what Polycrates and others aver, that John sometimes wore the πεταλον, suggesting (since he could not have been high priest himself) that he was the second in command, the ܣܓܢ (sagan).

9:35ܘܟܕ ܐܫܟܝܚ ܝܬܗ ܡܪܐ ܐܡܪ ܠܗ : ܗܐ ܐܬ ܡܗܝܡܢ ܒܒܪܗ ܕܐܠܗܐ
9:36 ܗܘ ܕܝ ܐܓܝܒ ܘܐܡܪ ܠܗ : ܘܡܢ ܗܘ ܡܪܝ ܕܝܗܝܡܢ ܒܗ
9:37 ܐܡܪ ܠܗ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ ܚܡܝܬ ܝܬܗ ܘܗܘ ܗܕܝܢ ܕܡܡܠܠ ܥܡܟ
9:38 ܘܐܡܪ ܠܗ ܡܗܝܡܢ ܐܢܐ ܡܪܝ ܘܣܓ ܠܗ ܕܝܫ ܕܒܝܬܗ
9:39ܘܐܡܪ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ ܠܝܘܕܝܢ : ܠܕܝܢ ܐܬܝܬ ܠܥܠܝܡܐ ܗܕܝܢ ܕܗܠܝܢ ܕܠܐ ܚܡܝܢ ܝܚܡܘܢ : ܘܗܠܝܢ ܕܚܡܝܢ ܡܥܘܪܝܢ ܝܬܥܒܕܘܢ
9:40 ܘܫܡܥܘ ܦܪܝܫܝ ܕܗܘܘ ܥܡܗ ܗܠܝܢ ܡܠܝܐ ܘܐܡܪܘ ܠܗ : ܕܡܐ ܐܘܦ ܐܢܝܢ ܡܥܘܪܝܢ ܐܢܗ
9:41 ܐܡܪ ܠܗܘܢ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ ܐܠܘ ܗܘܝܬܘܢ ܡܥܘܪܝܢ ܠܗ ܗܘܬ ܠܟܘܢ ܣܟܠܐ : ܟܕܘ ܕܝ ܗܐ ܐܬܘܢ ܐܡܪܝܢ ܕܐܢܗ ܚܡܝܢ ܘܣܟܠܬܟܘܢ ܩܐܡܢ ܠܕܪܬܐ ܗܢܘܢ
10:1ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܪ ܐܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ : ܕܡܢ ܕܠܐ ܥܠܠ ܥܠ ܕܬܪܥܐ ܠܕܪܬܐ ܕܐܡܪܬܐ : ܐܠܐ ܣܠܩ ܠܗ ܥܠ ܕܚܘܪܝ : ܝܬܗ ܓܢܒ ܐܝܬ ܗܘ ܘܠܣܛܝܣ 10:2 ܕܝܢ ܕܝ ܕܥܠܠ ܥܠ ܕܬܪܥܐ ܗܘ ܪܥܝܐ ܐܡܪܬܐ 10:3 ܠܗܕܝܢ ܬܪܥܐ ܦܬܚ : ܐܡܪܬܐ
ܠܩܠܗ ܫܡܥܢ : ܘܗܘ ܩܪܐ ܠܐܡܪܬܐ ܟܘܠ ܚܕܐ ܡܢܗܘܢ 10:4 ܘܡܦܩ ܠܗܘܢ ܘܟܕ ܝܦܩ ܝܬܗܘܢ ܩܘܕܡܝܗܘܢ ܗܘ ܗܘܐ ܐܙܠ : ܘܐܡܪܬܐ ܕܒܩܢ ܝܬܗ ܕܗܢܘܢ ܡܟܪܢ ܩܠܗ 10:5ܒܬܪ ܚܘܪܝܢ ܕܝ ܠܐ ܕܒܩܢ : ܐܠܐ ܥܪܩܢ ܡܢܗ ܕܠܐ 10:6 ܡܟܪܢ ܩܠܗܘܢ ܕܢܘܟܪܝ ܗܕܢ ܡܬܠܐ ܐܡܪ ܠܗܘܢ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ : ܗܢܘܢ ܕܝ ܠܐ ܝܕܥܘ ܡܐ ܗܘܐ ܡܡܠܠ ܠܗܘܢ
10:7 ܘܐܡܪ ܠܗܘܢ ܬܘܒܢ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ : ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܝܢ ܐܡܪ ܐܢܐ ܠܟܘܢ 10:8ܕܐܢܐ ܬܪܥܐ ܕܐܡܪܬܐ : ܟܘܠ ܗܠܝܢ ܕܐܬܘ ܓܢܒܝܢ ܗܘܘ ܘܠܝܣܛܝܢ : ܐܠܐ ܠܐ ܠܗܘܢ ܐܡܪܬܐ 10:9ܐܢܐ ܗܘ ܬܪܥܐ ܥܠ ܕܥܠܐܝ ܡܢ ܕܥܠܠ ܚܝܐ : ܘܥܠܠ ܘܢܦܩ ܘܡܫܟܝܚ ܡܪܥܐ 10:10ܓܢܒܐ ܠܐ ܐܬܐ ܐܠܐ ܕܝܓܢܘܒ ܘܝܟܘܣ ܘܝܘܒܕ : ܐܢܐ ܐܬܝܬ ܕܚܝܝܢ ܝܗܐ ܠܗܘܢ : ܘܡܘܬܪ ܝܗܐ ܠܗܘܢ 10:11 ܐܢܐ ܗܘ ܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ : ܘܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ ܢܦܫܗ ܗܘ ܝܗܝܒ ܥܠ ܛܒ ܐܡܪܬܗ 10:12ܕܝܢ ܕܐܓܝܪ ܘܠܝܬ ܗܘ ܪܥܐ : ܗܕܝܢ ܕܠܝܬ ܐܡܪܬܐ ܕܝܠܗ ܚܡܐ ܗܘ ܕܝܒܐ ܐܬܐ ܘܫܒܩ ܐܡܪܬܐ ܘܥܪܩ 10:13 ܘܕܝܒܐ ܚܛܦ ܝܬܗܝܢ ܕܗܘ ܐܓܝܪ : ܘܠܐ ܟܦܠ ܠܗ ܥܠ ܛܒ ܐܡܪܬܐ
10:14 ܐܢܐ ܗܘ ܪܥܝܐ ܛܒܐ : ܘܐܢܐ ܡܟܪ ܕܝܠܝ ܘܕܝܠܝ ܡܟܪܝܢ ܠܝ
10:15ܗܝܟ ܡܐ ܕܐܒܐ ܡܟܪ ܠܝ : ܘܐܢܐ ܡܟܪ ܠܐܒܐ : ܘܢܦܫܝ ܐܢܐ ܡܣܝܡ ܥܠ ܕܛܒ ܐܡܪܬܝ 10:16ܘܐܡܪܝܢ ܚܘܪܢܝܐܢ ܐܝܬ ܠܝ ܆ ܗܠܝܢ ܕܠܝܬ ܗܢܘܢ ܡܢ ܗܕܐ ܕܪܬܐ : ܐܘܦ ܠܗܠܝܟ ܢܛܘܣ ܠܝ ܕܝܐܬܐ : ܘܠܩܠܝ ܫܡܥܘܢ܆ ܘܝܬܥܒܕܢ ܚܕܐ ܡܪܥܝ ܘܚܕܐܘܚܕ ܪܥܐ 10:17ܗܠܢܢ ܐܬܘ ܠܓܠܠ ܟܕܢ ܐܒܐ ܡܚܒ ܠܝ ܕܐܢܐ ܡܣܡ ܢܦܫܝ 10:18 ܕܬܘܒ ܝܬܗ ܐܢܫ ܠܐ ܢܣܒ ܝܬܗ ܡܢܝ ܐܠܐ ܐܢܐ ܡܣܝܡ ܝܬܗ ܡܢ ܓܪܡܝ : ܫܠܝܛ ܐܢܐ ܕܝܣܡ ܝܬܗ ܘܫܠܝܛ ܐܢܐ ܬܘܒܢ ܕܝܣܒ ܝܬܗ

9:35 And when he had found him the master said to him, “Look! Do you trust in the child of God?”
9:36 He answered and said, “Who is it, master, whom I might trust?”
9:37 Jesus said to him, “He himself sees / is angry, and of this he would speak with you.”
9:38 And he said to him, “I trust, my master”, and (after letting Jesus in) he closed securely the door of his house.
9:39 And Jesus said to the Jew(ish authoritie)s, “This is why I came to this one. Those who are not of the father-in-law see / are angry, and those who are of the father-in-law make themselves blind.”
9:40 And the Pharisees who were with him heard these (words and) were satisfied, and they said to him, “It is even like we ourselves have been blind!”
9:41 Jesus said to them, “As long as you blinded yourselves to him, that was foolish. But now, look! We are met together. We can speak of the father-in-law and your fools who remain in the atrium.
10:1 (Jesus begins the conversation:) “Amen, I tell you: I was drawing the lady out of the entrance to the gateway to the atrium, but he (Annas) went up to him (Prochoros) from behind. He would have abducted him; he is a robber. 10:2 So at the entrance of the gateway she, the lady, tended to him. 10:3 The gate opened and he gets out.”
(John speaks:) “To his voice we responded; he was crying out to the lady in front of everyone. 10:4 I go out to them, but when I go he was passing in front of them. He was leaving, and the lady kept close to him. Their voices were upset, 10:5 but they didn’t look behind them. I was staying close, but moreover I was fleeing from him (Annas); I went up/out. 10:6 I was concerned to hear Master Jesus’s foreign-accented voice; the simile that he spoke to them. But they did not recognize him when he was speaking to them.”
10:7 And Jesus said to them again: “Amen, I tell you: 10:8 I (was at) the gateway where the lady was. All those who went by, they were stealing, they were thieves. So because of them we did not hear the lady. 10:9 I was near the gateway, above the entrance. She saved him, and he went out the entrance, and I found (within) the sick/infirm ones. 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal and destroy. I arrived; we saved him (Prochoros) from them. He is of benefit to them. 10:11 I am the good shepherd, and the soul of the good shepherd is devoted much to the good of his (John’s) lady. 10:12 He (Annas) is a hireling and is not the shepherd; this one is not his own lady. The father-in-law, the wolf; came, he left the lady alone and fled; they delayed and scared away the ravening wolf. 10:13 And he, being hired, was not concerned about the good of the lady.”
10:14 (John’s wife Anna speaks:) “I take good care of him, and I gather together my own, and my own gather together to me.”
10:15 (Jesus speaks:) “Just as when those of the father gather themselves to me, and I gather them to the father. And I place the good of my lambs in my soul. 10:16 But other lambs are mine: they are not from among those who belong to them in the atrium (i.e., Annas’s confederates); also, those of Pontius (Pilate) come to me, and they hear my voice, and they celebrate she whom I take care of and he whom she takes care of; these have come. 10:17 For this the father loves me: I am completing/uniting my soul; indeed, no one can take it from me. 10:18 But rather I complete/unite it by myself: I am permitted to give it and I am permitted likewise to receive it.”

Selections from the commentaries on this passage follow, taken from The Gospel of John Restored and Translated.

9:35 – The final word in verse 38, ܒܝܬܗ (byth, “his house”), indicates that the young man is at this point safely at home, in the company and under the protection of sympathetic Pharisees. Jesus’s testimony in verses 10:7-8 will make it clear that he did not see what happened after these malevolent Pharisees attacked the young man, or where he was taken. But Jesus knows or quickly learns his identity – his comments in 9:3-4 suggest as much – and that makes it easy to find the family home, since every Jerusalemite at the time would have known exactly where the sagan’s mansion was found. …
As to this verse, several curious differences immediately evidence themselves.
First, the Textus Receptus begins with an explanatory phrase, that ηκουσεν ιησους οτι εξεβαλον αυτον εξω (“Jesus heard that they had thrown him out”), referring to the young man, but which is not found in the Lectionaries. In the previous verse I rejected the Greek reading that says the Pharisees threw him out, and here as well I follow instead the Lectionaries – ܘܟܕ ܐܫܟܝܚ ܝܬܗ ܡܪܐ ܐܡܪ ܠܗ (“And when he found him the master said to him”).

Second, the Lectionaries have Jesus begin his statement with ܗܐ (hā!), The beginning of Jesus’s question is usually rendered “Do you believe”. See the commentary to 3:15. Like interjections in all languages, Jesus uses it here to gather attention on himself. If it means anything literal at all (what interjection really does?), it means “Here!” and could be Jesus saying “Here I am!” to announce his own presence, or else “Here you are!” in conclusion of his search for the whereabouts of the formerly blind young man. But it is more than that: though this exclamation ܗܐ was as common as its equivalent in modern colloquial English, “Look!”, here it gains considerable poetic and rhetorical power coming from Jesus’s lips and from the fingers of the brilliant writer responsible for this scene (John is besides quoting his beloved master speaking to his beloved son): Jesus urges the young man to Look! – not so much with the eyes but with mind and heart – and see just who and what this Jesus is and see the corruption that has infested the Temple like a destroying cancer, and make a choice between them.

Third, the Greek has Jesus ask the young man συ πιστευεις εις τον υιου του ανθροπου, and in meaning the Peshitta agrees exactly. The first phrase, συ πιστευεις (su pisteueis), is traditionally translated as “Do you believe”. That is because Christianity quickly garbed the verb in the liturgical vestments of dogma, starting with Paul, for whom believing in Jesus as the only Son of God was sufficient and essential to receive eternal life. But at the time the gospel was written the word had the sense of “have confidence in” or “trust”. The Lectionaries equivalent here, ܡܗܝܡܢ (mhymn), which appears in all three surviving early texts, carries exactly the same sense. Obviously, this verb does not point to a textual contrast between the Textus Receptus and the Palestinian Lectionaries – πιστευεις and ܡܗܝܡܢ both can mean either “believe” or “trust” – but rather in which of these two senses this verb is used. In the Greek and Peshitta this entire conversation in verses 35-41 is entirely about believing in Jesus, and requires that πιστευεις be read meaning “believe”. But, as we shall see, the quite different conversation reported in the Lectionaries is about whether the young man and those who are protecting him trust Jesus enough to let him in the door and talk frankly with him, requiring the word ܡܗܝܡܢ be read meaning “trust”.

Fourth, Jesus completes this question by asking if the young man trusts him, i.e., Jesus. In the Greek Textus Receptus and the Peshitta Jesus refers to himself as τον υιου του ανθροπου “the son of man”, as it is usually translated, or “the child of the (first) human being” as I prefer herein. In the Lectionaries, on the other hand, he uses the phrase ܒܪܗ ܕܐܠܗܐ, “child of God”. This is interesting mainly because in every other place where the Greek has τον υιου του ανθροπου the Lectionaries have the Galilean Aramaic equivalent, ܒܪܗ ܕܓܒܪܐ. This verse is the sole exception. It is also possibly the only (at most one of the very few) times the narrative, as opposed to someone speaking, refers to Jesus not as ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ (“the master Jesus”) but as justܡܪܐ (mrā, “the master”).
My suspicion is that the latter is merely an easily ignored scribal error. The former issue may be because Jesus apparently comes alone to this hideout, without Mary. Since it is Mary and Jesus together that comprise the child of the first human being created in Genesis 1:26-27 and who YHWH pulled apart in Genesis 2 into Adam and Eve, then Jesus alone is Adam. Mary and Jesus together may thus be called τον υιου του ανθροπου, “the child of the (first) human being”, but Jesus like Adam is just a ܒܪܗ ܕܐܠܗܐ, “child of God”. In conclusion, then, given the fact that I rely on the Lectionaries for the rest of this chapter, I accept as well the Lectionaries version of this final portion of verse 35, despite a few small qualms, for the restored text.

9:36 – Prochoros, not having seen Jesus’s face before is unable to recognize visually the stranger at the door, though blind people typically compensate with a fine ability to remember voices. He asks in the Palestinian Lectionaries, “Who is it, master, whom I might trust?” His inquiry is pretty much the same in the Textus Receptus, if we read it free from the lenses of later dogma. However the young man is not really asking a theological question as to who is the child of God (Lectionaries) or who is the child of humanity (Textus Receptus), but a simple “Who is this standing at the door?”: he is merely asking the stranger to identify himself. And this is what Jesus does in verse 37, though in widely differing ways in the Lectionaries and the Textus Receptus, as shall be explained in the following commentary.

9:37 – In terms of meaning, the Lectionaries version of verse 36 is essentially the same as the standard text. The following verse is where the variations between the two sources begin in manifest themselves in earnest. The Greek Textus Receptus has ειπεν αυτω ο ιησους και εωρακας αυτον και ο λαλων μετα σου εκεινος εστιν (“Jesus said to him, ‘You have beheld him, and he who is speaking to you is he.’”). The Old Syriac and Peshitta have the same, with the verb ܚܙܝܬܝܗܝ (ḥzytyhy, “you have seen him”). This is an odd statement, to say the least. Jesus seems to mean that, since the young man saw his, Jesus’s face after gaining his sight, he should be able to recognize Jesus again now. But the glaring problem is that the text in all versions is clear that Jesus is not present when in verse 7 Prochoros returns home seeing, for he talks about Jesus with the neighbors in a way that indicates Jesus is not there. Jesus applied the mud in the portico of Solomon, the young man began to see at Šylwḥā (Siloam), and then went home, where he talked with the neighbors and Pharisees in front of his family’s home; now, in this final scene, he is inside the home. Hence the young man has not beheld him and thus has no way to recognize Jesus’s face at the door.

In the Palestinian Lectionaries Jesus begins the conversation at the door by identifying himself as someone in whom the young man can place his trust. In reply the latter asks for something more specific about Jesus that will help him decide whether indeed he can put his confidence in Jesus. And so, to this, Jesus replies by saying he shares Prochoros’s anger toward these antagonistic Shammai Pharisees. Jesus denotes this anger with the verb ܚܡܐ (ḥma), which, tellingly, is the same verb that in verses 11 and 25 was associated with the young man since he gained the ability to see. Like Prochoros Jesus has seen the antagonistic attitude of these Shammai Pharisees, and generally has seen the corruption in the Temple, and so here he assures the young man and his protectors that he shares their anger, hence that he is on their side. By acknowledging that he feels the same anger as the young man and those with him Jesus further makes it clear that, unlike those Pharisees, he “saw” the double entendre in Prochoros’s use of the word meaning both “to see” and “to be angry”.

9:38 – Referring to the formerly blind young man the Textus Receptus has ο δε εφη πιστευω κυριε και προσεκυνησεν αυτω (“And he said, ‘Master, I believe!’, and he bowed down to him”).

The verb πιστευω (pisteuō) can mean “believe in” or “put faith in” a deity, and carries most often that sense in later Christian writings as well as in how earlier Christian writings (such as this one) were interpreted. However at the time this gospel was written the word much more often had the sense of choosing to place one’s trust in someone or something in a situation where it is by no means certain that this trust is warranted – that is to say it was the kind of confidence that today, for instance, one puts in one’s surgeon before agreeing to a major operation.

Which is the sense intended here? That is indicated by the verb προσεκυνησεν (prosekunēsen), which is usually translated to say that the man “worshipped” Jesus. Its literal meaning, however, is that he “kissed towards”, that is, toward the ground; in other words, that he bowed or knelt in respect as was done by Jews before a great and powerful figure such as a king, prophet, or high priest. Therefore the standard “worshipped” translation, though not literal, is accurate.

And so, if the Textus Receptus conveys the message that the young man worshipped Jesus, we can be sure that it likewise tells the reader that he now “believes in” Jesus as in some sense divine: either an emissary from God or God incarnate: this is not a matter of trusting Jesus enough to let him in but of spiritual believing that in some sense the presence of Jesus is the presence of God. At the time Jesus wrote this gospel this dogma was promoted only by Paul, who cribbed it from gentile cults, largely those from his Parthian homeland; the idea was abhorrent to John, and would have been to any traditional Jew of his time (and is still today) that a mortal man could be incarnate deity and believing in that man as incarnate deity is both necessary and sufficient to gain the privilege of eternal life.

Besides all this, the general sense in the Jewish faith is that it is not proper to bow or kneel before any mortal being, because that at least implies idolatry: the making of a created being into the simulacrum of deity. As the familiar Aleinu prayer, after speaking of other peoples prostrating themselves before false idols, reminds Jews: וַאֲנַחְנוּ כֹּרעִים ומִשְׁתַּחֲוִים ומוֹדים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים (“But we bend the knee and bow before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he”). Much is made in Jewish tradition of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau (Genesis 33:7) or to Joseph (Genesis 42:6), and also of Mordechai, his descendant, not bowing to Haman, descendant of Esau (Esther 3:1-5). John, as a traditional Jew, was of this philosophy, as Revelation 19:10 and 22:9 attest; so too, apparently, was Simon the Rock (Acts 10:26), which suggests that this is also how Jesus taught his disciples; in his time, this was something the gentiles did, for instance to their emperors who were in loco dei for them. If whoever wrote this matter of the formerly blind young man bowing or kneeling to Jesus was aware that Jews reserve such actions for God alone, then that individual must have believed that Jesus was God incarnate, making the genuflection not only appropriate but required for the faithful. Again this appears to be a form of instruction by emulation: the Christian reader is expected to genuflect like the blind man to Christ and to his earthly representatives, the religious hierarchy.

In several ways, then, it is clear that the Textus Receptus version of this verse cannot have been written by the Presbyter. He could not have written this expression of a dogma and a behavior he rejected. In time it would become (and it still is) central to mainstream Christian apologetics that Jesus is God made flesh; this acceptance was gradual, but I cannot believe this text, with this message, could have been composed sooner than, at minimum, a generation after John.

As the religion Christianity developed, it strove to separate itself from its Jewish origins in which such incarnation theology was anathema; it also constituted itself with a hierarchical bureaucracy that was (and in most branches of Christianity still is today) determined to train the faithful masses to unquestioningly believe what they are taught and bow down to that very hierarchy of the established religion, the self-proclaimed successors to the mantle of the authority of Christ (they prefer to call him “Christ” to minimize Jesus’s humanity) who saw to the rewriting of this verse to provide justification and proof of their claim to be in locus christi. This version of verse 38 is without doubt an invocation of the creed of the later religion of belief in Christ, rather than a faithful record of the teachings of Jesus. The young man is here turned by the hierarchy of the established Christian religion into an example set before readers of the gospel: the message is that the faithful should emulate: him in bowing/kneeling before God incarnate – whose presence today is in the episcopacy found in Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and no less in the more autocratic and dogmatic denominations of Protestantism.

So we turn to the Palestinian Lectionaries. The young man says to Jesus ܡܗܝܡܢ ܐܢܐ ܡܪܝ (mhymn ānā mary), “I trust, my master.” All that I say above about πιστευω is also the case with this verb, ܡܗܝܡܢ: its general sense in the late Second Temple period was the decision to trust in a situation where there is abundant reason not to trust, but as the Pauline dogma took root in early Christianity it took on the dogmatic meaning of faith in deity.

What, then, is the nature of this situation in which trust is not confidently and immediately placed in Jesus? One might think the young man would be certain to trust the man who has just given him the gift of sight after a lifetime of blindness. But the situation here is that this youth (whom I believe to be John’s son Prochoros) has just argued fiercely with a group of Shammai Pharisees, succeeding in making them look like fools, and getting thrown out for his pains. And now the young man’s family and supporters are expecting nasty consequences, which is why they have him secreted away in this place as a precaution.

That brings us to the second verb. As we have it, the final clause isܘܣܓܕ ܠܗ (w’sgd l’h). The prefix ܘ (w’, “and”) precedes the verb ܣܓܕ (sgd), which means “did obeisance”, which is followed byܠܗ (l’h) means “to him”. The meaning of “and he did obeisance to him” seems obvious, and one might wonder what I am making all this fuss about.
The answer to that question begins with the beginning of verse 39. This verse, 38, closes out the liturgical reading from which it comes, and the next verse, 39, begins a separate reading found on another page in the Lectionaries. We expect it to begin as it does in all other manuscripts in all languages, with something to the effect of “And Jesus said …”. So it does in Lectionary B, with ܘܐܡܪ ܡܪܐ ܝܣܘܣ. However an extraneous word appears in the other two Lectionaries just before this phrase. In Lectionary A that word is ܕܝܫ (dyš), which means “door” or “entranceway”, and in C it is ܘܒܝܬܗ (w’byth), meaning “and his house”, referring to the structure, or “and his household”, referring to the family within it. Neither word makes any sense immediately preceding “And Jesus said …”. I believe all three Lectionaries took their text from a gospels collection that was translated into Galilean Aramaic from the original Greek-language publication manuscript prepared by Polycarp et al. (see the essay on page Error! Bookmark not defined.). In that manuscript there were, of course, no verse divisions, since these were invented much later. Since two out of three Lectionaries have a strange word leading off verse 39 that I think should go at the end of verse 38 I conclude that the gospels collection scribe made a mistake here by dividing these lines into verses a little too early, such that a remnant of the rest of the verse appears in A and C, while the scribe of Lectionary B simply left it out because as noted it makes no sense at the beginning of 39.

As noted, ܣܓܕ means “did obeisance”, but if the final letter ܕ (d) is removed, the resulting word ܣܓ (sg) means “restrained” or “closed securely”. Not only does that make perfect sense before the word ܕܝܫ, “door”, but note that the ܕ that begins the word might have crept into these manuscripts by scribal error – or by intention, since the addition of the ܕ turns ܣܓ, “closed securely” into ܣܓܕ, “did obeisance”, and a scribe might have decided in this way to repair a perceived error in his source text, and by correcting it make it conform to the reading found in the Peshitta and the Greek Textus Receptus – which had been standard for centuries by the time the surviving copies of the Lectionaries were inked.

If Lectionary C’s extraneous word, ܘܒܝܬܗ, were to follow ܣܓ, the result does not make sense: “he closed securely and his household”. But it could make sense following ܘܣܓ ܠܗ ܕܝܫ (“and he closed securely the door” if the prefix ܘ (w’, “and”) is replaced with ܕ (d’, “of”), perhaps the same ܕ that has apparently attached itself to ܣܓ, turning it into ܣܓܕ.
So I think the original Greek publication manuscript on display for several centuries in Ephesus had a phrase at the end of verse 38 that an early scribe faithfully put into Aramaic in the gospels collection, but, not knowing what to do with it and wanting to conform verse 38’s meaning to the Textus Receptus, the Lectionary A and C scribes put one or another part of the phrase at the beginning of verse 39 while the B scribe ignored it altogether. That phrase in its entirety was apparently ܘܣܓ ܠܗ ܕܝܫ ܕܒܝܬܗ (“and he closed securely the door to his house”). I emphasize that all of this phrase is apparent in A and C, and the only change I have made is one prefix.

But the result is fascinating: the resulting phrases do not say the young man expressed faith in Jesus and did obeisance to him, but that he trusted Jesus enough to let him in, and secured the door of the house behind him. This reading fits perfectly the sense of these final verses in chapter 9, in which the young man is in a secret location protected by sympathetic Pharisees. And the word found in Lectionary C, ܒܝܬܗ, “his house”, confirms what I surmise above, that this hiding place is in fact the home John and his family. This version seems far more likely to be close to the original, and is adopted in the reconstruction.

The motif of Jesus being afforded entry into a locked room in which certain men are hiding out from their fellow Jews forms an inclusio with 20:19. In both places they are at first blind to his identity and he needs in some way to restore their ability to see who he is.

9:39 – The wide difference between the Textus Receptus and the Palestinian Lectionaries continues. The former says here: και ειπεν ο ιησους εις κριμα εγω εις τον κοσμον τουτον ηλθον ινα οι μη βλεποντες βλεπωσιν και οι βλεποντες τυφλοι γενωνται (“And Jesus said, “I came into this cosmos for judgement, so that those who cannot see may perceive, and (that) those who see might become blind”).

Again, this seems not an unlikely thing for Jesus to say, not in small part because it has become so familiar to all those in the Christian faith. This saying carries very much the apparently paradoxical quality of Eastern wisdom, reminiscent of Lao-tse’s 言知不者, 言不者知 (literally, “[The one] who knows does not speak; [the one] who speaks does not know”, from the Tao-te Ching, 56), and the koöns (“knots”) of Zen. It is also reminiscent of a recurrent theme in the prophets of the humble being exalted and the proud being debased (e.g., Isaiah 65:13, and also Luke 1:51-53), and of God telling Isaiah to preach to these people until their ears are plugged and their eyes glued together so they can hear and see no more, and until the city is crushed into ruins (Isaiah 6:10-11), meant as a reference to the coming destruction by the Assyrians, and in Jesus’s day taken as a reference to the one coming at the hands of Rome. What Jesus is reported as saying here, then, is that those who humbly concede their inability to see spiritually will be given wisdom, and those who claim falsely to be wise will be unmasked as without any true insight.

There is nothing in this Greek version that betrays it as unoriginal in its wording. Still, I accept the Palestinian Lectionaries’ very different wording of this verse as more likely best representing the original. My reason is not that there is something obviously wrong with this verse in the Textus Receptus – there is not – but that in both the Textus Receptus and the Lectionaries these several verses form a unit, but each of those two units tells a very different story. Therefore, if I reject the claim of any one Textus Receptus verse to be original and replace it with the Lectionaries version (as indeed I have), I must do the same with all of these verses or lose the coherence of the narrative.

The first word of Jesus’s statement in the Lectionaries text is ܠܕܝܢ (l’dyn). This can be construed as meaning “for judgement”, which leads to the dogmatic sense of the Textus Receptus, but another more common meaning of the word, as “for this”, i.e., “for this reason” or “this is why”, fits the context better. In like manner the word ܠܥܠܝܡܐ (l’ˁlymā) looks like ܠܥܠܡܐ (l’ˁlmā) the word for “world” or “eternity” with the ܠ (l’) prefix meaning “to”, and later scribes must have assumed as much in order to conform the meaning of this verse to that in the Textus Receptus. But note that the actual word is spelled slightly differently. It actually means “to the young man”. Thus the Lectionaries do not have Jesus say “I came into the world for judgement” but “This is why I came to this young man.”

The second sentence in the Lectionaries version of the verse focuses on ܚܡܝܢ (ḥmyn), “father-in-law”. Since Jesus is speaking to Pharisees, his auditors of course work within the Temple administration; thus it is evident who he means by this term: Annas, the former high priest who is still the power behind the office, like a scheming Mafia don, like a vulture fledged in darkness crouching warily over its prey,: so powerful that he has and will continue yet for decades to rule through his five sons, each of whom is eventually to serve a term as high priest, plus the current office-holder, his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas. It is conceivable that Annas was widely referred to as “the father-in-law” at the time, and so this was just a manner of speech for Jesus. This may be yet, at the same time, Jesus use the word with a suffix that gives it the meaning of “your father-in-law”: he is speaking to a son-in-law or sons-in-law of Annas.

At least one actual son-in-law of Annas is surely present in this conversation: the father of the formerly blind young man, John the future Presbyter, whose marriage to a daughter of Annas is discussed on pages 277-85. This notion must be considered since the narrative introduction to Jesus’s words says he spoke to Jewish leaders, in the plural, not one alone, and the leaders according to the text reply together saying they feel “as if we have been blind”. And so in fact I think it very possible that another son-in-law is also part of this conversation with Jesus: the current high priest himself, John’s immediate superior, Joseph Caiaphas, also known as Joseph of Arimathæa (Editorial note: This is documented elsewhere in this book.), whose house was nearby John the sagan’s. Caiaphas’s marriage to a daughter of Annas is well attested in Josephus as well as this gospel (18:13). Despite the uninformed castigation of his memory for two millennia, Caiaphas was no diabolical enemy; he strove to broker a compromise in the Sanhedrin as regards Jesus’s death (11:49-53) and, as Joseph of Arimathæa he generously led the rapid efforts to dispose of Jesus’s body before Passover began (19:38-42), though in secret because of his vulnerability were this support discovered by opposing factions (12:42 and 19:38). In short, the reason John and his wife Anna (Editorial note: Her identity is documented elsewhere in this book.) avoid the probing questions of the Shammai group in verses 20-23 is the same reason the door of the house is shut and no one other than friends is allowed entry: neither of these men is at this point ready to sacrifice his high Temple office for Jesus’s sake. Still, as the first and second in power in the Temple the two surely worked closely together and had become loyal friends who could rely on each other for vital protection and honest advice amidst all the scheming and intrigues of factions in the hierarchy; thus it would be natural for Caiaphas to help John protect his son from these antipathetic Shammai Pharisees. While the text does not specifically say Caiaphas was also present, it is certainly possible given the plurals in Jesus’s words and the fact that more than one sympathetic Pharisee (or Jewish leader, as the text has it) is part of this scene.

In this entire episode in chapter 9 and as restored in chapter 10 only verse 9:40 suggests Pharisees other than John were present in this place of retreat away from danger. In that case the main candidates for our consideration must be Nicodemus, who I believe was John’s father (Editorial note: This is documented elsewhere in this book.), and Joseph Caiaphas, John’s colleague in the Temple who was also known as Joseph of Arimathæa.

In this verse Jesus draws a contrast between Annas’s allies, who are blind to the evil they are doing by extorting the public and ignoring the mitzvot of the Torah, and those who oppose Annas or are at least not allied with him. Since the former are called blind, we expect Jesus to say the latter are seeing. The word that appears, however, is ܚܡܘܢ (ḥmwn), “they have seen / been angry”. As before, the suggestion is that those unallied with Annas see what evil he and his associates are committing, and they are angry to see it.

A contrastive statement like this is a hallmark of John’s writing style, and thus it supports my conclusion that the Lectionaries text is original or close to it. This verse includes a second indicator that this is how John originally wrote the verse: his style includes frequent alliteration, and the Aramaic here is highly alliterative – ܕܗܠܝܢ ܕܠܐ ܚܡܝܢ ܝܚܡܘܢ (d’hlyn dlā ḥmyn yḥmwn): Jesus says those (ܕܗܠܝܢ, d’hlyn) who are not with (ܕܠܐ, dlā) your father-in-law (ܚܡܝܢ, ḥmyn) can see (ܝܚܡܘܢ, yḥmwn).

9:40-41 – The Textus Receptus of verse 40 reads: ηκουσαν εκ των φαρισαιων ταυτα οι μετ αυτου οντες και ειπον αυτω μη και ημεις τυφλοι εσμεν ειπεν (“The Pharisees, those who were with him there, heard these things, and they said to him, ‘We are not also blind?’”). Verse 41 says: ειπεν αυτοις ο ιησους ει τυφλοι ητε ουκ αν ειχετε αμαρτιαν νυν δε λεγετε οτι βλεπομεν η αμαρτια υμων μενει (“Jesus said to them, ‘If you (acknowledged that you) are blind, you’d be without error. But, since you say “We perceive”, your error remains’”).

In this standard version these Pharisees challenge Jesus, haughtily saying in effect, “Surely you are not contending that we are blind!”, and he rebuts their pride with a stinging judgement. This is another example of what is often the case in the Textus Receptus: priests and Pharisees tend to be presented monolithically, as all bad. This was part of the beginnings of Christian anti-Semitism that is still far too often in evidence today, and it is also behind such derogatory terms still used, such as “pharisaical”. This Textus Receptus version continues the dogma that faithful Christians must be humble and obedient to their spiritual masters, believing as they are told to believe, and that they should never insist that they can perceive truth on their own, independently of the organized religion, and even less insist that their truth is better than the doctrines in which the organized religion instructs them.

Again in these last two verses of chapter 9 the Palestinian Lectionaries have something quite different. The implied challenge and the stern judgement in the Textus Receptus are not to be found. Rather these Pharisees sound rather wistful, even regretful, about how blind they have been during their years in Temple service, blindly obedient to Annas, sycophantic and servile, sacrificing their ethics, the Torah requirements that found their faith, for the sake of their careers.

The term ܕܪܬܐ (drtā) literally means “the courtyard” or “the atrium”. Given the context, it must refer here to the atrium around the pool of Šylwḥā. This location has been located and partially excavated in recent years. From the Temple Mount the blind young man went south to the pool on a pedestrian road which descended by broad, deep steps, ending after it had passed by the building housing the pool to the left (east), with the city’s main drainage channel descending to the right (west) side of the road. Being blind, the young man surely needed assistance lest he take a tumble on the steps amidst all the hurrying foot traffic. After reaching the bottom of the steps he turned left and walked to the center of the building’s south face, coming to the large gateway entrance. This entrance took him into the gateway itself, passing through the building itself to the pool. The building was a quadrilateral structure under a stone roof supported by double rows of columns, housing rooms for various purposes related to the pool. At the inner end of the passageway the young man reached the pool itself, which was within the surrounding structure, exposed to the sky. Such an open area within a building was called in Latin an atrium, which is still what it is called in English. As noted, in Aramaic it was called a ܕܪܬܐ.

Jesus means far more than a simple assertion when he says it was foolish of them to blind themselves to what Annas has been doing. Not long ago, in 8:34, he spoke what was probably a common saying but in that moment clearly a barb aimed at Annas and his allies: “If a fool has a slave his slave too is a fool”, using the same word, ܣܟܠ (skl). Here, reminiscent of that comment, he says these Pharisees were just such fools to enslave themselves to the great fool Annas. Besides, in verse 34 the antagonistic Pharisees insultingly called John and Anna ܣܟܠܢ (skln, “fools”). So also Jesus is no doubt deliberately picking up on that accusation, saying in effect that those Pharisees were right – the parents were fools for at least as long as they remained allied with Annas. But now, Jesus implies, they see plainly the situation in the Temple, and so Jesus invites them to relate their experiences at the pool of Šylwḥā.

10:1-16 – With verse 9:41 the Textus Receptus in Greek, and also the Peshitta and the Old Syriac versions in Aramaic, conclude the story of the blind young man. An entirely different pericope begins with verse 10:1, a parabolic declaration by Jesus that he is the “Good Shepherd”. The Textus Receptus presents an allegory which has been universally understood as Jesus pastoring the Christians of future centuries, an interpretation which needless to say is highly anachronistic and cannot be original. In all of the just mentioned versions the text is rather confusedly organized and often muddled in meaning.

The Syriac Sinaiticus is rather clearer than the Greek. It specifies that Jesus enters through the gates into the Temple’s inner courts. Jesus speaks of himself more specifically as shepherd of the Jews, not of the yet-to-exist adherents to the Christian religion, and as the gatekeeper of the Temple, not the sheepfold of Christendom. The Syriac likewise depicts the stranger, the thief, and the hired hand as, presumably, those Jewish religious leaders who oppose Jesus and his message, in this gospel sometimes Pharisees of the Shammai philosophy and also Sadducees, Levites, and priests who control the Temple under the sanction not of God but of Annas. Jesus denies that they are legitimately in control. He speaks of them as thieves, as wild animals who take what they want from the defenseless sheep. 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, rather than anyone in the current Temple hierarchy.
But a close examination reveals a good deal of confusion. The Aramaic word ܬܪܥܐ (tarˁā), for instance, can mean “gate” or “gatekeeper”. But whoever put this into Greek chose the wrong meaning, mistakenly writing that Jesus called himself the θυρα (thyra, “gate”) rather than the θυρωρος (thyrōros, “gatekeeper”) of the flock.

Jesus’s words about “sheep not of this fold” are taken by organized Christianity as a reference to organized Christianity, where presumably Jesus would have been referring only to Jews in the Diaspora, Jews and proselytes in the Diaspora, gentiles, or even to all humanity other than Jews. By “one flock, one shepherd”, however, Jesus is not talking about one religion. The Christian religion, separate from Judaism, was yet to be invented, so its often forcible conversion methods would be an anachronism here; indeed, odious to Jesus. He would more likely have spoken about the entire world of humanity, Jewish or not, hearing his teaching about the Λογος and the Æon, and every person individually choosing whether to be united in God’s beautiful order/plan. It is evident that Jesus did not believe God only loved Jews, and certainly Jesus has repeatedly suggested in this gospel that some of the most prominent Jews of his time were not loved by God, mainly for their execrable deeds. Rather, Jesus often insists that the central issue is living a life that is in harmony with the Λογος, and this, apparently, Jesus felt was compatible with any religious tradition or none at all. This serves as a kind of answer to the loaded question asked about Jesus at 7:35 – yes, he did hope to teach in the Diaspora, and not just the Diaspora, but the entire world. …

The Greek of 10:18 reads: ουδεις αιρει/ηρεν αυτην απ εμου αλλ εγω τιθημι αυτην απ εμαυτου εξουσιαν εχω θειναι αυτην και εξουσιαν εχω παλιν λαβειν αυτην ταυτην την εντολην ελαβον παρα του πατρος μου (“No one takes/took it (my life) from me but I lay it down by myself; I have the authority to lay it down and I have the authority to take it up again; this command I received from my father”). Note that the second Greek word appears in the aorist [past] tense in 𝕻45 and a few later manuscripts. Notwithstanding this suggestion of a past tense, this verse appears to be Jesus prophesying his death. But that is not what the larger passage is about; it is about cleansing the thieves from the Temple, and so suddenly talking about the crucifixion here is quite out of context. The Syriac Sinaiticus, on the other hand, seems to be focused on Jesus having breath (being alive) such that he can fulfill the command with which he is tasked to cleanse the Temple.

All such issues disappear, however, in the Palestinian Lectionaries. In fact, the entire “Good Shepherd” allegory vanishes. The final verse of chapter 9 therein has Jesus invite the Pharisees protecting the blind young man to tell him about Annas and his supporters. Other than Jesus the speakers are not named, but the clues I see lead me to identify them as Prochoros’s mother Anna and father John (who as author of this gospel would remember best what the two of them said).

I cannot overemphasize that what follows is a completely different narrative from the Good Shepherd passage. When I read it for the first time in the Galilean Aramaic original I felt astonishment that a very familiar book, the Gospel of John, was presenting me with a totally new passage. Granted, some few words and phrases therein also appear in the familiar Good Shepherd allegory, and one can see plainly that these were used in order to construct the latter. But the overall differences are so massive that we must make a choice which is the best representation for a restored edition, and to me the choice must be to go with the Lectionaries. Throughout this work the reader will see by my analyses that whenever it differs from the later texts it has the best claim to authenticity.

The author of the Good Shepherd discourse, not John, has evidently taken some words and phrases (examples of which will be discussed below) from the Lectionaries version to use in his own text. Despite its unpolished nature, this passage perfectly continues upon the account of Prochoros’s healing; certainly Jesus isn’t going to change the subject so radically from the corruption in the Temple to a prediction of his own death and resurrection and a promise to shepherd the gentiles who several generations from now were to constitute the Christian religion. All of the criticisms herein of Annas and those aligned with him have a lot of supporting passages in the Tanakh, such as (to name but one) Ezekiel’s condemnation of his fellow priests and his description of the spirit of God leaving the Temple. And this passage has a clear intent: the effect of this healing and Jesus’s subsequent teachings must have had a mighty and lasting effect on these Pharisees, especially John, who would very soon now leave his high Temple position and spend the rest of his life as an apostle to Jesus’s teachings. Joseph Caiaphas remained secretive about his support for Jesus and his bid to be recognized as messiah (19:38), but he would soon negotiate a brilliant compromise in the Sanhedrin enabling Jesus to meet with the death that would assure that recognition (11:49-50). He and Nicodemus would see together to Jesus being provided with a burial that not only was sumptuous (19:39-41) but was conducive to a miraculous reanimation of Jesus’s corpse.

Usually it is my manner to begin these commentaries with what the Textus Receptus says and then contrast it to the Lectionaries reading. So different is the latter in this passage that I must largely forego this comparative approach here. I discuss the Good Shepherd passage separately, beginning on page 190.

Since this passage is so completely different, its division into verses is not traditional, but rather how it was arranged by Agnes Smith Lewis in her æditio princeps. Occasionally in the translation I put a word she has in one verse into the preceding or succeeding verse in order to make sense of the sentence; I do this without making note of the change.

While the Good Shepherd discourse is entirely proclaimed by Jesus, this passage is something of a conversation. Jesus is the only clearly identified speaker, and at least two others also express themselves. They are unnamed, so I have added within parentheses my tentative conclusions as to the identities of the other speakers, with the logic by which I reach each conclusion explained in the commentaries below – but I wish to emphasize that this is only tentative and meant merely as a guide to the reader.
Without question the Good Shepherd is a beautiful bit of writing, even if as I believe it is not by John. This conversation recorded in the Palestinian Lectionaries, on the other hand, seems to be a mere sketch that only indicates how the discussion went. While each of the finished pericopes of the gospel has a clear and certain purpose, this one does not. There is some discussion of what happened, and Jesus utters some spiritual profundities, but that is that: there is no dramatic conclusion as in every other episode of the gospel. It is very interesting for us to read such an entirely new lengthy passage amidst the familiar gospel, but the fact remains that ultimately it is just a sketch that John never was able to give his wonted literary polish.

It is evident from the rather aimless quality of this passage, the lack of names, the imprecise writing, and the lack of a conclusion, that it had not yet been put into a final draft form by John before his arrest in 68 and the conveyance of the unfinished manuscript to Sinope for safekeeping. And I think this conversation scene was not finalized precisely because John was still unsure just how to do it. The manuscript came back to Anatolia when John was in his very last years and in failing health, and his literary heirs – Papias, Polycarp, and his son Prochoros – had to make some decisions as regards this and other passages that were not in proper shape for publication. The Lectionaries (arranged from a gospel manuscript prepared, I believe, by Prochoros) appear faithful overall to the manuscript, and here they preserve the unrefined character of the dialogue; Prochoros had a vested interest in preserving the original of this entire pericope, since it is about Jesus miraculously giving him sight and the consequences thereof. However those responsible for the text we find in the later Syriac and Greek versions evidently decided against this unfinished passage and instead to take some of the words and phrases found in the conversation and develop a Good Shepherd discourse of the kind that Jesus might have spoken but never did as a replacement for this sketch of the conversation recorded in the Lectionaries.

10:1-3a – Jesus in the preceding verse, 9:41, has invited these Pharisees to join him in sharing what each did and saw happening as Annas and his Pharisee allies attacked Prochoros at the pool of Šylwḥā. As the one calling for it, he begins the exchange, which was the custom, in for example the dialogues of Plato. The earmark “Amen amen, I tell you” formula assures us that these are Jesus’s words; in verse 7 the narrative says Jesus “again” utters this formula, so this is clearly the first time.
Jesus introduces a female character who is referred to as the ܐܡܪܬܐ (āmartā). In the Syriac dialect this word refers to a female lamb, an ewe, and this meaning would suggest Jesus is talking about his wife Mary, who is often compared in the Johannine writings to a lamb. But there is nothing, neither in the text nor by reasoning, to support the contention that she was encumbered with the care of Prochoros. Indeed, in the first scene of this pericope both parents (9:18-23) are depicted as concerned for his safety and wellbeing, so logic would conclude that this ܐܡܪܬܐ is Prochoro’s mother. A deeper look at the word reveals that its sense in Galilean Aramaic is quite different, apparently from another lexeme altogether: it appears related to ܡܪܝܐ (maryā), meaning “master”, “teacher”, or “husband”. On page 834 of his dictionary Marcus Jastrow gives several examples of ܐܡܪ (amr, a form of the preceding) as meaning “master”, and suggests ܡܪܬܐ (martā) was the feminine equivalent. J. P. N. Land, on page 221 of his Anecdota Syriaca, says ܡܪܘܬܐ is equivalent to κυρια (kuria), the Greek word meaning “lady”, “wife”, or “mistress” (though I prefer “masteress” to avoid certain unfortunate connotations). The word may also be connected to the Galilean noun ܐܡܗܬܐ (āmhtā, “mother”). Therefore I conclude that ܐܡܪܬܐ does not refer to an ewe but to a certain lady, and thus I translate it. The context tells us that the lady had blind Prochoros in her care, and in fact that she rather valiantly rescued him: I conclude that this is the young man’s mother, John the future Presbyter’s wife, Anna. And Anna, in fact, was the daughter of the very Annas who here acts as the villain, and certain comments made in this exchange support this identification.

Jesus must have sensed impending trouble just as soon as Annas arrived on the scene (9:7b). He begins his narrative as he is bringing Prochoros and the lady, John’s wife, out through the building entranceway, apparently intending to send them safely on her way home. As Jesus was doing so Annas apparently made a move from behind to detain his grandson Prochoros. But Jesus says the gate opened and so the young man was able to leave. It is very likely that Annas had ordered the gate sealed, but John’s words in verse 3b clarify the situation: he heard his son’s screaming and so he and those with him (he says “we”) had the gate opened or opened it themselves.

Since by his description Jesus is already in the scene, I suspect he must have accompanied Anna and Prochoros from the Temple to the pool. Thus he was near them when Annas arrived, and so was able to move them quickly in the direction of safety.
Annas was determined to keep his monopoly on all things Jewish, and so any dispensations of God’s beneficence had to be funneled through the Temple. And without doubt he was not pleased about a miracle that had not been authorized by his hegemony, and which was sure to enhance the reputation of Jesus, to whom Annas had conceived an intense hatred, probably ever since Jesus overthrew the moneychangers’ tables (2:14-22) eight months before. Without doubt the potentate was less pleased that this was in his eyes an attack on his own family, that this upstart from up north had put hands on his own grandson. But by now Annas surely was apprised that his son-in-law John, as the sagan the second-in-command in the Temple, was now suspect too for becoming a follower of this Jesus. By now even Anna John’s wife, named for her father, was under suspicion as well – and now, as she, John, and Prochoros run from Annas, there can no longer be any doubt of his enmity. And this enmity, this rift within the family, was bound now to intensify once Annas realized that the Galilean he failed to recognize was Jesus himself, the perpetrator of the crime of unauthorized healing. Indeed, Jesus may have had John’s in-laws in mind when he made the comments recorded in Matthew 10:32-39, or even Jesus’s own in-laws, for there too as we shall see soon in this gospel, a rupture developed between Mary Jesus’s wife and her own father Simon. And so Annas probably meant to take young Prochoros captive and either “talk some sense into him” so he would say publicly what Annas wanted him to say, or, should that fail, in one way or another close his mouth permanently.

10:3b-6 – This conversation is taking place in John’s house, so by first century decorum John himself should next recount his memories. The narrative does not identify this speaker, but the clues point to him. First, the orator mentions Jesus, so he is not Jesus, and Jesus’s Galilean accent is to him foreign-sounding, which suggests a Judæan. This man also expresses concern for Jesus’s safety and calls Jesus “Master”, suggesting a follower of Jesus. The individual also shows great love and concern for Prochoros’s and Anna’s safety, that he “was staying close” to them. All of these factors fit John’s profile. Additionally, note the constant theme of voices: the young man “crying out to the lady”, Prochoros and Anna’s “voices were upset”, and “Master Jesus’s foreign-accented voice”, even noting that what Jesus said was a simile. (What simile Jesus said to them John does not relate, but he would surely have repaired this deficiency had this scene been revised.) And there is attention to visual detail, that “they didn’t look behind them”. All of this is typical of John sharp sensory awareness.

For all John knew Prochoros was still blind and would be unable to escape the situation without guidance. Though, yes, his sight was now returned to him, a fact traumatic enough in itself, and besides sight must have been of little use to a young man blind from birth who has not yet learned how to analyze visual data with much efficiency. Even his own parents’ faces were new to him, and here he was in the midst of a screaming, milling crowd! No wonder that Prochoros was in panic, shouting as his mother sought to sweep him along the path of escape with Jesus’s help. Prochoros would have been further upset because his mother was upset too, as John says, since Annas and his gang were coming quickly up the entranceway.

John was evidently not as close as Jesus to his wife and son when the mêlée began, but just inside the gate area. John heard his son screaming rather than first seeing what was happening. He recognized the voice and got the gate open. By the time he saw his family they were passing through the building entrance, reaching the gate just ahead of Annas and his henchmen. The beginning of verse 4 suggests that John wound up running behind Jesus, Anna, and Prochoros, and in front of Annas.

The comment that Prochoros and the maidservant “didn’t look behind them” is probably a conscious reference to Lot and his family, instructed not to look back as they run to escape the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:17), but Lot’s wife famously does look back and is turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). This story was important in the early Jesus movement, Jesus mentions it in Q (Matthew 10:15, 11:24, and Luke 10:12) Luke 17:28-32, and II Peter 2:6-7. The analogy is plain: the disobedience of the powers-that-be in Sodom/Jerusalem, implications of sexual excess (and the Temple practices in this time as in others may have included sexual rituals; Editorial note: This is documented elsewhere in this book.), and the city’s imminent destruction: just as these two run from Annas’s clutches here, John and his family will in 38 run to Ephesus from Jerusalem, anticipating its destruction. As John wrote this scene, not long before his exile in 68, that destruction was ever more imminent.

Apparently Jesus stayed within the gate, in the entrance corridor, to speak to Annas. No doubt this was a delay tactic to afford the family time to get away, for John confirms at the end of verse 5 that he left the building as well. But as he was departing John apparently felt some anxiety should Annas recognize and violently detain the Galilean-accented rabbi as the one who had performed an unauthorized healing of Annas’s grandson – having missed catching Prochoros Annas would have been glad to catch the even bigger prize – but John notes with evident relief that Jesus went unrecognized.
Note that John speaks of Jesus here in the third person. He is talking to the others present, presumably his wife and son.

10:7-13 – Jesus again takes up the narrative. He uses a mix of first-person singular pronouns to describe his own actions, but in at least verses 8 and 10 he switches to the first-person plural. This may be without importance, but at least verse 8 also could indicate that he was not alone in his effort to rescue the mother and son. He may have been accompanied by one or more disciples, or else Mary his wife. Verse 10 can also be read as Jesus speaking in general terms of all the rescuers.

Jesus begins this second part of his summary at the point when he is at the gateway with Anna and Prochoros, with John hurrying to join them just ahead of his father-in-law Annas and henchmen. But meanwhile, Jesus says, there’s also an onrush of thieves who have evidently taken advantage of the situation.

This detail informs us that a veritable riot had broken loose inside the atrium. The cause was not the healing itself, since chapter 9 gives several discussions that immediately followed upon it. The spark was supplied by Annas and his cronies, when they “flung themselves upon” Prochoros, as the Lectionaries put it in 9:34. This attempt inevitably resulted in Prochoros struggling to escape and screaming for help, which in turn must have precipitated a panic – and no wonder. The crowd may have thought a kidnapper or even a murderer had a victim in his grip: in this time perpetrators of such violent crimes often took advantage of the distracting cover of crowd situations just like this one at the pool of Šylwḥā. Members of such anti-Roman groups as the Zealots and especially the Sicarii were known to kill important pagans or Jewish sympathizers, and of course personal vendettas were often settled through murder, which also was used to silence victims of robbery, rape, and other crimes. And of course the entire Jerusalem community was constantly on edge, expecting at any moment, for the least provocation, the Roman military to come down hard on the Jewish population.

Meanwhile, professional pickpockets and thieves were everpresent in such public situations as this one to take advantage of the unwary. From what Jesus says here it is likely that the chaotic situation enabled some of these professionals to snatch purses from distracted people, as well as to rifle personal belongings in the changing areas. And then, according to Jesus, the robbers were making a quick exit, no doubt pushing people out of the way.

In the Textus Receptus of the canonical gospels Jesus is rarely if ever depicted in such a very human manner, as unaware of what is happening around him and unable to do anything to ameliorate it. The Jesus of the dogma-driven organized religion was of course God incarnate, hence omniscient and omnipotent. So startling is this aspect of these two verses that it may be one significant reason why this conversation was later replaced with the Good Shepherd discourse. Still, Jesus’s testimony – which makes it clear that he personally observed nothing of what was going on with Prochoros, John his father, and the maidservant – fully fits the context in the Lectionaries text: it is precisely his ignorance of what happened that prompted him in 9:41 to ask the others to tell him what they had seen and done.

Jesus next again specifies that he was outside, “above the entrance”. The entrance to the edifice housing the pool was at the bottom of a hill, as noted in the commentary to 9:40-41; this makes clear Jesus’s location, outdoors near that entrance. From this outdoor position he says he saw the maidservant come safely out of the building with Prochoros (“She saved him”), and then says he saw John come out (“and he went out the entrance”). Jesus then went into the building – surely struggling against the crowds of people surging the other way as they strove to leave the pool complex – and found within the sick and infirm who were typically lying beside pools or in the waters seeking relief from pain and perchance hoping for a miraculous healing. Many of them, blind or lame or otherwise severely incapacitated, would have been unable to leave in the panic, and indeed were vulnerable to being trampled by the fleeing crowd or robbed by thieves. Jesus does not say what he did, but he probably at least helped them to safety, and might even have miraculously healed some of them.

The sentence in verse 10 about thieves coming only to steal and destroy was probably a common saying at the time, one which Jesus here applies to Annas. Jesus then sums up the situation by saying together they succeeded in rescuing Prochoros and saying Annas and his associates now no longer will have any desire to steal the young man. The attempted abduction was to prevent Prochoros from enhancing Jesus’s reputation in Jerusalem by telling everyone how Jesus gave him the sight that he had never had before in his life. But now that Prochoros is in friendly hands they have no further preventing this.
Again, there is virtually nothing in common with the Textus Receptus; just coïncidental references to a gateway, thieves, and sheep, though ܥܪܒܐ (ˁrbā, “sheep”), which appears in the latter, is quite a different word from ܐܡܪܬܐ (āmartā), which usually refers to a female lamb in Syriac but apparently could designate a maidservant in Galilean Aramaic. And the saying in verse 10a, that the thief only comes to steal and destroy appears in the Lectionaries as well as in the standard reading – which shows that whoever composed the Good Shepherd discourse was taking what he could from this original version.

Verse 11 is obviously Jesus still speaking, calling himself the good shepherd. This verse is the main foundation of the so-called Good Shepherd discourse written later to replace this conversation. But in this passage Jesus is not speaking in a timeless manner as in the pastiche that replaces it in the Textus Receptus; he may not be doing anything more than commenting on the situation they all just experienced, saying that he was a good shepherd to bring Anna and Prochoros safely out of the volatile situation, but see the next paragraph. Jesus’s assessment of safekeeping expands: in verse 9 he says Anna saved Prochoros; in verse 10 he says “we saved him”, meaning he and Anna together, and then in 11 he says he is devoted to the safety and protection of John’s wife.

Verse 12 then states the facts. Anna may be Annas’s daughter, but she no longer is under his authority, being married to John. Thus he is called the father-in-law here. And then he is called “the wolf”, which is much more appropriate than the casual Bible reader might realize. Not only are there numerous verses such as Ezekiel 22:27 and Zephaniah 3:3 in which rulers of Judah are condemned as vicious wolves plundering the people, but passages like Ezekiel 34 which says a “good shepherd” is needed to protect the people from such a wolf as Annas.

In verse 13 Jesus denounces Annas even further, saying he is so corrupt as a hireling in the Temple that he is “not concerned about the good of” his own daughter, the mother of his grandson.

10:14 – Having just been mentioned, Anna herself now speaks. The feminine suffixes indicate a woman talking, and there are no other female candidates present, at least so far as we know. And what is said here is obviously Anna’s confirmation of her responsibility as a mother and wife. This verse was of course later revised and put on the lips of Jesus in the Good Shepherd discourse, again in verse 14.

It is notable that John gives voice in the gospel not only to major female characters, most obviously Mary Jesus’s wife, but also to minor female characters, such as the girl in charge of the gate to the high priest’s compound (18:17) and John’s wife Anna here. And that John includes her statement in the gospel documents his own love and respect for his spouse, as well as his awareness of Jesus’s – if I may use a modern term – feminist perspective. This surely is a reflection of the Hillel-Gamaliel tradition of which both Jesus and John were a part, which championed the rights of women, and also the teachings of Jesus himself.

10:15-18 – That verse 15 begins with ܗܝܟ (hyk), “just as”, tell us that another individual begins to speak here, picking up on what Anna has just said about gathering her charges to herself and taking it not just in a new direction but one that is spiritually sublime. Even though this statement too is unascribed, it is certain that Jesus is again talking – the themes are familiarly on his lips throughout the gospel.

Verses 14-15 in the Textus Receptus share with verse 15 here the imagery of Jesus gathering his sheep together, though they add the idea that Jesus will lay down his life for his sheep, a theme that appears throughout the Good Shepherd discourse but not in this Lectionaries text.

Likewise, the Textus Receptus of verse 16 has Jesus say he will draw into his “one flock (with) one shepherd” “other sheep that are not of this fold”. The Lectionaries version also includes this theme, though it is more specific, mentioning sympathetic priests in the Temple hierarchy and also, rather surprisingly, associates of Pontius Pilate. Still, the latter should not come as a complete surprise to careful readers of this restored gospel, in which I often point out that Pilate is characterized as a friend and supporter of Jesus and his determination to be recognized as messiah and replace by force the Annas clique in the Temple with a priesthood that is genuinely Jewish and fully committed to obeying the mitzvot (laws) of the Torah.

It is interesting that Jesus refers here to Pilate by his nomen gentilicum. Intimates, such as immediate family, addressed a Roman of the higher classes (and Pilate was one of these) by her or his prænomen, equivalent to the modern Western first name; Pilate’s has been lost to time. Personal, informal friends usually addressed the person by the nomen gentilicum, which indicated the individual’s gens, or familial clan; Pilate’s is Pontius. Strangers and formal acquaintances used the cognomen, and that explains why this man is known today as Pilate: because the authors of canonical gospels were not among his personal friends.

Pontius in Latin became ποντιος (pontios) in Greek and went unchanged into English. However in the two places in the Galilean Aramaic text of the Palestinian Lectionaries where the name appears, here and in 3:14 (the latter confirmed by one surviving fragment of the Evangeliaria Londinensia, likely the source of the Lectionaries’ text), the name appears as ܢܬܘܣ (Pntws) – as it also does in Luke 3:1, the solitary place where it is found in the Textus Receptus of the four canonical gospels. Therefore this can only be a reference to Pilate, and not to something else, for instance Pontus, a region then to the south of the Black Sea. Besides, Pontus does not logically fit the context of any of these three appearances.

It is a long sentence through verse 16, and its final phrase appears (by æditio princeps editor Agnes Smith Lewis’s mistake in verse division) at the beginning of 17. I have corrected this, marking the beginning of 18 after this phrase. Unknown in any other version, Jesus says in the phrase that certain ones among the Temple Pharisees and the associates of Pilate “have come” to him. Obviously, one of these is John the sagan himself, he who was to write this gospel.

The differences between this text and the Syriac Sinaiticus and Peshitta are typical of the later efforts to create textual supports for the dogma of Jesus as God incarnate and to emphasize his Godly omniscience, including about the future. The significant differences are as follows:

First, where Jesus calls God ܐܒܐ (ābā, “the father”) in the Lectionaries, implying that God is father not just of Jesus but of all humanity, the two later texts have him say ܐܒܝ (āby, “my father”), to say Jesus, as the unique Son of God, God incarnate, has a special relationship with God.

Second, the verb which in my translation I have as “am completing/uniting”, is ܡܣܝܡ (msym) in Lectionary A, the oldest of the three. It becomes ܡܣܡ (msm) in Lectionaries B and C, and then ܣܐܡ (sām) in the Syriac Sinaiticus and Peshitta. The first, ܡܣܝܡ, is the active present participle of the verb ܣܝܡ (sym) or ܣܝܝܡ (syym), which as Marcus Jastrow’s dictionary makes especially plain, means “to finish”, “to complete”, or “to unite”. Lectionaries B and C have ܡܣܡ (msm) which should be translated the same way but can, if we stretch the conjugations and definitions a bit, be made to mean “to place”. By a further stretch this can be thought of as meaning “to place/put down”. The word ܣܐܡ in the yet later texts confidently means “to place”, and it doesn’t need so much of a stretch to make it mean “to lay down”. Each of these progressive verb substitutions may have been accidental or deliberate (I think the first was not intended to change the meaning but the second was), but the result is that they increasingly clearly present Jesus as predicting he will “put down” his life, and the intentional nature is loudly signalled by the next difference to be discussed.

Third, the Syriac Sinaiticus and Peshitta add a phrase to verse 17 not found in the Lectionaries: ܕܬܘܒ ܐܣܒܝܗ, “again I will take it” and appearing in the Greek (ινα παλιν λαβω αυτην), but in all cases with the “up again” added in translations even though nothing in these early texts really has that meaning, in order to have Jesus predicting his resurrection.

As Lewis divides the verses, 18 begins with the last clause of the sentence in 17; I have moved it to the end of 17 so the sentence is complete. Jesus says in this clause that no one can take his soul from him, completed as it is with and by Mary. Of course the later versions shifted the meaning to Jesus saying no one can take his life away from him, but rather that “I surrender it on my own initiative.”

That final clause placed in my restoration of 17 again has the verb ܡܣܝܡ, meaning “to unite” or “to complete”. In support of my certainty that ܡܣܝܡ is the original word is the fact of its similarity to another verb which is extremely similar in its feminine present participle conjugation, ܡܣܝܐ (msyā, “blinded”) – this is quite the kind of double entendre that John loved, and here it brings back to mind the blindness both physical and spiritual that began this episode, and Jesus’s efforts to heal the one in Prochoros and the other in his father, John himself.

A pair of verbs appear in verse 18, obviously meant to be in parallel, since the rest of the two succeeding phrases is identical in both: ܫܠܝܛ ܐܢܐ ܕܝܣܝܡ ܝܬܗ ܘܫܠܝܛ ܐܢܐ ܬܘܒܢ ܕܝܣܒ ܝܬܗ (“I am permitted ___ it/him/her and I am permitted also ___ it/him/her”). The first verb is ܝܣܝܡ (ysym) and the second is ܝܣܒ (ysb). Neither verb, however, appears to be exactly correct as conjugated. The first I take as ܣܝܡ (sym), with the initial ܝ (y) added to how the word appears in Syriac; Galilean Aramaic sprinkles its texts liberally with the letter. And ܣܝܡ as a present participle means “(am) giving”. There is nothing at all, however, that can possibly be construed as the second verb, ܝܣܒ. I think this may be an error in Lewis’s transcription, and that the very originally was either ܝܗܒ (yhb), a present participle also meaning “am giving”, or ܢܣܒ (nsb), a present participle meaning “(am) receiving”. Since I establish the first verb as meaning “(am) giving”, this second verb must have a different but related sense, and so ܢܣܒ, “(am) receiving” makes the best sense. Besides, it is orthographically closer to ܝܣܒ and more alliteratively resonant with ܣܝܡ with the “s” sound common to both.

Verse 16 referred to Mary, Jesus’s wife, 17 implies the union of Mary and Jesus; now this final portion of 18 says that Jesus gives his very self, his ܢܦܫ (npš, “soul”) to Mary and likewise he receives from her her soul – referring to their oneness as a single composite being in Elohim’s image. The Syriac Sinaiticus and Peshitta, composed later, have a very different pair of verbs in the imperfect (future) tense such that Jesus is predicting that he “will put down” his life and “take (it) up again”. These verbs (ܐܣܝܡܝܗ and ܐܫܩܠܝܗܝ in the Syriac Sinaiticus with a synonym for the second in the Peshitta, ܐܣܒܝܗ) extend the desired dogmatic emphasis in these verses.

Thus altogether the later versions of these lines have Jesus declaring he has the power to lay down his life in death and to take it up again in resurrection. The Lectionaries, on the other hand, have Jesus continuing to talk about what he mentioned at the end of verse 16: that he is completing his soul – that is, uniting himself with Mary such that together they recreate the both-genders-as-one child of Elohim made in Genesis 1:26-27.

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.

http://audlinbooks.com/aboutjamesdavidaudlin/nonfictionjamesdavidaudlin/

 

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.

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

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.

 

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

 

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.

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

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.

 

The Beloved Disciple was Female!

Two Unnamed Disciples Named –

and the Beloved One is a Woman!

 

A Look at John 21:2 and 24 in Greek and Aramaic

 

James David Audlin

 

The following text comprises material from The Works of John Restored and Translated, published by Editores Volcán Barú, copyright © 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

 

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

The two unnamed disciples in John 21:2 might be Andrew and Levi son of Hilphai; the only extant fragment we have of the Gospel of Peter breaks off with a reference to this fishing episode, and it mentions Peter, Andrew, and Levi as taking part. One of them could also be Philip, who like Andrew is mentioned in the gospel proper. But arguing against this view is the fact that Andrew at least and probably Philip too were associated with John the Presbyter (The Gospel of John, page 234), as surely were others as well who would have remembered who the unnamed two were, whom he could have asked to fill in any gaps in memory (his or Mary’s) on this point.

To arrive at the best understanding of these two unnamed disciples it is essential to recall the point that this letter was written to set the record straight as to what happened on that fateful morning; thus it would hardly begin by conceding faulty memory! And so I think the two disciples are identified, but rather than here they are identified in the last verse, which is an example of the Presbyter’s inclusio technique, since it also speaks of two disciples: one who “bears witness” as to what happened that day and one who has written it down. The first is of course the Beloved Disciple, who is being counted among the seven disciples present in this scene: she being on shore with Jesus, and the other six in the boat. The other can only be John himself, the Presbyter-to-be, having left the Temple priesthood to join this little band of Jesus followers. That the other, John, “knows that her (Mary’s) testimony is true” tells us that he was there with the disciples that morning, whether or not he was privy to the private conversation. The use of inclusio in the Gospel of John is so prominent that its appearance here also serves to confirm the authorship of the Presbyter.

In verse 21:24 we find both individuals responsible for this letter have in effect “signed their names” to it. The grammar in the Greek version is rather confusing, while the Aramaic is not; this is rather obviously because the scribe who translated the latter into the former made a mistake. To make the mistake clear first we must discuss the Aramaic.

The Codex Syriac Sinaiticus begins with ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ, which grammatically can be understood as being in the singular (“This is the disciple”) or the plural (“These are the disciples”), depending on the context. In this case it should be taken as plural, and here are two reasons.

First, it serves as a classic example of inclusio, or A-B-A symmetry. Throughout his writings John the Presbyter makes great use of this literary technique, in which elements from the beginning of a work are reinvoked at its end – this technique is of course a most prominent feature in the gospel. The beginning of this letter mentions “two others of his disciples” as participating in this seaside event, and here at the end they are mentioned again. They are specifically named neither in 21:2 nor here, but presumably the letter’s salutation, which as explained above was no doubt lopped off when the letter was grafted into the gospel, provided the two names: Mary and John. Thus the “These” here refers not only to 21:2 but surely also to the missing salutation, to confirm that the unnamed disciples are specifically Mary and John.

Second, it creates A-B-B-A symmetry within this verse: it provides the necessary antecedent plural to which the phrase later in the verse, ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܐܢܚܢܢ (“we know…”), refers. These plural phrases, “These are…” and “we know…”, frame the two phrases between them, which delineate singly the disciples who make up that plural: the one who gave the testimony and the one who wrote it down. After the “we know” the sentence concludes with a second reference to the first, testifying disciple, giving the sentence an overall A-B-B-A-B structure.

The first disciple is witness to the events described, the Beloved Disciple about whom Jesus and Simon have just spoken in the preceding verses. The Beloved Disciple, of course, is Mary, as is firmly established in The Gospel of John. The Aramaic of this verse confirms that it is Mary with the personal pronoun in the last phrase, the one that refers back to the disciple who gives the testimony, whom we know to be the Beloved Disciple. That pronoun is ܗܝ (). Even though it is pronounced like the English “he”, it means “she”. Indeed, though the Peshitta, a later Syriac Aramaic version to some degree edited to conform to the by-then-standard Greek text, contains some minor variations in wording that do not affect the meaning of the verse in the least, it too has the ܗܝ (“she”) very much in evidence. (Note that this “she” functions in this context as a possessive: in English, “her”.)

Thus, despite the masculine nouns that usually would have prompted the author to use a masculine pronoun for this disciple, ܗܘ (hw), he uses ܗܝ (). The effect is to emphasize not the role (disciple) but the person: he wants us to know not just that this is a woman but a particular woman. And, whether or not the missing letter introduction mentioned her by name, as I said a few pages ago only one woman in the story of Jesus is so central that she does not need to be named by name: Mary.

A correspondent hoping to defend the dogma that the Beloved Disciple is male insisted to me that the feminine pronoun here agrees with the feminine noun ܣܗܕܘܬܗ at the end of the verse. They interpret this word as “witness”, in the sense of “a person who gives testimony”, and then say the feminine pronoun ܗܝ referring to the disciple is agreeing in gender with the feminine noun. However, ܣܗܕܘܬܗ really refers to the testimony itself, and so it cannot modify the pronoun pointing to the disciple. Besides, there is a related but different noun, ܣܗܕܐ, which does mean “a person who gives testimony”, i.e., a “witness” in the sense of a person, but this word is masculine, and so, if it had been written here, it could never change the masculine pronoun for a male disciple to a feminine pronoun. We must conclude that the pronoun ܗܝ refers to the disciple, and the noun ܣܗܕܘܬܗ refers to the testimony given by that disciple, that they are only coincidentally both feminine, and that one does not modify the other. Indeed, this “she”, despite the masculine nouns, serves to emphasize this disciple’s identity as Mary.

Thus the phrase describing the first disciple as the one “who has witnessed to all this” is in effect Mary the Beloved Disciple’s signature to this letter. The second phrase, “…and also (the one who) has written (about all this)”, is likewise the signature of John the Presbyter.

Why these signatures? And why do they then provide a joint affidavit of truthfulness, “We (both) know that she is truthful, the one who gives witness.”? The Gospel of John contains references, such as at 8:13, to the requirement of at least two witnesses in the laws of the Torah (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15), and any first-century Jew reading this affidavit in which Mary and John present themselves as the two witnesses would instantly have recalled that requirement. Indeed, the gospel would later be given not one but seven certifications of verity similar to this one, further demonstrating the Presbyter’s determination to prove by Torah-based law to his fellow Jews that these writings contain the truth.

These two phrases also give us a picture of the working relationship between the two, as discussed in the Introduction: Mary recalling aloud in detail the events, and John taking notes later to develop into a finished work. The final phrase has the two of them join in an affidavit of veracity: “We (both) know…”, confirming that they worked together on this letter.

As noted, the first delineating phrase in Aramaic, ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ, can be understood as being in the singular (“This is the disciple”) or the plural (“These are the disciples”). I think I have made a good case for the latter. However, the Greek translator apparently took this phrase in the singular, as describing one disciple who both gave the testimony and wrote it down: ο μαρτυρων περι τουτων και ο γραψας ταυτα (“the one bearing witness about these things and the one having written these things”). As a result he put the first phrase into Greek as ουτος εστιν ο μαθητης. As a result, the beginning of the last phrase, “We know…”, loses in Greek its antecedent plural noun – a grammatical error frowned upon in Greek (and English) but wholly unacceptable in Aramaic, and yet it remains there for the careful reader to see.

The Greek pronouns in this verse are inspecific as to gender, giving no hint that one of the disciples is female. Indeed, the Greek language of this period had no specifically feminine pronoun that would fit this context, so it had no way to say she has testified true testimony or her testimony is true. Indeed, most likely the scribe who prepared even the first Greek version, being in a later time in which Paul’s asexual Jesus was doctrine, believed (like my interlocutor referred to above) that all of the disciples were men, and would never have even entertained the thought, let alone suggest, that the Beloved Disciple was female.

It is inconceivable, if the Aramaic was originally rendered from a Greek text (which I do not believe was the case), that the translator in that later time would put the Aramaic feminine pronoun in the place of a Greek neuter pronoun. That could only be if he and his community believed the Beloved Disciple was female. That is possible, but unlikely except around Ephesus where John’s teachings survived for a while, but increasingly less likely as over the years the Pauline dogma of a spiritual-bodied sexless Jesus and twelve male disciples took increasing hold.

How then is it that the Aramaic versions state her gender clearly? The philosophical term “elegant” refers to the simplest, likeliest, and most logical solution. And here the most elegant conclusion is that John wrote this letter in Aramaic and he knew the Beloved Disciple to be female. He wrote the gospel itself in Greek, and the early Aramaic versions like the Syriac Sinaiticus and Curetonian are translations into Aramaic but translations from the Syriac Aramaic community in the area of Ephesus, perhaps even prepared with John’s help in his last years. But these versions would not have needed to translate chapter 21 into Aramaic if they had access to the original text as composed by John in that language!

This Aramaic-first explanation is also supported by the thesis expressed in the introduction that John wrote this letter primarily to Simon and his disciples, to counter the rumor he was fostering that Mary was immortal – since Simon’s mother tongue, like John’s, was Aramaic, not Greek.

Given the fact of the Syriac feminine pronoun, I find it astonishing that every major translation of the Syriac Sinaiticus and the Peshitta puts down “he” in the English instead of “she”. This is not just reading what the text clearly says through the soiled and distorting lenses of later dogma, this is irresponsible translating. Most New Testament scholars suffer from what I call græcomyopia litteratus, the inability to take seriously any early text unless it is in Greek, they are unacquainted with the Aramaic language and must rely on these translations. It pains me even more deeply when New Testament scholars who do study the early Aramaic texts are so blinded by the Textus Receptus that they put an obviously feminine pronoun into English and other modern languages with a masculine pronoun. As a result, the fact of this feminine pronoun has not been properly noticed by New Testament scholars, let alone studied, as it should be.

 

 

 

United in the Image of God

United in the Image of God:

Jesus’s Objective, in the Gospel of John, is to Restore Humanity to Reflecting the Nature of Elohim

 

James David Audlin

 

Put together from several portions of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volumes I and II, copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

 

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

 

The Talmud, in the Pirkei Avot, quotes Rabbi Eliezer as saying, “God sought advice from the Torah before He created the universe.” The Zohar (Parshas Terumah 161) declares, “The Holy One, Blessed be He, gazed into the Torah, and created the universe.” And the Midrash Beraishis Rabbah (1:1) says: “God wrote the Torah before He created the worlds, for it was the blueprint of all creation. Before He formed the universe, God consulted with the Torah as an architect refers to his blueprint. God spoke to the Torah and asked him, ‘How shall we create the universe, my son?’ The Torah itself declared, ‘A king builds a palace not according to his own ideas, but according to the guidelines of his blueprint. And the architect depends on parchment and tables on which are drawn the plans for the rooms and entrances.’ Thus, the Torah said, ‘I am your blueprint and you are my architect.’ And so God looked into the Torah and, accordingly, created the worlds.”

The first word of Genesis, בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (bereshith), is translated well as “When”. But a more literal rendering is “From the head” (in the sense of “starting-point”). Some classical rabbis noted that the word is the same as saying “with Reshith”, with the Firstfruit (God’s spouse, referring to Proverbs 8:22), and since the Torah is often called רֵאשִׁית, Reshith (probably because of this verse), they took the beginning of Genesis as saying God created the heavens and the earth with the Torah. Eleazar be-Rabbi Qillir records an old tradition in his poetry in which Reshith, as a woman, refuses to assist God in creating the universe until she is wedded to the right man (who will reveal her to humanity): that man is Moses. Thus Jesus, who the Gospel of John portrays as a new Moses, is married to Mary as an incarnation of the Logos, equivalent to Reshith. The Gospel of John repeatedly compares and associates Jesus with Moses, and portrays Mary as an incarnation of the Word, equivalent to Reshith, especially at the resurrection and in the earlier Aramaic version of 4:27. Revelation 3:18a continues to draw this parallel between God/coworker and Jesus/Mary, by using imagery familiar from Proverbs 8:10 and 19, where God’s חָכְמָ֥ה (hokhma, “wisdom”), personified as a woman equivalent to the reshith. In Proverbs 8:30 this “companion” of God is further described as אָ֫מ֥וֹן (amōn), as the “master worker” who worked alongside God to create the universe. John uses this last term in Revelation 3:14 in reference to Mary, but when his Aramaic original was later rendered into Greek not by John but someone far less qualified to do so than he, it was misunderstood as אָמֵן (amēn, “truly”), and put down as such into the Greek version. Similarly, the end of the verse originally spoke of “the רֵאשִׁית (reshith) of the creation of God”, according to Philip Alexander; indeed, the Aramaic actually has reshith, ܪܼܫܼܝܬܼܵܐ. This should have gone into the Greek version as κοινωνος, but again the less-than-expert translator made a mistake, putting it into the Textus Receptus as the αρχη (archē), the “beginning” of the creation of God. That nicely implies John 1:1 (εν αρχη ην ο λογος), but it loses the intended comparison of Mary to God’s coworker in Proverbs 8.

The first chapter of Genesis goes on to describe the creation of the universe by אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) – a term for God in which a feminine singular noun is given a masculine plural suffix. The singular in Aramaic is ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ, “Alaha”, which is cognate to the very rare Hebrew אלוהּ (“Eloah”). Though rare in Hebrew, this singular form is common in Aramaic, and is of course the standard word for God in Arabic, Allah, written in the Qur’an as ﷲ, and in Punjabi, in the Śri Guru Granth Sahib, as ਅਲਹੁ. These are feminine words that literally mean “Goddess” (though they are almost never translated that way); they suggest the feminine aspect of God. When given a masculine suffix, as in Elohim, they become the familiar name of God found in Genesis 1 and elsewhere, the male-and-female-as-one understanding of God who made the first human in the same hermaphroditic image.

Elohim speaks of Godself with plural pronouns (“Let us make… in our own…”), but takes the singular form of the verb. The reason for this is simple: Elohim is male and female as one, which is why Elohim says השענ נתומדכ ונמלצב םדא (“Let us make humanity in our image and after our likeness”), and creates a human individual who is at once both male and female. And therefore, neither man nor woman alone perfectly images God, but rather man and woman together. What is more, only male and female together can imitate Elohim’s ability to create life. This is why there are a number of comments in the Talmud to this effect: “Rabbi Eleazer wrote, ‘Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is written, “Male and female created He them and called their name Adam”’” (Yebamoth 63). Rabbi Joseph of Hamadan similarly wrote, “The Divine Unity is conceived as the union of the King and the Queen”, adding that the sacred body of the King is meant to be united with that of the Queen; then, “he will be One, as it is written: ‘Hear Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One’” (Sefer Tashak; Rabbi Joseph ends by quoting the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4). Likewise, the Sheqel ha Qodesh says: “The secret of the Shema Israel [is that] the Bride returns to her Bridegroom in order that they unite in a real unity.”

Note that the traditional translation of Genesis 1:26-27 (“in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them”) is faulty. The word usually translated “man” is הָֽאָדָם֙ (hā’ādām), “the human being”/”humanity”, from a root meaning “red”, referring to blood, which is the essence of life in ancient Hebrew thinking; being the first one, this being needed no name, and “Adam” only became a name when later there were other humans. The words usually translated “him” and “them”, אֹת֑וֹ (’ōtōw) and אֹתָֽם (’ōtām), are spelling variations of the word אוֹת (oth), which is simply an accusative marker in Hebrew, providing a direct object when a verb requires one, but it is inspecific; in English, yes, it can suggest “him” or “them”, but just as easily “her” or “it” or even “you” (singular or plural); in this case, “it” is appropriate, but the plural “you” is implied, especially in the Talmudic interpretations, for we were all created in this creature that encompasses all humanity: we all exist in potentia in this first godly human creature. Moreover, note that the second word, the one usually translated “them”, אֹתָֽם (’ōtām), is a double entendre that also means “sign” (in the sense of “miracle”): the first human is a miracle: it is not separated complementary opposites, but a single being that integrates its complements in Elohim’s image.

“Rabbi Eliezer said, ‘Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is written, “Male and female created He them and called their name Adam”’” (Yebamoth 63). Talmudic midrashim (commentaries) on Genesis 1:27 offer several examples. Rabbi Jeremiah ben Eleazar says that the first adam was created an androgynous, a male-female. Gen. Rabbah 8:1, Ber. 61a, and Eruvin 18a all say that the first adam was in the image of Elohim, being both male and female, and thus “double-faced”, and that God later, in Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman’s words, “split him apart”. Some rabbis even found a reference to this “double-faced” first human in Psalm 139:5. While the verse is usually translated “Behind me and before me you [God] have beset me, and laid your hand (on me)”, the first verb צוּר can mean not only “to beset” but “to create” or even “to fashion” as does an artisan, as it does in Jeremiah 1:5. With the verb taken this way, the rabbis read the psalmist as saying God fashioned him (“laid your hand [on me]”) with a face “behind me and before me”.

Even Paul seems quite aware of this uniting-of-the-sexes-in-the-image-and-likeness-of-God at Galatians 3:28, though he puts on it his usual spin, saying that all human differences are eliminated if we become one with God in the form of Jesus.

The second creation story, beginning at Genesis 2:4b, then has YHWH draw forth womankind, in the person of Eve, from the side of the prototypical hermaphrodite, leaving him male, and now with a name, Adam. Adam’s name means “red earth/clay”, but the name “Eve” is a variation of the name of God found in this second story: in Hebrew it is חַוָּה (“Chavvah”), the infinitive form of the verb “to become”; in Aramaic it is ܚܘܐ.  This verb becomes אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (I Shall Be What I Shall Be); when conjugated in the causative form and imperfect state it is הוהי (YHWH), which is the other most sacred name for God, which refers to the Wind/Breath/Spirit. It is appropriate that “the mother of all living”, as Adam referred to his wife (Genesis 3:20), be named with the Sacred Breath that is God’s name. In removing Eve YHWH takes the very essence of life out of the male; a man (the Talmud thus assures us) has no life and can create no life except when he is united with a woman.

A number of scholars have opined that the Hebrew story of the first woman coming from the side of the first man to be his consort was a deliberate inversion by the Hebrews, a rare patriarchal society in the Mesopotamian region, of the far more common story of the first woman giving birth to the first man and then taking him as her consort, found among such matriarchal Goddess-centered cultures as Sumeria and Babylonia. This may be true to an extent, the Hebrew story may have been influenced in its telling by the earlier stories, but such a theory ultimately fails because of the unique nature of the Genesis account: it does not have the reverse of the staggered creation of the sexes just described, such that the first male somehow “gives birth” to the first female, but rather Genesis has the hermaphroditic first human, made in the image of God, torn asunder by God to create the first male and the first female. Ultimately, the Mesopotamian creation stories, and both the first and second creation stories in Genesis agree on one point: male and female were created at the same time.

Thus not only do we see a connection between the name Elohim and the woman, but also YHWH and the woman. Nor is that all. Harriet Lutzky and John J. Parsons, apparently independently, make a similar point about “El Shaddai”, a common term for God in the Tanakh, which modern translators usually render as “the Almighty”, following the lead of the scholars who created the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh), who believed that it was derived from shadad, which means “to vanquish” or “to destroy”. Lutzky and Parsons point out that the blessing Jacob gives in Genesis 49:25 includes both masculine and feminine imagery, the latter being the “blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (בִּרְכת שָׁדַיִם וָרָחַם), a phrase that suggests “El Shaddai” may come from שַׁד (shad; “breast” in the sense of mammary gland), with the plural being שָׁדַ֖יִם (shadaim; “breasts”), as an indication of God’s all-sufficiency and ability to nourish, to care for, all creation. No doubt earlier Christian Bible scholars were not even capable of conceiving of this female image as the root of a name for God!

In short, the two related Genesis accounts, as seen through Talmudic eyes, tell us that since the act of coïtus can result in the creation of new life, in the form of a child, in doing so (at least properly, in the covenant of marriage), man and woman are in the image and likeness of Elohim, YHWH, El Shaddai, who is given to us in Genesis as Creator, Father-Mother to all life, and the man and woman, when they are truly one (including physically, during coïtus), are in the image and likeness of Elohim also creating life.

The early Gnostic traditions understood the serpent in Genesis 3 not as Satan or a Satanic ambassador, but quite the opposite, as an emissary from God. Note that Eve’s name is similar to הוח, which is Aramaic for “snake”, and, as Wayne Johnson points out, the famous phrase in Genesis 3:1, וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ (wəhannāāš; “Now the serpent…”), in which נָּחָשׁ֙ (āš), the word for “serpent”, combines with הָ (ha), the word for “the”, to create in the very middle of this word a variant form of her name, “Hannah”. This supports this ancient contention that the serpent was good. So too does the fact that throughout the Mesopotamian cultures the serpent was anciently universally understood as both good and wise, which is why to this day the caduceus, two snakes intertwining in a double helix reminiscent of DNA, are the symbol of the medical profession.

The tree in question is the Tree of Life, which is the same as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Truth, since to know wisdom is to know the Λογος, and to know the Λογος is to gain entry to the Æon. This Tree is the Torah, says the Gospel of Philip, logion 100, of which Jesus is the fruit. The Tree also appears in Revelation 2:7 and 22:1-2, and is imaged as a menorah in 1:12,20 and 2:1, with seven lamps (the fruits), held up as in Horace by the branches of the menorah.

YHWH tells the primordial couple that if they eat the forbidden fruit they will die. The serpent tells them that if they eat it they will their eyes will be opened, and they will “be like כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים, Elohim, knowing what is beautiful/pleasant and what is disagreeable.” Both are correct. For it is disagreeable to be separated into two people aching for unity again, and far more pleasant to be one, and so the woman and her husband eat the fruit. Several Talmudic rabbis say that the first, composite human, and Adam and Eve after the division, were perfectly aware of the differences between good and evil before eating the fruit, and naturally preferred the good and eschewed the evil, but that the fruit brought these complementary opposites back together in their thoughts and desires, such that they could choose either as they wished. Thus YHWH’s statement to them that they would enjoy becoming parents but there would be pain associated with childbirth, and they would be able to eat the produce of the earth, but it would be at the cost of toil: after eating the fruit, YHWH says, good and evil will now inevitably be mixed together for humanity. Most of all, male and female will yearn for each other, but ultimately be unable to become fully one again. (The parables in Matthew 13:24-30 and Mark 4:3-9 pick up on this midrash.) The justice, then, is inherent in the division into two, into separate male and female persons – in other words, now humanity, in being not a unitary composite of complements but complements divided from each other, was “fallen” from being in the image and likeness of God, now as mundane as the other separated complements, such as light and dark, above and below, and sea and dry land, and any ordinary male or female creature living in this creation of separated natures. And therefore neither man nor woman alone perfectly images God, nor alone can create new life as God can. Athanasius concludes that “Humanity was in danger of disappearing” ever since this fall, which Father Stephen Freeman thus illuminates: “Refusing communion with the only truly existing God, we began to fall back towards the nothing from which we were created. Either we are sustained by grace and flourish, or we increasingly cease to exist.”

Curiously, the Persian Diatessaron has Jesus say in John 15:1 not “I am the true vine”, but من درخت میوه راستی (man derakhte mīveye rāstī). This has been put into English as “I am the tree of the fruit of truth” (Craig D. Allert) and, adhering a bit more closely to the word-for-word meaning, as “I am the fruit-tree of truth” (Robert Murray, from the Italian of Giuseppe Messina). However, a careful rendering of the Persian yields this translation: “I am the tree that bears the fruit of truth”. The mention of fruit in this version of 15:1 leads to the conclusion that Jesus was speaking of himself in these same terms: that one who partakes of the fruit of the Tree will die (תָּמֽוּת, tāmūt) (Genesis 2:17) and will become like Elohim (כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים, kêlōhîm) (Genesis 3:5). John, in mediating Jesus’s teachings, appears to be reading these verses as saying the individual male and female will die in order to become reborn as a united being, like Elohim.

So, in Genesis 3:7, when the primordial couple eat the fruit they become aware of their nakedness, and they yearn for each other, and they are afraid of this intense desire within themselves, and so they make clothing to subdue and control their desires. For a man and a woman naked together is indeed the likeness of the Creator!

Thus in the earliest Christian texts there is an emphasis on union of wife and husband in nakedness. The Gospel of Philip says in logia 85 and 112:

 

Those to whom it has been given to be clothed in the perfect light can never be seen by the powers (of this world), nor are they able to grasp them. For such a person it shall be given to be clothed with the light in the mystery/ceremony of the union.

Not only will they be unable to grasp the perfected one, but they will not even be able to see him. For if they could see him, they would grasp him. In no other way can one be begotten of him (God) in this grace; only if he is clothed in the perfect light, and the perfect light is around him. Robed in this manner, he shall go forth out of the cosmos. This is the perfected son of the bridal chamber.

 

Philip makes the same point in logion 86, building on the notion that humanity is meant to eat the fruit of the Tree, to attain all wisdom, to die to individual self and become Elohim, male-and-female-as-one:

 

If the female had not been separated from the male, she would not be dying along with the male. Their separation brought this about; it became the origin of death. For this the Christ came, so that he could rectify again to himself the separation which had existed since the beginning by his mating together the two. As for those who have died by the separation he shall give back to them their own lives by his mating them together. Thus it is that the female mates with her husband in the bridal chamber. Those who have mated in the bridal chamber can no longer be separated. Thus it is that Eve was separated from Adam, because she did not mate with him in the bridal chamber.

 

This view is found also in the Gospel of Thomas, particularly in the last logion in the book (114), which, unfortunately, is widely misunderstood:

 

Simon the Rock said this to them: “Let Mariam [Mary] go away from us, for women are not worthy of the [Æonian] life.”

Jesus said this: “Look, I will draw her into myself so I may make her male, so she may also be a living spirit resembling you males: for any woman who makes herself male will enter the Realm of Heaven.”

 

Viewing it with modern sensibilities, scholars often dismiss this logion as an example of first-century misogyny, insisting Jesus couldn’t possibly have said the Æon, the Realm of Heaven, was an all-male bastion! But Jesus is actually referring to the Hebrew myth of the creation of male and female. In the first creation story Elohim (God understood as comprising male and female aspects wholly united) creates by separating complementary opposites: day from night, above from below, land from sea, and the many living creatures male from female; but, last, Elohim creates the single hermaphroditic human in Elohim’s own image, hence unlike the rest of creation undivided, male-and-female as one. In the second story, viewed in the Talmud (not as it is by scholars today as a totally different story that disconforms with the first) as entirely a harmonious complement and continuation of the first, this unique creation, with its complementary opposites of masculine and feminine aspects undivided in exactly the nature of Elohim, is now divided into two, male and female: it is now no longer in the divine image, but common, like everything else: day divided from night, land from sea, sky from earth, and woman from man. Only in uniting these opposites again, said the rabbis, only when man and woman come together, can we once more be in the image and likeness of Elohim.

This interpretation of logion 114 is supported by logion 22, in which Jesus says in part, “When you make the two one … when you make the male and the female a single one, such that the male is not male nor the female … then you shall enter into [the Realm of Heaven].” Likewise he says in logion 75, “There are many standing at the door, but the united/whole/single ones (are) the ones who will go in to the bridal chamber.” Speaking to his mother-in-law Salome in logion 61, Jesus says that of two who share a bed (who are married) one shall live and the other die, implying the crucifixion and also Mary becoming one with him, and adds: “If one is whole, one will be filled with light; however, if one is divided (into separate male and female), one will be filled with darkness”.

We also find the exact same theology in the Naassene Document, as quoted by Hippolytus (Adversus Hæreses [Against Heresies], 5:1); it compares the First Man (the Protanthropos), Adam, the fundamental being who was at first hermaphroditic but then separated into two gendered individuals, to the son of humanity, Jesus, who is restored as hermaphroditic. And he quotes (12:1) a Naassene hymn that refers to Jesus and Mary thus: “From you the Father, and through you the Mother, the two immortal names, the progenitors of the Æon.”

And in the Gospel of Philip, for instance in logion 76:

 

In the days (when) Eve was within Adam, death did not exist. (When) she was separated from him, death came into being. If again she goes into (him), and he takes her into himself, death shall not exist.

 

Hence it was spiritually essential for Jesus to have a wife at the beginning on his ministry. They are far too lengthy to include here, but the analyses in The Gospel of John of these two scenes demonstrate that the gospel begins and closes with a sacred hierogamy between Jesus and Mary. Thus Jesus “dies” in the Jordan at the beginning and then is united with Mary at Cana, and hangs like “strange fruit” on the Tree and then is united with Mary at the resurrection, and both are naked in that last scene as a close reading of the text reveals. The gospel’s writer (and Jesus through him) is telling us that love and marriage are part of the Λογος, the most significant part, since Jesus restores by that means humanity, from its severing into separate male and female, into the perfect image of God.

Thus, the eschatological image pictured here of a return to the nakedness of the garden of Eden is not just perfect equality, without the uniforms that divide and stratify human beings. It is not even just perfect unity. It is perfect union (John 17:22,21,23). It means that this time, unlike Adam and Eve, we shall stand naked and not be ashamed (Gospel of Thomas 37) or afraid (I John 4:18). We shall rather be “clothed with the sun” (Revelation 12:1), garbed in the love that is the very nature of God (I John 4:16b). Joined as one, Jesus-and-Mary are no longer Blake’s “ratio”, scattered fragments of the whole, but the restored First Human, complete and perfect: they are the Platonic ίδεα, the image and likeness of Elohim. As such, this Human is not static, not quite yet (John 20:17) at the destination, the Æon, but still following God’s Λογος.

 

Fluffy Blue-Eyed Jesus Exploded

Fluffy Blue-Eyed Jesus Exploded:

The “Good Shepherd” in John 10 is Not the Later Dogma of Jesus Gently Guiding Gentiles but an Attack on the Temple Hegemony

 

James David Audlin

 

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.

 

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 

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 commentaries; 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.”

 

That Jesus enters 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. 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.

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.

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. Jesus herein speaks of himself as the shepherd of the sheep and as the gatekeeper to the sheepfold. 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.

Jesus saying he is the gatekeeper is the same as what he says 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 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.

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.

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 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.

 

Jacobovici’s Crucifixion Nails

Nailing Down the Facts:

Questions to Ask Before Saying the Crucifixion Nails are Identified

 

James David Audlin

 

The following text is not part of any of Audlin’s published writings. However the publisher does wish to direct your attention to the definitive edition of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volumes I and II, published 23 December 2014 by Editores Volcán Barú.

For more information: http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

 * * *

 

Documentary maker Simcha Jacobovici made the following promotional claim in advance of a documentary that aired recently on television in the United States and other countries:

Here’s a scoop you won’t read anywhere else: According to a new study and a documentary (“Biblical Conspiracies: Nails of the Cross”) that is getting broadcast exclusively on the Science Channel in the US, the nails of Jesus’ crucifixion have been identified – and there’s still bone residue and slivers of ironized wood adhering to the nails!

 

In the documentary SJ backs away from this promotional claim; he says, quote: “We’re not saying these are the nails. We’re saying these could be the nails.”

Well, yes. They could also be nails from Noah’s Ark. They could be nails from Abraham Lincoln’s first log cabin. But the proving of any such claim is what we need to look at carefully.

I have been asked for my response to the above claim that Jesus’s crucifixion nails have been identified. I am not an expert in archæology, nor in forensics, but I do have a number of questions.

True and proper scholars in all fields follow, as best they can, the standard procedures of scholarly inquiry, including the “scientific method”. They study the evidence from all perspectives. They construct a hypothesis, and then they test it very, very hard, actually trying to find the faults and weaknesses in that hypothesis. They do not arrive at a conclusion, and announce it to the world as fact, until they and other scholars have universally concluded that it is fact.

True and proper scholars in all fields start with the evidence. They analyze it carefully, considering all possibilities. They construct a hypothesis that explains the evidence. And then they themselves “throw darts at it”, to see if they can find weaknesses in the hypothesis. If they do, they change it. They invite and welcome the criticisms of their fellow scholars to the same purpose. And, if necessary, they abandon their hypothesis and, if possible, derive another from the evidence.

True and proper scholars always prefer the most “elegant” hypothesis. That term comes from philosophical logic: the elegant theory is the simplest. When theories get overly complex, like a Rube Goldberg invention, the complexity brings in ever more statistical weight against them. The simplest theory is statistically the likeliest. This “elegance” is a vital “razor” – which is another term in philosophical logic: a “razor” (think of Occam’s Razor) is a means by which a good scholar can decide which hypothesis is the best.

In this light, I am asking questions. The following are some questions that I think need to be asked before any statement of vaunted fact is made about the nails to which Simcha Jacobovici was referring:

How are we to know these nails in Jacobovici’s possession were found, so he says, in Ossuary Three? I understand that Gordon Franz says they came from a collection that was known and catalogued before the Caiaphas tomb was even discovered. We do not have clear photographs of the nails as found in the tomb, nor of Jacobovici’s nails. Without carefully calibrated measurements and photographs it is certainly going to be very hard to say if these are the same nails. What is the pedigree of Jacobovici’s nails? How did they come into his possession? I agree with SJ (and others) that it is unconscionable that the nails were “lost” by the IAA for a period of time, and moreover that they were never properly photographed and catalogued. Still, I remain unsure on the identity of SJ’s nails with those from the Caiaphas tomb. Joe Zias (quoted in Haaretz) says the nails in SJ’s possession went from his laboratory when it was shut down to Dr. Herschkowitz’s laboratory. But Zias also says that these are not the “Caiaphas” nails. Zias and Jacobovici have a long history of mutual antipathy, and so, until the story is cleared up, it’s one man’s word against the other. I am in no position to judge between them (and certainly don’t want to wind up in the crossfire between them), so I do not know who to believe.

But let us assume for the purpose of discussion, that Jacobovici’s nails do come from the Peace Forest tomb. Greenhut’s final archæological report says:

Two iron nails were found in this cave. One was found inside one of the ossuaries and the other in Kokhim IV. It is possible that these nails were used to inscribe the ossuaries after the bones had been deposited in them, possibly even after some of the ossuaries were placed inside the kokhim.

 

Greenhut has stated elsewhere that the ossuary in which one of the nails was found was Ossuary One.

Simcha Jacobovici claims that Caiaphas’s remains, plus the nails, were found in Ossuary Three. The Greenhut report specifies that Ossuary Three contains the remains of an adult woman, a juvenile, two seven-year-old children, and an infant – but no adult male. It is Ossuary Six that has scratched into the exterior the name of Joseph bar Caiaphas. It is not Ossuary Three. And it is Ossuary One that contained one of the nails, not Ossuary Three.

SJ, in a .pdf text titled “The Nails of the Cross”, gives an interesting scenario to explain the lack of an adult male. He says that they “found their way into the [nearby] bone repository”. To my way of thinking, bones in a sealed tomb don’t find their way anywhere but generally stay where they have been put. Jacobovici’s scenario requires that every bone belonging to the putative adult male he believes was Caiaphas would have to have “found its way” to the repository. After a number of years, of course, the remains in an ossuary are no longer distinguishable from each other, making it impossible to remove just this one man’s bones and no other person’s. If this occurred, someone would have had to have removed Caiaphas’s remains very soon after interment. Granted, this is possible, but it is extremely complex, running afoul of the razor of elegance.

The simplest explanation is that the famous Caiaphas, if his remains are present at all, are in Ossuary Six. There are the remains of six people in Ossuary Six, none of which has been definitively identified as Joseph bar Caiaphas; the assumption, by process of elimination, is that the remains of a male of about 60 years of age, are those of Caiaphas. Ossuary Three, as noted above, does not contain an adult male’s remains, and Jacobovici’s theory that the remains were in there but “found their way” elsewhere is overly complex.

Do we know the famous Caiaphas to be in the ossuary? There were others named Joseph bar Caiaphas, including the famous one’s grandfather and also his grandson. And the fathers of all three were named Caiaphas. So, even if we assume there is someone named Caiaphas interred in the ossuary, we cannot be (yet) certain that this is the famous Caiaphas. Also, assuming one of the remains is that of the high priest, how do we know the nails and organic material if any are to be associated with him, and not with one of the five persons whose remains are in the ossuary?

Next, how are we to know these were nails used in crucifixion? My understanding is that the nails used in the Giv’at ha-Mivtar find (“Yehohanan”) are 11.5 cm., where the two in the possession of Simcha Jacobovici appear to measure 4.5 cm. or less. In general, Romans used nails 13 to 18 cm. That raises the question of whether they could have been used in crucifixion. At the hand or wrist, nails that short would have easily been pulled out by the victim. They would moreover be too short by far to secure ankles or feet.

Herschkowitz says in Jacobovici’s documentary that the nails, short as they are, could have been driven through the palms of a crucifixion victim’s hands. But it is pretty well established that that wasn’t customary in crucifixions; for one thing, the body weight of the victim would pull his hands free from such a nailing, between the fingers. Moreover, I am uncomfortable with the logical leap from “could have been” to “were”. These nails “could have been” used to put up the signboard at Pilate’s order saying Jesus was the Jewish king; why doesn’t Jacobovici consider that? They could have been used to nail Martin Luther’s theses to the church door, too. They “could have been” used for lots of things. Only if we work backwards from a desired conclusion and work the evidence to support it do we see “could have been” turn into “were”.

Dr. Rahmani helpfully points out two important uses for nails in Jewish tombs. First, nails were used to scratch names onto ossuaries, and the one nail found in one of the kokhim in this tomb was likely used for that purpose. This theory is elegant: it explains why the nail is there; but, unfortunately for Jacobovici, it would mean the nail has nothing to do with Jesus’s crucifixion. Dr. Rahmani further says nails were used to secure the ossuary lids to the bone boxes inside. That would serve to explain the presence of the other nail in Ossuary One, should a securing nail have inadvertently fallen into the bone box at any point over two thousand years. But bear in mind that the final report does not mention a nail in Ossuary Three (where Jacobovici puts Caiaphas) nor Ossuary Six (where others think Caiaphas may be).

Jacobovici alleges, correctly, that crucifixion nails were believed to have certain magical healing powers (Mishnah Shab. 6.10). He also acknowledges in his .pdf account that the Mishnah goes on immediately to advise faithful Jews not to use such nails for such a purpose, as it is the practice of Amorites (pagans) – but SJ does not ponder fully the import of this statement. Caiaphas was a high priest; presumably he was punctilious about following the mitzvot of the Torah, which would prevent him from touching objects that had been in contact with human corpses. The Mishnah was compiled within a century after Caiaphas’s life, and its precepts likely reflect what was already held as proper in the high priest’s time. The simplest, most elegant explanation does not require a high priest to have in his possession ritually impure objects for the purposes of engaging in pagan magical practices. The simplest explanation is, as Rahmani suggests, that one nail was for scratching names and the other was to secure the bone box and ossuary lid. But, unfortunately for Jacobovici, that explanation does not lead to his desired conclusion, that these are the crucifixion nails of Jesus.

Making yet another for-the-sake-of-discussion assumption that these are crucifixion nails, how are we to know they are Jesus’s crucifixion nails? Quite a few people were crucified around the time of Caiaphas. And, while Jesus is certainly a major world figure in history ever since his lifetime, he was not celebrated during his lifetime, and in fact appears to have been viewed by leaders such as Caiaphas as more of a problem to be scuttled away out of sight than a hero. Indeed, there is little if anything in the literature to cause us to think that Caiaphas thought so highly of Jesus that he (or someone on his behalf) put these nails in the ossuary.

Further, as to Jacobovici’s claim that there is organic material on the nails. This was established by whom? Analyzed by whom? The DNA was collected and analyzed and determined to be Jesus’s (since Jacobovici implies it is Jesus’s organic material) by whom? How do we know the organic material is not from one of the six people whose remains are in Ossuary Six – or Ossuary Three, or Ossuary One, or the bone repository, given the confusion above? Why and how would Caiaphas preserve not only the “magical talisman” nails, but do so with the care of a modern forensic scientist, such that the organic material was not lost, and ensure that after he had died the people who put his remains in the ossuary also put in the nails with the same care? Much more logical, it seems to me, is the conclusion that, if there is indeed organic material, it belongs to someone’s remains inside the ossuary, not to someone whose remains have nothing to do with the ossuary, and certainly not Jesus, who was crucified many years before Joseph bar Caiaphas’s death, with the likelihood of organic remains coming along with the nails through years of handling rather remote.

I also find it amazing that Simcha Jacobovici handles these nails with his bare hands in the documentary. If they are indeed what he claims, one would think they would be treated with the proverbial “kid gloves”.

Professor Gabriel Barkay has written:

There is no proof whatsoever that those nails came from the cave of Caiaphas. There is no proof that the nails are connected to any bones or any bone residue attached to the nails and no proof from textual data that Caiaphas had the nails for the crucifixion with him after the crucifixion took place and after Jesus was taken down from the cross.

 

To emphasize again, I am not an expert in the fields that are most relevant to reaching solid fact-based conclusions about the nails in Simcha Jacobovici’s possession. But neither is Simcha Jacobovici. Yet he states clearly in the quotation I give above, “…that the nails of Jesus’s crucifixion have been identified.” Another scholar, defending Jacobovici, characterizes this statement as speculation. Jacobovici, of course, is as entitled to speculate as anyone, expert or not, but this statement is phrased not as mere speculation, but as if it is an established fact. A responsible scholar always clearly labels his or her speculations as speculations, and does not try to characterize them as fact.

Indeed, when it comes to matters revolving around a figure so central to Western history as Jesus, perhaps one should go far more slowly than to go on camera, “playing to the pit”, as it was called in Shakespeare’s time, getting the masses of ordinary people, of relatively credulous television watchers, to swell the parade before experts in the field have really fully done their work, so the experts are made to look like sticks-in-the-mud, suspiciously pinko liberal egghead curmudgeons, who are ashamed of their failures and Jacobovici’s brilliance, and so do not want to accept the latter; characterized thus, the eggheads are easily dismissed in an ad hominem manner. I admire people like Prof. Karen L. King, who to her vast credit has gone ahead with painstaking care on the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” fragment, an item at least as potentially explosive as these nails, and has ignored the scorn and derision aimed at her as she does her job, and as she consults with experts in fields in which she is not well-versed.

Jacobovici’s complex theory does not successfully account for how it is that Caiaphas’s bones aren’t in Ossuary Six, the ornate ossuary that one would expect to be used for the remains of a high priest, but rather in Three, oops, but not in Three but in the bone repository. Nor does it explain satisfactorily how one nail is in Ossuary One and another on the floor elsewhere. Here we have to wonder what happened to the aforementioned “razor” of “elegance” – the philosophical preference for the theory that is simple, not complex, because complexity has too much statistical weight against it.

The simplest explanation is that Caiaphas’s remains are, if anywhere, in Ossuary Six, that a nail used to secure the bone box was in Ossuary One, and that another nail used to scratch names was in one of the kokhim, and thus that they aren’t from Jesus’s or anyone’s crucifixion. The problem with this simple, elegant hypothesis is that it does not lead to Jacobovici’s desired conclusion, that these are the nails from Jesus’s crucifixion.

Clearly Jacobovici is trying to position himself in the role of a scholar, claiming a scientific assessment of these nails. Fine. But if he does so he needs to expect what any decent scholar not just expects, but WELCOMES: the challenges of his or her peers. Any decent scholar takes those challenges seriously, and, if necessary, changes his or her mind as to the summary hypothesis. I ask my questions in this manner.

I hope it is clear that I have no wish to join the many people who, yes, are calling Jacobovici a fraud, an opportunist, and worse in reference to his declarations about the Talpiot/Patio tombs, the ancient Jewish novel Joseph and Aseneth, and now this nail business.

But if anyone at all publicly states that the nails from Jesus’s crucifixion have been identified (the promotional statement above) or may have been identified (the documentary itself), it is right and proper for scholars to question and challenge that assertion. Any good scholar, including the good scholar Jacobovici wants us to believe he is, welcomes such challenges! Therefore, I am not questioning Simcha Jacobovici’s character; I am only questioning his assertion that these are Jesus’s crucifixion nails, and no more.

Simcha Jacobovici is doing his job. His job is making documentaries. But those who are expert in the relevant fields need to do theirs, and he needs to wait for and pay heed to their findings. So should we.

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