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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Do Your Homework First!

Do Your Homework First:

An Oft-Stated Scholarly Factoid about John 3:3 is Not True

 James David Audlin

 

The following text comprises material from the upcoming new edition of The Gospel of  John Restored and Translated, Volume II, as published by Editores Volcán Barú.

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

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

 GOJ-front 2vol II

The Greek word ανωθεν (anōthen) can mean “from above” or “anew”/“again”. The usual scholarly understanding is that while the references to the πνευμα and the חוּר work equally well in both Greek and Hebrew (since both words have the triple meaning of wind/breath/spirit), the double entendre presented by ανωθεν as meaning either “from above” or “again” only exists in Greek, so this passage would suggest that Jesus and Nicodemus held their conversation in that language. The usual interpretation goes on to say that Jesus intended the word to be taken in the former sense, but that Nicodemus misunderstood him to mean the latter sense, as the next verse shows. This standard explanation of the text is correct, so far as it goes. Though, to be sure, as is often noted, certain sects of modern Christianity still misunderstand the word ανωθεν ironically, just as did Nicodemus evidently did – and thus they still promote today a “born again” theology.GOJ-two vol back vol i lulu

However, it is not correct to say that a double entendre is only possible in Greek, as scholars (Bart Ehrman, for instance, in Jesus, Interrupted) often say. The very early Aramaic versions of the gospel (both the Peshitta and the older Syriac Sinaiticus [the text is missing in the Curetonian Gospels]) have Jesus saying one must be born ܡܢ ܕܪܝܫ (men d’riysh) – the first word, of course, means “from”, but the second word, ܪܝܫ (minus the suffix), is slippery in its significations, as is ανωθεν in Greek, but with a somewhat different range of meanings. In I Corinthians 12:21 it means “the head” (i.e., the body part). In Galatians 4:9,19 it means “again”. It can also mean “origin”, “keystone”, “cornerstone”, and even “end/outcome” in the sense of the Spanish word exito. It also appears in the Aramaic Torah in Genesis 1:1 with a prefix, ܒܪܫܝܬ (b’rishiyt), equivalent to the highly evocative Hebrew noun רֵאשִׁית (reshith; see pages 521 and 933), meaning “in/from the beginning”, with a similar use in the Aramaic versions of Mark 1:1 – and of course in John 1:1, where it is the very first word, consciously recalling Genesis 1:1, taking the place of εν αρχη in the Greek version of the gospel.

All that said, the gospel’s Aramaic text suggests a number of possible interpretations, that we must be born: a: “from the head”, in the sense of ܒܪܫܝܬ in Genesis 1:1, implying that we must be born (or reborn) as a part of God’s Logos, presumably by our decision to align our words and deeds with God’s λογος, God’s overall plan for the universe, so we can enter into the Æon; b: “again”; c: “the beginning”, implying the beginning of the world or of our lives; or d: “the outcome”, implying God’s overall plan again. When the Presbyter was in his mind selecting a Greek word that carries the multiple meanings of ܕܪܝܫ, he wisely chose ανωθεν, whose range of meanings enables the Greek text to record Nicodemus’s confusedly thinking Jesus was saying “again”. But scholars who announce that the ανωθεν pun only works in Greek are guilty of sloppy scholarship. Before you say it, check it!

Option a makes the best sense. Since the word ܒܪܫܝܬ is the Aramaic equivalent to εν αρχη in this gospel, which always refers to the Λογος, I take the phrase here as referring to the Logos as well. Jesus is, I conclude, telling Nicodemus that we must be “born into” the Logos, that we must fully accept it and become a part of it: hence, in the Greek version, we must be “born from above”. Whatever Jesus’s actual intended meaning here, as mediated by the gospel author, he clearly is pointing at our need to be born into the realm of God, the Æon, the greater universe, heaven, wherein is God and those whom God draws thither because they have chosen to live in accordance with the Λογος, the divine plan/order or Logos, mediated by Jesus. Jesus is not saying we should be born again, physically, from our mother, but born anew, in the Logos, with our spouse! This is a reference to the bridal chamber theology that pervades this gospel; cf. pages 384-89, 932-33, and 1009-13.

Both the Greek and Aramaic words are found in this book’s reëstablishment of the original text, and the translation of the Aramaic follows the lead of John 1:1, which the Aramaic of this verse clearly implies.

In conclusion we see that, while in Greek the double entendre is that εν αρχη can mean either “from above” or “again”, in Aramaic a similar double entendre is possible: the word ܒܪܫܝܬ clearly is meant by Jesus as referring to the logical priority (αρχη) of the Logos, but Nicodemus could take the Aramaic word, too, as meaning “again”, as in Galatians 4:9,19. Note also that Jesus speaks of ανωθεν to Pilate in 19:11, forming an inclusio with this passage.

Early in these commentaries it should be noted that we always must approach these early Aramaic versions of the gospel with care. Yes, Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic, but Galilean Aramaic was somewhat different from this later church Aramaic. These Aramaic versions may have been translations from the Greek (as Western scholars insist) or original texts of which the Greek is the copy (as Eastern scholars aver), and it can only be guessed whether they are closer to the original manuscript of this gospel than the Greek. But they are in Aramaic, and Jesus spoke Aramaic, at least with everyone except foreigners.

This discussion raises the question whether Jesus spoke with Nicodemus in Greek or Aramaic. They were both Jews, and thus one would expect them to be more likely to speak in either Aramaic or even Hebrew. Still, this Nicodemus, certainly if he was Nicodemus ben Gorion (see the biographical notes beginning on page 480) was a seasoned, well-educated, and worldly man at the same time that he was a “teacher of Israel” and a Sanhedrin member, and spoke Greek as easily as his native tongues. To support this, it may be noted that his name as given in the text is a Greek variant on an Aramaic name. And Jesus (despite the common Christian belief that he came out of very humble origins and had little if any education) was the same: he was from a well-connected patrician family, and also was a quite well-educated rabbi. I conclude that the conversation could have been in either language, and the two men could just as easily have slipped back and forth between the two, as I have many times heard multilingual residents of Canada, Europe, and Latin America do.

 

Star Riders

Star Riders:

The Aramaic Revelation Text and a Correct Identification of

the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

 

James David Audlin

 

Adapted and abridged from The Revelation to John, to be published soon by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2013,2014 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

Nonfiction by James David Audlin

 

 

Two of Zechariah’s visions are often proposed as source material here, though they have little in common with John’s vision except that horses and the number four are mentioned, as well as colors that partly correspond. In Zechariah 1:8-11 the prophet sees by night a man under myrtle trees, astride a red horse, with red, sorrel, and white horses behind him: perhaps one of each color but it could also be a large group of horses. The man tells the prophet that “they”, presumably the horses, were sent out by YHWH to walk about the earth and report. And in Zechariah 6:1-8 the prophet sees four chariots pulled respectively by red, black, white, and dappled horses. The latter is specifically four sets of horses rather than a group, and the colors are closer to those of the four horses in Revelation, though in a different order and including the quite ordinary horse-color of sorrel rather than the fourth horse’s anything-but-horselike color of ܝܘܪܩܐ (ywrāq), which was somewhere between blue-green and greenish-yellow. The Presbyter often shows his deep familiarity with the prophets, so certainly these two prophecies were in the back of his mind yet still they do not appear to be a direct source for this his own prophecy.

The four horsemen are usually understood, not wrongly, as four “curses” in civilization: the charismatic leader who opens up conquest, the bloodshed that follows, then the poverty and pestilence that enable usurious merchants to profit from desperation, and the inevitable “collateral damage” of victims to war and plague.

Better to understand these four horsemen we must review the classical concept of fourness associated with this material world. Besides those about to be named, there were the four cardinal directions, four traditional elements, four oceans, and four continents, among others. This fourness is, of course, prominent in the Revelation.

Empedocles (490-430 B.C.E.), on the basis of his careful observations and the work of predecessors, saw all things and events in the world in terms of constant interaction of four complements arranged in two pairs: wet and dry, hot and cold. Water is the product of wet and cold, air of wet and hot, earth dry and cold, fire dry and hot. Earth and water, having the attribute of mass, gather below (hence land and sea), and fire and air, lacking that attribute, gather above. Philo, who I conclude was the Presbyter’s teacher at the Mouseion, the great university in Alexandria, was one of several prominent Jewish scholars who believed there was no conflict between the Tanakh and Greek philosophy; Philo indeed approvingly quotes Empedocles on this very subject in his essay “On Providence”.

On Empedocles’s foundation Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.E.) proposed the humoral theory of medicine. Even though it dominated in Western medicine for two millennia, surviving well into the nineteenth century, it is largely forgotten today, which is surely why to my awareness no New Testament scholar or commentator has brought it up in this context. According to this theory four humors flow in complex patterns in all living bodies, human and those of other species. When the humors are in their proper balance, Hippocrates wrote, the overall bodily system is in good health; when that balance is lost sickness results and, in the extreme, death. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) and, after John’s lifetime, Galen further developed this theory, as did many others over the centuries.

These four humors are φλεγμα (phlegm), αιμα (blood), χολη (yellow bile), and μελαν χολη (black bile). They are associated with the four seasons, respectively beginning with winter; with the traditional four elements: water, air, fire, and earth; with four classical planets: the moon, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn; and with four primary colors, white, red, yellow, and black. These groups of four do not match in exact order the descriptions of the four horsemen, but they are very close.

Another cultural factor that would have been in John’s mind is the four colors can be associated with leprosy. I refer not to what is called leprosy today, which is an entirely different disease, but what the Bible means when it speaks of צרעת (tzaraath). This malady was the outward manifestation of an essentially spiritual affliction: Rabbi Shimson Raphael Hirsch insightfully points out that Exodus 21:19 advises someone who develops the symptoms not to see a doctor, as the Torah usually does, but a priest. The implication of the relevant Tanakh passages are that the disease results from selfishness, arrogation, greed, and insensitivity to the plight of others: of forgetting to “love one’s brother as oneself” (Leviticus 19:18b). In modern terms, if one seals oneself off from interaction, one’s skin grows necrotic and one’s body unhealthy, and one’s homes in which one barricade oneself with one’s possessions cultivate bacteria and fungi. The Torah specifies the earliest signs of the disease as whitened hairs or skin, and red rashes or lesions. One’s clothing and the walls of one’s house can show signs of this leprosy by turning the same green as the grass of the field – and of course, if untreated, one can eventually die of the disease, as suggested by the fourth seal.

One may also interpret the four horsemen as the four stages of the individual’s life: childhood, when one explores and discovers one’s world like a conqueror; youth, when one fights and struggles for a place in society; maturity, when one is in charge of the merchanting of whatever one sells; and old age, when one decays and dies. In this sense the four are about how the κοσμος, the cosmos, as John calls the human world, takes us over and grinds us down until we fit without remonstrance into the machine of mutual exploitation – even learning to love the bars that shut us in, the system that exploits us when we are valuable and kicks us to the ditch when we are not.

But there is nothing in the text to suggest a temporal cause-and-effect consecutiveness to these four; that is an assumption arising from the modern categorical imperative. John may have intended them as temporally consecutive, one leading to the next, but we do not know that. The four might just as well be four contemporaneous figure or forces. This fits with their most likely scriptural source, Leviticus 26:14-33, Jeremiah 15:2-3, and Ezekiel 14:21, which list exactly the several deaths that the horsemen bring as coming to those who do not listen to God. Better put, most likely the Presbyter saw these four at once, in the same place in the field of the vision, and only described them consecutively because that is the nature of written description.

These four horsemen are no doubt a depiction of what John actually saw with spiritual sight as he looked up at the stars in this night of visions. It should therefore not be difficult to determine what exactly he was observing as he saw the vision of these four horsemen, and what the sight meant to him.

There were several planets aloft that night. In the early evening, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury were in close conjunction setting to the west. Saturn remained aloft much of the night in the constellation Virgo. Mars, the obvious choice for the second, red horse, was to rise in the hours before dawn, well after the others, except Saturn, had all disappeared. And the others are not usually associated with a particular color as is Mars. There simply is no obvious way that the planets of that night can be seen as inspiring the Four Horsemen.

And so we turn to stars instead. There certainly cannot be many configurations that comprise only a white, red, black, and green star.

The first thing we must realize is that the green of the fourth horse has nothing directly to do with its rider, Death, and its companion, Sheol. The Aramaic color ܝܘܪܩܐ (ywrāq) encompassed what for us modern Westerners is the range between blue-green and greenish-yellow. It was, in short, the color of vegetation in all its variations, thus including the deep dark hue of some tree leaves and needles and the bright chartreuse of wildgrasses, as well as the yellow cast they take in dry seasons. Vegetation of course is living, and so this color has no intrinsic association with Death. The Textus Receptus, lacking a Greek word that embraced this full range of vegetative hues, translated ܝܘܪܩܐas χλωρος (chlōros), which focuses on the greenish-yellow end of the above spectrum.

Modern commentators, not ancient, often try to get around the problem of unrelation between the color and death by suggesting that John chose this color because it is that of decaying corpses. Perhaps it is the shade of decomposition, but that doesn’t get around the fact that the ancient Greeks thought of the word mainly in association with not dead things but living things, most often verdure. In the dictionaries the word is associated with young shoots, and by extension (without reference to color) with the human qualities of “fresh” and by further extension “young” and “lively”. Homer describes both honey and a nightingale as χλωρος. It appears only a couple of times in the classical literature to describe victims of a plague, but even this unusual usage does not mean death, let alone rotting corpses. Indeed, the three other times χλωρος appears in the New Testament, at Mark 6:39 and twice more in Revelation itself, at 8:7 and 9:4, it always refers to living greenery. In any case, we must not forget that what John wrote was ܝܘܪܩܐ and not χλωρος, and the Aramaic word has no associations with death. In the Peshitta Bible, both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament, it always refers to verdure, especially grass.

We encounter the same basic problem with the color of the third horse. John says it is ܐܘܟܡܐ (ˀwkamā), which is usually translated as “black”. For moderns black is the total absence of color, but it was classically understood not as without color but as with much more color than usual, because dyeing a fabric very dark took a lot of saturating with costly dyes, as well as much time and expertise. Hence black (really very dark blue or purple) garments – the ܐܪܓܘܢܐ or πορφυρας of Revelation 17:4 and 18:12,16 – were worn only by the rich.

In fact, just as for us moderns χλωροςis not a color, so too the ancient Greeks and Semites did not conceive of blue as an actual discrete color; so conclude several scholars of color perception, beginning with William E. Gladstone (Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age). Homer speaks of the sea as wine-dark and the sky as bronze (i.e., shining like metal), not blue. The aforementioned Empedocles, also a color theorist, names only black, white, χλωρος, and red as colors. The Greek word κυάνεος (kyaneos, “cyan”), often translated as “blue”, really means “very dark”, and is a synonym for μελας (melas), what the Greek in 6:5 calls the color of the third horse. The color blue never appears in the Bible, Jewish or Christian: in the Tanakh the Hebrew word סַפִּיר (sapir, “sapphire”), though sometimes rendered as “blue”, really is a form of green, and תְּכֵ֫לֶת (tekeleth) a form of purple.

My sense of the matter is that we think of blue and black as two different colors, but to the ancients they were the same color, with what we call blue being the color of the sky by day and what we call black being the color of the sky by night: the latter sky, you might say, being more deeply dyed. Likewise, even moderns, if they look closely at the fur of a black horse will see that it is not black exactly, but a very deep blue color; I personally have many times seen horses that were a sleek blue-black in color. And I have met many men and women from Africa whose skins are so black that they appear blue – John inevitably had encountered some of these truly beautiful people too.

Besides all this, logic comes to our aid. If John was observing four stars in the night sky as these four horses, then he could not have seen a black star. While there are such things as black stars – both the burned-out remains of formerly shining stars and the so-called black holes, whose gravitation is so great that no radiation, including light, can escape them. If it was not a black star, then John must have been looking at a deep blue star.

Since green in first-century Greek and Aramaic is neither a horse-color nor a death-color, and since deep blue is not easily understood as a horse-color, we are forced to conclude with a simpler explanation: that John put down these colors not to be abstrusely symbolic but simply because they are the colors he saw. Which means they are the colors of the stars he saw.

And that brings us to a difficulty, but a felicitous one. There are white, red, and blue stars aplenty in the night sky, but the fourth horse, the fourth star, being green, is generally understood as an impossibility. Stars are by nature close to the ideal “black body” of physics, which by definition absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation. Therefore, in accordance with Planck’s Law, each star emits black-body radiation that is of a certain color wavelength depending on the star’s actual temperature at thermal equilibrium. The physics dictate that all stars have colors in the range of red, orange, yellow, white, and light blue. A handful of light blue stars appear green by an optical illusion thanks to a nearby red star in their multiple star systems; Antares B and Almach provide examples.

Yet there is one and only one star that is often described as intrinsically green, and not because it is bathed in the light of a nearby red star – and, since the colors of the other three horses (white, red, and blue) are common star colors, we must seek this unique star as the means by which we can with certainty identify the four horses of John’s vision.

The genuinely green star is called Zuben Eschamali (or β Libræ), in the constellation Libra. The name comes from the Arabic الزبن العقرب (al-zuban al-šamāliyya), meaning “the Northern Claw”, because in ancient Mediterranean cultures from the Babylonian to the Roman, and including the Semitic and Greek, this constellation was sometimes seen as a scorpion – a creature that will figure prominently later in the Revelation.

There is some recent controversy over whether this star is green or blue-white, but Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, one of the most reliable standard references, quotes two earlier scholars William T. Olcott as saying it is the only green star visible to the naked eye, and T. H. Webb’s description of its “beautiful pale-green hue”. The latter word choice is interesting, since English translations put the fourth horse’s color into English as either “pale” or “green”. Another leading astronomer, James B. Kaler, states a growing consensus that its color may indeed have been green in the past but that for some reason it has relatively recently changed to blue-white.

Adding to the sense that this star represents the fourth horse of John’s vision, it displays a regular variation in magnitude that must be caused by a companion star not yet actually seen from Earth. This dark, mysterious companion star could be the one John calls Sheol and says is following behind the green horse – but that raises a provocative question. Was John simply seeing the stars of night and the visions were to a large degree the product of his cultural worldview and his imagination, or was he actually seeing, presumably by God’s will, the dark companion star that to date the best telescopes have not yet detected? Another question is whether this unseen companion is a burned-out star or even a black hole.

The other three stars in Libra are Zuben Elgenubi, “the Southern Claw, which is white; Zuben Elakrab, “the Shears of the Scorpion”, which is orange-red, and Iota Libræ, which is blue. Starting with Zuben Elgenubi, the colors are a perfect match with those of the four horses in John’s vision. And what is more they form, depending on how you observe it, the shape of a kite or box – but since the ancient astronomers such as Ptolemy saw the constellations not so much as areas but as lines, they form something more like a cross.

Next, these four stars make up a constellation often associated in ancient times with a scorpion. The word for “scorpion” in Aramaic is ܥܩܪܒܐ (ˁqrbˀ). The roots of this word suggest grabbing hold of one by the heel, to follow one closely, to take one’s place in public office. In short, the name of this constellation well fits Paul, who grabbed hold of Jesus’s public image and sought to succeed him (and surpass him) as the leader of the religion he, Paul, and not Jesus, founded. In the commentary to 6:2 I will discuss the probable identity of the first horseman as that of Paul.

Note also that the same Aramaic word, vocalized a little differently, is the word for “soldier”. The first two of these four horsemen are portrayed with soldier imagery. And, as we will with scorpions, we will see much more of soldiers as this vision continues.

Finally, note that the classical Mediterranean cultures also often associated this constellation with the balance-scales. In Aramaic the balance-scales are called ܡܐܣܬܐ (messəṯā), which is of course the equivalent name for this constellation. That very word appears in verse 6:5, the balance-scales in the hand of the third horseman, and I cannot help but think John looking at the constellation we call Libra inspired that element in the vision.

 

6:2 – One school of thought is that the first horseman is to be understood as Jesus. No less than Irenæus, student of John the Presbyter’s student Polycarp, was the first to make this suggestion. Jesus is similarly described as wearing a wreath in 14:14, though his is described as golden, and as astride a white horse in 19:11-12. (While usually translated as “crown”, a later accoutrement of European kings, the word in both Aramaic and Greek refers to a wreath, which would be bestowed in ceremonies of acclaim on military and sporting victors as wcan should be understood as Jesus is found in the Aramaic.) The phrase ܤܘܤܝܐ ܚܘܪܐ (sūsyā ḥawrā), usually taken to mean “a white horse”, can also be rendered, according to J. Payne Smith’s dictionary, as “a yearling lamb tending the sick”, an image of Jesus, the lamb of God (John 1:36) to be sacrificed at Passover, healing the sick.

However the text is clear that this first figure is not acclaimed by God but more allowed or suffered by God for a limited period of time. The description of this first horseman is in direct parallel with the three that follow, such that, if this were indeed Jesus, then we would have to wonder why one good figure is juxtaposed with three evil figures. Indeed, the concept of fourness in reference to the earth, this physical realm, was so universal in the classical age that we must take these four horsemen as a unit, as sharing all essential characteristics. There can be no division into one versus three. Thus all four are forms of scourges visited upon the earth.

This first image has often been compared to that of a Parthian horseman. A few centuries before John’s lifetime the Parthians (whose homeland is now northeastern Iraq) had developed some fearsome military innovations, including armored archers mounted on white Parthian horses, just as described here. Western history, which is focused on Greece and Rome, tends to ignore the great Parthian Empire, which from the century before John to the century after they were Rome’s main enemy. At the same time that the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria in 721 B.C.E., new Semitic populations sprang up in Parthia and nearby countries, suggesting a massive displacement of Israelites; no wonder that these Parthians spoke a tongue very close to Hebrew, and that among them was a sizable and influential Jewish population. After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., Babylonia in the Parthian realm became the center of Judaism for the subsequent millennium. No wonder Josephus originally composed his Jewish Wars in Aramaic so Parthian Jews would be able to read it.

The Parthian Empire invaded Judæa in 40 B.C.E. and briefly ruled it, forcing Rome to hold its nose and put Herod the Great on the Jewish throne – and Herod like a juggler managed to maintain friendly relations with the two implacable empires, Rome and Parthia. How could he do this? A scholar named István Horvát (1784–1846) reached the conclusion that Herod accomplished this feat because he was himself of Parthian Scythian ancestry. Horvát goes even further, saying Paul of Tarsus too was of the same blood. These conclusions have been almost universally ignored; only a few scholars bother to dismiss them, though never by providing solid counterevidence. Nevertheless, this always meticulous Romanian polymath deserves to be taken seriously, since a number of facts suggest he may have been correct.

Paul was almost certainly a Herodian, part of the religious-political movement that embraced descendants of King Herod who were determined to be accepted as Jews. Paul greets his kinsman named Herodian in Romans 16:11, and Josephus appears to refer to him as Saulus, “a kinsman of (Herod) Agrippa” (Antiquities 20:9:4). Robert Eisenman further strengthens the case in an excellent article, “Paul as Herodian” (JHC 3:1, Spring 1996). Paul spoke Syro-Chaldæan, the lingua franca of Parthia (Acts 21:40 and 26:14). He was from the city of Tarsus, which though never within the Parthian Empire was originally called Parthenia, suggesting its Parthian heritage. And he declared himself (Philippians 3:5) a descendant “of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews”. The Tribe of Benjamin is often associated with Parthia, and the royal family of Afghanistan (in the first century part of the Parthian Empire) claims to this day to be descended from that line. The name “Hebrew” literally comes from הַנָּהָר עֵבֶר, “from the far side of the Euphrates”, traditionally referring to when Abraham crossed it, and in the first century that river was the agreed-upon border between the Roman and Parthian empires; Paul, who often made words dance to his tune of equivocation, may well have been saying truthfully that his family had originated in the Parthian Empire beyond the Euphrates, while letting his readers assume he meant to say his ancestors were Judæans, which they were not.

In sum, the description of the first horseman goes far to suggest the Presbyter had Paul in mind. At I John 2:18,22 and 4:3, and II John 7 John calls Paul the αντιχριστος, the “anti-Christ”. The English prefix “anti-” denotes active opposition or hostility, but this is a shift in meaning away from the Greek prefix αντι-, which suggests something more like mirror reversal: identical but backwards. John invented the word to describe Paul as an opposite-but-equal-to alternative to Jesus – as a kind of would-be messiah himself using the real Messiah as the sheep’s clothing over the fox, to drape himself in the garb of authenticity.

From the perspective of this understanding of verse 6:2, its doubles entendres come into sharper focus. The phrase ܤܘܤܝܐ ܚܘܪܐ (sūsyā ḥawrā) overtly means “a white horse” but implicitly “a yearling lamb tending the sick” – something Paul never did, even though he was reminded to do so at the so-called Council of Jerusalem in 49 or 50. And the wreath the figure is given suggests that yes, John concedes that Paul has won the battle for supremacy, turning the Jewish movement centered on Jesus’s teachings into a new Roman-style religion: the awarding of a wreath to victors was a Roman ceremony, not a Jewish; even in declaring Paul the victor John is saying he did so by becoming a Roman and putting Jesus into a toga as well. The Presbyter’s mature “brave new theology” was in effect his response: let Paul have the wreath in this world he is so determined to win, since what matters is our living by the Logos in this world such that we will be able to enter the sacred realm, the Æon.

One critical word appears three times at the end of this verse in three different forms.

The first, ܙܟܝ (zakāy), is the adjective form, which can mean “just”, “innocent”, “righteous”, “free”, “victorious”, “deserving”, “worthy”, “entitled to (the) possession” (of something), or “having the right/authority” (to do something). This adjective is also used to describe oils and incenses that are clear, free of impurities – which is interesting in view of the remark at the end of 6:6. The second form, ܘܙܟܐ (wazakā), is the present active participle. The third form,ܘܕܢܙܟܐ (w’d’nzakā) has two prefixes “and in-order-to”) followed by the infinitive.

There are two main senses in which this word can be understood. One focuses on righteousness and overcoming, overcoming what is bad within oneself or the world, and the other is about victory and conquering, overcoming others in the world. In neither case is there a single word that in different inflections can appear all three times, so I must resort to “righteous” and “overcoming/overcome” for the one meaning, and “victorious” and “conquering/conquer” for the other.

This dual meaning is reminiscent of the Arabic word جهاد (jihad), which originally and properly refers to the inward struggle to live by God’s will and thus become the person God intended when one was created, but which has been twisted by fearmongering news media in both predominantly Muslim countries and in the West to give it the false meaning of, respectively, an unprovoked full-scale attack on innocent Western citizens and the necessity to attack the West as a defensive measure against the West’s full-frontal efforts through economic and military belligerence to destroy the essential Muslim character of those countries.

These two highly contrastive meanings of this Aramaic word suggests again, as do other elements in this verse, both the right path and the wrong path. Paul talks often in his letters about overcoming evil and being righteous, but his behavior is clearly aimed at being victorious over his (perceived) enemies, especially John, and “conquering the world for Christ”, that is, for himself. Paul could have used his obviously abundant gift for evangelizing for good, but he chose otherwise. So God will give him the wreath in this world, but ultimately he is but another scourge in this world, like the conqueror, the extorting merchant, and the plague.

 

6:5 – Given the voice calling out prices, the assumption is always that the individual with the balance-scale is a merchant, that he is using the instrument to measure out quantities of wheat and barley. But the image (if not what the voice says) is also the ancient one of a goddess holding a balance-scale. It originates in the Egyptian Ma’at and Isis and progresses through the Greek Themis and Dike, into whose hands classical artists first placed the balance-scale, and then the Roman Iustitia, who was often portrayed blindfolded and also carrying a sword to enforce her verdict. The conjunction of merchant and goddess of justice is that in most societies the wealthiest merchants also control or even are the government, such that they can make and enforce laws to protect and increase the flow of fortune into their purses. By holding the scale of justice even as he exacts exorbitant prices for basic necessary food items the third horseman is saying his prices are lawful and fair, and if you complain you will be imprisoned by his justice.

 

6:6 – The text specified in the preceding verse that the third living being (the one with a human face) invites John to “Come!” Here it says the voice of this horse rider with the balance-scale comes from among the four living beings. It is not one of the four speaking; rather, the voice comes out from among them. It is evident that these visions John is witnessing are visual only, as they should be since they are clearly stellar in nature.

What the merchant-voice says can be understood on two levels. The first is the standard rendering, in which the voice states prices, the kind of hawker’s voice John must have heard constantly not on the lonely island of Patmos but in the street outside his window in Ephesus, the kind of call I hear all the time here in Paso Ancho. In terms of that rendering, these notes: A denarius was a day’s wage for the typical working-class man. A ܩܒܐ, qabā, is equal to about 1.175 liters or 1.24 quarts, which would hardly be enough to feed that man and his family too, and leave the man no money to pay for other necessities. The word ܬܗܪ (tahar) is a command which, with the preceding negative particle, means “Do not harm”, but it also can mean, with the negative, “Do not marvel at”; the first would be a warning to the customers to keep their hands away from the costly goods; the second would be typical of a hawker’s enticement patter.

But the word ܩܒܐ also can mean “receptacle” or “enclosure”; in Arabic it means “womb”, and a sexual sense is very likely here too, since the word ܚܛܐ (ḥṭy, “wheat”) also can mean “sin”, appearing in the very early Syriac Sinaiticus text of John 1:29, in fact. The prefix ܕ (d’) attached to ܚܛܐ is ordinarily translated as “of”, such that the standard translation makes sense, “a qabā of wheat for a denarius”. But this prefix more accurately means “which” or “that”, so it actually makes more sense to render this phrase “a receptacle/womb that sins for a denarius”.

That there is a second level of meaning is apparent in the next phrase too, though it is not as clear. Scholars assume the word ܩܐܒܝܢ (qābyn) is a variation of ܩܒܐ (qabā); on one level it may be, but the Presbyter’s love for doubles entendres leads to awareness that in the related Mandaic dialect the word means “marriage contract”, and it could also be connected to ܩܒܝܐ (qabya), a round metal pot. The standard translation of ܤܥܪܐ (šˁārā) is “barley”, but it can also mean “hair” and “storm” or “whirlwind”. Jastrow writes in his dictionary that ܤܥܪܐ appears in Job 9:17 classical Aramaic is from decorous texts, scriptural or magical or poetical, so we know next to nothing about the slang and gutter speech that might be at play here. But “hair” and “storm”, at least, imply quite an exciting time for your denarius.

The seven letters in chapters 2 and 3 are freighted with John’s outrage at the wayward members of his congregations who were indulging in sexual impropriety at the urgning of a woman he calls Jezebel. This sexual undercurrent to the third seal appears to be a reprise of that outrage.

Since the other meaning of the barley phrase is unclear, my decision is not to give the second meaning of the wheat phrase. The reader is advised to recall that both phrases have a dual meaning.

 

6:8 – The standard reading of this verse is that it says the fourth rider is named ܡܘܬܐ (mawtā), Death, and that ܫܝܘܠ, Sheol follows him. The first word often carries in the classical writings the connotation of unexpected or violent death, which the latter half of the verse makes clear is the case here. And, the text goes on to say, Sheol follows behind the horseman Death. Sheol, the Jewish-Samaritan abode of the dead, not to be confused with the later Christian dogmatic invention hell. It is discussed on page ###. Jesus told John in 1:18 that he has the key of death and Sheol, and here the lamb, Jesus, opens the seal that releases Death and Sheol.

This fourth being is allowed to kill a quarter of the world’s population by means of four deaths: in war, by famine, by plague, and by wild animals. These four deaths do not match up exactly with the nature of the first three horsemen: death by sword/slaughter sounds like the second horseman, famine and plague sound like the third horseman, but wild animals is a newly mentioned death here. This non-matchup is because John was rather recording the list of four deaths found in Leviticus 26:14-33 and Ezekiel 14:21. But the sense still is clear that all four horsemen represent various forms of untimely death. All of us in mortal vesture, to quote Shakespeare, are going to die in one way or another, and the sum of these four horsemen is that we may die to executioners, conquering armies, poverty, famine, plague, or wild creatures, but in the times that lay ahead as John wrote there was no chance of dying peacefully in our old age, because the coming years were going to be rife with dangers on all sides – and that for those striving to hold to the teachings of Jesus there was no escaping such a fate. (Ironically, John the Presbyter is recorded as being most unhappy when it was clear that he would die of old age and not to the executioner in defense of his faith; see The Gospel of John, page ###.)

The Female Beloved Disciple

Two Unnamed Disciples Named – and the Beloved One is a Woman!

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

 

By James David Audlin.  The following text comprises material from: The Works of John Restored and Translated, published by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2014 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. In fact, verse 24 is deliberately meant to identify the two disciples in verse 2: it begins ουτοςεστιν, “this is”, with the “this” clearly referring back to those two mentioned at the beginning. 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 first phrase, “This is the disciple who bears witness concerning all this”, is the signature of Mary, the Beloved Disciple, the primary eyewitness. The second phrase, “…and (this is) the one who has written these things”, refers to John the Presbyter, the amanuensis and secondary eyewitness. Therefore, these phrases give us a picture of the working relationship between the two, as discussed in the Introduction. The third phrase refers to the two of them together: “…and we (both) know that her (Mary’s) testimony is true.” The gospel would later be given seven certifications of verity similar to this one; this is the first, and in it both Mary and John here certify their certainty that Mary’s testimony is true. The gospel makes references, such as at 8:13, to the requirement in the laws of the Torah (e.g., Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15) of at least two witnesses, and any first-century Jew reading this text would instantly think of this requirement, and so Mary and John present themselves here as the two witnesses.

These two disciples are the two unnamed disciples mentioned at the end of verse 2; by in effect saying who they are here at the end this short work has an A-B-A symmetry, which of course prefigures its monumental presence in the Gospel of John.

The Greek pronouns in this verse are inspecific as to gender: either disciple could be of either gender. But the Aramaic versions are quite different in this regard. Verse 24 in the early Codex Syriac Sinaiticus says:

 

ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ ܕܐܣܗܕ ܥܠ ܗܠܝܢ ܘܟܬܒ ܐܢ̈ܝܢ ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܐܢܚܢܢ ܕܫܪܝܪܐ ܗܝ ܣܗܕܘܬܗ

 

This disciple (is) the one who witnessed about these (things), and also (this is the disciple who) has written them. And we know that she, the first one, (has testified) true testimony.

 

The personal pronoun referring back to the disciple who giving the testimony, the Beloved Disciple, ܗܝ (), without question means “she”. And the somewhat later Peshitta reads:

 

ܗܢܘ ܬܠܡܝܕܐ ܕܐܣܗܕ ܥܠ ܗܠܝܢ ܟܠܗܝܢ ܘܐܦ ܟܬܒ ܐܢܝܢ ܘܝܕܥܝܢ ܚܢܢ ܕܫܪܝܪܐ ܗܝ ܣܗܕܘܬܗ

 

This disciple witnessed about all these (things); also (this is the disciple who) has written them. We know that she (has testified) true testimony.

 

Again the same feminine pronoun. While the sense of the verse is on the whole identical to the Greek, no surviving Greek text has anything like a feminine pronoun here. Since the wording of these two Aramaic texts is slightly different but in nothing important, they have to be based on an earlier text that does not survive that specifically said the Beloved Disciple was a “she”. There are no specifically feminine pronouns in the Greek of this period, so no way to say she has testified true testimony or her testimony is true. This strongly suggests not a Greek but an Aramaic original behind the the two texts cited above, which were modified in slightly different ways by the copyists who prepared them.

Given the facts of the text, it is astonishing to me that every major translation of the Codex 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. Since most New Testament scholars rely on these translations, being unacquainted with the Aramaic language, the fact of this feminine pronoun has not been properly studied.

 

 

The Aramaic Revelation

By James David Audlin. Drafts for the introduction to the restoration of the original Aramaic text of The Revelation to John, to be published in 2015 by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2014 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 all but certain that the Revelation was composed in Aramaic; the most obvious reason among others is that the Greek text is riddled with grammatical mistakes, nearly all of which turn out to be good grammar in Aramaic. This is a clear sign that the scribe who put it into Greek was so filled with piety for the holy, inspired work in front of him that he rendered it with slavish literality, preferring to translate it so exactly that his Greek syntax suffered to the point of frequent near-incomprehensibility. So verbatim is this translation that to anyone familiar with both languages it has the same clumsy clunkiness of a text translated by computer. Unfortunately, this putative original author’s version in Aramaic does not survive. But the good news is that the Greek Textus Receptus must be very close to that original, and, where it is difficult to follow, the solution should be found by consulting the best and earliest Aramaic text we have, the so-called Crawford Revelation.

It is also a near certainty that this best and earliest Aramaic text is not a direct translation from the Greek. The Crawford manuscript (so named for a previous owner) is the oldest complete New Testament in Aramaic; by “complete” I mean that it includes the Antilegomena (II Peter, II and III John, and Jude) and the Revelation, works which for centuries were not part of the New Testament in Eastern Christianity. In fact, the Crawford includes the earliest extant Aramaic version of the Revelation. In its entirety, especially in the Revelation, this Syriac manuscript displays an eloquent, literary, often explicitly poetic, and virtually flawless Aramaic. Moreover, when the Crawford New Testament quotes the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament), the wording clearly comes from a Semitic original, either the Hebrew Bible or the Aramaic Targum, and not from the Greek version, the Septuagint. And also, no Greek text or combination of Greek texts could possibly be the original behind the Crawford Revelation. Thus it overstrains credulity to believe that an Aramaic original of presumably high literary quality was translated into inferior Greek, which was then back-translated into beautiful Aramaic.

For the most part the Crawford and the standard Greek text of Revelation agree in meaning, and that is an important consideration; the latter, as a direct translation of the lost Aramaic original, must be consulted in any effort to establish that original. Still, there are many significant differences between the two that strongly suggest the Crawford does not rely on the Greek. Indeed, when compared to the Crawford, the Textus Receptus displays another fault: the translator’s decision to mirror the Aramaic in the Greek ran into a problem when he came upon Aramaic words that had no exact Greek equivalent, and so he was forced to make up some kind of approximation in Greek.

For instance, in the very first chapter, in verse 13, the Crawford says the figure is wearing an ܐܲܦܼܘܼܕܼܵܐ (ˀăpūḏā), an ephod, the breastplate traditionally worn by the high priests in the Temple, but the Greek incorrectly says instead that the figure is ενδεδυμενον ποδηρη, “clothed to the feet”. If the scribe responsible for the Crawford had been basing it on the Greek, he would have simply translated “clothed to the feet” into Aramaic, for there is nothing in that phrase that even hints at the ephod. Only if he were endowed with the most astonishing parapsychological powers could he have known to put down ܐܲܦܼܘܼܕܼܵܐ for ενδεδυμενον ποδηρη.

What is not clear is the relationship between these two Aramaic texts, the lost original and the Crawford. The author’s draft of the Revelation was written down in the year 68, and the Crawford manuscript dates to the twelfth century, more than a millennium later. It would thus be foolish to say it is a faithful copy of the Presbyter’s original text, or something close to it, or that it is the source for the Greek Textus Receptus, as does one Crawford translator, David Bauscher.

Some scholars think the Crawford New Testament may be, or may be closely related to, the Philoxenian (completed in 508) or Harklean New Testaments, which may or may not be the same thing; I think not, since what we have of these versions (completed respectively in 508 and 616) is heavily influenced in vocabulary and text by the Greek, and the Crawford shows not the least sign of such influence.

First, we must remember that during those twelve hundred years Eastern Christianity had virtually no interest in the Revelation: it was for that communion not even part of the New Testament canon, and so no wonder that, though a plethora of Eastern theological texts and hymns survive, there is very little that even might be based on the apocalyptic imagery of the Revelation.

Second, the shelf life of manuscripts was usually far shorter than a millennium; they often were destroyed by fire, mold, worms, political tyrants, or (worse) self-appointed theological censors and santizers. In fact, it is a miracle that we have as many New Testament manuscripts as we do, and we must not forget that they are but a tiny (and very likely in some ways unrepresentative and even misleading) portion of all the manuscripts that were produced, to say nothing of the far greater provenance of oral witness, in a day when oral witness was not only much more common but generally more trusted (see The Gospel of John, pages 219-21). Therefore, the chain of manuscripts that led to the Crawford had to comprise a minimum of links, and in every generation of copies only one or a very few copies must have been made. Since it is a basic fact in the study of ancient manuscripts that the more copies the greater the number of textual variations, this situation tells us that over the centuries there was far less possibility of multiple versions than in the West, where the Greek (and later Latin) copies were in such abundance that the number of variant readings for nearly every New Testament verse is bewildering. In turn, the small chance of variant readings in the Syriac Aramaic Revelation over these twelve centuries maximizes the possibility of the Crawford being reasonably faithful to its predecessors.

Put another way, the fact that we have not even a single stepping stone of textual evidence between the original manuscript of Revelation and the Crawford Revelation actually is far from a fatal blow to any theory that the two are related. In fact, it tells us something extremely important: that the number of generations of copies between them – each of which could easily result in some straying here and there from the original text; indeed, even a lot of straying – is decidedly small. There is always that chance, be it great or small, that the Crawford was copied directly from the autograph or an early and faithful copy thereof.

There are internal clues in the Crawford. For the most part, it is equivalent to the much later Peshitta version, but clearly with added corrections. Sometimes the Crawford text simply reads differently from the Peshitta as if it were at such a point copied directly from another manuscript unlike the Peshitta. Sometimes we find a corrected word squeezed into the available space after the incorrect Peshitta word was scraped away by the scribe. Sometimes, when the corrections would not fit within the body of the text, we find them added in the margin, together with notes regarding their proper placement, as in verse 2:23.

Therefore, a reasonable guess is that the Crawford was made by consulting two earlier manuscripts. One must have resembled the Peshitta text, and this one was the main one used for simply copying text. The other was one that was carefully compared by the same or another scribe to the Peshitta-type text, and where it differed from the latter, he saw to it that the Crawford followed this non-Peshitta-type manuscript. The fact that the Crawford was not simply copied from this better non-Peshitta manuscript but the less correct Peshitta-type text suggests that the latter was more recent and therefore sturdy enough to withstand constant daily use required by the copying process, and the other, better, text that was the source of the corrections was fragile – too fragile to use on a constant basis as a base text, but that still be carefully consulted for purposes of comparison and correction. This scenario suggests that the better manuscript was far older than the one used simply for copying.

Of course it is possible that the older, better manuscript was the autograph or something very close to it. But we must not leap to that conclusion. Arguing against such a claim is the presence of obvious interpolations, such as the one in verse 1:7 that comes from Matthew 24:30, a gospel that was not written for quite a few years after the Revelation was first composed. Certainly this interpolation may be present in the Crawford simply because it was found in both the source manuscript and the correction manuscript. On the other hand, any number of scenarios could explain why the scribe might retain such interpolations even if he found them only in his source (Peshitta-type) manuscript: for instance, because they were by then considered authentically part of the Revelation, or because since they came from other parts of scripture (Matthew in this case) they had to be retained because they were scripture.

I think the Crawford is probably closely related to the Presbyter’s original text, but what the exact relationship might or might not be I care not to guess – and nobody knows, despite all the arguing. While I admire the many scholars and amateur enthusiasts who insist that much or all of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, I am frustrated by the energy they put into foolish rationalizations. If any canonical text was written in Aramaic, it is the Revelation, but calm and caution will serve better to establish that than histrionics. I am equally frustrated by the scholars who insist that the entire New Testament, including the Revelation, was composed in Greek, who even as they sneer at the Aramaic primacists resort to irrationally complex and hence unlikely theories to explain away the plain evidence and common-sense conclusion that the Crawford is related to the autograph.

My conclusion that both the Crawford and the Greek Textus Receptus are close to the autograph, though in different ways. Therefore my decision is to base the reconstruction herein of the original text primarily on the Crawford – not only is it the only Syriac manuscript of Revelation that is not overtly a translation from the Greek, but it is a work of extremely high literary quality. As a close second to the Crawford my approximation is founded on the Greek Textus Receptus, and tertiarily on the standard Syriac version that is now (but was not originally) part of the Peshitta New Testament, referred to henceforth simply as the Peshitta.

 

There is more discussion and explanation of the Aramaic original in my commentaries to this work than of Greek in the commentaries in the previous volumes. Even though presumably most readers read neither Greek nor Aramaic, they are still more familiar with the Greek language, which as an ancestor of most Western European tongues has contributed a vast number of words to them: the modern speaker of English is talking in Greek far more often than he or she realizes. What is more, modern Westerners are the children of the Greek world. Its philosophers, poets, and historians are the founders of their culture, and the Græco-Roman way of viewing the world in the first centuries of the common era still pertains today as normative: like those Greek philosophers, the modern Westerner has a sense of self as somewhat divorced from its surroundings, in which the individual takes precedence over the people, and in which one must compete with one’s fellows rather than coöperate with them for the greater good. The Bible, though written almost entirely by Semitic people, is read and interpreted through an exclusively Greek perspective, from which God and heaven are hope distant in time and space (if not nonexistent for them) and Satan or at least evil, seen as a puissant force of malevolence nurtured in the hearts of everyone they hate, is constantly besieging them and requiring a doughty defense using the same methods used by these others.

Thus to do my job adequately well I must hold up as often as I can a Semitic lens to this text, and one important way to do this is by discussing the original language of the text to enable the reader to have a better sense of its meaning for the author and his original readers.

Indeed, I think John the Presbyter was very conscious of these two extremely different worlds. His earlier works, with the probable exception of the short letter called II John, and most prominently the Gospel of John, were originally written in Greek – excellent Greek to be sure, but still a foreign language to him. John was taught the tools of logic and historical analysis by Philo in Greek, but he was taught about life and God by Jesus in Aramaic. John wrote Greek well, but he did his deepest thinking in his mother tongue, Aramaic.

Why then, after decades of composing great works almost exclusively in Greek, did the Presbyter on Patmos and ever after write his last major works, the Revelation and the Songs of the Perfect One, in Aramaic? In short, his earlier Greek works brought Jesus to the world, but his later Aramaic works brought the world to Jesus.

John’s Greek writings were immediately intelligible to most people in the eastern Mediterranean region and a large plurality in the Italian peninsula and to its west as well. But what these readers were reading were translations: they were John’s best approximation in Greek of Jesus’s teachings in Aramaic, and so the sublime wisdom was inevitably distorted to a degree. His last works would have been comprehensible to only a very few outside the communities of Jews and Samaritans in Judæa and the surrounding countryside, and in the cities of the Diaspora, such as Alexandria, Ephesus, and Rome – but no more. Still, these works were the truth: they were lenses without defect, letting through directly and ideally the light of Jesus’s teachings, which John believed was given to Jesus by God.

John’s first works were also in what were familiar formats in the pervasive Græco-Roman civilization. His gospel was structurally modelled on classical plays, Platonic dialogues, and histories. They use the Greek mind-tools of logic and reason. But his last works were not only linguistically but culturally foreign to the imperial world. The Greeks and Romans as individuals and as a culture believed in seizing power and using it to take advantage of others before they did the same thing to you, but faithful Jews and Samaritans sought to love their neighbors as themselves; they saw holiness and deity as extremely vividly present in their daily lives, as more present to them than even this mundane world, more present to them than even themselves: with every breath they inhaled the ruach of God and exhaled the sacred name YHWH. Thus at the climax of his first great work in Aramaic, when in Revelation 21:1-3 John saw heaven coming down to be united with earth, he was seeing the Semitic way being imposed upon the Greek way: heaven as no longer far away, God no longer as just a distant concept, but coming down to earth and wiping away all the tears of pain and grief.

So John’s shift to Aramaic was a shift from adjusting Jesus’s teachings to fit the Greek world (the Gospel of John) to expecting the world to adjust to Jesus’s teachings (the Revelation and the Songs). The world might or might not do so – but, to adopt Ezekiel’s analogy, John’s responsibility was only to blow the warning bugle; if the world ignored his clarion alarm, it was the world’s fault, not John’s.

The Presbyter’s “return to his roots” is also intimately related to a fundamental change in his central philosophy, as has been discussed elsewhere in this group of books. John, together with Simon the Rock (Peter) and James the Just (Jesus’s brother) had originally expected Jesus to retire from the world stage for a time, while they spread his teachings far and wide, among the Semitic peoples and the Greeks and Romans as well; and then Jesus would come back and lead a peaceful revolution of his followers to overthrow and replace the evil Roman Empire with an earthly approximation of God’s sacred realm, the Æon. This, of course, is the original sense of the “immediate parousia”; the word παρουσια refers to a king coming in full pomp and splendor to review the troops after they have won the war, to receive from them power over the newly conquered territory.

But Jesus (as discussed for instance in The Gospel of John at pages 1039-40) was in terrible physical condition following his crucifixion, and eventually he with Mary relocated in Rome and then Gaul (ibid., pages 208-18). Furthermore, a man known both as Saul and Paul, who had never even met Jesus, let alone discipled with him, had single-handedly taken nearly complete control of the Jesus movement, teaching Jesus as a Roman-style incarnated godling in a spiritual body not subject to the pain or desires of human flesh, and assuring gentile converts that Jesus did not require them to obey the laws of the Torah. Paul also urged docile obedience to the imperial hegemony, and vehemently dismissed Simon, James, and especially John as hypocritical charlatans. And Paul’s highly evangelistic followers were actively seeking converts among John’s own congregations (as the seven letters in the Revelation attest), even sometimes arranging their arrest or execution (as the Revelation letters suggest Paul himself did to John; see ibid., pages 255-57) such that the number of those who held to the original teachings of Jesus as imparted by John was rapidly and significantly shrinking. Given these two contextual realities, to say nothing of the adamant might of the Roman Empire, the possibility of Jesus establishing a heavenly kingdom on earth would be impossible.

Struggling with this issue, John eventually settled on what I call his “brave new theology” (ibid., pages 362-70), in which the troops were Jesus’s teaching and the new territory not on land but the soul of the individual, and the objective was to persuade each person who encountered this teaching to live in accordance with God’s Logos, God’s perfect plan and natural law for the unfolding of the universe, such that individual by individual the Æon would be established – not as a territory but as a people. And thus the παρουσιαwas the individual’s welcoming of God and God’s appointed emissary-son, the Master Jesus, into one’s soul. This “brave new theology” is expressed in the later chapters of the gospel, but it it is at the heart of the Revelation and the Songs of the Perfect One – and, written in Aramaic, they come from John’s heart and ultimately from Jesus’s heart, and challenge the reader to adjust him- or herself to these teachings, not to read them as already adjusted to one’s own language and culture, as watered down and made palatable to questionable foreign ways.

Ironically, this idealistic hope on John’s part that he could open the Græco-Roman world up to the Semitic spirituality was in vain. The Revelation was blatantly reinterpreted in a Greek way, as some kind of Sibylline Oracle, as something mad spouted by a priestess at Delphi drunk on poisonous fumes venting from deep caverns. Today the book is smothered under two millennia of misunderstanding, widely used by religious leaders as a fear-eliciting tool to keep the faithful masses under their thumb and providing them with money and power out of dread of an end-of-the-world scenario that has always been just around the corner for two thousand years. And the Songs of the Perfect One – with their very physical Jesus coïtally and spiritually one with his wife Mary, so contrary to the Pauline dogma of Jesus as God in a spiritual body free from human desires – were not banned, which would have encouraged covert attention to them, were not burned, which would have sent copies into hiding, but simply labelled as uninstructive and uninteresting, so they would be destroyed by time: languishing forgotten on dusty back sheles until every copy had moldered or been consumed by worms. This brilliant move very nearly succeeded: today very few manuscripts survive of the Songs, part of the first song and all of the second are utterly lost to time, and only a handful of specialists (and a few dedicated if wacky New Age writers) have even looked at this last and most sublime work of the Presbyter.

 

Mary Magdalene as Author

Mary Magdalene as Author:

II John and Revelation 3:14-22 as Responses to the “Problem of Paul”

 James David Audlin

 Adapted from The Writings of John Restored and Translated,

to be published summer 2014 by Editores Volcán Barú,

with references to The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volumes I and II,

already in publication by Editores Volcán Barú.

Copyright © 2013,2014 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 last of the famous seven letters in the early chapters of John the Presbyter’s Revelation is addressed to the congregation in Laodicea. But where Jesus is the putative author of the first six, this one appears to be from another source. Let us look at Revelation 3:14, not only at the Greek, but also at the Aramaic version from the Peshitta, which can help us approximate the original version, which the evidence suggests John wrote in Aramaic – for instance, that the “bad grammar” of the Greek version is consistent, and would be good grammar in Aramaic. My theory is that the Presbyter, writing down his vision quickly lest he lose any details, wrote in his first language, Aramaic. Later someone else, whose Greek was not as good as his, translated that Aramaic rather too literally, hence the “bad grammar”, into the Greek of the Textus Receptus.

ܘܲܠܡܲܠܲܐܟܼܵܐ ܕܿܥܼܕ̱ܿܬܿܵܐ ܕܿܠܲܐܝܼܕܼܼܝܩܼܝܲܐ ܟܿܬܼܘܼܒܼ܃ ܗܵܟܼܲܢܵܐ ܐܵܡܲܪ <ܐܘܡܢܐ>܃ ܣܵܗܕܿܵܐ ܡܗܲܝܡܢܵܐ ܘܫܲܪܼܝܪܵܐ܃ ܘܪܼܫܼܝܬܼܵܐ ܕܿܲܒܼܪܼܝܬܼܸܗ ܕܿܲܐܠܵܗܵܐ܂

 

και τω αγγελω της εν λαοδικεια εκκλησιας γραψον ταδε λεγει ο <αμων> και ο μαρτυς ο πιστος και ο αληθινος και η αρχη της κτισεως του θεου

 

And to the angel in the congregation of Laodicea write: Thus says the <Amon>, the witness faithful and true: the firstfruit (reshith) of the creation of God:

 

L. H. Silberman suggests that “the Amen” in the Greek Textus Receptus may be a misreading of אָ֫מ֥וֹן (amōn) in Hebrew, or ܐܘܡܢܐ (umānu) in Aramaic. This is the term for the female “master worker” in Proverbs 8:30, who is God’s “intense delight” (שַׁעְשֻׁ֫עַ; shaashuah); that is, God’s spouse. She was indeed the “firstfruit” (רֵאשִׁית, reshith) of God’s creation (Proverbs 8:22).

Chapter 8 of Proverbs is Wisdom (חָכְמָה; Hokhma), incarnate as a woman, speaking to humanity. Proverbs 8:22 says God acquired (קָ֭נָנִי; qānāni) her as the first of God’s works, and that verb is the one Eve uses in Genesis 4:1 to say she has “acquired” a son, with the help not of Adam!, but, she says, of God. Proverbs is drawing an analogy between Wisdom being created by God out of God and then mated to God, and Eve being created by God out of Adam and then mated to Adam. This pairing of God with his spouse is the nature of Elohim, God understood as comprising male and female aspects as one. Adam and Eve were supposed to be wholly united in the same way, but events unfolded differently; the composite male-female human was separated into a man and a woman. In the works of John the Presbyter, following the teaching of Jesus, this failure with Adam and Eve turned to success with Jesus and Mary, who were κοινωνος (sacred companion, consort, coworker, with an implied erotic connection) each to the other. They reversed the tearing-apart of the original hermaphroditic human into a separate solitary man Adam and a separate solitary woman Eve, by becoming wholly united at the resurrection into a single sacred being in Elohim’s image.

Without dismissing this understanding, derived from Silberman’s suggestion, let us turn to another explanation of “the Amen” in Revelation 3:14. It is one that appears prominently in the Gospel of John, at the resurrection. In the restored original text of that scene, Jesus and Mary each call the other “Mary”. This double entendre is founded on Mary’s name (ܡܰܪܺܝܰ) being a homonym with the Aramaic word mary, meaning “lord”, “master”, or “husband”, coming from the Egyptian word for “master”, pronounced nearly identically, mer, which has an antonym that is also its homonym, mer, “servant” – Jesus is making it clear that she is not at all less than he, a mere servant, but that she is rather “one flesh” with him (Genesis 2:24), united with him in God (John 17:23), his κοινωνος, his equal counterpart. Mary’s name originally comes from Egyptian, which was another Semitic language; Mari-Amen, “Beloved Amen”, the original name of Moses’s sister Miriam,. And this leads to another double entendre: the name of the Egyptian wind god, Amen, is virtually the same as the word for “dove”, amenu, just as, by felicitous coincidence, the Greek words πρηστηρ (“whirlwind”) and περιστερα The Writings of John cover(“dove”), significant in the scene of John’s ritual immersion by John, are near homonyms. Thus Revelation 3:14, if it is read as “Amen” (not Silberman’s “Amōn”), may be referring to Mary as God (Amen) and as the dove (amenu) that descended on Jesus.

The point of all this is that, whether we take the Wisdom explanation or the Mari-Amen explanation as intended by John the Presbyter, or (as I suspect he intended) both views, what we must conclude here is that “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” is Mary. It would be quite typical of John the Presbyter’s writings if indeed both of these explanations lie behind his use of the word.

Since by the time of this letter the Beloved Disciple had described aloud her memories of Jesus’s ministry to the Presbyter, who carefully wrote them down, Mary had probably also already shared with John, directly or else indirectly through her son Lazarus, the sacred-erotic details of her encounter with the resurrected Jesus, which no one but she could have known, which clarify their union in Elohim’s image (John 20:1-17; see the commentaries in The Gospel of John).

Philip Alexander suggests that behind the Greek of the last phrase in Revelation 3:14, η αρχη της κτισεως του θεου, is a Hebrew/Aramaic word: “the אָ֫מ֥וֹן (reshith) of the creation of God”. He is right; the Aramaic recension of this verse, given above, has this exact word reshith, ܪܼܫܼܝܬܼܵܐ, and its presence ties the Revelation verse not only to Proverbs 8:22 and 30, but also to Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 The very early Curetonian Gospels, written in Syrian Aramaic likewise have this word reshith at John 1:1 (1:1 is unfortunately missing from the even earlier Syriac Sinaiticus.) The first word of Genesis, בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (bereshith), is usually translated, incorrectly, as “In the beginning”, and sometimes, not incorrectly, 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”, and since the Torah is often called “Reshith” (probably because of this verse), they took the beginning of Genesis as saying God created the heavens and the earth with the Torah, not the physical book but the spiritual Torah.The seventh-century poet Eleazar be-Rabbi Qillir records an old tradition in which Reshith, the Torah personified as a woman, refuses to help Elohim create the universe until she is wedded to the right man, who will teach humanity the Word of God. That man is Moses. 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 and equivalent to the amōn, the reshith.

All in all, it seems abundantly clear that the seventh and final letter in Revelation is ascribed not to Jesus but to Mary – and that it is to the Laodicean congregation, whose works the text says she knows (Revelation 3:15). In the works of John, Jesus and Mary are entirely one being ever after the resurrection, therefore it is no inconsistency here that the first six letters in Revelation 2-3 are given as from Jesus and the seventh letter as from Mary.

In 68, when these letters were written, she must have still have been held in the highest esteem by the Laodiceans from when she lived among them. For there are indications in this text and elsewhere that, for a period of time, Jesus and Mary lived in Laodicea ad Lycum (“Laodicea on the Lycus”, the latter being the name of a river). This was a gorgeous city in the Roman province of Asia, what is now western Turkey. Significantly, it was a mere six miles south of Hierapolis, where John the Presbyter’s student Papias was to be appointed bishop, twelve miles northwest of Colossæ, and ninety-nine miles east of Ephesus, where lived John himself, author of this letter. The city had a considerable Jewish population since, according to the historian Josephus, Antiochus the Great had generations before relocated some two thousand Jewish families there. It was a peaceful city where the couple could live quietly and, since Jesus evidently suffered some physical problems resulting from the trauma of crucifixion (ibid., pages 1009-10), it was surely important to them that Laodicea had a medical university, praised highly by Strabo the Geographer (12:519).

Jesus’s continued presence not just on earth but for a few years at least still in the eastern Mediterranean region was apparently a secret known only to a few, mainly Peter, James, and John, the leaders of the Jerusalemite community. Clement of Alexandria (especially in his Stromateis) and Eusebius, among other early writers, confirm the existence of a strong but secret oral tradition of γνοσις (gnosis, wisdom kept in reserve) given by Jesus after his resurrection to Peter, James, and John, and this must have been during these years.

But Paul, who – as was common in those days – had his spies and informers, must have heard rumors of Jesus living in retirement in Laodicea, and must have craved this exclusive access to the gnosis. Thus Paul writes in Colossians 2:6,9-10a to his followers in nearby Colossæ:

 ως ουν παρελαβετε τον χριστον ιησουν τον κυριον εν αυτω περιπατειτε … οτι εν αυτω κατοικει παν το πληρωμα της θεοτητος σωματικως και εστε εν αυτω πεπληρωμενοι

 

Therefore, just as you have welcomed Christ Jesus the Master, walk in/with him … for in him dwells the full measure of bodily godliness and so you are made full (of godliness) in him.

 

Everybody today thinks this is mere metaphor, that Paul just means to say the Colossians have welcomed Jesus in their hearts. But verse 6 could have been quite literally saying that the Colossians welcomed Jesus to live with them, and so they should walk with him; Verse 9, speaking in Docetic terms of Jesus’s incorruptible body, uses a verb that means “inhabits” or “dwells”, and could be another hint of this illustrious presence. Interspersed with Paul’s veiled references to Jesus’s presence are several condemnations of a “philosopher” (2:8) who might criticize Paul’s followers for breaking the kosher laws of the Torah, even for eating food that had been sacrificed to Roman idols (2:16-23; cf. The Gospel of John, page 399). Clearly Paul is afraid of the influence of this “philosopher”, and wants to keep him away from his followers, and exert a monopoly over their interpretation of Jesus’s person and message. (And, again, evidently Jesus cannot do so for himself.)

But note that Paul’s phrase at the end of Colossians 2:6, εν αυτω περιπατειτε “walk in/with him” is the identical phrase found at the end of II John 6. Paul is here just about taunting John and his followers by quoting him: he is heavily implying he knows who has control of Jesus’s person, and that the Laodiceans should walk with Jesus, even as the “philosopher” has said, and not with that “philosopher”; hence, they will need first to free Jesus from the jurisdiction of that “philosopher”.

At 3:19 in the Revelation, in the letter ascribed to Mary and directed to the congregation in Laodicea, we find these memorable words:

 

ܐܸܢܵܐ ܠܲܐܝܠܸܝܢ ܕܿܪܵܚܸܡ ܐ̱ܢܵܐ ܡܲܟܸܿܣ ܐ̱ܢܵܐ ܘܪܵܕܼܸܐ ܐ̱ܢܵܐ܂ ܛܲܢ ܗܵܟܼܼܝܠ ܘܬܼܘܼܒܼ

 

εγω οσους εαν φιλω ελεγχω και παιδευω ζηλευε ουν και μετανοησον

 

Whomsoever I love, I admonish and GREEK: edify them; therefore, be zealous and transform yourself! ARAMAIC: edify them. I am zealous; therefore, never again (do as you once did)!

 

It is reasonably certain that Paul never actually met Jesus, so John does not mean here that the Laodiceans let Paul have access to Jesus. Still, this line tells us that the Laodiceans failed in some wise. Two things are likely what John meant by this comment: one is that the Laodiceans were the ones who foolishly told Paul that Jesus was living among them (and maybe even fed Paul John’s phrase εν αυτω περιπατειτε (“walk in/with him”), hence Paul’s comments in Colossians that he knew this fact; and/or that the Laodiceans accepted Paul’s theological views to some degree. Both may have been the case, but I think John alludes in Revelation 3:19 to the former, since the Greek suggests a certain specific single action in the past, and not a tendency over time that is still the case in the present time, the year 68. We have John’s letter today because his own personal copy was sent for safekeeping in Sinope; for all we know, Paul did manage to ascertain the contents of the copy that was sent to Mary, perhaps by well-meaning but foolish Laodiceans Mary equally foolishly showed it or read it to, and that is how Paul could taunt John by quoting II John in Colossians 2:6. It may even be that it was by way of this very letter that Paul learned about Jesus’s presence in Laodicea.

In II John 8, John is specific about exactly how Mary could “lose all that we have accomplished”. With a hundred miles between Ephesus, where John lived, and Laodicea, where Mary and Jesus were staying, John could not quickly step in should Paul decide to take advantage of the situation. Thus he decided a letter was necessary to advise Mary – especially if, as I theorize, Jesus was to some degree debilitated after the resurrection, and could not himself prevent his wife from inadvertently causing a great difficulty.

Paul maintained through the decades that he was an apostle fully the equal of “Peter, James, and John”, those who had actually walked with Jesus during his ministry. He built this bold assertion on the claim that, while the apostles had only known Jesus in the past, Paul knew Jesus on an ongoing basis, through visions – even though some people then and now have suspected them of being invented. Paul espoused docetistic views of Jesus, which very nicely excused the glaring fact that he never met the Master: what point would there have been in their meeting “in the flesh” if Jesus had no flesh for Paul to meet? In Romans 8:3 he says: ο θεος τον εαυτου υιον πεμψας ενομ οιωματι σαρκος αμαρτιας (“God, sending his own son in the semblance of sinful human flesh…”). Paul says of Jesus in Philippians 2:7 with no fewer than three words of docetic import, underlined:

 

αλλ εαυτον εκενωσεν μορφην δουλου λαβων εν ομοιωματι ανθρωπων γενομενος και σχηματι ευρεθεις ως ανθρωπος

 

He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human semblance, and found human in appearance.

 

Similarly, Paul consistently taught that those who believe in Jesus as God will come back from death not in their mortal bodies but in new bodies that will be αφθαρτος (aphthartos, both “imperishable” and “incorruptible”): that is, in spiritual bodies just like the one Jesus “the first-born of the dead” already has. Here is how Paul describes it in I Corinthians 15:40a, 44a, 47, and 53:

 

και σωματα επουρανια και σωματα επιγεια … σπειρεται σωμα ψυχικον εγειρεται σωμα πνευματικον … ο πρωτος ανθρωπος εκ γης χοικος ο δευτερος ανθρωπος εξ ουρανου … δει γαρ το φθαρτον τουτο ενδυσασθαι αφθαρσιαν και το θνητον τουτο ενδυσασθαι αθανασιαν

 

And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies … What is sown a physical body is raised up a spiritual body. … The first man is made out of the earth, from soil; the second man (is made) out of heaven. … Indeed, it is necessary that that this, the perishable, put on the imperishable, and this, the mortal, put on immortality.

 

These Pauline letters were not yet written when John was composing this letter to Mary; I Corinthians, was sent from Ephesus, just as was the letter at hand, II John, around 55. Still, there is no doubt that this is the kind of theology Paul was preaching in 43, and John could easily have heard or heard about the other’s views. And indeed there would be several confrontations between Paul and John on this and other similar matters in the decades that lay ahead.

The writings we have by Peter and James the Just, Jesus’s brother, make it clear that they like John the Presbyter believed Paul to have more loose screws than a hardware store; cf. The Gospel of John, pages 294-95 and 398-400).

Nonetheless, for Paul the glaring issue centered on the fact that he had never actually met Jesus, and yet was claiming to Jesus’s best and only true apostle. That matter could be easily handled as long as Paul continued to emphasize his “spin” that he knew Jesus better than those other disciples because of the vaunted visions that supposedly afforded him a present relationship with Jesus, unlike “Peter, James, and John” only knowing him in the past – and as long as Jesus didn’t suddenly pop up, still around in this mundane world, and very much allied with the same three, to embarrass Paul by denying the validity of his claims.

Therefore, if “Peter, James, and John” still had a present relationship with Jesus, not through highly doubtful visions but a Jesus in the flesh, the very flesh that Paul denied he had ever had, and Paul found about this, then he was surely apprehensive of the possibility that Jesus might issue, or in his view be manipulated into issuing, a pronouncement that Paul was a charlatan, falsely claiming to visions Jesus had never sent him, and issuing theological declarations in Jesus’s name that the real Jesus found odious. The only thing preventing something like this was that for some reason Jesus had completely withdrawn from the public arena – I surmise this was because of chronic, serious health issues following the grave physical and emotional trauma of the crucifixion, but Paul likely did not know for certain any more than we do today. Paul may have simply concluded that Jesus was being silenced, kept under house arrest by “Peter, James, and John”, perhaps even against his will, so they could persist in promulgating (what were from Paul’s perspective) their own false claims to be the exclusive and proper agents of the true nature and teachings of Jesus.

Paul would therefore have intensely desired a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, in order to justify his flimsy claim to apostlehood, and that he was Jesus’s exclusive spokesman, not “Peter, James, and John”. Paul may even have entertained ideas of liberating Jesus from the control of those three, and himself taking over control of Commodity Jesus, using him as a prop for his Pauline theology and religious community. The Presbyter knew that just to be welcomed into Jesus’s presence would be a card Paul would play to the fullest; if Jesus was unable for health reasons to withstand Paul’s forceful personality, Paul could legitimately claim that Jesus had approved Paul as his sole representative, and Jesus would be in no condition to gainsay him. And Paul could also declare that Jesus had placed his blessing on Paul’s complete makeover of who and what Jesus was – not a country rabbi appointed by God as a Messiah to urge humanity to live in accordance with God’s plan, the Logos, but rather that Jesus was literally God incarnate, and that merely to believe in Jesus as God was sufficient, with no need to obey the laws of the Torah or just about anything else. The Presbyter knew Paul to be an adept “spin doctor”, who would be able to take whatever Jesus said and work it to his advantage.

The weak link, in John’s perspective, as suggested by this letter, was Mary. John fully expected Paul to attempt a meeting face-to-face with Jesus, and take advantage of the entrée to secure his complete retail monopoly on Jesus-as-product. John surely had in mind that Mary was an extremely nice woman, who was certain to be polite, as women in traditional cultures have always been trained to be: to welcome to anyone who comes to the door claiming friendship and kindred faith, to sit Paul down in the most comfortable chair, to bring him a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine and then set about preparing a meal for him – and above all to be invisible while Paul and Jesus engaged in a conversation of deep philosophy of the kind that in those days only men took part in. John surely knew Mary, as a daughter of her traditional culture, would not be, like the song in My Fair Lady, “like a man”, ready to speak sharply to Paul if he crossed the line, and prepared to throw him out if despite the semblance of brotherliness he was really about manipulating Jesus into support of his schemes. In short, John knew that, once Paul got his foot in the door, the game was lost.

Hence John’s first bit of advice to Mary, in verse 10, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home.”

Furthermore, as was and is well known, for he often brags about it in his letters, Paul throve on making connections with influential people and taking fullest advantage of them – what today is called “networking”. Thus, Mary could say the same kind of good-mannered greetings people have said to each other throughout human history, and Paul would use mere politeness, mere social convention, as fuel for his “evil work”.

Thus John’s second bit of advice, in verses 10-11, “Nor say you are glad to see him, for indeed anyone who says to him, ‘Glad to see you!’ contributes to his evil work” – that is, Paul would crow loudly throughout the Roman Empire, “Jesus and Mary were glad to see me, and so clearly he approves of my mission to the gentiles,” etc., etc., etc.

The evidence suggests that Jesus had a plan in mind, entrusted to Peter, James, and John but not the disciples in general, shortly before and/or shortly after the crucifixion and resurrection. That plan was that they see to the building of a strong following of Jesus followers especially in the Jewish community through the Roman Empire, and then Jesus would return after some years and lead a revolution against the Roman Empire. This is the basis of all the “Second Coming” theology that has been orthodoxy for centuries. This plan never came to fruition, of course, and after the second generation of followers (men like Papias and Polycarp) it was forgotten. What happened instead, of course, was not that the followers of Jesus destroyed the Roman Empire but that they became it.

At this time, in the year 43, however, this plan was still alive – and John was also no doubt extremely concerned that, if Paul did succeed in meeting with Jesus, he might find out about this plan, and, given his very gentile-friendly and pro-Roman stance, reveal it to the wrong people and ruin everything.

Were John’s concerns unrealistic? Paul answers this question for himself in Colossians 4:3-4, after dropping several hints in this letter that he knows the secret these faithful have been keeping about Jesus’s presence in Laodicea. (By the word “word”, λογος in Greek, Paul refers not as John does to God’s plan for the unfolding of the universe, but to Paul’s own kerygma, his sound-byte, his constantly repeated central message.)

 

 

προσευχομενοι αμα και περι ημων ινα ο θεος ανοιξη ημιν θυραν του λογου εν παρρησια λαλησαι το μυστηριον του χριστου δι ο και δεδεμαι ινα φανερωσω αυτο ως δει με λαλησαι

 

At the same time, pray for us, that God might open a door to us for the word, to declare candidly the secret about Christ, in reference to which I too have been constrained, so I can make him (Jesus) visible, as it is incumbent on me to speak (about this).

 

With all of this evidence it is reasonable to conclude that II John was written to Mary while she was living with Jesus in Laodicea, and the seventh letter in Revelation is ascribed to Mary, and that both deal with the “problem of Paul”.

 

Jesus’s Vine and Horace’s Branches

GJohn-Mockup1

What follows is a addition to The Gospel of John, my restoration of that original text, free from the later interpolations and excisions of the organized Christian religion, and translated afresh from the Greek. Ordering information here, but coming soon is the new two-volume edition!

Commentary on John 15:1-6 – Jesus shows his agrarian roots not in drawing this analogy, since it appears in the prophets (cf. Isaiah 5:1-10), but by amplifying it with knowledgeable references to the husbandry of grape vines. The Greek word καθαιρω means both “to prune” and “to clean(se)”, so there is something of a double entendre in these verses. A farmer carefully prunes grape branches that are bearing much fruit, so they bear even more, and in the same way, in this analogy, the Word (again, the word Λογος, suggesting God’s plan for the entirety of creation) that Jesus brings prunes away or cleanses anything that is dross in those who accept that plan, such that they are fruitful.

The Latin poet Horace (65-8 B.C.E.) often refers poetically to the husbanding of grapes, for instance these lines from his second epode:

Adulta vitium propagine
Altas maritat populos …
Unutilisque falce ramos amputans
Feliciores inserit.

He weds the tall poplar
To the productive vine; …
With his knife he cuts out useless branches
And grafts better in their place.

There are but scant suggestions that John the Presbyter, clearly well versed in the Greek classics, was at all familiar with the Latin masters; the only other I have found is a possible reference to Vergil in chapter 20. If it was not Horace himself in the gospel writer’s mind as he shaped Jesus’s speech, it may have been any of several Greek poets; pastoral verse of this sort was not uncommon. I am not at all implying that Jesus’s comments here were made up by the Presbyter by borrowing from classical poets, but rather that, as ancient poets often did, he found reflections of Jesus’s greatness in the classical works he knew and loved, which he knew would also be known to and loved by many of his potential readers, and which he would have believed, in a manner typical of his day, proved not just the validity and immortality of Jesus’s teaching, but that it came from God.

This passage from Horace suggests a possible alternate understanding of Jesus’s metaphor. Horace speaks of wedding the vine and the tree together: without the branches of the tree to hold up the vine, the latter cannot flourish. Of course, wedding metaphors permeate this gospel, finding their rootage in the Tanakh’s frequent analogy of the covenant between God and the Israelites as a marriage. If 15:1-6 is read in that light, then the branches of which Jesus speaks are not tendrils growing out from the mainstock of the vine, but rather the branches of a tree which hold up the vine, which enable it to live and produce fruit, and which make it and its fruit visible to the entire world, like the “serpent of Moses” (3:14). And the tree in question would be, symbolically, the Tree of Life (which is the same as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), the tree that also appears in Revelation 2:7 and 22:1-2.

Building on this reading, Jesus is saying his disciples bear Jesus’s fruit indirectly, inasmuch as they like tree branches bear and lift up the fruiting vine, and they cannot bear fruit by themselves, but only if they stay with the vine (15:4). And he is saying that those who live by his teaching will make it possible for the vine to bear fruit well into the future – but that any tree branches which fail to hold up the vine are cut away and burned in the fire (15:6). This interpretation not only carries the gospel’s frequent marriage motif and the motif of lifting up Jesus so he is visible to the world, but it also alludes to the Paraclete: this gospel, which is the promised Paraclete as discussed elsewhere, is the means by which followers of Jesus can all him to “abide in them”, keeping him ever alive and ever before the world. And the fruits of this vine are the fulfillment of the Λογος, the plan of God, the vintner in this metaphor.

Curiously, the Persian Diatessaron has Jesus say in 15:1 not “I am the true vine”, but ﻣـاـن ﺩـرـاـکــحــطى ﻣـوـاﯽ ﺭـاـثــطـى ﺭـاـثــطـى (man dirakht-i mīva-yi rāstī). This has been rendered into English as “I am the tree of the fruit of truth” (Craig D. Allert) and, adhering more closely to the word-for-word meaning, as “I am the fruit-tree of truth” (Robert Murray, from the Italian of Guiseppe Messina). However, a careful rendering of the suffixes has the Persian saying “I am the fruit of the tree of truth”. This version of 15:1, as an obvious reference to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil forbidden to Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:17), supports the conclusion above, based on Horace’s poetry, that Jesus was speaking of himself in terms of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This Diatessaron is a thirteenth century version of a now-lost very early Syriac text that retained many readings from Tatian’s original second century Diatessaron, the original text of which is, but for a couple of small bits, known only in part from quotations in later writers. (A diatessaron is a single work that draws together the four canonical gospels into one narrative.) With at least one link in the chain of copies lost, we cannot know whether this version of 15:1 comes from Tatian, or a later scribe of extremely unusual inventiveness in his handling of what was by then sacred scripture not to be edited. Yet there is a chance that this Persian version preserves an extremely early text from the Cæsarean family of manuscripts, even earlier than the Syriac Sinaiticus, one close in time and text to Tatian’s Diatessaron – in short a very early text originating in the nearest circle to John the Presbyter’s original manuscript.

And both the Syriac Sinaiticus and the Peshitta seem to support the Persian (the only other early Syriac manuscript, the Curetonian Gospels, is missing the final chapters of John). In those versions the beginning of 15:1 reads: ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܓܦܬܐ ܕܫܪܪܐ (“I I the vine of truth”). There is no apparent reason for the repeated “I” (pronounced enā or ănā), raising a near certainty of a scribal error here, since the Aramaic word for “fruit”, ܐܒܐ (ebā), easily could have been misread and miswritten as ܐܢܐ. If this probable error is repaired, the phrase reads “I am the fruit of the vine of truth”, which is so close to the Persian version that the shift from “vine” to “tree” could be just an accident in the shift from Aramaic to Persian. The word for “fruit” is a homonym in pronunciation and spelling of ܐܒܐ, ABA, the word for “father” that appears in the second half of this verse (ܘܐܒܝ ܗܘ ܦܠܚܐ; “my father is the laborer”), so an early scribe may have misunderstood ܐܒܐ as meaning not “fruit” but “father”, making the sentence seem to read “I am the father of truth and my father is the laborer”, and he then corrected the apparent dittography of “father”. Strengthening this analysis is the fact that in verse two an entirely different word from ܐܒܐ is used; though this word, ܦܐܪܐ (peryā) is usually translated as “fruit”, it is closer to the English noun “produce”. As noted above in reference to the Greek, the Aramaic of 15:4 also speaks of tree branches that cannot bear the fruit of the vine by themselves, but only if they hold up the vine. The meaning is clear: these texts have Jesus saying that we must lift up Jesus and his teaching, just as trees lift up the fruit-bearing vine in Horace’s image; if we fail to do so, we will be taken away by the husbandman, the father.

All this is so impressive that it seems quite likely that Horace suggests, and the Persian Diatessaron and the Syriac Sinaiticus point to, the now-lost original reading. But, since there is no solid textual support for what is ultimately just a conjecture, I include the Persian-Syriac versions of 15:1-2 as alternate readings in my translation.
This last parabolic teaching in the Last Supper discourse appropriately echoes the first and last of the gospel’s seven miracles, that of the water turned wine and that of the fruiting grains. It thus emphasizes Jesus’s central teaching in the gospel that if we choose to be part of God’s Λογος we will bear much fruit and live into the Æon; but, if not, we will be “pruned away”. In this metaphor, Jesus means to say I AM, God, is the mainstem of the vine, and provides the lifegiving loving sap/blood that gives us life and envigors our souls, and it is for us to turn that sap into the fruit of love, and Jesus serves (like all prophets) as mediator/means for the nourishment of God to fill us.