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.

 

 

 

Behold Your Mother

Behold Your Mother: A Poetic Last Testament in John 19:26-27

James David Audlin

From the upcoming new edition of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volume II, as published by Editores Volcán Barú, Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.

* * *

This essay first discusses who the Gospel of John names as witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus, deals with the confusion over Clopas/Cleopas/Alphæus/Hilphai, and reconstructs the quatrain in which Jesus confers on the Beloved Disciple filial responsibility for Jesus’s mother. The following includes new material that will be first published in the January 2015 edition.

 * * *

The Beloved Disciple does not appear to be mentioned in the list of witnesses to the crucifixion in these verses, but a closer examination will show that in fact this disciple, Mary, is indeed cited as present, and further identified as the Beloved Disciple and as Jesus’s wife.

Analysis will begin with verse 26, which tells us who were the witnesses to the crucifixion. The Gospel of John gives us a very limited number, and these will be discussed shortly.

First, however, we must discuss which witnesses the Synoptic gospels say were present. (Luke only tells us that “his friends”, including “the women who had followed him from Galilee” were there, so the women present must be more or less those in the lists given in Luke 8:1-3 and Luke 24:10, and the following is based on that assumption.) All three Synoptics put Mary Magdalene at the crucifixion, as does John. They also all place Mary the mother of James the Younger and Joses on the scene; in my opinion this is one way that Jesus’s mother was designated following her remarriage (see the essay on page 410); hence, though there is no specific reference to “Jesus’s mother” in the Synoptics, they still cohere with John, which specifically says his mother was there. Matthew says the mother of the sons of Zebedee was there, but the earlier Gospel of Mark, based on Simon’s eyewitness accounts, lists instead Salome (a garbled Greek version of the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “peace”), who I believe was the mother of Mary Magdalene (see pages 204-05). In sum, there is a reasonable coherence among the three Synoptic gospels that present were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and either Salome (who as we shall see was the mother of the Magdalene) or the wife of Zebedee too.

It is not immediately clear who the women are who are mentioned in the Gospel of John as witnesses to the crucifixion. Depending on how the text is read, either four, three, or two women are mentioned in 19:25.

Four women – Depending on how it is punctuated, this would be either a: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. It is unlikely that two sisters would be both named Mary, and so the second alternative is rejected. The main problem with the four-women hypothesis is that the word και (“and”) appears inconveniently between the first two and second two, and not as would be grammatically correct, either only before the last (Mary Magdalene) or between all four. Also, this alternative would conflict with the Synoptic accounts.

Three women – This would be either a: a kind of acrostic involving all elements except Mary Magdalene: Jesus’s mother Mary, his mother’s sister the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Again, the second is eliminated because two sisters would not be named Mary. The first is possible, but the two-women reading that follows is much more satisfying grammatically, factually, and poetically. This option, too, would conflict with the Synoptic account.

Two women – I agree with James D. Tabor that this list comprises an acrostic involving all elements in the verse, including Mary Magdalene, and that therefore Jesus’s mother is here named as Mary wife of Clopas. This would cohere with the Synoptic accounts, which agree that Jesus’s mother and the Magdalene were present. (If Mark is right that the Magdalene’s mother Salome [see pages 204-05] also was there, then she went unmentioned in the Gospel of John, since the author does not include anything extraneous, and she is uninvolved in Jesus’s final command in 19:26-27.) What is more, in this reading, the two instances in the verse of και (“and”) set up a fine division of the names into a couplet of semipoetic lines:

His mother and his mother’s sister,

Mary (the wife) of Clopas and Mary the Magdalene.

 

This seems typical Hebrew poetry, saying the same thing or a parallel thing twice but with different wording the second time. Let us now look more closely.

Who “Mary of Clopas” might be is by no means clear. Certainly this construction suggests that Mary is the wife of Clopas, but who Clopas is is by no means clear. The confusion begins when we realize Luke 24:18 refers to someone with a similar name, κλεοπας (Kleopas). Neither name is found elsewhere in the Bible, and neither name appears anywhere in classical literature before their appearances in the gospels.

Scholars often explain that this Clopas in John 19:25 was probably known in Aramaic as Hilphai; Joseph Henry Thayer suggests in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament that κλωπας (Klōpas) is a transliteration of חילפאי (Hilphai), but that, since there is no letter for “H” in Greek, the initial ח in the name was rendered into Greek with a κ, “K”; the “p” sound, more euphonious to Greeks than the “ph”, was substituted; and a Greek-style suffix was added. Some scholars further contort themselves by declaring the Greek name Αλφαιος (Alphæus in English; “changing”), which appears a handful of times in the Synoptic gospels, is another transliteration of Hilphai.

Scholars also often assert, without the slightest proof, that κλεοπας is a contracted form of the name Κλειοπατρος (Kleiopatros, “Renowned Father”), best known today in its feminine form, anglicized as Cleopatra, the notorious Egyptian queen. One problem with this baseless assertion is that πας already means something in Greek: not “father”, but “all” or “everything”.

Though ingenious, neither theory holds up under a close inspection.

Thayer’s theory would require John 19:25 to say ܐܢܬܬܐ, Hilphai, yet while the Greek has κλεοπας (kleopas) at Luke 24:18 and κλωπας (klōpas) at John 19:25, the Aramaic of the Peshitta has ܩܠܝܘܦܐ (Qlywpa) Cleopas, in both places. (Unfortunately, this verse is missing from both Old Syriac texts.) Forced to set aside Thayer, we must turn to the Kleiopatros theory.

The first problem with that theory is that κλεω (kleō) is a very unusual (hence unlikely) variant spelling of κλειω (kleiō, “renowned”). However neither variation is a root of κλεοπας in Luke or κλωπας in John. The actual root of both κλεοπας and κλωπας refers to thievery. (This root is also behind the English word “kleptomaniac”.)

The second problem is that this theory requires πας to be a contraction of πατρος, “father”, but πας already means something in Greek: not “father”, but “all” or “everything”. In fact, the infamous king Herod Antipatros, Herod As-Oppose-to-his-Father (of the same name), is far better known by the nasty epithet given him by the people, Herod Antipas, Herod Against-Everything. Therefore, both κλεοπας in Luke and κλωπας in John would mean “Thief-of-Everything”! Leaving aside the issues this raises in Luke, I think it is a safe assumption that no one intended John 19:25 to say Mary was the wife of a burglar.

This forces us back to the Peshitta, to consider what ܩܠܝܘܦܐ (Qlywpa) can mean in not Greek but Aramaic. Most New Testament scholars are beset with a mental deficiency I call græcomyopia: they are unable to think of any New Testament text except in Greek terms – notwithstanding the fact that Jesus and his followers spoke in Aramaic!

Aramaic, as often noted herein, is a poet’s delight but a translator’s nightmare, since nearly every word has several unrelated meanings. This Qlywpa could come from a: ܩܠܘܦܐ (qlwpa), a verb meaning to peel off the skin of a fruit; b: ܩܠܝ (qlē) “burned” ܦܣ (pas) “palm” of the hand, hence “burned palm”; or c: ܩܠܝܦܪܣ (qlyprs), which according to Sokoloff’s lexicon comes from the Greek κλοιοφόρος (kloiophoros), meaning someone who wears a chain around the neck, as a mark of honor, hence an important person.

Early Christian writers Papias and Hegesippus both declare Clopas to be the brother of Jesus’s father, Joseph. I think James D. Tabor is right to say that this Cleopas almost certainly married Mary after his brother Joseph’s death, and that therefore Mary the wife of Clopas in John 19:25 is Jesus’s mother, and Cleopas his stepfather. The Greek and Aramaic texts merely say “Mary of Clopas” and neither “wife” nor “widow”, so we do not know whether this stepfather was still alive, but the fact that Jesus hands off responsibility for his mother to the Beloved Disciple suggests that he is either dead or incapacitated by age or illness.

It has often been suggested that the Johannine Cl(e)opas and the Cleopas who appears in Luke 24:13-35 are the same man. If that is so, if Jesus’s mother still has a husband in good enough health to walk to Emmæus, then why does the Gospel of John specify that after Jesus’s death the Beloved Disciple took Mary “for her own [mother]” (19:27)? Either a: Cl(e)opas and Mary have separated; or b: there are two different men named Cl(e)opas; or c: the Lukan episode tells of a son of Clopas, probably the Levi (ben Clopas) discussed in the essay beginning on page 403. I think both b: and c: together properly describe the situation. More about Clopas and Jesus’s brothers and half-brothers may be read in the same essay.

Returning to a consideration of this couplet,

His mother and his mother’s sister,

Mary (the wife) of Clopas and Mary the Magdalene.

the reference to “his mother” and “Mary of Clopas” make an acceptable parallel. The problem in the parallelism of this couplet is that “his mother’s sister” does not match up with “Mary the Magdalene”: Mary was certainly not Jesus’s aunt! This glaring mismatch is undeniable proof that the redactor of the original text was as usual removing any reference to Jesus’s marital status. Further, there is no other mention of this supposed aunt in the gospel, and since every detail and every character mentioned therein is significant, that makes this reference highly suspect.

To begin hypothesizing how the text originally read let us look at the parallels to Mary in all three couplets. In the Textus Receptus they read thus:

 

His mother and his mother’s sister,

Mary (the wife) of Clopas and Mary the Magdalene.

 

Jesus, therefore, having seen his mother

And standing beside (her) the disciple whom he loved,

 

He says to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”

Then he says to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”

 

Mary Magdalene is put into parallel with “his mother’s sister”, “the disciple whom he loved”, and in the last line a missing form of address equivalent to Jesus addressing his mother as “woman”, which would go in this place:

 

He says to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”

Then he says to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”

 

The paralleling of Mary to the Beloved Disciple is clearly original; the evidence as presented throughout this work points to Mary being the Beloved Disciple. Simply by looking carefully at the Textus Receptus, before even beginning to hypothesize about restoration of these lines, it is abundantly clear that the text is specifically telling us that Mary is both Jesus’s wife and his Beloved Disciple.

However some other parallels have obviously meddled with in an attempt to obscure certain aspects of Mary’s relationship with Jesus. Let us one by one consider how best these can be repaired.

Line 1 – Removing the obviously interpolated αδελφη της μητρος (“sister of the mother”) leaves η μητηρ αυτου και η [___] αυτου (“the mother of him and the [___] of him”). The obvious choice would be to fill this gap with γυνη (gynē, “wife”), but parallelism requires that this word be used in reconstructing line 2, as we shall see, so here another word must have originally appeared.

John’s original word is to be found in the Gospel of Philip, written by an acquaintance of his, Philip the Evangelist, who is mentioned in Acts 21:8-9. Philip was like John a witness to Jesus who was not one of the inner circle of disciples; also like John he was and still is often confused with the inner-circle disciple of the same name. He is buried, together with two of his four daughters, in one of the seven communities under John’s guidance as regional bishop, namely Hierapolis, where later the local bishop would be Papias, who was to receive the precious autograph of this gospel when it was thought lost. Philip’s work is not really a gospel in the usual sense, but more of a meditation on the Johannine understanding of the sacred-sexual nature of the resurrection as uniting Jesus and Mary in the image of Elohim. It refers to Mary as Jesus’s κοινωνος (koinōnos), usually translated as “companion”. This Greek word κοινωνος is actually stronger than γυνη; it carries the sense of “spouse”, “equal partner”, and “consort”, and it implies a romantic/erotic aspect to the relationship.

This term is also the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew and Aramaic word רֵאשִׁית (reshith). This word appears in the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, to describe the first of God’s creations, which then serves not merely as God’s consort, but as the feminine part of God (of Elohim, God understood as male and female completely united), and even as God’s co-creator. 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”, with the God’s spouse the Firstfruit (Proverbs 8:22), 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, of course, but the eternal 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 equivalent to the reshith.

In Proverbs 8:30 this “companion” of God is further described as אָ֫מ֥וֹן (amōn), as the “master worker” who worked alongside God to create the universe. John uses this last term in Revelation 3:14 in reference to Mary, but when his Aramaic original was later rendered into Greek not by John but someone far less qualified to do so than he, it was misunderstood as אָמֵן (amēn, “truly”), and put down as such into the Greek version. Similarly, the end of the verse originally spoke of “the רֵאשִׁית (reshith) of the creation of God”, according to Philip Alexander; indeed, the Aramaic actually has reshith, ܪܼܫܼܝܬܼܵܐ. This should have gone into the Greek version as κοινωνος, but again the less-than-expert translator made a mistake, putting it into the Textus Receptus as the αρχη (archē), the “beginning” of the creation of God. That nicely implies John 1:1, but it loses the intended comparison of Mary to God’s coworker in Proverbs 8.

Such a word would grate against the sensibilities of Polycarp as redactor; as we have seen several times previously, he began in his editing of this gospel the process of demoting Mary from Jesus’s full equal to, eventually, a penitent prostitute. However, in view of Philip’s usage of the word, and its implied presence in John’s Aramaic original of Revelation 3:14, both in reference to Mary, I conclude that the original word here was κοινωνος: John was calling Mary the companion of Jesus.

Line 2 – The cognomen “Magdalene” obviously did not come from the author of the original text: Mary has been heretofore named in this gospel only as Mary, and, other than here and 20:1, she is never once called “Magdalene”; that is exclusively the Synoptic cognomen for her. Indeed, I am certain that the redactor inserted “Magdalene” into 20:1 and 18 as well. If we take it out again, we are again left with a gap: “Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the [   ]” after he had excised what the text originally said. The obvious and only reasonable reconstitution of the original would establish a parallel with the first part of this line: “Mary (the wife) of Clopas and Mary (the wife) of Jesus”.

Line 5 – There is a small possibility that John actually intended the word “son” (υιος, huios) here, notwithstanding Mary’s gender. This conclusion would be based directly on other early works, for instance in the final logion of the Gospel of Thomas, in which Jesus says eic.hyyte ano.k` ].na.cwk` m.mo.c je.kaac e.ei.na.a.c n.hoout` sina c.na.sw.pe hw.wc n.ou.pna e.f.onh ef.eine m.mw.tn n.hoout` je c.hime.nim` ec.na.a.c n.hoout` c.na.bwk` ehoun e.t.mntero.n.m.pyue (“I will draw her into myself so I may make her male, so she may also be a living spirit resembling you males: for any woman who makes herself male will enter the Realm of Heaven”). The Gospel of John itself suggests implicitly the same thing at the resurrection, as shall be discussed below. And in John’s final major work, The Songs of the Perfect One, Mary sings: ܐܬܡܙܓܬ ܡܛܠ ܕܐܫܟܚ ܪܚܡܐ ܠܗܘ ܪܚܝܡܐ ܡܛܠ ܕܐܪܚܡ ܠܗܘ ܒܪܐ ܐܗܘܐ ܒܪܐ (“Because I will always love him who is the son, I too shall become a son”). Such texts as these point to the understanding John and his associates held that at the resurrection Mary was literally made one with Jesus, the female “Eve” reabsorbed into the male “Adam”, such that she became a son of God herself. But the resurrection has not yet happened; this is the crucifixion, and so Mary has not yet been made a male.

Therefore, while it is possible that the Presbyter wrote “son” here, it is simpler and more logical to assume he wrote “daughter”, θυγατηρ (thugatēr).

Line 6 – The missing parallel here is glaring in the text as we have it, but here is the lacuna made visible:

 

He says to the mother, “Woman, behold your son.”

Then he says to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”

 

It is extremely evident here that the redactor took out a word, and also that he did not fill it in with another word, since the text makes sense with nothing added to replace the excision. The lacuna calls for either a relationship word such as “son” or “daughter”) or else the disciple’s name, but either of those would have given away the identity that the redactor wished to conceal. The only one available to him would have sounded quite clumsy: “Then he says to the disciple, ‘Disciple, behold your mother.’” And so his decision was not to put anything in place of the original.

If we label the nouns with letters, such that “mother” = A, “woman” = B, and “son” and “disciple” = C, we can see more clearly that the internal structure is ABC in the first line and C_A in the second line. Thus it becomes self-evident that the excised word is another B: it is γυνη (gynē), which can mean woman, as Jesus uses it in reference to his mother (but also with the implicit sense of “wife”, for she is the wife of Clopas), but in the second line with its primary meaning of “wife”. As an aside, this ABC-CBA structuring also appears in the poetry that opens the Presbyter’s letter known as I John.

We have had all along in the Textus Receptus intact lines that clearly identify Mary as the Beloved Disciple through parallelism. But the text here, as it stands, even before we engage in any reconstruction thereof, names for us exactly who the Beloved Disciple is right at this climax of the entire gospel. Let no one say any longer that her identity is a mystery. The above effort at reconstruction only serves to support this clear identification; it only amplifies it by adding that she is Jesus’s wife and his spiritual companion.

Note that a third mother-child pair was there at the crucifixion, according to Mark 15:40, which notes the presence of Salome, the mother of Jesus’s wife Mary (see pages 452-53). This further adds to the poignancy of this scene. But the Presbyter puts his focus entirely on the presence of the two mothers named Mary. The parallels between these two Marys are astounding: the first is a widow already and the second is about to become one, the second has experienced the intense anguish of watching her son die and the first is about to. Both of their sons have been called “son of the father”: Jesus says frequently in this gospel that he is son of the father, and Lazarus was only an hour or two before the crucifixion released by Pontius Pilate under the name Barabbas, which means the same thing.

All of these connections between the two mothers Mary were certainly clear to Jesus long before he was hung on the cross. Thus quickly to Jesus’s mind would come the idea of charging Mary, who as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) with him shares fully his obligations, with this filial responsibility. He may indeed have already decided that he would do this at his last moment, since a final request coming at the moment of death would decisively oblige the survivors to carry it out.

Clearly this declaration at the moment of death was taken by the two Marys as binding (19:27b), and the Beloved Disciple eyewitness Mary’s sharp memory of this charge, rendered in poetry no less by the Presbyter, tells us just how seriously it was taken. In ancient times, the most important texts were in poetry, not prose – because poetry, by its nature, is more easily memorized and enunciated later, and thus can outlast such ephemeral documents as bills of lading and shopping lists, which were written down precisely because they were unworthy of memorization. With his final breath of life, inhaled with great difficulty by pulling his torso up, wracking his body with more pain, then sagging down exhaustedly while exhaling, arousing new pain in his body, his very last inhalations and exhalations of the Spirit of God, and no moment to waste, Jesus was arranging for his wife to care for his mother. This is love, and it must have been a most emotional and memorable moment for the two Marys, and Salome too, also close by.

This poetic “last will” of Jesus is again clearly meant again to establish a parallel between him and the greatest of the prophets, Moses and Elijah. Since these parallels are drawn several times in the early chapters of the gospel, this also forms another inclusio. The Torah has Moses, like Jesus, reciting poetry before his death (Deuteronomy 32-33), and the account of Elijah’s death (II Kings 2) has him likewise orating a kind of “last will”, giving Elisha his sacred powers.

The text tells us (verse 27b) that after this event the Beloved Disciple took Jesus’s mother as her own mother. The preposition εις has many possible meanings; usually Bible interpreters mistakenly read it as saying “into”, and then they take the phrase εις τα ιδια as “into his own home”, with the word “home”, they say, unwritten but understood. The preposition εις clearly should be taken rather as meaning “as”, and the phrase as saying she takes her as her own mother.

And this burst of original poetry is preceded immediately by another couplet taken from the Tanakh (Psalm 22:18):

 

They divided my garments among themselves,

And for my clothing they cast lots.

 

But then, in stunning chiaroscuro, immediately following this bouquet of poetry, the author gives us in terse prose the death of Jesus.

 

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.

 

 

Behold Your Mothers: Adopted at the Crucifixion

GOJ-front 2vol Ib From the recently published complete edition of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volume II, as published by Editores Volcán Barú, available here.

This essay, taken from The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volume II, first discusses who the Gospel of John names as witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus, and second considers the nature of the Beloved Disciple’s adoption by Jesus. Analysis will begin with verse 26, which tells us who were the witnesses to the crucifixion. The Gospel of John gives us a very limited number, and these will be discussed shortly.

First, however, we must discuss which witnesses the Synoptic gospels say were present. (Luke only tells us that “his friends”, including “the women who had followed him from Galilee” were there, so the women present must be more or less those in the lists given in Luke 8:1-3 and Luke 24:10, and the following is based on that assumption.) All three Synoptics put Mary Magdalene at the crucifixion, as does John. They also all place Mary the mother of James the Younger and Joses on the scene; in my opinion this is one way that Jesus’s mother was designated following her remarriage (see the essay on page 371); hence, though there is no specific reference to “Jesus’s mother” in the Synoptics, they still cohere with John, which specifically says his mother was there. Matthew says the mother of the sons of Zebedee was there, but the earlier Gospel of Mark, based on Simon’s eyewitness accounts, lists instead Salome (a garbled Greek version of the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “peace”), who I believe was the mother of Mary Magdalene (see pages 452-53). In sum, there is a reasonable coherence among the three Synoptic gospels that present were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and either Salome mother of the Magdalene or the wife of Zebedee too.

It is not immediately clear who the women are who are mentioned in the Gospel of John as witnesses to the crucifixion. Depending on how the text is read, either four, three, or two women are mentioned in 19:25.

Four women – Depending on how it is punctuated, this would be either a: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. It is unlikely that two sisters would be both named Mary, and so the second alternative is rejected. The main problem with the four-women hypothesis is that the word και (“and”) appears inconveniently between the first two and second two, and not as would be grammatically correct, either only before the last (Mary Magdalene) or between all four. Also, this alternative would conflict with the Synoptic accounts.

Three women – This would be either a: a kind of acrostic involving all elements except Mary Magdalene: Jesus’s mother Mary, his mother’s sister the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b: Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Again, the second is eliminated because two sisters would not be named Mary. The first is possible, but the two-women reading that follows is much more satisfying grammatically, factually, and poetically. This option, too, would conflict with the Synoptic account.

Two women – I agree with James Tabor that this list comprises an acrostic involving all elements in the verse, including Mary Magdalene, and that therefore Jesus’s mother is here named as Mary wife of Clopas. This would cohere with the Synoptic accounts, which agree that Jesus’s mother and the Magdalene were present. (If Mark is right that the Magdalene’s mother Salome [see pages 452-53] also was there, then she went unmentioned in the Gospel of John, since the author does not include anything extraneous, and she is uninvolved in Jesus’s final command in 19:26-27.) What is more, in this reading, the two instances in the verse of και (“and”) set up a fine division of the names into a couplet of semipoetic lines:

His mother and his mother’s sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.

This seems typical Hebrew poetry, saying the same thing or a parallel thing twice but with different wording the second time. The problem is that Mary Magdalene was certainly not Jesus’s aunt! This glaring mismatch is undeniable proof that the redactor of the original text was as usual removing any reference to Jesus’s marital status. It seems logical to conclude that he may have changed the text at the end of the first line from νυξς (“daughter-in-law”) to αδελφη (“sister”), and removed the obvious missing parallel to “the wife of Clopas”, which would make this a perfect acrostic: “the wife of Jesus”. The redactor would then have replaced the offending phrase with her Synoptic cognomen “Magdalene”, lest it be unclear who this Mary might be.

This Clopas in verse 25 was probably known in Aramaic as Hilphai; Joseph Henry Thayer suggests in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament that κλωπας (Klōpas) is a transliteration of חילפ ( אי Hilphai), but that, since there is no letter for “H” in Greek, the initial ח in the name was rendered into Greek with a κ, “K”; the “p” sound, more euphonious to Greeks than the “ph”, was substituted; and a Greek-style suffix was added. Early Christian writers Papias and Hegesippus both declare Clopas to be the brother of Jesus’s father, Joseph. James Tabor is right to say that Hilphai (Clopas) almost certainly married Mary after his brother Joseph’s death, and so Mary the wife of Clopas here is Jesus’s mother, and Clopas (Hilphai) his stepfather. Since in this scene Jesus is concerned for his mother’s care, she must be widowed for the second time: Hilphai must be now dead like his brother Joseph before him.

It has often been suggested that Clopas and the Cleopas who appears in Luke 24:13-35 are the same man. If that is so, if Mary still has a husband, then why does the Gospel of John specify that after Jesus’s death the Beloved Disciple took Mary “for his own [mother]” (19:27)? Either a: Clopas and Cleopas are different men with similar names, and bear in mind that these are clumsy transliterations into Greek, so the original Aramaic names could be almost anything; or b: Clopas/Cleopas and Mary have separated; or c: the Lukan episode tells of a son of Clopas, possibly the Levi (ben Clopas) discussed in the essay beginning on page 371. I think the first and third alternatives are the most likely. More about Clopas and Jesus’s brothers and half-brothers may be read in the essay on the same page.

The cognomen “Magdalene” obviously did not come from the author of the original text: Mary has been heretofore named in this gospel only as Mary, and, other than here and 20:1, she is never once called “Magdalene”; that is exclusively the Synoptic cognomen for her. The author of this gospel must have known her, since she had to be a primary source for chapters 4 and 20, and was besides the mother of his main eyewitness, Lazarus. The redactor inserted this nickname here to fill the obvious gap in the phrase “Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the [__]” after he had excised what the text originally said. Indeed, I am certain that the redactor inserted “Magdalene” into 20:1 as well. In both places I think he used the cognomen to help bring this gospel into closer coherence with the Synoptics.

Thus the text here may have originally read:

His mother and his mother’s daughter-in-law,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.

This couplet bears the classic earmark of Hebrew verse, being a pair of lines that says the same thing twice, but wording it differently the second time. And it succinctly describes all the relationships. However, the wording is rather clumsy, especially for poetry, so let us remain open to other possibilities.

Here in verse 25, as elsewhere in the gospel, we see the Beloved Disciple’s modest reluctance to mention himself unless utterly necessary, and also how the amanuensis adds no detail that doesn’t further the story and message of the gospel. So, in this verse, the focus is intent on this couplet about the two mothers Mary, and the eyewitness does not yet mention himself. He lists the two mothers because of what Jesus is about to say, but what Jesus is about to say involves the Beloved Disciple too, and so he is finally mentioned as present in verse 26.

The conclusion that these two lines are verse is supported by the presence of another very similar couplet at verses 26-27. Jesus’s dying instruction to his relatives also comes in the form of Hebrew poetic parallelism, though as we have it it appears incomplete:

He says to the mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then he says to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”

The construction of the first line of this couplet, in which Jesus appears to address his mother as “woman” (see discussion of this form of address in the commentary to 2:4), requires a similar kind of salutation of the Beloved Disciple, but it is glaringly absent. The lacuna is best filled in with either a relationship word (for instance, “son” or “brother-in-law”) or else the disciple’s name; clearly something has been suppressed here by the final redactor of the text to hide the identity of the disciple. Certainly the original did not clumsily read, “Then he says to the disciple, ‘Disciple, behold your mother.’” Surely, and especially in his dying moments, Jesus is going to hand off that responsibility to a very close family member. It is not likely a brother of Jesus, since the wording strongly suggests Jesus is designating with his words a new mother-son relationship, while such a brother would already have the same mother. This handing-off, actually, was traditionally to a dying father’s son, no one else.

Involved in this scene are two mother-son pairs: Jesus and his mother, and Lazarus and his mother. Both mothers are named Mary; both have known the intense anguish a mother feels mother feels as she helplessly watches her son die. Both of their sons have been called son of the father (Jesus says frequently in this gospel that he is son of the father, and Lazarus was only an hour or two before the crucifixion released by Pontius Pilate under the name Barabbas, which means the same thing). Further, according to Mark 15:40, a third mother-child pair was there: Salome and Mary Magdalene (see pages 452-53 on Salome as Mary’s mother), adding to the poignancy of this scene.

All of these connections between the two mothers were certainly clear to Jesus long before he was hung on the cross. Thus quickly to Jesus’s mind would come the idea of charging his stepson Lazarus with this filial responsibility for his own mother. He may indeed have already decided that he would do this at his last moment, since a dying person’s final request would decisively oblige the survivors to carry it out.

The text makes very clear the strong connection between the two mothers, by naming them and them only as witnesses, notwithstanding who else in actuality may have been there, such as Salome. Verse 25 specifically refers to “his mother” (that is, Jesus’s) and also, as we shall see below, originally referred to “the disciple’s mother”. However, this connection between the two Marys, the two mothers of “Sons of the Father” whom they have watched die is emphasized in another, subtler way: the Greek text of verse 26, though it is typically translated “his mother”, instead actually twice says “the mother”. Normally in Greek, after the first reference to Jesus’s mother (η μητηρ αυτου, literally, “the mother of-him”), it wouldn’t be necessary to repeat the word αυτου (“of-him”) in immediately subsequent references to his mother. That is why scholars render the two “the mother” references in verse 26 as “his mother”. But, with two mothers mentioned in verse 25, Jesus’s and Lazarus’s – what is more, two mothers with several significant things in common, as noted – it is not so clearcut. Jesus could be telling Lazarus to behold his own mother, Mary Magdalene, or Jesus’s mother, or (and this is what I think) both mothers.

Quite conceivable is the possibility that the original text had the words “women” and “mothers”, in the plural form, and that the redactor either thought this was a grammatical error or, more likely, he fully understood that this was meant to refer both to Jesus’s mother Mary and to Jesus’s wife Mary and the Beloved Disciple’s mother, and so, wishing as always to emphasize Jesus’s divinity, he reduced the plural to the singular.

It is universally believed that Jesus is speaking to his mother when he says, “Woman, behold your son.” I believe that he is speaking to both mothers, affirming to each of the two Marys that Lazarus is still or henceforth her son. That is why he does not say, “Mother, behold your son,” or, for that matter, “Wife, behold your son.” Indeed, dying on the cross, he doesn’t have the breath to be long-winded! By saying γυνη, “woman”, or better yet the nearly identically pronounced γυναι, “women”, he encompasses both of these Marys with so much in common.

It is also universally believed that Jesus is referring to his own mother when he says to the Beloved Disciple, “Behold your mother”: he is requiring Lazarus to take on the duty of filial responsibility for his step-grandmother, his stepfather’s mother. Again I believe that he is referring to both mothers, asking Lazarus to take care of both of them when he, Jesus, is dead. The two mothers and the son hear this as Jesus realizing that this death may be final, that he may not rise again to take care of his wife and his mother, and their despair and grief is intensified in response.

Keep in mind how much these two Marys have in common, in their names and in their death-facing son-of-the-father sons, a close relationship highlighted by this couplet and by the use of “the mother” in verse 26 to refer to both mothers. What we can draw from this is that, when Jesus says to Lazarus “Behold your mother,” he is speaking not only about his own mother, but Lazarus’s mother, Mary Magdalene, as well. He is saying “Take care of my mother, and your mother my wife, when I am dead.”

Carrying out this final wish is the duty of a son, not a stepson, and so it becomes clear, in this Jesus’s dying instruction, that his words incorporate his formal adoption and recognition of his stepson Lazarus as his own son. Yigal Levin (“Jesus, ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of David’: The ‘Adoption’ of Jesus into the Davidic Line” [JSNT 28.4; 2006]), makes it clear that there was then no adoption under Jewish law. Roman law allowed a more formal adrogatio, which needed several approvals in the Roman courts, and the much more informal adoptio, which was certainly the case here. It was usually between relatives, and was usually not a humanitarian gesture for the adoptee’s sake, but for the father’s, under hereditas nominis pecuniæ sacrorum, a phrase referring to the assurance of stability and continuity of the family honor; in this case, to ensure that Jesus’s responsibilities to his mother and wife were properly discharged. If Jesus was indeed a Roman citizen, as suggested on pages 376, he would likely have known about this means of adoption.

This adoption of Lazarus by Jesus, son of God, Messiah of God, emissary or ambassador of God, is also emblematic of God’s adoption of the people of Israel as his child, during the Exodus from Egypt. Thus, this adoption forms a parallel with the reference to adoption in the Prologue (see the commentary to 1:11-13).

Clearly this declaration at the moment of death was taken by Lazarus and the two Marys as binding (19:27b), and the acutely remembered and carefully transcribed recounting of this statement by Lazarus, the Beloved Disciple and eyewitness, in poetry no less, tells us just how seriously it was taken by them. In ancient times, the most important texts were in poetry, not prose – because poetry, by its nature, is more easily memorized and enunciated later, and thus can outlast such ephemeral documents as bills of lading and shopping lists, which were written precisely because they were unworthy of memorization. With his final breath of life, inhaled with great difficulty by pulling his torso up with his nailed wrists, then sagging down exhaustedly while exhaling, arousing new pain in his wrists, his very last inhalations and exhalations of the Spirit of God, and no moment to waste, Jesus was arranging for his mother and his wife to be cared for, and at the same time was acknowledging his stepson as his own son. This would have been a highly emotional and memorable moment for the two Marys, with Lazarus standing between them, and his other grandmother, Salome, also close by.

The text tells us (verse 27b) that after this event the disciple took her or them as his own mother(s). The pronoun αυτην can mean either “her”, in which case it is referring to Jesus’s mother, or “them”, in which case both mothers are meant. The preposition εις has many possible meanings; usually Bible interpreters mistakenly read it as saying “into”, and then they take the phrase εις τα ιδια as “into his own home”, with the word “home”, they say, unwritten but understood. The preposition εις clearly should be taken rather as meaning “as”, and the phrase as saying he takes her/them as his own mother(s). With the word “mother” recently written several times, the author had no need to repeat it again here, except if only to help two millennia of interpreters avoid the mistake just described. This interpretation is much more thematically united: Jesus commands the Beloved Disciple to take the two women as his two mothers, and this sentence, directly from the disciple himself confirms that he obeyed this final request of Jesus.

Also, this poetic “last will” of Jesus is again clearly meant again to establish a parallel between him and the greatest of the prophets, Moses and Elijah. Since these parallels are drawn several times in the early chapters of the gospel, this also forms another inclusio. The Torah has Moses, like Jesus, reciting poetry before his death (Deuteronomy 32-33), and the account of Elijah’s death (II Kings 2) has him likewise orating a kind of “last will”, giving Elisha his sacred powers.

As a result of all this, I conclude that this couplet originally read as follows:

He says to the mothers, “Women, behold your son.”
Then he says to the disciple, “Son, behold your mothers.”

The following would be absolutely perfect parallelism,

He says to the women, “Mothers, behold your son.”
Then he says to the disciple, “Son, behold your mothers.”

but the grammar of Greek and Aramaic would allow Jesus to address only his own mother as “Mother”, not his wife; besides, he calls his mother γυνη (gynē, “woman”), in 2:4, so this must be an inclusio that the narrative calls the two “women” here. What is more, Salome, Lazarus’s maternal grandmother is present too (Mark 15:40), so Jesus’s words could be taken as gracefully including her. Therefore, the first of these two is the one I adopt as the reconstruction.

Clearly here the redactor removed the offending word “son”, without replacing it with anything; the only option he had was “disciple” or “the beloved disciple”, both of which would sound odd if forced here into Jesus’s dying words. And he reduced “women” and “mothers” to their singular forms.

If this second couplet refers so evidently to sons and mothers, then the strong possibility follows that the original version of the couplet in verse 25 also used the same manner to specify the relationships involved:

His mother and the disciple’s mother,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.

This would have perfectly set up the dual change in relationship that Jesus specifies to Lazarus and his mother: his stepson becomes his son, and his mother becomes his son’s mother. And Lazarus, as the eyewitness, confirms this dual change at the end of verse 27: “And from that hour the disciple took [ελαβεν] them [αυτην] as (his) own [τα ιδια].” The same Greek words are found in 1:11, to say that the Λογος “came into its own, but its own did not take it in,” so here, as an inclusio, it suggests that these three, Jesus’s family, have taken not only each other, but the Word as their own. The phrase τα ιδια is often translated “his own home”, with the word “home” understood, and that’s not necessarily wrong, but it is better taken to say that Lazarus took them both as his own mother – both Marys as his mothers, and also Jesus as his own father. At least here, the Word has been taken in by its own.

But all this would have been far too much of an affront to the dogma the new religion was developing, driving the redactor to change the “disciple’s mother” to “mother’s sister” and “the wife of Jesus” to “Magdalene”. The two couplets read perfectly together:

His mother and the disciple’s mother,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.
He says to the mothers, “Women, behold your son.”
Then he says to the disciple, “Son, behold your mothers.”

which in Greek would be:

η μητηρ αυτου και η μητηρ της μαθητην
μαρια η του κλωπα και μαρια η του ιεσους.
λεγει τας μητρας γυναι ιδε ο υιος σου
ειτα λεγει τω μαθητη ιδε αι μητηρες σου

And, just in case anyone still should fail to see the poetry, the author placed immediately before these two couplets another couplet taken from the Tanakh (Psalm 22:18) of what is universally recognized as poetry:

They divided my garments among themselves,
And for my clothing they cast lots.

And then, in stunning chiaroscuro, immediately following this bouquet of poetry, the author gives us in terse prose the death of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene: What’s in a Name?

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. You will find ordering information here.

Mary’s cognomen “Magdalene” is only associated with the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Other than two highly doubtful references, it never appears in the Gospel of John. Its author must have known her, since she had to be a primary source for chapters 4 and 20, and was besides the mother of his eyewitness, Lazarus. And Mary clearly wished to distance herself from her priestess life, which “Magdalene” implies. Nevertheless, it is so commonly associated with her still today that its origin and meaning must be considered. One of the following explanations is usually offered, that the cognomen:

a: Says she came originally from Magdala, a village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

b: Comes from the Hebrew לדגמ (migdal, “tower”, related to μαγδωλος in Greek, “watchtower”).

c: Comes from the related word in Aramaic, the language then commonly spoken by Jews and Samaritans, ܡܓܕܠܝܐ (magdala, “tower” but also suggesting “elegant” or “great”, likewise related to μαγδωλος). This could be simply a reference to the Samaritan Temple high on Mount Gerizim, where as the “woman at the well” Mary served as a priestess. Coins minted in Nablus (Shechem) portray an architectural complex that appears to include a tower. Or it could refer to Song of Songs 4:4, and other similar verses; this one compares the Shulammite’s neck to the Tower of David (cf. Nehemiah 3:25). Similarly, her breasts are likened to towers at 8:10. Her “dance of Mahanaim” (Song 6:13; see option e) is an indirect reference to a tower as well.

d: Comes from megaddelá, an Aramaic word for a woman with ܓܕܠܐ (g’dalw; plaited or braided hair), and later, by extension, a word for a hairdresser. The term carried, later in time, an aroma of “harlot” about it, and some passages in the Talmud appear to associate it with Temple priestesses.

Before evaluating the four above, I also propose:

e: Comes from Mahanaim (מַחֲנָ֫יִם in Hebrew), literally meaning “Two Camps”, a place so called by Jacob because he and God both camped there. The “h” would have shifted in the Greek transliteration into a “g” (since the “h” does not appear in Greek words except at the beginning) and a Greek-style suffix added. At this place Jacob erected a watchtower (Genesis 31:48-52; see b, c, and h). The “dance of Mahanaim” is mentioned at Song of Songs 6:13 in reference to the Shulammite (who is discussed in relation to the Magdalene below).

f: Comes from Song of Songs 4:15, the same verse discussed on page 614, where the Hebrew for the “spring of water” in the garden is מעין גנים (mayan gannim). This could have gotten garbled by Greek ears into “Magdalene” the same way pretty much all of the proper names in the New Testament mutated when shifting from Hebrew or Aramaic into Greek. Through this verse she would be associated with living waters, mentioned in the same verse of the Song, of which Jesus spoke to her in their first conversation (John 4:10); also, the waters of spiritual purification, as in the mikvah, and in John’s baptism.

g: Comes from ܩܕܠܐ (’qda:la), “neck” in Aramaic, should Mary have had a long, beautiful neck. This is a near-homonym with ܡܓܕܠܝܐ (magdala, “tower”), lacking only the initial ܡܰ (ma-), and also with ܡܓܕܠܝܬܐ (magdalayta, Magdalene), lacking the ma- and the suffix -ta. But the final “m” (ܡ) in her Aramaic name, ܡܪܝܡ (Maryam), could very well have elided over onto ܩܕܠܐ (’qda:la), creating ܡܩܕܠܐ (Maqdala). This could possibly a reference to, or for the amanuensis reminiscent of, several references in the Song of Songs, especially at 4:4, to the Shulammite’s neck, though a different word for neck (ܝܟܪܘܨ; sawara) is used there.

h: Comes from the Tower of Eder (מִגְדַּל־עֵ֫דֶר, Migdal Eder, literally “the Tower of the Flock [of Sheep]”) beyond which Jacob (then renamed “Israel”) pitched his tent after the death of his wife Rachel (Genesis 35:21). Jesus and Mary are implicitly associated with Jacob and Rachel at Jacob’s Spring in chapter 4 of John. The only other Tanakh reference to this tower is at Micah 4:8, where it is mentioned in a messianic prophecy that the greatness of Judah and Jerusalem will return, a very meaningful reference should this be the cognomen of Jesus’s consort. Rachel died on the way to Ephrath (Bethlehem); Josephus writes that the tower site was about a Roman mile (4,860 feet) beyond Bethlehem. But in which direction Israel was going is unclear. The original Hebrew text has him going south, toward Hebron, but the Septuagint transposes Genesis 35:16 and 21, likely correcting a mistake, which would have him going north, toward Bethel; this would put the Tower very close to Bethany, which was Mary’s home town.

i: Comes from the Greek μαγδαλια, a late contraction of the classical word απομαγδαλια, which appears in Aristophanes and Plutarch as a term for the inside of a loaf of bread, used by Greeks as a kind of napkin for their hands, which they then threw to the dogs; hence, “dog’s meat”.

j: Comes from the Aramaic ܡܓܕܐ ܐܠܗܬܐ (maqd’ alaht’a; “precious to the Goddess” or “gift of/to the Goddess”), which is very close to the Aramaic original of the cognomen “Magdalene”, ܡܓܕܠܝܬܐ (magdalayta).

k: Comes originally from μάγος δαλος (a magic torch or lamp or thunderbolt), which would have been contracted to μάγα-δαλος and then to μαγδαλος. Many oil lamps from the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim and Samaritan synagogues in the region have been found. They were probably used ceremonially, perhaps tended by priestesses, and are customarily decorated with spiritual imagery. One common motif is a ladder; this was probably a representation of Jacob’s ladder, since the Samaritans believed and still believe that Bethel, where Jacob had his famous dream (Genesis 28:12-15) was on Mount Gerizim (A Companion to Samaritan Studies, by Alan David Crown, Reinhard Pummer, and Abraham Tal).

l: Comes from “Magdalu in Egypt”, as it is called in the letters of Šuta in the 1340s B.C.E. On the northeastern frontier of Egypt, this ancient town was near the last encampment of the Israelites before they crossed the Reed Sea during the Exodus. The name probably comes from גָּדַל (gadal), meaning “to increase in size or importance”. Jeremiah 44:1 says Migdol (as he and Ezekiel call it) and other nearby Egyptian communities had significant colonies of Diaspora Jews. These Jews worshipped at a temple in Elephantine built on the same scale as the one in Jerusalem; James D. Purvis and Eric Meyers say scholars generally agree that the cultus at Elephantine was a mix of Yahwistic and Canaanite ways, and (as strongly suggested by the Elephantine Papyrii) heavily influenced by Egyptian religion. Indeed, Jeremiah 44 describes the cultus at Migdol in some detail, including worship of “the Queen of Heaven”. This temple was destroyed by the Egyptians in 410 B.C.E., but another was built by Onias IV in the first century B.C.E. in Leontopolis, near Magdalu, after Judah Maccabee denied him the high priesthood in Jerusalem. Some classical Jewish literature, such as the Yuhasin, associates it with the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim. What makes the possibility interesting that Jesus and/or Mary were at one time connected with it is the number of passages in this gospel, especially the resurrection, that suggest they were both more than passingly familiar with the Egyptian language.

m: Comes from the Aramaic ܝܘܢܐ ܡܓܕܠܝ (magdal’ yawna; “dove tower”). Ancient columbaria, also called dovecotes in English, have been found throughout the Levant, and indeed the entire Mediterranean region; they were known in Greek as περιστερεῶνα (peristereōna). For Jews and Samaritans they would provide not only food and crop fertilizer, but Temple sacrifices, as required in the Torah. Sometimes they were made in caves, but, where caves were not available towers were constructed: at the famous Masada site, for instance, three towers served as columbaria. There had to be columbaria in Mary’s day atop Mount Gerizim to provide sacrificial birds as well as to feed the priests, priestesses, and staff. Mary may have had duties associated with the columbaria. This explanation would also amplify the theory outlined that the “dove” at Jesus’s baptism was Mary.

n: Comes from the Aramaic ܢܐ ܕܘܠܐ ܡܓܕܗ (magdh-dawla-na). The first two words mean “to draw-up-to-oneself a-bucket-of-water”, and the imperative/cohortative suffix ܢܐ (na) signifies that this request for a bucket of water is deeply yearning and implored for). This would have contracted to ܕܘܠܐ ܢܐ ܡܓ (mag-dawla-na), and the accent would fall on –la, giving just about exactly the sound of μαγδαληνη (magdalēnē), her cognomen in the Greek text; it is not quite as close to ܡܰܓ݂ܕ݁ܠܳܝܬ݁ܳܐ (magdalata), her cognomen in the Aramaic text of the Peshitta, though that is probably a transliteration of the Greek. The origin of this cognomen would be the event at the Samaritan spring, wherein Mary, in a memorable statement recorded at John 4:11, suddenly refers not to the spring in front of them but to a well, saying the well is deep and Jesus, unfortunately, doesn’t have a bucket. As noted in the commentary to that verse, she is making an oblique reference to Moses’s first encounter with his wife Zipporah by a well (Exodus 2:16), and to the deep, dry well of her heart.

Option a, the most frequent explanation of Mary’s cognomen, is straightforward, and should be adopted if it can be proven that Mary came from Magdala. But, alas, there is nothing connecting her to that village. Her family home is in Bethany, her father probably originally came from Ramathaim (Arimathea) in Kohath (in northern Judæa just south of Samaria), and she herself had lived in Samaria proper. She wasn’t even a Galilean, let alone a resident of Magdala. Therefore option a is to be rejected.

The pronunciation of the Aramaic word magdala is closer to the text’s Greek version of Mary’s cognomen than the Hebrew migdal, and these were Aramaic speakers, so option b is rejected.

Option d is also rejected; the textual evidence is flimsy, and there is no reason to assume that the Talmudic writers were merely recalling in a subsequent generation how this word was used in the first century: these comments may have been no more than unfounded anti-Christian polemical aspersions, of which in subsequent generations there was quite a bit. They may even have been based on the persistent later Christian legend that described Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute.

Option i is rejected too, lacking a solid rationale for adoption.

Options e, f, and h, and probably c and g as well, are Biblical in origin. All of these except h could refer to the Song of Songs; e comes indirectly and h directly from the story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis, with whom the gospel often implicitly associates Jesus and Mary. Options c, e, h, and m all suggest a watchtower, with c carrying the indirect meaning of “elegant” or “great”, and e referring to the Shulammite’s dance.

Option f is a fascinating but unlikely possibility, and options e and h are logical but abstruse, therefore weak as explanations for why Mary’s friends and family would call her “Magdalene”. Still, the erudite amanuensis could well have had e and h and especially f in his own mind as he composed the gospel, in particular as he sought appropriate imagery for describing the nearly indescribable scene of Jesus’s resurrection. In the process of borrowing Song of Songs 4:15 in his composition of that episode he could well have read mayan gannim, in the same verse, been struck by the phonetic resemblance to Magdalena, and borne in mind a poetic association between the “wellspring of water” (which is what mayan gannim means) and Mary’s overflowing tears.

That leaves either c, g, j, k, l, m, or n as the reason that she was generally known as “Magdalene”. Either c or g or some combination would be a sensible if cautious conclusion, especially if Mary had a beautiful neck or breasts; certainly we learn from 20:17 that she was sexually attractive. Options j, k, l, m, and n are risky conclusions and would have to prove themselves through time and scholarly debate, but the ground has long been prepared for them by such scholars as Raphael Patai (The Hebrew Goddess) and Merlin Stone (When God was a Woman).

I myself lean toward j, m, or n as the best solution. The first two would succinctly denote the fact about Mary that most stood out to those who knew her: her having been a Temple priestess. The third, which is the one that by a hair’s breadth I favor most of all, would directly relate her cognomen to her first encounter with Jesus, amply explaining why it caught on in the Christian community and is well remembered to this day.

Any of these three would also answer a very good point made by Karen L. King (as quoted in “The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus”, by Ariel Sabar, Smithsonian.com, 18 September 2012). She notes that in the first century “women’s status was determined by the men to whom they were attached,” citing as an example “Mary, Mother of Jesus, Wife of Joseph” (and later, I add, “Wife of Clopas”). If Mary Magdalene had been Jesus’s wife, King insists, she would have been known as that, and the fact that she isn’t King calls the strongest argument against the contention that she was Jesus’s wife. But, if “Magdalene” means “sacred of/to the goddess” or refers to a dove tower on Gerizim, then that was her “marital status” as a priestess in the Samaritan Temple, and she would have been already well known by that cognomen before wedding Jesus. And if her cognomen refers to Jesus going into the well of her spirit and drawing forth water – in short, becoming one with her such that they, together, embody the very image and likeness of Elohim (God understood as comprising male and female as one), returning the state of perfect, androgynous Adam, before the disobedience and before Eve had been removed from his side – then the cognomen does, as King would wish, refer (albeit cryptically) to her marital status. In deed, this gospel strongly suggests that what made Mary so appropriate a spouse to Jesus’s thinking was that she was a κοινωνος, his spiritual equal, and this interpretation of her cognomen emphasizes this central fact about Mary.

All this said, the cognomen “Magdalene” only appears in John twice, in the crucifixion and resurrection episodes. But this is enough to lead many scholars to conclude that she is a different woman from the Mary who lives in Bethany, and whose name is always just Mary, without any cognomen. As discussed in the commentaries to the two episodes where “Magdalene” appears, I believe this cognomen was added therein by the redactor, and that the Beloved Disciple and amanuensis in the original text referred to her as “Mary”, without cognomen. Thus, in this translation, “Magdalene” is excised. My belief is that the eyewitness’s mother told him she wanted no more to be known by a cognomen referring to her time as a priestess.

Her given name, Μαριαμ (Mariam), has two origin explanations: the traditional one and the actual one. Both would have been commonly known to reasonably well-educated Jews in the first century. The actual derivation of her name is from the Egyptian Mari-Amen, “Beloved Amen”, the name of Moses’s elder sister, referring to the Egyptian deity who was so pervasive by the time of the Middle Kingdom, in the last centuries B.C.E., that Egypt was essentially monotheistic. (I reject Madan Mohan Shukla’s idea, in an article published by the Oriental Institute at Baroda in 1979, that the name Mari may go back to Sanskrit मातृ [matri; the “t” is very gently pronounced], meaning “wife” and “mother”, which evolved into that English word, as well as the first half of “matrimony”. Shukla’s reference to an Indian goddess named Mari is likelier since she might be etymologically associated with the Egyptian Mari [Beloved].)

The traditional explanation is that it comes from the Hebrew word הרמ (mara, “bitter”), referring to tears; it is the name that Naomi (which means “sweet” or “pleasant”) gave herself when she was weeping bitter tears for the death of her sons and her husband (Ruth 1:13). The traditional name has a deeper root meaning in מָר (mar, “drop”), as in a teardrop, but going even farther back to מֹר (mor, “myrrh”), which is the resin of a thorny tree, harvested by wounding the tree until it bleeds out, drop by drop, its bitter lifeblood, hence the name. Myrrh was associated with death, being an embalming compound. It was also a component in ketoret, the consecrated incense used in the First and Second Temples at Jerusalem, according to the Tanakh and Talmud – and thus would then have been very much in the nostrils of Mary and the disciples during the commemoration of Passover at the Temple.

How ironic that, before Jesus’s death, a thorny wreath, very possibly from the myrrh tree, was placed on his head (19:2), and that he was whipped and stabbed like the tree until his blood came forth as does the liquid myrrh (19:1,34). How ironic that after his death Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea prepared his body with myrrh and aloes (19:39-40). How ironic it is that Mary Magdalene, with such a name as that, but recently weeping bitter tears for her son (John 11:31,33), now again had drops of tears falling like drops of myrrh from her eyes for her husband (20:11).

How could a woman so clearly central to Jesus’s life, central enough to grieve for him at the very thought of his impending death (Luke 7:38) and to come by night with spices to anoint his body, only be mentioned at the very end? Without a doubt, she does appear previously in the gospel, and my contention is that Mary Magdalene, Mary “of Bethany”, the unnamed woman in Mark 14, and “the woman at the well” are one and the same.

This perspective is underscored in the noncanonical Gospel of Philip, which calls Mary Jesus’s κοινωνος (companion, partner, or consort), and also lifts up the spiritual eroticism between them, saying for instance that “he used to kiss her often on the mouth”, implying not only romance but the sharing of sacred breath, πνευμα. The recently published Gospel of Jesus’s Wife also appears to back this perspective.

What is more, the beautiful woman in the Song of Songs is called (in Song 6:13) the Shulammite. For centuries it has been said that this cognomen deliberately fuses the Hebrew word for peace (shalom) with the cognomen of the Shunammite woman introduced in II Kings 4:8, a wealthy woman who the passages that follow strongly imply was Elisha’s lover despite having a husband, and whose dead son Elisha brought back to life. There are obvious similarities to Mary Magdalene, a wealthy woman (Luke 8:3) who was surely Jesus’s wife, who had previously had “husbands” (John 4:16-18), and who was probably the mother of Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to life.

This scene with Elisha in its turn bears a strong resemblance to the story (I Kings 17:8-24) of Elijah his teacher. This tale begins with Elijah asking the woman for a drink of water from her water pot (verse 10); she has some shame on her conscience (verse 18). Both of those details mirror the “woman at the well”. And Elijah raises her son from death (verse 22), as Jesus does Mary’s son Lazarus. Again, the similarities between the two lives are striking. Since every detail in this gospel is clearly carefully chosen, these connections to Elijah and Elisha must be taken very seriously, and certainly they draw more sharply the nature of the connection between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Poetry Beneath the Cross

The following are commentaries on John 19:24-27 from my translation-in-progress of the Gospel of John. The original text is being restored, by taking out accidental displacements and the redactions imposed on it by the post-Pauline church leaders intent on conforming the gospel to their dogma. The translation is a new one from the Greek.

Although in the list of witnesses to the crucifixion in verse 25 the Beloved Disciple is not mentioned, clearly Mary Magdalene has brought him along, since he is mentioned in the subsequent two verses. That Mary has brought Lazarus along adds to the body of evidence that he is her son.

Let us begin this analysis with verse 26, which tells us who was present as witnesses to Jesus’s crucifixion. The Gospel of John gives us a very limited number, and these will be discussed shortly.

First, however, a summary of what the Synoptic gospels tell us. Luke only tells us that “his friends”, including “the women who had followed him from Galilee” were there, but the women present must be more or less the lists given in Luke 8:1-3 and Luke 24:10, and the following is based on that assumption. All three Synoptics put Mary Magdalene at the crucifixion. They also all place Mary the mother of James the Younger and Joses on the scene; in my opinion this is how Jesus’s mother was designated following her remarriage (see the essay “On the Brothers of Jesus”); hence, though there is no specific reference to “Jesus’s mother” in the Synoptics, they still cohere with John, which specifically says his mother was there. Mark also says Salome was there; she is probably the mother of James and John the sons of Zebedee, who Matthew puts at the cross; I also believe her to be the sister of Jesus’s mother. So there is a reasonable agreement among the four gospels on Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and probably Salome wife of Zebedee too.

Exactly who are the women mentioned in the Gospel of John as witnesses to the crucifixion? Either four, three, or two women are mentioned in 19:25.

Four women – This would be either a) Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b) Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. It is unlikely that two sisters would be both named Mary, and so the second alternative is rejected. The main problem with the four-women hypothesis is that the word και (“and”) appears inconveniently between the first two and second two, and not as would be grammatically correct, either only before the last (Mary Magdalene) or between all four. Also, this would conflict with the Synoptic accounts.

Three women – This would be either a) a kind of acrostic involving all elements except Mary Magdalene: Jesus’s mother Mary, his mother’s sister the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene; or b) Jesus’s mother, his mother’s sister Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Again, the second is eliminated because two sisters would not be named Mary. The first is possible, but the two-women reading that follows is much more satisfying grammatically, factually, and poetically. This option, too, would conflict with the Synoptic account.

Two women – I agree with James Daniel Tabor that this verse includes an acrostic involving all elements in the verse, including Mary Magdalene, an acrostic that names Jesus’s mother as Mary the wife of Clopas. This would cohere with the Synoptic accounts, which agree that Jesus’s mother and the Magdalene were there (if Mark and Matthew are right that Salome the wife of Zebedee also was there, then that fact was suppressed in this gospel because it is irrelevant to Jesus’s final command in 19:26-27). What is more, in this reading, the two instances in the verse of και (“and”) set up a beautiful division of the names into a couplet of semipoetic lines:

His mother and his mother’s sister,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.

This seems to be typical Hebrew poetry, saying the same thing or a parallel thing twice but with different wording the second time, except that Mary Magdalene was certainly not Jesus’s aunt! This glaring mismatch is undeniable proof that the redactor of the original text was as usual removing any reference to Jesus’s marital status. It seems logical to conclude that he may have changed the text here from νυξς (“daughter-in-law”) to αδελφη (“sister”), and removed the obvious missing parallel to “the wife of Clopas”, which would make this a perfect acrostic: “the wife of Jesus”. The redactor then replaced the offending phrase with “Magdalene” lest it be unclear who this Mary might be.

The cognomen “Magdalene” obviously did not come from the author of the original text: Mary has been heretofore named in this gospel only as Mary, and, other than here and 20:1, she is never once called “Magdalene”; this is the Synoptic cognomen for her. The nickname is only used here to fill the obvious gap in the phrase “Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary.” (Indeed, I am certain that “Magdalene” was inserted by the redactor into 20:1 as well. In both places I think the redactor used the cognomen to help him bring this gospel into closer coherence with the Synoptics.)

Thus the text here may have originally read:

His mother and his mother’s daughter-in-law,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.

This couplet bears the classic earmark of Hebrew verse, being a pair of lines that says the same thing twice, but wording it differently the second time. And it succinctly describes all the relationships. However, the wording is rather clumsy, especially for poetry, so let us remain open to other possibilities.

Here in verse 25, as elsewhere in the gospel, we see the Beloved Disciple’s modest reluctance to mention himself unless absolutely necessary, and also how overall he includes no detail that doesn’t further the story and message of the gospel. Therefore, in this verse, he remains intent on this poetic couplet about the two mothers named Mary, and so he does not mention himself. He lists the two mothers because of what Jesus is about to say, but what Jesus is about to say involves the Beloved Disciple too, and yet he is only mentioned as present in verse 26. Clearly his mother Mary Magdalene has brought him along, which points toward his being her son.

The conclusion that these two lines are verse is supported by the presence of another very similar couplet at verses 26-27. Jesus’s dying instruction to his relatives also comes in the form of Hebrew poetic parallelism, though as we have it it appears incomplete:

He said to the mother, “Woman, behold your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”

The text only clearly says “his mother” in verse 25. In this couplet and in the prose between the two couplets (verse 26a), the text says in Greek “the mother”, though translators routinely put this into English as “his mother”. This will be discussed later.

The construction of the first line of this couplet, in which Jesus appears to address his mother as “woman” (see discussion of this form of address in the commentary to 2:4), requires a similar kind of salutation of the Beloved Disciple, but it is glaringly absent. The lacuna is best filled in with either a relationship word (for instance, “son” or “brother-in-law”) or the disciple’s name; clearly something has been suppressed here by the final redactor of the text to hide the identity of the disciple. Surely, and especially in his dying moments, Jesus is going to hand off that responsibility to a close family member. It is not likely a brother of Jesus, since the wording strongly suggests Jesus is designating with his words a new mother-son relationship, while such a brother would already have the same mother.

But involved in this scene are two mother-son pairs: Jesus and his mother, and Lazarus and his mother. Both mothers are named Mary, and both have known the intense anguish a mother feels as she watches her son die. Both of their offspring have been called the Son of the Father (Jesus says frequently in this gospel that he is Son of the Father, and Lazarus was only an hour or two before the crucifixion released by Pontius Pilate under the name Barabbas, which means the same thing).

All of these connections between the two mothers were certainly clear to Jesus long before he was hung on the cross. Thus quickly to Jesus’s mind would come the idea of charging his stepson Lazarus with this filial responsibility for his own mother. He may indeed have already decided that he would do this at his last moment, when the dying person’s will decisively obliges the survivors to carry it out.

The text makes very clear the strong connection between the two mothers, by naming them, and them only, as witnesses, notwithstanding who else in actuality may have been there. Verse 25 specifically refers to “his mother” (that is, Jesus’s) and also, as we shall see below, originally referred to “the disciple’s mother”. However, this connection between the two Marys, the two mothers of “Sons of the Father” whom they have watched died is emphasized in another, subtler way: the Greek text of verse 26, though it is typically translated “his mother”, instead actually twice says “the mother”. Normally in Greek, after the first reference to Jesus’s mother (η μητηρ αυτου, literally, “the mother of-him”), it wouldn’t be necessary to repeat the word αυτου (“of-him”) in immediately subsequent references to his mother. That is what scholars assume, in translating the two “the mother” references in verse 26 as “his mother”. But, with two mothers mentioned in verse 25, Jesus’s and Lazarus’s – what is more, two mothers with several significant things in common, as noted – it is not so clearcut. Jesus could be telling the Lazarus to behold his actual mother, Mary Magdalene, or Jesus’s own mother, or (and this is what I think) both mothers.

Quite conceivable is the possibility that the original text had the word “mother” in the plural form, and that the redactor either thought this was a grammatical error or, more likely, he fully understood that this was meant to refer both to Jesus’s mother and to Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife and the Beloved Disciple’s mother, and so he reduced the plural to singular.

It is universally believed that Jesus is speaking to his mother when he says, “Woman, behold your son.” I believe that he is speaking to both mothers, affirming to each of the two Marys that Lazarus is her son. That is why he does not say, “Mother, behold your son,” or, for that matter, “Wife, behold your son.” By saying γυνη, “woman”, he encompasses both of these Marys with so much in common.

It is universally believed that Jesus is referring to his own mother when he says to the Beloved Disciple, “Behold your mother”: he is requiring Lazarus to take on the duty of filial responsibility for his step-grandmother, his stepfather’s mother. I believe that he is referring to both mothers, asking Lazarus to take care of both of them when he, Jesus, is dead.

Keep in mind how much these two Marys have in common, in their names and in their death-facing son-of-the-Father sons, a close relationship highlighted by this couplet and by the use of “the mother” in verse 26 to refer to both mothers. What we can draw from this is that, when Jesus says to Lazarus “Behold your mother,” he is speaking not only about his own mother, but Lazarus’s mother, Mary Magdalene, as well. He is saying “Take care of my mother, and your mother my wife, when I am dead.”

Both of these duties are the duty of a son, not a stepson, and so it becomes clear, in this Jesus’s dying instruction, that his words incorporate his formal recognition of his stepson Lazarus as his own son. Such a final command as this was in that age not merely taken seriously, but was binding on the dying person’s family; it was as formal as a legal will today – and the carefully worded recounting of this statement by Lazarus the Beloved Disciple and eyewitness, in poetry no less, tells us just how serious it was. With his final breath of life – his final inhalations and exhalations of the Spirit of God – Jesus was arranging for his mother and his wife to be cared for, and at the same time but he was acknowledging his stepson as his own son. This would have been a highly emotional and memorable moment for the two Marys and Lazarus standing between them. And the text tells us that after this event the disciple took αυτην – a pronoun that can mean either “her” (one mother) or “them” (both mothers) – into his home.

And also this poetic “last will” of Jesus is clearly meant again to establish a parallel between him and the greatest of the prophets, Moses and Elijah. Since these parallels are drawn several times in the early chapters of the gospel, this also forms another inclusio. The Torah has Moses, like Jesus, reciting poetry before his death (Deuteronomy 32-33), and the account of Elijah’s death (II Kings 2) has him likewise orating a kind of “last will”, giving Elisha his sacred powers.

As a result of all this, I conclude that this couplet originally read as follows:

He said to the mothers, “Women, behold your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Son, behold your mothers.”

Clearly here the redactor removed the offending word “son”, without replacing it with anything; the only option he had was “disciple” or “the beloved disciple”, both of which would have sounded odd if forced here into Jesus’s dying words. And he reduced “women” and “mothers” to their singular forms.

If this second couplet refers so clearly to sons and mothers, then the strong possibility follows that the original version of the couplet in verse 25 also exactly specified the relationships involved:

His mother and the disciple’s mother,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.

This would have perfectly set up the dual change in relationship that Jesus specifies to Lazarus and his mother: his stepson becomes his son, and his mother becomes his son’s mother. But this would have been far too much of an affront to the dogma the new religion was developing, driving the redactor to change the “disciple’s mother” to “mother’s sister” and “the wife of Jesus” to “Magdalene”.

The two couplets read perfectly together:

His mother and the disciple’s mother,
Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary the wife of Jesus.

He said to the mothers, “Women, behold your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Son, behold your mothers.”

which in Greek would be:

η μητηρ αυτου και η μητηρ της μαθητην
μαρια η του κλωπα και μαρια η του ιεσους.

λεγει τας μητρας γυναι ιδε ο υιος σου
ειτα λεγει τω μαθητη ιδε αι μητηρες σου

And, just in case anyone still should fail to see the poetry, the author placed immediately before these two couplets another couplet taken from the Tanakh (Psalm 22:18) of what is universally recognized as poetry:

They divided my garments among themselves,
And for my clothing they cast lots.

And then, in stunning chiaroscuro, immediately following this bouquet of poetry, the author gives us in terse prose the death of Jesus.

This Clopas to whom verse 25 says Jesus’s mother was married was probably known in Aramaic, as Hilfai or Halfai; Joseph Henry Thayer suggests in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament that κλωπας (Clopas) is a transliteration of חילפאי (Hilfai or Halfai), but that, since there is no letter for “H” in Greek, the initial ח in the name was rendered into Greek with a κ, “K”, and a Greek-style suffix was added.

Early Christian writers Papias and Hegesippus both declare Clopas to be the brother of Jesus’s father, Joseph. Again I concur with James Daniel Tabor that Hilfai (Clopas) married Mary after his brother Joseph’s death, and so Mary the wife of Clopas is Jesus’s mother, and Clopas (Hilfai) his stepfather.

It has often been suggested that Clopas and the Cleopas who appears in Luke 24:13-35 are the same man. If that is so, if Mary still has a husband, then why does the Gospel of John specify that after Jesus’s death the Beloved Disciple took Mary “into his own home” (19:27)? Either a) Clopas and Cleopas are different men with similar names, and bear in mind that these are clumsy transliterations into Greek, so the original Aramaic names could be almost anything; or b) Clopas/Cleopas and Mary have separated; or c) the Lukan episode is of a son of Clopas, possibly the Levi (ben Clopas) discussed above. I think the first and third alternatives are the most likely.

More about Clopas and Jesus’s brothers and half-brothers may be read in the essay in this volume titled “On the Brothers of Jesus”.

Introduction to a New Translation of the Gospel of John

Note: The following is a rough draft of the first three parts of the introduction to James David Audlin’s translation-in-progress of the Gospel of John. Comments are welcome!

Yes, this may be rather “dry” to some readers, but it is hoped that those interested in the origins of the New Testament will find it interesting.

More sections of this introduction will follow.

See also a previous blog, below, To Inhabit and Possess: Revolutionary Bible Translation.

 

 I: The Authorship of the Gospel of John

The Fourth Gospel is the only one in the canonical New Testament that claims to be an eyewitness account. The identity of this eyewitness is not given in the text as we have it; he is made known to us only as “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” However, early church leaders are unanimous in ascribing its authorship to someone by the name of John; in fact, this is one of the strongest such ascriptions in the New Testament. Eusebius, for instance, identifies the Beloved Disciple as John, and says he died at Patmos – which happens to be where another Johannine text, the Revelation, was composed.

Despite this early and persistent testimony, many hypotheses have been proposed as to who the eyewitness, the Beloved Disciple, was. These range from one of the sons of Zebedee to Lazarus and even Mary Magdalene. My view is that the Beloved Disciple was John Mark, and that he was the son of Jesus.

The circumlocution “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” appears to be a modest way on the part of this eyewitness of avoiding the self-referential “I” (έγω), the way today someone might put “this writer” or “the undersigned”. The eyewitness uses such a roundabout in order to keep the emphasis on Jesus rather than on the mere teller of the story: with this phrase, even in speaking of himself he is speaking of Jesus (“the one whom Jesus loved”). If my hypothesis that he is the son of Jesus is correct, then even more as such he would understandably want to avoid people attaching undue significance to him as some kind of “divine son” instead of on Jesus.

More importantly, this circumlocution also avoids an unfortunate jangling with ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ, “I AM”, which is the Greek rendering of one of the seven most sacred names for God in the Torah; אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, often translated “I Am What I Am”, but literally “I Shall Be What I Shall Be”, though implying the past and present tenses too. Clearly our eyewitness wanted to avoid using the first person singular in referring to his own self, so that all “I am” phrases would be in the mouth of Jesus, and theologically significant.

In 14:6, Jesus paraphrases Isaiah 35:8 to say he is The Way to ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ. (In 1:23, John the Baptist quotes the Septuagint version of Isaiah 40:3 to say he is the voice crying in the wilderness “Make straight the Way of the Lord”, the voice that precedes the Way. So significant was the phrase in the earliest days of this spiritual movement that, according to Acts they called themselves The Way.) This phrase ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ occurs in several critical scenes, such as 6:20 (as Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee during a storm), 6:48, 51 (speaking of his flesh and blood), 8:28, 8:58 and 13:19 (which draw the connection between God and Jesus), 18:6 (his arrest). It also occurs in another Johannine text, the Revelation (at 1:8 and 4:8), in the past, present, and future tenses in Greek, but probably conscious of the phrase’s Hebrew origin.

But in the earliest, patristic period of Israelite religion the phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה was more than just a way of referring to God; it was in itself a statement about the presence of God in each of us. The phrase almost definitely was an expansion of the most sacred name for God, יהוה. Scholars agree that the pronunciation of this name has been lost for millennia, and hence for millennia, in reading the Hebrew text of the Torah aloud, it has been the practice to say אֲדֹנָי (’Adonai, “my Lord”) in its place. Today it is often vocalized as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, but both of these are simply guesses.

As to the original pronunciation, Josephus provides a significant clue in the fifth chapter of his Jewish Wars, “τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα ταῦτα δ’ ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα” (“[engraved with] the holy letters, and they are four vowels”). To utter these four letters, represented in English as YHWH, is not to speak an ordinary human word, not to vocalize at all, but to emit a whisper, a soft exhalation. For this Word is the Word, the Word before all others (έν αρχη), the Λογος (John 1:1ff) through which all things were made. If our breath is the name of God, then that would explain why אֲדֹנָי (’Adonai) was said in place of the Name in reading the Torah aloud: it, unlike an exhalation, would have been audible to the listeners.

This exhalation is the breath/spirit/wind that יהוה, YHWH (God), breathed across the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2). By breathing his Name into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7), God gave the gift of a נֶפֶש, nephesh, a breath/soul, hence the gift of life, to him – and so, by extension, all living things, including you and me.

It is the faint sound of breathing, the קֹול דְּמָמָה דַקָּה that Elijah heard in the cave where he had hidden, wanting to die. It is the breath that יהוה breathed into the dry bones of Israel (Ezekiel 37). It is the wind-spirit-breath that God will breathe out upon all flesh in time to come (Joel 2:28f).

It is the wind-breath-spirit that comes down from the sky/heaven (όυρανος) in the form of a whirlwind (reading περισσοτερος [whirlwind] instead of περιστερας [dove]; I believe the Synoptics perpetrated a malapropism and that the Gospel of John was later “fixed” to cohere with it) when John the Baptist baptizes Jesus (John 1:32).

It is the same πνευμα from God that blows through the room where the apostles have gathered (Acts 2), such that their own exhalations as they speak are comprehensible in every language of the world, reversing the calamity of Babel (Genesis11), and paralleling Jesus’s own baptism as they themselves are baptized with the רוּחַ of God in fulfillment of Jesus’s promise (John 14:16f) that the Spirit/Breath will come and enter them. So it is that Jesus tells Nikodemos that one cannot enter the Realm of God without being born not only from water (amniotic fluid) but from above (άνωθεν), from the wind-breath-spirit of God.

Thus, from the patristic period through Jesus’s time and after, it was believed that the breath was the very presence of the Spirit of God within us: to inhale was to receive the gift of a living soul from God, and to exhale was to extol God with that Name that God breathed into us; further, breathing upon others conferred the Spirit/Breath of God on them and could heal their infirmities as well. What is more, as in the Native American “visible breath” tradition, we must always be truthful in our speech because to speak is to breathe the Name of God (“I AM the way, the truth, and the life”).

In this sense, the Name appears in several critical passages of the gospel. In 1:32, as John the Baptist baptizes Jesus the Πνευμα, the Wind/Breath/Spirit of God descends from heaven like a whirlwind. In 19:30 Jesus breathes out the wind/breath/spirit within him for the last time as he dies. In 20:22 Jesus exhales on the disciples and says “Receive the πνεθμα άγιον (the sacred breath/spirit – equivalent in Greek to רוּחַ (Ruach); by exhaling he proves he is alive, he heals them, he blesses them, he fills them with the Name and Spirit of God.

And thus it is that I believe our eyewitness preferred not to speak of himself in the first person singular.

 

However, in other places in the gospel the lack of a clear reference to the Beloved Disciple is among the means by which a late redactor of the gospel text excised references in the text to Jesus’s status as a husband and father, no doubt in order not to undercut a desire to present Jesus as divine.

As an example of these apparent excisions let us take the miracle at Cana. It makes no sense that Jesus’s mother tells him to provide more wine for the wedding banquet if he and she (plus, so we are told, the disciples) are merely guests at the wedding. This inadequate explanation was clearly supplied by the redactor, I believe, after he excised from the text any reference to Jesus’s actual role at the wedding, as the bridegroom. That role would make it his responsibility (as his mother reminds him) to replenish the wine for the guests. What is more, what the steward says to the bridegroom is only really funny if the bridegroom is Jesus. And, finally this scene is one of several parallels between the beginning and the conclusion of the gospel, in what is often called A-B-A symmetry or “inclusio”.

This first of his miracles, at his own wedding, is clearly meant to presage the last of his miracles, his resurrection, which is also a divine hierogamy. And, of course, the earthly wine at Cana anticipates the spiritual vine and wine imagery in the final chapters of the gospel. This was so obviously intended as one of a considerable number of “inclusio” parallels between the beginning and end of the gospel that the excision becomes fairly obvious to the critical reader.

Another obvious example of such an excision of Jesus’s familial relationships occurs in John 19:26-27, in which Jesus assigns his own filial responsibility for his mother to the Beloved Disciple. The gospel names three women named Mary as present at Jesus’s crucifixion: his mother, his aunt, and Mary Magdalene. [Note that Papias and Hegesippus, writing in the second century, say Clopas is the brother of Joseph (Jesus’s father). If so, then this second Mary is Jesus’s paternal aunt by marriage.] In a passage from the noncanonical Gospel of Philip closely paralleling this one, the Magdalene is referred to as Jesus’s companion; not merely his wife but (so the word suggests in contemporary literature) his partner or colleague. So we have immediate family to witness and discharge the responsibility bequeathed by the dying man. The form of the charge to his relatives comes in the form of parallelism, though as we have it it appears incomplete –

 

He said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”

Then he said to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”

 

The lacuna is best filled in with either the word “son” (ύιος) or the disciple’s name; clearly something has been suppressed here by the final editors of the text to hide the identity of the disciple. Surely, and especially in his dying moments, Jesus is going to hand off that responsibility to a close family member. It is not likely a brother of Jesus, since the wording strongly suggests Jesus is designating with his words a new mother-son relationship, and such a brother already has the same mother. Thus it makes sense to assume that he is giving to his son this filial responsibility for his mother; i.e., his son’s grandmother.

What is more, in both the Cana and crucifixion scenes the text has Jesus address his mother as “woman” (γυνη), a rather strange salutation that scholars have struggled for centuries to explain. I believe that further obvious parallelism has been weeded out by the redactor, and the two verses originally said something like this:

 

He said to his mother, “Mother, behold your son.”

Then he said to his son, “Son, behold your mother.”

 

In fact, in this gospel as we have it Jesus always refers to women as “woman”: besides his mother he does so to the Samaritan woman (4:21) and to Mary Magdalene (20:15). The latter, too, may be a revision of the text to avoid clearly stating how Jesus was associated with the Magdalene. She is described as elevated to a special status in the Pistis Sophia (a noncanonical gospel-like text probably composed in the second century), and also in the noncanonical Gospel of Philip, which calls her his companion, and says the disciples are envious of how he often kisses her often on the mouth; such kissing is not mere romance but an exchange of breaths among spiritual companions. Certainly his calling her “Mary” at the Resurrection (20:16) carries a strong implication of not just love but an equality of companionship, as does her response, to embrace him. Jesus’s words “Μη μου άπτου”, “Leave off from embracing me,” clearly directing her to cease for now from an embrace she is already giving him, because he wants her to go tell the brothers that he has risen, were badly mistranslated in Jerome’s Vulgate as “Noli me tangere”, “Do not touch me”, resulting in centuries of misogynistic mistranslation.

Far from being misogynistic, the resurrection scene in chapter 20 is fairly bristling with marriage imagery, complementing other passages in the gospel that make it clear that Mary was Jesus’s wife or companion. There are clear allusions to the beginning of Genesis and the Song of Songs, and even to the Odyssey. There is besides some clear paralleling between Jesus’s conversation with Mary and the first conversation he holds in the gospel, with the disciples of John the Baptist. Every word is calibrated to tell the reader that this scene is critically important. Thus, if Mary is in some sense his wife, it makes considerable sense that she seeks out their son, the Beloved Disciple, and his best friend Simon (nicknamed Peter).

The Beloved Disciple is specifically named in four scenes, and each of these scenes gives us a clue about him. At the Last Supper he shares a couch with Jesus, which it was custom for a father to do with his young son. At the Crucifixion the Beloved Disciple is given filial responsibility for Jesus’s mother, again suggesting he is Jesus’s son. At the Resurrection Mary calls him to the empty tomb, accompanied by Simon Peter, suggesting family responsibility for the deceased. And at the Sea of Galilee Jesus prophesies about Simon Peter’s and the Beloved Disciple’s future.

While most of the gospel does not specifically refer to the Beloved Disciple as an active presence, there is reason to believe that the eyewitness served his purpose by recounting the extended conversations he heard. If as I believe Barabbas (Son of the Father) is the Beloved Disciple, Jesus’s son, that would explain how the private audience with the consul, Pontius Pilate, was observed and recounted in the gospel: because, charged like his father with a crime, he was there. And a few scenes, most notably that of Mary Magdalene with Jesus at the Resurrection (John 20:1-18), are quite clearly his passing on to his own disciples what his mother, Mary Magdalene, had told him.

So we have an eyewitness widely attested to be named John who is beloved by Jesus, close as well to Mary Magdalene, and probably their son.

 

John Mark, best remembered for his appearances in the Acts of the Apostles, fits this description well.

We know from Acts 12:12 that John Mark’s mother is named Mary, and that she has a house in Jerusalem. He is brought from Jerusalem to accompany Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas, apparently mostly at the latter’s insistence. At first, the latter two men work closely together.

Joseph Barnabas, a Levite, sells property he owns in his native Cyprus and provides the proceeds to the highly Jewish Jerusalem branch of this new religious movement centered around Jesus. He introduces Saul to them, and later, often with Saul (later Paul), he evangelizes throughout the Roman Empire, especially in Cyprus and nearby Antioch. His cognomen “Barnabas” is given an obviously incorrect etymology in Acts (as “Son of Encouragement”), but it is far more likely to come from the Aramaic בר נביא, bar naḇyā, “the Son of the Prophet”. This name suggests he too is a close relative of Jesus. Colossians 4:10 suggests that he and John Mark are cousins.

Saul, also changed his name from that ethnically Jewish one to the etymologically unrelated “Paul”, much more cosmopolitan in the Roman Empire, much more palatable to the gentiles he hoped to convert. As this name-change suggests, he was at odds with the new movement’s very Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, which comprised in particular members of Jesus’s own family and his closest associates. Saul wants to Hellenize this movement, mainly by getting rid of such Jewish requirements as kosher diet and circumcision, and by turning Jesus into a typical Roman man-god: a man who declares his own divinity as did the Roman emperors, a god who dies and is resurrected, leaving behind mystical rites involving wine-blood and bread-body to invoke the deity’s presence, as did Dionysus.

When he takes Saul with him to evangelize, Joseph Barnabas brings John Mark along from Jerusalem (Acts 12:25). But in almost its next breath (13:6) Acts tells us about a “Jewish false prophet” in Paphos, then the Cypriot capital city, called Bar-Jesus – calling to mind Barabbas. The text that follows isn’t clear; this individual may or may not be the same as another “false prophet”, Elymas (Arabic for “Wise One”), who tried to turn Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul in Cyprus, away from the faith represented by Barnabas and Paul. So critical is the confrontation with Bar-Jesus and Elymas (who may or may not be the same person) that from this point on in Acts Saul is referred to as “Paul”, taking the name from Sergius Paulus. Moreover, from this point on (at least according to the book of Acts, but there is little reason to doubt this, since the sheer numbers of converts racked up by Paul conferred on him considerable authority in the early church) he takes over the missionary leadership from Barnabas.

This is more than a simple name-change; it is a signal of the intended nature of the man’s missionary activities and, ultimately, his plan to control and even mold the nature of the Jesus-centered spiritual movement. Saul’s original name was ethnically Jewish, and “Paul” would sound much more cosmopolitan in the Roman Empire, much more palatable to the gentiles he hoped to convert. He was at odds with the new movement’s very Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, which comprised in particular members of Jesus’s own family and his closest associates, and this name-change is emblematic of his break not just with this leadership but with all things Jewish.

As Paul, he seeks to Hellenize this movement, mainly by getting rid of such Jewish requirements as kosher diet and circumcision, and by turning Jesus into a typical Roman man-god, fully human yet fully divine.

The Jesus-centered religious movement was at the time rife with controversy.  Acts tells us (15:1) that the Jerusalemite contingent demanded that Barnabas and Paul require their converts to go through the Jewish ritual of circumcision. What is more, the two were summoned to Jerusalem, where they met with the elders for a rather stormy conference. It ended with a compromise mainly proposed by James, the brother of Jesus, and giving Paul and Barnabas pretty much freedom to do what they wanted. These two men, by their astonishing success at evangelizing, couldn’t be denied, and the Jerusalemite leaders knew it; their only card was the imprimatur of their good will. Feeling vindicated, the two returned to Antioch and preached. However then a rift developed between them and they separated – permanently.

This rift almost certainly was precipitated in part by the so-called Incident at Antioch of which Paul speaks at length in his letter to the Galatean church. In the letter (Galatians 2:11-14) Paul accuses the apostle Simon, better known by his nickname “Peter”, of refusing to eat a meal with gentile (i.e., non-Jewish) Christians in Antioch. Paul goes on to charge Peter with hypocrisy, claiming he has adopted a cushy gentile lifestyle, “not like a Jew”, and yet he demands gentile converts to accept traditional Jewish requirements, including kosher diet and cicrumcision. Even Paul’s friend, colleague, and mentor Joseph Barnabas sides with the Jerusalemite leadership.

But the wedge that actually drives the two men apart is John Mark. Acts (15:36-40) tells us that Paul alleges John Mark “had deserted them in Pamphylia and not accompanied them in the work” of evangelizing; therefore, he refuses to travel with John Mark any longer. Barnabas, on the other hand, still wants John Mark to come with them. So vehement is this argument between Paul and Barnabas that Saul no longer has any relations with the Jerusalemites, including Barnabas. Now calling himself Paul, he goes deep into the Roman world with his own highly Romanized brand of the faith.

The two issues, I believe, were related. My contention is that John Mark, without the blessing of Paul or Barnabas and possibly with the support of the Jerusalemite leadership, was putting himself forward as the son of Jesus (hence “Bar-Jesus”), as the dynastic “heir apparent” to the messianic claim of Jesus. This was no doubt a political effort to strengthen the power of the Jerusalem contingent of the religious movement, and besides to blunt, at least to some degree, the crushing Roman hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean.

This set John Mark’s goals at odds with Paul’s. John Mark clearly sided with his Jewish friends and relatives in Jerusalem, hence against the Roman Empire, to which Paul was reaching out. Likewise, by insisting on observing Jewish law, Peter and the other apostles were likewise (in Paul’s view) failing to recognize the great potential this religious movement had to gain gentile converts throughout the empire.

Paul, evidently, decided at a go to have done with everyone in the Jerusalem group – including Peter, including James the brother of Jesus, including John Mark the son of Jesus. Freed from their constraining influence, he continued in his preaching and letter-writing to recast Jesus in the mold of a Roman god. Barnabas continued his evangelizing too, but not with the same success as Paul.

John Mark went on to take an elder statesman role, writing letters to the churches, as did not only Paul but his uncles James and Judas, brothers of Jesus and leaders of the Jerusalemite faction. These letters far more than Paul’s are clearly directed to a Jewish audience.

The Revelation, written during his last years on the island of Patmos, speaks outrage against the evil Roman Empire and against the Pauline approach of watering down the Jewishness of the Jesus-centered movement to make it more palatable to gentiles.

And, also in these elder years, John Mark reminisced about his experiences as a disciple. Ironically, his memories of a very human Jesus, a husband and father, were eventually tampered with in order to create a gospel whose final version is the best example of the very “high christology” he did not espouse. Still, it is certainly due to this meddling that the gospel was made part of the canon in the increasingly Pauline, Romanized church, and very possibly that it survives at all.

 

II: A Theory as to the Devolution of the Gospel Text

The Gospel of John was clearly written ignorant of both the Gospel of Mark and the “Q” gospel (the hypothetical gospel that, besides Mark, was also a source from which Matthew and Luke took material), as well as their descendants, the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It contains several episodes in Jesus’s ministry that are also described in that Synoptic family of gospels, but in John they are told in an entirely different way.

Yet the reverse is also true; the Synoptic gospels appear to have been written by people unaware of the Gospel of John, since they do not incorporate any of several episodes that are unique to the latter, or adopt any of the amplifications found in John of several episodes also found in the Synoptics.

The second fact is borne out by the general agreement of scholars that the Gospel of John was promulgated relatively later than the other three canonical gospels. The first fact, however, supports theorizing an early date of composition for the gospel, at least in its Ur-text stage.

There can be little argument about an early (initial) composition for John. The very fact that it is, or was based on, an eyewitness account points to an early date.  So too do the number of close parallels to passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., the passage in the Rule of the Community, “And by his [God’s] knowledge everything has been brought into being; and everything that exists he established according to his purpose; and apart from him nothing has been done.”, which is very close to John 1:3). What is more, there is no reference to the destruction by the Romans of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., again suggesting an early (first) composition. (Unlike other scholars, I don’t see any implicit reference to this destruction in 2:19-22, but rather an inclusio with 20:8-9. Both 2:19-22 and 11:48 probably reflect legitimate fears that were widely felt at the time – for Titus’s razing of the temple certainly was not unexpected.)

Charles Hill, in The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church, convincingly finds evidence that the gospel was read and referred to as early as the year 90, and that such early fathers as Ignatius and Polycarp were aware of it. This, too, forces us to settle on an early composition date.

Finally, the textual evidence for the Gospel of John is older and more reliable than that for any other New Testament text: the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, for instance, is the oldest manuscript fragment of any canonical New Testament text; dating from the first half of the second century, it contains portions of John 18:31-33 and 37-38 that give the text exactly as it is found in later, complete manuscripts. Other early fragments of John also vary little if at all from the gospel text as we have it now. Thus we must conclude that, if there was such a provenance so early of the final version of the Gospel of John, then composition of the gospel had to be relatively early.

These facts strongly suggest that the Gospel of John was, at least in its Ur-text, composed soon after the life of Jesus, before the Synoptics had become widely read – and yet that it did not gain wide publication until after the Synoptic Gospels had been written, such that the Synoptics were uninfluenced by the Gospel of John. The question this scenario raises is: What changes did the text of the Gospel of John go through during the time from its original composition (by, or transcribing the oral reminiscences of, the eyewitness, the Beloved Disciple) to the as-we-have-it-today final version?

Any fully satisfactory theory of the origination of the Gospel of John must also account somehow for the apparent similarities to some fragmentary noncanonical gospels that bear some resemblance to John, including the so-called Egerton Gospel. This question will be taken up in the notes to the translation of the restored original Gospel of John that follows.

 

Following is how I believe the Gospel of John achieved its present form. This discussion may be summarized by naming the agencies thus: 1) The eyewitness, 2) An amanuensis?, 3) An editor, 4) A redactor.

I think the Beloved Disciple, as an eyewitness to Jesus’s ministry, often reminisced about Jesus, and either he wrote his recollections down in at best a somewhat chronologically ordered fashion, or else an amanuensis transcribed them in as ordered a manner as possible, or a combination of both. It is not typically human nature to reminisce in chronological order; the scenario is much more likely that the Beloved Disciple simply remembered events during the ministry of Jesus as they occurred to him, and thus that he or his disciple(s) wrote them down in a haphazard manner. It would also be typical of human nature that he spoke of the same events more than once, providing different details each time, and that he or his amanuensis (or amanuenses) then later went back to add notes to accounts already written down.

The Beloved Disciple was most likely also the author of the three Letters of John, and possibly of the Revelation, which would mean he was certainly as a writer capable of composing the Gospel of John. The hypothesis that an amanuensis (or amanuenses) actually wrote down the oral reminiscences of the Beloved Disciple is at this time unprovable one way or the other, but it doesn’t matter, since whether he wrote down his reminiscences himself or an amanuensis did does not change the overall theory being proposed here. All we need to know is this first stage resulted in a written compilation of eyewitness accounts of various events in Jesus’s ministry, possibly to some degree in chronological order but possibly not, and probably with various additions scribbled into the margins to be smoothed into the text of the finished gospel when it came time to prepare it. The jumbled nature of this earliest version of the gospel helps account for some of the textual displacements within it.

What language this Ur-text was composed in is unclear. Sseveral words or phrases are in Aramaic, the lingua franca of Palestine at that time. And most of the references to the Tanakh (Jewish Bible, or Christian Old Testament) seem based on the original in Hebrew (the mother of the Aramaic language), not the Septuagint (the late Jewish translation of the Tanakh into Greek). Certainly some passages that are confusing in Greek become much clearer when back-translated into Aramaic or when read from the Peshitta, an early Aramaic translation of the New Testament; Jesus’s statement at John 8:39 (q.v.) is one of these.

Yet there is a considerable reliance throughout on not only Greek language in the text (especially the prologue), but on Greek literature (for instance, the allusions to Herakleitos and Plotinus in the prologue and to the Odyssey in chapter 20). While the references to the πνευμα and the רוּחַ work equally well in either language (since both mean wind/breath/spirit), some doubles entendres, such as ανωθεν (meaning either “from above” or “again”) in John 3:3 only exist in Greek. (This raises a side question of whether Jesus spoke with Nikodemos in Greek even though they were both local Jews and thus more likely inclined to speak in either Aramaic or Hebrew.) The Beloved Disciple, like Jesus and most reasonably well educated Jewish males at that time in that region, would have been fluent in Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and probably Latin as well. My theory is that there was some back-and-forth between Aramaic and Greek in this first stage of gospel composition, with the intention and trend being toward finalizing it in the latter language.

The second stage, I theorize, was that of revising and refining the gospel. A large portion of this was putting the reminiscences in chronological order, including inserting marginal glosses where they seemed best to go into the narrative flow. Either the Beloved Disciple himself or his amanuensis (or amanuenses) began to put these haphazard reminiscences into the shape of an ordered gospel. The poetic “Logos” prologue was composed and added to the gospel at this point, and the A-B-A symmetry, or “inclusio” structure was at least structured and partly if not completely fleshed out. I believe these latter refinements were mostly if not entirely provided by the Beloved Disciple, based on the following logic. Whoever it is who composed the prologue certainly also wrote the three Letters of John (and perhaps the Revelation). Given the considerable similarities in diction and theme between the gospel (the prologue in particular) and the letters, and given the strong attestation in the early church that the gospel and the letters were composed by someone named John, I assume the individual responsible for the prologue and the letters was John Mark, whom I believe to be the identity of the Beloved Disciple.

The editing and refining process, in my estimation, was never completed; the Beloved Disciple may have died or been killed by forces antithetical to this new religious movement (which were not few or powerless), or he may have simply abandoned the gospel-writing project for some reason. Thus at this point in my hypothesis there was a more or less complete gospel, but some passages were not properly edited and/or put in their proper locations. It will be my intent in this book to restore not the final version of the actual text that the Beloved Disciple left behind (before further modifications were wrought upon it by others), but the text that he intended to complete – a text, in fact, that has almost certainly never existed until now.

At this point, another individual whom I call the editor, clearly not the Beloved Disciple but associated with him, made changes to the Beloved Disciple’s monograph and added further material. This individual speaks directly to the reader with comments of his own at various points, such as at 20:30f and 21:24f – these two comments speak of the Beloved Disciple in the third person, making it clear that this editor holds the Beloved Disciple in high esteem. He probably composed and added chapter 21, either from rough notes left behind by the Beloved Disciple or else by basing it on his own memory of spoken recollections by the Beloved Disciple; this would explain the appendix nature and somewhat different style, and (with its implication of his death) may also explain why the Beloved Disciple did not complete work on the gospel.

It is probable that this editor put into the gospel other passages, such as 3:11-21 and 31-36, that were not necessarily intended by the Beloved Disciple to go into the gospel. My theory is that these passages actually were written reflections on the nature of Jesus by the Beloved Disciple, along the lines of I John and probably intended as another letter, such as IV John, of which only one sentence survives. The editor probably didn’t know better – either he was unaware that they weren’t intended to go into the gospel, or he was aware but he chose to use them anyway, as a good literary workman, placing somewhere in this magnum opus all of the precious writings left behind by the Beloved Disciple, even if they weren’t really meant to go into the gospel.

It is possible (but in my view much less likely) that this editor actually composed the prologue and added other non-gospel material with phraseology similar to the Letters of John; as noted above, it makes more sense that these texts were added by the Beloved Disciple himself. Finally, either this editor or the redactor (see below) also was responsible for various glosses to provide Greek translations of Aramaic or Hebrew words, to suggest fulfillments of passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and the like.

Also, at some point after the Beloved Disciple was no longer involved, large blocs of material got moved around (according to a theory first propounded by Rudolf Bultmann). Since many of these displaced “partitions” are of about the same length, a reasonable hypothesis is that the text of some early draft of the gospel was written on sheets of about the same length, perhaps relatively inexpensive scrap ends cut from finished scrolls and sold relatively inexpensively. As examples of these displacements: Chapter 2:1-11 (which begins “On the third day…”) clearly should go between 4:45 and 46b, and 3:25-30 probably follows 2:11. The sixth chapter clearly should follow immediately on 4:54. Jesus saying “Rise, let us go hence” at the end of chapter 14 clearly should be followed by 17:1 rather than two more chapters of Last Supper discourse. Someone at around this point, either the editor or the redactor (see below), put some (often clumsy) bridges into the texts to smooth over the gaps caused by displacement; an example of these is 4:46a.

The next stage in the development (or perhaps we should say the devolution) of the gospel text was conducted by an individual I refer to as the redactor. This person revised the text (as left by the Beloved Disciple, the amanuensis if any, and the editor) to remove all references to Jesus as a husband and father, and to change text or even add some phrases in order to heighten the “Christology” therein. It was at this point, for instance, that anything suggesting that Jesus was the bridegroom at Cana (chapter 2) and that the Beloved Disciple was Jesus’s son (especially 19:27) was extracted.

This redactor, or some copyist later yet, added the Lucan narrative at 7:53-8:11. Though an interesting episode, it clearly does not belong in this gospel.

At this point the Gospel of John had reached the form by which we know it today.

The intention of this book is to peel away, layer by layer as it were, these post-Beloved-Disciple distortions of his gospel, until we reach something as close to his Ur-text as possible – and then with considerable and conservative care, as much as is possible, completing the refinement of the original gospel that the Beloved Disciple did not do himself.

 

III: Relationship with Other Christian Scriptures

 

The earliest stage of the spiritual movement we now know as the Christian religion was marked by several significant factors. It was wholly a part of the Jewish faith, and did not (yet) consider itself a separate religion. It believed in the imminent arrival of the end of the world, or at least an overwhelming change in the nature of the created universe, within the lifetime of most people alive at the time. This belief imposed a certain pressure on the leadership of the movement to spread it as widely as possible – to save as many souls as it could before the end came – despite the fact that Judaism has never been by any means an evangelistic faith.

A man named Saul, associated with the Pharisees, after persecuting this new spiritual movement within the Jewish faith for some time, spoke and wrote often about a conversion experience, in which Jesus supposedly came to him in a vision. After this episode he switched sides, and began seeking to bring converts into the Jesus-centered movement. Saul started out among his fellow Jews, attempting to bring them to his particular understanding of the new Jesus-centered spiritual movement – but, far from achieving much success, he was himself subjected to persecution, at various times being imprisoned, badly beaten, and stoned to the point of death.

He shifted to a mission among the gentiles, who were of course far more plentiful in the Roman Empire, and in this he achieved astounding success. As part of this transition, he basically reinvented himself. Instead of proclaiming his pharisaical credentials he displayed his Roman citizenship. He changed his name from Saul, which sounded rather “ethnic” in those days just as it does now, to Paul. Though the two names are related only in terms of pronunciation, the latter sounded far more cosmopolitan to Roman citizens.

More importantly, Paul did not demand his gentile converts to follow the mitzvot (the laws of the Torah), even though he was supposedly converting them into a new movement within the Jewish faith, Most notably these laws included those requiring consumption only of kosher foods and the law that males had to be circumcised. Paul insisted that faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, replaced and obviated any need to follow these laws.  As his extant letters suggest, he did shift around somewhat in his views over time, but the overall thrust of his stance is that Jews joining the Jesus-centered movement were welcome to observe the mitzvot and gentiles were welcome not to observe them, but what really mattered was faith in Jesus, and to some degree the “good works” that serve as evidence of that faith.

Paul’s radical approach to evangelism did not sit well with the leaders of the movement in Jerusalem. Unlike Paul, they were close friends and relatives of Jesus, they had known Jesus personally, and had heard his teaching from his own lips. They were not happy with this upstart, who (in their perspective) based his missionary activities on a vision that ostensibly put him on a part with them as “knowing” Jesus. They felt he was watering down the faith to make it easier to gain converts. And, as an inevitable result, this ministry was astoundingly successful – to the point that Paul had a significant body of converts across the Roman Empire.

They insisted that conversion to this movement required acceptance of the Jewish religious laws, since this was (in their thinking) a Jewish movement. However, whether they liked it or not, Paul’s very success at missionarying conferred on him considerable power in the movement. He appeared destined to eclipse their own leadership, as of course in due course he did. Therefore, they had no choice but to treat with him, and ultimately to give in to him. At a conference in Jerusalem a compromise was worked out, in which Paul was instructed to “remember the poor,” a particular emphasis on the part of Jesus that Paul was glad to agree to, and a pro forma insistence that his gentile converts merely observe the so-called Noachian Laws: to refrain from idolatry, fornication, and consuming flesh that has been cut away from a living creature.

But on the major unique factor in Paul’s presentation of the Jesus movement no compromise could be reached, and the Jerusalemite leaders had no power to stop it.

Paul’s  modus operandi was to portray Jesus as much as possible in terms that would be familiar and palatable to gentiles in the Roman Empire – and that meant as a Græco-Roman-style god. The raw materials he used to this effect were very much available.

There was, of course, already a long history of mortals being recognized as gods from the most ancient times, most often shortly after their death, but sometimes even during their lifetimes. The deification of Julius Cæsar upon his death, for instance, was still a recent event in the Empire. A popular cult that believed him a god grew rapidly after his assassination in 44 B.C.E., especially when a comet appeared so bright that it was visible by day. So massive was this public sentiment that the Roman Senate had no choice but to ratify the imperator’s deification.

A considerable number of kings and emperors, especially in these eastern lands, were said to have been born to virgin mothers.

Emperor Augustus had been given the title of Savior of the World, like Seleucid and other kings before him.

The Dionysian religion also provided some useful motifs (as has been noted by Hölderlin [1800] and many others). Dionysos was put on trial before a ruler; indeed, in Euripides’s play the two engage in a deep conversation on godhead, power, revolution, and the nature of truth. Dionysos is killed, and then resurrected from the dead by his father-god Zeus (or Jupiter [a name that with Jewish implications; it at least sounded to Jews as יה-Πατερ, Yah-Pater, God the Father, and may in fact even have come from such linguistic roots]). His dévotées communed with him by ingesting bread and wine said to have transubstantiated into his sacred flesh and blood.

Many of the popular Mystery Religions of the day had the kind of ordained priesthood that Judaism did not, plus a great deal of colorful pageantry. The Gnostic movement, which slightly predated the movement that became Christianity, provided the idea of a γνοσις, a core wisdom that just need to be said and believed to confer immortality on the individual.

With Græco-Roman brushes like these, Saul became Paul – and a Jewish rabbi named ישוע‎, Y’shuah (“Joshua” in English) who came to teach about God became Ἰησοῦς (“Jesus” in English), became God – and a מָשִׁיחַ (Mashiach, “Anointed One”, any priest or king who wisely guides or frees the people; even King Cyrus of Persia is proclaimed a Mashiach in the Tanakh) became the unique Χριστος (“Christ” in English).

 

Given this context, one can easily see that the canonical New Testament at best something of a compromise, more accurately a kind of battleground with corpses still littering the field.

The presence of Paul, like the Colossus of Rhodes, towers over the New Testament as we have it today. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, a number of genuine letters of Paul, plus more that are doubtfully his or most likely written by others under his name but still very much a part of his school of Christology, and the Letter to the Hebrews (which may be by Paul’s erstwhile associate Barnabas) comprise the vast majority of texts. The Gospel of Luke was tampered with, especially to give it a virgin birth narrative like Matthew’s. The Gospel of Mark was given a “happy ending” describing the resurrected Jesus, likewise to bring it into line with the Pauline school.

So overwhelming is this Pauline presence that, if the word “canonical” is attached to a text, it should be viewed with suspicion; this means it was approved by the Church Fathers in the second century, who around the time of the councils of Nicæa wholeheartedly promoted the Pauline Jesus, the Roman god Jesus, which Constantine famously used (in the first effort that can truly be called a “hail Mary” long-shot) to shore up his power over a crumbling Roman Empire. Inevitably it led to the Roman Catholic (and to a lesser degree the Orthodox) Church, which to this day is the presence of the still-living Roman Empire, with a Pope instead of an Emperor, but otherwise the same pomp paid for by poor parishioners worldwide, and the same heavy boot heel ready to suppress all independent thought.

In the words of the late Joseph Comblin, a liberation theologian who actually lived with the poor:  “Jesus did not found a religion, he didn’t establish rites, teach doctrines. …When did religion enter Christianity? When Jesus became an object of worship.”

That leaves as non-Pauline in the New Testament only two short letters from or attributed to his close friend Simon Peter, a letter each from his brothers James and Jude, three short letters from (in my theory) his son John Mark, the Revelation – and the Gospel of John.

The Gospel of John shows clear signs of a redactor, and we must give him credit that he clearly sought to keep his modifications as minimal as possible, to suppress any reference to Jesus as a husband and father, and to heighten the Christology of the work, all to bring it more or less into line with the Pauline Jesus-as-Roman-god theology that eventually won the day. If John’s gospel is an eyewitness account, especially coming out of the Jerusalemite faction, then that explains the hesitation to include it in the canon without such modifications.

The prototypical gospels – Mark, John, and Thomas – seem to me to have been originally written by members of Jesus’s family. These close relatives appear to have invented the genre, and it was later that the genre was used by the established Paul-Nicæa Christian religion as a mechanism of establishing and enforcing dogma. Mark and John underwent plenty of theological surgery before being placed in the canon, and Thomas was simply shunted aside for containing far too many logia of Jesus that would serve to undermine his Pauline transformation into a Roman deity.

It is hoped that, thanks to the redactor’s care not to do more damage than he deemed necessary, we can reverse this process of Paul-izing the gospel. It is hoped further that we can correct the many displacements and other textual problems. It is hoped that we can re-edit the prototypical eyewitness account that then emerges to create, at least hypothetically, the gospel that the Beloved Disciple, the son of Jesus, had hoped to leave behind in this world.