United in the Image of God:
Jesus’s Objective, in the Gospel of John, is to Restore Humanity to Reflecting the Nature of Elohim
James David Audlin
Put together from several portions of The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volumes I and II, copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015 by James David Audlin. All worldwide rights reserved. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.
The Talmud, in the Pirkei Avot, quotes Rabbi Eliezer as saying, “God sought advice from the Torah before He created the universe.” The Zohar (Parshas Terumah 161) declares, “The Holy One, Blessed be He, gazed into the Torah, and created the universe.” And the Midrash Beraishis Rabbah (1:1) says: “God wrote the Torah before He created the worlds, for it was the blueprint of all creation. Before He formed the universe, God consulted with the Torah as an architect refers to his blueprint. God spoke to the Torah and asked him, ‘How shall we create the universe, my son?’ The Torah itself declared, ‘A king builds a palace not according to his own ideas, but according to the guidelines of his blueprint. And the architect depends on parchment and tables on which are drawn the plans for the rooms and entrances.’ Thus, the Torah said, ‘I am your blueprint and you are my architect.’ And so God looked into the Torah and, accordingly, created the worlds.”
The first word of Genesis, בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (bereshith), is translated well as “When”. But a more literal rendering is “From the head” (in the sense of “starting-point”). Some classical rabbis noted that the word is the same as saying “with Reshith”, with the Firstfruit (God’s spouse, referring to Proverbs 8:22), and since the Torah is often called רֵאשִׁית, Reshith (probably because of this verse), they took the beginning of Genesis as saying God created the heavens and the earth with the Torah. Eleazar be-Rabbi Qillir records an old tradition in his poetry in which Reshith, as a woman, refuses to assist God in creating the universe until she is wedded to the right man (who will reveal her to humanity): that man is Moses. Thus Jesus, who the Gospel of John portrays as a new Moses, is married to Mary as an incarnation of the Logos, equivalent to Reshith. The Gospel of John repeatedly compares and associates Jesus with Moses, and portrays Mary as an incarnation of the Word, equivalent to Reshith, especially at the resurrection and in the earlier Aramaic version of 4:27. Revelation 3:18a continues to draw this parallel between God/coworker and Jesus/Mary, by using imagery familiar from Proverbs 8:10 and 19, where God’s חָכְמָ֥ה (hokhma, “wisdom”), personified as a woman equivalent to the reshith. In Proverbs 8:30 this “companion” of God is further described as אָ֫מ֥וֹן (amōn), as the “master worker” who worked alongside God to create the universe. John uses this last term in Revelation 3:14 in reference to Mary, but when his Aramaic original was later rendered into Greek not by John but someone far less qualified to do so than he, it was misunderstood as אָמֵן (amēn, “truly”), and put down as such into the Greek version. Similarly, the end of the verse originally spoke of “the רֵאשִׁית (reshith) of the creation of God”, according to Philip Alexander; indeed, the Aramaic actually has reshith, ܪܼܫܼܝܬܼܵܐ. This should have gone into the Greek version as κοινωνος, but again the less-than-expert translator made a mistake, putting it into the Textus Receptus as the αρχη (archē), the “beginning” of the creation of God. That nicely implies John 1:1 (εν αρχη ην ο λογος), but it loses the intended comparison of Mary to God’s coworker in Proverbs 8.
The first chapter of Genesis goes on to describe the creation of the universe by אֱלֹהִים (Elohim) – a term for God in which a feminine singular noun is given a masculine plural suffix. The singular in Aramaic is ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ, “Alaha”, which is cognate to the very rare Hebrew אלוהּ (“Eloah”). Though rare in Hebrew, this singular form is common in Aramaic, and is of course the standard word for God in Arabic, Allah, written in the Qur’an as ﷲ, and in Punjabi, in the Śri Guru Granth Sahib, as ਅਲਹੁ. These are feminine words that literally mean “Goddess” (though they are almost never translated that way); they suggest the feminine aspect of God. When given a masculine suffix, as in Elohim, they become the familiar name of God found in Genesis 1 and elsewhere, the male-and-female-as-one understanding of God who made the first human in the same hermaphroditic image.
Elohim speaks of Godself with plural pronouns (“Let us make… in our own…”), but takes the singular form of the verb. The reason for this is simple: Elohim is male and female as one, which is why Elohim says השענ נתומדכ ונמלצב םדא (“Let us make humanity in our image and after our likeness”), and creates a human individual who is at once both male and female. And therefore, neither man nor woman alone perfectly images God, but rather man and woman together. What is more, only male and female together can imitate Elohim’s ability to create life. This is why there are a number of comments in the Talmud to this effect: “Rabbi Eleazer wrote, ‘Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is written, “Male and female created He them and called their name Adam”’” (Yebamoth 63). Rabbi Joseph of Hamadan similarly wrote, “The Divine Unity is conceived as the union of the King and the Queen”, adding that the sacred body of the King is meant to be united with that of the Queen; then, “he will be One, as it is written: ‘Hear Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One’” (Sefer Tashak; Rabbi Joseph ends by quoting the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4). Likewise, the Sheqel ha Qodesh says: “The secret of the Shema Israel [is that] the Bride returns to her Bridegroom in order that they unite in a real unity.”
Note that the traditional translation of Genesis 1:26-27 (“in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them”) is faulty. The word usually translated “man” is הָֽאָדָם֙ (hā’ādām), “the human being”/”humanity”, from a root meaning “red”, referring to blood, which is the essence of life in ancient Hebrew thinking; being the first one, this being needed no name, and “Adam” only became a name when later there were other humans. The words usually translated “him” and “them”, אֹת֑וֹ (’ōtōw) and אֹתָֽם (’ōtām), are spelling variations of the word אוֹת (oth), which is simply an accusative marker in Hebrew, providing a direct object when a verb requires one, but it is inspecific; in English, yes, it can suggest “him” or “them”, but just as easily “her” or “it” or even “you” (singular or plural); in this case, “it” is appropriate, but the plural “you” is implied, especially in the Talmudic interpretations, for we were all created in this creature that encompasses all humanity: we all exist in potentia in this first godly human creature. Moreover, note that the second word, the one usually translated “them”, אֹתָֽם (’ōtām), is a double entendre that also means “sign” (in the sense of “miracle”): the first human is a miracle: it is not separated complementary opposites, but a single being that integrates its complements in Elohim’s image.
“Rabbi Eliezer said, ‘Any man who has no wife is no proper man; for it is written, “Male and female created He them and called their name Adam”’” (Yebamoth 63). Talmudic midrashim (commentaries) on Genesis 1:27 offer several examples. Rabbi Jeremiah ben Eleazar says that the first adam was created an androgynous, a male-female. Gen. Rabbah 8:1, Ber. 61a, and Eruvin 18a all say that the first adam was in the image of Elohim, being both male and female, and thus “double-faced”, and that God later, in Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman’s words, “split him apart”. Some rabbis even found a reference to this “double-faced” first human in Psalm 139:5. While the verse is usually translated “Behind me and before me you [God] have beset me, and laid your hand (on me)”, the first verb צוּר can mean not only “to beset” but “to create” or even “to fashion” as does an artisan, as it does in Jeremiah 1:5. With the verb taken this way, the rabbis read the psalmist as saying God fashioned him (“laid your hand [on me]”) with a face “behind me and before me”.
Even Paul seems quite aware of this uniting-of-the-sexes-in-the-image-and-likeness-of-God at Galatians 3:28, though he puts on it his usual spin, saying that all human differences are eliminated if we become one with God in the form of Jesus.
The second creation story, beginning at Genesis 2:4b, then has YHWH draw forth womankind, in the person of Eve, from the side of the prototypical hermaphrodite, leaving him male, and now with a name, Adam. Adam’s name means “red earth/clay”, but the name “Eve” is a variation of the name of God found in this second story: in Hebrew it is חַוָּה (“Chavvah”), the infinitive form of the verb “to become”; in Aramaic it is ܚܘܐ. This verb becomes אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (I Shall Be What I Shall Be); when conjugated in the causative form and imperfect state it is הוהי (YHWH), which is the other most sacred name for God, which refers to the Wind/Breath/Spirit. It is appropriate that “the mother of all living”, as Adam referred to his wife (Genesis 3:20), be named with the Sacred Breath that is God’s name. In removing Eve YHWH takes the very essence of life out of the male; a man (the Talmud thus assures us) has no life and can create no life except when he is united with a woman.
A number of scholars have opined that the Hebrew story of the first woman coming from the side of the first man to be his consort was a deliberate inversion by the Hebrews, a rare patriarchal society in the Mesopotamian region, of the far more common story of the first woman giving birth to the first man and then taking him as her consort, found among such matriarchal Goddess-centered cultures as Sumeria and Babylonia. This may be true to an extent, the Hebrew story may have been influenced in its telling by the earlier stories, but such a theory ultimately fails because of the unique nature of the Genesis account: it does not have the reverse of the staggered creation of the sexes just described, such that the first male somehow “gives birth” to the first female, but rather Genesis has the hermaphroditic first human, made in the image of God, torn asunder by God to create the first male and the first female. Ultimately, the Mesopotamian creation stories, and both the first and second creation stories in Genesis agree on one point: male and female were created at the same time.
Thus not only do we see a connection between the name Elohim and the woman, but also YHWH and the woman. Nor is that all. Harriet Lutzky and John J. Parsons, apparently independently, make a similar point about “El Shaddai”, a common term for God in the Tanakh, which modern translators usually render as “the Almighty”, following the lead of the scholars who created the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Tanakh), who believed that it was derived from shadad, which means “to vanquish” or “to destroy”. Lutzky and Parsons point out that the blessing Jacob gives in Genesis 49:25 includes both masculine and feminine imagery, the latter being the “blessings of the breasts and of the womb” (בִּרְכת שָׁדַיִם וָרָחַם), a phrase that suggests “El Shaddai” may come from שַׁד (shad; “breast” in the sense of mammary gland), with the plural being שָׁדַ֖יִם (shadaim; “breasts”), as an indication of God’s all-sufficiency and ability to nourish, to care for, all creation. No doubt earlier Christian Bible scholars were not even capable of conceiving of this female image as the root of a name for God!
In short, the two related Genesis accounts, as seen through Talmudic eyes, tell us that since the act of coïtus can result in the creation of new life, in the form of a child, in doing so (at least properly, in the covenant of marriage), man and woman are in the image and likeness of Elohim, YHWH, El Shaddai, who is given to us in Genesis as Creator, Father-Mother to all life, and the man and woman, when they are truly one (including physically, during coïtus), are in the image and likeness of Elohim also creating life.
The early Gnostic traditions understood the serpent in Genesis 3 not as Satan or a Satanic ambassador, but quite the opposite, as an emissary from God. Note that Eve’s name is similar to הוח, which is Aramaic for “snake”, and, as Wayne Johnson points out, the famous phrase in Genesis 3:1, וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ (wəhannāḥāš; “Now the serpent…”), in which נָּחָשׁ֙ (nāḥāš), the word for “serpent”, combines with הָ (ha), the word for “the”, to create in the very middle of this word a variant form of her name, “Hannah”. This supports this ancient contention that the serpent was good. So too does the fact that throughout the Mesopotamian cultures the serpent was anciently universally understood as both good and wise, which is why to this day the caduceus, two snakes intertwining in a double helix reminiscent of DNA, are the symbol of the medical profession.
The tree in question is the Tree of Life, which is the same as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Truth, since to know wisdom is to know the Λογος, and to know the Λογος is to gain entry to the Æon. This Tree is the Torah, says the Gospel of Philip, logion 100, of which Jesus is the fruit. The Tree also appears in Revelation 2:7 and 22:1-2, and is imaged as a menorah in 1:12,20 and 2:1, with seven lamps (the fruits), held up as in Horace by the branches of the menorah.
YHWH tells the primordial couple that if they eat the forbidden fruit they will die. The serpent tells them that if they eat it they will their eyes will be opened, and they will “be like כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים, Elohim, knowing what is beautiful/pleasant and what is disagreeable.” Both are correct. For it is disagreeable to be separated into two people aching for unity again, and far more pleasant to be one, and so the woman and her husband eat the fruit. Several Talmudic rabbis say that the first, composite human, and Adam and Eve after the division, were perfectly aware of the differences between good and evil before eating the fruit, and naturally preferred the good and eschewed the evil, but that the fruit brought these complementary opposites back together in their thoughts and desires, such that they could choose either as they wished. Thus YHWH’s statement to them that they would enjoy becoming parents but there would be pain associated with childbirth, and they would be able to eat the produce of the earth, but it would be at the cost of toil: after eating the fruit, YHWH says, good and evil will now inevitably be mixed together for humanity. Most of all, male and female will yearn for each other, but ultimately be unable to become fully one again. (The parables in Matthew 13:24-30 and Mark 4:3-9 pick up on this midrash.) The justice, then, is inherent in the division into two, into separate male and female persons – in other words, now humanity, in being not a unitary composite of complements but complements divided from each other, was “fallen” from being in the image and likeness of God, now as mundane as the other separated complements, such as light and dark, above and below, and sea and dry land, and any ordinary male or female creature living in this creation of separated natures. And therefore neither man nor woman alone perfectly images God, nor alone can create new life as God can. Athanasius concludes that “Humanity was in danger of disappearing” ever since this fall, which Father Stephen Freeman thus illuminates: “Refusing communion with the only truly existing God, we began to fall back towards the nothing from which we were created. Either we are sustained by grace and flourish, or we increasingly cease to exist.”
Curiously, the Persian Diatessaron has Jesus say in John 15:1 not “I am the true vine”, but من درخت میوه راستی (man derakhte mīveye rāstī). This has been put into English as “I am the tree of the fruit of truth” (Craig D. Allert) and, adhering a bit more closely to the word-for-word meaning, as “I am the fruit-tree of truth” (Robert Murray, from the Italian of Giuseppe Messina). However, a careful rendering of the Persian yields this translation: “I am the tree that bears the fruit of truth”. The mention of fruit in this version of 15:1 leads to the conclusion that Jesus was speaking of himself in these same terms: that one who partakes of the fruit of the Tree will die (תָּמֽוּת, tāmūt) (Genesis 2:17) and will become like Elohim (כֵּֽאלֹהִ֔ים, kêlōhîm) (Genesis 3:5). John, in mediating Jesus’s teachings, appears to be reading these verses as saying the individual male and female will die in order to become reborn as a united being, like Elohim.
So, in Genesis 3:7, when the primordial couple eat the fruit they become aware of their nakedness, and they yearn for each other, and they are afraid of this intense desire within themselves, and so they make clothing to subdue and control their desires. For a man and a woman naked together is indeed the likeness of the Creator!
Thus in the earliest Christian texts there is an emphasis on union of wife and husband in nakedness. The Gospel of Philip says in logia 85 and 112:
Those to whom it has been given to be clothed in the perfect light can never be seen by the powers (of this world), nor are they able to grasp them. For such a person it shall be given to be clothed with the light in the mystery/ceremony of the union.
Not only will they be unable to grasp the perfected one, but they will not even be able to see him. For if they could see him, they would grasp him. In no other way can one be begotten of him (God) in this grace; only if he is clothed in the perfect light, and the perfect light is around him. Robed in this manner, he shall go forth out of the cosmos. This is the perfected son of the bridal chamber.
Philip makes the same point in logion 86, building on the notion that humanity is meant to eat the fruit of the Tree, to attain all wisdom, to die to individual self and become Elohim, male-and-female-as-one:
If the female had not been separated from the male, she would not be dying along with the male. Their separation brought this about; it became the origin of death. For this the Christ came, so that he could rectify again to himself the separation which had existed since the beginning by his mating together the two. As for those who have died by the separation he shall give back to them their own lives by his mating them together. Thus it is that the female mates with her husband in the bridal chamber. Those who have mated in the bridal chamber can no longer be separated. Thus it is that Eve was separated from Adam, because she did not mate with him in the bridal chamber.
This view is found also in the Gospel of Thomas, particularly in the last logion in the book (114), which, unfortunately, is widely misunderstood:
Simon the Rock said this to them: “Let Mariam [Mary] go away from us, for women are not worthy of the [Æonian] life.”
Jesus said this: “Look, I will draw her into myself so I may make her male, so she may also be a living spirit resembling you males: for any woman who makes herself male will enter the Realm of Heaven.”
Viewing it with modern sensibilities, scholars often dismiss this logion as an example of first-century misogyny, insisting Jesus couldn’t possibly have said the Æon, the Realm of Heaven, was an all-male bastion! But Jesus is actually referring to the Hebrew myth of the creation of male and female. In the first creation story Elohim (God understood as comprising male and female aspects wholly united) creates by separating complementary opposites: day from night, above from below, land from sea, and the many living creatures male from female; but, last, Elohim creates the single hermaphroditic human in Elohim’s own image, hence unlike the rest of creation undivided, male-and-female as one. In the second story, viewed in the Talmud (not as it is by scholars today as a totally different story that disconforms with the first) as entirely a harmonious complement and continuation of the first, this unique creation, with its complementary opposites of masculine and feminine aspects undivided in exactly the nature of Elohim, is now divided into two, male and female: it is now no longer in the divine image, but common, like everything else: day divided from night, land from sea, sky from earth, and woman from man. Only in uniting these opposites again, said the rabbis, only when man and woman come together, can we once more be in the image and likeness of Elohim.
This interpretation of logion 114 is supported by logion 22, in which Jesus says in part, “When you make the two one … when you make the male and the female a single one, such that the male is not male nor the female … then you shall enter into [the Realm of Heaven].” Likewise he says in logion 75, “There are many standing at the door, but the united/whole/single ones (are) the ones who will go in to the bridal chamber.” Speaking to his mother-in-law Salome in logion 61, Jesus says that of two who share a bed (who are married) one shall live and the other die, implying the crucifixion and also Mary becoming one with him, and adds: “If one is whole, one will be filled with light; however, if one is divided (into separate male and female), one will be filled with darkness”.
We also find the exact same theology in the Naassene Document, as quoted by Hippolytus (Adversus Hæreses [Against Heresies], 5:1); it compares the First Man (the Protanthropos), Adam, the fundamental being who was at first hermaphroditic but then separated into two gendered individuals, to the son of humanity, Jesus, who is restored as hermaphroditic. And he quotes (12:1) a Naassene hymn that refers to Jesus and Mary thus: “From you the Father, and through you the Mother, the two immortal names, the progenitors of the Æon.”
And in the Gospel of Philip, for instance in logion 76:
In the days (when) Eve was within Adam, death did not exist. (When) she was separated from him, death came into being. If again she goes into (him), and he takes her into himself, death shall not exist.
Hence it was spiritually essential for Jesus to have a wife at the beginning on his ministry. They are far too lengthy to include here, but the analyses in The Gospel of John of these two scenes demonstrate that the gospel begins and closes with a sacred hierogamy between Jesus and Mary. Thus Jesus “dies” in the Jordan at the beginning and then is united with Mary at Cana, and hangs like “strange fruit” on the Tree and then is united with Mary at the resurrection, and both are naked in that last scene as a close reading of the text reveals. The gospel’s writer (and Jesus through him) is telling us that love and marriage are part of the Λογος, the most significant part, since Jesus restores by that means humanity, from its severing into separate male and female, into the perfect image of God.
Thus, the eschatological image pictured here of a return to the nakedness of the garden of Eden is not just perfect equality, without the uniforms that divide and stratify human beings. It is not even just perfect unity. It is perfect union (John 17:22,21,23). It means that this time, unlike Adam and Eve, we shall stand naked and not be ashamed (Gospel of Thomas 37) or afraid (I John 4:18). We shall rather be “clothed with the sun” (Revelation 12:1), garbed in the love that is the very nature of God (I John 4:16b). Joined as one, Jesus-and-Mary are no longer Blake’s “ratio”, scattered fragments of the whole, but the restored First Human, complete and perfect: they are the Platonic ίδεα, the image and likeness of Elohim. As such, this Human is not static, not quite yet (John 20:17) at the destination, the Æon, but still following God’s Λογος.