Jesus the Notzri and the Samaritan Resistance

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.

Today, the phrase “Jesus of Nazareth” is universal. But there are no references to a village called Nazareth before 221 C.E. except in the New Testament – and later Christian writers apparently misunderstood Y’shuah ha Notzri in the earliest New Testament writings to say he was from a not-yet-existing village. Rather, he was apparently associated with the Notzrim, a group that expected a Messiah, and which opposed the Herodian petty kings, the Romans, and the religious authorities in Jerusalem. The name Notzrim refers to the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 11:1, in which “a shoot” (נֵ֫צֶר, ne-tser) comes forth from the stump of Jesse, i.e., the “tree” of the Davidic monarchy was long since cut down, but a new shoot will grow from the stump, the coming Messiah.

In John 1 Jesus calls Nathanael “a son of Israel” – an implication of these hated Herodian kings, vassals to the despised Roman rulers; therefore, the term “son of Israel” suggests that Nathanael is at least sympathetic to the cause of the many who would overthrow those rulers. It also suggests that Nathanael was a Samaritan, people who had no more love for the Jewish priests who ruled daily life in Jerusalem than for the Romans; see the second paragraph following. Jesus’s joke also refers to Jacob, later renamed Israel, who used deceit to steal the blessing of their father from his elder brother Esau (Genesis 27); if Nathanael was as is suggested below the son of Joseph of Arimathæa and nephew of Simon ben Nathanael, both religious leaders in Jerusalem, then as himself a young religious leader in Samaria he certainly had not like Jacob stolen his father’s or uncle’s blessing! In sum, therefore, the remark to Nathanael is a mix of pride and shame for Israelite history.

In John 8:48 his Pharisee interlocutors call Jesus a Samaritan, and he doesn’t deny this! This comes right after 8:44, which which Jesus refers not to the “Satan” of much later Christian mythology, but a very human shaitan [hinderer] mentioned in the Tanakh, at Zechariah 3:1-2. These verses feature Joshua the High Priest, who served at the time of the laying of the foundation for the Second Temple, wherein this very conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees is taking place. Jesus evidently associated himself with Joshua: the two shared, of course, the same Hebrew/Aramaic name, and in Zechariah 3:8 God tells the High Priest about “my servant the Shoot”, referring to Isaiah 11:1, an expected Messiah with whom Jesus here also identifies himself. Standing with Joshua is the Messenger (Angel) of God, also equivalent to Jesus, who is also a Messenger of God in the theology of this gospel. The shaitan in this scene, leader of an opposing faction of priests in the Temple, is standing by Joshua ready to challenge him, but has no chance to do so because the Messenger rebukes him.

By “the Shoot” Zechariah was referring to a priest named Manasseh, grandson of High Priest Eliashib (grandson of Joshua), who had married a daughter of the governor of Samaria, Sanballat, who was Nehemiah’s political rival. Nehemiah, who Zechariah portrays as the shaitan, threw Manasseh out of the Jerusalem Temple (Nehemiah 13:28, Josephus: Ant. 11:185-297). Manasseh went on to be high priest at the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim, which Sanballat (or a descendant by the same name; time may be telescoped here) erected.

Likewise in this passage Jesus rebukes these Pharisees, who, as descended from Nehemiah’s camp, he characterizes as sons of this same shaitan – in other words, as priests who oppose God’s will (λογος) and God’s appointed emissary, and who still cause trouble in the Temple now just as in Zechariah’s time. Jesus is thus hinting at the still virulent enmity and rivalry between Gerizim and Jerusalem; he sides here with the former. He may also be referring to the Notzrim , a group who hated alike the Jerusalem religious establishment, the Herodians, and Rome. These Pharisees must have been incensed by his comparing them to the shaitan in Zechariah’s prophecy, as they were by his earlier insinuation that they resembled the despicable King Ahaz (John 5:2-18).

Next, Pilate says “Behold the man!” (Ecce homo! in Latin) at John 19:5. This almost certainly is meant to echo Zechariah 6:12, “Look at the man whose name is Shoot, wherefrom he shall branch out and shall (re)build/(re)grow the Temple of YHWH,” and indirectly Isaiah 11:1, the Messianic prophecy of new life shooting up out of “the stump of Jesse”, all that is left of the Tree, the Davidic monarchy. It is possible that Pilate actually said “Look at the man!” and his hearers, especially Jesus’s disciples, heard in it echoes of Zechariah unintended by Pilate, who was not likely familiar with the Tanakh, though meeting often with the Jewish religious leadership may have changed that, as may also his wife Claudia Procula, who early Christians said was a follower of Jesus and friend of Mary his wife. It is far less likely that this phrase is here put into Pilate’s mouth by the author of the gospel, given his clear determination to be as faithful and accurate in his account as possible, and his quoted criticism of John Mark for failing to be so in his Gospel of Mark.

This verse again helps us see the intent in the gospel to paint Pilate as benignly disposed toward Jesus, since otherwise Pilate would never be given to say such a positive thing. As does the debate at 8:44 and 48, Pilate’s allusion here clearly associates Jesus with the Samaritans: Zechariah’s Shoot prophecies take the side of the Samaritans in their battle with the Jerusalem Temple establishment, who in this passage are conniving and implicitly antagonistic toward Pilate. The Shoot refers to a priest ejected from the Jerusalem Temple who became high priest in the newly established Samaritan Temple.

Mary’s cognomen “Magdalene” may come 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 as a replica of the one in Jerusalem, supported by the family of Sanballat with whom Jesus identified (as in his reference to Zechariah discussed above); James D. Purvis and Eric Meyers say the cultus at Elephantine was a mix of Yahwistic and Canaanite ways, and (as suggested by the Elephantine Papyrii) much influenced by Egyptian religion. Indeed, Jeremiah 44 describes the cultus at Migdol in detail, including worship of “the Queen of Heaven”, whom K. van der Toorn (Numen 39:1) says was similar to the Ugaritic goddess Anat and called Anath-Yahu.

This temple was destroyed by the Egyptians in 410 B.C.E., but another was built by Onias (or Honiah) IV in the first century B.C.E. in Leontopolis, near Magdalu, north of Heliopolis. According to Josephus (Ant. 13:3:2,14:8:2), this came after Judah Maccabee denied Onias the high priesthood in Jerusalem. It was demolished by Rome in 73 C.E., shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem, to prevent it from harboring insurrectionists. Hanan Eshel (The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State) suggests Onias IV may have been the Teacher of Righteousness often referred to in the Qumran texts, and some classical Jewish literature, such as the Yuhasin, associates his temple with the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim; indeed, Rabbi Ben Abrahamson says Samaria at times had alliances with Egypt.

All this points to the good possibility that Jesus and Mary had some connections with an anti-Rome, anti-Jerusalem Samaria/Leontopolis alliance perhaps affiliated with the Notzrim. In any case, the several passages in this gospel, especially the resurrection, suggest both Jesus and Mary were reasonably familiar with the Egyptian language.

Jesus the Pharaoh

Gospel of John Second Edition

What follows is a addition to the Second Edition of 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.

Especially in the Prologue and the baptism of Jesus, the Gospel of John seeks to parallel Jesus to Moses, and even say he is superior to Moses. Why is that?

The Torah explains Moses’s name as from the Hebrew משה (mashah, “to draw [out]”), because he was drawn out of the waters as a child (Exodus 2:10). But, as an Egyptian, the pharaoh’s daughter (whom I believe with Hans Gödicke became the pharaoh Hatshepsut and was the pharaoh in the Exodus story) would hardly have given him a name in Hebrew; she called him Mosera or Ramoses hieroglyphics appear here in the text that cannot be reproduced in this blog >, which mean “Born of Ra” or “Son of Ra” in Egyptian; i.e., Son of God, since Amen-Ra was by the Middle Kingdom the deity of a virtually monotheistic Egypt. The latter was the name of several pharaohs. Hatshepsut’s father Thutmose (“Son of Thoth”) and mother Ahmes (“Daughter of Amon”) had similarly constructed names.

Moses’s father Amram, which is usually explained as meaning “Friend of the Most High” or “The People are Exalted” in Hebrew, but it is surely a corruption into Hebrew of Amen-Ra. Amram married his aunt; it was typical of Egyptian royalty to wed close relations. Moses’s sister is remembered as Miriam, a corruption into Hebrew of “Meri-Amen”, “Beloved Amen” in Egyptian; Jesus’s wife Mary’s name comes from the same root. Moses is adopted into the ruling pharaonic family, and becomes their intimate counsellor, with power to rule in his own right. These are all Egyptian royal names, and whatever actually happened, it is clear that Moses was meant some day to be pharaoh – and that, as the Israelites escaped Egypt and sought freedom, they took Moses and his family as their own pharaoh-like rulers. (Thus they sought to recreate for themselves the “fleshpots of Egypt” that they had but lately escaped!)

The English word “messiah” is a corruption of the Hebrew word mashiach, which came to mean “anointed”, since kings were not crowned but anointed, but which is also probably a corruption of “Mosera”. Thus in its root meaning, to be a messiah is to be (like) a Moses: a king, leader, wayshower, emissary of God. Indeed, when the high priest anointed a king or a priest, he declared on behalf of God that the latter was the son of God (II Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-8).

Thus the Gospel of John draws a parallel between Moses and Jesus specifically to state that Jesus is messiah, the son-by-adoption/anointment of God.

The Egyptian rootage of the most prominent names in the Gospel of John – Jesus and Mary – also underscores the heavily implied presence of Mary at the baptism of Jesus.

Note that the Egyptian word for “dove” is hieroglyphics >, amenu, a near homonym with hieroglyphics >, Amen, the Egyptian god of wind. And the dove Mary’s name comes from Mari-Amen, “Beloved Amen”, the original name of Moses’s brother Miriam, who watched as the Pharaoh’s daughter drew him out of the Nile as she bathed, no doubt naked, as Mary, also likely naked, here draws Jesus from the Jordan.

A House Bigger on the Inside

The following is taken from my commentaries on the Gospel of John, which are appended to my restoration of the original text (before it was heavily edited by early Christian leaders to conform it to their dogma that turned Jesus into a Roman-style godling) and translation of that text from the original Greek. This is a work in progress; feedback is most welcome, and people are encouraged to get the book when it comes available, by the end of this year. Thanks to scholar Rod Borghese, whose thinking is quoted in this essay.

In some classical writers the word μονη suggests a waystation, quarters, or billets. In others it seems to suggest something more permanent: an apartment (in a building whose inhabitants take their meals together in a common dining room); therefore, a dwelling-place or abode. I have translated it with the word “abode”.

The reference to “the house of my Father” can also be taken in different ways. One possible reference is to the Second Temple; in 2:16, for instance, Jesus speaks of the Temple as “my Father’s house”. As noted before, the Levites associated with Temple operations had their living quarters around the Portico of Solomon. In this sense, Jesus could be saying that, when he is recognized as Messiah he will be able to uproot these Sadducees, priests, and Levites who are so badly managing the Temple (the “hired hands” as he refers to them in 10:12-13, and “slaves” as he says in 8:35), and then there will be rooms available for Jesus’s disciples and others who believe in him. In this interpretation, that is why Jesus adds “if not,” if these quarters in the Temple are not available at present, then “I am going to prepare a place for you.”

(This last phrase is usually translated “if it were not so I would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you,”, or “if it were not so I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you” or as a rhetorical question, “if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”. But there is no other verse in this discourse, to which Jesus could be referring, in which he speaks of preparing a place for them.” The Greek is not in the form of a question. Of these three, the second is the closest to what the Greek actually is saying: that if there are not many abodes available for those whose who believe in Jesus in his Father’s house, then in that case Jesus is going to make them available and ready.)

Next, Jesus may have intended here a reference to himself, specifically to his body, as his Father’s house. That level of meaning appears in 2:19,21. Jesus, as Messiah, as Messenger of God, is in effect a vessel containing the presence of God, the Spirit of God. Indeed, Paul uses this very metaphor at I Corinthians 3:16-17.

Finally, Jesus may have been referring to the Æon theology that fills this gospel, as in 8:35-36. In that passage, by the word “house” Jesus is referring not merely to the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a mere finite, physical structure that was built by human hands and could (and was, in 70 C.E.) be destroyed by human hands, but moreover to the House of God, the House of the Æon; that is to say, the Λογος itself, God’s overarching plan and purpose and pattern for the entirety of creation, not just the κοσμος, this physical aspect of it. In this house, which is infinite, there are indeed many abodes, and Jesus assures them that he is leaving this physical life for the heavenly realm to prepare their abodes for them. This interpretation of the verse is strengthened by Jesus’s several references in this final discourse before his death to that imminent death.

Both meanings are probably intended, and this is therefore a double entendre.

The phrase “house of my Father” also gives a visual message. The word for “house” in both Aramaic (ܒ݁ܶܝܬ݂) and Hebrew (בית) is pronounced beyt. It is not a concidence that the name for the second letter in both alphabets is also called beyt; the orthographical symbol that represents that letter is (along with the entire alphabet of both languages) pictographic in origin, and that symbol is the depiction of a house.

The word for “Father” in Aramaic is ܐܒܐ (ABA, often transliterated as “Abba”). That letter at the beginning and end of the word is aleph, ܐ in Aramaic and א in Hebrew, the first letter in the alphabet of both languages.

Pictographically, it depicts an ox; this can still be seen in the English letter A: if we invert it thus – ∀ – we can see more easily the ox’s head with the horns above. Thus, imagistically, ABA is a farmstead: a home with oxen around it.

More than that, as Rod Borghese points out, that first letter, א, aleph, has been for the classical Jewish mystics since ancient times symbolic of the sacred Breath/Spirit/Wind of God that preceded even sound itself, the breath that existed before even the first Word was uttered, even before the Λογος came into being. Therefore, I would add, this makes it equivalent to the חָכְמָ֥ה (Hokhma, Wisdom), which Proverbs 8:23 says was the first of God’s creations, and his mainstay support in the act of creating the universe.

This first letter also symbolizes the oneness of God. According to the Jewish mystics, the letter comprises an upper yud, representing the hidden, ineffable deepest nature of God; a lower yud, representing the revealed presence of God in the world; and a vav (“hook”) on a diagonal like a ladder or stairway, uniting these two realms, the heavenly and earthly. Jesus speaks of himself in these very terms, as the emissary, the Messenger of God who goes back and forth between these two realms, like the angels on Jacob’s ladder (cf. John 1:51); the Prologue to the gospel is very much built on this imagery. Yud and vav are the first and third letters in יהוה (YHWH), the Sacred Breath that is God’s Name, with a he following each one.

The symbol א has often represented infinity, in both mathematics and also in the symbolic work of Jorge Luis Borges. According to Borghese, “Infinity, nothingness, and continuity are concepts which have intrigued mathematicians, as well as Jewish scholars, throughout history. In many religions and philosophies it is believed that one must reduce one’s mind to a state which approaches ‘nothingness’ before one can begin to grasp the infinite knowledge and the divine connection between all things.” The sages note that the letter begins all three words in the most sacred name of God, אהיה אשר אהיה. And ב (beyt), the second letter, refers even more anciently than “house” to “container” or “vessel”, according to Borghese. Again, we can see this pictographically in the fourth side open to take contents into the vessel. Thus, Borghese concludes, this name for God, ABA shows us symbolically “the Infinite contained in the vessels, the Mystery of the Infinite contained within the Finite.” That is to say, all finite, created things in this universe contain in microcosm the Infinite, God. This very Jewish philosophy has been around from Philo to Martin Buber, who writes eloquently of God playing hide-and-go-seek with us, begging us to find the Sacred Presence hidden in every leaf and flower. Yet also and again this philosophy of immanence, the idea that the presence of God can be seen in and through every thing in creation, is very Buddhist and Taoist, as well as very Native American. In short, it is the ancient truth that the modern civilization of arrogation and greed has forgotten.

With this understanding in mind, we can see that Jesus meant “the house of my Father” not only (as discussed above) to refer to the Second Temple or his body or to the Æon, but to how every created thing in this universe, though evanescent and ephemeral, still contains the glory of the presence of God, if only we realize it – and so too does each one of us.