(Place your cursor on the numbers in this Introduction to read the end note).
During the 36 years I served as a United Methodist Pastor, I wrote an of each of the passages of Scripture from which I preached. I took a two month study leave in 1995 to search for an answer to an academic question regarding my exegesis of John 12:1-8.
Why did Mary of Bethany anoint the feet of Jesus and then dry His feet with her hair?
I was not satisfied with the simple explanations provided by the commentaries I read on this passage, so I challenged myself to provide a better answer to my question than the two prevailing answers I could find in commentaries. Each of these answers raised more questions.
1. Mary was preparing Jesus for His triumphal Messianic entry into Jerusalem.
- If so, why did Mary anoint the feet of Jesus instead of His head, like other kings and prophets were anointed when they were chosen by God for a special purpose?
- What qualified Mary of Bethany to anoint Jesus as the Messiah? Was she a prophet?
2. She was preparing His body for burial.
- Why did she anoint only His feet for burial?
- Why did she anoint any part of His body for burial when He was still alive?
- Don’t the burial preparations in John 19: 38-42 satisfy the need for burial preparation?
I confined myself to a study carrel at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, searching books and articles in periodicals that offered insights to the meaning of these eight verses (John 12:1-8). Each evening I reflected upon the challenges and resources I had encountered. I sought God’s help to understand more clearly what I had read, and tried to articulate why what I found failed to answer my question.
In the quiet early morning hours I would awaken with the distinct impression that a female voice had whispered, “Have you considered looking at it this way?” It was as though a kaleidoscope of different pieces to a complex puzzle had suddenly transformed into a much clearer picture in my mind, offering much better answers to my questions, though not without challenging my assumptions and the orthodox approaches and conclusions that other scholars had provided. I felt as though I was being guided by an Excellent Teacher, one who didn’t give me complete answers to my questions, but who challenged me to think differently in order to find the answers on my own. Of course, these answers also gave rise to new questions and required that I examine a new set of assumptions. These insights, these revelations, required a new agenda for the next day’s research.
At the end of this two month marathon I returned to my home in Tracy, California where I began to put the pieces of this puzzle together. Presenting and analyzing the research and explaining the unorthodox conclusions that came from it required that I write a book, rather than the short article I had expected to write for submittal to some as-yet unknown periodical.
I wrote Let Her Keep It: Jesus’ Ordination of Mary of Bethany – A New Approach to the Study of the Gospel According to John through its use of Mosaic Oracles, and published it in 1998.Let Her Keep It presents what I call The Ordination Trilogy of the Gospel According to John, focusing on 3 Gospel stories:
1.The Raising of Lazarus by Jesus (John 11: 1-54)
2.The Anointing of the Feet of Jesus by Mary of Bethany (John 11: 55 – 12: 18)
3.The Washing of the Feet of His Disciples by Jesus (John 13: 1-17)
To understand this Ordination Trilogy in Let Her Keep It readers must know about two types of metaphorical words found in the Greek translation of The Hebrew Bible, The . Those metaphorical words are called and oracles. The signs and oracles from the five Books of Moses: the Torah are among the preferred words used by first century Biblical scholars when they expounded upon the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures. Such short oral or written exegetical commentaries were called . The Gospel According to John, originally written in the Greek language, uses the signs and oracles from the Greek version of The Hebrew Bible, The . The Gospel is, therefore, a Midrash, a commentary, but with a fascinating twist. The was written to be Scripture, so it was written in the language of Scripture borrowed from The , following the first century rules for writing Midrash. The twist is that the Gospel is not written to explain the meaning of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures; it is written to explain the meaning of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel presents two story lines. One is the surface story line, which is the story about Jesus one expects to read and learn about in a Gospel. The second is the hidden story line because it is written in signs and oracles. This hidden story line can only be seen by those who are familiar enough with the Greek metaphors used in Theto recognize them in the Greek version of the Gospel.
The signs and oracles from the attributed to Moses are called Mosaic signs and oracles, because they are attributed to Moses. Many ancient and some modern Biblical scholars consider these signs and oracles to have been composed by God, along with God’s commands as communicated through Moses. The words by which these commands are communicated are, therefore, the holy word of God.
The signs and oracles found in other parts of the Septuagint are called Septuagint signs and oracles to differentiate them from Mosaic signs and oracles. These are considered to be holy as well, since they were God’s words as spoken by prophets. They function much like the Mosaic signs and oracles.
signs and oracles function just like the Mosaic and Septuagint signs and oracles, except that Johannine signs and oracles are found only in the Gospel. They are attributed to Jesus, either because Jesus is quoted in the as having said them, or because the authors appear to have believed that the resurrected Christ, through the Holy Spirit, provided them. They are, therefore, holy words.
A is a word or a brief phrase that points to or links the passage in which it is found to one or more other passages of Scripture. One of the passages of Scripture in which a sign is found explains, i.e., defines, the meaning of that . In any Scriptural context where that sign appears its meaning is the same as in its defining verse.
An is a divine message that usually contains numerous signs. It may be described as poetic discourse or as a proverb or as a parable. It may be a dream and / or the interpretation of a dream or it may be a significant event in the salvation history of Israel or in the Gospel story of Jesus Christ.
Signs and oracles are uttered by persons chosen by God and through whom God speaks. These signs and oracles are understood by the persons who give voice to them or interpret their meaning and to those who hear or read them, as messages from God. In the Greek culture such persons were oracles.
Signs found within spoken or written oracles or parables are called oracles. They are defined within the context of the oracle in which they appear. They often include plays on words identified by the use of similar sounding words or variations of words that describe similar things or actions.
Let Her Keep It introduces these observations. This author’s understanding of them has grown considerably since 1998, when it was published. In 2011 I wrote ten lectures that expanded upon and simplified the more academic presentation made in Let Her Keep It. These lectures were presented along with the book as a short course for adults in my home church in Sparks, Nevada. This same short course was offered twice on-line in 2012 through the United Methodist Communications website under the auspices of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Participants in each of these courses have made suggestions that have challenged me to clarify and improve my understanding and presentation of that material.
The research, the book, the lectures and the on-line courses based on them focus on the question of how Jesus replaced the ancient Hebrew priesthood with His own disciples, but they only touch upon the topics of how Jesus replaced the Temple and the Festivals of Sacrifice that were also important parts of the Hebrew system of worship required by God and established by Moses for the Children of Israel. Of course, The Gospel According to John provides much more information than all that is covered in Let Her Keep It or in the lectures associated with it. What is needed now is a commentary that will test and expand the method first used in the writing of Let Her Keep It and address the questions that arise regarding the deep meaning of the Gospel.
A Day with Jesus: An Unorthodox Commentary on the Gospel According to John is the full title of that commentary. One Johannine sign defined within the context of its first use toward the beginning of the Gospel suggests the title. The Greek word hour (ὥρα – ora) is repeated 24 times throughout the first 19 chapters of the Gospel. I believe the Gospel is written to describe a single cosmic day shared by Jesus with His disciples. That day is divided into 24 parts, each ending in the context of a passage where the word hour (ὥρα – ora) is used. The purpose of each hour in this cosmic Day with Jesus is to mark the context wherein the intended reader must pause and reflect upon the meaning of the signs and oracles found since the previous hour. A Day with Jesus uses Mosaic signs and oracles, Septuagint signs and oracles, and Johannine signs and parables from the Greek language of The Septuagint in The to reveal the deep meaning and structure of The .
This commentary follows the clues provided by the authors of the Gospel, what modern Biblical scholars call material connections to the Septuagint. These clues, metaphors borrowed from the Septuagint, provide radically deeper insights into the meaning of the Gospel than perhaps much of what has been expressed since the school for which it was originally written ceased to exist.
A Rabbinic School
Well respected and widely known 20th and 21st century scholars like Allen R. Culpepper, the late Raymond E. Brown, and others have suggested the Gospel most likely came from a community of Jewish Christian scholars, persons associated not only with a Jewish Christian community, but with a distinctly academic community, filled with world class scholars of their time. Consistent with this theory, I suspect this academic community may have been a unique Rabbinic School, a school for the training of Jewish Christian Rabbis.
Modern Biblical scholars have struggled to define the method or methods used by the Rabbis who taught at Rabbinic schools.
Gary Porton provides some clear and concise insights into what he calls “the structure of Midrash” that I believe support my theory.
“Rabbinic Midrash is the creation of a subsection of the ancient Jewish community, the rabbis, whose defining characteristic was their knowledge of the Torah, both oral and written; therefore their engaging in the creation of Midrash was one manifestation of their focusing their individual lives on the Torah. … Midrash is a type of literature, oral or written, which has its starting point in a fixed canonical text, considered the revealed word of God by the midrashist (sic) and his audience, and in which this original verse is explicitly cited or clearly alluded to. … Rabbinic Midrash atomizes the text to a greater degree than any of the other forms of midrashic activity with the exception of the LXX (The ) and The , which must, because they are translations, treat every element of the Biblical passage. Each word or letter may serve as the basis for an exegetical remark of the rabbis. … It is legitimate to consider the LXX and the Targums as types of Midrash. …This genre of Midrash retells the Biblical story by adding details, explaining difficult passages, rearranging material and the like. Although in the rabbinic corpus mdrs may mean study or inquiry in a general sense, its main use in these documents is to designate Scriptural interpretation. In the rabbinic collections the term signifies both the process whereby Scripture is expounded and the product of that .”
The school that created The Gospel According to John may well have used the Midrash method as its didactic, i.e. as its teaching method. This didactic presented a challenge to which rabbinical students were required to rise and a method of interpretation that students were required to master. Specifically, midrashists explain the meaning of a word or passage in Scripture by using the language of Scripture.
In the first and second centuries the only written canonical Scripture available to Greek-speaking Jewish / Christian communities of the diaspora, i.e., those Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire, was The . Traditionally identified as the product of seventy Hebrew scholars to provide a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible for authorities collecting books for a great library, like the library in Alexandria, The was canonized over 200 years Before the Common Era (B.C.E.) The Hebrew Bible was canonized about 100 years after the Common Era (C.E.) began.
The Midrash method of interpretation requires canonized Scripture to be used as an original source of Scripture. The Septuagint was the only canonized Bible available to Greek-speaking people in the first century, when the authors began writing The .
Midrash commentaries tend to be brief elaborations on the meaning of a particular passage of Hebrew Scripture. They are not usually systematic commentaries on entire books of Scripture. The way they were created, however, required a master scholar’s knowledge of Scripture. I submit that Rabbinical students and their teachers alike used this method not only to expound upon the meaning of selected Septuagint passages of Scripture, but to create an account of the teachings and activities of Jesus Christ, using the sacred language of the Septuagint. Over time, a period of at least five or six decades, the school’s textbook took shape as the narrative of The Gospel According to John.
A Day with Jesus has been created using the strict discipline described as the one required of first century Rabbinic / early Christian scholars. Not being a master scholar of the Septuagint myself, I have taken advantage of 21st century computerized tools, i.e., software designed to use digital processes to catalog and present the results of elaborate search protocols applied to available Greek-English interlinear translations of Theand of The , to gather almost instantly the kind of data that must have taken rabbinical students and their teachers much or virtually all of their lifetimes to assemble.
I make no claim that all of the words borrowed from thefor use in the have been identified here or that the meanings of the signs and oracles I have identified are all perfectly or even adequately explained here. Much more work remains to be done using this method and these powerful digital tools to refine, verify and perfect this approach to the study of the . With this commentary I hope to make a reasonable beginning.
Reader, please set aside what you already know about The Gospel According to John. Try not to apply your understanding of the Synoptic Gospels to the study of this Gospel. Consider the possibility that profound meaning is to be found, hidden in plain sight for all to see, that is relevant to this Gospel and is derived from what most Christian readers call The Old Testament. In reading this commentary you will learn how to think in terms of metaphors. You will learn how to see and understand the meaning of signs and oracles from theand recognize how new signs and parables are created and used in The .
It is logical to assume that the destruction of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. caused a crisis for both those who inherited the Hebrew tradition and those from the Hellenistic culture who had chosen to embrace it. I think it is also logical to assume that in the midst of this crisis Jewish/Christian theologians were asking how the tradition so cherished by so many for so long could be maintained in their immediate present and preserved for those whose faith would be grounded upon it in the future.
Suppose among such Jewish/Christian intellectuals a relatively small group of world-class scholars of Scripture concluded the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was God’s will. No doubt such a conclusion would have been considered by many if not most of their Jewish friends and colleagues to be blasphemous, as it would appear to justify what otherwise was likely understood as an unforgivable act for which the Roman authorities and perhaps the entire Hellenistic culture would surely be justly punished if not destroyed by divine power.
To even consider this explanation for the destruction of the Temple would have required such a community of Jewish Christian scholars to cloister themselves in secrecy, so a serious scholarly attempt to understand their spiritual and historical reality and future could be made without having to defend themselves from those who would have used any means available to prevent them from doing what they were convinced was required. Either the community was entirely hidden, meeting in a secret location, perhaps one like Qumran, or more likely it was hidden in plain sight, within an existing and recognized school. In other words it is possible that scholars/teachers and carefully chosen students met secretly within a larger rabbinic school to consider this exciting, but dangerous reflection.
Suppose such a community or fellowship of scholars believed the reason God had allowed the destruction of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem because God had replaced the Temple. How could that be true? If God did replace the Temple, then what was to become of the covenant between God’s people, the Children of Israel, and the rituals performed in the Temple to maintain that covenant? What was to become of the priesthood and the festivals of sacrifice established through Moses to maintain the covenant with God? What was to become of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings?
I submit that in the midst of such questioning, a very influential community leader, a brilliant and profound thinker, proposed to keep the sacred tradition, the sacred language of the Scriptures must be kept. To do this a new Torah would need to be written to explain how and by whom the system of worship established by God through Moses, i.e., the Mosaic system of worship, had been replaced. This new Torah would need to be written in Greek, using the sacred language of the Septuagint, because the persecuted children of Israel, especially those who believed the Messiah had come, were leaving Judea, scattering to the Jewish communities in the Hellenistic, i.e. Greek-speaking, culture of the Roman Empire.
The community considering such a project would have seen the need for secrecy to even consider, much less to develop, this idea. The Hebrew Torah had not been destroyed, but because of the destruction of the Temple, the Hebrew Torah’s primary purpose, to provide instructions for the maintenance of the covenant between God and God’s people by the strict observance of the Festivals of Sacrifice, could no longer be fulfilled. What remained of that purpose were the sacred words used todescribe that purpose.These words were still sacred, and could and should be used to describe how that purpose could be fulfilled in the current reality. In fact only the sacred words of Scripture, especially the sacred words of God, i.e. signs and oracles, could be used effectively to describe God’s activity during the period leading to the destruction of the Temple. Only the sacred words of Scripture could be used to declare God’s will for those whose faith was strong enough to see what this community could see: a new age for the faith, a Christian Jewish future.
I suspect this community of scholars and their students saw that God had replaced the Mosaic system of worship with a new Temple in the body of Jesus Christ, a new Festival of Sacrifice in the Eucharist that the oral tradition in the first and early second centuries declared had been established by Jesus Christ, and a new Priesthood in the disciples of Jesus Christ. The story of how this occurred could only be told in the context of a New Christian Torah. It would be the new salvation story of Jesus Christ, written with the most sacred words of the Septuagint.
Expounding upon the profound meaning of the stories in the Septuagint to explain how and why the new community was emerging from the Jewish / Christian communities of the diaspora may have begun as the product of the Midrash method applied to the meaning of the stories and teachings of Jesus, which were being told and expounded upon orally as the Jesus tradition grew. However, it obviously became much more than a set of simple commentaries on various parts of the Jewish/Christian tradition. It became their Gospel. Later it became every Christian’s Gospel. Today this Gospel is, arguably, the favoriteof most Christians.
On the other hand The Gospel According to John is arguably considered the least favoredby many if not by most New Testament scholars in the 21st century. Some dislike it because it does not conform to the format and content of the Synoptic Gospels. Consequently, when New Testament scholars apply the analytical tools developed in the 19th and 20th centuries to it, the results are not like the ones produced when these tools are applied to the Synoptic Gospels. Other scholars consider the Fourth Gospel to be a poor source for information about the historical Jesus, which is what they seek when studying it.
The Gospel According to John makes more use of oracular than historical material. It was written by a community of early Jewish Christians who were world class scholars of the Greek version of the sacred Hebrew Scriptures. They knew how to read, study and write Scripture. They chose to use signs and oracles from the Septuagint to write a commentary on the emerging oral Christian tradition as they knew, understood and developed it, and in so doing they created for the movement within Judaism a Christian Gospel that rivals the importance of the Torah in the strictly Jewish tradition. Two centuries after it became known in communities beyond the one in which it had been written, this Gospel was canonized as a reliable source for the edification and education of Christians, who by that time were separated from the Jewish communities in which they once worshiped.
The Gospel According to John has been read, studied and loved as such ever since it was written. We must study this Gospel as it is to find what is already in it, rather than dissect it while searching for something that it was not written to provide.
There is reason to suspect the Gospel was never finished. The literary format I mentioned earlier, the use of 24 hours as chapter endings for students in the Johannine School, appears to have a flaw in it. At one point in the Gospel the word hour is repeated three times in the same context.Perhaps the authors of the Gospel expected to add new material between each of these additional hours. They didn’t do it, thus leaving the unfinished in that sense. However, this repetition more likely means the material preceding these three hours is so important that the reader is being guided not only to re-read it a second time, but to read it a third time, looking for signs and oracles to define the deeper meaning of this important portion of the text.
The Gospel According to John is an extraordinary document, designed to present a deep spiritual understanding of Christian discipleship. This Gospel presents a powerful theological understanding of the nature of the person and ministry of The Anointed One, Jesus Christ. It is a gift of inestimable value from some of the brightest minds of the early church. By studying it carefully we shall broaden and deepen our understanding of how and why thisis written, and in the process, find ourselves profoundly enriched and blessed.
Whether my theories or conclusions are accepted by others or not, the process of studying this rich resource will cause those of us who seek the truth to grow in spirit and in understanding. Encountering the Word of God in this Gospel is nothing short of encountering Jesus Christ, and through such an encounter, we will be changed.
The method used in this commentary requires a strict discipline. It is the same discipline required of the authors of the Gospel and of their students. The authors write meaningful sentences using language borrowed from the Septuagint. These sentences serve as guides to be followed by their intended readers in the first century and by all of us who read it today.
Sometimes we, as intended readers who can read and understand the Greek version of the Gospel or who use interlinear versions of the Greek Gospel and our own language to understand it, find Greek sentences that appear to be distorted. These apparently deformed sentences provide the reader with a clue that there is a word or phrase in such a Greek sentence that has a meaning other than its apparent or most commonly used meaning. These sentences in the Gospel, quite likely, are intentionally distorted to provide a new context for a Greek original . The authors of the Gospel and their students follow the Midrash rule carefully in order to use and understand each word exactly as it appears in the Septuagint. When that happens, we must do the same. I guarantee that even those who do not read Greek will learn to see and understand the profound spiritual language of the Gospel using the ancient lessons revealed in this commentary. The Gospel itself will teach us how to do this. Indeed, it was written precisely for that purpose.as it was written in its
Several useful tools are included in A Day with Jesus for use by interested and faithful readers.
- In the text of this commentary words or phrases that are translated into American English from the Greek appear in italicized American English, then in parentheses in Greek using letters from the Greek alphabet, followed by a transliteration of the Greek, using the letters of the English alphabet. This transliteration allows readers to pronounce the Greek words, even when the reader does not know how to read Greek. This is particularly useful when recognizing the deeper meaning of passages that use plays on words.
- At the beginning of each numbered verse of the Gospel in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible, A Day with Jesus provides the American English text of the verse in bold print. Below this is the same verse in the Greek language as it appears in the Greek version of the Gospel. Below this Greek verse is a literal translation of the Greek into American English, showing the Greek word order and sometimes, following a forward slash (/) providing some additional American English words that might be alternatives to those chosen by the translator whose work is being quoted.
- At the bottom of each page is a footer menu, listing some study resources that are not found anywhere else. The first of four appendices is called A Concordance of Mosaic Signs and Oracles, Septuagint Signs and Oracles and Johannine Signs and Parables. It catalogs the Greek words, their American English translation, the Gospel chapter and verse where each Greek sign, oracle or parable appears, and the Bible book, chapter and verse where each sign or oracle is defined.
- A Glossary of Terms is provided with definitions from Webster’s New World College Dictionary to assist readers who are not familiar with technical terms used by Biblical scholars. These terms are underlined when they appear in the text of the commentary. My own definition appears (in parentheses.)
- While the main body of this commentary is original research, the work of many Biblical scholars is presented both in the body of the text and in the end notes following the commentary on each hour. My exegesis is both derived and developed from the valuable exegetical works published by other authors. A Bibliography is provided for those who wish to acquire and/or read the source material from which brief quotations are taken to support my interpretation of key words.
- Since most readers do not have direct access to The , and in case among those few who do have such access may be unable to read and understand the Greek language of The LXX directly, the fourth appendix is an Index of Translated Septuagint Passages. This index is provided so that the reader may turn to the page in the commentary where these passages are translated and printed in bold print and indented within the main body of the text to make them stand out from the commentary itself.
Mosaic Signs and Oracles
Avid students of the Bible will not be surprised that the stories in the first five books of the Bible, i.e., the Torah, are full of signs and oracles. These metaphors convey a deeper level of meaning than is at first apparent to most readers. I call the signs and oracles found in the Greek Torah attributed to Moses Mosaic signs and oracles.
A Mosaic is a metaphor in the Greek Gospel that has been taken from the Greek version of one of the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy, which are collectively called The Pentateuch (the five laws) or The Torah (the Law). A Mosaic sign points to one or several passages in the Torah, and sometimes to other Septuagint Scriptures outside of the Torah. Each Mosaic sign is defined, meaning that the metaphor is clearly explained, in one passage. When the exactly same word is used in other passages of Scripture, its defined meaning is implied in the new context.
A Mosaic is a story, a dream, an interpretation of a dream, a prophetic utterance, a poetic discourse, a proverb or a parable attributed to God and expressed in the books of Moses by someone to whom God has given a gift for receiving, proclaiming and/or interpreting oracles. Mosaic oracles may include numerous Mosaic signs. I call Mosaic signs defined within the context of a Mosaic oracle Mosaic oracles, because their oracular context is what defines their meaning.
Septuagint Signs and Oracles
Signs and oracles are also found in The, (often abbreviated LXX), which is a translation of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language. Some Hebrew theologians think of the Hebrew language in a manner similar to the way modern scientists think of the genetic code to describe living things or chemical formulas to describe inorganic matter. Such Hebrew theologians believe that when God speaks a Hebrew word, whatever God says comes into being. For these theologians translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into any language other than Hebrew is a desecration of their Holy Scriptures.
However, for most of the Jews of the Diaspora in the first and second centuries, who lived and learned in a culture that communicated in Greek, The was the only Bible available. Today some scholars suspect that The represents both the written and the oral Torah as it was known about 100-200 years before Christ. Some believe that the provides a more accurate understanding of the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Hebrew Masoretic Text (often abbreviated M.T.) of those same Scriptures. Others ignore The Septuagint (often abbreviated LXX) and translate the Hebrew Scriptures exclusively from The M.T.
Theis a Greek (Gk.) translation of Hebrew (Heb.) words. In translation some of the Hebrew meaning is lost and some of the Greek meaning is added, so the Septuagint serves to merge the Greek and Hebrew cultures in their use of sacred language. The method used in A Day with Jesus takes advantage of the fact that while translating Hebrew into Greek requires an interpretation of the wider meaning found in both languages, both The Gospel According to John and The are written using these same Greek words, so whatever their meaning in The Septuagint is, those Greek words have the same meaning in The .
In the Greek sense Moses is a medium / (Heb.) aby which the Deity / God / (Heb.) Yahweh, is consulted and through whom God’s will is communicated. For thousands of years the meaning, found in both the Hebrew and the Greek versions of these Mosaic signs and oracles, has been recognized and understood as the word of God, collectively the most sacred words in Holy Scripture.
Johannine Signs and Parables
Similar to Mosaic and Septuagint signs, Johannine are metaphorical words, symbols, and names of people, places and things found in The Gospel According to John. Similar to Mosaic and Septuagint oracles, Johannine parables are whole stories, poetic discourses or proverbs that are defined within the Gospel itself in one context or .
These Johannine signs and parables may be used several times in different pericopes in the Gospel. In each of these passages the meaning is the same as in the passage where they are defined.In other words The Gospel According to John contains signs and parables that are not borrowed from The . Johannine signs and parables function the same way as the Mosaic and Septuagint signs and oracles do, in that they convey a meaning that is different and more profound than the meaning a casual reader might, and usually does, assume.
What we are studying are metaphors. A is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily of one thing is applied to another. Metaphors often provide language in The Gospel According to John. The Old French phrase, , means two understandings. A single word may have two different meanings. Such words are often given to characters by playwrights to be spoken with tongue in cheek, expecting that some members of their audience will discern the less-often-used (and perhaps socially inappropriate) meaning as the character’s intent. In the Gospel such words often hide a second meaning in plain view. Double entendre language can be discovered, seen and understood only by those who are looking carefully for a word that may have the potential for more than one meaning. Once it is seen, such readers search carefully for both the obvious and the hidden meaning.
A Hidden Story Line
By discerning and defining metaphors we will be able to see a consistent pattern of meaning that outlines a story line which is hidden from the casual reader. The hidden story line reveals how the Johannine community believed Jesus replaced every element of the. He replaced the Temple with His body. He replaced the Festivals of Sacrifice with His Eucharist, and He replaced the Temple Priesthood with His Disciples. A Day with Jesus will explain in detail how and why Jesus made these replacements.
The replacement of these elements of theis not the only part of The that is hidden. The identity of the leader of the Johannine Community, The Beloved , is also hidden. The Beloved Disciple’s identity will be revealed in A Day with Jesus.
Why should the writers of this or any Gospel choose to hide anything? I believe the theology being developed by the Johannine community was highly controversial among the orthodox leaders of both the Jewish community and the emerging Jewish Christian communities in Jewish and Hellenistic parts of the Roman Empire. In the orthodox Jewish community the suggestion that Jesus is God was considered to be blasphemy. This would have justified the kind of ardor with which Saul of Tarsus sought to arrest the followers of The , as early Jewish Christians were sometimes called, in the hope of convincing Roman authorities to apply the same punishment to them as was applied to Jesus. The suggestion that Jesus replaced the entire Mosaic system of worship would have enflamed the passions of the orthodox Jewish authorities who were working desperately to maintain their authority and the sacred Hebrew tradition they vowed to keep. Replacing that tradition with one defined in terms of the person and ministry of Jesus would have been unthinkable for them. The orthodox leaders of the Christian movement were not likely to accept a Gospel that implies that someone other than Peter, like the Beloved Disciple, could be a true leader of the small, but growing community of faithful Jewish Christians. Addressing this problem may be what prompted the addition of chapters 20-21 to the Gospel after it was written and before it was distributed beyond the Johannine Community. Most likely a choice by the authors to write their full understanding of this Gospel without hiding these controversial parts of its message would have led to their persecution, even their execution, along with the persecution and/or execution of other persons from their community and the destruction of written copies of the Gospel itself.
I suggest that The Gospel According to John was originally an unorthodox, written by the leaders of an unorthodox community of First Century Jewish Christians. Though this same Gospel functions now in the 21st century as an orthodox guide for the spiritual formation of disciples of Jesus, unmasking its unorthodox message requires an unorthodox method. Hence the sub-title of A Day with Jesus: An Unorthodox Commentary on the Gospel According to John.
Just as The Gospel According to John is written to reveal a cosmic Day with Jesus, and is marked according to the time when Jesus says My hour has come, the hour /day /season /time has come to unveil what has been hidden in plain sight for over 2,000 years. To that end, like literary archeologists, let us begin to dig, carefully sifting meaning from two ancient texts, The Septuagint and The Gospel According to John, both of which have withstood the test of time, refusing until now to reveal their deepest and most secret meanings.
Dr. Thomas W. Butler
1 : an explanation, a critical analysis or an interpretation of a word, literary passage, etc., especially in the Bible. (A process through which a Biblical scholar draws meaning out of Scripture). Underlined words and their definitions can be found in Appendix B: The Glossary, as well as in the text and in the endnotes. Wherever they appear, my own definitions appear (in parentheses).
2 Let Her Keep It is available through Amazon.com.
3 : of or characteristic of the Apostle and Evangelist John or of the books of the New Testament attributed to him; (an adjectival form of the name John), Webster’s New World College Dictionary, fourth ed., Michael Agnes, Ed. in Chief, (Wiley Pub., Cleveland, Ohio, 2002).
4 Insights in Let Her Keep It and lectures associated with it are updated, edited and expanded in A Day with Jesus.
5 : thus; so: used within brackets to show that a quoted passage, esp. one containing some error or something questionable, is precisely introduced.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, fourth ed., Op. cit.
6 – any of several translations or paraphrases of parts of the Jewish Scriptures, written in the vernacular (Aramaic) of Judea.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, fourth ed., Op. cit.
7 Gary Porton, “,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, David Noel Freedman, Ed. in Chief, Doubleday, New York, 1992, hereafter ref. as The Anchor Bible Dictionary, cites the work of J. Sanders, A. Wright, E.J. Goodspeed, M. Gertner and W. Brownlee among others before making his own cogent and valuable contributions to the subject.
8 The most complete copy of The Septuagint is the. While other, less complete copies of The Septuagint exist, most scholars consider and use the Codex Alexandrinas as the standard for research and study. It was canonized circa 100 B.C.E – Before the Common Era, i.e.: B.C. – Before Christ.
9 This traditional understanding of the origin of The Septuagint is a matter of modern scholarly debate.
10 – a law or body of laws of a church. – the process during which proposed Scriptures are officially accepted as divinely inspired, and therefore approved for use in teaching the doctrines of the faith. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Ed., Op. cit.
11 The Hebrew Bible is called The Tanach or The Tanakh, a Hebrew acronym for Torah (the Law), Neviim (the Prophets), and Ketuvim (the Hagiographra or Holy Writings). Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Op. cit. (The Tanakh was canonized circa 100 C.E. (C.E = Common Era = Anno Domini or A.D. Latin for Year of our Lord).
12 See The Table of Contents, esp. hours 13, 14 and 15. These three hours include the ordination trilogy, the focus of Let Her Keep It: Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Mary anointing of the feet of Jesus, and Jesus washing of the feet of the disciples.
13 See Appendix A: A Concordance of Signs and Oracles at the end of A Day with Jesus.
14 See Appendix B: A Glossary at the end of A Day with Jesus.
15 See Appendix C: A Bibliography at the end of A Day with Jesus.
16 See Appendix D: An Index of Translated Septuagint Scriptures at the end of A Day with Jesus.
17 The Masoretic Text, (M.T.) is the oldest complete copy of the Hebrew Bible, dated to the early second century, C.E.
18 pericope (pe-rik-e-pee): a passage, usually short, of a written work, Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Ed., Op. Cit. (A passage of Scripture that contains a complete thought. Such a passage is not dependent upon its context for meaning.)
19 See Appendix A: A Concordance of Signs and Oracles where the defining verse for each sign, oracle and parable is listed.