Jesus the Messiah: Liberation for all Israel

In her book “Cast Out of the Covenant” Adele Reinhartz understands the Gospel of John as a missionary writing for Gentiles, whom Jesus calls as children of God into the covenant with God, from which the Jews are cast out. With reference to Ton Veerkamp, I disagree: Originally, John struggled for Israel’s liberation from the enslaving Roman world order!

Depiction of a palm tree with a Roman standing next to it on the left and a mourning Jewish woman sitting on the right. The image symbolizes the subjugation of Judea after the Judean War in 70 AD with the words "Judaea capta".

The subjugation of Judea by Rome in 70 CE must be taken seriously as the background to John’s Gospel: Ceramic Tile in Tel Aviv-Yaffo replicating “Judaea Capta” Roman coins (Image: Talmoryair, Beit Bialik00391, CC BY 3.0)

Contents

0 Introduction

0.1 Remarks on Terminology

0.1.1 “Christians” and “Christianity”

0.1.2 “Jews,” “Judaism,” and Ioudaioi

0.1.3 “Pagans” and ”Gentiles”

0.2 The Gospel of John as a Deadly Spider’s Web?

0.2.1 Jewish and anti-Jewish?

0.2.2 Adele Reinhartz’s Three Rhetorical Goals Regarding the Gospel of John

0.3 Rhetorical Analysis: The Fourth Gospel was less Read than Heard

0.3.1 Discerning an Implied Author and a Fully Compliant Audience

0.3.2 Types of Aristotelian Rhetoric: Deliberative, Judicial, and Epideictic

0.3.3 Elements of Rhetoric: Invention, Arrangement, and Style

0.4 The Method of the Present Rhetorical Analysis of the Gospel of John

0.4.1 How Can the Rhetorical Situation be Reconstructed Historically?

0.4.2 True Confessions and Guiding Principles

0.4.2.1 Situatedness

0.4.2.2 Humility

0.4.2.3 Imagination

0.4.3 Concrete use of Imagination with Regard to John’s Gospel

0.4.3.1 A Man Named John as the Implied Author of the Gospel of John

0.4.3.2 A Woman Named Alexandra as a Contemporary Compliant Listener to John

0.4.3.3 A Woman Named Miriam as a Listener to the Jewish Messianist John

0.4.4 Outline of Chapters

0.4.4.1 Part I: The Rhetoric of Affiliation

0.4.4.2 Part II: The Rhetoric of Disaffiliation

0.4.4.3 Part III: Imagining the Rhetorical Situation

 

1 The Rhetoric of Desire and Fulfillment

1.1 What is the Rhetoric of Desire Directed at in John’s Gospel?

1.1.1 Miriam’s Hope for the Life of the Age to Come

1.1.2 How does the Son of Man have Dawn the Age to Come?

1.1.3 Jesus as the Second Isaac being Crucified in Solidarity with Israel

1.2 The Rhetoric of Fulfillment: What Evidence does John Cite?

1.2.1 External Proofs: Miracles, the Scriptures, Witnesses

1.2.2 Internal Proof of Ethos: How are Jesus’ Messianic Titles to be Interpreted?

1.2.3 Internal Proof of Pathos: How does John Employ Emotional Language?

1.2.3.1 Does John Take his Metaphors from Everyday Language?

1.2.3.2 What is the Purpose of the Provocative Invitation to Chew the Flesh of the Messiah?

1.2.3.3 What Freedom is Jesus Concerned with and What does hamartia, Sin, Mean?

1.2.4 Internal Proof of Logos: Is John Going around in Circles Argumentatively?

1.2.4.1. “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for {gar} he gives the Spirit without measure” (3:34)

1.2.4.2. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for {hoti} salvation is from the Jews” (4:22)

1.2.4.3. “For {gar} just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26)

1.2.4.4. “Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for {hoti} it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me” (8:16)

1.2.5 Style: The Pattern of Seeking and Finding in John’s Gospel

1.2.5.1 God’s Conversion to Man and Successful Finding

1.2.5.2 The Inaccessibility of Heaven and God’s Coming to Earth

1.2.5.3 To Die in One’s Sin has to do with the Aberration of this World Order

1.2.5.4 What does it Mean to Seek Jesus for the Wrong Reasons?

1.2.5.5 Erotic Subtexts of Seeking and Finding in John’s Gospel?

1.3 The Content of Belief: Jesus, God, and the Cosmos

1.3.1 Is the Role of the Mother of the Messiah in John’s Gospel Really Small?

1.3.2 Is Jesus the Only Son of God Begotten by Aristotelian Epigenesis?

1.3.3 Does the God of Israel Incarnate in the Flesh of the Messiah, the Second Isaac?

1.4 What Is the Meaning of “Life”?

1.4.1. There Is Only One Way to Eternal Life—What does it Consist of?

1.4.2 Eternal Life and the Knowledge of God—but of which God?

1.4.3 What does it mean to Hate Your Own Soul under the World Order?

1.4.4 Eternal Life as Freedom from all Powers of Death

 

2. The Rhetoric of Transformation

2.1 The Need for Mediation

2.1.1 Mary Magdalene’s Crucial Message of “Not Yet”

2.1.2 Jesus’ Appreciation of Thomas in his Justified Doubt

2.2 Narrative as Rhetoric: Character Identification

2.2.1 The Disciples as Models of Identification and Missionaries of Jesus

2.2.1.1 The Disciples as Harvesters and Jesus in the Line of Israel’s Prophets

2.2.1.2 The Disciples’ Mission into the World Order to Overcome it

2.2.2 Two Dialogue Partners of the Messiah Jesus

2.2.2.1 Nicodemus as a Representative of Rabbinic Judaism Ready for Dialogue

2.2.2.2 The Samaritan Woman as a Representative of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

2.2.3 Three People Healed and One Raised from the Dead—What Role Do They Play?

2.2.3.1 The Nobleman’s Son—the Other Sign at Cana

2.2.3.2 After 38 Years of Paralysis—the Healing of Israel that is Incapable of Acting

2.2.3.3 The Healing of the Man Born Blind on the Sabbath and the Fence Around the Torah

2.2.3.4 The Raising of Lazarus as the Representative of Israel in its Mortal State

2.2.4 Narrative Flow and Structure of John’s Gospel

2.3 Community of believers

2.3.1 The First Person Plural as the „We“ of the Messianic Group around Jesus

2.3.2 The Second Person Plural for Addressing Those Who Hear the Gospel

2.3.3 The New Commandment of agapē, Solidarity, as a Sectarian In-Group Virtue

2.3.4 A New Identity of the Believers as the Children of God

2.3.4.1 Filiation to God According to Aristotle or to Abraham and Sarah?

2.3.4.2 From Jesus’ Sonship of God to the Filiation with God of his Followers

2.3.4.3 Birth by Water and Spirit According to Aristotle or According to the Bible?

2.3.4.4 Guarantee of Eternal Life in Heaven or Hope for Life of the Age to Come?

2.3.4.5 The New Family of God in John’s Gospel and its Dark Backside

 

3 The Rhetoric of Expropriation

3.1 Is God’s Covenant with Israel Abrogated in John’s Gospel?

3.1.1 John as Messianic Critic of the World Order in Prophetic Firmness

3.1.2 Jesus’ Denial of Legitimate Jewish Claims to the Covenant with God

3.1.2.1 If the Ioudaioi were Children of Abraham, they would not Kill God’s Son

3.1.2.2 To be Enslaved under the hamartia means to be a Slave of Rome

3.1.2.3 Whoever Submits to Rome has the diabolos as his Father

3.2 The Significance of the Torah or the Tanakh for the Gospel of John

3.2.1 The Concept of logos in John’s Gospel and its Relation to sophia

3.2.2 Does Jesus Fulfill the Torah or Push it Aside as God’s Decisive Revelation?

3.3 The Temple as the Place where God has his NAME Dwell

3.3.1 Places of Worship after the Destruction of Sanctuaries

3.3.2 “Bowing Down to the FATHER Inspired and According to Fidelity”

3.4 The Withered Vine: Intra-Jewish Criticism or Ousted Metaphor?

3.5 The Jewish Features of John’s Gospel as Part of his anti-Judaism?

 

4 Rhetoric of Vituperation

4.1. Neutral Use of the Term Ioudaioi

4.1.1 Need Jewish Festivals and Customs to be Explained to a non-Jewish Audience?

4.1.2 Distinguishing the Ioudaioi from Inhabitants of Galilee or Samaria

4.1.3 Does the Emphasis on Jesus’ Jewishness Underscore his Ousting of Judaism?

4.2 Salvation is of/from the Jews

4.2.1 Salvation is from the Jews—Brought about by the Jewish Messiah

4.2.2 Attempts to Come to Terms with 4:22, between Hostility and Benevolence toward the Jews

4.3 Wavering Jews

4.3.1 Ioudaioi with the Choice to Decide for or against Jesus

4.3.2 Does Jesus Oppose the Ioudaioi with Prejudice from the Outset?

4.3.3 The Portrayal of the Ioudaioi in their Extreme Diversity

4.3.4 The Harshest Criticism of Ioudaioi is Directed at Apostate Members of the Sectarian Group around John

4.4 Hostile Ioudaioi: The Rhetoric of Vituperation

4.4.1 Does John Engage in Narrative Vituperation or are his Accusations Comprehensible?

4.4.2 Rhetoric of Binary Opposition

4.4.2.1 Jesus’ Political Confrontation with Rabbinic Judaism

4.4.2.2 The Jews as Biological Children of the Devil?

4.4.2.3 Fathers and Sons in Patriarchally Structured Societies

4.4.2.4 Nuance, Irony, and Paradox as Additional Stylistic Devices

4.4.3 The Rhetoric of Fear

4.4.4 The Rhetoric of Repetition

4.4.5 Miriam Explaining John’s Hostile Speech about the Ioudaioi

4.5 Overlaps of the Term Ioudaioi with Other Groups of the Population

4.5.1 Are there Subgroups among the Ioudaioi?

4.5.1.1 Does Everything said of the Pharisaioi Refer in Principle to All Ioudaioi?

4.5.1.2 Do All Jews Demand Jesus’ Crucifixion or only the Leading Priests?

4.5.2 The Ioudaioi, the People, and the World

4.5.2.1 The ochlos in John’s Gospel as a Jewish Crowd

4.5.2.2 Does kosmos Refer in a Negative Sense to the Jews or to the Roman World Order?

4.6 Is Jesus Himself a Ioudaios?

4.7 What Significance should be Attached to the Negative Rhetoric toward the Ioudaioi in John’s Gospel?

4.7.1 Vituperation as a Conventional Means without Emotional Effect?

4.7.2 Does Johannine Rhetoric Already Lead to the “Parting of the Ways” between Judaism and Christianity?

4.7.3 Does John’s Negative Rhetoric Refer to Specific Groups of People around the Addressees?

 

5 Rhetorical Ioudaioi and Real Jews

5.1 Possible Historical Correspondences for the Johannine Ioudaioi

5.2 How is the Word Ioudaioi to be Translated Appropriately?

5.2.1 The Ioudaioi as “Judeans,” for ethical reasons, among others

5.2.2 Translating Ioudaioi as “Judeans” or “Yehudim” as a Means of Alienation

5.2.3 Eliminating the “Jews,” to Produce a Gospel “Free of Jews”?

5.2.4 The Ioudaioi as the Leading Classes of the Jerusalem “Judeans” in Contrast to more Rebellious Galilaioi, “Galileans”

5.2.5 The Ioudaioi as “Jews” in a More than Purely Religious Sense?

5.3 The Ioudaioi as a mere Rhetorical Category or as a Historical Reference Group?

 

6 The Rhetorical Situation according to the Expulsion Theory

6.1 Martyns Theory at a Glance

6.1.1 Internal Evidence: The aposynagōgos Passages in John’s Gospel

6.1.2 External Evidence: The Decision of the Birkat ha-minim in 85 CE

6.2 The Gospel of John as a Two-Level Drama

6.2.1 Who were the Addressees and What was the Goal of John’s Gospel?

6.2.2 Who is to be Identified with “the Enemy” in John’s Gospel?

6.2.3 The Gospel as a Window to the Past—of the Johannine Community?

6.2.4 The Appeal of the Expulsion Theory

6.3 Criticism of the Expulsion Theory

6.3.1 Could Expulsion from the Synagogue Justify John’s anti-Judaism?

6.3.2 Is the Evidence for a Synagogue Exclusion at All Valid?

6.3.3 The Two-Level Reading Strategy Put to the Test

6.3.4 Was there Actually a Johannine Community at All?

6.4 The Enduring Appeal of the Expulsion Theory

6.4.1 The Fresh Wind of a Lively Style in the Interpretation of John

6.4.2 Historical Narrative Presupposes Dramatic Imagination

6.4.3 The Longing to Participate in the Concrete Life of the Past

6.5 Everything that Argues against Martyn’s Expulsion Theory

 

7 John, Alexandra, and the Propulsion Theory

7.1 John as a Successful Speaker on an Asia Minor Marketplace

7.2 The Ethnic Identity or Identities of the Implied Audience

7.2.1 “Jewish-Christian” Implied Audience

7.2.2 Samaritan Implied Audience

7.2.3 Gentile Members of the “Johannine Community”

7.3 Evidence in John’s Gospel for its Audience as Gentile Outsiders

7.3.1 Does John 20:31 Aim at Faith Preservation or Faith Awakening?

7.3.2 Does Jesus Want to Go to the Greeks and Teach them as per John 7:32-35?

7.3.3 The Other Sheep in John 10:16—Jewish Christians, Samaritans, or Gentiles?

7.3.4 The Prophecy of the High Priest Caiaphas in John 11:49-52

7.3.4.1 Caiaphas’ Argumentation between Interest Politics and Propaganda

7.3.4.2 Are the “Dispersed Children of God” Jews of the Diaspora or Gentiles?

7.3.5 The Greeks who Want to See Jesus in John 12:20-24

7.3.5.1 John’s Reluctance Toward Gentile Mission

7.3.5.2 The Greeks in 12:20 as Gentiles who Want to Bow down before Israel’s God

7.3.5.3 The Requirements of True Discipleship in John’s Gospel

7.3.5.4 Has Jesus’ Hour Come with the Arrival of the Greeks?

7.3.5.5 Do only the Greeks Want to “See Jesus”—as Opposed to All Jews?

7.3.5.6 Is for John “Israel’s loss” really “the Gentiles’ gain”?

7.4 Was Gentile Mission an Original Purpose of John?

7.4.1 The Jews as Addressees of a Missionary Gospel of John

7.4.2 What is the Case for Gentile Mission as the Goal of John’s Gospel?

7.4.3 What sort of Gentiles would be attracted to the Gospel?

7.4.4 Doubts about the Gentile Missionary Orientation of John’s Gospel

7.5 The “Parting of the Ways”

7.5.1 When Did the Ways Part?

7.5.2 Does John, through his “Rhetorical Parting,” Operate to Disinherit the Jews?

7.6 The Gentile Alexandra in Ephesus as a Christian Child of God

 

8 Miriam’s Response to Adele Reinhartz’ Conclusion of her Book

8.1 Was there no Johannine Group in which his Gospel Originated?

8.2 Is John Expropriating the Jews of their Covenant or Expressing Prophetic Criticism of the Judean Leadership?

8.3 Assumptions about the Historical Background of the Gospel of John

8.3.1 Gentiles as the Main Target Audience of John’s Gospel?

8.3.2 The Hostility towards Jews in John’s Gospel as a Rhetorical Device?

8.3.3 Future-oriented Rhetoric with Clear Demarcation of Believers from Jews?

8.3.4 The Misuse of John’s Gospel for Gentile Christian Cosmology

8.3.5 Was John Completely Disinterested in Specific Jews?

8.4 Is John to be Accused of Ethically Reprehensible anti-Judaism or was his Gospel Misused for anti-Judaistic Purposes?

8.5 May I Hope for your Further Engagement with John?

 

Annotations

0 Introduction

Dear Ms. Reinhartz, after having read your book “Cast Out of the Covenant. Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John,” <1> I am thankful for the insight you gave me in interpreting the Gospel of John.

I am aware that the Gospel of John since the 2nd century has been read as you characterize it: as an anti-Jewish document regarding Judaism as disinherited by Christianity. And I myself, as a youngster, was one of the Gentile Christian recipients of the Gospel like Alexandra, <2> being fond of a Jesus who loves me, takes not only my sins but also my anxiousness away (16:33!), and saves my soul from being condemned to hell.

Later on, in my service as a pastor of the Evangelic Church in Hessen and Nassau, I didn’t cease to have trouble dealing with the anti-Jewish passages of the Gospel. But when in the mid-1st decade of the 21st century I came into contact with the Amsterdam School of interpreting the New Testament as a thoroughly Jewish document—in the double context of the whole Scriptures and the socio-political environment as well—and read Ton Veerkamp’s political interpretation of John’s Gospel, <3> I experienced something like your experience with Louis Martyn: <4> I could empathize with Jews or God-fearers sympathetic of Jewish thought who after the Jewish War sat in a house of study with people like John and struggled with other Jews about the question of whether Jesus is the Messiah who can free Israel from enslavement under the Roman world order and thus bring Israel’s covenant with God to final fulfillment.

Since I have not read even a fraction of the (ix) “secondary literature on John’s Gospel” that you yourself are surveying, I cannot, of course, claim to be able to respond to all your arguments in a comprehensively competent manner. However, I am interested in introducing Ton Veerkamp’s approach to the discussion, which so far the academic world dealing with John’s Gospel does not even dignify a consideration or refutation. <5> Is it because of his status as a retired student pastor with left-wing political views and having no academic degree?

Gladly I seize your idea to imagine an implied reader of the Gospel of John. As I said above, Alexandra’s reading would have similar to mine in my youth, and I think her reading fits to a Greek interpretation of the Gospel of John that was very soon the one and only possible reading of a Gentile Christian dominated church that could no more take seriously the Jewish roots of John. But the thoroughly Jewish character of the Gospel suggests that the first readers of John—as also D. A. Carson <6> assumes—were prevalently Jews. So I like to imagine a Jewish woman named Miriam <7> who is hearing the Gospel of John not as a cosmological spiritual tale of being rescued from eternal death but as a tale of liberation from the worldwide oppression called Pax Romana or kosmos, „world order,“ but actually being a great world dis-order.

0.1 Remarks on Terminology

I am delighted (xiii) that you preface your book with a discussion of various terms the use of which in your previous books I had been critical, <8> since, as I said, the Gospel of John does not yet, in my view, presuppose the emergence of Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism. Thus, I very much welcome the fact that scholars searching for “new perspectives on the groups and events that shaped the early centuries of the common era” also examine “the limitations and assumptions behind familiar terminology” and strive for a “new vocabulary,” on which, however, no agreement has yet been reached.

Interestingly (xvi, n. 1), you want to completely renounce the term “religion” in your book:

In this book, however, and in my work on early Judaism and New Testament, I do not use the term, as I do not find it a helpful category for grappling with ancient texts, beliefs, practices, and societies.

This renunciation coincides with Ton Veerkamp’s insight that in John’s Gospel, as already in the Grand Narrative of Israel, <9> it is less about religion than about politics, since the God of Israel bears a NAME <10> that represents a program of the liberation of the people from any enslavement or exploitation under foreign powers or their own elites. And the Messiah Jesus, according to John, embodies exactly this liberating NAME of the God of Israel, whom he calls the FATHER.

0.1.1 “Christians” and “Christianity”

Since in the meantime (xiii) “New Testament scholarship … has embraced the Jewishness of Jesus and the movement that was created by his followers,” it is surprising that just “in Johannine studies … the term ‘Johannine Christianity’” is still used “to refer to what we find distinctive about the Fourth Gospel presentation of Jesus as Christ and Son of God, in comparison with other New Testament documents.” Rightly you consider it “problematic … to retroject the modern distinctions between Judaism and Christianity (synagogues and churches) back into the first century.” In addition (xiv), the designation “Christians” also “implies a level of unity and institutionalization among ‘Christians’ that, all the evidence suggests, did not exist in the first century nor for some time thereafter (if, indeed, it ever existed).”

But how should we correctly name those who trusted in Jesus at the time of the authoring of John’s Gospel? Referring to Mikael Tellbe <11> and Paula Fredriksen, <12> you consider alternatives such as “Christ-confessors,” “Christ-believers,” or “Christ-followers.” The very use of the word “Christ” instead of “Messiah,” however, is misleading, since it inevitably evokes in modern people associations of a dogmatic Christology and doctrine of the Trinity shaped by the councils of later times. Though “the cumbersome nature” of phrases like “followers of Jesus Messiah” or “people who trust in Jesus Messiah” is even greater, they are more appropriate in my eyes.

It is even more difficult to find an alternative for the term “Christianity”:

And if Christianity did not yet exist, how do we talk about that nebulous but nevertheless palpable sense of affiliation that Christ-believers had, not only with the other believers in their vicinity, but with the broader collectivity with which they shared some practices, beliefs, and institutions? One option is to resort to the generic term “community.”

There are myriad ambiguities associated with this term, the most important of which in our context is probably whether, for example, the notion of a Johannine community is, as Stanley K. Stowers <13> has noted, associated with “romantic ideas of communal creativity and communal authorship that cannot be substantiated from the ancient evidence.”

Such claims may mean that the theology of an author or document originated within a particular group, and served to differentiate that group—that community—from others. Or they may mean that the Gospel author is addressing the circumstances of a particular community {240-41}.

This question will be discussed in detail later. As to the “idea of a Johannine community,” you have already been “a critic of the expulsion hypothesis according to which the Gospel was written for a Johannine community that had experienced a traumatic expulsion from the synagogue.” <14> Meanwhile, you no longer believe

that a Johannine community already existed at the time that the Fourth Gospel reached its present form. In working on the present book … I have become convinced that while a community of sorts may have formed around the book itself, there is no evidence for its existence prior to the Gospel.

Therefore, you want “to use the term ‘community’ without, I hope, any of the more complex nuances that Stowers criticizes” but to refer it “primarily to the contemporaries of the Gospel writer(s) who encountered and responded positively to the Fourth Gospel,” namely “interchangeably with other terms such as ‘group,’ ‘audience,’ and ‘hearers.’”

0.1.2 “Jews,” “Judaism,” and Ioudaioi

Also (xv), you now use the terms “Jews” and “Judaism” with greater caution than before, since “‘Judaism’ … refers to an essentializing abstraction that could not have existed in the first century.”

Nevertheless, I will at times (sparingly) use this term to refer to a “big tent” comprised of ideas, practices, groups, and individuals that are associated with those whom the Gospel, the writings of Josephus, inscriptions, and other texts and objects call hoi Ioudaioi.

You do not want to replace the term “Jews” with “Judeans” everywhere, partly because it “could not in the past, and still cannot in the present, be limited to its religious sense.” This, too, will have to be discussed in detail later.

0.1.3 “Pagans” and ”Gentiles”

Moreover, the term “paganism” has since been questioned as pejorative. Shouldn’t we say “polytheists” rather than “pagans”? However, not every person in antiquity who was not a Jew or Christian would consider himself a polytheist.

In this context, I do not understand your lack of reference to the Jewish distinction between the people of Israel and the goyim. This term can also be meant pejoratively, insofar as, for example, Israel’s separation from the goyim is intended to keep free from the influence of the foreign gods opposed to the God of Israel. But conversely, the influence of Israel’s God can also be a blessing to the goyim (see, for example, Genesis 12:3, Jeremiah 4:2, Sirach 44:20). In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 13:10, Matthew 28:19, Luke 24:47) and in Paul (9:24) the goyim are included in the addressees of the Messiah’s message and in this respect are placed on an equal footing with the Jews. Only the later ecclesiastical condemnation of all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, who do not confess Jesus as the Son of God leads to the term “heathendom,” which is pejorative in Christian usage. But although Jews are not considered heathens, since they allegedly killed their own Messiah, they are considered even more damnable—a disastrous and condemnable development!

In John’s Gospel, of all places, the term goyim does not occur at all, and the word ethnos (Hebrew goy) is used only to refer to the people of the Jews or to the autonomy granted to Judea by the Romans (11:48, 50, 51, 52; 18:35). What is meant by goyim in the Jewish Scriptures, however, is in the background of the whole Gospel in terms of the Roman world order, under which as a worldwide slave house the nations and especially Israel are to suffer.

0.2 The Gospel of John as a Deadly Spider’s Web?

By choosing Mary Howitt’s poem (xix) about “The Spider and the Fly” <15> as a starting point for your consideration of the Gospel of John, you make it clear how much you, as a Jew, feel lured into a deadly trap by this book. For over forty years you have not been able to escape its attraction, with the dange of becoming

entangled in the sticky heart of the Gospel’s web: the Jews, or, to be more specific, the Gospel’s understanding and portrayal of “the Jews”… The present book is my final attempt to unravel this most difficult element—and this most troubling Gospel—from a rhetor­ical, historical, and ethical perspective.

Quite different from the other two books I know from you, you now state how much the Gospel of John is Jewish (xix-xx):

Here is the problem. The Gospel’s narrative, language, and worldview situate it squarely within the same orbit as other first-century Jewish texts written in Greek. With the exception of Pontius Pilate, the main characters are Jewish; with the exception of the Samaritan episode (John 4:1-42), the action takes place in Galilee and Judea, areas populated primarily by Jews. The Gospel’s theology is not at all unique within the “common Judaism” of the first century. Jesus—the Gospel’s Jewish protagonist—behaves in Jewish ways: he goes on pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple for the festivals; he quotes liberally from the Torah and Prophets; he argues from and with scripture in ways that resemble the midrashic arguments that later appear in rabbinic literature, and he debates the same issues that concern other Jews in the Second Temple period.

On the latter point, you note as an example (xxxiv, n. 9) Jesus’ assertion in 5:17,

that God the Father works on the Sabbath. This would seem to contradict Genesis 2:2, which states that God rested on the seventh day, but the question of whether God worked on the Sabbath was very much a live issue in the Second Temple and rabbinic periods. See Philo of Alexandria, Cher. 8 6-890; Leg All. 1. 5-6; Exod Rabbah 11:10; 30:9.

On this subject, Ton Veerkamp presents the inner-Jewish argumentation of the Johannine Messianists as follows: <16>

In this connection “My FATHER works until now” can only mean that creation is not accomplished. John can read the first sentence of the Scriptures only presently, “In the beginning (in principle!) God creates heaven and earth, and the earth is tohubohu …” Therefore God does not yet “rest,” and still less “solemnly”; there is no reason yet to celebrate Shabbat; rather, it is a matter of “doing works” (erga-zesthai). The theme is taken up in the introduction to the bread speech (6:27). The theme also appears in the story about the man born blind (9:4). Shabbat is only, when all works are done, when all men are healed, and they are finally what they are: the image of God. Until now men are anything but the image of God; they are not what they are—the image of God—and they are what they are not: mutilated, broken people; there is nothing to celebrate. At least that is what these Messianists think.

To the consistently Jewish character of the Gospel, you counter (xx) that nowhere “with the exception of John 4:9” Jesus or his disciples are referred to as Ioudaioi. However, this may be taken for granted, as indeed the Samaritan woman and Pilate do. More seriously weighs the representation of the

escalation of the Jews’ opposition to and enmity towards Jesus, from antagonistic interrogation (John 2:18-21), to persecution (5:16), attempts to stone (8:59; 10:31-33) and even kill him (5:18; 7:1), culminating in their successful plot to have him crucified by Pilate (11:49-52; 18:1-19: 16).

An irreconcilable contradiction therefore exists in your eyes between the following statements of John’s gospel:

Although the Gospel of John’s Jesus declares that “salvation is from the Jews” (4:22), he also states that the Jews have the devil as their father (8:44).

Everything depends on the context in which these sharp disputes are placed. Is it about an enmity between the followers of two religions whose paths must part because one of them is trampling on the fundamental convictions of the other? Or is it originally an inner-Jewish debate about how to position oneself as a Jew of the 1st century vis-à-vis the Roman world order? If the diabolos does not mean a demonic devil, but the emperor as the leader of an anti-divine social order that transformed the living space of the peoples, including the Jews, into a worldwide slave house, then the antagonism between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews is to be understood as a heated dispute about political options, comparable to prophetic polemics.

0.2.1 Jewish and anti-Jewish?

Your own reflections (xx) on the question “How can a Gospel that is so Jewish also be so anti-Jewish?” take a different approach. The simple explanation of the soon-to-be-formed ancient church, as you demonstrate in quotations from Cyril of Alexandria, was that the

Gospel’s Jewishness reflects Jesus’s own origins within “the synagogue of the Jews”; its anti-Jewishness reflects the divine judgement against the Jews on account of their refusal to recognize Jesus as God’s son.

To modern exegetes, this is “neither obvious nor acceptable,” rather “our historical-critical sensibilities steer us away from cosmic explanations and towards the concrete circumstances and audiences for which the Gospel was written.”

You briefly ask, referring to Daniel Boyarin, <17> whether “the Ioudaioi against whom John’s Jesus railed were not the entire Jewish people but rather a subgroup.” This would be in line with Ton Veerkamp, but you do not go further on this track.

Other explanations of the “Gospel’s vituperative language” you touch upon only in passing, whether, like Luke Timothy Johnson, <18> one speaks of “merely a convention of ancient polemics” or, like J. Louis Martyn, <19> of “simply a natural response to a traumatic experience—expulsion from the synagogue—that the intended audience suffered at Jewish hands” or (xxi), like Raimo Hakola, <20> “of the differentiation that necessarily and inevitably accompanies the development of a new social identity.”

Thus, as a Jewish woman, you are

glad that my colleagues reject Cyril’s belief that God has abandoned the “synagogue of the Jews.” As a scholar, however, I believe Cyril was onto something, not theologically but as a reader of John’s Gospel.

So you express the suspicion that already “the Gospel’s implied author, like Cyril, was convinced that God’s favor had turned away from the Jews to the Gentiles.”

At the same time as the Fourth Gospel tells its version of Jesus’s life story, it also narrates the story of God’s repudiation of the Jews and the adoption of the Christ-confessors as God’s covenant people. Although Jesus came to his own people—the Jews—they did not accept him (1:11).

The first thing contrary to this is that John’s Gospel does not speak of a Gentile mission like the other Gospels or Paul and only mentions “some Greeks” in a very reserved way (12:20). The goal of Jesus the Messiah in John’s Gospel is the gathering of all Israel, including the lost ten tribes of Samaria and the Diaspora. The fierceness of the struggle with the Ioudaioi is directed both against the collaboration of the high priests with the Roman diabolos and against the terror and plundering of the rebellious Zealots in the Judean War, and finally against Rabbinic Judaism, which is emerging at the time of John and—by rejecting the Messiah Jesus—in John’s eyes also plays into the hands of Rome.

Indeed, what you describe below captures the attitude of Christianity just a few decades after the completion of John’s Gospel:

Others did accept him, however (1:12), and, in doing so, replaced the Jews as God’s own people. As God’s people, they now had exclusive access to the valued tokens of Jewishness: the Jews’ calendar (Sabbath and festivals), their scriptures, their Temple, and, most important, their God, or, more precisely, the special relationship with God through which all blessings flow. In this latter story, the Gospel’s Jewish elements do not reflect an approbation of Jewishness that would in turn disarm its anti-Jewish statements. Rather, the Gospel argues that Jewish concepts and symbols no longer belong to the Jews, but solely to those who believe Jesus to be the Messiah.

John himself, while deeply disappointed that the majority of Rabbinic Judaism does not accept the Messiah Jesus, holds on to the hope that all Israel—that is, Judeans, Galileans, Samaritans, Diaspora Jews plus individual God-fearers from the goyim—could be brought together in the Messianic community and overcome the Roman world order through agapē. I admit it is a deceptive hope that must soon perish, first because the alienation between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews is ever-increasing, and even more so because the Jewish-Christian element within nascent Christianity is increasingly falling behind and the cultivation of Jewish rituals and the celebration of Jewish festivals by Gentile Christians is being rejected. To do justice to the Gospel of John itself, however, we must not yet reproject this development into its genesis.

You conclude against those “who describe the Fourth Gospel as both Jewish and anti-Jewish” to “see the Gospel as thoroughly anti-Jewish.”

This anti-Jewishness is evident not only in the Gospel’s hostile comments about the Jews as children of the devil and in its portrayal of the Jews and their leaders as hounding Jesus unto death, but also in the very elements that were constitutive of first-century Jewish identity. The Fourth Gospel appropriates Jewishness at the same time as it repudiates Jews. In doing so, it also promotes a parting of the ways between those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and those who do not, that is, the Ioudaioi.

By this, you do not mean (xxxv, n. 17) to hold John’s Gospel responsible “for the history of Christian anti-Semitism” or even for “the attitudes and events that paved the way for the Holocaust.”

Rather, I consider the Gospel to be anti-Jewish insofar as those who hear or read it in a compliant or uncritical way—accepting its worldview as their own—are likely to come away with negative views of Jews. Such compliant readings may well have reinforced anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic views and behaviors but it strains credulity to imagine that the Gospel’s author(s) had such consequences in mind in portraying the Jews as they did.

So you also assume that John himself could not yet imagine how his attacks against Rabbinic Judaism would one day play out. To that extent, I agree with you that John’s Gospel as traditionally read can promote an anti-Jewish attitude. This is precisely why I argue for considering that John himself originally intended to fight an intra-Jewish dispute on a very different level, as a Jew with other Jews.

0.2.2 Adele Reinhartz’s Three Rhetorical Goals Regarding the Gospel of John

For the second time (xxi), you compare John’s Gospel to a spider’s web, this time drawing on “the myth of Arachne,” to point out (xxi-xxii) that the “motifs of appropriation and repudiation are woven deeply into its narration, its worldview, and the messages it conveys to its audience.” It is true enough (xxii) that John tries to persuade his audience by rhetorical means, namely “by means of stories, metaphors, and exhortations to view history and the cosmos, Jesus and the Jews, as he did.” And if the aim of his rhetoric is ethically questionable, you are also right in comparing it to the approach of a spider. But this is precisely what needs to be examined in detail.

You yourself also represent rhetorical goals, three in all. You want to convince me as a reader that

1. the Gospel offers its audience rebirth into a new family, the family of God, using a range of strategies that together constitute a rhetoric of affiliation.

2. … participation in the family of God required not only affiliation with others who did the same, but also separation from the Ioudaioi. Through a rhetoric of disaffiliation, … the Gospel rhetorically transfers the benefits of Jewishness-covenantal relationship with God-from the Ioudaioi to the “children of God.”

3. … the Gospel was {not} written to comfort a Jewish-Christian group after its traumatic expulsion from the synagogue… {but is to be (xiii)} explained just as well—or even better—by situating the Gospel in the context of the late first-century Gentile mission in Asia Minor.

I announce in advance my objection in all respects.

Originally, the rhetoric of John’s Gospel has a different emphasis than establishing a new religion: Positively, it promotes trust in the Messiah Jesus who will gather all Israel and overcome the Roman world order so that the age to come can begin. Those who do not trust in the Messiah Jesus are sharply criticized because, in John’s eyes, they have politically submitted to the enemy, the diabolos, namely Rome.

I, too, think that John’s Gospel should not be ascribed a purely consolatory function due to traumatic experiences of exclusion, since its main impulse is militantly directed against the Roman world order as a worldwide house of slavery. However, it also has a comforting function in view of the consequences of the Judean War, the ongoing situation of oppression, and the inner-Jewish conflicts.

However, to consider Gentile mission as the original intention of John’s Gospel is inconceivable to me. Gentiles are not mentioned at all, Greeks only in passing. The use of the Greek language here is rather disguised Hebrew than Hellenistic high-level speech. Above all, many references to the Jewish Scriptures presuppose a close familiarity with them. We need only think of the allusions to the matriarchs Rebekah and Rachel in the character of the Samaritan woman, or of the background of Jesus’ Messianic signs, the Messianic wedding or the 38-year paralysis of Israel, or of the contexts on the basis of which Jesus’ Messianic titles are to be understood, the Son of Man of Daniel 7 or the Only Begotten Son of Genesis 22.

Of course, the Gospel of John will soon be spiritualized and used for the mission to the Gentiles, when it will increasingly be read by Gentile Christians who cannot read and understand it other than from a Hellenistic background. From this time on, the first two points also apply. So I can agree with your book insofar as it is a critique of the traditional Gentile Christian reading of John’s Gospel.

0.3 Rhetorical Analysis: The Fourth Gospel was less Read than Heard

So what does it mean (xxiii) that you attribute “rhetorical—persuasive—intentions” to John’s Gospel? First of all, it is because “all known societies, in all eras, used speech for persuasive purposes; rhetoric is a universal phenomenon.”

Further, you go on to note that in “the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman cultures within which the New Testament texts were written, … audiences were not only trained to absorb and learn from rhetorical discourse, but were also delighted by—and susceptible to—rhetorical strategies.” Whereas your earlier books tended to speak of ancient readers of John’s Gospel, you now speak of the fact that

the author(s) of the Gospel themselves must also have been adept at shaping the Gospel in ways that “sounded, resonated, and impressed … {itself} upon the mind and memory through the ear rather than the eye.” <21>

Reasonably you say that this “does not mean that they had a rigorous classical education.” No thought you give to the possibility that listening to the Hebrew texts of the sacred scrolls in the synagogue and interpreting them might also have trained the audience of John’s Gospel, drawing attention substantively to allusions to these same Jewish Scriptures.

0.3.1 Discerning an Implied Author and a Fully Compliant Audience

Among your (xxiv) basic assumptions of a rhetorical analysis that you wish to undertake for John’s Gospel is that

I—or any reader—cannot know the intent of the real author or editor, but I can discern an intent of the implied author whom we have unavoidably constructed from our own reading of the text. Similarly, I cannot know how real audiences perceived John’s Gospel, but I can imagine how the implied author might have hoped they would respond.

Although you know that “few real readers … are fully compliant…, for the purpose of discerning the potential impact of the Gospel’s rhetorical intent and strategies, it is the unreservedly compliant audience that I will construct.”

0.3.2 Types of Aristotelian Rhetoric: Deliberative, Judicial, and Epideictic

In John’s Gospel, all “three types of rhetoric” distinguished by Aristotle occur: “deliberative, judicial, and epideictic.” Which of these predominates is unimportant in your eyes.

As I understand it, Johannine rhetoric, where it is judicial, refers on the one hand to the condemnation of the aberration of the world order and on the other hand to the Messiahship of Jesus legitimized by witnesses. Deliberative rhetoric clearly prevails, inviting the hearers of the Gospel to trust in Jesus the Messiah, proven with active agapē, helping to overcome the world order.

0.3.3 Elements of Rhetoric: Invention, Arrangement, and Style

In your eyes (xxv), John’s Gospel uses all “three principal elements of classical rhetoric—invention, arrangement, and style—in its attempt to persuade its audience that faith in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God is the foundation for eternal life.” I leave aside here the way in which the terms “Christ,” “Son of God,” and “eternal life” are to be defined, and only briefly address what you say about the first two elements of Aristotelian rhetoric.

Invention can be based on either external or internal (‘artistic’) proofs,” the latter consisting in “ethos, pathos, logos,” i.e., the “credibility of the author or speaker, … the ability of the orator or writer to play upon the emotions of the audience, … the argumentation used to demonstrate one point or another.” For New Testament rhetoric, George A. Kennedy <22> distinguishes “three common forms of external proof: scriptural quotations, evidence of miracles, and the naming of witnesses.” It is important to me that, in the Scriptural sense, sēmeia, “signs,” are not to be understood simply as supernatural miracles, but as acts of power by the God of Israel, sēmeia kai terata (Deuteronomy 6:22), through which the working of his liberating NAME is revealed. In this respect, it is questionable whether John can be understood from Aristotelian rhetoric alone.

The “arrangement,” that is, the structure of John’s Gospel, in your eyes, “resembles epideictic oratory, as it opens with the Prologue (1:1-18), closes with an epilogue (21:1-25), and in between presents a series of semeia (signs) and discourses that develop particular topics.” This approach, however, strikes me as overly formal; it ignores the fact that John hardly intended his Gospel to be an encomium to Jesus, but rather a Messianic political pamphlet, and that the epilogue was added for very specific purposes of content, namely, to give expression to the connection of the Johannine grouping to the larger Messianic movement. The Jewish festival calendar as the salient structuring device of John’s Gospel cannot, of course, be grasped in Aristotelian categories at all.

In fact (xxvi), you also assume that “the Gospel draws not only on the elements of classical rhetoric but also on a range of other, specifically crafted, rhetorical strategies.” These strategies are thus found “not only in the discourses attributed to Jesus but also in the ways in which the Gospel tells the story and depicts its characters.”

As the goal of Johannine rhetoric, you recognize not only to convince people of faith in Jesus but also “to move them to action.” What actions of his listeners might John have intended? You have a clear answer:

These actions can be categorized broadly as affiliation with other believers and disaffiliation, or separation from, those who do not believe.

This answer is worrying me, seems all too simplistic.

Even if I think of my former way of believing in Jesus, which assumed that people who did not do so might be eternally damned, I never interpreted John’s Gospel as a call to surround myself only with my own kind and to avoid all contact with non-believers. On the contrary, I felt called to bring the faith to the non-believers, to convince them of the faith.

Even more so, if I assume that John pursues a Messianic-political goal, namely the overcoming of the world order by trusting in the Messiah, then the action that this Messiah expects from those who trust in him cannot, in the end, be simply belonging to the Messianic community and keeping away from the Jews. The latter is nowhere demanded in the Gospel, rather it is deplored when the disciples “for fear of the Jews” hide behind locked doors. As a fulfillment of the Torah, Jesus demands of his disciples the practice of agapē, a solidarity that he himself exemplifies in the slave service of foot washing. In the conversation with the Samaritan woman, the Messiah demonstrates in an equally exemplary way that reconciliation is possible between the Judeans and Samaritans who are enemies to each other. In that Jesus, ascending to the FATHER, hands over to his disciples (20:22-23) the inspiration of sanctification by giving them the order to “forgive someone’s aberrations” or to “let remain with them hardening,” it is about far more than a faith that one cultivates in belonging to one’s own religious community, but about an ethically responsible discussion with other people about the goals of political action—inspired by the liberating Torah of the God of Israel interpreted from agapē, solidarity.

0.4 The Method of the Present Rhetorical Analysis of the Gospel of John

Drawing on “an orderly procedure for analyzing the rhetoric of a given New Testament document,” presented by George Kennedy, you will now describe your method of rhetorical criticism of the Gospel of John. In doing so (xxvii), you intend to “modify Kennedy’s step-by-step approach in order to address my own three principal aims,”

by examining the Gospel’s rhetorical aims and the rhetorical strategies deployed to potentially achieve those aims. On the basis of this rhetorical analysis, I will extrapolate—imaginatively construct—a rhetorical situation for which those aims, arguments and strategies might plausibly have a persuasive impact.

0.4.1 How Can the Rhetorical Situation be Reconstructed Historically?

Again (xxvii), you paraphrase the two “persuasive purposes” of John’s Gospel imputed by you in the most concise form, namely ”to construct a new and idealized identity for its audience, and to urge their estrangement from the Ioudaioi.” Looking at the Gospel from “a rhetorical-critical perspective,” one must ask about the “particular audience” to which “the Gospel writer” intended to address himself. “What were their issues, questions, concerns? What might they have wanted from the Gospel, and why?”

You are aware that extrapolating an “audience and historical situation” from the analysis of a text like the Gospel of John is “a circular approach.” In addition to “rhetorical analysis” itself, the reconstruction of the “rhetorical situation”

depends upon our assumptions regarding the Gospel’s provenance, the concrete situations in which it would have been encountered by auditors or readers, and the Gospel’s relationship to a history external to itself, that is, to events prior to or contemporaneous with the time of writing.

You rightly point out “that the identity and concrete situation of the audience can be imagined in different, often mutually exclusive ways,” which means that you would have to be open to the possibility that differently constructed hypotheses might also apply, such as the alternative I present here referring to Ton Veerkamp’s interpretation.

0.4.2 True Confessions and Guiding Principles

I am grateful (xxviii) for your frank words about “1) the situatedness of interpretation; 2) the need for humility; and 3) the fundamental role of the imagination.”

0.4.2.1 Situatedness

You describe your own situation “as a Jewish scholar for whom the New Testament is fascinating and important, but neither canonical, nor divinely inspired” on the one hand, and “as the daughter of Holocaust survivors who lived their post-war lives with zest, optimism, and gratitude to Canada as a land of opportunity, social responsibility, and freedom from overt anti-Semitism,” on the other.

In contrast, my situation is quite different. I approach the Gospel of John as an evangelical Christian living in Germany and as the son of expellees from the former German eastern territories of Silesia and West Prussia. The German people’s responsibility for the Holocaust became clear to me at an early age. As a Protestant pastor, in the course of my life, I became more and more aware that a strong rootedness in one’s own faith makes it possible to approach other religious traditions with respect and appreciation, too. When I came into contact with the biblical theology of Ton Veerkamp and his associates, I realized to what extent the New Testament is rooted in the Jewish Scriptures and how much its original meaning has been completely distorted and deformed by an anti-Jewish interpretation over many centuries.

0.4.2.2 Humility

To your confession of humility, I like to respond with equal humility. I too “believe sincerely that I have something to say about the Gospel of John that would be interesting and even important for other scholars to hear or to read,” whereas my humility has to be far greater than yours since I have far less overview of the scholarly discussion than you or your academic colleagues. From there, I can’t help but likewise “to acknowledge that others can legitimately arrive at different conclusions based on the same evidence.” But precisely because in “Johannine studies … there is little to no external evidence to support any historical hypothesis whatsoever—whether that pertains to authorship, audience, purpose, or historical context,” I am all the more surprised that viewpoints such as those published by Ton Veerkamp in Germany in the early 2000s have not even been noticed, let alone considered, anywhere in academia. Not even an attempt is discernible to consider them worthy of refutation. So when I humbly make this attempt to contradict you, I do so according to your own assessment that

when it comes to evidence from the Gospel itself, there is no theory that accounts for all aspects of the Gospel or that cannot be refuted by starting from a different set of principles. We must make room for alternative interpretations and acknowledge the limitations of our own efforts, even as we argue vigorously for our own hypotheses.

0.4.2.3 Imagination

By your appreciation of “imagination” as “essential to every scholarly study,” I feel encouraged, for my part as well, to use my imagination as carefully and controlled as possible “to fill in the gaps, to seek causal links among events, and to help ancient people and situations come alive for modern readers.”

0.4.3 Concrete use of Imagination with Regard to John’s Gospel

Your humorous justification for not writing “historical fiction”—“Where, I ask, would all the footnotes go?”—I sympathize very well. Nevertheless, I am curious to know how you intend to employ “a bit of fictionalizing to aid the historical imagination of myself and my readers.”

0.4.3.1 A Man Named John as the Implied Author of the Gospel of John

Specifically, you imagine the implied author(s) of John’s Gospel (xxix) “as an individual named John,” who in this case is also identical with the narrator, “with the possible exception of chapter 21. … For that reason, (my construction of) John is the one whose voice, convictions, and rhetorical intentions, are heard in the Fourth Gospel.” Although (xxxviii, n. 62) “arguments have been made for female authorship, on the basis of the Gospel’s relatively positive and high profile given to female characters,” you do follow the “consensus … that the author or authors were likely male.”

I agree with you (xxix) in imagining

John as man who is confident in—and passionate about—his belief that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, and utterly committed to persuading others to be the same. … He has absorbed not only the knowledge that is common to Jews of his time and place, but also a Jewish way of seeing the world. He believes that the world is created and presided over by the God of Israel, and that God has chosen a people with whom to be in an exclusive covenantal relationship. He differs from at least some of the Jews of his time and place, however, because he understands Jesus as the divinely-given mediator in that relationship.

But then my idea of John goes decidedly different ways than you outline them:

I do not know whether he knew Hebrew or had spent time in the Galilee, Judea, or Samaria, but I picture him as a Greek-speaking and -writing Jew from Asia Minor immersed both in Jewish scriptures and traditions as well as in Hellenistic modes of thought.

In my eyes, the assumption that John was able to read and understand the Jewish writings also in the original Hebrew proves to be fruitful in order to place many otherwise inexplicable or at least strange details of John’s Gospel into a meaningful context. According to Ton Veerkamp, in any case, his Greek allows to shine through Semitic language forms, thought presuppositions, and references back to basic Hebrew words.

Where John originally preached his gospel, I don’t know any more than you do, but according to Ton Veerkamp, there is every indication that he was located in a milieu that we might call Jewish-Messianic. However, this does not mean that there was a uniform Early Christianity from the beginning: <23>

Some people speak of the Messianic movement as a unified liberation movement. That there was a difference between the “Hellenistic community” and the so-called “Jewish Christianity,” the Messianists from Israel, had already been noticed in the 19th century. This “Jewish Christianity,” however, was a completely heterogeneous entity, and the idylls that were traded under the label “Jesus movement” in the 1970s and 1980s were left-wing kitsch; left-wing because of the alleged kinship with the liberation movements of the 20th century but kitsch nonetheless. The “Jesus movement” was rather a hodgepodge of quarreling groups and grouplets.

The main disciples of Yeshua, the Twelve, do not come off particularly well in all the Gospels. They led the Messianic movement into a dead end, with the consequence that it was completely disoriented after 70. The communities that emerged from Paul’s activity may have been in a different position, but for the Messianic communities in the Syrian-Palestinian region, the situation was bleak. The communities that stood out in any way by having family members of the Messiah in their ranks were put in their place by the words of Yeshua as handed down by Mark and adopted by Luke and Matthew.

Luke tried to bring them together in the second part of his narrative, the “Acts of the Apostles.” Between the Ascension and Pentecost, his narrative has them all persevering, “unanimously (homothymadon) in prayer,” the Twelve “with the women and Mariam, Yeshua’s mother, and his brothers,” Acts 1:14, all suggestive of the various Messianic groups. Apparently, Luke felt that sectarianism was politically disastrous for Messianism and that all these quarreling communities were obligated to come together in awaiting the inspiration of the Messiah. Therefore, as a result of this gathering together, he invented the idea of a unified (original Christian) “Early Church.”

There never was such an Early Church. There were clusters in Jerusalem and in Galilee. And the communities moved apart rather than toward each other. The idea that all nations must become radical Torah-loyal Judeans, as Matthew had in mind, must have been completely absurd to John, probably also to Mark, and even more so to Paul. There were many early churches, and the one around John was one of them. A preliminary stage of a unified Christianity can at best be recognized in Luke.

John was still far away from this striving for unity. It must have been late that the group around John came to realize that they only had a political chance if they submitted to Peter’s leadership, that is if they joined the other churches from the Syrian-Palestinian region (John 21).

This would suggest the probability that the Johannine circles rather worked in the Syrian-Palestinian area than in Asia Minor.

It is also interesting to me that John is the only evangelist who refers to the Sea of Galilee as “Tiberias” and always talks about a descent in connection with Capernaum. Andreas Bedenbender <24> has made arguments that Capernaum could have been a cover name for Rome. Ton Veerkamp <25> interprets the distress of the disciples by the troubled waves of the Sea of Tiberias as distress by the Roman world order. In Capernaum, a single verse describes the foundation of the Messianic community <26> in its unity—mother of the Messiah, brothers, disciples—where, however, they stay “not many days,” quite different from Israel of the desert wandering that shrinks from confrontation with the threatening powers in the land of freedom. In the synagogue of Capernaum, <27> Jesus gives his most uncompromising Messianic speech, which causes many to turn away from him.

Jerusalem, on the other hand, is always ascended to in John’s Gospel. It is the city of the FATHER, <28> but through the priesthood cooperating with Rome and the transformation of the sanctuary into a pagan temple, in fact, a department store, it ultimately loses its status as the place where the God of Israel wants to have his liberating NAME dwell. <29>

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it is then, of all places, the city of Tiberias, <30> built “in the Roman-Greek style with palaces and typical Roman buildings such as the forum, theater, and racecourse,” which “soon became the spiritual and religious center of the Jews.” Could this image of Rabbinic Judaism communicating with Rome on a conciliatory basis have contributed to John’s bitter opposition to the Jews?

Positively connoted places or regions always are somewhere on the periphery in relation to these Judean or Rabbinic centers but of central importance for the Johannine Jesus: Cana, an insignificant town at the periphery of the Galilean periphery, becomes the scene of the two fundamental Messianic signs (2:1-11 and 4:46-54). Sychar, in the territory of the Samaritans who were hated by the Judeans, is the place where the Messiah courts the lost ten tribes of Israel as liberator and reconciler (4:4:42); this is also recalled by the mention of a town Ephraim as Jesus’ place of retreat (11:52). The most positive connotation is the area beyond the Jordan where John the Baptist had ministered and where many trusted in Jesus (10:40-42).

So my imagination can picture John’s sphere of activity somewhere in the East Bank, where Messianic and non-Messianic Jews continue to live side by side and gather together in the synagogues even after the year 70 CE until the disputes with “the Jews” about the position on the world order lead more and more to the discontinuation of relations with the Rabbinic synagogue.

The phrase “beyond the Jordan,” however, can also take up the questioning that Deuteronomy presents within the Jewish Torah vis-à-vis the priestly traditions of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers by having Moses deliver an admonishing speech (Deuteronomy 1:1) from “beyond the Jordan” that reminds everyone that the goal of liberation from slavery and the establishment of a discipline of freedom in the Promised Land was never fully achieved, but was always based on the premise of trust in the God of Israel. What is decisive, then, is not where John actually lived, but that for him the geography of Palestine is of fundamental theological-political importance from the Jewish Scriptures.

0.4.3.2 A Woman Named Alexandra as a Contemporary Compliant Listener to John

Excitingly (xxix), you now come up with “a second fictional figure” alongside John, as a contemporary listener hanging on John’s lips:

I call her Alexandra. Alexandra stands in for the compliant audience—a part I cannot play on my own. She is a person who responds wholeheartedly to John’s message; in absorbing his story of Jesus, she is stirred to faith and called to action. John’s explanations of the festivals and other Jewish practices suggest that she does not know much about Jewish ritual life. Whether Alexandra is already a Christ-follower—or not yet one—l do not know for certain. Nor do I know her age, hair color, sexual orientation, or personal circumstances. I do know—as the one who created her—that she is open to persuasion and that she is attracted, by birth and/or by inclination, to the idea of covenantal relationship with the God of Israel.

Since (xxx)

  • the “oral transmission of written texts was widespread and crossed ethnic, cultural, and social boundaries within the broad Greco-Roman world, classical and Hellenistic,”
  • this is also documented for New Testament texts (1 Thessalonicher 5:26-27; Offenbarung 1:3 und 22:18-19) and (xxxix, n. 66) “the Hebrew/ Aramaic circles within which rabbinic literature arose,”
  • and furthermore (xxx), it must be assumed “a relatively low level of full literacy (the ability to read and write) among Jews and pagans in Greco-Roman society,”

it is to be concluded that also (xxxi) “the Gospel’s contemporaries would have been accustomed to hearing and responding to oral texts.”

Even if we imagine Alexandra as a “lettered” woman who was able to read for herself, the strongly rhetorical nature of the Gospel suggests that she still may well have become familiar with the Gospel by hearing rather than, or in addition to, reading.

On the basis of early church testimony (xxxix-xl, n. 72) from the late 2nd century, for example, from Polycrates, Papias, and Irenaeus, you can thus imagine (xxxi) Alexandra listening to John the orator somewhere “perhaps in Asia Minor, and perhaps in Ephesus,” leaving open whether they knew each other personally.

But if the Gospel had any power at all, it was to foster an encounter not so much between an author and a reader or listener, but between Jesus—some of whose signs are written in “this book” (20:30)—and those who are moved to be reborn, “not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (1:13).

Since in my eyes John is not a Gentile missionary who wants to convert Gentiles to faith in Jesus, Alexandra may well have heard John’s Gospel in Ephesus in Asia Minor as a means of mission to the Gentiles. But it is not the original author of the Gospel who speaks to her there, rather she hears a Gentile-Christian distorted version of the Gospel from preachers of a church that already sees itself as Christian and sharply distinguishes itself from the teachings and rituals of Judaism.

0.4.3.3 A Woman Named Miriam as a Listener to the Jewish Messianist John

Your imaginative fantasy, by which you have invented a fictitious Alexandra, inspired me to form an idea of a listener of John as I understand him. In my eyes, they could have met in the synagogue of a town somewhere “beyond the Jordan.” I leave it to her to introduce herself:

I am Miriam, a Jew. I have always been proud of my name, which recalls the sister of Moses and Aaron who sang the song of Israel’s liberation at the Reed Sea. Fond of hearing the stories of the Torah and the words of the prophets in the synagogue of our town, especially of all the strong women: Rebekah and Rachel, Deborah and Jaël, not forgetting the midwives Shiphrah and Puah in their resistance against the Pharaoh of Egypt.

But what about today? We live again in Egypt, not literally, but in a worldwide slave house, today it is called Pax Romana, what a joke, “Roman Peace,” made by legionaries wading through blood and crucifying our countrymen. And they call the world we live in kosmos, “decorated and well-ordered,” where some show off their bodies in the gymnasion and others have to slave for a pittance.

All hopes that an insurrection against Rome could bring about the kingdom of peace, as cherished by the Messianic Zealots, have been crushed. The Judean War left bloody traces everywhere in Palestine, and the Romans have consolidated their power in Judea more firmly than before. They destroyed Jerusalem, demolished the temple, and never again, we will be able to go on pilgrimage to the festivals in Jerusalem. Have the Romans and their gods won against the God of Israel?

One day, some people arrive at our synagogue and cause a disturbance. One of them is John. When he interprets the Scriptures to us, he does it in a way I have never heard before. From the Torah and the Prophets, John proves that Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth is the Messiah. He tells stories of Jesus, of signs and wonders, and I sense: He speaks of ourselves, of our liberation. He seems to speak directly into our dark situation, into our worries and fears. How far seemed to us the age to come, a world of justice and peace! John says, only from the Messiah, from his agapē, solidarity, Israel is to become free from the oppression under the Roman world order.

Speaking of the diabolos, John makes some people wince. If this is brought to the attention of the Roman authorities, it can end badly for him, because each of us knows that he means the emperor, the adversary of the God of Israel. After all, it was the Romans who crucified Jesus, as they have so many other insurgents, but John says, “This was not a defeat, this was a victory over the world order. By his death on the cross, he exposed the system of the Pax Romana, it is nothing but a bunch of cheats and murderers, and the agapē, the loving solidarity of the God of Israel, which he handed over to us in his death, is stronger than all their hatred and violence.

It fills me with a special joy that it was also a Miriam who became the first witness to the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah: Maria Magdalene. John also seems to think very highly of other women. Is it surprising that I hang on his lips when he tells of the woman at Jacob’s well, in whom I recognize our ancestral mothers Rebekah and Rachel, of Martha’s conversation with Jesus about the resurrection, of Mary anointing his feet before he does the same with his disciples?

Unfortunately, it was the same then as it is still with us: Although Jesus also values female disciples and they often see through more than his male disciples, we, as women, are at most tolerated as silent listeners in the men’s circle. The men, however, love to discuss things with John; sometimes, as John tells us about him, Jesus seems to respond directly to what the men ask. Everything John says he writes down, in the end, it becomes a book, a Gospel, elsewhere they say there are already similar ones. I can’t hear enough of John telling about Jesus, over and over again.

Did John still experience Jesus himself? He leaves it in suspense. Mysteriously he speaks of the disciple to whom Jesus was deeply attached, to whom he entrusted his mother. Does he mean himself? Or does he simply like to put himself into this time, as if he had been there?

0.4.4 Outline of Chapters

To accomplish (xxxi) your three rhetorical goals outlined in 0.2.2, you divide your book “into three main sections.”

0.4.4.1 Part I: The Rhetoric of Affiliation

The first chapter is about a “Rhetoric of Desire and Fulfillment,” that is about

the varied rhetorical strategies that the Gospel uses to develop two core propositions: that human beings desire eternal life—or, at the very least, freedom from death—and that faith in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God is the only way to fulfill this desire.

In doing so, you examine primarily the use of “standard categories of Greek rhetoric such as external proof, artistic evidence, and style.”

I will take the liberty of questioning your understanding of the concepts used here of eternal life or of the sonship to God of the Messiah Jesus.

In the second chapter, you discuss the “Rhetoric of Transformation,” referring to “the actions that the Gospel calls on individuals to take.” You do this (xxxii) based on your interpretation of the “cosmological context … of Jesus’s sojourn in the world,” which compels believers in Christ to “corporate affiliation,” that is, to join a community of people “who are undergoing or have undergone the same transformation.”
I contrast this understanding with my understanding of the Messianic community as the gathering place of all Israel, which is what John has in mind in my eyes.

0.4.4.2 Part II: The Rhetoric of Disaffiliation

The third chapter presents the “Rhetoric of Expropriation” through which, in your eyes, John structures his Gospel “around the Jewish Sabbath, the Jewish festivals, and Jewish institutions of synagogue and Temple,”

not to include John’s audience within a broader Jewish corporate entity but, perhaps ironically, to exclude that broader entity from the divine covenant. In appropriating the scriptures, the Temple, and covenantal language for its audience, the Gospel rhetorically expropriates, casts out, expels the Jews from that covenant. The Jewishness of the Gospel is not an antidote to its anti-Jewishness, but part and parcel thereof.

Here I strongly disagree by emphasizing the Jewish self-understanding of John the Messianist and at the same time highlighting the political character of his confrontation with the Jews, which in its sharpness is reminiscent of the biblical prophets.

In chapter 4, you unfold a “Rhetoric of Repudiation” that is meant to encourage “separation from the loudaioi” by portraying “the Ioudaioi as unbelievers and ‘the children of Satan.’”

Indeed, this Johannine rhetoric is difficult to bear. Nevertheless, I disagree with the tendency of your interpretation to impute the later generally anti-Jewish understanding of these words as already John’s intention. Their sharpness, due to the political circumstances of the dispute in the 1st century, I do not want to excuse but try to make understandable.

Chapter 5 serves as your opportunity to think through the question of “the historical referents of loudaioi as used in the Fourth Gospel” and “how best to translate this term into English.” In doing so, you assume that not only “for the church fathers,” but already for John

Ioudaioi was not primarily a historical designation but rather a hermeneutical, rhetorical, and theological category used for the purposes of self-identification, boundary-drawing, and polemics. Nevertheless, in identifying the enemies of Christ and his followers as Ioudaioi, the Gospel potentially creates distrust and separation from the flesh-and-blood Ioudaioi—Jews who did not believe in Christ—whom its audience may have known.

For the church fathers and the interpretation of John’s gospel, which was based on them for centuries, I agree with you. But John did not yet need to assure himself of the identity of a new religion by distinguishing it from an enemy stereotype. Rather, his sharp inner-Jewish polemics had concrete political backgrounds and addressees, about which one has to get clarity in each individual case.

0.4.4.3 Part III: Imagining the Rhetorical Situation

In the third part (xxxiii) of your book, you leave the rhetoric of the Gospel itself “to imagine the ‘real’ identities of both the historical audience and the Ioudaioi over against whom the Gospel defines the children of God.”

In chapter 6, you critically address the “Expulsion Theory” developed by J. L. Martyn, according to which “the Gospel reflects the traumatic expulsion of the ‘Johannine community’ from the synagogue.”

In response, in chapter 7 you unfold a “Propulsion Theory” as an “alternative to the expulsion hypothesis.” From the premise that, according to Jim A. Kuypers and Andrew King, <31> the “very practice of rhetoric presupposes a particular audience in a specific historical, geographical, and social location,” you attempt “to reconstruct that audience in the absence of any external evidence, that is, on the basis of the rhetoric alone.” Against “a majority of scholars,” you decide that John did not aim his rhetoric at a “Jewish audience” but instead

most directly to a Gentile audience interested in, but not yet fully committed to, the idea of becoming children of God by participating in a group dedicated to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. If so, the Gospel can be viewed as a participant in the Gentile mission of the first century.

Here our paths diverge diametrically because I categorically exclude an originally pagan audience of the evangelist John. For Gentile mission, the Gospel could only be used in its spiritualized, other-worldly reinterpretation, which came about a few decades after its writing, when Christianity emerged as an independent religion and was dominated by believers in Christ of Gentile descent.

1 The Rhetoric of Desire and Fulfillment

At the beginning of your first chapter (3), you quote John’s assertion “that belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Son of God, is the way to eternal life.” And you assume that this assertion “is based on an unstated assumption: that the dread of death—and desire for eternal life—are universal human traits common to all cultures and all eras.”

But in your own remark (18, n. 1), you concede that such a desire is nowadays just hardly directed to the hereafter, but to a this-worldly prolongation of life by medicine and that not all people share this desire. I would like to add that Far Eastern religions seem to consider the infinite return of life rather a curse.

Inexplicable to me is that you do not even consider whether John, as a Hebrew-Jewish thinking Messianic Jew, really expects an eternal life hereafter or rather a fulfilled life in the this-worldly era of freedom, justice, and peace that is to come.

At least you are aware that John “draws more directly on the book of Genesis than on the traditions of Greek philosophy.” But you leave open what it means specifically that (3-4)

John’s Prologue brings a narrative world into being, and sets that story world into the context of divine creation. The Prologue situates the Word in the process by which God created all things, set light against darkness (Gen 1:3-4), and breathed life into humankind (Gen 2:7).

I know from your book The Word in the World that you interpret the opposition of light and darkness within other-worldly cosmology reminiscent of the Gnostic dualism between an evil this-worldly creation and a good heavenly otherworld. The background of Genesis 1, however, is a political theology of liberation, of the kind that is propounded in Isaiah 45:7-8, 12-13, 18-19 by the God of Israel, who reveals himself (Isaiah 45:21) as ˀel-tzadiq we-moshiaˁ, “a just God and a liberator.”

Also, I doubt that it really already corresponds to the original Jewish interpretation of Genesis 1-3 that “unending life is the ideal, God-given state of humankind,” at least if such life is understood as life in other-worldly heaven. As Christians, we have indeed interpreted what we call the Fall story in this sense. But was it not originally meant that a Paradise life is given the quality of zōē aiōnios by being lived both in trusting God and (Genesis 2:25) in mutual trust until one is (Genesis 25:8) “old and full of days, and gathered to his people”?

1.1 What is the Rhetoric of Desire Directed at in John’s Gospel?

Under the heading “rhetoric of desire”, you elaborate (5) how John “manipulates the prior desires of the reader” or a listener like Alexandra (6):

John not only draws her attention to Jesus’s capacity to offer life to those who believe, but also causes her to recognize her own latent desire.

Again, I agree with you regarding the traditional Christian interpretation: whoever believes in Jesus gets eternal life in heaven, whoever does not goes to hell. However, this interpretation presupposes that John would already have understood zōē aiōnios in this other-worldly sense.

1.1.1 Miriam’s Hope for the Life of the Age to Come

Miriam would contradict this:

Nowhere does Jesus promise us a life in heaven, in the hereafter. That is something for the goyim over in Tiberias, who go to the theaters and discuss philosophy and mysteries on the forum.

Jesus takes seriously (5) the royal official in Capernaum (who, by the way, as an official of Herod Antipas, need not be a goy, a “Gentile”) who is afraid for the life of his child, and in this, I perceive his concern for every daughter and son of the people of Israel, who in turn are the firstborn son of the FATHER (Exodus 4:22), so many of whom were murdered in the Judean War.

Where Jesus (11:4) prepares to demonstrate his honor by raising his friend Lazarus from death, everything depends on recognizing that this friend symbolically stands for Israel. We only have to remember that the name Lazarus goes back to the priestly name Eleazar in the Scriptures, then we realize: Lazarus stands for an Israel that is as good as dead due to the degenerated priesthood collaborating with Rome, unable to move freely, to live under just circumstances, basically already a corpse that has passed over into decay. This Israel is and remains the friend of the Messiah, this Israel he calls from the tomb with the words (11:44): “Untie him and let him go!”

Where the Samaritan woman (4-5) responds to Jesus’ offer (4:14-15) of a “spring of water gushing up to eternal life” with the words, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water,” she is not literally concerned with eternal life at all, but with putting an end to her daily drudgery of constantly having to carry water so far.

It is (5) Simon Peter (6:68) who speaks explicitly about zōē aiōnios, “life of the age to come.” But this expression has nothing to do with an afterlife. By the way, in this we also agree with the Rabbis who do not trust in the Messiah Jesus, Ton Veerkamp has described this very nicely with the following words: <32>

Zōē aiōnios is usually translated as “eternal life.” What is meant is life in the coming eon, the epoch established by the Messiah’s struggle. In Rabbinical Judaism it is called ˁolam ha-baˀ in contrast to ˁolam ha-ze, this ruling epoch. John calls it ho kosmos (houtos). The contrast between ho kosmos (houtos) and zōē aiōnios is nothing else than the Rabbinic difference. So it has nothing to do with Gnostic dualism.

1.1.2 How does the Son of Man have Dawn the Age to Come?

As to Nicodemus (5), you mention Jesus explaining to him that, as Veerkamp says, <33>

“Life of the age to come” is inseparably linked to the figure and work of the one whom our translations call the “Son of Man” (“the Human”, bar enosh).

The corresponding verse 3:15 you quote literally, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” But do you realize what is in this short sentence? It can only really be understood from the Jewish Scriptures: <34>

Yeshua here instructs the teacher of Israel in the Scriptures of Israel, with Midrashim. Midrash is a form of exegesis, but an exegesis with the practical intention of connecting the word with the ever-changing circumstances of life. Thus the narration of the text to be read aloud (which the Jews call miqraˀ) takes on a new form in Midrash.

John answers with the Scriptures, linking Daniel 7 with Numbers 21, but he alienates Daniel 7:11-12. There it says: “The court sits down, books are opened.” It is then reported how the (tenth) horn of the monster, the image of the tyrant Antiochus IV, is destroyed. He who ascended into heaven, who thus stands before the “advanced in days,” is now he who descended from heaven. This is new in the Gospel of John. In John, the so-called “Son of Man” has turned into an earthly figure, he just “became flesh, is happening as flesh,” it says in the prologue.

In Daniel, the elevation of the Human is the endowment of “governmental power, dignity, and kingship.” The vision does not say how this will happen. It only hints that this bar enosh is identical with “the people of the saints of the Highest,” Israel. John describes the “how.” In principle, the elevation or rise of the bar enosh, the Human, will happen as descent, as “incarnation,” as concrete political existence that ends and must end at the Roman cross. As the situation is now, the elevation of the Human, i.e. of Israel, can only be interpreted through defeat. The alienation of Daniel 7 is the actualization of the vision: ascent is descent, descent is ascent. To illustrate this, John brings another midrash, this time on Numbers 21:4-9,

The spirit of the people became fainthearted on the way.
The people spoke against God and against Moshe:
“Why did you bring us up from Egypt …?”

The God sent snakes that bit the people. Many died. The people confesses that it had gone astray and urges Moses to pray. He prays. Then it says,

And the NAME said to Moshe,
“Make yourself a poisonous snake,
put it on a pole.
It shall be:
Whoever is bitten and sees it,
will live.”
Moshe made a snake of copper,
he put ist on the pole.
And it was:
If a snake bit a man,
and he looked upon the snake of copper,
he would live.

The cause of the catastrophe with the snakes was the grumbling of the people against the leadership that led them out of the slave house. If the people rescind liberation and gamble away their freedom, the result is ruin. The symptoms of doom are the poisonous snakes, whose bite is fatal. The forfeited freedom is the poisonous snake. It is pinned to a pole, made harmless. To look at the image of the attached snake is to understand that unfreedom is no longer an enticement. Whoever imagines this, whoever becomes aware of what forfeited freedom is, will be healed. …

… What else is “God” than the one who names himself in Israel only as “the one leading out of the slave house”? He has no other NAME. Israel, so much means John to know, is today in the slave house of Rome. To the bar enosh, the Human, executed and “pinned” to the torture instrument cross by the Romans—by those who keep Israel in their worldwide slave house—Israel has to look up to become aware of what is really happening to him. The “image of the copper snake,” the “cross,” is drastic political training. Of the Christian idylls of the cross no man has yet become better, let alone “whole, unhurt,” or “safe and sound” {as you might render the German word “heil”—which, as an adjective, is derived from the nouns “Heil” = “salvation, {soul’s} health, well-being” and “Heiland” = “Savior, Redeemer”}.

John alienates Daniel’s bar enosh into a tortured, miserable child of man, tortured to death. The high representative of Rome presents the humiliated and ridiculous Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth to the people: “There, the human—bar enosh—this is what man looks like when he falls into our hands.” At first, he seems to be the absolute contrast to Daniel’s powerful figure bar enosh. But precisely the defeat of the Messiah is to John the starting point for the liberation of the world from the order that weighs upon it. The linkage of Daniel 7 with Numbers 21 is the end of all political illusions suggested by the Zealot adventure.

The alienation of Daniel 7 solves one question in order to invoke the next unsolved—unsolvable?—question: How can such a liberated world be created? The Christians, followers of the Messianists of the same batch as John, make of the cross a truly narrow escape from earthly life into heaven after death. “Apple pie in the sky, Life for you after you die,” so the radical black leader in the USA, Malcolm X, mocked the paralyzing world of pietist spirituals, in a fight against Christianity, which turns the cross and its alleged healing power into a pure placebo. We have no answer to the question of how defeat can turn into victory. But we must ask it.

What Alexandra and you read from John’s Gospel corresponds exactly to this parody of a Christian afterlife devotion. But is it conceivable that a few decades earlier there were still listeners of John like Miriam who would have been capable of interpreting such allusions of John to the Son of Man of Daniel 7 and the serpent of Numbers 21 in the Messianic-political way outlined by Ton Veerkamp?

It might seem similarly impossible as an answer to the question posed at the beginning of Veerkamp’s last section: Can anything else emerge from the Messiah’s defeat on the cross of the Romans than the victory of a triumphant Christian church that has so shamefully betrayed the agapē commandment of its Lord Jesus Christ in its hostility to the Jews? Nevertheless, I dare to answer both questions cautiously in the affirmative—the latter only combined with the untiring effort to stand up against every Christian hostility to the Jews of our days.

1.1.3 Jesus as the Second Isaac being Crucified in Solidarity with Israel

At the point where I broke off Ton Veerkamp’s quote, he still follows with a detailed analysis of verses 3:16-17, which he translates as follows: <35>

3:16 For GOD so solidarized with the world
that he gave the Son, the only-begotten,
so that everyone trusting in him may not be destroyed,
but has life in the age to come.
3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world
to judge the world,
but that the world might be liberated through him.

As to these verses, I again have Miriam clarify her deepest hopes for Jesus the Messiah:

I love verses 16 and 17 in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus because so much hope speaks from them in their reference to the Scriptures.

Where John speaks of the Only Begotten Son, we as Jews remember the only beloved son of Abraham, whom he was to sacrifice as his own son and who was given back to him as the Son of God. What Abraham was not forced to do, namely to kill Isaac, God is forced to do today out of solidarity with the world. Jesus is the Only Begotten, the second Isaac, in his body, he suffers the fate of our people Israel, the firstborn son of God. Was not Jesus crucified as the children of Israel were crucified by the hundreds in the Judean War? And how great must be God’s solidarity with the world in giving up his Messiah—the one Isaac—to death on a Roman cross in place of all our people Israel! I know it is difficult to understand how from this shall dawn the life of the age to come, but I imagine it like this, as impossible as that sounds: If he out of love, out of solidarity, gives his life to the murderers, then he is stronger than the murderers, then his solidarity remains as a legacy for all of us, through which we can overcome a world order of hatred.

Ton Veerkamp expressed it this way at the end of his analysis of these verses, making clear at the same time how an interpretation in your sense can come about: <36>

While Genesis 22 was already an imposition to all listeners of the word, John 3:16 is all the more unbearable. The central political thesis of the Gospel of John is: Only through the defeat of this One and Only, the liberation of the world from the order that weighs upon it is possible. This thesis is perpendicular to everything that was—and is—conceivable as a political strategy. The strategy of John is world revolution, even if it is not on the agenda. This is precisely what is unpolitical about him, and this is what tempts the generations after him to internalize, to spiritualize, to depoliticize his Messianism.

World revolution is certainly not world damnation. John is a child of his time; he knows the world condemnation of Gnosis. World condemnation is rejected here. We are dealing here with an anti-Gnostic text. The world is not to be judged, but to be liberated from the world order.

You do not address such Scriptural subtleties as Ton Veerkamp points them out and which would be crucial for a woman like Miriam. Instead (5), you emphasize that on the one hand—according to the three passages 5:24; 7:37; 9:31—“Jesus offers the gift of eternal life to all” but on the other hand of “Jewish audiences, Jesus presumes not only their desire but also their refusal to believe.” The very passages you cite as evidence for this, however, make it clear that there can be no question of a fundamental bias on Jesus’ part against the Jews. It is true that 5:39-40 deal with the already hardened fronts in the dispute between the Rabbinic Jews, who refer to Moses alone, and the Messianic confession of Jesus, but in 6:34 Jews are definitely interested in Jesus’ message, who, however, react to his offensive demand “that they drink his blood and eat his body (6:53-58)” in 6:66 with their withdrawal.

1.2 The Rhetoric of Fulfillment: What Evidence does John Cite?

In examining (6) the rhetorical strategies John uses to prove “that the desire for eternal life can be fulfilled only by believing that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God,” you leave out the strategy of arrangement:

Arrangement, referring to the overall structure of a rhetorical discourse, is not used strategically in this Gospel, given that the sequence of stories and discourses is constructed not topically, as in expository writing, but chronologically, as in much narrative writing.

But wasn’t it precisely the chronological sequence of the scenes narrated by John that was called into question by some scholars to such an extent that they thought, like Bultmann, for example, to have to radically rearrange the Gospel? In contrast to you, Ton Veerkamp notes a structure of the Gospel that is very significant in terms of content, and which, for example in chapters 5 to 12, is completely oriented to the Jewish festivals: <37>

Our text is about a place/time structure that is not structured by the chronometer and the map, but by the festivals.

The undefined festival of 5:1 is the festival of festivals: the restoration of Israel’s freedom of movement, say, its autonomy, the essential content of all festivals. To an autonomous Israel, the Messiah is the nourisher—because nourishment!—of Israel. To John, this is new content for the Passover meal.

The starting point is a story about how the prophet Elisha nourished Israel, 2 Kings 4:42 ff. This narrative was popular in many Messianic groups. In John, as well, it has to take place in the periphery of Galilee. In John, it serves to present the Messiah as the life principle of Israel; without the Messiah, the whole autonomy is useless. The work of renewal runs through the series Bread (the new Passover meal)—Light (overcoming blindness, Sukkot)—Life (overcoming decay, Hanukkah).

Only those who perceive this inner structure can also see the golden thread that the entire action of the Messiah is directed toward the liberation and healing of Israel.

In contrast to such a view, you seem to consider the sequence of events narrated in the Gospel to be rather random and (6) are focussing on the other two rhetorical strategies, namely, “how the Gospel uses invention and style to convey that faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God is indeed the key to eternal life.”

1.2.1 External Proofs: Miracles, the Scriptures, Witnesses

First, you address the “three principal forms of external proof: miracles, the scriptures, and witnesses,” which are used in the New Testament as inventions, means of persuasion. “John includes the first two forms of external proof—miracles and scriptures—as subcategories of the third category, witnesses.”

The question, then, is (7): What witnesses are called in John’s Gospel who, besides Jesus himself, “testify to Jesus’s identity as the Messiah and Son of God, and, whether directly or indirectly, to his role as the one who fulfills the desire for eternal life”? You enumerate a total of seven witnesses: 1. John the Baptist, 2. the works performed by Jesus, erga, referred to as sēmeia, signs, 3. the Father, that is, the God of Israel, 4. the Scriptures and Moses, 5. his own disciples, 6. the Gospel as a testimony, and 7. the Paraclete.

In this, the testimony of the disciples (7-8) is directed first “to those hearing or reading the Gospel, but not to the other characters within it.” Among them (8) “the most important witness is the Beloved Disciple, whose testimony is said to underlie the book as a whole (19:35, 21:24).” Since their or his voice and all the other witnesses mentioned address “the Gospel’s audiences” only through the Gospel itself, “the Gospel itself is the primary, indeed, the only, witness through which Jesus’s words and deeds are available.”

But were these testimonies really “external proofs”?

The idea that God, the scriptures, John the Baptist, or any of the other proofs constitute witnesses to Jesus’s identity is clearly John’s own construct and therefore does not seem to be external. John, however, depicts them as external to Jesus—and therefore as evidence that Jesus’s claims are not grounded solely in his self-testimony (5:31).

In fact, there can be no “external proof” in the Aristotelian sense for the truth of what is written in the Bible. For John, it is decisive that he considers everything he writes about the Messiah to be convincingly grounded in the Scriptures. In his eyes, according to 5:36, the works accomplished by Jesus are to be considered the most important of all testimonies to his Messiahship: <38>

5:36 But I have a testimony greater than that of Yochanan:
The works that the FATHER has given me to accomplish them.
The very works I am doing testify about me
that the FATHER has sent me.

You write quite formally on the meaning of these works or signs (19, n. 11):

John generally refers to Jesus’s healing and other miraculous acts as signs, pointing towards their significance for the believer and the Gospel’s audience, whereas Jesus sometimes refers to them in general terms as works, pointing to the evidentiary role they play as witnesses to his filial relationship with God.

But John’s point is not simply about proving that Jesus is indeed the Son of God by means of his supernatural abilities. Rather, the works John mentions refer to the liberating acts of power of the God of Israel, which in turn are attested to by his signs and wonders in the Scriptures. As the Son of the God of Israel, the Messiah Jesus is sent to accomplish His creative deeds of power and, very specifically, to raise from death the decaying Lazarus, the Israel that had come down under the oppressive violence of the Roman world order.

1.2.2 Internal Proof of Ethos: How are Jesus’ Messianic Titles to be Interpreted?

What about (8) the “internal, or artistic proofs”—according to the Aristotelian “three categories: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos”—for the truth of what John proclaims?

While in “Aristotelian rhetoric, ethos is entirely internal to the speech,” in the New Testament, according to George Kennedy {15}, it is “the authoritativeness of the speaker as such” that matters.

John, according to you (9), tries to prove Jesus credible by a variety of titles attributed to him. I find it significant that you miss the Jewish reference of the hyios monogenēs, the Only Begotten Son, to Isaac, and that you interpret the title “Son of God” from a “Greco-Roman divinity.” It would at least have to be justified why an author who otherwise resorts to “titles associated with Jewish messianic expectations (Lamb of God, Messiah)” and “apocalyptic salvation (Son of Man)” should at the same time regard Jesus as a pagan Son of God. This is absurd if only because it is Nathanael, portrayed as an Israelite without guile, who addresses Jesus (1:49) in one breath as “Rabbi,” “Son of God,” and “King of Israel.” At the very least, an attempt must be made to interpret the title of Son of God equally from the Jewish Scriptures as all others. Only in 20:28 is it worth remembering that Thomas subversively refers a title like Dominus ac Deus, which Roman emperors claimed for themselves, to the Messiah of Israel crucified by Rome: “My Lord and my God!”

Also, the way in which Jesus refers to himself “the phrase ego eimi (‘I am’),” that is, “God’s self-declaration in Exodus 3:14,” you do not fill substantively from the Scriptures as expressing that Jesus embodies the liberating NAME of this God, but this name of God remains to you “pithy but enigmatic.” In this context, the question must also be asked whether it is really simply that “Jesus reveals his identity through numerous metaphors, such as the bread of life, the shepherd, the gate, and, most famously, ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (14:6),” or whether one must heed Ton Veerkamp’s comments on the translation of the Greek word einai in John’s Gospel: <39>

{I}n classical Greek texts, the verb simply means “to be,” so it is the copula of identity. The Hebrew haya is rendered with forms of einai, but it does not mean “to be,” but “to be there for, to happen,” at most “to become.” The emphatic egō eimi that is so characteristic of John’s Gospel is not a sentence of judgment along the lines of subject = predicate. It gives no information about what Yeshua was all about, but that and how he acted for others; hence, “I am there for you as …, I happen to you as …” Sometimes, however, the Greek text may actually mean such verbs “in the Greek way,” einai as a copula. The translator must therefore scrupulously ask himself what usage is involved.

Again and again, my critique of your approach boils down to asking whether the interpretation of the Johannine Jesus as a Son of God in the Greco-Roman sense who dispossesses the Jews of their sonship to God really already applies to the original Gospel of John, or whether we must not rather interpret all the titles used for Jesus as Messiah and all his Messianic action from the Jewish Scriptures—namely, as the embodiment and fulfillment of the liberating work of Israel’s God on his people in the midst of the nations.

1.2.3 Internal Proof of Pathos: How does John Employ Emotional Language?

According to Aristotle, persuasive rhetoric (9) is “a matter not only of reason but also emotion.” This is also matched in John’s Gospel (10) by the “use of emotive language throughout the narrative.” Thus, you consider the “signs stories” as illustrations of “Jesus’s ability to resolve all problems.”

The Gospel also evokes emotion when it associates Jesus with his flock’s safety from deceit and danger (10:11-16); portrays the joyous celebration of those who witness the triumphal entry (12:13; cf. 12:19); provides hope of a future dwelling place with Jesus in God’s house (14:2); and promises the disciples’ future joy (15:11; 17:13). Particularly evocative is the imagery in 16:21-22…

1.2.3.1 Does John Take his Metaphors from Everyday Language?

One other point stands out especially in John’s Gospel: “Metaphors are also used emotively.” You think of the metaphors of light and darkness, of water and bread, finally of “Jesus as the gate” (11), which “emphasizes Jesus’s role as the access point to relationship with God.” All these metaphors are in your eyes

taken from everyday experience. Productive work is accomplished in the daytime, whereas dangers lurk at night; water and bread are fundamental to physical survival. In using these metaphors to express Jesus’s essential role in fulfilling the human desire for eternal life, the Gospel is asserting that faith is connected to eternal life even more profoundly than light, darkness, water, and bread are connected to mundane existence. To fulfill the desire for eternal—in contrast to temporal—life, one must acknowledge the centrality of Jesus as the one who provides for humankind’s most essential needs, not for the impermanence of this world, but for the eternal life with God.

Here, by following traditional Gentile-Christian exegesis, you commit a fundamental interpretational error. You are right that the metaphors mentioned can be related to everyday experience, and this was certainly one of the reasons why the Gospel of John could be interpreted so easily in a universally human or cosmic-dualistic way. But if you look more closely, all the metaphors you mentioned in John’s Gospel are rooted in the Jewish Scriptures and not simply taken directly from everyday life.

The contrast of light and darkness, Scripturally, is to be seen on the one hand from Genesis 1:4-5 as the creation-appropriate opposite of day and night, but on the other hand, especially in John, from the man-made darkness described in Jeremiah 4:23-26. John refers the bread metaphor quite explicitly to the manna of the wilderness wanderings as the bread from heaven (10:31; Psalm 78:24). The water metaphor must be considered in light of passages such as Isaiah 35:5-7; 43:19-20; 55:1 or Jeremiah 2:13. And the metaphor of thyra, the gate or door, in 10:9 should be interpreted from Numbers 27:17, as I explained in the review of your book The Word in the World: <40>

By being the door, Jesus is the entrance to the new sanctuary of the body of his Messianic community in which all Israel and further people who trust in him shall be gathered to come in and go out and find pasture according to Numbers 27:17, that is, to live in peace.

1.2.3.2 What is the Purpose of the Provocative Invitation to Chew the Flesh of the Messiah?

Contrary to a mere everyday rooting (10), however, you also hear in connection with the metaphor of the bread a

language that to later readers, if not to the initial readers, evoked the language of the Eucharist: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (6:54).

Although a “compliant listener like Alexandra” might really think of the Christian Lord’s Supper when hearing these words, there are several strong arguments that John was not thinking here of what (1 Corinthians 11:20) Paul called kyriakon deipnon: First, instead of an institution of the Lord’s Supper, he reports Jesus’ slave service in washing the feet of his disciples, and second, in the verse you quote, he does not use the neutral word phagein, “to eat,” but the coarse word trogein, “to chew.” Therefore, according to Ton Veerkamp, the Johannine Jesus has something quite different in mind than referring to the Christian Lord’s Supper when he explains (6:51) the eating of the bread or flesh that has come from heaven in his person: <41>

Some do not come along here anymore, others are undecided, are quarreled (emachonto): “How can this one give us his meat to eat?” John would have a chance here to explain what “eating meat” could mean.

John not only undauntedly continues what he has said so far, but he tops it all off: eat the flesh of the Human, my flesh, even drink his blood, my blood. But what exactly is to eat (phagein) here? Chew (trōgein) his flesh! Drink his blood, then you will get alive into the world age to come, “I will raise him up on the Day of Decision,” the fourth time. “Only that is food,” says Yeshua, only that is really food and drink, that keeps you alive, only that.

The fact that it says “to chew” instead of “to eat” is thus by no means a “stylistic variation,” as Wengst <42> says. John does not have the sense of exercises in style here. Here our text is taking a far-reaching turn. Now he wants provocation. Whoever talks like that does not want any understanding. He wants separation, schism. That is the language of the sect.

We are so blunted by our communion services that we no longer feel the provocation. Yeshua does not talk about the wafer or a cup of grape juice, with or without alcohol. The provocation is really intended. Meat is allowed to be eaten in Israel, but, “Meat that has its blood in its soul, you must not eat under any circumstances,” Genesis 9:4. This so-called Noahide prohibition is repeatedly inculcated: the blood must not be eaten, it must be allowed to flow away before eating the meat; it must be kosher. Chewing human flesh and drinking its blood at the same time for every child of Israel is a disgusting violation of the fundamental commandment based on the unconditional reverence for human life, Genesis 9:5-6. Therefore, the Torah declares blood an absolute taboo.

Certainly, by this expression, John means a complete identification with the political existence of Yeshua, unconditional discipleship on the path of the Messiah, “He who chews my flesh, drinks my blood, remains united to me, and I to him.” But by formulating this thought in a way that is so repulsive to the Judeans, he obviously does not want them to find any access to this Messiah. This is scandalous in the true sense of the word, and John knows it, v.61! Consequently, the group around John ends up in a locked room, “doors locked for fear of the Judeans,” 20:19, 26.

Yeshua, the one sent from the FATHER, only lives “through the FATHER.” That means: he does not only work for the cause of the God of Israel, he rather is the cause itself, that—and only that—is his life. And whoever chews the Messiah lives through the Messiah, for he himself becomes the cause of God, the cause of the Messiah. He can do nothing else.

John summarizes, “This one is the bread coming down from heaven, not like the fathers at that time: they ate and died. He who chews this bread will live until the world age to come.” However “sublime” this theology may be to some, it seems divisive and is therefore worthy of criticism. The provocative, divisive teaching which Yeshua presented in the synagogue of Capernaum—and this was probably also the teaching which John presented in the synagogue of his own city—divides his listeners, it divides the Messianic movement. In any case, this sentence marks a turning point. Up to this point in the text, the Messianic community gathered together. From this moment on the disintegration of the community begins. This is a tragedy for him whose political program was the gathering of Israel in one synagogue (11:52).

I quoted Veerkamp at this length to make clear what it means to interpret John appropriately with reference to the Scriptures. It is not a matter of taking John in defense from all criticism. Precisely at this point, even Messianic-political argumentation can overshoot justifiable targets.

How would Miriam react to these provocative words of the Gospel?

It is words from the Gospel of John like these that cause the most turmoil in our synagogue. It comes to word fights, sometimes even to acts of violence. The more passionate the discussion, the more John can get out of hand. Especially to us women, his provocations and his aggressive choice of words often go too far. But although John treats us with great esteem, he does not let us stop him in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, this also leads to the fact that fewer and fewer people want to listen to him at all. And in the end, he is no longer allowed to speak in the synagogue itself; we have to meet privately in the houses where we live.

Yet I am one of the few who really understand John at all. He does not mean that we should really eat up the Messiah, chew his flesh, drink his blood. But he wants me to rely completely on Jesus, with skin and hair. I should completely absorb his “flesh,” his whole existence as Messiah, his liberating commitment for Israel, his commandment of solidarity.

1.2.3.3 What Freedom is Jesus Concerned with and What does hamartia, Sin, Mean?

As a final metaphor (11) for “Jesus’s role as the one who fulfills the desire for eternal life,” you mention the “freedom” mentioned in 8:31-36, which, according to you, is initially misunderstood by the Jews as freedom from slavery, whereas Jesus speaks of enslavement to sin:

Jesus clearly contrasts the present life characterized by sin, and therefore slavery, with the future life of true freedom in God’s household. This discussion alludes to the Baptist’s identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is not only the Jews who sin; every human being does so, and in that sense everyone is a slave to sin until or unless they continue in Jesus’s word.

Here again, the question arises whether this passage is already originally about sin in its later Christian sense narrowed to the personal-moral sphere and about the future life of true freedom in the household of God, that is, in heaven. Ton Veerkamp experiments instead with a Jewish liberation-theological interpretation, which assumes that hamartia means the transgression of the Torah of the God of Israel, directed toward the goal of autonomy and egalitarianism, freedom and justice: <43>

Yeshua says, “Fidelity (not the Torah!) makes free, aberration (hamartia) enslaves. The children of Israel were “seed of Abraham” and yet they were slaves in Egypt. Anyone who in Rome does not necessarily see salvation, but a modus vivendi, is mistaken, he is inevitably made unfree by this aberration, he must take political considerations into account. To be “slave of aberration” in the end means to be “slave of Rome.”

Yeshua explains this with a midrash on Genesis 21:9-12, where Sarah asked Abraham to send away the son of the slave woman (paidiskē, ˀamah). The son of Sarah stays in the house. The son of the slave woman, Ishmael, is a slave and may not stay in the father’s house. At this point Yeshua deviates from the narrative: the son who stays in the house will free the slaves and thus give them a place in the house.

You may consider such reasoning too far-fetched. However, conversely, one may ask whether it is permissible to apply later Christian definitions of moralized sin or spiritualized freedom to a Gospel that was originally about Jewish political objectives.

1.2.4 Internal Proof of Logos: Is John Going around in Circles Argumentatively?

As the most important example (12) for the use of language, the logos, “as persuasive argument” you cite “the enthymeme.”

An enthymeme is a deductive proof that commonly takes the form of a claim followed by a reason supporting that claim. For that reason, enthymemes are often signaled by the conjunction “for” (gar) or “therefore” (oun).

The Gospel frequently uses enthymemes to express Jesus’s life-giving capacity.

To do this, you point to three instances (3:16; 3:2; 3:29) that seem convincing to you in terms of content, but then come to other passages where this is not the case:

In some cases the statement’s form may be more important rhetorically than the content of the statement per see.

The four examples you point to in this regard—the biblical quotations highlighted in bold below, which I will discuss in more detail—are, in your eyes, “in and of themselves, self-referential and obscure,” and

their logical structure (two clauses connected by the conjunctions “for,” “because,” “then”) and their use of positively-coded language (spirit, truth, life, God, Son) gives them a persuasive force that is not dependent on the ability to discern their full meaning.

Using the rhetorical techniques pertaining to ethos, pathos, and logos, the Gospel continuously and persistently draws the reader or hearer back to the one essential point: Jesus is the Son of God and the one through whom the desire for eternal life can be fulfilled. The fulfillment is based on faith.

Here I must first confess: You describe very precisely the feeling I often had with John in the past: Why does he go around in circles, why does Jesus keep saying the same thing in different words? It always seemed to be about confirming the one fundamental point, that only Jesus can save us and provide eternal life. The more problematic I found, in the course of time, this claim to absoluteness, even as a Christian pastor, the more unpleasant I found this way of argumentation, which seemed to juggle with empty formulas. But the question is whether John himself already had this kind of religious mission in mind.

You quote Wayne A. Meeks <44> according to whom John’s “self-referentiality and esoteric language” are indicative that the Gospel “is written within and for a sectarian group.” This is what I just addressed, the Johannine group indeed had a sectarian character. But Ton Veerkamp has opened my eyes to the fact that John was not at all concerned with conversion to a mystery religion with a Jesus who saves the souls of those who believe in him to heaven. No, the Johannine group was originally a Jewish sect of Messianic political character.

Let us see if the “enthymemes” you quote actually remain obscure when we look at them from the Jewish Scriptures:

1.2.4.1. “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for {gar} he gives the Spirit without measure” (3:34)

Verses 3:31-36, in which this phrase occurs, are indeed not easy to infer. But the very verse you quote contains an expression, ou gar ek metrou, “for not according to measure,” which on close inspection turns out to be precisely not self-referential, referring to itself, circling around itself. Ton Veerkamp writes about this: <45>

Then there is a half-sentence that is difficult to understand. “Not measured scarcely, but abundant” is how Wengst interprets the expression, like the other commentaries, “not measured, but in entire fullness.” <46> John could have written perisson (see 10:10). He does not, he writes: “… not according to measure (ou gar ek metrou).” Metron, “measure“, occurs only here in John.

A hint could be Zechariah 5-6. There we have the only passage in the Tanakh where both words “measure, inspiration” (metron, pneuma) occur together. With the storm (ruach) the crime is carried into the land of exile. The storm itself is then settled. This inspiration drives the prophets to familiarize the deported in the land of exile with the possibility and conditions of a new beginning. Immediately after this, there is the announcement of the construction of the sanctuary and the royal dignity of the great priest Joshua.

John now says that it is not according to this bushel measure that the Messiah gives the storm wind of inspiration. It will be different than after the first destruction of the city, very different. There is no reconstruction of the city and the sanctuary. What is coming is that Son who is “above all.” The FATHER is in solidarity with the Son, he has given everything into his hands. The connection is admittedly difficult. On the other hand, the paraphrase “without measure” is an admission that one does not understand the matter properly.

Of course, such an interpretation is only understandable if the originally intended audience was very familiar with biblical passages such as Zechariah 5. A Jewish audience that was accustomed to hearing the Torah and the Prophets read aloud in the synagogue can certainly be expected to do so.

1.2.4.2. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for {hoti} salvation is from the Jews” (4:22)

Here it is not quite clear to me whether this sentence seems obscure to you because you cannot make sense of why the Johannine Jesus here suddenly claims that sōtēria—translated by you as “salvation,” by Ton Veerkamp as “liberation,”—should come from the Jews. It should be noted that a conversation is taking place here between members of the mutually hostile Judeans and Samaritans, who, according to the Jewish Scriptures, many centuries earlier, under David and Solomon, once together formed Israel of the twelve tribes.

But what could Jesus mean by saying that “we” know to whom we bow, and “you” do not? Which “we” is meant? In some form, the Johannine Jesus refers to himself and his own as “Judeans” or “Jews” or as a very specific group of “Jews,” as Veerkamp explains: <47>

Now it seems that the woman and all her people are required to recognize the priority of the Judeans. There seems to be no doubt about what is meant by “we” and “you.” It is about consciousness (eidenai, “to know“), or better, about the contents of consciousness. “We” know what it is all about politically. “Our” consciousness firstly has liberation (sōteria) as its content and secondly, that it comes from the Judeans. “God” in Israel is the freedom of Israel. But it does not come from the Judeans as such, in general, from Judaism altogether, but from a very specific Judean, the Messiah Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee. And then from those very particular Judeans, the disciples of Yeshua ben Joseph. “We” means Yeshua and those who follow. That does not mean the Christians, of course! It means those very particular Jews.

Because of the devastating conflict, the Samaritans cannot see that from any Judeans could come anything like liberation; from them, they think, nothing but destruction would come. That is why they stick to traditions that have no future. Their sanctuary is and remains destroyed, just as the sanctuary in Jerusalem will be destroyed and never be rebuilt as such. To many Judeans, Yeshua was not a Judean because he does not orient himself to the past. The Judeans said to him, “Do we not say it correctly that you are a Samaritan and that you are possessed?”, 8:48. To the Judeans, Yeshua was a mad Samaritan; to the Samaritan woman, he is a Judean. Both peoples reject him—at first. This is the dilemma of the Messianic movement in the land of Samaria, and the reason may have been the Judean origin of the movement.

This does not answer all the questions raised by Ton Veerkamp, concerning the relationship of Judean and Galilean Jews and the Samaritans tracing back to the ten lost tribes of northern Israel. However, it is also clear here that John does not simply revolve around himself, but argues in the field of tension between different groupings of Palestine.

1.2.4.3. “For {gar} just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26)

Here you omit the previous verse, which is reasoned by this verse, and also the four following verses, without which its understanding must indeed remain obscure. I quote according to the translation of Ton Veerkamp: <48>

5:25 Amen, amen, I say to you,
an hour is coming
—and that is now—
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of GOD,
and those who hear will live.
5:26 For just as the FATHER himself is living,
so he gave it to the Son to live himself.
5:27 And he gave him authority to lead the trial,
because he is bar enosh, the Human.
5:28 Don’t be astonished at this;
because the hour is coming
when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.
5:29 They will go out,
those who did the good to a resurrection of life,
and those who practiced the foolish to a resurrection of judgment.
5:30 I cannot do anything of myself.
As I hear, I judge;
and my judgment is reliable;
because I don’t seek my own will,
but the will of the ONE who sent me.

On the translation of the Greek expression zōēn echein en heauto, literally “to have life in oneself,” Veerkamp explains: <49>

“To have” is a verb that does not exist in the Semitic languages. There are a number of Arabic verbs (such as intalaka, “to obtain,” iqtani, “to acquire,” ahus, “to grasp”) that can be translated as “to have,” but the plain “to have” is expressed by a preposition with a personal suffix. There is also no reflexive pronoun in the proper sense. The expression probably paraphrases the Aramaic chay leh, “he shall live” (literally: “life for him”). In any case, God does not “have life.” He does not get it through others, like all living beings, including humans, but he is his own life and thus the origin of all life. He gave the Son the authority to be the origin of all life. The translation “to have life in himself” is meaningless.

Based on this explanation, it becomes understandable what John wants to express here. Indeed, he wants to say that the God of Israel hands over his own life-giving power to his Messiah Jesus.

But if you omit the verses that follow, you do not understand in what way God will do this. He does it by giving Jesus the judicial authority of the Son of Man of Daniel 7. Let us listen further to Ton Veerkamp: <50>

The Father is life himself, that is what the strange expression means, which literally says, “has life in himself.” By endowing the Son with all power—especially judicial power—he thereby gives him the authority to be life himself, that is, to secure life, to give life.

Yeshua here obstructs the possibility of interpreting “symbolically.” The dead in their graves will hear the voice. Now, this is not an unusual idea for the opponents, the Perushim; they know the vision of Daniel and they know the idea of judgment over the living and the dead. This very old conception is to exclude that the criminal, buried in dignity, can escape justice by his death. We are talking here about the authority of the law that is not limited by death. Those whose works are in line with the Creator, “who do the good,” experience the “resurrection of life.” Those whose works are the absolute opposite of the works of creation, which do not make alive, but kill and murder, experience the “resurrection of judgment.“ And that’s why his trial is reliable.

Yeshua is nothing but the executor, “As I hear, so I judge.” This makes his judgment reliable, as the one who sends him, is the tzaddiq, dikaios, the reliable or truthful one. No, here there is no arbitrariness (“only those I want”), but the lawful will of the God of Israel, the one who sends him. The work “to make the dead alive in their graves” is the work of the law and the righteous judge. This work is yet to come, the judgment is not yet completed, neither to the living nor to the dead. Only when the righteous judge powerfully asserts himself and his right, will the God of Israel “solemnly rest from all the works that he has done.” Only then is Shabbat.

1.2.4.4. “Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me” (8:16)

Again, you refrain from quoting the context in which the Pharisees reproach Jesus (8:13) for not having a witness to being the Messiah or (8:12) “the light of the world.” Jesus points out that the FATHER himself, that is, the God of Israel who sent him, bears witness to him. Of course, both sides are talking past each other, because Jesus’ argumentation already presupposes that he is recognized as the Messiah sent by the FATHER. Here John is actually arguing within a circle, since (8:17-18) the two witnesses (himself and the FATHER) to whom Jesus refers are not really independent human witnesses as prescribed by the Torah.

But it is interesting to note where John says this conversation takes place, namely (8:20) “These words he spoke in the guarded treasury, teaching in the sanctuary.” According to Ton Veerkamp, this is not simply a casual reference to a place without meaning: <51>

All this now in the guarded treasury, the gazophylakeion. It was the place in the sanctuary that served as a collecting basin for the fruits of the extra work of the population. This was where the surplus product was collected, which the regional central authority skimmed off. The political staff, the priesthood, and its many helpers lived on it. In the Messianic movement, the place was badly advertised, Luke 21:1-4 and especially Mark 12:41-44, where the guarded treasury appeared as the peak of religious perversion. The widow gives “her whole life” after we heard how scribes and Perushim “devoured houses of widows.” Matthew may have had his reasons for omitting the passage; there can hardly be any doubt that the little story was common in the Messianic movement. The fact that now Yeshua presented his teaching just here is understood by his opponents as a direct attack against the sanctuary as the central instance of an order of exploitation. There can be no doubt that the remark in 8:20—the reference to the gazophylakeion as the place of the event—had a political point. When we read back from this passage, we understand that these words spoke a true judgment (krisis alēthinē) about the community and its central institutions. We then also understand why his opponents must react with the thought of imprisonment and killing. They could see Yeshua only as an enemy of the state.

1.2.5 Style: The Pattern of Seeking and Finding in John’s Gospel

In examining Johannine style (13) as a means “to support the Gospel’s contention that Jesus offers eternal life—the fulfillment of desire—to those who believe,” you limit yourself exclusively to

the pattern of seeking and finding that runs through the Gospel’s narrative and discourses. The Gospel presents several examples of characters who seek Jesus as the conduit to eternal life and either find him, by accepting that he is the Messiah, or do not find him, by rejecting this message.

In this context, you rightly point out that Bible translations such as the English NRSV for translating the Greek word zēteō, “to seek,” often “use several different verbs, including seeking (e.g., 7:18), looking for (e.g., 8:37), wanting (e.g., 4:27), and trying to (e.g., 7:20),” thereby impeding a deeper understanding of the stylistic context of John’s argument.

1.2.5.1 God’s Conversion to Man and Successful Finding

In the description of “seekers,” who, according to you, “fall into the category of true worshippers,” you perceive a reciprocity in that—as with the first-called disciples (1:38-39) or with Mary Magdalene (20:15)—they are people “who not only seek but also are sought by God, implying that humankind and God are bound in mutual desire” (cf. 4:23).

Ton Veerkamp in his interpretation of 1:38 sees this being sought by God in connection with the biblical concept of conversion, strephein, shuv, in the sense of God’s turning back to man. And at the same time, he contrasts what is meant in John’s Gospel by the concept of seeking, zētein, with the concept of finding, heuriskein: <52>

They don’t convert to Yeshua by leaving Yochanan’s group and joining Yeshua’s group. Instead, Yeshua converts to the disciples. The word strephein, shuv, here always has to do with that “return” or “conversion” which describes God’s abiding affection for Israel. “God” is the one whom the people in Israel have to pursue; “God” is what finds its converging point among all loyalties of people. To pursue or to follow “God” is to know, what it ultimately has to be about in society. The conversion of God is the precondition for the conversion of humans and not vice versa. That is the lesson of the Book of Job, “God” converts from his demonic Hellenistic alienation (Job 1-2) to himself as the liberator of Israel (Job 42:7-17), in other words: “God” stands “again” (shuv!) for an order that allows the people of Israel to live within the terms of autonomy and equality instead of being submitted to a tyrannical order. Yeshua, the “One like God”, turns around {“converts”} to them and views them as they follow (again the word, that acted as the model for our “theatre”).

These two represent all Israel. What Israel has to seek is always what in Israel is called “God”—“with all your heart and with all your soul,” at that (Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:5; etc.). All Israel was in search of the “God” who should put an end to the desperate situation of the people, in search of the Messiah. According to John, all Israel waited for a real, definitive change. “What are you seeking?” He knows what they seek, they know, what they seek.

The verb “to seek” {zētein} is to be heard 34 times in John. Mostly it has as the subject the Judeans, Yeshua as the object (21 times), 13 times with the addition or implication of seizing or killing Yeshua. What Yeshua himself is seeking (Yeshua as the subject of the verb) is “God’s will”—exactly which not to seek the Judeans are blamed. Nowhere it says that Yeshua seeks people, he finds. “To seek” is an aim of life, it means something like “to strive.” The Judeans strive to eliminate Yeshua as the Messiah, that’s an aim of life of Rabbinical Judaism—apparently, this is John’s view, but we don’t have to share it. Here Yeshua asks what the disciple are seeking. There is no direct answer, reported is only what/whom they find.

The verb “to find” plays an important role in John’s narrative as well. It is about a deliberate action. The verb also can mean “to meet (accidentally)”, but here only is found what is sought. 6 times Yeshua is the subject, 4 times the object of “to find.” Yeshua finds humans whom he wants to acquire as disciples (Philipp), whom he has healed and wants to save from further aberration (the paralytic of 5:1 ff.), he finds the man blind born and expelled from the synagogue, the dead friend who already was four days in the grave; he finds—to the purpose of fulfillment of the Scriptures—the donkey of the prophet Zechariah, he finds—to the purpose of purification of Israel—the traders in the sanctuary. 4 times the crowd of Judeans seeks Yeshua to take him to task, even to kill him. (The finding does not succeed, however, as is pointed out 3 times just in 7:34-36.) 3 times, Pilate doesn’t find a reason for a trial against Yeshua. Twice, disciples confirm to have found the Messiah, 3 times, disciples find other disciples. Fishermen will find fish and sheep pasture. In all these cases it is always about the result of deliberate seeking.

1.2.5.2 The Inaccessibility of Heaven and God’s Coming to Earth

Now, what does the statement in John’s Gospel (13) mean that no one, “not even true worshippers, will be able to find Jesus immediately after the crucifixion”? In this question, I think the word “immediately” would also have to be deleted, since it implies that one might well be able to get to where Jesus is at a later time. But does Jesus really mean that? Usually, 14:2-3 is understood to mean that Jesus prepares a place for his own in heaven, but monē, as it is mentioned there, is interpreted more closely in verse 14:23 to mean no matter of going over to God in the hereafter but that the Father and Jesus together will make for themselves “a place of permanence” in the Messianic community, similar to the Shechina of God dwelling in Israel according to Jewish notions. To go to where Jesus is is impossible because his ascension to the FATHER simply means his return to the inaccessibility of God, which he accomplishes with his death. Hope, which is nevertheless connected with this ascension, has nothing to do with a hope of going to Jesus and God in heaven, but—figuratively speaking—with the fact that Jesus and God conversely come to us on earth, in the form of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. God’s fidelity inspires us with agapē, solidarity, in order to actively expect the overcoming of the world order.

1.2.5.3 To Die in One’s Sin has to do with the Aberration of this World Order

Those who do not or no longer trust in Jesus (14) are threatened, according to you, that they “will never see eternal life,” because several times Jesus says of them that they will die in their sin (8:21, 24). But does John’s Gospel already mean what the Christian Church later takes for granted, that people with the wrong profession of faith will remain eternally in God’s remoteness or, to put it more banally, will go to hell?

In 8:23 Jesus defines the contrast to “being from above,” ek tōn katō einai, as living “from this world order,” ek toutou tou kosmou, determined by the ˁolam ha-ze in contrast to the ˁolam ha-ba, the age to come. Then hamartia is the deviation of this world order from the freedom and justice prescribed in the Torah, and whoever remains dependent on this Roman kosmos lacks not only insight into what is causing humanity to go to rack and ruin but also the possibility of trusting in an overcoming of this kosmos through the Messiah Jesus and working toward the life of the coming kingdom of peace. This means apothnēskein en tais hamartiais hymōn, “to die in or of your aberrations.”

That this is not a moral understanding of sin or one based on a lack of religious faith is confirmed by the Johannine Jesus, who in 8:29 strictly relates his own actions to the will of the FATHER who sent him, as Ton Veerkamp translates and explains: <53>

8:29 The ONE who sent me is with me;
he did not leave me alone,
because I do what is straight in HIS eyes, ever.” <54>

What Yeshua does and says is nothing else than what the NAME, the FATHER, stands for. He does not pursue his own political programs, his program is the God of Israel—nothing else but that. He, Yeshua, is with God, and his God is with him. Yeshua says this with that Biblical sentence that is only true for very few kings in the history of Israel: They did “the straight (yashar) in the eyes of the NAME.” Yeshua places himself in the row of the straight ones of Israel. This was convincing, John tells, “When he spoke this, many trusted in him.”

1.2.5.4 What does it Mean to Seek Jesus for the Wrong Reasons?

Back to your argument (14) about seeking Jesus. In one respect you are right in thinking that

Alexandra and other members of John’s audience know that it is not enough merely to seek Jesus; one must seek him for the right reasons. Hence Jesus’s rebuke to those who sought him after eating the bread and fish: they seek him (zēteite me—“you are looking for me”; 6:26) only because they ate their fill, not because they saw signs.

But also here, you mean that this

language of seeking and finding, like darkness and light, death and life, describes everyday experience, and in itself does not require us to search for its source.

And again, I point out that only a later Christian reading could consider this language commonplace since they were no longer familiar with the context of the Jewish Scriptures to the same extent as John and his original audience. Ton Veerkamp refers to Deuteronomy 8:3 in the context of 6:26, after Jesus (6:15) fled from those who wanted to make him king: <55>

Actually, people want to know what they have with Yeshua. This one immediately cuts off their word. In what happened they did not see the sign of the liberation of Israel. The satiation refers to the bread in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:3,

He (the NAME) humiliated you, made you starve,
made you eat the manna,
that you did not know, that your fathers did not know,
to make you recognize
that human does not live by bread alone,
rather, human lives from all that comes from the mouth of the NAME.

What Yeshua will say here is a midrash about this passage. The manna shows Israel that only the NAME ensures life. Israel stays alive not only because it organizes the production of daily life (bread). Experience teaches that under the prevailing production systems most people will not be satisfied even if Yeshua would become king instead of Herod Antipas. Only if the Torah organizes the order of production the life of those who need bread is assured. This is imperishable, everything else is perishable, passes away, can be replaced by something better.

Yeshua immediately speaks bluntly; he states with great emphasis the misunderstanding concerning the Messiah: they have not seen any “sign.” They have seen a miraculous spectacle, but simply no sign, not that which points beyond itself. That is the essence of sēmeion, the sign: it points to a completely different and new direction. All that Yeshua does is sēmeion, it points to what is coming, to “greater works“ (14:12).

They only see the bread and only feel the satiation. Bread is digested, satiation passes quickly, “perishable food.” Every king, under the same ruling conditions, will be nothing else but a Herod Antipas, even if he would begin his reign with the most sublime intentions. Works, “doing works” (erga-zesthai), on the other hand, should be done for what is remaining, not for what is passing. Thus the daily bread is not defamed; humans must work for the daily bread, ergazesthai. Despite this work, most people remain stuck in misery. What remains is whatever leads people out of misery and into the age to come (zōē aiōnios). What this is, Yeshua first explained to Nicodemos (3:14), to the woman from Samaria (4:14), and finally to the Judeans in Jerusalem (5:24 ff.). “Life of the age to come” is inseparably linked to the figure and work of the one whom our translations call the “Son of Man” (“the Human”, bar enosh).

The way in which this Son of Man creates liberation from the Roman world order we had already considered above.

1.2.5.5 Erotic Subtexts of Seeking and Finding in John’s Gospel?

Although you think that the rhetoric of seeking and finding is actually everyday language, you wonder if it not nevertheless (14),

especially in 20:19, may also evoke the Song of Songs, particularly 3:1-5, in which the female lover speaks about her beloved:

Song 3:1 Upon my bed at night
I sought (ezētēsa) him whom my soul loves;
I sought (ezētēsa) him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave no answer.
2 “I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek (zētēsō) him whom my soul loves.”
I sought (ezētēsa) him, but found him not.
3 The sentinels found (heurosan) me,
as they went about in the city.
“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”
4 Scarcely had I passed them,
when I found (heuron) him whom my soul loves.
I held him, and would not let him go
until I brought him into my mother’s house,
and into the chamber of her that conceived me.

Already in my commentary on your book Befriending the Beloved Disciple, <56> I wrote that I know {145} the interpretation of the Song of Songs as praising “the covenant relationship between GOD and Israel,”

and something of it is quite reflected in the search of Mary for the disappeared corpse of her teacher Jesus whom she has experienced as the embodiment of the fidelity of God.

Yet, in such a context, Jesus’ injunction, “Touch me not!” marks a clear difference then from Song of Songs 3:4, “I held him and did not let him go.” Neither Mary can hold her beloved teacher, as if his ascension to the FATHER would be nothing else than an undoing of his death, nor is already his ascension to the FATHER completed, so that already now, on “day one” of the new creation, the Messianic wedding could be celebrated. This is possible in my eyes only when, through the acceptance of the pneuma, the inspiration of God’s fidelity, by those who trust in the Messiah, and their practice of agapē, solidarity, the prevailing world order of injustice and violence will have been overcome.

Not only here (15), but wherever John tells “of encounters between Jesus and women who followed him,” you call attention to “{e}rotic subtexts” that can be found in the stories. Are you suggesting to John that the inclusion of so many female characters in his Gospel might have to do with a reduction toward their function as lovers? Or would you yourself imagine relationships between men and women to have erotic undertones as a matter of principle?

With regard to Martha, you give no additional indication of this. In the case of her sister Mary, you refer to the nard of Solomon’s beloved, which gives off its fragrance while the king sits at table (Song of Songs 1:12); if this reference plays any role at all, it rather confirms that Mary does indeed anoint Jesus as King of the Jews, the Messiah King of Israel, by anointing his feet.

Correctly, you see that “Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman recalls the stories in Genesis and Exodus in which biblical heroes meet the women they will marry at a well.” However, the conversation between the two is not about a courtship or a lovers’ banter, but a theological-political dispute between the representatives of two hostile sibling peoples on equal terms, with the Samaritan woman in fact embodying the matriarchs of Israel, Rebekah and Rachel. <57>

Finally, the reference “to Jesus as the bridegroom” in 3:29 by John the Baptist is a confirmation that here, too, it is precisely not about eroticism, but about the Messianic wedding that the God of Israel wants to celebrate with his people Israel at the beginning of the age to come. The fact that in the story of the wedding at Cana Jesus is not the bridegroom but is only named as such by John the Baptist—who subsequently reveals himself as his hestēkōs, friend or best man, and as the architriklinikos <58>—indicates that ultimately the bridegroom of the Messianic wedding is the God of Israel, who, however, allows himself to be fully embodied by the Messiah Jesus.

Since you yourself do not perceive the contacts and conversations of Jesus with women in their Messianic-political depth and also do not interpret the wedding metaphor as the completion of the prophetic longing of the people of Israel for a life in freedom and justice, it seems more plausible to you to trace a dimension of depth <59> in “the connection between the erotic and the spiritual”:

The erotic allusions add depth to the rhetoric of searching and finding, and emotion to the desire for eternal life. They also attribute an all-consuming intensity to the relationship between Jesus and the believer, one whose dimensions extend far beyond the cognitive and even the emotive to include also the sensual.

1.3 The Content of Belief: Jesus, God, and the Cosmos

If already the alleged erotic allusions in John’s Gospel discovered by you were hardly perceptible from its Messianic-political interpretation or at least not central in their meaning, I can only describe (15) your assertions about the central content of John’s Gospel in the following passage as completely absurd. Here you are concerned with the question of what exactly it means

to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God? John encourages his audience to see this belief in relation to God’s desire to save the world (3:16) and as a necessary condition for eternal life.

Your starting point is correct, provided that, as I said, “eternal life” is interpreted in the sense of the liberation of the world from the present world order that weighs upon it—towards the dawn of the life of the age to come:

John’s rhetoric of desire and fulfillment promises eternal life to those who believe in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus, the narrator, and some of the characters refer to him in a variety of ways. He is the lamb of God, the savior of the world, the Son of Man, a prophet, a king of Israel, and the Messiah, a Hebrew term that the narrator correctly translates as “anointed” (1:41). The Gospel also associates Jesus with a number of traits or activities: he takes away the sin of the world (1:29), provides food for the hungry, heals the sick, and raises the dead. And for John, Jesus is preeminently the Son of God, the pre-existent Word, who does God’s works in the world.

All these characterizations and actions of Jesus you mention come from the Jewish Scriptures and would have to be interpreted from them. But this does not occur to you. Instead, you seriously develop a theory of the conception of Jesus by God, based on the Aristotelian doctrine of epigenesis, and this, although the evangelist John does not even resort to “infancy narratives” like Matthew and Luke with “a set of material circumstances under which Jesus was indeed conceived as the Son of God and a human mother, Mary.” <60>

1.3.1 Is the Role of the Mother of the Messiah in John’s Gospel Really Small?

Ton Veerkamp <61> would strongly disagree with your view, casually expressed in this context, that the Gospel of John “gives Jesus’s mother a very small role in its drama and does not even mention her by name.” In Matthew and Luke, Mary is mentioned just at the beginning as the mother of the infant Jesus and does not play a major role in the progression of events; Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21, 11:27-28 are even rather critical of an overestimation of the role of the mother of the Messiah. In John, she is the first person mentioned in the narrative of the wedding at Cana; precisely by not mentioning her name, she—like the Beloved Disciple—has a representative function. She embodies Israel that calls to listen to the word of the Messiah, and under the cross, she plays the main role alongside the Beloved Disciple, in that the latter, as the representative of the Messianic community, takes her to his own as the embodiment of Israel.

1.3.2 Is Jesus the Only Son of God Begotten by Aristotelian Epigenesis?

Now for John’s Gospel (21, n. 36), you do not completely rule out a “metaphorical meaning for Jesus’s identification as the Son of God” since (16) the

varied nature of the relationship between a human father and son can certainly be viewed as a metaphor for the complex and intimate relationship between God and Jesus, which otherwise eludes human description and in which the believer is also invited to participate. Yet, I would argue, the Gospel too describes Jesus concretely, materially, and genealogically, as God’s son, on the basis of Aristotelian theories of procreation that were popular in the first century Mediterranean world. <62>

Upon what do you base this assumption? First of all, you repeat your conviction, already presented in The Word in the World, that the

Gospel’s Prologue proclaims the pre-existence of Jesus as the Word of God, who “in the beginning” was both with God and was God (John 1:1-2). Through this prologue, the Gospel establishes that Jesus’s true place is with God in the eternal time and space that is God’s realm.

In this regard, it should be noted only in passing that you do not translate precisely; literally, Jesus is not “with God” but “directed toward God, onto God,” since here the preposition is pros and not meta. And in the phrase theos ēn ho logos, the definite article to is missing before theos. Both indicate that what is meant here is not the identity of the Word with the God of Israel, but the perfect directedness of the Word, the Messiah, to the will of that God; the Word is not God, but it is divine.

Further, you argue:

But the Johannine Gospel must also bring Jesus into the human realm. Only this way can the good news be accessible to humankind and the narrative proceed. And so we learn, in John 1:14, that “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (1:14a).

At this point, the language shifts; no longer does the Prologue speak about the Word in relationship but of the only-begotten son (monogenēs) in relationship with the Father. John 1:1-18 implies that the incarnation—the becoming flesh—itself transformed the nature of the relationship between God and Jesus to that of father and son. In this sense, the Prologue, as the story of Jesus’s conception and birth, is this Gospel’s infancy narrative, analogous to, if radically different from, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.

You are not entirely wrong—in a single respect. The mention of the monogenēs, the only begotten Son, is indeed related to Matthew’s infancy narrative because both Matthew and John parallel the birth of Jesus with the birth of the only son of Abraham. That John also presents Jesus as the second Isaac and thus as the embodiment of the people of Israel, I already mentioned above. <63>

In Matthew, the first two words Biblios geneseōs (compare Matthew 1:1 with Genesis 2:4 and 5:1) already refer to the tholedoth, that is, the ten begettings mentioned in Genesis (2:4 of heaven and earth; 5:1 of Adam; 6:9 of Noah; 10:1 of the sons of Noah, 11:10 especially of Shem; 11:27 of Terah; 25:12f. of Ishmael; 25:19 of Isaac; 36:1, 9 of Esau; 37:2 of Jacob), but of all things, there is no begetting of Abraham; he is reckoned as the father of Isaac among the begettings of his son Isaac in 25:19! This corresponds, from the male side, that the begetting of Jesus is based on the trust in God of Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 1,24-25) just as the begetting of Isaac was based on the trust in God of Abraham (Genesis 15:6).

You, on the other hand, do not want to explain John from the Jewish Scriptures but from the pagan philosopher Aristotle and assume that the

language of the Prologue echoes that of the Aristotelian theory of epigenesis. Aristotle described the act of generation as being set in motion by the male sperm, which is the logos, or Word. The logos is the motive and final cause of the reproductive process, and the vehicle for the male pneuma, or spirit, that determines the form and characteristics of the offspring. Aristotle likens it to the principle {hē archē} in fig-juice or rennet that causes milk to coagulate. (GA 729a10-12). The role of the female is to provide the medium of growth for the offspring. The generative process (hē genesis) as such has its source and analogue in the upper cosmos (anōthen; GA 731b24). In this way, Aristotle’s theory of epigenesis does not limit itself to the mechanical and physical aspects of reproduction but also places reproduction in a broader, even cosmic, context.

In purely formal terms, of course, it is true that John uses terms that Aristotle also uses in his Embryology: “En archē, ho logos, and various forms of the verb ginomai.” But these need not be “allusions to epigenesis,” identifying “God as the first principle of generation, whose logos, or rational principle, was given human life and form and sent into the human world as Jesus, the divine father’s only-begotten son.”

1.3.3 Does the God of Israel Incarnate in the Flesh of the Messiah, the Second Isaac?

Instead of providing even a shred of evidence that John actually means the terms you mention in a biological-procreative way, you bypass the keyword eskēnōsen in 1:14, “has its tent,” by which John calls up the tent of meeting from the wilderness wanderings and implies that it is the God of Israel who now makes his NAME dwell in the Messiah Jesus, and you don’t mention the terms doxa, “honor,” and charitos kai alētheias, “solidarity and fidelity,” as referring to the Jewish Scriptures. Taken properly, 1:14 represents anything but an Aristotelian embryonic doctrine, rather, this verse summarizes the Gospel of John as a writing to be understood in Jewish Messianic terms, and on this, I quote Ton Veerkamp in detail: <64>

“The Word has its tent among us”, it goes on to say. The translation “it dwelt among us” is more than bland. The tent is the “tent of meeting” from the wilderness, where the NAME dwelt: “The cloud covered the tent (ˀohel) of meeting, the brunt/honor of the NAME filled the dwelling (mishkan)”, Exodus 40:34. The Septuagint has skēnē, “tent”, for both of these two Hebrew words. The tent was the location of who is signified by the four unspeakable characters YHWH and in our text is displayed by the word “NAME.” The tent is the place of law-making, the place of determining the order of the society of liberated slaves. After Exodus 40:34-38, the Book of Leviticus follows (Leviticus 1:1): “He called to Moshe, the NAME spoke to him from the tent of meeting.” In this book, the coordinate system of autonomy and equality is filled out. All at once, the tent of meeting is mobile: “Whenever the cloud was taken up from the dwelling, Israel would set out in all their journeys”, Exodus 40:36. Of this mobile place later was made the stable place of the sanctuary in Jerusalem. John says that after the destruction of the sanctuary by the Romans the tent of meeting would have taken the shape of the incarnate Word, the Messiah Yeshua.

In John, the placeholder for the NAME is the word “FATHER.” Thus in John 1:14, we hear the word FATHER for the first time, not before having heard the word brunt/honor: “We have viewed its honor, an honor as of an only-begotten one by the FATHER, filled with solidarity and fidelity.” All decisive words of Exodus 40:34 we hear in John 1:14. What is hinted at by the enigmatic word kavod, “brunt” (the root kaved means “to be heavy, bulky”), that we try to translate with “honor”, is substantially filled with “honor as of an only-begotten one (yachid, agapētos) by the FATHER.” The analogy is the relationship between Isaac and Abraham, first of all in the story of the “binding of Isaac,” Genesis 22. The interlacing of the motive of the “binding of Isaac, the only-begotten one” with the relation between the God of Israel and the Messiah of Israel gives rise to questions, but the Epistle to the Hebrews saw the connection between Genesis 22 and our passage, 11:17.

Monogenēs stands for Hebrew yachid. … John transfers the theological usage of “only” (yachid) in the narrative of Isaac as “only son” and thus as the only future of Abraham to the Messiah Yeshua. He is the new Isaac, he opens the future of the new Israel.

Conclusively, the honor is rendered with the words charis/chessed and alētheia/ˀemeth.” “Grace” is shaped authoritarian, by this vocable the NAME could seem like the God of antiquity, as “Lord.” That may coincide with the idea that people then got about the absolute counterpart of their social order that was “word of God” for them. “God” as a function normally plays the role of “rulership”, but what is called “God” in the Scriptures plays the role of liberty. Liberty but does not rule, is not gracious, condescendingly. In John, the word charis only appears in the preface to the Gospel, twice together with alētheia, once by itself. As the word agapē in the Gospel indicates both an attitude of God towards humans and the attitudes of humans among each other, here you should think of chessed as well. Apparently, the writer of the preface felt compelled to take the word charis for the attitude of God toward humans. In the Septuagint, it usually stands for chen, “favor” (“grace”). There, it is the attitude of the superior towards the subordinates. On the other hand, in the Scriptures, we never find the expression chen we-ˀemeth, but only chessed we-ˀemeth. This combination must have been remembered by the writer of the preface. In the time of catastrophes for the Judean people, chen, “favor, grace”, only comes into question as ˀemeth, “faithfulness, fidelity”, and then is “solidarity.”

To John, the Word as human reality and the only future for the new Israel in new humanity is only concrete if it is thought of as a concrete human. The Word is this very special Jewish human, Yeshua ben Joseph of Nazareth, Galilee. There is, so John says, no other word. John 1:14 is the center of the summary of the Gospel.

It is interesting (16) that you even understand en archē as designating a principle and not only a temporal beginning, however, unfortunately not as the principle of the Hebrew beginning of the divine creation of a world well ordered by the Torah but as the Hellenistic begetting of a God-man. Likewise, logos must also be understood as the liberating and right-creating word, davar, of the God of Israel, embodied in the flesh of the Messiah as this one Jew with a very specific political mission.

It is to be assumed, though, that Alexandra, who does not get to hear John’s Gospel before the later period that was Gentile Christian dominated, no longer understands anything of these Scriptural references and, therefore (17), regards Jesus as “actually, physically and spiritually, the offspring of God, God’s only begotten son.” Influenced by Greek philosophy or Gnosis, she may also see the history of this Son of God “within the eternal and cosmic relationship between God and humankind,” which has nothing more to do with the fact that Jesus, in the eyes of John, originally is a Son of God of Jewish character, who at the same time embodies Israel as the firstborn Son of God (Exodus 4:22). Only she, but not already a hearer of the original John, can misunderstand the Gospel as a “turning point” that “changed the terms of the agreement—the covenant—between God and humankind.”

1.4 What Is the Meaning of “Life”?

To conclude chapter 1, you consider (17) what it might mean in John’s Gospel

to participate in the cosmic relationship between God and humankind. Although not stated explicitly, this participation may well be the “life in his name” that is promised to those who believe. Although the Gospel does not directly define “life,” “life in his name,” or “eternal life,” some attributes of this desirable state can be teased out of Jesus’s discourses.

Here you put your finger on a sore spot in your interpretation of John’s Gospel. If a term like “life” or “eternal life” is not explicitly defined, we must ask all the more about the framework within which John is operating. Does he speak politically of this-worldly life of the age to come or dualistically of other-worldly life in heaven?

1.4.1. There Is Only One Way to Eternal Life—What does it Consist of?

Above all, you refer to 17:2 in order to reason

that the desire for eternal life is not limited to those who hear or read the Gospel, but to all humankind. John has no “two covenant” theology. There is only one path to eternal life.

True to this, John does not advocate a “two covenant” theology as Paul is said to have advocated according to Romans 9-11. Paul is convinced that God calls the goyim, the Gentile peoples, into the covenant with Israel through the Messiah Jesus (Romans 11:25-26), and when “the full number of the Gentiles has been added,” also “all Israel will be saved.” John does not unfold such a theology of Gentile mission, though he does not rule out individual Greeks trusting in Jesus.

It is also true that John advocates “only one path to eternal life,” but precisely not, as you think, that this path bypasses the Jews and is offered exclusively to the Gentiles. Rather, to John, the only path toward the age to come is the gathering of all Israel from Judea, Samaria, and the Diaspora into the Messianic community. And since 17:2 refers to the authority over all flesh given to the Son of Man—according to Daniel 7:14—over “all nations and people of so many different tongues,” and this Son of Man in turn—according to Daniel 7:27—embodies the “people of the saints of the Most High,” John remains faithful to God’s covenant with Israel, even though he is convinced that only a worldwide overcoming of the idolatrous power of Rome can also lead to the liberation of Israel in the midst of the nations.

1.4.2 Eternal Life and the Knowledge of God—but of which God?

Very formally you state that “eternal life is connected in some way to knowledge of God.” It is true that listening to Jesus’ word, trusting in him, and knowing of God is in some way identical to life in the age to come. But you do not fill all these terms from the Jewish Scriptures with the concrete Messianic-political meaning appropriate to them, related to hopes for this world.

1.4.3 What does it mean to Hate Your Own Soul under the World Order?

With reference to 12:25, you speak of the fact that

faith and eternal life overturn the accepted world order and our assumptions about everyday life: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (12:25).

Indeed, this verse, which Jesus pronounces in connection with the parable of the grain of wheat (12:24), has to do with the world order, although you do not understand this term, which occurs with you here for the first and only time, in the political sense that Ton Veerkamp and I do. According to Veerkamp, how is the provocatively formulated verse to be interpreted? <65>

The saying of the grain of wheat that falls into the earth, dies, and only thus bears fruit, is the image for the one who “hates his soul in this world order.” The “dying” of the grain of wheat in this connection is not a natural process, but the following of the Messiah, who will be murdered. This is shown by the word “to hate the soul, to love the soul.”

Often the word psychē is translated as “life,” but “soul” has a different coloration of meaning. The soul is the core of life. Solidarity with the God of Israel, “with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with your whole passion,” Deuteronomy 6:5, occupies the whole person undivided.

“Soul in this world order” describes the existence of a person who adapts to the world order. Exactly this form of existence (“soul”) is to be hated. Here no attitude toward martyrdom is beatified. No one is required to hate his life, no one should be condemned who loves his life. The words “in this world order” are decisive. What according to the measure of this world order is a matter of the heart and soul for men is to be hated by those who want to follow the Messiah, and this because otherwise, they destroy “their soul,” that is, that which is deeply “dear to their heart.”

1.4.4 Eternal Life as Freedom from all Powers of Death

Finally, you emphasize (17) that “eternal life is freedom from death” and substantiate this (18) by referring to 10:10, 28, and 11:25-26. But what is ultimately meant by this in concrete terms? And what does it mean when those who trust in Jesus “are freed not only from death but also from other aspects of the mortal condition: thirst, hunger, and darkness, all of the conditions that create fear and can lead to death”? What is the “water gushing up to eternal life” in 4:14, “the food that endures for eternal life” in 6:27, “the light of life” in 8:12? Are these all just multiple disguises of a single hope—namely, the hope of life after death in the afterlife? We must explore the Jewish Scriptures to understand John in terms of liberation from this-worldly powers of death, such as through words of the prophet Isaiah (35:6) of water springing up in the wilderness, or of the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:38, 42-44) fighting a famine.

You do not go down this road; rather, from the promise of eternal life to those who trust in Jesus— summarized again at the end of John’s Gospel in 20:31, “to believe in Jesus thereby to enjoy life in his name”—you draw the conclusion that a woman like Alexandra would also wonder how her life would have to change on the basis of such trust—and also her “stance toward, and, potentially, her relationship with, those who reject the claim that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God.”

2. The Rhetoric of Transformation

In the second chapter of your book (23), you assume with Cicero and Augustine that “rhetoric’s persuasive strategies not only reorient thought but also propel action.” That is, Alexandra’s assent to John’s Gospel may lead “to a break with family and friends” and to a union “with others engaged in the same process.”

What John wants from Alexandra, in other words, is a profound transformation of personal and communal identity. John’s success will be measured by the ability of his Gospel to create a new community of those who see themselves in a radically new way as a consequence of their encounter with his story of Jesus.

2.1 The Need for Mediation

Using many examples, you demonstrate (24) that the “transformation John desires requires human mediation,” from “the call of the disciples” to “the story of the Samaritan woman” and “Mary Magdalene.”

2.1.1 Mary Magdalene’s Crucial Message of “Not Yet”

In the latter case, you speak of “one of the Gospel’s most enigmatic verses,” in which Jesus tells her:

“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father” (20:17). This is not a rejection, however. Jesus goes on to bid Mary to “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (20:17). Mary goes to the disciples and announces that she has seen the Lord, and tells them “that he had said these things to her” (20:18).

You ponder not only verse 20:17 but also whether not actually (44, n. 5)

the disciples themselves should have believed Mary’s words and not needed Jesus to come to them. Nevertheless, the narrative needs to recount the disciples’ acquisition of the Holy Spirit in order to substantiate their role in carrying on the mission.

Nevertheless (24-25), the “apostolic function performed by Mary by mediating Jesus’s words to others” is not to be underestimated. Yet, if Ton Veerkamp is right, you fail to perceive the actual point of her particular message. After all, it is not just a matter of “that she has seen him” but “the beginning of the disciples’ deeper knowledge, fulfilling John’s comments about matters that they did not or could not understand until Jesus was raised from the dead (e.g., 2:22),” should be built on the very words conveyed by Mary, as Ton Veerkamp translates and explains them (emphasis in bold added): <66>

“Do not touch me,
for I have not yet gone up to the FATHER.
But go to my brothers and say to them,
I am going up to my FATHER and your FATHER,
to my GOD and your GOD’.”

At the death on the cross, inexorably begins the honoring of the Messiah, inexorably begins the ascent to the FATHER. … But this death and resurrection are not an accomplishment. The perfect tense John uses for accomplished facts is here determined by not yet: “I have not yet ascended” (oupō anabebēka). The perfect, as we have seen, is John’s rendering of an action completed in the past. The “not yet” does not refer to the verb itself, but to the tense, to the perfect; not the going up itself, but the perfect is negated.

With this negative message, Maria from Magdala is sent as the first evangelist to the brothers of Yeshua, “Not yet have I ascended to the FATHER,” perfect tense, but then with the decisive positive message, “I am ascending,” present tense. …

The present tense is a Semitic present tense, it indicates an action that has been started and that continues into the future. Even if the grave cannot hold Yeshua, he, the living one, remains nevertheless a dead one, a living corpse, which you must not touch—both! Therefore, the perfect would be out of place. The movement to the FATHER begins on day one. That is the only thing, but it is everything. There are no guarantees, but on day one the death history of the ruling world order is open again.

2.1.2 Jesus’ Appreciation of Thomas in his Justified Doubt

I do not at all share (25) your estimation of the narrative of “Doubting Thomas” as “a negative example that reinforces the need for human mediation,” a fortiori that you mean:

Although Thomas then confessed “My Lord and my God” (20:28), Jesus downplays his confession. Jesus’s parting words to Thomas—“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (20:29)—imply that Thomas should have believed the disciples’ testimony without needing his own visual and tactile proof. Jesus’s rebuke bolsters the extradiegetic audience, none of whom had the option of first-hand proof and therefore needed to rely on the testimony of others. It also sets up the Gospel’s self-proclaimed status as a foundation for the faith of its audience, which immediately follows in 20:30-31.

I think that Jesus in no way downplays the confession of Thomas, but takes seriously the justified doubt of those who, in the face of a bleak reality, have trouble trusting in the Messiah. Again, I quote Ton Veerkamp at great length: <67>

Thomas, the solidary skeptic, the Twin, represents the Messianic community that wants to see but cannot. This community wants to be instructed. To the message of his fellow disciples, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas reacts with great skepticism. He wants a palpable certainty, regarding the trustworthiness of a martyred and slain Messiah. He seems to be saying, “This is supposed to be your Lord, Kyrios, this one marked with death?” So he wants to know whether these are real mortal wounds. The Messianic community, which sees no perspective after the catastrophe of Israel, even less a Messianic one, cannot understand that and how the signs of death are supposed to be the real, Messianic signs of the Lord.

The man is to be helped now. The Messiah is in the midst of the disciples again, with his greeting of peace right in the middle of the times of war and destruction. Nothing has changed in the situation of the community; its room remains firmly locked. Thomas must feel out the reality. “If I do not see in his hand the striking place of the nails, do not put (balō) my fingers into the place where the nails were struck, do not put my hand into his side, I do not at all trust,” he had said. Thomas cannot trust a Messiah who was really dead, even is.

In Paul, the resurrection overrides death, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting; death, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) This would be hollow triumphalism given the bleak situation of Israel after 70. To Paul, the dead were “sown in perishability, raised in imperishability, sown in unworthiness, raised in honor,” 1 Corinthians 15:42-43.

The rising Messiah was not a glorious dead man in John. Thomas said to his fellow disciples: a Messiah still marked by death cannot be, that contradicts all Messianic hopes of Israel. Precisely this dead with this death is the hope of Israel. That is what this text wants to say.

“Take (phere, not put, stick, bale) your finger, here,” Yeshua invites Thomas. He shall do it with the necessary gentleness. The wounds are real wounds, not pious insignia, not healed scars. It is not reported whether Thomas complied with the request.

Yeshua says to him, “Do not become a faithless one, but a faithful one.” Thomas was never a faithless one but a skeptic one who was yet unreservedly solidary in all his skepticism (14:5), “Let us go with him, let us die with him” (11:16). At least he wanted to be in solidarity; when the hour came, he did not follow the Messiah to death. The type of skeptical Messianist was apparently so common that John gave him three appearances. The skeptic was not condemned in the community. John allows him of all people to pronounce the actual confession of the community to the Messiah Yeshua, “My Lord and my God!” Lord, Kyrios, is the title claimed by the rulers of the world order. “God” is the absolute loyalty that the bearers of this title “God” demand. Dominus ac Deus is what the Flavian emperor Domitian (81-96) had himself called. This confession is a declaration of war against the empire, not anticipation of orthodox Christology.

The last word of Yeshua—for the time being—is, “Happy those who did not see and trusted.” These words are addressed over the head of Thomas to the generation that comes after the eyewitnesses. The eyewitness was the author of the Gospel, 19:35, “He who saw—namely, the blood and the water from the chest of Yeshua—bore witness … that you also might trust.” This is “the other disciple who had come first to the tomb and saw and trusted,” 20:8. It is the disciples and Maria from Magdala. All the others did not see.

Yeshua’s words to Thomas do not imply a disqualification of those who “saw and trusted.” Thomas, too, is now among the witnesses who saw and trusted. Yeshua’s words apply to the generation of Messianists who saw nothing after the Judean War and yet trusted. Death is the last word, because without this death, this departure of the Messiah, nothing can go on. The dead, rising from death (present tense!) Messiah is Dominus ac Deus. Exactly this is not to be seen. This must be trusted.

To all people (25) who no longer experienced Jesus himself, John offers his Gospel “as the mediator that brings those living after the Easter event into a direct encounter with Jesus.”

2.2 Narrative as Rhetoric: Character Identification

Of the many authors you cite at the beginning of this section, I refer only to social psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock <68> who “acknowledge what many of us experience: the power of narrative to change our lives” and (26)

argue that attachment to characters, as sources of information or models of specific beliefs or attitudes, can play a critical role in what they term “narrative-based belief change.”

While some “theorists suggest that readers identify most strongly with characters whose goals, plans, or experiences resonate with their own,” others assume that identification with a text can also be based on the fact that one considers what is portrayed to be desirable.

In the Gospel of John

the diverse characters within the Gospel model possible responses to Jesus. This modeling has rhetorical implications. Through its modes of characterization, the Gospel steers its audience towards identification with characters who move towards faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.

However, there are also (45, n. 14) characters who “invite negative identification. The prime example is Judas, whose betrayal of Jesus is clearly not a model to be emulated.”

2.2.1 The Disciples as Models of Identification and Missionaries of Jesus

Since the declared goal of the Johannine Jesus is to win disciples or followers as the Messiah of Israel, it is not by chance (45, n. 17) “a commonplace of Johannine interpretation” that (26),

As the ones who set aside their previous lives to follow Jesus, the disciples, with the significant exception of Judas, provide the Gospel’s hearers with the most direct—if nevertheless imperfect—models of profound transformation. For that reason they constitute the Gospel’s most powerful models for identification.

Yet precisely (26-27) “{t}heir imperfections are important as they convey the point that perfect discipleship, and complete faith, are aspirations.” It is striking that the Gospel of John

does not portray them as preaching to others; there is no Johannine equivalent to the sending out of the disciples in Matthew 10. Nevertheless, John 4:31-38 implies that they were meant to engage in such activities. … While this passage defies easy explanation, it implies that the harvesting (“gathering fruit for eternal life”) consists of spreading the word so that more and more people will fulfill the desire for eternal life.

2.2.1.1 The Disciples as Harvesters and Jesus in the Line of Israel’s Prophets

In your discussion (27) of Jesus’ conversation with his disciples when they find him together with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, you do not address two things that Ton Veerkamp finds remarkable about 4:38, first, the question of who are those who have sown what the disciples may now reap, and second, why the vocable kopian, “to labor,” is used here as in 4:6, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Once again, Veerkamp, drawing on various passages from the Jewish Scriptures, is able to convincingly shed light on the meaning of this Johannine passage: <69>

They actually want to ask, “What’s going on here?” but start with the obvious, “Rabbi, eat.” The Johannine strategy of misunderstanding here has something of a humoresque, “I have food to eat that you don’t know of,” says Yeshua, knowing full well that they are misunderstanding him: “Has anyone—even this person—given him to eat?”

He immediately enlightens them about the fact that eating to the Messiah means doing the will of the one whose messenger he is. He must finish the work of God. The work of God is Israel, all twelve sons of Israel. In what condition Israel, the eyeball of God, is moving, we will learn in the fifth chapter: Israel is a cripple, 5:5. But here it is about the time being ripe, “The harvest is coming”, they have to lift up their eyes. In the Scriptures, people lift up their eyes to the God of Israel, Psalms 121:1; 123:1. In the book of Jeremiah, it says, 16:14-15,

Therefore:
days are coming
—announcement of the NAME—,
when they don’t say:
“As the NAME lives,
who brought the children of Israel up
from the land of Egypt”,
rather,
“As true as the NAME lives,
who brought the children up from the north country {Babel},
from all countries (ˀaratzoth, chōrai),
into which he had chased them,
to let them return to the ground,
which he gave to our fathers.”

The disciples have to lift up their eyes, they have to see the countries of the world, all the chōrai, ˀaratzoth, into which Israel was chased away. These countries are ripe for the harvest, ripe for the return of the whole scattered Israel. This is the one reference. The other is the pilgrimage song, “When the NAME let return, return to Zion”, Psalm 126,

When the NAME let return, return to Zion,
it is like a dream for us,
yes, full of laughter our mouth,
full of rejoicing our tongue.
Yes, there will be said among the powerful nations,
“Great things the NAME has done to these.”
Great things he has done for us,
Joy has happened to us.
Let us, Eternal one, turn back,
like the watercourses in the Negev.
They sow in tears, rejoice at the harvest,
whoever went out crying, carried a burden of seed,
whoever comes, comes back rejoicing, brings in sheaves.

Such references are necessary to understand Yeshua’s political teaching. In John, Yeshua is the one who newly endows Israel, as in the Book of Jeremiah the return from Babel is to take the place of the liberation from Egypt. Such “new covenants” existed and exist again and again. In the pilgrimage song, the weeping is identical to the rejoicing. But not here.

Yeshua’s eating is the work that the God of Israel, the FATHER, has assigned to Yeshua, the “bringing together of Israel into one,” 11:52. John sees the work as a work of harvest. Harvest is the final action of the work of the year. This time has come, and those who do this work gather the fruits. Here John gives up the figurative speech and speaks of “fruit for life in the age to come.” The age to come is that world order where the whole of Israel can be with itself. Then John returns to his image: The one who harvests can only do his work if the one who sows has done his work. The whole is the result of the work of both, therefore their joy is a shared joy. Nevertheless, there is a difference between the one who sowed and the one who harvested, explicitly according to the prophet’s word, “You sow but you do not harvest,” Micah 6:5; those who will rejoice are not those who have wept, here: have toiled, as Joshua said to the children of Israel in his farewell discourse, Joshua 24:13-14,

I gave you a land for which you have not toiled (yagaˁtha, ekopiasate!),
cities that you have not build—you live in them!
Vineyards and olive groves that you have not planted—you eat of them!
And now: Have reverence for the NAME and serve him …

In the Book of Joshua, the difference is that the people have toiled who lived in the country before Israel. These are not meant in John. It can only be meant that the Messianic community (“you”) did not sow, did not create the conditions for the harvest, because “others have toiled,” have created the conditions for the harvest. Who are these others? They are the prophets of Israel, and in Yeshua, the Messianic movement also saw the last and definitive “prophet.” Here the circle of the narrative closes:
Yeshua sat at the well “having toiled from the stretch of way” (kekopiakōs), others “have toiled” (kekopiakasin). Yeshua sees himself in line with the prophets. One of them said, Isaiah 49:4,

But I said: “I have toiled in vain” (yagaˁthi, ekopiasa).
For chaos and fog, all my strength was used up.
But my right is in the NAME, my work is in my God.”

“Even though he had done such signs before them, they did not trust him,” says John as a summary (12:37), with an explicit reference to the Book of Isaiah. John also sees Yeshua as one of the great prophets of Israel and thus is in accordance with the other Gospels.

2.2.1.2 The Disciples’ Mission into the World Order to Overcome it

Since you miss such connections or consider them irrelevant, you do not even consider whether the mission of the disciples might be directed toward the gathering of Israel. Instead, you assume (27) a mission that turns away from the Jews to turn to the “world”—according to you, the Gentiles—and substantiate this by citing 17:17-18 where “Jesus prays that God sanctify the disciples, whom Jesus has sent into the world just as God has sent his Word into the world.” In fact, the question is what the Johannine Jesus means by this sending into the kosmos, indeed, what his request is supposed to mean (17:20-21), “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” In a general sense it is true that Jesus here “describes testimony—bringing others to faith through their word—as the essential task of the disciples,” but the question is what he specifically means by kosmos in his prayer.

For this, too, we have to elaborate further, we have to take seriously that this kosmos, which is mentioned 18 times in chapter 17 alone, in John’s Gospel, above all, means the Roman world order which the Messiah Jesus overcomes by his death on the cross and his ascension to the FATHER. I quote Ton Veerkamp’s translation of verses 17:15-21 and its interpretation: <70>

17:15 I do not ask you to take them out of the world order,
but to protect them from evil.
17:16 They are not from the world order,
just as I am not from the world order.
17:17 Sanctify them with your fidelity;
your word is fidelity.
17:18 As you sent me into the world order,
I sent them into the world order.
17:19 For on their behalf I am sanctifying myself,
so that they too may be sanctified through fidelity!
17:20 I am asking not only for these,
but also for those who are trusting me through their word,
17:21 that they all may become one:
as you, FATHER, are with me, and I with you,
so that they may be {one} with us,
so that the world may trust that you sent me.

No Messiah can wish that God takes away this community from the world order because the perspective and the alternative would be an otherworldly one. They would have liked it, and Rome liked it very much, this whole world of mysteries and religions, which promise people a little place in a little heaven. Although the whole thing was a bit too colorful for the conservative patricians of Rome, they did not fight the mystery world of the East, because it was not a serious opposition, but rather a stabilizing factor in the East, which was always inclined to rebellion. But from the disciples of “a certain Chrestos” danger can very well come, especially in the rebellious East of the Empire.

The hatred of Rome cannot be spared by any Messiah to these disciples, he cannot ask the FATHER for it. Temporarily the Messianic community lives under the conditions of the world order (en tō kosmō). In no case, the Messianic community is determined by the world order (ek tou kosmou). It shares, as said (15:18-19), with the Messiah the life in the world order, because the Messiah had been sent into this life. Such a life (under, but not determined by, the conditions of the world order) is a “holy life.” This is nothing new, but the endurance of a life that was given up to Israel, Leviticus 18:3 ff.,

As they do in the land of Egypt, where you dwelled, do not do;
as they do in the land of Canaan, where I brought you, do not do,
according to their laws, do not walk your way.
My law do,
My statutes keep,
to walk the way according to these.
I AM—the NAME, your God.

Here begins the second part of the Book of Leviticus, what the critical research called “holiness law,” “For holy am I, the NAME your God” (Leviticus 19:2; 20:26; 21:8) and, “Become saints” (19:2; 20:7; 21:6.8). “Sanctify them with fidelity” (hagiason autous en tē alētheia, haqdeshem ve-ˀemeth) thus has Leviticus 19:2 as its background. God is meqadishkem, the sanctifier of you, and the disciples are accordingly mequdashim ve-ˀemeth, “sanctified by fidelity.” The holiness of Israel here consists in the keeping of the Torah (Leviticus 18-25), by which Israel in the sixth century BCE departed from the normal ancient Near Eastern world of exploitation.

In John, too, the disciples take leave of the normality of the world order. The fidelity of the God of Israel “sanctifies” the group and takes them out of the world order, although they must remain under the world order. The world order no longer sets the norms and is no longer the normality for the group. The group’s response is to keep the Messiah’s speech: trust in the Messiah, solidarity among themselves.

This is a different model than what Israel seeks to realize with its Torah. Only a proper translation brings this fact to light. Psalm 119:160 says, rosh-devarkha ˀemeth, “The main thing of your speech is fidelity!” The conclusion that Rabbinical Judaism draws with Psalm 119:142 is quite different from John’s, “Your probation is proven agelong, and Your Torah is fidelity,” toratkha ˀemeth. To John, the Word (logos, davar) is the Word of God, and the Messiah Yeshua is now the Word. Therefore, Nestle-Aland’s reference is correct for 119:160, but not for 119:142. In John, “Word” just isn’t identical with “Torah.” It is, after all, “your Torah,” as he repeatedly says to the Judeans (8:17; 10:34; see 15:25).

The fidelity of the Word of God is the prerequisite for the mission of the Messiah and for the mission with which the Messiah commissions his disciples. Their mission in or under the world order is no other than that of the Messiah, and it will also have the same consequences. The fidelity of God “sanctifies” them, makes them people who do not live from the world order. This is not the new world religion, but it is the infinitely condensed Torah of an isolated sect under completely new conditions, the new commandment. <71>

Here John leaves the time level of the narrative and enters the time level of those who generations later will have to struggle with this and especially around this vision. For them, the Messiah desires that these all find themselves in that unity of Israel, which is the unity of the God of Israel with the Messiah of Israel. In the following sentences, we hear the word “one” or “unity” (hen) five times. John has the Messiah invoke the unity of the Messianic community precisely because it is internally torn, because it is tormented by the questions posed by Thomas, Philipp, Judas.

And then there is an almost unbelievable subordinate clause, “That the world order may trust that you have sent me.” After all that John has said, for example, about the inspiration of fidelity that the world order cannot accept, this cannot be true. Does the text here become contradictory in itself? Only if this world order gives itself up as this order in the process, coherence is maintained. Only if the world is no longer Roman world order, no longer considered the space of the pax Romana, but finds itself the living space, a world of people, which would be according to the fidelity of God to Israel, if it becomes the pax Messianica, then it can trust that the Messiah is the messenger of this God. This is also a biblical vision, Isaiah 66:18,

And I,
to take all nations, all language groups out of their doing, out of their planning,
I have come.
And they come, and they see my honor.

If the world order of all nations in the Roman Empire trusts the Messiah, it is “taken out of its doing and planning.” Then it is just no longer ruling world order, kosmos. This vision of Israel from the times of the so-called Tritojesaja, where Greece has already made itself felt as a factor (yawan, “Ionia”), makes this incredible subordinate clause understandable.

But this depends on the principle, “I with them, you with me, so that they have finally come to unity.” Only then, the world order will recognize what is the matter: God sent him and was in solidarity with the disciples because he was in solidarity with the Messiah. A world order recognizing that is then a completely different one. And that’s what this is about, that’s what Isaiah 66 was about. The goal of biblical politics is a different world order, one that can trust the Messiah because it would then have Messianic contours. Would have … irrealis! To achieve this, the real existing world order has to be subjected. It is already subjected, we will yet hear that in this prayer.

2.2.2 Two Dialogue Partners of the Messiah Jesus

In your eyes, the disciples are “the only major recurring characters in the Gospel, aside from Jesus himself,” though you overlook a differentiation, namely that several times besides the disciples or as a subgroup of them the brothers of Jesus are mentioned, namely as those who tend to Zealot-militant adventures in the struggle with the Roman world order. <72>

No less significant than the disciples and brothers of Jesus, however, are (27-28) “the encounters of individual characters with Jesus,” from which “a range of possible responses to Jesus” emerges and which “therefore illustrate the different ways (good and bad) that Alexandra might situate herself within John’s narrative.”

2.2.2.1 Nicodemus as a Representative of Rabbinic Judaism Ready for Dialogue

From the outset, you view the figure (28) of Nicodemus with similar ambivalence as that of Judas, who was with “the light” and yet betrayed him in darkness (13:30), because although he addresses Jesus (3:2) “as a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews” as a “teacher who has come from God,” he is associated with “night (darkness), secrecy, and death.” In fact, Nicodemus is viewed critically, but definitely not clearly on the side of the Roman diabolos like Judas. The word nyktos, “by night,” has to do with the background of the oppressive situation of life under the Roman world order, but here it points primarily to the secrecy of the encounter since Nicodemus is one of those Jews who dare not openly confess to him. I do not find an explicit association of death in the whole passage.

In terms of content, you address only the part of the conversation with Nicodemus that refers (3:3) to being begotten or born from above (gennan anōthen), which Nicodemus (3:4) initially takes “literally as an absurd statement” and still does not understand (3:5-9) when Jesus explains it to him in detail. You consider that “those who have heard or read the Prologue and the first two chapters will know that Jesus is talking not about ordinary existence but eternal life.” I realize that you—like most Christians since the 2nd century—think you have accurately captured the meaning of what Jesus means with such an interpretation.

But does it really correspond to the original purpose of the Johannine Jesus? If this should be the case, why does Jesus, besides talking about eternal life, also talk about water and inspiration, about flesh and wind, finally coming to the Son of Man and the serpent of Moses in the wilderness, to the Only Begotten Son and the trial of evil and foolish works? Only if you take seriously that the Messiah Jesus here is debating with a Jewish Rabbi ready for dialogue about the future of Israel under the Roman world order, you can understand what Jesus actually means by the expression zōē aiōnios, which you always translate as “eternal life”: <73>

{T}he fact that a human has to be “begotten from above” is required to be able to “see the Kingdom of God.” Apparently, Yeshua takes it that every child of Israel wants to “see the Kingdom of God.” The expression is odd. John was skeptical towards the talk of the “Kingdom of God” that is common in the other Gospels; therefore he otherwise avoids it altogether. What exactly at it he regarded as questionable, we won’t really grasp until Yeshua’s interrogation by Pilate.

Instead, he uses the expression “life in the age to come” (zōē aiōnios). In the dialogue with Nicodemos, he takes up a word that brings forward the longing of Israel. “To see the Kingdom” means: to be able to experience the breakthrough of the Kingdom of God in this world and against this world order. “Who is not anew begotten from above” will not experience this. This condition seems absurd to Nicodemos, he interprets the word anōthen as “a second time“, a meaning which the word has as well. Promptly, Yeshua clears up the misunderstanding. Only the Messianic groups coming from Yochanan the Baptist (water) and from Yeshua (inspiration) will “enter the Kingdom of God.” That means “from above.” “To see” means “to enter,” “Kingdom of God” means “life of the age to come.” John alters the general Jewish terminology; he names the same thing differently. He has to do so because the circumstances are different.

“To be begotten from water and inspiration” is the condition for “entering the Kingdom of God.” Water stands for the action of Yochanan—the “Baptist”—, and inspiration stands for the Messiah Yeshua, who immerses “in the inspiration of sanctification”, 1:29-34. Both the Messianic movement coming from Yochanan and the one that was deepened and intensified by Yeshua are the conditions for entering the Kingdom; only he is able to do the latter who draws his orientation and inspiration from these two humans. Nicodemos has not, by all means, to submit to the baptismal rite of the Messianic groups. The group around John apparently thought poorly of it, “Yeshua himself did not immerse,” he will say later, 4:2.

Now there is a sentence that must be misunderstood by us who became acquainted with a Gnostic-dualistic Christianity. “Flesh” is not “spirit” and vice versa, they are mutually exclusive. That’s how Greeks would talk to each other. But here, Judeans are talking to each other, and Judeans like Nicodemos, the rabbi, and John, the Messianist, have nothing to do with Gnosis and dualism.

“Flesh” is this concrete earthly existence, this life which under the actual circumstances of the world order is vulnerable and corruptible. Life “according to the flesh” is a conformist life, susceptible to corruption by the world order. Who is begotten “from the flesh” only can live “fleshly”; who is begotten like this, bred to adapt to the orders of the world according to the principle: so it was, so it is, so it will ever be. This human has no other choice but seeing to how to get through until death takes him.

Admittedly, the Rabbinic option was another one: compromise is not “adaptation,” compromise can have to do very much with “inspiration.” What John says here not only is insinuation. Compromise can—probably often—lead to adaptation as well. This discussion is eternal; it is the discussion between reform and compromise on the one hand and revolution on the other hand.

But the one who “sees” an alternative, i.e. who realizes that an alternative is necessary and possible, lives differently. What is meant is a life from Messianic inspiration, inspired by the Messiah Yeshua. Thus it is no wonder that a new life is beginning then, sort of “being begotten from above, anew.” The wordplay with inspiration (spirit) and wind/storm (both are present in the word pneuma, Hebrew ruach) shows that a human who is gripped by this inspiration can’t help allowing himself to be led to where this inspiration will bring him. The one who engages with this revolution does not know either with what he actually engages or where it will lead someday.

Nicodemos repeats his question: “How can this happen?” John can’t stop ventilating his anti-Rabbinism: “You want to be the (!) teacher (rabbi) of Israel, and you do not understand this?” Nicodemos’ question is justified. The disclosure “to be begotten from above” sounds full of promise, the justified question is what is the strategy of Yeshua or of the Messianism that acts in his Name? For nowhere a change of the way of the world order is to be seen.

At this point the contrast becomes clear. This Messianism has no answer to the questions of Rabbinical Judaism or of those who indeed trusted Yeshua (the pepisteukotes of 8:31), but cannot really believe in the victory over the Roman Empire and his principal (16:33). The one who demands a policy of compromise and tries to reason it with others—the teacher of Israel!—leads astray the people, so John, and serves the cause of Rome, the satan, the diabolos (8:44).

This Messianism is not able to see how Judaism will change anything with its strategy of negotiating open spaces for a life according to the Torah and thus keeping open the own history and the history of mankind. The Rabbinic answer would be: because Judaism knows that its God, the NAME, is ˀadon ha-ˁolam, Lord of the ages and Lord of each world order, that the great powers come and go, but the word and the vision are staying if one holds out. The strategy of Rabbinical Judaism is hypomonē, thiqwe, holding out, at all events, just the “Principle of Hope.”

Messianism does not want to live differently under the circumstances of the actual word order like the teachers of Israel, the rabbis, want to; it wants a different world order—at once and on the spot. But what if the world order not only decides the extinction of Israel but sets it about? Here all questions fall silent because we know what happened and still may happen. “Fertile is the womb from which that crawled,” Bertolt Brecht. Here at the latest, the faith in an almighty God who could if he only wanted to is insipid. Now as before—exactly after Auschwitz—the radically different world order is on the agenda. No, it is no scholarship of theologians what is negotiated between these two of them.

At this point, I break off the quotation; I have already dealt with the part of the further argumentation referring to the Son of Man and the serpent above. <74>

Rightly you state (28) that as an effect of Jesus’ words on Nicodemus “John does not describe a dramatic transformation. Nevertheless, he retains a positive stance toward Jesus,” which is especially evident in the fact that after Jesus’ death he (19:39), “along with Joseph of Arimathea, prepares Jesus’ body for burial.”

Nicodemus is portrayed positively one more time when he opposes the priests and Pharisees in 7:50-51 who pass judgment without first hearing the accused and finding out what he has done, where you (29) relate this defense to Jesus, while Ton Veer­kamp argues that Nicodemus questions the cursing of the crowd, the ochlos, in 7:49: <75>

The crowd has an advocate in this panel. In fact, Nikodemos says nothing other than what the Torah requires: the accused must be heard and his actions weighed up before he is convicted. Who is the condemned one? Yeshua? Hardly. Yeshua was to be tried, to be heard, and then condemned. But here the judgment is spoken, “Cursed.” It is Israel, that is condemned by Israel.

It is precisely in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, who as a Rabbi is ready to engage in dialogue, that the diametrical contrast between Jewish-Messianic-political and the later Greek-Christian-spiritualized interpretation of John’s Gospel becomes clear. According to the latter, which you hold to be the only correct one (29), Nicodemus “refrains from entering into the full faith that would lead to transformation and eternal life.”

2.2.2.2 The Samaritan Woman as a Representative of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel

Also (29), “the Samaritan woman represents a broader group in which she may have some authority.” However, you do not give any further thought to what group this is. Though you certainly recall “those biblical scenes in which boy meets girl at a well—Abraham’s servant meets Isaac’s future wife Rebekah (Genesis 24:15-24), Jacob meets his future wife Rachel (Genesis 29:9-12), and Moses meets his future wife Zipporah (Exodus 2:16-22),” you attach no further significance to these connections since in “this story, Jesus is not meeting his future wife.”

Do you agree with the vast majority of mostly male John exegetes who can only judge Jesus’ knowledge “that the Samaritan woman has had five husbands and is currently living with a man to whom she is not married (John 4:18)” as the moral depravity of this woman? Ton Veerkamp gives a convincing explanation for Jesus’ provocative request to the Samaritan woman to fetch her husband after their conversation has reached an impasse: <76>

Yeshua is trying to make a breakthrough, now he wants to do some straight talking, politically, “Go and fetch your husband!” We are dealing with a daughter of Jacob and not with the dirty exegete’s fantasy about a slut and her “enormous wastage of men.” <77> She talks about “Jacob, our father.” What kind of husband has the daughter of Jacob? Which husband has the daughter of Zion—Lamentations 2:1 etc.? In other words: What rulers, what gods have the two peoples had?

Under the prevailing conditions between the two peoples, the woman at Jacob’s well can only take the invitation as an insult: Therefore, knotty timber requires sharp wedges, “I have no husband.” Yeshua is enthusiastic, “Right (kalōs, ‘well’) you say that.” This is not sarcasm, not bitterness. “You had five husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. In what you said, there is something trustworthy.” We must read extremely carefully. Touto alēthes (noun) eirēkas. A few handwritings have changed this and write the adverb alēthōs. No, it literally says, “This trustworthy thing you have said,” because the word alētheia does not mean “truth” but “faithfulness, fidelity,” ˀemeth. That this is about the central political point can hardly be doubted. These five husbands have had to do with the political situation of Samaria. Marriage is a symbol of the relationship between the God of Israel and the people. But it is the symbol of the tyranny of the king as well:

Listen, daughter, and look, incline your ear,
forget your people and the house of your father.
Does a king desire your beauty
because he is your lord—bow down to him (Psalm 45:11-12).

“Husbands” in John 4 are not any individual spouses, but baˁalim, rulers, kings, to whom the people of Samaria had to bow, the kings of Assyria and Babylon, the kings of Persia and the Greeks from the south (Egypt) and the north (Syria), the kings of Judah, their orders, their gods. The woman says, “I have no husband,” and that means, “I do not recognize the de facto rule to which we are to submit. I do not forget my people, nor my father’s house! I have no husband (ˀish), I have only a lord and owner (baˁal).” John argues on the line of the prophet Hoshea:

It will happen on that day, proclamation of the NAME.
You will call: “ˀishi, my husband,”
you will no longer call: “baˁali, my lord and owner.”

The five “husbands” the people ever had were baˁalim. The disastrous history of this people under the five baˁalim turns the Torah of Samaria into a kind of counter-Torah, all political organization of the society of Samaria was the opposite of a society structured by the Torah. The whole thing has now come down to the rule of the one who is “no husband,” the rule of Rome; there is no longer any Torah possible, neither for the Judeans nor for the Samaritans, as we will hear. In fact, she is forced to invoke a reign to which he, Yeshua, has declared war, and which, as the recent history of her people shows, she rejects. “No,” he says, “this is not your husband, at best your owner.” On the basis of the common rejection of Roman rule, the Roman baˁal, political understanding between the two peoples is possible. Therefore Yeshua praises the woman’s sentence, “I have no husband.”

Yeshua’s word is a commitment to a woman who realistically recognizes her political situation. Here, there is actually a platform for a conversation, a political one, to be precise. The commitment of people to the Messiah begins with the commitment of the Messiah to people. “I have no husband” is the relentless insight into the pitiful political situation of her people. It arouses in the commentators the appearance of shamefacedly admitting some guilt, of wanting to give in. Nothing is further from the truth than such confessor exegesis.

In his note 163, Veerkamp adds explanatively:

We note two things. First, in a small oriental town like Sychar, it cannot be hidden how the woman lives; a “wild marriage” {as formerly was said in German for living together without being married,} was simply impossible there. She is a respected personality in her village. No, bigoted Christian moral concepts led and lead the commentators astray.

If, on the other hand, one takes seriously the fact that the woman confronts Jesus neither as a morally questionable person nor as his future bride, but actually as the representative of two stalwart matriarchs of Israel, then it becomes clear what a difficult dialogue is in store: Here Jesus is the representative of the Jews, more precisely of the Judeans, who emerged from the Israelite Southern kingdom of Judah, and opposite to him stands the woman as the representative of the ten lost tribes of Israel, which had once formed the Israelite Northern kingdom until its destruction by the Assyrians. Part of the history of the two nations is Mount Gerizim, mentioned in their conversation, on which stood the sanctuary that the Judean prince John Hyrkan had destroyed two centuries ago.

In my eyes, it is no coincidence that Jesus, of all things, at the end of the conversation with the woman, for the first time in John’s Gospel pronounces the self-disclosure of the NAME of the God of Israel (Exodus 3:14): egō eimi, ho lalōn soi, “I AM HE—the one speaking to you.” To this, Ton Veerkamp writes: <78>

This peace and liberation conversation of the Messiah with the woman at Jacob’s well is the “way of God’s being” in Israel, and right now. To the person to whom these words have fundamental meaning, a new life begins. … At the moment when Yeshua removes the blockade, Judeans do not associate with Samaritans, but they beat each other to death, the NAME is happening as it was revealed in Exodus 3:14, I will be there as I will be there. The NAME is happening in speaking, in this political conversation, where a way out becomes visible that has never been there before.

You, in contrast, are not concerned with the issues of Israel’s liberation or of peace between Judeans and Samaritans but interpret (29) Jesus’ offer of living water to the Samaritan woman exclusively in a spiritualized, other-worldly sense, namely, as “a life-changing offer” on the basis of which “she has no more need to draw water from the well on a daily basis.” That “she leaves her water jug behind when she goes to testify to her fellow Samaritans” proves in your eyes that she is more convinced than Nicodemus to accept the offer of eternal life through Jesus. Your conclusion concerning the mentioned main characters of John’s gospel:

The introduction of the disciples, Nicodemus, and the Samaritan, acquaint the audience with the concepts of faith and rebirth that will help them understand the rest of the story. The stories would prod Alexandra to identify with the Samaritan woman rather than Nicodemus, while still leaving the door open to those who cannot yet fully take the step of believing and testifying to others.

2.2.3 Three People Healed and One Raised from the Dead—What Role Do They Play?

Whether it is justified (29) to call the people affected by healings in John’s Gospel “minor characters,” I leave undecided.

2.2.3.1 The Nobleman’s Son—the Other Sign at Cana

In view of (30) the healing of the nobleman’s son, you emphasize the way Jesus fulfills wishes:

Although the father is not promised that his son will live forever, Jesus’s actions prevent the death of his son, thereby fulfilling the father’s immediate desire. The story supports the Gospel’s rhetorical claim concerning the close connection between faith and life, and conveys the message that, like the nobleman, hearers who turn to Jesus will have their desires fulfilled, though not necessarily in the ways that they might expect. It also illustrates two points that can be important to the post-Easter audience: Jesus can fulfill human desires even if not physically present in the world; and it is not necessary to see with one’s own eyes in order to believe.

No importance do you attach to the place of Jesus’ second sign, namely—exactly like the first sign of the Messianic wedding—in Cana. Ton Veerkamp is convinced that this is significant: <79>

The first stretch of way led Yeshua to Cana in Galilee, 1:43 ff. Then the way leads a second time—via Jerusalem, the land of Judea, the Jordan, and via Samaria—back to Cana, Galilee. There, the other sign happens. Yeshua’s entire life journey, from Galilee (1:43) to Galilee (21:1 ff.), is concentrated in this passage 2:1 to 4:54. These are the ways to the first and the second sign at Cana. A third time the way will lead from the land of Judea to Galilee, 5:1-7:1. Finally, we find Yeshua in Galilee; 21:1 ff. does not, however, tell the last walk of Yeshua from Jerusalem to Galilee: he is or is happening in Galilee, as “the Lord” (21:7). All signs that are happening in Israel—Judea, Jerusalem, and Galilee—can and must be traced back to the two signs 2:1 ff. and 4:46 ff. With these two signs, the Messianic wedding and the revival of the son, the foundation for the things to come is laid. Here—and thus—the Messiah was “revealed, made manifest.”

2.2.3.2 After 38 Years of Paralysis—the Healing of Israel that is Incapable of Acting

Regarding the (30) man who is healed by Jesus after 38 years of paralysis, you note that the “chronic nature of his plight, as well as his frustration, may contribute to Alexandra’s empathy, though perhaps less poignantly than the desperate father of 4:46-53.” You do not consider whether the number 38 might have symbolic significance. Yet, as Ton Veerkamp points out, there is a clear background for this number of years in the Jewish Scriptures: <80>

The person in question was an invalid for thirty-eight years. Moshe had sent out scouts on his way to the land. After their return, they advised the people not to go further there, because the conditions in the country would not allow them to move in and live according to the Torah there, “Giants we have seen there,” Deuteronomy 1:28. The whole project had been foul from the beginning, “Out of hatred, the NAME has led us away from the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites and to destroy us,” Deuteronomy 1:27. The result: defeat and stagnation in the truest sense of the word, for thirty-eight years Israel will go round in circles. Then the turning point comes, Deuteronomy 2:1-3, 13-14,

Then we turned away, moved into the wilderness, on the way to the Reed Sea,
as the NAME spoke to me {Moshe}.
And we walked in circles around the mountain Seïr for many days.
The NAME spoke to me,
“It is enough for you to walk in circles around this mountain,
turn north.

Now get up, you shall cross the brook Zered {border river}.”
We crossed the brook Zered.
The days we went from Kadesh-Barnea
until we crossed the brook Zered:
Thirty-eight years,
until the entire generation of war-capable men had died away
from the midst of the camp,
as the NAME had sworn to you.

Certainly, John with that number thirty-eight reminds us of the story of overcoming the paralysis of Israel. “Yeshua realized that the time had been long enough.” He acts here in the same power as the NAME said to Israel, “Enough (rav) it is for you to go in circles”—just “after the many days (yamim rabim, hēmeras pollas).” The man wants to, but cannot, “Others go down into the water before me,” he could not be the first—precondition for healing—to go down into the water stirred up by the healing angel. Israel cannot free itself from this paralysis.

In Deuteronomy, the initiative starts from the mobilizing word: “… It is enough for you to circle around this mountain; turn north. Now get up!” The word there created an Israel capable of action; now, according to John, the Human who embodies the word (1:14) creates a new, Messianic Israel capable of action. Yeshua recognized that “the time was long enough” and said, “Get up, take away your pallet and walk your way.” I do not understand why most commentators refuse to see this parallel. At the moment they do not read politically, the difference becomes inexplicable and the connection is lost. In Deuteronomy, Israel’s capability to act presupposes a political situation—a short period in the slipstream of great politics or the politics of the great powers. According to John, the rule of the Flavian emperors leaves no political slipstream anywhere in the Orient. Any insistence on the possibility of being able to live in this Roman Empire according to the Torah of Moshe is illusory and leads the people astray (hamartia, “sin”). This is a principal moment in the political thought of John. The incapability to act, the political paralysis, must be made visible, especially in comparison with Deuteronomy; the number thirty-eight stands for Israel’s political incapability to act. Only Messianism, or better, the Messiah, redeems Israel from its political paralysis. The refusal to get involved with the Messiah is transfiguration and perpetuation of the paralysis—contends John.

The human got up, took away his pallet, and walked his way, thus becoming the trigger of a conflict that makes visible the political difference between the Judeans and Yeshua (John).

You need not share such a political interpretation of John’s Gospel. And even if you think it is possible, you can still hold John’s political assessment to be questionable. But shouldn’t you at least consider whether such an interpretation might be appropriate, and offer counterarguments if you are not convinced?

Your own view of the healing miracles is on the level of the everyday experience of sickness, suffering, and death and the desires directed toward overcoming them (30):

These episodes provide graphic illustration of Jesus’s statement to the disciples that “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it” (14:13-14). We may imagine that these stories could provide Alexandra with the hope that she too will find her deepest desires fulfilled through faith, despite Jesus’s absence from the physical world.

My experience is that at the time when I was still reading John’s Gospel as a document of faith in Jesus, without whom access to God is impossible, I nevertheless already had difficulties with the miracle stories. And in this context also with Jesus’ call to prayer, which you quoted. Since hardly any prayer in the name of Jesus literally leads to the death of a loved one being averted or to the healing of a disability that has lasted for years, even if I believe in Jesus in this way, in the end, I have to interpret the miracle symbolically—and this is what you are doing, since, in your eyes, all hopes placed in Jesus in John’s Gospel ultimately amount to eternal life in heaven.

The question is whether—according to 14:13-14—Jesus can be regarded as a guarantor of personal wish fulfillment. Ton Veerkamp decisively contradicts such an interpretation: <81>

Instantly, it seems, sentences appear which refer to the prayer of the community. But the question is whether it is about “prayer.” For “prayer” the Scriptures have another word, hithpalel or proseuchesthai. If Yeshua addresses the God of Israel (FATHER), then John uses a different word than if the disciples (should) do so. The Messiah “asks” (erōtan) for another “advocate,” that is, he will “request” him. The disciples “ask for” (aitein), and the utterance of this plea occurs in regard to the keeping of the commandments, here and in 15:7 and 15:16. This is not about rewards that the disciples would have earned by keeping the words or commandments of the Messiah. Rather, the point is that they then ask for exactly what meets the commandment of solidarity and the being with the Messiah. But this proves to be extremely problematic and is discussed in detail in the passage 16:23-28.

2.2.3.3 The Healing of the Man Born Blind on the Sabbath and the Fence Around the Torah

Regarding the healing of the man (30) “who has been blind from birth,” you note “a more detailed illustration of the connection between faith and transformation.” When he himself confronts “the Jewish authorities” (9:27-33), it is clear in your eyes (31) that the man has gained not only “physical sight,” but also

spiritual insight: an understanding that Jesus is the source of his own transformation. In the aftermath of the man’s confrontation with the Jewish authorities, Jesus reveals his identity and receives his confession of faith (9:36-38).

More than either the nobleman or disabled man, the man born blind provides a model for identification. The man has a condition which Jesus remedies; he credits Jesus with the remedy; and most importantly, he understands the broader implications of what he has just experienced.

But again, the question is whether John was originally concerned with spiritual insight as you understand it. Especially if you relate it as follows to an implied hearer like Alexandra:

The same might be said of Alexandra and other members of the Gospel’s implied audience: they have a condition—mortality—which needs a remedy. Jesus provides that remedy and, with the help of the Gospel, they understand its true meaning and divine source. Whereas the man born blind first experienced the remedy and then believed and worshipped, Alexandra and company must first believe in order to experience the remedy. But the point is the same: the need to understand and experience Jesus for who he really is—the Messiah, the Son of God sent by the Father to save the world (3:16).

Basically, in such an interpretation, everything that is said of Jesus and his healing deeds is smoothed over in a spiritual-otherworldly way. Precisely whom Jesus heals under what circumstances and with what titles he is referred to remains indifferent. Everywhere, all that matters to you is the extent to which someone gains the firm belief that Jesus alone can provide him or her with eternal life in heaven.

But what if John is really concerned, as Ton Veerkamp thinks, with a political dispute between Jewish Messianists trusting in Jesus and Rabbinic Judaism? Then you would have to take much more seriously what is at stake when Jesus performs a healing on the Sabbath—and for both sides: <82>

Let us note that the Perushim are authorized to conduct a legal proceeding. This speaks for a phase in which the synagogue is recognized by the Romans as a competent self-governing body of the Jewish people. This organ, therefore, has a certain power over people. The parents of the man born blind “feared the Judeans.”

The juxtaposition of Judeans and Perushim shows that the Perushim act and speak for the whole people of the Judeans. Since the great rabbis undoubtedly come from the tradition of the Perushim, and since they were in fact at least regionally accepted by the Romans, the conflict is a conflict between the synagogue and the Messianic community, a conflict from which the parents would like to keep out as much as possible. They let their adult son speak for himself and take no responsibility for him.

The fear of being turned into aposynagogoi by the synagogal authorities, that is, of being excluded, is real. The self-governing bodies also have a duty of care for the people. If they exclude people, the latter lose the right to political and social protection. We will deal with this in the discussion of 16:2.

After the healed man had to answer the same questions again and again, he had the impudence to ask the Perushim whether they wouldn’t like to become disciples of Yeshua as well. They reply harshly that they are disciples of Moshe: Moshe is our teacher, Moshe rabbenu, only he, no one else. In this word the self-confidence of the great rabbis is shown, and the same self-confidence is shown by the answer of the Perushim to the healed one, “You are a disciple of this one, we are disciples of Moshe.” To the Perushim this is an irreconcilable contrast. To Moshe God spoke, on Sinai, and entrusted him with the Torah, but where does this Yeshua come from?

In their eyes, by healing on Shabbat, Yeshua tears down the fence around the Torah. The “men of the great assembly” gave their followers the advice, “Be perfect in judgment, let many disciples stand up, and make a fence around the Torah” (Mishna Avot 1:1). Whoever acts like Yeshua is going the wrong way, he is an errant—“sinner”—in our traditional translations. Whoever tears down the fence gives away the whole, and that would be the end of the whole people of Israel.

To the man born blind, the world has become a different one. He says, “One thing I know: I was blind, and all at once I see.” Everything else does not interest him. Whether Yeshua goes astray or he was healed on Shabbat: he does not care. Exactly this attitude is a provocation to the Perushim, that is why they must react like this. The narrative is composed in such a way that all the sympathy of the readers is for the blind man, all their antipathy is for the Perushim. But we must see the other side as well. If the fence around the Torah is torn down, it is all over with Israel, which the rabbis want to preserve.

After the destruction of the great synagogue in Alexandria in the so-called Diaspora War 115-117, after the annihilation of the assimilationist and self-confident Jewry of Alexandria, there was no other Jewish option than that of Rabbinical Judaism. To “fence around the Torah” means to preserve Israel’s view of a society of autonomy and equality within the world of nations. Of course, the fence was also a defensive measure, defense, however, creates alienation.

The Perushim pronounce the contradiction straightforwardly: Whoever is a disciple of Moshe cannot be a disciple of Yeshua; whoever is a disciple of Yeshua cannot be a disciple of Moshe. To the Perushim, a man who is completely indifferent to the Shabbat and the whole Rabbinical “concept of sin” is a great political danger, “They threw him out.” Reason: “You are a complete misbirth and you want to teach us?” The disciples had asked, “Who was wrong, he or his parents, to be born blind?” This recalls their sentence of 7:49, “But these people who do not know the Torah shall be cursed.” Teachings of such people as the man born blind were not accepted, because the Perushim had the authority to teach. These practically decide who “belongs” and who does not. Before John deals with this question, it must be clarified who is acting in this act of healing and what is actually happening here.

I quote Veerkamp at such length because he identifies the burning political issues that are actually at stake at the end of the 1st century between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews. In the field of tension just described, John is concerned with differently accentuated problematic situations in his encounters with various people, as Ton Veerkamp sets out in his interpretation of 9:35 and the verses that follow: <83>

Yeshua finds the one who has been excluded, as he finds the healed paralytic in 5:14. But there are great differences. The paralyzed man is questioned, but only when he knows that it was Yeshua who had healed him does he go to the authorities, here called Judeans, 5:15. Immediately afterward, we hear for the first time that the Judeans are persecuting Yeshua, 5:16. Yeshua had told the paralyzed man not to go astray any more so that nothing worse might happen to him.

Nothing of this sort is said to the blind man. Instead, he is asked a question, “Do you trust the bar enosh, the Human?” The latter had taken Yeshua for a prophet, that is, for a man who had important things to say and do in Israel (9:17). He knows nothing about a “Son of Man”; “Who is he?” Here Yeshua conspicuously avoids the egō eimi. “You have seen him,” it says. And then, “He is that one (ekeinos) speaking with you.” Let us remember the Samaritan woman who had said that—when the Messiah (ekeinos) came—he would announce everything. Yeshua had answered, “I AM HE—who is speaking to you.” The Samaritan keeps her distance, she does not bow to him. Here Yeshua maintains the distance, “That one he is.” It is left to the healed one to remove the distance. He does it by saying, “I am trusting, Lord.” He bows before him.

John wants his listeners to listen carefully and notice the differences between the Samaritan, the paralyzed, and the blind. All are in some way excluded. The Samaritan finds illusory support in her ethnic identity; she does not have to bow to Yeshua the Judean. The paralytic seeks refuge with Rabbinical Judaism. The blind man has lost his Jewish identity through his exclusion, but excluded are they all. The Messiah finds these excluded ones.

Then Yeshua goes into the basics. To Rabbinical Judaism he says, “Do you not see what you are doing with your politics? You drive the people out. You cripple Israel.” And now he takes the judicial authority of the one whom Daniel has called bar enosh, the Human. He, who constantly said that he had not come to judge, passes judgment, “Those who do not see might see, and those who see become blind.” This is a political, not a moral judgment.

The Perushim understand what is said here, “Are we too blind?” Yeshua replies: If you would admit that you do not know how to go on either, you would be open to a new perspective. Precisely because you think your policy is the only right one, because you think you are the only ones who have the insight, it remains a policy that leads astray, “Your aberration remains!” And this is what Yeshua will explain in detail subsequently.

At this point, John’s Gospel continues with the chapter of the Good Shepherd. But this shall not be discussed now; you are dealing here with the last and most sensational sign of Jesus—the raising of Lazarus.

2.2.3.4 The Raising of Lazarus as the Representative of Israel in its Mortal State

The (31) raising of Lazarus you see as the “most spectacular healing story” of the Gospel, which “models a stance of profound and fully developed faith.” But why, if Lazarus is described as a close friend of Jesus, he “himself does not utter a word in this Gospel,” and not a single deed of his is presented after his raising? No expression of gratitude, no discipleship, nothing.

Above, Miriam has already explained in section 1.1.1 that we only understand the sign performed on Lazarus for the honor of the God of Israel if we recognize that he represents Israel—Israel in the state of death, of decay, by being delivered to the oppressive rule of the Roman world empire and to the machinations of the own priestly leadership cooperating with Rome.

You, on the other hand (32), place the emphasis in this story on the fact that the “lives of all three siblings are transformed by their brother’s resurrection.” But precisely this is not expressed at all in the narrative itself. Of Lazarus, except that Jesus says about him (11:44), “Untie him and let him go,” no reaction is reported. Mary expresses her grief for her brother within the passage, and the only phrase (11:32, see 11:21) she repeats is the reproach expressed by Martha at the beginning: “LORD, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And though Martha’s discussion with the Messiah about trust in the resurrection does amount (11:27) to her confession of trust in the Messiah, <84> this does not prevent her from expressing her skepticism in clear terms (11:39).

It seems more appropriate to me, therefore, to take the text itself seriously precisely in that it deals with the desperate questions related to Israel’s fate after the catastrophe of 70 CE. Ton Veerkamp, starting from the sarcastic remark of Martha, points out the many allusions of the text that illuminate the raising of Lazarus from the Jewish scriptures in its true depth: <85>

“Lord,” she says, “he is already stinking, it’s the fourth day.” That is, “He is dead and more than dead. He is not accomplished, but perished!” The stench of decay is more than one reason for her skepticism. One can take leave of the living, of the dead perhaps, but not of those who are stinking and are more than dead. One buries them and leaves them to the tranquility of decay. If Lazaros is Israel, and everything suggests that it is, Martha says, “Everything is over and more than over.” To some, and even more so to the Messianists, the destruction of the sanctuary and city was the final end of Israel, especially as it dates back a generation if we assume a common dating of the Gospel of John around 100 CE. If this is so, the Grand Narrative of Israel will no longer help. Skepticism and confession, 11:39 and 11:27, are not mutually exclusive. “He who trusts will see the honor of God.” But how? But when? But where? Despair was nothing new in the history of this people. At a similar moment, a prophet had said the following shocking words, Isaiah 26:18-19,

Pregnant we were, writhing,
and when we gave birth, it was wind.
No liberation was done to the land,
By no means the inhabitants of the world did fall.
May my dead live,
may my corpses rise,
may they awake, rejoice, those who dwell in the dust.
That dew of the lights dew you,
the land of the ghostly falls apart.

Some in Israel never wanted to admit that it was all over. One of them was the prophet Isaiah, one of them was Yeshua. He lifts up his eyes—as in 17:1. It is the attitude of the praying and hoping of Israel, “To YOU I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1), “to the mountains I lift up my eyes” (Psalm 121:1), etc. He gives thanks, as he thanked when he fed Israel, 6:11. In John, the word is not a technical term of the church communion but precedes the decisive signs for the erection of Israel. He says, “I thank you that you listen to me. But I know that you always listen to me.” In the psalms, Israel calls again and again, “God, listen to my voice,” Psalm 130:2 and the like. The Messiah of Israel is praying Israel, and praying Israel is heard:

And Elijah the prophet approached, he said,
“YOU, God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel,
today may be recognized,
that you are God in Israel, and I am your servant,
and that I do all these words according to your word.
Answer me, Adonai, answer me,
that they, this people, may recognize,
that you are the God,
that you changed their heart back.”

This prayer of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:36-37 is related to the prayer of Yeshua. In both cases, the situation was hopeless, 1 Kings 19:10,

“I have been zealous, zealous for YOU, God of hosts,
those of Israel have left the covenant,
they have ravaged your slaughter-site and killed your prophets with the sword.
I alone am left,
they seek to take away my soul.”

The “retransformation of the heart of Israel” is the revival of the dead Lazaros. In the case of Elijah, the people is “to recognize,” here it is “to trust.” The people shall recognize by the life-giving rain after three years of famine, the people shall trust in a new life after years of devastation. Therefore, Yeshua says what is really necessary: that there is a God and his fidelity (alētheia) in Israel. Therefore Lazaros must live. From the Tanakh, this passage shows that there is no hocus-pocus of an incantation of the dead, but that death in Israel must not be the last word, Ezekiel 37:1 ff.,

The Hand of the NAME happened above me.
He led me, inspired by the NAME,
he set me down in the middle of a plain, full of bones.
He drove me around and around them,
there, many, very many were on the plain,
there, withered they were, very.
He spoke to me,
“Human child, shall these bones live again?”
I said, “My Lord, YOU, you know it.”

We can only understand the narrative of the revival of Lazaros if we read it from these texts. Yeshua cries it out with a “great voice,” phōnē megalē, qol gadol. In the Synoptics, Yeshua cries with this “great voice” at the moment before his death. Here his “great voice” resounds at the grave of Israel. He screams, he roars. This is not a sign of calm certainty of God, this is an angry command.

The deceased came out, but as a wrapped corpse, hands and feet bandaged, the face covered. This may no longer be a dead man, but it is far from being a living one. Hence the order, “Untie him (lysate) and let him go.” Not until this order is carried out, the dead will become living. We also hear the verb lyein, “to untie, to loosen, to make free,” in the psalm of a humiliated, despondent man who pours out his lamentation to the NAME. We hear (Psalm 102:19-22),

It is written for a later generation:
that a people to be created may praise the NAME,
that he looks down from the height, the NAME,
looks down from his heaven to the earth,
to hear the groaning of the bound,
to set free (lysai) the sons of death,
that they tell HIS name in Zion,
his praise in Jerusalem,
that the nations may gather together,
the kingdoms serve the NAME.

If you listen to the last passage of the story of Lazaros’ revival together with this psalm, you know what this is all about. Rome is the entirety of the peoples who went out united to destroy Jerusalem (Gog of Magog, Ezekiel 38-39). This is their present situation. The revival of Lazaros is exactly the opposite. It is the hope of John and with him of Israel. And the mission of the Messianic community is to “untie” the no longer dead and not yet living Israel, to release it from the bond of death. The Messianic community is pointed out to humankind (Matthew 28:19) to do to it what it should do to the no longer dead and not yet living Lazaros, “to loosen” it.

How poor and banal, measured against these contexts, appears the later Christian interpretation of the raising of Lazarus if it is referred in general terms, as you do (31), to the fact that the

raising of Lazarus enacts the promise of John’s rhetoric: that those who have faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God will overcome death. Whether Lazarus lived forever is not stated. Certainly those who aimed to kill him (12:10) assumed that he remained subject to the laws of mortality. But in emerging from the tomb, he demonstrated that love of Jesus loosens the bonds of death.

Do you seriously consider John could have meant that Lazarus would live eternally on this earth as a resurrected person? Wouldn’t you assume that John, as a Jew, might not already believe, as indeed (11:24) Martha expresses, according to Daniel 12:2, in the Son of Man and in the raising of the righteous at the end of days? No, John is not concerned with the fact that there is a resurrection only through Jesus, and certainly not with the hope of an afterlife in heaven.

But then what about the famous sentence 11:25 that Jesus says to Martha? <86>

Now resounds, “I AM—the resurrection and the life,” words that have been said countless times at the graves of Christians, sometimes giving comfort, very often not. We are like Martha.

Yeshua added, “He who trusts in me will live even if he dies, and he who lives and trusts me will not die for the age to come.” What does this mean? John knows that people will die. But they die knowing that the Day of Decision has come and that things will be made right! Inside? Spiritually? In the hereafter? This is not about life after death. It is about life in spite of death, the omnipresent death, in spite of the omnipotence of the deadly power of Rome.

If anywhere, the Gospel of John has had a resounding effect here. The sentences of 11,25-26 are generally understood as confirmation for the continued life of the individual person after death.

But Lazaros is not only an individual personality. A revival from individual death does not help him, he would have to die again. There is no statement, no narrated deed of Lazaros. He has no personality in the narrative—on purpose. This is not due to a lack of narrative talent. The woman from Sychar, the man born blind, also Nicodemos, also Thomas Didymos: they all have personality. Lazaros’ personality is completely absorbed in the function it has in the narrative: to represent the deadly condition of Israel. Whoever trusts the Messiah—as a child of the people—will die just as little as the people. If Israel remains, the name of each child of Israel remains.

What happens to me as an individual when I die? To this question, Johannes gives no answer at least here. If you had been there, Lazaros would not have died: This is not a question, but an accusation. Yeshua replies, I AM, I WILL BE THERE (egō eimi), Lazaros is alive, even if his body is decaying.

A woman like Alexandra has no more access to this way of interpreting the figure of Lazarus. In this respect you are right (32) in formulating her possibilities of decision in view of this story very generally:

She faces the same choice put before the Jewish crowd: to believe or to turn their backs. She also vicariously rides Mary and Martha’s emotional roller coaster, an experience that might well have increased her desire to imitate Martha’s confession of faith.

But I repeat: This confession of faith in Jesus as the one who alone overcomes death, which has become the standard in Christianity, has little to do with John’s original concern, namely to seek ways of maintaining hope in the dawn of the age of liberation and justice that is to come, despite the catastrophe of the year 70.

2.2.4 Narrative Flow and Structure of John’s Gospel

In your brief sketch (32-33) of the narrative flow in John’s Gospel, I cannot retrieve anything of the “ever-deepening sense of engagement and character identification,” which you discover in the “order in which characters are presented.” In a note, you cite Robin Griffith-Jones, <87> who

states that hearing the Gospel drew the hearer progressively deeper and deeper into the experience of transformative rebirth {282}. … By the time the narrative reaches John 11, the raising of Lazarus, “the listeners were to be ready to hear the voice of the Son of God, and so to be born again from above. … {T}he story of the raising of Lazarus was designed to realise the rising of the listeners from the dead.” {296-97}. Griffith-Jones argues that this hearing took place in a ritualized, liturgical context and that the Gospel was written for catechumens who were neophytes in a religious community.

Of course, I can imagine that a suitably attuned audience might have heard and understood the Gospel in this way. But why, if John had originally had such an intention and audience, would he not have formulated his Gospel in a much more stringent way, without all the difficult-to-understand allusions to the Jewish Scriptures?

Much more appropriate to the text is the outline that Ton Veerkamp traces in John’s Gospel when reading it Messianic-politically. After the prologue, the first large part, 1:19-4:54, <88>

is about the manifest Messiah, i.e. about the Messiah who developed his program in all openness through signs and through words. In the Scriptures, both together are called devarim, word deeds or deed words, in Greek logoi. These signs and words constitute a Messianic movement in Israel, and the supporter of this movement is the Messianic group or community. So this first part deals with the Messiah and his community.

The second large part—5:1 to 12:50—will be about the decay of the Messianic community, according to which the Messiah has to hide from his adversaries.

The third part—13:1 to 20:31—tells about the farewell of the Messiah and the isolation of the community in a room with “locked doors.”

A fourth part—chapter 21—describes the process of overcoming the community’s isolation and of turning the Gospel of John from the paper of a sect into a text of the church.

The three parts—manifestation, descent into hiddenness, and ascent—are corresponding with foundation, decay, and rebirth of the Messianic community.

The first part is characterized by the two principal signs of the Messianic wedding and the revival of the Son at Cana and the confrontation of the Messiah with the representatives of Judea and Samaria who are ready for dialogue.

The second part is internally divided into five chapters by five Judean festivals, within which the paralyzed, the hungry, the blind, and the dead Israel become the theme in the context of four further Messianic signs, before Jesus (12:37-41)—having entered Jerusalem as Messiah-King and being acclaimed by a large Jewish crowd—laments with reference to the prophet Isaiah that his signs did not bring about Israel’s comprehensive trust in him. As to the unusual but convincing structure of the third part, I let Ton Veerkamp have his say again: <89>

The third part tells the great Passover of the Messiah. The leaving of the Messiah is the new exodus of Israel. It has five passages, in our counting the passages 12-16, separated by indications of time:

12. Before the Passover, 13:1-30a

13. It was night, 13:30b-18:28a

14. The first part of the Passion narrative: Early in the morning, 18:28b-19:13

15. The second part of the Passion narrative: ˁErev Pascha, 19:14-42

16. Day one of the Shabbat week, 20:1-31.

The center of the last part is the long section about what happened during the night. It is the night of the Messiah’s farewell from the Messianic community and the delivery of the Messiah into the hands of the enemy through the leadership of Judea. Passover is the great festival of liberation. The Gospel of John is the “Easter Gospel” par excellence. This festival is always “near,” from the beginning, 2:13.

On the main day of the festival itself, nothing happens; everything happens immediately before and after the festival. This day is the great and decisive gap. It shows that the theology of the Gospel of John is a theologia negativa. The “handing over of inspiration” is the essence of the farewell, 19:30. The acceptance of this farewell is the “acceptance of inspiration,” 20:22. It enables the Messianic community to live a Messianic life without the Messiah.

2.3 Community of believers

From different starting points, you illuminate (34) “the close tie between individual and communal identity,” which probably “John’s intended audience would have understood and accepted.” In doing so, you think:

Whereas John’s narrative encourages identification with certain characters and groups, the discourse sections more explicitly convey the importance of community.

You assign a special role within “the shepherd and sheep discourse in John 10 and the farewell discourses in John 14-16” to the “extended metaphor” embedded there in each case: “the sheepfold (John 10) and the vine (John 15).” On the first metaphor, you refer to your book The Word in the World <90> and chapter 7 in the present book. On the second, you write in summary:

Only by connecting to Jesus, the Father, and one another, can the disciples and, with them, the audience, bear fruit for eternal life.

In detail, it would again be necessary to clarify what “eternal life” means and what specific community is being spoken of.

2.3.1 The First Person Plural as the „We“ of the Messianic Group around Jesus

Moreover, “the importance of groupness” (35) is also conveyed by “the strategic use of first person plural pronouns,” that is,

John invites Alexandra and company to join the “we” to which he belongs. And the second person plural pronouns (“you”) in Jesus’s discourses, especially when not required by the context, reach out beyond the diegetic audience to address the post-Easter audience. Through these plural pronouns, John both asserts the importance of community and also mediates an encounter with Jesus for his audience. These plural forms are an example of classical rhetorical style; they present affiliation—“groupness”—as a positive and desirable goal. <91>

You highlight two passages, in particular, 1:14 and 1:16, in which the narrator “uses the first person plural” with a view to “seeing the glory of the Word and receiving grace upon grace,” to which you note: “Exactly what is promised to ‘us’ is difficult to pinpoint.” If we understand the Gospel from the Jewish Scriptures, as Ton Veerkamp does, then we must understand the “glory” or “honor,” doxa, of the Word from the Hebrew word kavod, “force, brunt,” which is used in the Scriptures to describe the assertive power of the God of Israel who has Israel’s liberation in mind. And it is precisely this liberation that is at stake for the group of Messianic Jews who have come to trust Jesus through the Messianic sign of the wedding at Cana (2:11), whose constitution—“himself and his mother and his brothers and his disciples”—is succinctly outlined in 2:12, and of whom Jesus (4:22) speaks in the “we” form in his conversation with the Samaritan woman (see section 1.2.4.2).

2.3.2 The Second Person Plural for Addressing Those Who Hear the Gospel

You point to a great many passages in John’s Gospel (35) where the second person plural “reaches out to its late first-century audience,” often (36) in such cases as well when

a plural pronoun is used when a singular might have been expected, suggesting that Jesus or the narrator is looking beyond the story world to include the audience outside the narrative.

Especially due to “the use of the second person plural throughout the farewell discourses, Alexandra and the rest of John’s compliant audience” might feel personally addressed (37):

By using the second person pronouns, the lengthy farewell discourses address the disciples but also look beyond the disciples to address also “those who will believe in me through their {the disciples’} word” (17:20).

In Jesus’ prayer to the FATHER (John 17), however, “the second person singular pronoun is used to address God, and the third person plural is used to refer to the disciples, and, by extension, all believers.”

2.3.3 The New Commandment of agapē, Solidarity, as a Sectarian In-Group Virtue

The most difficult theme for me in John’s Gospel is the theme of agapē, commonly translated as “love.” Indeed, (38) the “love commandment,” as you write, does not seem to be able to be considered “as evidence of the universal, expansive, even pluralistic worldview of the Gospel and indeed of Jesus himself,” but it is

given to the disciples alone, not to the crowds or indeed to anyone outside their immediate circle. Second, and more important, the commandment does not instruct them to love everyone, but to love one another: the group present at dinner and whose feet were washed. This group excluded Judas, as the commandment was given after his departure. … In emphasizing the love for another, the Gospel implies separation, even estrangement, from outsiders to their group.

In this case, Ton Veerkamp for once agrees with you. However, only to a very limited extent, because he does not see a religiously detached group at work here, which, so to speak, isolates itself on an island of the blessed from the people who are eternally damned according to God’s will. No, he tries to take seriously the situation of the Johannine Messianists in their sectarian impasse, in which they have got politically carried away: <92>

“This is my commandment: that you are in solidarity with each other.” For the group around John, which is going through a most difficult phase—the people are running away from it, 6:60 ff., they are quarreling and hereticizing each other, 1 John 2:18; 2 John 10; 3 John 9—the group’s coherence is vital. Solidarity is entirely focused on the group itself. As I said before, there is no trace of universal charity or philanthropy.

The move into sectarianism rubs off on Yeshua himself: No one has greater solidarity than putting in his soul for his friends, he says, calling the disciples “friends” and no longer slaves. This should be compared with Romans 5:7 ff., where this commitment in its most extreme form—the giving of one’s life—is not for the sake of friends but for the sake of those who have gone astray! The friendship of this tiny circle with the Messiah is based on the fact that Yeshua “made known to them what he had heard from his FATHER.” They are the preferred—and at first the only—addressees of this announcement.

Desirable for Veerkamp, as for me, would be that agapē is understood in terms of solidarity with all people who are oppressed or degraded by whatever powers. For this, he sees the Gospel of John as quite suitable, especially since he interprets the last chapter 21 as evidence that the Johannine sect could free itself from its isolation: <93>

Once again we draw attention to the very narrowly defined area in which solidarity is effective. We can hardly imagine it. To us, the disciples are simply the placeholders for all Christians. Since Christianity has at times been presented as congruent with the whole of humankind, solidarity among the few friends becomes a general virtue. But this makes it impossible to understand our text correctly. We have called solidarity a combat term and interpreted it analogously to the solidarity in the labor movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. <94> In the sectarian milieu of the Gospel of John and the Letters of John, agapē was primarily an in-group virtue. Only when the sect broke through its isolation and John became a church text, Johannine solidarity could become politically fruitful. Admittedly, in church use, solidarity, as a Messianic virtue par excellence, became general human love and thus lost its political power. It was once coherence in the fight against the world order of death. It became the general philanthropy sauce that was poured out over the world order of death. Such moralization is foreign to John.

Here again, points of contact with your argument arise, namely when Christian charity remains selective with regard to its addressees and abandons Jews, pagans and heretics to condemnation because of their false faith.

2.3.4 A New Identity of the Believers as the Children of God

Now you do assume that (38), as “a compliant listener, Alexandra will join with others to constitute a group bound by love for one another, for Jesus, and, through Jesus, for God.” But you doubt that there was such a thing as a Johannine community, since “John does not use the term ekklesia” and does not “describe an already-existing Johannine community.”

Arguably, however, you think you know exactly that in John’s eyes (39) “audience members” should understand themselves “as children of God (1:12; 11:52; cf. 1 John 3:1, 10; 5:2) who participated in the cosmic realm rather than the earthly realm of existence.” Since you do not understand the term kosmos in the sense of the oppressive world order of Rome, in your view these

children of God, believers in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, “do not belong to the {everyday} world” (17:14, 15) that hates Jesus (7:7; 15:18) but rather, Jesus prays, will be with Jesus where he is (17:24).

2.3.4.1 Filiation to God According to Aristotle or to Abraham and Sarah?

And although (39), on the other hand, you quite rightly see the concept of the sonship of God anchored in the Jewish Scriptures (Deuteronomy 14:1, Hosea 1:10, Wis 5:5; Bar 4:37, 5:5; 3 Macc 6:28, 7:6), you want to trace back precisely this Johannine concept to the pagan philosopher Aristotle:

For John, this spiritual intimacy has a material foundation. Those who are persuaded by the Fourth Gospel to engage in a process of transformation are reborn as the children of God and the siblings of one another. Like the Father-Son relationship between God and Jesus, this identity as God’s children is described using the language of Aristotle’s theory of epigenesis.

In fact, however, John’s Gospel (1:12-13) avoids precisely emphasizing the role of man in bringing forth the tekna theou, “God-Born,” by explicitly ruling out their coming forth ek thelēmatos andros, “of the will of a man.” In this respect, there is precisely no agreement with Aristotle, concerning whose theory you quote Mary Horowitz <95> as follows:

The male is “homo faber, the maker, who works upon inert matter according to a design, bringing forth a lasting work of art. His soul contributes the form and model of the creation. Out of his creativity is born a line of descendants that will preserve his memory, thus giving him earthly immortality” (cf. GA 731b30-732a1).

This is exactly what it is not about, neither about male procreative power nor about immortality. Since you quote the Jewish Scriptures, you should also interpret the Johannine idea of the God-Born from these very Scriptures, as Ton Veerkamp does: <96>

“Not of the will of a man.” Here you have to think of Abraham. The son is the theme of Genesis 15-22. This son is born from a woman “with whom it ceased to be after the manner of women”, and who lived with a man, “who was old”, from two humans who were sterile, Genesis 18:12-14 and 21:1-2,

Sarah laughed to her inner self, saying:
“After I am a nothing,
am I still to have sexual pleasure,
my lord being old, too?”
The NAME said to Abraham:
“Why did Sarah laugh and say:
‘Will I really bear {a child},
old as I am?’
Is anything too marvelous for the NAME to do?
At the appointed time I will return to you,
about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

And the NAME arranged it for Sarah as he had said,
he did for Sarah as he had spoken:
She became pregnant.
Sarah bore Abraham a Sohn in his old age
at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

At no point, there is talk of Abraham having begotten this son, the only-begotten, with Sarah. There only is talk of Sarah and her son. Nowhere we hear the classical sentence: “Such and such {Abraham} knew her and she {Sarah} became pregnant and bore a son … .” The son, wanted by both of them, for whom they had begged God, is born not of the will of a man!” To be sure, we hear: “These are the begettings of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac”, Genesis 25:19. But the begetting by Abraham is an element of the chapter “begettings of Isaac.” In marked contrast to all the patriarchs of the book Genesis, begettings (tholedoth), tholedoth ˀAdam (Genesis 5:1), tholedoth Noach … to tholedoth Yaˁaqov (Genesis 37:2) just the chapter tholedoth ˀAvraham is lacking (see the discussion of 8:58)! That’s an absolute joke (46) (Genesis 18:15),

Sarah lied, saying:
“I did not laugh”, for she was afraid.
He said:
“No, but you did laugh!”

And Abraham agrees to it (Genesis 21:3),

He called the name of his son,
who was born to him,
whom Sarah bore him:
“Yitzchaq {Isaac}, he laughs.”

The child was born to Abraham, passive form; Sarah bore, active form. Both are old, a joke. The joke is the NAME. One chapter further it comes to be deadly serious, Genesis 22:1 ff.,

It happened after these words:
God tested Abraham, he said to him:
“Abraham!”
He said:
“Here I am.”
He said:
“Take now your son,
your only one (yachid),
whom you love,
Yitzchaq.
Then you go to the land Moriah,
exalt him as a sacrifice of exalting,
on one of the mountains of the land that I will tell you.”

We’ll get onto the “only son” (yachid, monogenēs) later. <97> Anyhow, we may conceive an idea of what the expression means when we hear: “not of the will of a man, but begotten divinely.” The only one, monogenēs, is the new Isaac, the only one begotten divinely. Whoever trusts in him will be “born of God” as well in this sense: He really sees light, is enlightened, remains alive amidst an order of death.

2.3.4.2 From Jesus’ Sonship of God to the Filiation with God of his Followers

If you want to call this divine begetting through trusting in God, described by Veerkamp, the bringing forth of a new “species of sorts,” you are half right in writing (39-40):

Although Jesus is the only one begotten directly of God, he “begets” future generations. The model and first son of this second generation is the disciple whom Jesus loved. Just as Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, rests in the bosom of his father (eis ton kolpon tou patros; 1:18), so does the Beloved Disciple rest in Jesus’s own bosom (en tō kolpō tou Iēsou) (13:23; 13:25).

With regard to Jesus, this is not true. Understood Jewishly, Jesus is not the only Son born directly of God. First of all, Jesus represents the monogenēs, the only-begotten son of Abraham, Isaac. And as the second Isaac, Jesus, at the same time, embodies the firstborn son of God—on the one hand, because Isaac, whom Abraham had to sacrifice as his own son, was given back to him as God’s son, on the other hand, because Isaac was the father of Jacob = Israel, whom God, in turn, calls his firstborn son in Exodus 4:22. And in that Jesus both embodies Israel and is in perfect accord with the will of the God of Israel, he is not the only Son of God, but uniquely the Son of God according to Jewish and not Gentile understanding.

With regard to the Beloved Disciple, however, you are to agree: Just as the Messiah Jesus, as Veerkamp says, <98> is “the exemplary concentration of Israel, … ‘in the bosom of the NAME/FATHER,’ completely and utterly determined by God, just divine,“ thus <99> “the disciple … to whom the Messiah was related like a friend” plays “the role of … the exemplary concentration of the Messianic community,” which trusts fully in this Messiah Jesus.

2.3.4.3 Birth by Water and Spirit According to Aristotle or According to the Bible?

It is incomprehensible to me (40) as to how you can also consider a reference to Aristotle regarding the “idea of being born through the spirit,” which is alluded to in 1:12-13 and pronounced in the conversation with Nicodemus (3:5):

Relevant here may be the fact that anōthen also appears in the GA {On the Generation of Animals} in reference to the upper cosmos which is the source of the generative abilities of animal species (GA 731b25).

I have already discussed in detail in section 2.2.2.1 how Ton Veerkamp explains this “to be born anōthen” in Jewish-Messianic terms. There, also the “second problematic element in Jesus’s words to Nicodemus,” namely “the reference to water,” had been related to the “baptismal waters” of the Messianic Baptist movement. The, in your eyes, “striking parallel in the Aristotelian vocabulary of epigenesis,” however, represents nothing but a coincidental agreement of the used vocabulary:

According to GA 735b10, semen, that is, the fluid of generation that provides the sentient soul of the offspring, is said to be made of water and spirit. <100> Thus John 3:5 can be read as a declaration that a child of God is one who is begotten of the divine seed that originates in the upper cosmos.

You can only read it this way if you completely detach John from his Jewish background and interpret him as being steeped in pagan thought.

Also, what you state about “giving over of Jesus’s pneuma to the disciples” in 20:22, “when the risen Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit upon them,” has nothing to do with the Aristotelian view that “the pneuma is carried by the male seed that gives form to the offspring.” This is clearly contradicted by John 1:13, “not of the will of a man,” as already explained. Rather, the spirit, inspiration, ruach, of the God of Israel is clearly to be thought of here, as Ton Veerkamp explains: <101>

Then Yeshua “inspires” his disciples physically, he breathes over them. Within the Messianic writings, the verb emphysan occurs only here, John 20:21. In the Greek version of the Scriptures, the verb is rare. It stands for the Hebrew verb nafach. The verb means “to blow (with the mouth),” with two opposite effects: to animate and to burn. The original meaning is “to breathe on (a fire),” Isaiah 54:16; Job 20:26. God’s anger is breathed on as fire against his rebellious people (Ezekiel 22:20-21). In Genesis 2:7, on the other hand, we hear,

The NAME, God, forms mankind as dust from the field.
He blows (wa-yipach, enephysen) into their nostrils breath of life.
Thus, mankind became to be living souls.

The intimidated people in this barricaded room are, so to speak, dead people in a house of the dead. They must be revived. The great vision Ezekiel 37:1 ff. was already quoted in the discussion 6:63. The prophet is led before a field full of withered bones, and the NAME asks him (Ezekiel 37:3-6),

“Human child, can these bones revive?”
I said, “My Lord, ETERNAL, you know.”
Thus my Lord, the NAME, said,
“Testify as a prophet over these bones, you shall say to them,
‘You withered bones, hear the word of the NAME!’”
Thus says my Lord, the NAME, to these bones,
“It is I, I cause inspiration to come into you, and you revive!
I give you muscles, draw flesh, stretch the skin over you.
I give inspiration over you; you live up, you recognize,
I AM—the NAME.”

Only from such central texts of the Scriptures, we can understand what Yeshua is doing here. He says, “Accept the inspiration of sanctification.” We announced this passage in our discussion of 19:30, Yeshua “gave the inspiration.” Here, 20:22, we have the corresponding complementary injunction, “Accept …” “It is the inspiration that makes alive, the flesh can contribute nothing,” we heard in 6:63. The threatened, vulnerable existence of these intimidated people, flesh, is inspired and shall be transformed into Messianic existence.

The begetting and new birth from the Spirit are to be understood from this transformation of frightened human beings—suffering from oppression and degradation by the ruling world order—by the inspiration of sanctification emanating from the Messiah of the God of Israel, but not at all (40) from an Aristotelian “molding … in his shape and form.” Formally, everything you write about “the divine father” is true:

Just as the divine father begot and sent Jesus into the world through the process of divine pneuma and generation, so does Jesus beget and send his disciples into the world. As Jesus says to God, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (17:18; cf. 20:21). With this spiritual rebirth, the disciples inherit the abilities that Jesus had, namely, the ability to forgive or retain the sins of others (20:23), just as Jesus acquired the abilities of the father to judge and to give life. <102> They will do the works that Jesus does and even greater works than these (14:12).

But all this must be understood from the Jewish Scriptures or it will be misunderstood.

Also, in regard to “the outpouring of water and blood from Jesus’s pierced side” in 19:34, you consider (41) a connection with “the rebirth of the believers,” which “can occur only with Jesus’s death,” for an “outpouring of water and blood is unusual in a wound such as piercing, but it is inevitable during childbirth.” That “in dying, Jesus also gives birth to the new species,” you also relate to Jesus’ word: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (12:24), and finally with the interpretation of verses 14:2-3 as a promise that the “children of God, like the only-begotten son, will receive the benefits of dwelling with God, as Jesus goes to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house.”

It would be going too far to adjust the interpretation of all these interrelated elements of John’s Gospel from the Scriptures; I confine myself to Ton Veerkamp’s explanation of verse 19:34: <103>

Then follows, “And immediately there came out (exēlthen euthys) blood and water.” We hear this word euthys for the third time. Judas Iscariot took the dipped bite and immediately went out (exēlthen euthys). Cultivated language demands that the two words should be in reverse order: euthys exēlthen. Therefore, some not unimportant manuscripts “improved” the order. But both passages are to be related to each other by the same word order, 13:30 and 19:34. The honoring of the Messiah is a process, initiated by the “immediate departure” of Judas ben Simon, “And immediately he {God} will honor him {the HUMAN, bar enosh},” 13:32. This process continues in the immediate (euthys) departure (exēlthen) of water and blood.

What is meant by “water” we know from 4:14 and 7:38. The Samaritan woman is promised water that will “become a spring of water in her, welling up to the life of the age to come.” This becomes clearer in the second quotation. In the sanctuary during the Feast of Sukkot, Yeshua speaks of “rivers of living water from his body.” To avoid any misunderstanding, John adds, “This he said about the inspiration that those who trusted in him were about to receive. But there was no inspiration yet because Yeshua had not yet come to his honor,” 7:38-39. The hour of his death is the hour of his honor. Immediately inspiration proceeds from Yeshua. Our interpretation of Yeshua’s death as the handing over of inspiration is thus confirmed.

“Blood,” we know from the great speech of Yeshua in the synagogue at Capernaum, “Whoever is chewing my flesh and drinking of my blood will be given life in the age to come, and I will make him rise in the day of judgment. For my flesh is food to be trusted, my blood drink to be trusted,” 6:54-55. The word “blood” occurs in John only here and in the speech in the synagogue of Capernaum (if we disregard the passage 1:13). The point here is the inspiration, the enabling of the life of the age to come. And this happens through the death (the blood) of the Messiah. The blood is the blood of the Passover lamb. Then, it saved from death in Egypt; now, the blood of the Messiah saves from death at the ruling world order. The death of the Messiah is to be understood as the slaughter of the Passover lamb: the necessary condition for the final festival of liberation to be celebrated. Death in both cases is a prerequisite for Passover, namely Passover itself. Passover is what will happen one day; Passover is not yet. This becomes clear only in 20:17.

To John, this is the real climax of his narrative. He names himself as an eyewitness; he, the author of our text, appeals to his listeners to trust the events reported here. In the Gospel, a testimony is trustworthy when it is confirmed by scriptural evidence.

Thus it is not about a spiritual new birth to be understood statically, which guarantees an otherworldly existence in heaven for those born anew of water and spirit, but about the fidelity of the God of Israel, which inspires those trusting in Jesus to overcome the world order through the new commandment of agapē, solidarity, in other words, to actively await the life of the age to come.

2.3.4.4 Guarantee of Eternal Life in Heaven or Hope for Life of the Age to Come?

Having hardly written this, I read your sentence (41):

Rebirth as a child of God guarantees eternal life.

Referring back to 5:24-26, you reason this, asserting:

The decay and death that are part of the cyclical life process are no longer operative for this new species. Rather, hearing the word, imbibing the spirit, eating the flesh: all of these are necessary for spiritual rebirth that promises eternal life.

However, just verses 5:24-25 have nothing at all to do with such supernatural qualities of a new species but clearly refer to Daniel 12:2, the Jewish hope for the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment.

Incidentally (42), you yourself—in view of the “still-inevitable fact of physical death”—point to doubts about a “cosmological understanding of the new family into which the transformed hearers of the Gospel are reborn” in the sense of a guarantee of eternal survival, to which verses John 21:20-23 point. Such rumors, however, that the Beloved Disciple “would not die” fit less with a concept of life after death in heaven than with the expectation that he might experience the dawn of the age to come during his earthly lifetime.

2.3.4.5 The New Family of God in John’s Gospel and its Dark Backside

For later generations, it is only “the Gospel itself that functions as the source of the Holy Spirit through whom they can become children of God.” In this context, you mention “the Paraclete, who is the Holy Spirit,” and refer by way of explanation to two passages also cited by Veerkamp, Genesis 2:7 and John 6:63, where Jesus declares, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The question is how, on the basis of these passages, the “transformative rebirth into the family of God” and the fulfillment of the “profound human desire for eternal life” are interpreted: Is it about an antagonism of flesh and spirit, matter and supernatural life, or is it about the earthly existence of human beings, their flesh, not being devalued, but being directed by the Spirit toward the liberating and right-creating will of God?

Despite your recourse to Genesis 2:7, you persist in holding Aristotle as the decisive authority concerning the rhetoric of belonging to the family of God:

The use of the Aristotelian concept of epigenesis to flesh out the idea that believers constitute the family of God is a final step in the rhetoric of affiliation. Using such strategies, many of them based in Greek rhetoric, John articulates the human desire to avoid death and seek eternal life, identifies faith in Jesus as the fulfillment of that desire, and the use of the Gospel itself as the vehicle for rebirth.

The backside of such an understanding, then, in your eyes (43), is that such a newborn family must sharply distinguish itself from other families. In this context, of all places, you refer to the passage John 1:13—which, in my view, contradicts the Aristotelian emphasis on the man in the act of procreation—in order to state:

Human families, created by the “will of the flesh, or the will of man” (1:13), do not necessarily have a negative stance towards all those outside their family. The members of the family that John describes, however, is an exclusive family of choice. Joining this family requires separating from other powerful, family or family-like affiliations.

Does such an understanding actually do justice to John’s Gospel? After all, your point is not only that “any group affiliation requires connection to an in-group and difference from outsiders,” which “social psychologists and social identity theorists” point out, but that this Johannine group, in its self-conscious obduracy, radically distinguishes itself from a very specific other group. The “rhetoric of disaffiliation that marks the boundary between the children of God and those who claim falsely (in John’s view) to be the children of God, that is, the Ioudaioi,” is what you intend to address in the following three chapters.

In doing so, you raise “some concern about our imaginary Alexandra,” namely that “she will soon begin to see the Ioudaioi not as friends, family, or respected members of society but as her spiritual or even physical enemies.”

In my conversation with you, I will continue to be concerned with carefully distinguishing between the conflict situation from which John originally described Jesus’ sharp confrontations with the Ioudaioi, and the Christian interpretation of John’s Gospel that became determinative after Judaism and Christianity parted ways.

3 The Rhetoric of Expropriation

In the second part of your book (51), under the leitmotif of “disaffiliation,” you consider the relationship of John’s Gospel to the Jews, whose role largely amounts to “persecuting both Jesus and his followers.” Moreover, the Jews are important to the Gospel in that

membership in God’s family entails not only a guarantee for the future but also an entitlement to specific benefits that, prior to Jesus’s earthly sojourn, were reserved for the Jews alone.

That, as you note, in “contrast to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the Gospel is silent on Jewish practices such as circumcision and the dietary laws,” speaks in my mind to the fact that John is addressing neither a community composed only of Gentile Christians nor a community mixed of Gentile and Jewish Christians, but a predominantly Jewish community—at least initially.

Further, you note that Jesus’

acts of healing on the Sabbath do not advocate desecration of the Sabbath but rather demonstrate his filial relationship with God: “My Father is still working, and I also am working” (5:17).

You also can (63, n. 1)

imagine, on the basis of Jesus’s behavior as described by John, that a community that formed around John’s Gospel would have observed the Sabbath and festivals.

Finally, (52) also the purification of the temple

does not challenge the Temple’s existence or importance as an institution but rather stresses the importance of keeping “his Father’s house” untainted by commerce.

Some of these “identity markers,” however, are redefined by “John’s account of Jesus’s words and deeds,” and the question is debated among scholars as to whether this is “a replacement theology or a fulfillment theology, or something else altogether.” You state your own goal in this chapter “not to search for more delicate language in order to cover up John’s supersessionism” and comprehend

that what the Gospel presents is not only replacement, fulfillment or displacement, but expropriation. In the Gospel’s rhetoric, the Jews are no longer God’s children but have relinquished their entitlement to that identity by refusing to believe that Jesus is God’s son.

It follows (53) that “Scriptures and Temple” no longer belong to the Jews, but to “those who do believe.”

The Jewishness of the Gospel, or rather, the Gospel’s use of Jewish scriptures, modes of reasoning, and theological concepts such as divine love does not reflect its positive stance towards Jews or Judaism, but the appropriation—expropriation-of Jewishness, a self-understanding grounded in covenantal relationship with God.

3.1 Is God’s Covenant with Israel Abrogated in John’s Gospel?

You concede (53) that the term diathēkē, “covenant,” itself “does not appear in the Fourth Gospel.” But you note that “the terms of the covenantal contract,” which bound the Jews to God on the basis of “God’s promises to Abraham and Moses in the Torah,” were “redrawn” in John’s Gospel “by sending his Son into the world as an expression of his love (3:16).”

In this new reality, covenantal relationship with God belongs only to those who believe that Jesus is truly God’s son and the Messiah of Israel (20:30-31). Underlying the notion of covenant is election; election, in turn, implies exclusivism. A group that defines itself as elected or chosen by God necessarily differentiates itself from others who, in its view, are not so chosen. In Second Temple Jewish texts the excluded group are the Gentiles; for John, in an ironic twist, they are the Ioudaioi.

3.1.1 John as Messianic Critic of the World Order in Prophetic Firmness

But the latter is precisely the question. Does it not have a meaning after all that the term “covenant” nowhere appears in the Gospel, that is, that exclusion of the Jewish people from the covenant is nowhere sealed? As I often said, the issue here is not the later Christian interpretation of John’s Gospel, which actually presupposed just that.

In line with Ton Veerkamp, I do not consider the following scenario impossible: John, as a Messianic Jew, assumes the self-evident validity of God’s covenant with Israel, which is still opposed by the Gentiles, goyim, as followers of detestable gods. In addition, these goyim exercise an oppressive and bloody tyranny in the form of the Roman Empire, euphemistically called Pax Romana or kosmos (“ornament, well-ordered world, world order”), whose emperor rightly deserves to be called “adversary,”—Greek diabolos, Hebrew satan—of the God of Israel. He understands this world order as a new Egypt, a worldwide slave house, from which Israel can no longer emigrate to a land of freedom, where it can live separately from the goyim under the constitution of the Torah. Only trust in Jesus, the Messiah crucified by Rome, and the observance of his new commandment of agapē can overcome the world order. Under these political circumstances, John, at the same time, with prophetic anger is attacking the leading class of the Jews’ own people, especially the priesthood at the time of Jesus, for their collaboration with Rome, just as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Hosea in their days indicted their own Judean kings for their collaboration with Egypt or Assyria (Isaiah 30:1-2; 31:1, 3; 36:6, 9; Jeremiah 2:18; 42:13-22; Ezekiel 17:15; Hosea 7:11; 12:2). This collaboration is demonstrated in the extreme by the priests coercing Pilate to execute Jesus the Messiah. To John, this conflict is not a now settled matter inasmuch as Rabbinic Judaism, emerging in his time, also both rejects Jesus the Messiah and values recognition by Rome as a permitted religion; hence the reason that the Johannine Jesus sees the Pharisaic/Rabbinic Jews under the influence of the Roman diabolos, the political adversary.

By this, I mean that just as little as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Hosea, by criticizing their own people, considered God’s covenant with the Jews to have been terminated by God, as little does John. This is confirmed by the fact that nowhere in his Gospel there is any mention of a comprehensive turning to the goyim, of a mission to the Gentiles. Instead, the Johannine Jesus is concerned to gather all Israel, including the ten lost tribes of northern Israel in the form of the Samaritans and the Diaspora Jews, into the Messianic community as a new Israel trusting in the Messiah.

3.1.2 Jesus’ Denial of Legitimate Jewish Claims to the Covenant with God

According to you (53), in John 8:31-59, the Ioudaioi themselves describe their “covenantal identity” most clearly (55) by making “three major claims,” namely “that they are children of Abraham, have never served any other beings, and that they are children of God.” That these claims are justified is evidenced (54) by God’s making a covenant with Abram/Abraham (Genesis 15 and 17), by pointing out that part of making a covenant is renouncing service to foreign gods (cf. Psalm 106:36), and (55) by God’s request to Moses to present the people of Israel to Pharaoh as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22-23). All of this amounts to the same corollary: “Jews are in an eternal covenantal relationship with God.”

I find it interesting that on the one hand (53) you refer the above elements of Jewish identity to “their profound commitment to monotheism, a tenet that is central in the Hebrew Bible, Jewish theology, and Jewish liturgy,” but on the other hand in a note, you refer, rather covertly, to Alan F. Segal <104> who considers it possible that “the ancient Jewish notions of monotheism may also have allowed of a belief in ‘Two Powers in Heaven.’” From this point of view, it should at least seem conceivable, as Larry W. Hurtado <105> thinks, to also consider an “unusual ‘binitarian’ devotional pattern” of worshiping Jesus together with God as an inner-Jewish development that is

shaped by the exclusivist monotheism inherited from the Jewish tradition. The Christdevotion we see in these Christian writings is certainly a novel development. It is equally clearly presented as a religious stance that seeks to be faithful to the concern for the one God, and therefore it must be seen in historical terms as a distinctive variant form of monotheism.

Nevertheless (55), in John’s Gospel an irreconcilable controversy arises between those who regard Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and those who are described there as Ioudaioi. Within this controversy, the “Johannine Jesus” in your eyes denies all claims of the Jews to the covenant with God by referring to “their rejection of his Messiahship.” In my eyes, however, what is crucial is how he does this. I like to go into this in more detail, drawing on Ton Veerkamp’s interpretation.

3.1.2.1 If the Ioudaioi were Children of Abraham, they would not Kill God’s Son

While (55) Jesus concedes to the Ioudaioi that “they may be descended from Abraham (sperma Abraam—the seed of Abraham; 8:33),” at the same time “they cannot be the children of Abraham (tekna Abraam; 8:39),” because they do not act like Abraham: “Whereas Abraham accepted God’s messengers (cf. Genesis 18), the Ioudaioi try to kill God’s son (8:40).”

Ton Veerkamp writes on this accusation: <106>

We hear the accusation of killing for the sixth time here. Apparently, this thought has become an obsession to John. This has probably to do with the fierce hostility to which his group was exposed by the synagogue in their town.

In his interpretation of 16:2-3, Veerkamp explains in more detail what he means by this. In the conflict between the Johannine Messianists and rabbinic Judaism at the time of John, he tries to do justice to the concerns of both sides and to make understandable why John accuses the synagogue—in Veerkamp’s eyes wrongly—of having renounced the covenant with the God of Israel: <107>

Rabbinical Judaism now makes the disciples people “without a synagogue” (aposynagōgoi). …

The synagogue was not a church, not a religious community. Rather, it was both a place of assembly and an organ of self-government, where the children of Israel were able to manage their own affairs within the framework of the status of an ethnic group recognized by the Romans with their permitted cult (religio licita, politeuma in Alexandria). This meant not insignificant protection against administrative sanctions and arbitrariness by the authorities. The degree of autonomy varied according to time, city, and region. The synagogal status was something between full citizenship and the status of a stranger and immigrant.

But the status was precarious; there is ample evidence that privileges were confiscated and that there were expulsions and pogroms tolerated or even instigated by the authorities, such as the pogrom 37/38 in Alexandria. The synagogue, therefore, had to take care that groups with views hostile to the state did not gain the upper hand.

Apparently, the leadership of the synagogue at the place where John and his group were staying had concluded that they posed a danger to the synagogue. It was therefore their duty to expel such groups. The leadership of the synagogue, where John’s group belonged, represented the direction of Rabbinical Judaism, but John made no secret of his aversion to this direction. The exclusion was a legitimate and politically understandable act of synagogal leadership. This is the reason we can and have to see, and therefore the word “without reason” (chinnam, dōrean) is misplaced. It is part of the self-evident duty of non-Jewish exegetes to understand the conflict also from the perspective of the synagogue and not to take sides with “Jesus and the apostles“ from the outset. As I said, John does not even bother to search as to the reasons for the exclusion. Here we do not have to be disciples of John.

If, on the other hand, a group is expelled from the synagogue, it loses status and protection, and the members of that group must deal with the Roman authorities individually. This meant danger to life. The execution of anti-state elements was an act of political loyalty, and such loyalty at that time was ipso facto religious in nature. Whoever took part in such persecution performed a “public service” (latreia) to that God who was the God of the State.

According to John’s view, the followers of Rabbinical Judaism participated in the persecution. There is no evidence of this outside the Gospel. Messianists (“followers of a certain Chrestos,” the governor of Bithynia, Pliny, wrote to Emperor Trajan around 110) were executed by Romans; members of the Judean ethnic group hardly had this possibility, but they had the possibility of denunciation. Whether they made use of this possibility, we cannot know. But the synagogue could not kill anyone. While there may have been murder and manslaughter among the opposing factions, this happened at best privately and certainly not as a “public service” (latreia). <108>

In any case, the political consequences of the exclusion explain the sharpness in which John turns against Rabbinical Judaism; and they also explain why John could not find rational reasons for their attitude among his opponents. “You seek to kill me,” 7:19; 8:40; 8:59; 10:31; 11:53; 12:10, is the constant reproach. Given the persecution and murder of Messianists by Rome, which began early on, this accusation is obviously not completely unfounded; the exclusion meant danger to the lives of the ones excluded. “One does not do such a thing; there are no justifiable reasons for an exclusion which means danger to the life of the excluded,” thus the reproach of John can be paraphrased.

Admittedly, the political orientation of the Messianists is rationally comprehensible as well. If under Roman conditions the situation of the children of Israel is precarious inside and outside the country, then they must not hope to find niches in which they can survive, but then they need a completely different world. Paul says this no less clearly than John. The fact that there is no mediation between survival and world revolution makes the conflict tragic in the truest sense of the word. We can discover rational reasons on both sides from the safe distance of two millennia. But for those affected at the time, a rational confrontation was obviously not possible.

To John, the synagogue places itself outside of Israel, “They recognize neither the FATHER nor me.” “Not recognizing God“ is the revocation of the covenant that the God of Israel has made with the fathers and with the children of Israel. In contrast to the accusation of killing, this accusation that Rabbinical Judaism has given up its commitment to the God of Israel is definitely unfounded; we must contradict it. If Rabbinical Judaism is reproached with this, if this becomes the thing—and it became the thing—Israel will be disinherited by Christianity. The accusation is strictly analogous to the accusation of atheism that the Roman authorities will put on the Christians. However, John had no power, and the accusation could be dismissed as ridiculous. But when Christianity became a state religion and the Christian church a state institution, the accusation had far-reaching political consequences.

At this point, Ton Veerkamp’s and your assessment of John’s Gospel meet in terms of its impact on Christianity. Unlike you, Veerkamp tries to give a plausible reason why John reproaches Rabbinic Judaism so sharply. From John’s point of view, it is the Rabbinic Jews who denounce their covenant with God, while he still holds that God stands by his covenant with Israel. In his Messianic community, the Johannine Jesus wants to gather all Israel—including Samaria, the Jews of the Diaspora, and individual God-fearers from the goyim—and by no means found a completely new non-Jewish Gentile religion. The fact that the Gospel of John is interpreted very soon in exactly your sense does not correspond to the original aim of John.

3.1.2.2 To be Enslaved under the hamartia means to be a Slave of Rome

As to the Ioudaioi’s self-confidence in being free from enslavement, in your eyes (55) the Johannine Jesus accuses them that they

were and continue to be enslaved as long as they refuse to believe. In 8:34, Jesus proclaims: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

On this point, I have already explained in section 1.2.3.3 what is actually meant by the term hamartia in John’s Gospel. It is neither about defining the refusal to convert to the religion of Christianity as sinful nor about an idea of sin in terms of moral transgressions. Rather, John judges Rabbinic Judaism’s search for a modus vivendi with Rome as an implicit submission to the interests of the prevailing world order, a transgression of the freedom and justice toward which Israel’s Torah is directed: <109>

To be “slave of aberration” in the end means to be “slave of Rome.”

3.1.2.3 Whoever Submits to Rome has the diabolos as his Father

It is precisely this political dispute between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews about positioning against the Roman world order that must be seen in the background of the momentous verses 8:42-44, which Ton Veerkamp translates as follows: <110>

8:42 Yeshua said to them,
“If GOD were your FATHER,
you would solidarize with me,
for I came out from GOD and have come;
for I have not come from myself,
but that ONE sent me.
8:43 Why don’t you recognize my speech?
Because you cannot listen to my word.
8:44 You are from the father, the adversary.
The desire of your father you want to do.
He is a murderer of humans on principle,
fidelity is not a standpoint for him,
because there is no fidelity with him.
When he speaks lies and deceit,
he speaks what is his own,
he is a deceiver and father of deceit.

You describe what is happening here from the premise (55) that the Ioudaioi cannot love Jesus, even though he is sent by God, because their “rejection of Jesus has ousted” them “from their covenantal relationship with God” and revealed “their true ancestry as children of the devil.” Thus, you interpret the term diabolos not from the Jewish Scriptures, but in its later Christian meaning as unearthly demonic power.

Veerkamp, <111> on the other hand, understands diabolos as a transfer of the Hebrew term satan, which nowhere in the Jewish Scriptures denotes “a supernatural evil spirit” but either an earthly political opponent or a functionary of God “who appears as an opponent in the heavenly court proceedings.” So what specifically is John 8:44 about?

Here it is about a mighty adversary, who is not sent by God, thus about a mighty earthly adversary. This opponent has “desires” (epithymiai). They are factually identical with the desire—better: “greed”—of the world order (epithymia tou kosmou, 1 John 2:16-17). John 8:44 and 1 John 2:16-17 are the only passages in Johannine literature where the word for greed appears, in connection with diabolos. <112> Satan is an earthly Satan, he is the world order, he is Rome.

All this becomes clear when the leading priests in the scene in front of the praetorium assured Pilate, “We have no king except Caesar!” They explain where there is their unambiguous political loyalty, who is their “god.” For the functional word “god” denotes the convergence of all earthly loyalties. To the leading priests, the point of convergence is Caesar. This passage 19:15 explains our passage 8:44—and vice versa. Yeshua accuses his opponents of pursuing the politics of Rome, Rome is their god and father. They let themselves be determined in their political actions by the interests of the ruling world order, it is to this they are in solidarity. Therefore they cannot solidarize with the Messiah (“to love”—agapan).

Everybody can know that this Satan, this diabolos, is a murderer of humans, after the massacre that the Romans carried out after the devastation of Jerusalem. In this Satan there is no fidelity, he speaks “lies and deceit” (pseudos), “in principle (ap’ archēs).” Whoever pursues politics with Rome is “a deceiver (pseustēs) like his father.”

Yeshua is talking about fidelity, about God’s fidelity to Israel, and that is the word they do not trust, says Yeshua. No one can accuse him of being wrong, of leading himself and others astray, when he is talking about the fidelity of God, a fidelity diametrically opposed to Rome. Since they, as realpolitikers, start from the superior political reality of Rome, they cannot hear what Yeshua has to say.

Not to be misunderstood: Of course, even a political “demonization” of Rabbinic Judaism, which allegedly submitted to Rome as the adversary of the God of Israel, cannot simply be dismissed as harmless and excusable. It should be criticized by Christians as well, as it deserves: as a political misjudgment and overreaction in a conflict situation that had already become unbridgeable in John’s time—with then unforeseeable disastrous consequences.

3.2 The Significance of the Torah or the Tanakh for the Gospel of John

As to the relationship of John’s Gospel to the Jewish Torah, you state (55):

In 8:17 and 10:34, John’s Jesus seems to dissociate himself from the Torah by referring to “your law” when speaking to the Ioudaioi. Nevertheless, throughout the Gospel as a whole, Jesus, and those who believe in him, are in fact the ones who have rightful access to the scriptures, or, at least, to their correct, that is, Christological, interpretation. Even though the Torah was given to the Ioudaioi—a point that the Gospel does not deny—they themselves have failed to understand it, for they have never known God (5:38-47; 7:28; 8:19, 24-27, 47; 15:21; 16:3).

Beyond question (56) is the paramount importance that the Jewish Scriptures have for John’s Gospel, though when you speak of the “centrality of Torah to John’s rhetorical message,” you obviously mean the entire Tanakh of Torah, Prophets, and Writings.

3.2.1 The Concept of logos in John’s Gospel and its Relation to sophia

In the prologue, you recognize references to biblical wisdom, such as “Proverbs 8:22, the Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach) 24, and the Wisdom of Solomon.” However, we need not view this, as you do, as evidence for the pre-existence of Jesus.

Ton Veerkamp <113> suggests that the first verses of John’s Gospel should not be translated with the past tense, “in the beginning was the Word,” as if it were a matter of “a historical chronology: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and then there are further events.’ Yet the Word always is acting as inception, as a principle, in everything that is happening”:

1:1 In the beginning is the Word.
The Word is onto GOD,
divine is the Word.
1:2 This one is in the beginning onto GOD.

Decisive is that the Messiah Jesus perfectly embodies the logos or sophia of the God of Israel and that thus a new beginning is set for Israel in the sense of a new beginning or completion of creation (see also 5:17). In other words: The Messiah Jesus is not to be understood in any other way than in his directedness toward this one and very specific God of Israel, pros ton theon, “onto GOD” and that he embodies his liberating NAME.

As to your question (64, n. 16), whether “the Gospel identifies Jesus as divine wisdom, why the use of Logos rather than Sophia,” you consider the

explanation … that Sophia, as a feminine noun (in both Greek and in Hebrew, hokhmah), is not a suitable way to describe a male incarnation. Logos, a masculine noun, would be far more suitable. But this alone does not seem like enough to account for the use of Logos.

In my view, it is closer to the point that John may refer only marginally to wisdom traditions of sophia since the accent of his Gospel is precisely not to praise the world as God’s well-ordered creation, ktisis, but to attack the—propagandistically—so-called kosmos, world order, as a ruling system of injustice brought into disorder by humans. In such a context it makes more sense that John with the word logos refers to the Hebrew term devarim in the sense of the liberating word deeds or deed words of the God of Israel.

Therefore, I would not overestimate (57) the “similarities to the logos in Philo,” who develops “the logos” as “a highly complex concept” with reference to “both Platonic and Stoic philosophy.” Precisely because “Philo’s logos was the medium of creation and continues to mediate between God and the world” Philo actually touches more on “Sophia or wisdom” and less on “John’s Logos,” as just reasoned.

Nevertheless, even if the word sophia does not occur in John’s Gospel, echoes and references to wisdom traditions are not excluded. In this context (56) you cite Sirach 24:8-9, where

Wisdom describes how she came to reside within Israel: “Then the Creator of all things gave me a command, and my Creator chose the place for my tent. He said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance.’” Similarly, John 1:14a declares that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

It is interesting that, at this point, you explicitly use the vocable “tent,” skēnē, whereas in John 1:14 you do not perceive that the word form eskēnōsen used there goes back to the same root and refers to the indwelling of the NAME in the tent of meeting during the wilderness wanderings.

In the same chapter of the Book of Sirach (57) you find support for the “identification of Wisdom as Torah,” namely

in Ben Sirach 24:3: “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.” The Prologue uses this same language of the divine Logos who becomes incarnate in Jesus (1:14). Furthermore, the grace and truth that accompanies God’s only begotten son (1:17) is in Exodus 33:18-20 <114> associated with the giving of the Torah.

You rightly object against the assumption of Ben Witherington III, <115> who

suggests that “the evangelist simply uses the term Logos to better prepare for the replacement motif—Jesus superseding Torah as God’s Logos.” But the Prologue ties the Logos to the Torah in several ways. In the first place, logos, in the sense of “word,” recalls biblical and postbiblical reflection on God as the one who speaks the world into being. This follows the pattern of the creation narrative in Genesis 1, whereby light, the sky, the sea, and all other worldly, including humankind, elements are brought into being by God’s speech.

In doing so, you do not address the fact that the biblical use of the word davar with regard to creation does not simply mean a static bringing “into being” but always implies a liberating action of God. It is no coincidence that the word baraˀ, which denotes only God’s creative action, appears particularly frequently with Deutero-Isaiah in connection with the hope of liberation and justice for Israel (see Isaiah 45:12-19).

3.2.2 Does Jesus Fulfill the Torah or Push it Aside as God’s Decisive Revelation?

The authority of both “the Torah as well as the books of the prophets” is in any case recognized in John’s Gospel, also according to you, as well as “within Jewish circles.” In this context, you acknowledge in a note (65, n. 21) the attitude of an “interpreter” like Daniel Boyarin, <116> who, similarly to Ton Veerkamp, pleads

that the Gospel sees Jesus as supplementing rather than replacing Torah. Daniel Boyarin states that “For John, as for that other most ‘Jewish’ of Gospels, Matthew—but in a very different manner—Jesus comes to fulfill the mission of Moses, not to displace.” According to Boyarin, 1:10-12—“He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him”—describes the “partial failure” of Israel to accept God’s Word when they received it in the form of scripture. In response to this failure, God conceived of Plan B: to incarnate the Logos in flesh and blood. Says Boyarin, “The Torah simply needed a better exegete, the Logos Ensarkos, a fitting teacher for flesh and blood. … God thus first tried the text, and then sent his voice, incarnated in the voice of Jesus.” Although he does not say so, Boyarin’s analysis implies that, for John, Jesus not only fulfils and supplements Torah, Jesus is Torah, just as, for Second Temple Jewish wisdom literature, Sophia/Hokhma/Logos are Torah.

This idea is well worth considering, that Jesus embodies the Torah in John’s eyes; in any case, according to 1:18, he is literally God’s exegete (exēgēsato).

Now, what are the implications for the Jews in John’s Gospel (57) that “Jesus, like Torah, is both the content and the vehicle of revelation”? In your eyes, first of all, the Torah loses its central meaning, because

Jesus, the Logos, has nudged the Torah aside, and now occupies its place as the centerpiece in God’s relationship to humankind. The second is the demotion of the Jews from their privileged relationship to Torah and their role as its authoritative interpreters.

In doing so, however, you presuppose a view of the Torah that is no longer John’s, according to which the only meaning of the Torah is to point to Jesus as the Son of God, rather than to understand the meaning of Jesus from the Torah. John himself, as a Jewish Messianist, did not want to push the Torah to the side but he was convinced that only through Jesus the Messiah, the Torah’s concerns of autonomy and egalitarianism for Israel could be realized or brought closer to fulfillment, ultimately by handing over in his death on the cross to those who trust in him the inspiration of sanctification that will enable them to overcome the world order through the new commandment of agapē, solidarity. As a Messianic Jew, he was in a relentless dispute about this with the Rabbinic Jews about the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, accusing his opponents of missing the meaning of the Scriptures and not trusting in them.

I do not fully understand the meaning (58) of the last two paragraphs of your remarks on the Torah in this section. You compare “the covenant through God’s Son” and the “covenant through Torah” and state that both contain “the intertwined ideas of commandment and obedience.” On the side of the Torah covenant, you mention the Israelites’ promise of obedience in Exodus 19:8, to which corresponds God’s perpetual covenant promise in Exodus 19:5-6. On the side of the covenant through God’s Son, on the other hand, you initially also speak of “commandment, obedience, and love as constitutive of the relationships among God, Jesus, and the believers,” but then refer only to Jesus’ obedience to the FATHER in John 14:31, 12:49-50, and 10:18. What you intend by this remains unclear, for at this point your corresponding argumentation breaks off.

In any case, in my view, John does not want to replace the covenant established between God and Israel in Exodus 19 with a covenant between Jesus and his believers. He is concerned precisely with bringing to fulfillment the covenant of God with Israel, violated in his eyes by the Jewish leadership—in that it rejects the Messiah Jesus and submits to the Roman world order—by overcoming the Roman world order through his death on the cross and the handing over of inspiration. For the Messianic community, understood as the Body of the Messiah, the new sanctuary in which the God of Israel will have his NAME dwell (2:19, 21-22; 14:2-3, 23), is not to be composed of members of an entirely new religion, Christianity, gained by way of Gentile mission, but as a result of the gathering of all Israel (Judea, Samaria, Diaspora Jews).

Later (59) you draw the following conclusion in view of the Torah:

In his identity as the Logos or Word that proceeded from God before the world was created, Jesus displaces the Torah as God’s preeminent and decisive revelation, even as the Torah remains revelatory insofar as it bears witness to Jesus and authenticates the claim that he is the Messiah and Son of God (see 1:1-3; 5:39-40).

This argumentation remains contradictory, however, since there can be no question of Jesus replacing the Torah if his status as the Messiah of Israel is indeed to be substantiated by the Torah.

3.3 The Temple as the Place where God has his NAME Dwell

Also, (59) “the Temple retains a positive significance within the Gospel,” but even to it (58) John advocates a “rhetoric of expropriation.” However, you say yourself:

If the Temple is God’s house, and if Jesus is God’s son, then surely Jesus has the right to drive out those who, in his judgment, are turning a place of worship into a marketplace.

John proceeds precisely from these presuppositions, well interpreted Jewishly. Can we speak of an “expropriation” if John has in mind the goal of liberation and justice for Israel and is convinced, on the basis of the Jewish Scriptures, that Jesus is the Messiah who can achieve this goal?

Your following formulation is too undifferentiated (59):

As God’s son, he has already removed access to the Temple from the (unbelieving) Jews, who remain slaves of sin due to their unbelief.

This statement sounds as if Jesus had driven out of the temple every Jew who did not believe in him, as if their sin consisted in this unbelief and as if he had founded a new religion. In fact, Jesus initially does nothing else than the prophet Jeremiah (7:11), who compared the goings-on in the temple of his day to a den of robbers, and he justifies his behavior explicitly on the basis of Psalm 69:10 and implicitly on the basis of Zechariah 14:21. Neither Jeremiah nor Zechariah, despite their criticisms, could be suspected of wanting to throw every Jew out of the temple.

Also the conception of the Johannine Jesus (2:19, 21) of the “temple of his body” must have nothing to do with the fact that he arbitrarily “has displaced the Temple as the locus of worship of the divine,” rather, according to the Scriptures, God has his NAME dwell where he chooses, be it in the tent of meeting or in the temple at Jerusalem, or be it in the flesh of the Messiah (John 1:14), that is, his earthly existence, or in his body, to be understood symbolically, the Messianic community (14:2-3, 23). <117>

3.3.1 Places of Worship after the Destruction of Sanctuaries

In the conversation with the Samaritan woman, an essential point of view is added: precisely because it is important to the Johannine Jesus to bring together all of Israel, including Samaria, it matters significantly to John that in his time not only the long-destroyed sanctuary of the Samaritans on the Gerizim but also the temple in Jerusalem no longer exists. In this regard, Veerkamp states: <118>

Both peoples have “no place, nowhere” anymore. “Neither Jerusalem nor Gerizim” is an inconsolable reality, for both peoples. What future do they have? Who else can they follow, except the idol of this world order?

After the destruction of the Temple, Rabbinic Judaism, too, must develop alternative forms of practicing its religion, and it finds them primarily in concentrating on the study of the Torah in the synagogue. And it is precisely with this Rabbinic Judaism that the Messianic Jews in John’s Gospel argue about whether the study of the Torah alone is sufficient to survive in a niche of the Roman World Empire, or whether trust in the Messiah Jesus is necessary to overcome this oppressive world order as such.

In your eyes (59), what Jesus implies in 2:21 and tells the Samaritan woman in 4:21 is already

fulfilled at least provisionally in John 6. Contrary to his usual practice, Jesus does not go up to Jerusalem for the Passover but spends it on a mountain in the Galilee. A multitude of Galilean Jews flock to him there; he nourishes them with bread, fish, and his teachings. For those Galileans, worship has already shifted from Jerusalem to wherever Jesus is.

I do not think, however, that this is about the place of worship. Nowhere in the Gospel the Passover itself is celebrated, not even here, for according to 6:4 ēn de engys to pascha, “near was Pascha.” It is true that in chapter 6 it is asked whether Jesus wants to be proclaimed king as the nourisher of Israel, but his hour, the hour of liberation, of the new Passover, has not yet come; it is not dawning until Jesus will die on the cross as the new Passover Lamb.

3.3.2 “Bowing Down to the FATHER Inspired and According to Fidelity”

More essential is a verse in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman about the way of worship or bowing to the FATHER, in regard to which you write:

4:23 clarifies that the “you” in question are not only Samaritans but all “true worshippers” who “will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

What is meant by this can be interpreted very differently. Ton Veerkamp translates and explains as follows: <119>

4:23 But the hour is coming
—indeed, it’s happening now—
when they who are bowing faithfully,
will bow to the Father according to inspiration and fidelity,
for the FATHER is seeking such as these who are bowing to him.
4:24 As inspiration, GOD is working;
and those bowing to him
are to bow according to inspiration and fidelity.”

“The hour is coming—and it is now!—that those who really bow to the FATHER are bowing according to inspiration and fidelity.” This is always translated “in spirit and truth.” Not false, but worn, worn out. Consciousness has as essential content the fidelity of God to Israel, and this fidelity is inspiring. Inspiration—the word contains the Latin word “spiritus” (pneuma, ruach)—is what orients people’s actions, speech, and thinking, from fidelity—to fidelity. “God” is what claims the ultimate loyalty of people, it is what a person is actually concerned about. “God” has a NAME in Israel, and this NAME can only be pronounced as, Who is leading out of the house of slavery (Exodus 20:2), as moshiaˁ yisraˀel, “liberator of Israel” (Isaiah 45:15). But in fact, “God” is functioning as anything else, as nameless gods. Samaria is called upon to pay homage only to this NAME as “God,” as what it is actually about.

Such as these the FATHER is seeking, “for God,” according to Yeshua, “may only work as this inspiration.” That is, to be inspired by the liberator and his liberation, to direct all political activity to this liberation, to let this liberation be “God.” This conversation is not about academic clarification of whether God is a “spirit.” No: God inspires by his fidelity to his people, that he wants to liberate, as he once liberated Israel from the slave house.

The sentence: pneuma ho theos has the form of a declarative clause. What inspires people is their “God.” And what they recognize as “God”, as what it is actually about, that is, what they must pay homage to politically. In Israel this is the FATHER; by this word John paraphrases the inexpressible NAME.

What is the meaning of “And this is now?” Christian orthodoxy sees here an inner process: whoever gets involved in it is “redeemed.” This is not entirely false. Whoever makes this political perspective his life’s purpose, does indeed live differently. To him, the splitting of Israel is actually overcome.

If now the reality of the bitter enmity does not open itself to this reasonable perspective, then you can react in two ways. On the one hand, it may be said, “All illusion,” as Pilate said, “What is fidelity,” 18:38; on the other hand, it is possible to internalize this perspective and let reality be just this catastrophic reality. This second reaction is the emergence of the Christian religion. Admittedly, the eschatological hope of the transformation of the world remains; but for the time being, nothing more can be expected from the world, and the temporary perspective of the individual is life after death and heaven. <120> The woman from Samaria reacts in a third way, with skepticism.

As the narrative progresses, the woman apparently does overcome her skepticism, and the entire Gospel is a single attempt by John to explain how a Messiah who is crucified by the Romans, who bids farewell to Messianic adventures, can nevertheless be trustworthy in taking hopeful steps to overcome the Roman world order—namely, by inspiring a Messianic community in which all Israel is to be gathered to practice agapē, solidarity.

In this sense, your conclusion regarding the temple (60) is approximately correct:

And while the Gospel nowhere suggests that the Temple has lost its status as God’s house, it is now Jesus who constitutes the preeminent locus for divine-human relationship.

Not quite accurate is the generalization “divine-human relationship.” In fact, John, like Rabbinic Judaism, is also originally concerned with the relationship between God and Israel.

3.4 The Withered Vine: Intra-Jewish Criticism or Ousted Metaphor?

Now we come to a verse (60) that, at first glance, takes the hostility to Jews of John’s Gospel to the extreme:

The verse that encapsulates the expropriation of Jewishness is John 15:6. This verse appears in the context of the so-called parable of the vine in which Jesus identifies himself as the true vine and God as the vinegrower. Jesus declares that all who abide in—believe in—Jesus as God’s son will belong to and nourished by the vine (15:1-5). But “whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (15:6).

The image John uses here, however, is not new. You too are aware that in

Second Temple Jewish literature, the metaphor refers to the Jews, who, like Jews today, identify with the Israel of whom the prophets spoke. The vine could also be identified with divine wisdom and Torah (Sir 24:17; Philo On Dreams 2.171).

You take it as expropriation of this Jewish metaphor that “John’s Jesus identifies himself as the ‘true vine’ and believers as the fruit-laden branches.”

Jesus is the vine therefore both in his role as the divine Logos of the Prologue and as the corporate body in which believers must abide in order to bear fruit. … Who, then, are the withered branches that are cast forth, gathered, and burned? Cyril of Alexandria knew: the Jews. <121>

I do not dispute that Cyril in the 5th century interpreted the parable in such an anti-Jewish way—from the Christian’s perspective toward the disinherited religion of the Jews. But John writes as a Jewish Messianist, familiar with the metaphor of the vine from his own tradition.

Even you yourself accurately describe the background of the parable in “the widespread use of the vine as a metaphor for Israel in the books of the prophets.” Thus Isaiah 5:1-9 explains why the children of Abraham may be excluded from God’s “covenant with Abraham and his descendants” made for eternity according to Genesis 17:7. It boils down to (61) that where “God expected justice and righteousness, he saw only bloodshed and cries (5:7).” Likewise, you refer to Jeremiah 2:21 and 8:13, where “divine nurturing” turns “to divine punishment” and there is talk of “a vine that had already died, forsaking the one who had nurtured them and given them everything they needed in order to thrive.” Finally, the prophet Ezekiel in 16:6 speaks not only of “the mere withering of the vine” but that “Israel’s faithlessness must result in the utter destruction that only fire can accomplish,” indeed, “Ezekiel 9:12 contains the same elements as John 15:1-6: withering, gathering, and burning.”

The two passages Isaiah 5:1-6 and Jeremiah 2:21 are also mentioned by Ton Veerkamp, who additionally refers to Psalm 80: <122>

Then the song “Shepherd of Israel, listen” (Psalm 80). In this song, Israel is compared to a vine that God brought up from Egypt into the land, “its root rooted in . . . its branches stretched out to the sea.” The keywords of our parable John 15:1-2 (ampelos, “vine,” and klēmata, “branches, flowering twigs”) are also found in this song. The theme of the song is the decline of Israel, which has become the prey of foreign peoples. The refrain of the song (four times, v.4.8.15.20) reads,

God: let us return,
let your face shine,
we will be liberated.

The texts see Israel as a vineyard where the vines bear fruit: Israel’s hoped-for yield is the legal order of its God. But in fact, Israel is the foreign vine that bears no fruit, and if it does, then only beˀushim, “rotten fruit.” To the desires for the restoration of Israel, the Messiah answers, “I AM—the faithful vine.” In Psalm 80, of all places, there is talk of a ben ˀadam (the Hebrew form of the Aramaic bar enosh), v.18-19,

Let your hand be over the man of your right hand,
over the Human, you made strong for yourself.
Never again we want to turn away from you,
let us live, who are called by Your name.

This background makes us understand what is said with this parable. The Messiah of Israel is that bar enosh, Human, and so Israel itself, Daniel 7:27. He is the absolute opposite of that deceptive Israel, that “wrong, foreign vine.” To describe Israel as a collective, the metaphor “vine” is used. The vine is the Messiah, the members of the group are the flowering branches, the grapes. They must be provided for so that the grapes bear fruit. This is not the work of the Messiah, but the vintner, the God of Israel.

The work of God is “to cleanse.” Through the word (logos, davar) of the Messiah the disciples are clean, 15:3, that is, through the word, the disciples “already” fulfill that condition of purity which has always been fulfilled for each member of the people to participate in the community.

This is based on the intense connection with the Messiah, “Stay firmly with me, as I with you.” The Messianic vision is the basic condition for a truthful life. If you are not really confident that the prevailing conditions, namely the “world order,” are not unchangeable, but that “life in the age to come” (zōē aiōnios) is a real perspective for life of people on earth, you cannot do anything: For “separated from me (chōris emou) you can do nothing.” Otherwise, all doing is useless, barren, unfruitful.

You now again (61) interpret the use of “these prophetic motifs” for “the intertwined relationships among Jesus, God, and believers” as an, in your eyes, undue appropriation:

In the Gospel, as in the books of the prophets, God is the vinegrower. For John, however, Jesus replaces Israel as the vine, of which believers are an integral part. Whereas the prophets describe a judgment on all Israel for faithlessness, John differentiates between the faithful (those who believe Jesus to be the Messiah, Son of God) and the faithless (those who reject such belief, that is, the Jews). The passage therefore declares that, on account of their refusal to believe in Jesus, Jews are no longer God’s vine. God has removed them from divine covenantal relationship; like withered vine branches, God gathers them up, casts them into the fire, and burns them (15:6).

Here we must look very carefully. Can we really speak of an appropriation if John understands Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and Son of Man, who at the same time embodies in the whole of his life the people of Israel, an Israel fully aligned with the will of the FATHER? No, Jesus does not replace Israel in order to reject it, but he embodies Israel in order to liberate it! In my eyes, Jesus in John’s Gospel proclaims judgment over Israel in the same way as the prophets. They too did not want to destroy Israel as a whole but were concerned with the preservation of those who would listen to the message of judgment. So if there is an inner-Jewish prophetic-Messianic dispute being fought out here, there can be no question of John expelling the Jews.

In your next paragraph, it becomes clear that you definitely know that the (61-62)

differentiation that John enacts is not his innovation but, like the metaphor of the vine and branches, based on scripture. Zechariah 8:12 refers to a remnant that shall remain, promising a time when “the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.” Jeremiah 6:9 also describes the faithful remnant as a vine: “Glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel; like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again over its branches.”

At this very point (62) you speak again of the fact that the “vine metaphor in John 15 therefore exemplifies the rhetoric of appropriation and expropriation that I have been tracing in this chapter,” in that

John appropriates a biblical motif of covenant and removal from the covenant—symbolized by the vinegrower’s cultivation and then destruction of the vineyard—effectively declaring that the faithlessness for which God destroyed the vineyard in the past is matched by the faithlessness that the Jews display in their rejection of God’s son. The believers are the righteous remnant of Israel that retains its covenantal relationship with God from which the faithless have been cast off to wither and die.

As I often said, this is true for the doctrine of disinheritance espoused by the later Christian church when Gentile Christians gained the upper hand in it and John’s Gospel was no longer interpreted in liberation-theological terms but in cosmological-Gnostic terms. However, if at the time of the Gospel of John Messianic Jews are quarreling with Rabbinic Jews, there is no disinheritance of the Jews yet but something similar to a fight between prophets of Baal and prophets of YHWH or between Sadducees and Pharisees or Zealots.

In fact, you answer your question posed in a note (66, n. 30) “of whether the new vine that includes Jesus and the believers is also called Israel” basically in the affirmative because:

The label “Israel” does not appear often in the Gospel, but it is generally used positively, or, at least, Jesus does not distance himself from the term. In 1:31, John the Baptist declares that he undertook his mission of water baptism in order that Jesus might be revealed to Israel. In 1:49, Nathanael declares Jesus to be the Son of God and King of Israel, which Jesus takes as an expression of his belief (1:50). In 3:10, Jesus criticizes Nicodemus for his lack of understanding as a “teacher of Israel.” And when Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly, the people call out “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (12:13). Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine whether John envisioned the children of God as Israel.

In my eyes, there is much to be said in favor of John viewing the children of God as Israel. I only mention the passage 11:50-52, where Caiaphas as the high priest is an unwitting prophet about Jesus dying for the people, laos, namely Israel—and also for all the scattered children of God, by which the Jews of the Diaspora are meant.

3.5 The Jewish Features of John’s Gospel as Part of his anti-Judaism?

Thus, although you concede (62) that John’s “Gospel is thoroughly Jewish,” you reproach him that these

features, however, function rhetorically not to include Alexandra and the rest of John’s audience within a broader Jewish corporate entity but, perhaps ironically, to exclude the Ioudaioi from the divine covenant. In appropriating the scriptures, the Temple, and covenantal language for its audience, the Gospel rhetorically casts the Jews out from that covenant. This expulsion is justified on the grounds that the Ioudaioi have failed to recognize that God has redrawn the terms of the covenantal contract. No longer is the covenant to be based on acceptance of and obedience to the Torah, but on the basis of belief in Jesus as God’s Son. No longer do the leaders of the Ioudaioi control the Temple precincts. As God’s Son, it is now Jesus who has jurisdiction over his Father’s house. In other words, the Jewishness of the Gospel is not an antidote to its anti-Jewishness, but part and parcel thereof.

This means in your eyes

that the children of God have taken on some of the identity markers of the loudaioi. They are now the ones who have access to the Temple and Torah, and they are the ones in covenantal relationship with the God of Israel, and therefore have the status of God’s elect or chosen. Thus they are like Ioudaioi without actually being Ioudaioi, “Jew-ish” without being Jewish. To be more precise, they stake their claim to the status and perhaps even the name of Israel but reject both the label Ioudaioi and the Ioudaioi themselves.

In doing so, you are describing exactly what the Gentile Christian Church soon used John’s Gospel for, namely, to present itself as the true Israel, verus Israel, <123> and in fact to disinherit the Jews. Certainly, they did not even suspect how Jewish John himself had thought only a short time before, for they no longer thought Jewishly, but Greekly.

Crucial in your argumentation is the point that already in view of John’s Gospel itself you consider the change of the conditions of the covenant agreement between God and man as pure arbitrariness. If John on the other hand—as a Jew from the Jewish Scriptures—passes the Messianic-political judgment that liberation from the worldwide slave house of the Roman world order can only succeed in trusting in the Messiah sent by the God of Israel, then this is not yet anti-Judaism, but inner-Jewish polemics, which, however, are not less sharp than those of the prophets of Israel and Judah. You do not have to share them, but you might understand their motivation in principle.

4 Rhetoric of Vituperation

At the beginning of your 4th chapter (67) it is evident what happens if we do not understand John’s Gospel from its context of an inner-Jewish conflict between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews, but view it as a propagandistic pamphlet baiting a reader like Alexandra with hopes for the fulfillment of her “deep desire for eternal life and cause her to be reborn into the family of God, bound by love to her sisters and brothers.”

John presents this process as a gift, wrapped in love, spirit, light, and life, in order to entice her with the joy that she will experience if she is so reborn. But the rhetorical strategies he uses to describe this cohesive and loving community are matched by equally powerful and diverse tactics that emphasize the need for the children of God to separate themselves from those outside their group. One of these strategies, as we have seen, involves both appropriation and expropriation: the rhetorical appropriation of central markers of Jewishness and the ouster of Jews from their entitlement to them. Closely related to this strategy is a second rhetorical move: repudiation of the Ioudaioi. It seems inevitable that Alexandra and other compliant audience members will absorb this hostile rhetoric alongside the glowing promises of rebirth and life eternal.

Indeed, Christian missionaries from the 2nd century to our own time have used John’s Gospel in terms of such a strategy, perhaps to strengthen and assert the new Christian religion in its identity vis-à-vis Judaism by demarcating and demonizing the old religion. But such hostility of religions was not originally the point of John’s Gospel.

The way John incorporates the Ioudaioi into the rhetoric of his Gospel, you compare to the way he takes up, creates, and moulds (67-68)

the human dread of death … for his own rhetoric of affiliation. So too does he refer to a historical group known to have existed in the first century—the Ioudaioi—but he defines and describes this group in ways that serve his rhetoric of disaffiliation. Although the Gospel does not portray the Ioudaioi in a uniformly negative light, John uses the label Ioudaioi primarily to construct a group that is distanced from and hostile to both Jesus and the believers.

Precisely this characterization of the Ioudaioi that is not consistently negative, however, might give pause for thought as to whether John was really concerned with a fundamental rhetoric of alienating the Jews from their covenant with God or with an entirely differently motivated engagement with particular groups of Jews.

So let us see in this chapter whether it is indeed true that John basically characterizes the Ioudaioi as negative so that one cannot identify with them (68):

If the Gospel’s rhetoric encouraged affiliation primarily by encouraging identification with the believers portrayed in the Gospel—the disciples and Mary Magdalene—it insists on disaffiliation by discouraging identification with the Ioudaioi, or, to put it another way, by presenting the Ioudaioi as negative models.

4.1. Neutral Use of the Term Ioudaioi

First, you admit (68) that among the “approximately seventy references to the Ioudaioi” there are those that do not “express an explicitly hostile stance.”

4.1.1 Need Jewish Festivals and Customs to be Explained to a non-Jewish Audience?

Seven of them neutrally refer to Jewish festivals and customs in which Jesus naturally participates, up to and including his burial according to Jewish rites (2:6; 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:40). Nevertheless, these passages imply “the audience’s unfamiliarity with these festivals and practices,” because the rites and occasions in question are, after all, declared to be Jewish, which you (89, n. 4) see confirmed by 10:22

which refers to the holiday of Hanukkah or Dedication but without specifying that it is a festival “of the Jews:” “At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter.” The reference to the season, however, like the phrase “of the Jews” in the other examples, suggests an audience that does not have close familiarity with the festival. Otherwise the detail that “it was winter” would be extraneous.

However, we can also explain the aforementioned formulations in another way than with a predominantly or even exclusively non-Jewish audience. Individual God-fearers from the goyim are certainly to be assumed among John’s audience because of 12:20. Also, Jesus could refer to festivals of the Judeans in a similarly distancing manner as he speaks (8:17; 10:34; 15:25) of “your” or “their Torah.”

According to Ton Veerkamp, the indication “it was winter” in 10:22 need not be an explanation referring to the usual time of the festival: <124>

The phrase “it was winter” seems redundant. But in Mark, the Messiah asks his disciples to pray that the great catastrophe of the end times may not happen “in winter” (13:18). Perhaps John wants the listeners to make the connection with Mark 13:18.

Another explanation is offered by Hans Förster: <125>

Commonly, the mention of the “Dedication festival in winter” in John 10:22 is understood as a reference to non-Jewish readers. They are informed that “the” Jewish Dedication festival took place in winter. However, until the 4th century, three Jewish temple consecration festivals were known and celebrated: The enkainia in autumn commemorated the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the enkainia in spring celebrated the temple rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, and the enkainia in winter had as its theme the reconsecration of the temple desecrated under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. All three festivals were designated by the term enkainia. So it seems to make more sense to refer John 10:22 to readers who knew about these three festivals and who are told which of the three festivals called enkainia is meant: the one in winter.

4.1.2 Distinguishing the Ioudaioi from Inhabitants of Galilee or Samaria

Two mentions (68) of Ioudaios are about distinguishing them from other geographic regions or populations in Palestine: 3:22 refers to the land of the Jews in the sense of Judea as distinct from Galilee or Samaria, and 4:9, according to you, refers

to a social custom, according to which “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” Here John is explaining why the Samaritan woman is surprised at Jesus’s request for water: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”

In fact, however, this is not merely “a social custom,” rather John is alluding to the enmity between Judeans and Samaritans who both had formed the kingdom of David and Solomon many centuries before the ten northern tribes of Israel broke away from King Rehoboam son of Solomon. <126>

4.1.3 Does the Emphasis on Jesus’ Jewishness Underscore his Ousting of Judaism?

Another (68) seven passages “describe Jewish individuals or groups,” from Nicodemus, “a leader of the Jews (3:1),” to the Jews who mourn Lazarus (11:19, 31, 33) and whom Jesus (69) names as his addressees in 13:33 and 18:20. In 3:25 there is also mention of “a discussion about purification … between John’s disciples and a Jew.”

All of these passages emphasize “Jesus’ Jewishness,“ as well as the fact that

others call him ‘rabbi,’ a quintessentially Jewish title meaning teacher (1:38; 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8), and Mary Magdalene calls him Rabbouni, meaning, ‘my teacher’ in Aramaic (John refers to this language as Hebrew {20:16}).

However, as you noted in the previous chapter, although “John’s overall Jewish context is evident also in his conceptual framework and vocabulary,” to the point that according to John “salvation for all of humankind will arise through the intervention of the one God of Israel, who has sovereignty over the entire cosmos, including the created world and all of humankind,” all this, in your eyes, only underscores the extent of the “appropriation of Jewishness that we discussed in the previous chapter by associating Jesus uncritically with specific Jewish observances and adopting and adapting Jewish ideas and language for the Gospel’s own theological discourse.”

4.2 Salvation is of/from the Jews

That 4:22 need not be seen (69) as “an unambiguously positive reference to the Jews” is justified (70) by the fact that Jesus does not utter the phrase “salvation is from {or of} the Jews”

to emphasize that the Jews are the origin of salvation but that Jesus is the one through whom salvation comes. In other words, Jesus, the Jew who, by rights, should not have been speaking to a Samaritan woman, is the salvation that comes from the Jews. This analysis supports the idea that, while Ioudaioi is a positive term here, the point of the verse is not to stress Jesus’s Jewish origins so much as to draw attention to Jesus himself.

4.2.1 Salvation is from the Jews—Brought about by the Jewish Messiah

In principle, Ton Veerkamp views this quite similarly, as already stated in section 1.2.4.2, however, he interprets sōtēria not as the salvation of souls but as liberation from the world order. It is Jesus as a Jew, as the Jewish Messiah, who must be understood from the Jewish Scriptures, who brings liberation for Judeans and Samaritans. You are also right with the following sentence (70) referring to 4:42

that Jesus is truly the savior of the world (estin alēthōs ho sōtēr tou kosmou). As the savior, Jesus himself is the salvation that comes from the Jews, to Samaritans, Jews, and, one presumes, others as well.

At this point, by the others, you surely mean, above all, the Gentiles, though John originally takes a far more reserved view of them than Paul and Luke or even Matthew.

Since the preposition ek used in 4:22 is ambiguous in its sense—it “can mean ‘of,’ as in ‘a part of’ or ‘can be found within.’ It can also mean ‘out of,’ or ‘emerging from’”—Jesus is not, in your eyes, explaining “that salvation is ‘of’ the Jews in the sense of belonging to or reserved for Jews only.”

This is correct—however, already in the Tanakh Abraham is promised to be a blessing for the nations, and conversely, also the Jews in the Tanakh attain and preserve salvation only if they act according to the Torah and do not “fornicate” with other gods, as in the eyes of John in Jesus’ time the leading class of the Jews in Jerusalem does with the adversary, diabolos, Rome and its gods.

4.2.2 Attempts to Come to Terms with 4:22, between Hostility and Benevolence toward the Jews

Among Christian exegetes (70), because of the “ambiguity of this seemingly simple preposition” you perceive “rather complex interpretations.” For example, C. K. Barrett <127> does not understand verse 4:22b in the sense (70-71)

that Jews as such are inevitably saved, but rather that the election of Israel to a true knowledge of God was in order that … at the time appointed by God, salvation might proceed from Israel to the world, and Israel’s own unique privilege be thereby dissolved. As the next verse shows, this eschatological salvation is in the person of Jesus in process of realization and the Jews are losing their position to the Church.

Thus Barrett confirms your position, but in my opinion merely reflects the Gentile-Christian distortion of the message of John’s Gospel, which no longer interprets the Messiah from the Tanakh but interprets the so-called Old Testament exclusively in terms of the New Testament under the leadership of the Gentile-Christian conceived God-man Jesus.

Similarly (71), Edward Klink <128> understands the Johannine Jesus as

the true Jew, through whom all people on earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3). Jesus is the ‘blessing’ given to the Jews, and it is through the Jewish Jesus that the rest of the world is blessed.” For Klink, Jesus is simply asserting that the one whom the Samaritan woman has identified as a Jew is offering salvation to those whom the Jews have excluded.

Other exegetes focus on the contrast between Jews and Samaritans. Michael Theobald, <129> for example, “argues that the phrase ek tōn Ioudaiōn means from the Jewish scriptures, rather than Samaritan scriptures,” but there is at least no explicit mention of this. Rudolf Schnackenburg, <130> in turn,

views this statement as an affirmation “that the Jews still have precedence in the history of salvation. The Samaritans … do not possess true knowledge of God; their worship rather grew out of national and political ambitions. The Jews … are the legitimate worshippers of God, and salvation, that is, the Messiah, stems from the Jews. … In the situation as he found it, Jesus had to overcome the woman’s repugnance to the “Jews” (v.9).”

He too distorts the original intent of John’s Gospel from the later view of Christianity, that Jesus would have been concerned with purely spiritual religious goals and not with political liberation. In doing so, Schnackenburg does justice neither to the Jews, whose understanding of “salvation” is centrally linked to the exodus traditions of liberation from the Egyptian slave house, nor to the Johannine view of the Samaritans: they are not accused of “national and political ambitions” in general, but—in the metaphor of the many men who were not their true husbands—of having been dependent on ever different oppressor-gods for centuries, instead of serving the liberating NAME of the God of Israel. Also, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman is not simply about overcoming her individual resistance, but about a way to overcome the enmity between the two people groups.

There are, however, theologians like Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt <131> who deal with verse 4:22 in a different way. Ton Veerkamp refers to him although he does not share his dogmatic-Christian reading but instead clarifies once again in what way liberation in the eyes of John comes from the political movement of the Jewish-Messianic followers of Jesus: <132>

Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt has the half-sentence, “that liberation comes from the Judeans,” in the version “for salvation comes from the Jews.” His concern was to liberate the Christian faith from its anti-Semitic and—for the Jews until today—deadly tension and thus from its barrenness for the world. But his “dogmatic” reading—in the best sense of the word—does not lead to the comprehension of our narrative.

The “we” here is not a homogeneous Jewish entity, which is not surprising in the context of the Gospel of John. It is the “we” of the Messianic community, which knows that it is of Judean origin and neither wants to nor can deny this. Only thus has it been a movement for and in Israel, only thus a concrete-political liberation movement of the people of Israel, which is more than the people of Judea. This “neither—nor” points beyond the contrast between Judea and Samaria, not of course in the form of a Christian afterlife that overcomes all opposites. For John, the “hereafter” is—in this world—“all Israel in one synagogue or one courtyard,” as the content of his political program (11:52 and 10:11-16). These Messianic Judeans know to whom they bow, knowing that the historically real sanctuary, which had turned into an emporion, a marketplace, and was destroyed, became replaced by the sanctuary of the “body of the Messiah,” i.e., the Messianic community (2:18 ff.), which was built up in three days.

The Messiah does not call the Judeans to renounce their origin and thus to receive a new identity, but to finally do justice to their origin as children of Israel and to leave the decayed “market economy,” into which the house of the FATHER has turned. The Samaritans are not fighting this struggle for their own origin, they don’t know, what they—politically speaking—actually do, they thus do not know, what is actually going on with them, “to whom they bow.” Hellenism has ruined the land of Samaria in such a way that it no longer knows what it is and should be.

You yourself emphasize regarding the relationship between Jews and Samaritans in this context (71):

ln declaring that salvation is of or from the Jews, John’s Jesus is promising the Samaritans the salvation through covenantal relationship that the Jews alone had previously enjoyed as God’s elect people. The one who provides salvation is a Jew; the salvation that he promises is the one that comes to God’s covenant people. The Samaritans have an opportunity to benefit from the Jewish covenant with God without becoming Jews, but that covenant is still seen as primary, and better than, more authentic, truer, than the Samaritan beliefs. Furthermore, not only Samaritans, but now also the Jews themselves, can be in relationship with God only by worshiping the Father in spirit and truth, that is, through faith in Jesus.

However, in your view, the ultimate question remains: “is this indeed a positive usage of the term loudaioi or is it rather neutral or even, in the context of the Gospel’s rhetorical program, negative?” The Johannine Jesus here is “simply asserting that the one whom the Samaritan woman has identified as a Jew is offering salvation to those whom the Jews have excluded,” but he is not “declaring that only Jews will be saved.”

But, as I said, even the Jewish Scriptures, while assuming the election of the people of Israel, also speak of blessing the nations. Especially if we understand the concept of sōtēria not as the salvation of the soul but as liberation for a life of justice and peace, an exclusive understanding of salvation is not appropriate, all the more so since John assumes that under Roman conditions liberation is not to be achieved through the Torah of separation from the nations but through the solidarity of agapē that overcomes the world order from within.

What difficulties (72) Christian exegesis has had with 4:22 is shown by the attempt to eliminate it historically-critically from the Gospel as inauthentic; according to Gilbert Van Belle, <133> this was already done in “Ernst Renan’s La vie de Jésus in the mid-nineteenth century.” Rudolf Bultmann devoted only a footnote to the verse in his 1941 commentary: <134>

“In spite of 4:9, it is hard to see how the Johannine Jesus, who consistently dissociates himself from the Jews, … could have made such a statement.”

That such a view “was taken up by the Nazi scholar Walter Grundmann, <135> in a 1938 article,” is not surprising, since the latter assessed John’s writing as a “thoroughly and correctly anti-Semitic Gospel.” But there were other Nazi scholars, such as Gerhard Kittel, <136> who “considered 4:22 to be part of the Gospel, although the positive statement about the Jews apparently did not affect his overall approval of John as an anti-Semitic text.”

Among recent exegetes, some call verse 4:22 “into service to counteract the anti-Jewish tone of other Johannine references to the Ioudaioi,” while others “strongly disagree with using the verse to exculpate John’s otherwise anti-Jewish stance.” You (73) agree with the latter

and would further suggest that while 4:22 seems to contradict the anti-Jewish statements in the Gospel, it in fact stems from the same set of ideas and impulses. … The Gospel explicitly grounds its anti-Jewish statements precisely in the point that “salvation is from the Jews” yet the Jews rejected him. The Samaritans, however, who come to Jesus and now “know that this is truly the Savior of the world” (4:42), are now children of God because they believe in his name.

4.3 Wavering Jews

Further (73) “thirteen occurrences in which crowds of Ioudaioi ponder the christological claims made by or about Jesus among themselves and express ambivalence about Jesus’s identity” you also judge as “consistent with the anti-Jewish rhetoric that pervades John’s Gospel.”

The phrase “christological claims,” which you choose here, is treacherous, however, since it is a term that originated in later Christianity and became increasingly dogmatically charged from Greek philosophy. John’s original concern is whether Jesus is recognized as the Messiah of Israel, capable of bringing about Israel’s liberation from the Roman world order.

4.3.1 Ioudaioi with the Choice to Decide for or against Jesus

As passages that “point to differences of opinion among the Jews and leave open the possibility that at least within the narrative, some will become believers,” you rightly cite 6:41, 52; 7:11, 15, 35; 8:22; 10:19, 24; 11:36; 12:9); Jesus himself in 8:31 expresses “hope for the Jews” who had trusted him if they remained firm with his word. However, two passages that you also place in the category of undecided Jews, 11:45 and 12:11, speak explicitly of many Jews trusting in Jesus; we must add to this 7:31, where the same is said of the crowd, ochlos.

There are, therefore, (74) authors such as Susan Hylen, <137> who assess “the Ioudaioi … as an ambiguous group character that is often undecided as to their stance toward Jesus, and as such, they can constitute a point of positive identification for an audience faced with a similar set of choices,” or Christopher Skinner, <138> who assumes that the reader “must weigh each case” and “is not always called upon to identify with the believers and against the loudaioi.”

4.3.2 Does Jesus Oppose the Ioudaioi with Prejudice from the Outset?

You do not agree with Hylen or Skinner. You write that even “those who are tempted to believe, however, are not quite among the faithful followers that the Gospel presents as worthy of eternal life.” In 6:26, Jesus reproaches them for seeking him not for the signs but for the loaves that filled them. And several times (6:36 and 6:64) he intersperses remarks in his talk about the bread of life about the fact that at least some of his listeners do not trust him.

This is true. Problematic about your argument is that you refer zōē aiōnios to eternal life in heaven, of which Jesus allegedly does not consider his listeners worthy. According to Ton Veerkamp, Jesus is arguing with various Jewish factions about the appropriate way to attain the life of the age to come in this world, that is, to overcome the Roman order of death, which he estimates the Pax Romana, the kosmos, to be.

Whoever wants to make Jesus a king in the manner of the Maccabees or the Zealots of the Judean War on the basis of the feeding of the 5000, has not understood his deed as a symbolic indication of the way in which he, as the Son of Man who is lifted up to the Roman cross, will overcome the Roman world order.

And with those who, as Pharisaic or Rabbinical Jews, counter his Messianic exuberance with Scriptural quotations, Jesus argues by ever new allusions to the Jewish Scriptures in order to prove that the God of Israel has indeed sent him into the world order to overcome it. For this, I quote at length Ton Veerkamp in his interpretation of verses 6:30-40, which I first reproduce in his translation: <139>

6:30 Now they said to him,
“Then what sign do you do,
so that we may see it and trust you?
What are you working?
6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written,
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
6:32 Yeshua said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
Not Moshe has given you the bread from heaven.
But my FATHER is giving you the bread from heaven, the effective one.
6:33 For GOD’s bread is the one that comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”
6:34 They said to him,
“Sir, forever give us this bread.”
6:35 Yeshua said to them,
“I AM—the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will not go hungry,
and whoever trusts in me will not be thirsty,
never!
6:36 But I told you: You have seen me, but still don’t trust.
6:37 All that the FATHER gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will not cast out.
6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will
but the will of the ONE who sent me.
6:39 And this is the will of the ONE who sent me:
that I should let nothing be destroyed of all he has given me
but should raise it up on the Day of the Final Decision.
6:40 For this is the will of my FATHER:
that everyone who observes the Son and trusts in him
should have the life of the age to come,
and that I should raise him up on the Day of the Final Decision.”

Those who claim not to have seen a sign on the other side of the sea now demand a sign. The disciples are confronted with this demand in all the Gospels (Mark 8:11 par.). Apparently, the emerging Rabbinical Judaism demands evidence from the Messianists that their politics have indeed served Israel well. The evangelists deal with this demand in different ways. With John, this demand virtually becomes an obsession. Again and again, Yeshua must legitimize himself.

For the local opponents of the Messianists, who were probably followers of Rabbinical Judaism, Yeshua was at best a muddlehead, at worst an impostor, but always the embodiment of a disastrous policy. Here the question is simply, “What are you working, effecting, bringing about? What is the point of all this messianic excitement?” And they immediately refer to the difference between the spectacle of Yeshua on the other shore of the sea and the feeding of the people on their forty-year march through the wilderness—as it should be, with a Scriptural quotation (Psalm 78:24).

The opponents are different now. If those who wanted to make Yeshua king were short-sighted Zealots, now speak those who are most skeptical of any messianism. What would be the feeding of the five thousand compared with the feeding of Israel in the wilderness? <140> What follows is a fierce debate among the teachers of Israel about the interpretation of central Scriptural passages such as Psalm 78:24 and Exodus 16.

These Judeans are faithful disciples of Moshe, which is known to Yeshua. But he too points to a difference; he turns the tables. First of all, he states that this bread of heaven, the manna, does not come from Moshe, but the FATHER, the God of Israel. Yeshua’s answer undoubtedly contains a contradiction. But this contradiction must be written out completely, “Not Moshe has given (perfect), … my FATHER is giving (present).”

It is often noted that the quote is not literal. It is necessary that we hear the passage Exodus 16:4 in its context; all other passages, including our original text Deuteronomy 8:3, refer to this passage. The people came to the wilderness of Sin, then it says, 16:2-4,

They complained, the whole community (of the sons) of Israel,
against Moshe and against Aaron in the wilderness.
They said to them,
If only we had died by the hand of the NAME in the land of Egypt,
when we sat at the meat pot, eating bread for satiation;
instead, you have led us into this wilderness,
to kill the whole assembly of Israel.
The NAME said to Moshe,
“There, I will rain bread from heaven upon you…”

If his listeners do not accept the Messiah, they scorn what keeps them alive, the “bread from heaven.” And that is the effective bread, that which really is working today. Here we translate the adjective alēthinos as “effective,” because it is opposed to a bread that does not really solve the problem, is not working.

The manna stands for the “five loaves” from 6:9. It is about Moshe, about the Torah—hence “five”; “Moshe” can no longer be the answer today. Just as the five loaves can only temporarily satiate the crowd, just as the manna temporarily satiated the people then, so the Torah of Israel no longer nourishes today under the prevailing Roman conditions. It was precisely this view that Rabbinical Judaism rejected, and which today Judaism vehemently rejects. Under the given circumstances, Torah is non-real—ineffective—, says John, says Paul as well. Among those who vehemently reject this Messianic view is also the Messianist Matthew! It is not our task to express a preference for John or for Matthew. We have to interpret John.

Real—effective—, according to John, is only “the bread that descends from heaven and gives life to the world {to humans in their living space},” that is, it allows the world an order through which humans really can live. People know what Yeshua is talking about: It is about a new order that makes life possible; people want this bread because they suffer under the ruling world order. It is about politics, and people know it. It is literally about the definitive bread, about the new, definitive (pantote, “forever”) world order of the Messiah of Israel, about the definitive solution of definitive problems. This is what they want.
Yeshua pours them pure wine, says clearly and unambiguously, “I AM—the bread of life.” John introduces that famous conditional sentence that we hear dozens of times in his text, mostly constructed in a good Aramaic way with a participle, “If someone comes to me (ho erchomenos), he will not starve; if someone trusts me (ho pisteuōn), he will not thirst, never!”

Of course, seeing and trusting are two different things. A human must be able to recognize in what he sees what is actually happening. This did not happen during the feeding of the five thousand. He who recognizes this, or at least wants to recognize it, is not “repelled”—or rather “excluded, cast out”—by what the Messiah represents.

He becomes clearer. He, the Human, bar enosh, does not remain—as in Daniel—standing in front of the throne of God but comes down from heaven. Not his own will is done, but the will of the One who sent him, and this means: he has expelled him from the sphere of heavenly power into the powerlessness of a man who finds no attention. “Becoming flesh” is how the prologue summarizes this painful walk, the Halakha of Yeshua.

So why all this magic? So that people should be freed from the prison of the flesh and made into spiritual men? This is what Christianity has been preaching for almost two millennia. No, the purpose is that humans should not perish, not get lost, should not have to lead a life that means almost nothing but misery; rather, that they may lead “the life of the age to come.”

Now the symbolic action of collecting the chunks, “so that nothing is lost,” becomes clear—in both cases the verb apollesthai. Another conditional sentence: “Everyone who observes {theōrōn} the Son {the Son of Man, bar enosh}, who sees him as he really is and trusts him, will reach the life of the age to come, and Yeshua will raise him up on the Day of Decision“—the day when “the court sits down and the books are finally opened” (Daniel 7:10), the day of the Son of Man when justice is finally done. On that day those who are guided by the vision of this Son can stand upright—all of them, even “the dead in their graves” (5:28). The purpose of the final judgment is that humans should be raised up, not that they should perish. This—and only this—is the will of God.

The expression eschatē hēmera literally means “last day,” or, in more sophisticated {German} language, “youngest day.” But the idea of a “last day” after which there are no more days was impossible for the Judeans of those days. Eternity as the contrast to the limited time (days) is a Christian, not a Jewish conception.

In the Qurˀan that day which John calls “the last day” is the day of judgment. In almost every one of the 114 suras of the Qurˀan, this day occurs. Afterward, a new time begins, in which those problems that determine and burden our lives have definitely been solved.

In the Tanakh, this expression is well known: be-ˀacharith ha-yamim, “in the lateness of days,” Martin Buber translates; the Greeks translate ep’ eschatōn tōn hēmerōn or en tais eschatais hēmerais. And if it really is about a “last day,” then simply about the last day of a certain series of days, for example, the Sukkot week, Nehemiah 8:18. The Tanakh does not know an absolutely last day. But it does know days on which decisive things will happen, for good (Deuteronomy 4:30) or for evil (Ezekiel 38:16).

That the dead can live again is a traditional idea; a very drastic example is the vision from the book of Ezekiel. The prophet was asked whether the many bones that lay around in a wide plain could live again,

and there were very many of them, very dry …
“Human child, will these bones live?”
He said, “My Lord, Eternal, you know it!” (Ezekiel 37:2-3)

These are the remnants of people who were not buried, people who were denied a dignified conclusion to life, victims of the annihilators of Israel. “Will these bones live?” It cannot be that these died in vain. It is the eternal question of all who must mourn for those who were murdered, who had to die long before their time.

This thought from the book of Ezekiel has occupied many since the Maccabean period. The Perushim were among them, they firmly expected the resurrection from the dead. And this happens on that day when “the court sits down and books are opened,” after the days of the beastly rule of the world powers. Then the days of the Human are coming, which will be completely different days, but will remain just earthly days. The last day is the day of that decision that will make all days new; it is the last day in the series of days of inhumanity.

As already said, it is the FATHER’s will that everyone who observes, who takes into consideration (theōrōn) the Son, should arrive at the life of the age to come, or, to put it another way, that this Son should make him stand up on the Day of Decision—precisely to that “upright walk” of which Leviticus 26:13 speaks and that only really is life. Resurrection to the life of the age to come therefore has to do with a Messianic theory, from theōrein, “to observe, to regard, to pay attention, to consider exactly.” Freedom is a theory that is a practice, the practice of him who walks his way of life, his Halakha, with this Messiah, taking him “into consideration” in all that he does.

Again and again, it is the question of whether the Gospel of John is originally about this horizon of liberation, interpreted from the Jewish Scriptures, on the background of which sharp inner-Jewish disputes are fought out.

4.3.3 The Portrayal of the Ioudaioi in their Extreme Diversity

Back (74) to your review of the passages in John’s Gospel in which Jesus deals with the Jewish crowd, ochlos.

In 7:19 Jesus reproaches his listeners for the fact that none of them obeys the Torah of Moses and that they are trying to kill him, and by this, according to you, as is clear from 7:20, he cannot mean “the Jewish authorities” but the crowd, ochlos.

But in this very passage, 7:11-52, John portrays those whom he calls Ioudaioi as very different in their behaviors. They seek Jesus and argue about him (7:11-12). There are Jews who fear other Jews (7:13) and Jews who have heard rumors from other Jews of wanting to kill Jesus (7:25). Some ponder whether the Jewish leadership has recognized Jesus as the Messiah (7:26) but the leading priests and Pharisees want to have Jesus arrested (7:32), while many in the crowd, ochlos, are trusting him (7:31). Finally, once again, a schism arises among the Jews (7:43). Even the officials sent by the leadership to arrest Jesus are impressed by him (7:46), and the leadership curses the crowd that trusts in Jesus as people who do not know the Torah (7:49), whereupon the Pharisee Nicodemus makes himself unpopular with his colleagues by standing up for those they have cursed (7:50-52). Can there actually be more evidence that what John refers to as the Ioudaioi is far from uniformly characterized? Thus, even though Jesus severely reproaches the Jews, these reproaches can by no means apply to all Jews, for there are many among them who trust in Jesus.

4.3.4 The Harshest Criticism of Ioudaioi is Directed at Apostate Members of the Sectarian Group around John

According to Ton Veerkamp, the extreme impatience and sharpness of the argument in chapter 8 beginning in verse 31, which you (75) point out, is due to the fact that the Jews he is dealing with here are explicitly those who previously believed in him but now no longer do: <141>

The addressees changed. The almost unbearable vehemence by which Yeshua attacked these new opponents can only be deduced from the text itself. It is about Judeans “who had put their trust in him” (pepisteukotas autō Ioudaious) but now no longer do so. This requires a past perfect. A sect can talk of apostates only with hatred.

An additional difficulty is that in the further course (8:48), Judeans will be mentioned without further specification. But there too, it is about those very particular Judeans who “no longer walked the way with Yeshua,” 6:66. This does not excuse the boundless vehemence by which John harasses the “renegades,” as the apostates were called among communists. Apparently, the disappointed Messianists accused the group around John of not belonging to Israel, probably, of being members of the goyim, non-Judeans. John turns the tables. To him, they were “children (seed) of Abraham” and thus “children of the people of Israel,” you, disappointed Judean Messianists, should ask yourselves whether you are actually still “children of Abraham.” This question is the subject of the part that follows.

Indeed, John cannot be allowed to have his way with everything he puts into the mouth of his Jesus in terms of the harshest criticism of Jews.

Nevertheless, I do not agree with your judgment about Jesus’ attitude toward the Jewish crowd in this generality:

In these passages Jesus prejudges the waffling crowds, as it seems he did also in 2:23-24 when he did not entrust himself to the believing crowds after cleansing the Temple, and in 6:15 when he hid from those who proclaimed him a prophet and wished to make him king. Much as we might hope that John’s Jesus would give these wavering Jews a chance, their rejection of Jesus seems to have been a foregone conclusion.

First, you disregard the variety of different attitudes that exist among the Jews according to John, second, you overlook the many Jews who trust in John, and third, you do not ask yourself why Jesus hides himself, for example, from Zealot Jews who want to force him to revolt against Rome.

4.4 Hostile Ioudaioi: The Rhetoric of Vituperation

In addition to (75) the 30 “occurrences of the term Ioudaios/Ioudaioi” so far, there are 41 more that you assess as “unambiguously negative, expressing the Jews’ hostility toward Jesus and/or Jesus’s hostility toward the Jews.”

As a framework for assessing these utterances, you refer to the classical Greek “rhetoric of vituperation,” which “referring to slander, blame, or vilification, was a standard aspect of epideictic rhetoric.” If we think, for example, of modern Trumpism, this concept seems to be coming back into vogue, to which

the accuracy of the accusation was beside the point. Neither orators nor their audiences paid much attention to the facts or alleged facts brought to the argument.

Thus, (76) it was not always the speaker’s intention “to persuade the audience of the truth of the speaker’s position, but often rather to persuade them that the speaker, rather than his/her opponent, has their best interests at heart.” Such rhetoric of “vituperation often worked together with the rhetoric of praise to assert, reinforce, and perform communal values.” It would seem that Trumpism should be judged in this regard as a recourse to ancient rhetorical devices.

But is the fierceness of Johannine rhetoric toward the Ioudaioi also due solely to such an attempt to enhance oneself by degrading others? The scholarly discussion largely assumes so. Jerome Neyrey <142> (91, n. 35), for example,

discusses praise and vituperation as represented in the Gos­pel itself, with the Jews and Jesus facing off as adversaries. The Jews deliver a vituperation about Jesus, which Jesus and the narrator counter with praise.

Sean Freyne <143> “describes John’s form of vituperation as ‘irony which flows over into caricature and parody.’” And David Rensberger <144>

notes that the Gospel’s “vituperation against ‘the Jews’ produces a distancing effect that must not be underestimated.”

4.4.1 Does John Engage in Narrative Vituperation or are his Accusations Comprehensible?

Indeed (76) the “main accusation against the Ioudaioi concerns their opposition to and pursuit of Jesus, culminating in his crucifixion.” The question, however, is whether this accusation was actually a slander from John’s point of view or was in some sense true. If, in his eyes, Jesus had set out as the Messiah of Israel to overcome the Roman world order but the leaders of Judea in Jesus’ days collaborated with Rome to secure the autonomous status of the province along with their privileges, then the accusation against the chief priests was not unfounded that they had handed Jesus over to the Romans.

In fact, John’s Gospel is about this basic conflict, which is already “hinted at in the Prologue … (1:11)” and in the first narrated scene (1:19-27), when the Ioudaioi “send priests and Levites to interrogate John the Baptist as to his identity.” What you do not mention from this scene is the remark in 1:24 that the messengers belonged to the Pharisees, on which Ton Veerkamp writes: <145>

The remark that the priests and the Levites belong to the Perushim is more than strange. Generally, the priests belonged to the party of the Sadducees. Here, John causes a special group of priests and Levites to perform. Judeans means the whole political establishment of the capital city; probably it seemed opportune to John to send a “Pharisaic” delegation to Yochanan. The Sadducees regard themselves as the real high representatives of the Judean people. The relation between priests and people will become clear in 11:46-54. The reason for the enmity between Yeshua and the priests is unambiguously pronounced in 19:15; their first loyalty is directed at the Roman emperor: “We have no king but Caesar.” For John, the Perushim belonged to the political establishment, to those whom he calls “Judeans.” In this arc of suspense, the first passage has to be read.

The mention of the Pharisees, who only assumed the sole leadership role of the then emerging Rabbinic Judaism after the Judean War, the destruction of Jerusalem along with the Temple, and the disempowerment of the priesthood, probably indicates from the beginning of John’s Gospel that to John this conflict between his own Jewish-Messianic splinter group and the synagogue led in his days by Pharisees is the most burning one.

As already explained in section 2.2.3.3, the Messianists are apparently considered troublemakers in the synagogue to such an extent that they are made aposynagōgoi, people without a synagogue, at least here and there; without this protection, however, they may be exposed to pogroms by the Gentile population. The “relentless focus on the Ioudaioi’s intentions to kill Jesus” is due to this, which “identifies them as the enemies of Jesus and all believers.” That John must have had other experiences with Jews, however, is clear from the aforementioned account of the diversity of Jewish reactions to the person of Jesus. Against this political background of the time of Jesus or John, the opposition of Jesus to the Jewish leadership or of the Johannine sect to Rabbinic Judaism seems at least understandable. It is not simply based on a whim of John to want to build up Jesus as God-man of a new religion at the expense of the Jews.

Quite correctly you see that only after

these introductory chapters, however, the Jews’ antagonism towards Jesus and those associated with him proceeds beyond words to an intention to harm. From John 5 to the end of the Gospels, the Jews persecute Jesus for breaking the sabbath and making claims about God (5:16, 18); argue with him over their covenantal relationship with God (8:48, 52, 57); attempt to stone Jesus (8:59; 10:31-33), and, finally, orchestrate his death (18:14, 31, 35, 36, 38; 19:7, 12, 31).

This observation agrees with the outline that Ton Veerkamp notes in John’s Gospel and that I have already mentioned in section 2.2.4 above. After the first major part, 1:19-4:54, deals with the public appearance of Jesus’ Messianic movement in Israel, the second major part, 5:1-12:50, describes the disintegration of the Messianic community and the Messiah’s need to hide from his opponents before he is delivered to death on the Roman cross in the third part, 13:1-20:31, and overcomes the Roman world order by ascending to the FATHER.

4.4.2 Rhetoric of Binary Opposition

Furthermore, you discover (77) in the Gospel of John a

pervasive rhetoric of binary opposition, in which the behavior, attitudes, and attributes of the Jews are contrasted to the ones that the Gospel is trying to promote to its audience. … One set of metaphors describes opposing states of being, such as light/darkness, life/death, above/below, from God/not from God. Another set describes opposing activities, such as believing/disbelieving, accepting/rejecting, doing good/doing evil, loving/hating.

The positive element of each pair is associated with Jesus, the negative element of each pair with those who oppose Jesus and reject the claim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

It is not at all obvious, however, that darkness, for example, is fundamentally associated with the Jews in John’s Gospel. First of all (8:12; 12:46), Jesus is the light of the world, to phōs tou kosmou, he comes into the darkness of the ruling world order to expose (3:19) the sinister machinations of those who profit from it. It is not this darkness (1:5) that can overcome him as the light, rather Jesus (16:33) has defeated the world order, nenikēka ton kosmon. But according to you,

although “darkness” is an abstract metaphor, it characterizes the Johannine Jews both as a group and individually. In 8:12, Jesus promises the Jews that “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” But the Jews’ absolute rejection of Jesus excludes them from this promise (12:37). In 3:2, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Jews (3:1), comes to Jesus “by night” (3:2); in 13:30 night falls immediately upon Judas’s departure from the disciples to betray Jesus to the authorities.

I oppose that a general formulation as in 12:37 does not preclude John from speaking of Jews trusting in Jesus in other places, as shown above, and Nicodemus, by mentioning the time of his coming, is characterized not as a representative of darkness but as a secret sympathizer of Jesus with whom Jesus is in earnest discussion.

As for Judas and verse 13:30, you are correct. However, Judas is not at all a representative of the Ioudaioi opposed to Jesus, rather he is a former disciple of Jesus who ate his bread, was his housemate—compare 13:26 with Psalm 41:10 and Ruth 2:14—and yet deserts to the Roman enemy, the diabolos, indeed (13:27), virtually possessed by this satanas.

4.4.2.1 Jesus’ Political Confrontation with Rabbinic Judaism

It is true, however, that the Johannine Jesus also accuses the Ioudaioi of ultimately pursuing the cause of Rome by not recognizing him as Messiah. You, however, speak in general terms of an existence of the Jews in darkness:

A consequence as well as a cause of the Jews’ existence in darkness is their inability to see. Their blindness is contrasted with the new-found vision of the man born blind who declares Jesus to be the Son of Man (9:39-41). The one who sees Jesus also sees God (12:45).

Ton Veerkamp interprets 9:39-41 politically: <146>

To Rabbinical Judaism he says, “Do you not see what you are doing with your politics? You drive the people out. You cripple Israel.” And now he takes the judicial authority of the one whom Daniel has called bar enosh, the Human. He, who constantly said that he had not come to judge, passes judgment, “Those who do not see might see, and those who see become blind.” This is a political, not a moral judgment.

The Perushim understand what is said here, “Are we too blind?” Yeshua replies: If you would admit that you do not know how to go on either, you would be open to a new perspective. Precisely because you think your policy is the only right one, because you think you are the only ones who have the insight, it remains a policy that leads astray, “Your aberration remains!” And this is what Yeshua will explain in detail subsequently.

This means: it is indeed about a quarrel fought fiercely between Messianic and Rabbinic Jews. But a dispute in which John is concerned with the political issue of Israel’s liberation from the oppression of the world order, which in his eyes can only be achieved through trust in the Messiah Jesus. This is why he can also impute to those who reject Jesus, as you write, that they

do not see or believe in God because they do not see and believe in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God (5:38). Accepting Jesus demonstrates a love for God, for Jesus, and for fellow believers (15:12-17). Rejecting Jesus is tantamount to hating God. Jesus accuses the Jews of not having the love of God in them (8:42) and tells the disciples that his enemies hate both himself and his Father (15:23-24).

As I said, here John can be accused of insinuation, but at the same time, we can try to understand why he argues—in an inner-Jewish dispute—with such sharpness but without arbitrarily adopting a rhetoric of anti-Jewish vituperation. To this end, Ton Veerkamp writes translating and interpreting 15:20b-25: <147>

15:20b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too;
if they kept my word, they will keep yours too.
15:21 But they will do all this to you on account of my name
because they have no knowledge of the ONE who sent me.
15:22 If I had not come, had not spoken to them,
they would not have gone astray.
Now, they have no pretext for their aberration.
15:23 The one fighting me with hatred
is hating my FATHER too.
15:24 If I had not done the works among them
which no one else did,
they would not be in their aberration.
Now, they have seen them,
and have fought with hatred both me and my FATHER.
15:25 But that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their Torah:
They hated me for no reason at all.

Now the subject changes, from “world order” to “they.” There can be no doubt that by this plural Rabbinical Judaism is meant. They “persecute, fight with hate, exclude from the synagogue, do not recognize.” The object is “the disciples,” the reason “because of my name.” The object of hatred, John interprets, is not so much the disciples, but rather the Messiah and the God of Israel, the FATHER.

To John, this is actually incomprehensible. He cannot understand why the synagogue behaves in such a way toward the Messianic community, and he includes himself among those who were hated for no reason in Israel, Psalms 35:9; 69:5 or Psalm 109:1 ff.,

God of my praise, do not be silent.
For the mouth of the criminal
and the mouth of deceit
open themselves against me.
Speeches of hatred surround me,
are waging war against me for no reason (dōrean, chinnam)!
Instead of love, they are a satan for me,
me—a prayer! <148>
They do evil to me instead of good,
hate instead of my love!

Without reason, chinnam, dōrean, in Israel is always a very serious reproach. Thus the Book of Job accuses the God of his fate of devouring the righteous without reason.

Rome’s hatred against the Messiah is not justified, but it is reasoned. This can be understood. The hatred of the synagogue is not rationally comprehensible to John. They have only “pretexts” (prophaseis) for this hateful fight. If the Messiah had not done these works, then …! But now it says with the psalm, “Hatred instead of my love.”

If anywhere, it is clear here that a rational discussion of political paths between ecclesia and synagogue has not been conducted; both are irrational for each other. In the case of Rome, you might understand this; it has reasons to “fight the Messiah with hatred.” But the Judeans. They have seen the works, “which no one else has done.” They fight him and us, says John, “without reason.”

We are not biased here. We only have to state that with the accusation “without reason” a conversation, let alone an understanding, becomes impossible. We observe that John does not want to look for reasons among his opponents—and the search for reasons on both sides would be the basic condition for a conversation between both sides. John, for his part, assumes without any reason (!) that Rabbinical Judaism cannot have any reasons. He makes no effort at all here. The interpretation must state what is irrational in the vocable chinnam, dōrean, without being a party to this conflict.

4.4.2.2 The Jews as Biological Children of the Devil?

But what about the “most insidious contrast,” as which you judge the one “between the children of God and children of the devil (8:44)”? You describe this contrast in the following terms (77-78):

The identification of the Jews as children of the devil situates them firmly within the cosmological tale alongside the villain whom the Word must defeat: the “ruler of this world” (14:30), “the evil one” (17:15), Satan (13:27), or the devil (13:2). Just as the positive language serves the purpose of pathos, by enticing the audience to take the path that leads to light, life, and joy, so does the negative usage encourage them to view the loudaioi in a negative light and for that reason to distance themselves from these children of Satan.

That with this diabolos or satan in John’s Gospel, however, originally no supernatural demonic devil is meant at all, but the this-worldly leader of the Roman world order, I have already explained in detail above in section 3.1.2.3.

In the present context (78) you go into more detail about the fact that the

confrontation between the Johannine Jesus and the Johannine Jews in 8:31-59 revolves around competing genealogical assertions. The Jews initially claim Abraham as their father (8:39). In 8:41 they trace back their genealogy even further, to God, declaring: “We are not illegitimate children (literally: begotten out of fornication, ek porneias ou gegennēmetha); we have one father, God himself” (8:41). To this Jesus responds: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth (ek tou theou exēlthon) from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (8:42).

You now oddly reconnect this argumentation of the Johannine Jesus with Aristotelian doctrines:

Because their behavior does not resemble that of Abraham or of God, Jesus denies their claim to be children of Abraham and of God. Jesus’s argument in this case rests on the Aristotelian claim that paternity can be attested by the likeness or similarity between father and son.

To support this, you quote Jerome Neyrey <149> who notes,

Aristotle expresses the common expectation that “children will be chips off the old block” (see Deut 23:2; 2 Kings 9:22; Isa 57:3; Hos 1:2; Prov 23:25-26; 30:17, <150> either like father, like son (e.g., Matt 11:27) or like mother, like daughter (e.g., Ezek 16:44). If the parents or ancestors were “landed” or citizens of a free polis, then the root stock of the family was noble; virtuous ancients should be expected to breed virtue. Plato says: “They were good because they sprang from good fathers” (Menex. 237). Confirmation of this is found in the endless introduction of biblical characters as “son of so-and-so.” To know the father is to know the son. The honor rating of the father indicates the honor rating of the son.

But why do you or Neyrey mention the Greeks Aristotle or Plato at all, when he subsequently cites only biblical evidence for what he claims? You argue as follows:

In identifying the devil as the father of the Ioudaioi, John is drawing on the Aristotelian theory of epigenesis, just as he did in identifying God as the father of Jesus. Epigenesis, therefore, provides not only a background against which to understand the Word’s entry into the world, but also a rationale for the boundary that John draws between his audience and the Ioudaioi.

From this Aristotelian theory you further infer something like a biological descent of the Jews from the devil (78-79):

Those within the elect group belong socially and even organically, that is, by means of divine generation, to the children of God. Those outside, though they may claim to be divinely begotten, are in fact children of the devil, as evidenced by their behavior towards Jesus, the Son of God.

4.4.2.3 Fathers and Sons in Patriarchally Structured Societies

Such ideas may well correspond to the later discussion among the Church Fathers to which you refer in a note (91, n. 39) “as to whether Jews were by their nature the children of the devil.” But if John was a Jewish Messianist, he certainly did not want to listen specifically to Aristotle and speak of descent from gods or devils in the biological sense, but, as Ton Veerkamp makes clear in explaining Jesus’ parable of the father and son (5:19-21), <151>

He starts out from that social structure in which the chain of fathers—sons forms the supporting framework. We are dealing with a patriarchally structured society. The son continues the life story—the Scriptures say, the NAME—of the FATHER. He only does what he sees the FATHER doing, it says in John.

The sentence, “my FATHER works until today, so do I”, is now continued with a parable. The father does, the son also does, but always only what he sees the father doing. In patriarchally structured societies, in which not innovation but tradition is the condition of progress, this is a universally valid proposition; in the father’s workshop the son learns by imitation, “What the father does, the son also does.” Only in this way he honors the father. Because the father is connected with his son as with the one who will continue his history or his name, he shows him what he is doing, “For the father loves the son as a friend (philei)”—this applies generally—and the father “shows him all that he does”—this also applies generally. Even in patriarchally structured societies, there are intact social structures. The father is devoted to the son like a friend, not like a subordinate; he shows him what he himself does (his works) so that the son can do such works, even greater works (progress by imitation).

Then John resolves the parable. “To your astonishment” it is now no longer a matter of any father and any son, but of him whom John calls FATHER, and of him whom John calls Son of Man, bar enosh. The God of Israel shows the one whom he sends (Son) his works of creation, and even greater works: the raising of the dead (Ezekiel 37!), the restoration of creation. The transition from parable to theologically and politically grasped reality is shown in the transition from the present (deiknysin) to the future (deixei). The Father “will show him greater works so that you {the Judean opponents} will be astonished.” The work of the Father as the God of Israel is “to raise up and give life to the dead.” The work of the Son is also to make alive. Admittedly with the restriction: whom he wants to. This restriction invokes that authority that the Father, the “advanced in days” from the vision of Daniel, gave to the Son. Whom he wants to, therefore, is not arbitrariness, but the result of that trial that Daniel describes.

So, first, this means that it is no coincidence that similar statements about the relationship of fathers and sons are found in Aristotle as in the biblical situation, which is also patriarchal. Secondly, however, John’s conception of the Son is very clearly based on biblical motifs such as the Son of Man from the Book of Daniel or the monogenēs, the Only Begotten Son of Abraham in Genesis, and even the designation diabolos or satanas is to be understood from its biblical meaning, here not as a functionary of God as in the book of Job or Zechariah, for example, but as an adversary of the liberating NAME of the God of Israel or of the kings anointed on his behalf, who is to be identified here with the Roman emperor. <152>

4.4.2.4 Nuance, Irony, and Paradox as Additional Stylistic Devices

I find your remark (79) very interesting:

John’s rhetoric of binary opposition does not necessarily point to a thoroughgoing dualistic worldview. Beneath and around these dichotomous categories, we can detect some nuance, irony, and, as in the formulation, “the hour is coming and now is,” paradox. Binary opposition functions rhetorically, however, to contribute to the Gospel’s construction of two opposing groups—the children of God and the children of Satan—and the boundary between them—faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, and rejection of that faith.

Apparently, you are not quite convinced, after all, that the cosmological narrative you assume, within which the followers of Jesus as children of God and the Jews as children of the devil are irreconcilably opposed to each other, is entirely consistent with the findings in John’s Gospel. What remains unclear in this context here, however, is what you specifically mean by “nuance, irony, and … paradox.”

I myself had pointed to manifold nuances of the term Ioudaioi, which you, however, consider irrelevant.

In your book Befriending the Beloved Disciple, <153> you had spoken of irony in connection with the assaults of the Jews against Jesus for making himself God as the man he is:

From the Gospel’s point of view, these statements are ironic; for Jesus is the Son of God, and is equal to, or resembles, God. Jesus is not calling for the worship of a god other than the God of Israel. Rather, he is proclaiming himself to be the Son of God (20:31), the one through whom God reveals himself to the world (1:18).

But I do not think that John is concerned with irony, that is, with an attitude of hurting superiority, but rather that the sharpness of his argument arises from a wounded disappointment, namely, disappointment that Rabbinic Judaism does not accept the Messiah who, in its eyes, fully embodies the liberated NAME of God.

In your book just mentioned <154> you also referred to the tension “between the belief that eternal life pertains to some future period and the belief that we can experience eternal life even in our present earthly lives.” Ton Veerkamp <155> in his interpretation of 5:25 relates this tension to the revolutionary or Messianic awareness that the liberation expected for of the age to come can already be experienced in the present, such as, for instance, a Judean and a Samaritan woman experiencing reconciliation in their conversation at Jacob’s well.

4.4.3 The Rhetoric of Fear

In your section (79) on the “rhetoric of fear,” which in your view represents one of “the most powerful ways that John encourages dissaffilation from the Ioudaioi,” you basically repeat the same arguments as in section 4.4.1, for, as you also write yourself, the fear of the Jews is about “an undercurrent in the depiction of the Ioudaioi as violent in both their intentions and their behavior,” which John, in your view, wrongly accuses the Jews of persecuting Jesus and his followers and even threatening them with death. What may have been the basis of this judgment with regard to very specific groups in the leading class of Judea at the time of Jesus or John, I have already described in the aforementioned section.

John addresses the fear of the Jews in passages such as 4:1-3, 7:1, or 11:8; in 3:1 he alludes to it, and in 19:38 and 20:19 he expresses it literally.

One passage deserves special consideration, namely 7:13, which you judge to be “ominous”:

John 7 is set in the area of the Jerusalem Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Ioudaioi were searching for Jesus, and the crowds were divided as to whether Jesus is a good person or deceitful one. The narrator then explains that “no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews” (7:13). The passage as a whole creates an ominous atmosphere that becomes intensified when Jesus eventually does show up at the festival and speaks openly to the crowd. Some Jerusalemites then wonder: “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him!” 7:25-26).

You understand (80) this entire passage to mean “that not only Jesus but also those who believed in him or even expressed interest in him feared the Jews’ retribution.” What you pay barely any attention to in this formulation is the fact that those whose fear is expressed here are also Jews, not a homogeneous group of Jesus’ followers. In the fact that here certain Jews are fearful of other Jews, however, it is clear that John does not regard all Jews as persecutors of Jesus or his followers across the board; in any case, there are also Jews who are not in a position by which they can instill fear in other Jews.

Three passages deal with a very concrete form of fear of the Jews, namely the “fear of expulsion from the synagogue” on the basis of confession to Jesus as the Messiah, in 9:22, 12:42-43, and 16:2. You do not want to address the question of whether this actually conceals traumatic experiences of the “Johannine community” until chapters 6 and 7. If this is the case, it would in any case mean that the rhetoric of fear would not be completely plucked out of the air.

4.4.4 The Rhetoric of Repetition

Finally, you state that the very repetition of the phrase “hoi Ioudaioi, seventy times in this Gospel,” in predominantly negative usage, must contribute to the “creation of a rhetorical chasm between Christ-confessors and Ioudaioi,” at least among such listeners “who were listening to the entire Gospel being read or recited aloud, as I imagine our Alexandra would have done in the agora.”

And again, it must be pondered whether this predominantly negative characterization of the Ioudaioi is really merely a rhetorical device of vituperation, first heard in the agora of a city of Asia Minor from the mouth of a Christian missionary. Could it not just as well be that a Miriam is persuaded by John’s words in a sectarian circle, living as a Jew among Jews and sharing John’s disappointment with the leading circles of her synagogue?

4.4.5 Miriam Explaining John’s Hostile Speech about the Ioudaioi

I am aware of how negatively John speaks of the Ioudaioi, and I also know who he is referring to in particular. At the time when he starts to promote trust in the Messiah Jesus in our synagogue, there is much discussion. Most are skeptical, how can you have any hope for a Messiah after the Judean War? Don’t you see where the Zealots have brought us? Their Messianic adventures have brought on the Romans, who have destroyed Jerusalem and taken the temple from us.

In response to this, John says: The Zealots cannot succeed because they want to fight against the Romans with their own means. That is why he is very critical even of Peter and the brothers of Jesus, who initially led the first Messianic community in Jerusalem. The brothers (7:4) want Jesus to openly challenge the world order; Peter (18:10, see 21:18), girded for Zealotry, defends Jesus with the sword.

But most in the synagogue reject Jesus even more vehemently. How could he be the Messiah? He hung on the cross of the Romans, is he not (Deuteronomy 21:23) accursed by God? If he was the Messiah, shouldn’t he have brought the age to come long ago? But you see the ruins of Jerusalem, our people massacred and crucified—the end of all Messianic hopes!

John reminds us of the prophets of Israel and Judah. Did they not also warn their people, their kings? They turned away from their God and were punished with the fall of Israel, with the exile of Judah to Babylon, with the destruction of the First Temple. Even at the time of Jesus, it is our own people that rejects the Messiah. If the Pharisees had not sought Jesus’ life, the chief priests had not handed him over to the Romans, perhaps the Judean War would not have occurred and the Second Temple would not have been destroyed. But there is still hope. If all Israel gathers anew in the Messianic community, trusting in the Messiah Jesus—Judeans, Galileans, Samaritans, all the Jews of the Diaspora and with them the God-fearing goyim—then we will overcome the Roman world order!

At this, the Rabbis of our synagogue can only shake their heads. This is crazy. Everything speaks against the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. He makes himself the Messiah, places himself on the chair of Moses, even wants to be the Son of God. He is nothing but a blasphemer and troublemaker.

Most in the synagogue