The Manifest Messiah

First main part of the book: "Solidarity against the World Order".

After his proclamation as Messiah by Yochanan, Yeshua gathers disciples. The “Messianic wedding” at Cana clarifies his goal: the restoration of Israel’s unity with its God; through this, Israel experiences liberation from death, which emerges from the “other sign” at Cana, the healing of a royal official’s son.

Both signs frame the cleansing of the temple and the conversations with Nicodemus and the woman at Jacob’s well about Yeshua’s conflict with rabbinic Judaism and his effort to find the lost tribes of Israel from the north.

Ofenplatte mit Jesus und der Frau aus Samaria am Jakobsbrunnen

Yeshua in Judeo-Samaritan peace talk with the woman who personifies Rebekah and Rachel (Image: HOWI – Horsch, Willy, Hardenrath-Kapelle-Kölner-Kartause-Gusseiserne-Ofenplatte-1625, CC BY 3.0)


A preliminary remark

In this first large part, it 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.

We arrange the first part as follows:

1. Introduction: The Baptist, the Messiah, and the disciples, 1:19-51

2. The beginning of the signs at Cana, Galilee. The Messianic wedding, 2:1-12

3. Passover. The Messiah as the teacher of Israel, 2:13-3,21

4. He must increase, I must decrease, 3:22-36

5. The woman at Jacob’s well, 4:1-42

6. The other sign at Cana, Galilee: Your son lives, 4:43-54

1. Introduction: The Baptist, the Messiah, and the disciples 1:19-51

1.1. The first day. The interrogation, 1:19-28

1:19 And this is the testimony of Yochanan:
The Judeans (64) of Jerusalem (65) sent priests and Levites
to question him,
“You, who are you?”
1:20 He confessed,
he did not deny,
he confessed,
“I am not the Messiah.”
1:21 And they questioned him,
“What then? Are you Elijah?”,
and he says, (66)
“I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered,
1:22 So they said to him,
“Who are you?
—so that we can give an answer to those who sent us.
What do you say about yourself?”
1:23 He declared, “I am
A voice of one calling:
In the wilderness make straight the way of the NAME, (67)
as said Isaiah, the prophet.”
1:24 And they who were sent were from the Perushim. (68)
1:25 They questioned him,
“Why then are you immersing,
if you are neither the Messiah nor Elijah,
nor the Prophet?”
1:26 Yochanan answered them, he said,
“I am immersing in water;
in your midst is standing the one whom you don’t know,
1:27 the one coming after me,
the straps of whose sandal I’m not worthy to untie.”
1:28 This happened in Bethany (69) beyond the Jordan
where Yochanan was immersing.

“This is the testimony of Yochanan.” Primarily, the testimony consists of the Baptist not being the Messiah but bearing a specific relation to the Messiah. About the intrinsic substance of this testimony, we will be taught later, 3:27-36. The testimony is called for by those who later will turn out as the main opponents of the Messiah Yeshua, the Judeans (“Jews”). (70) These Judeans from Jerusalem believe they have the right to be informed about who is the Messiah and who is not. The emissaries are priests and Levites, so they belong to the political class of Judea.

Yochanan “the Baptist” is a constant in every Gospel. Paul is hardly interested in the Messiah Yeshua before his death. So Yochanan can’t appear in his letters. All the more massive is the testimony about Yochanan in the Gospels. Flavius Josephus honorably mentions him. (71) He is said to be the central figure of a movement who summons the people from Judea and Galilee to prepare for an imminent upheaval in the life of the people and of every single member of the people, an upheaval that could not be more radical and ultimate and affected the whole world of the peoples. To indicate that they took this announcement seriously, they let themselves be immersed or “baptized” in the water of the Jordan. According to the Synoptic Gospels, the Messiah Yeshua was “baptized” by Yochanan. John omits this notice; anyway, he thought poorly of the baptism with water, as we will hear! The relation between the disciples of Yochanan and of Yeshua, i.e. between two messianic groups, to John, as well, was a historical fact that he had to classify. He does it—as we will hear—in a clear manner.

The political leadership of the district of Judea had governmental functions within the limits of the autonomy left by the Romans. During the period of 6 to 66 CE, the priests were the crucial political class of the region. The Levites were a class of officials headed by the priests. So the Judeans sent members of their political leadership to Yochanan.

John specifies: these political functionaries belonged to the political party of the Perushim (Pharisees). This party had a venerable tradition. It originated in the time when the Judean population fought against the northern Hellenistic monarchs (Syria-Mesopotamia), that is about 170 BCE. It formed as opposed to the politics of the national leaders and later kings of the Hasmonean dynasty (Maccabeans) who more and more revealed themselves as Hellenistic monarchs. The struggle of the Perushim was a struggle for the Torah in its written and oral tradition as the center of social life, under which supremacy whatsoever. The opponent of Yeshua ben Joseph is the emerging Rabbinical Judaism that was not identical, but politically akin with the Perushim, after all. Many of the leading teachers of Israel after the year 70 CE came from the milieu of the Perushim.

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 first two scenes of the introduction, 1:19-28 und 1:29-34, are determined by the verb martyrein, “to witness”: “This is the witness” (1:19). The witness is eye-witness: “and I have seen and have borne witness . . .” (1:34).

The question: “Who are you?” is crucial. It will be asked often throughout the text; then it is directed to the Messiah himself. Those who are charged with the interrogation of Yochanan really want to get to know only one thing: whether he is the Messiah or not. If he is the Messiah, their executive function has ended. If he is not, they have to clear up the meaning of the political action of Yochanan. They avoid the word “Messiah.” Yochanan is the first who uses it. The answer is a confession, and the confession purports a negation: “He confessed, he did not deny, he confessed.” It had been a lie if he had said: “It is I.” Yochanan was not the Messiah, his movement was—if you give credit to our narratives—at best a prelude to the Messianic movement around Yeshua.

If Yochanan is not the Messiah—what else is he? Any figure, playing a key role in the crucial days? For instance, the “Prophet” mentioned by Moshe in the book of Deuteronomy? It says, Deuteronomy 18:15.18: “I will raise up from among their brothers a prophet like you (= Moshe).” Or Elijah whom the NAME, the God of Israel, will send? Malachi 3:22-23, says,

Remember the Torah of Moshe, my servant,
that I gave him as commandment at Horeb,
face-to-face to all Israel,
laws and decrees.
There: I myself send you Elijah the prophet,
before my face,
when the day of the NAME comes, great and terrible . . .

This is the end of the second subdivision of the Scriptures (the books of the prophets). Yochanan says, he is neither the one nor the other, he is neither Moshe nor Elijah, neither Torah nor prophets. This information is baffling, it doesn’t fit into the frame of reference of the Judeans. But they need an answer, for they have to classify Yochanan’s action in political terms. Yochanan answers with the famous quotation Isaiah 40:3,

I am
A voice of one calling:
In the wilderness make straight the way for the NAME.

Yochanan says: “I am ‘A voice of one calling’”, i.e., neither Moshe nor Elijah. We state that there is a certain distinction between Moshe and Elijah on the one hand, and the voice of one calling, on the other hand, a difference that is showing up in the Synoptic narrative of the Transfiguration on the mountain, as well (Mark 9:2 par.). It still remains unexpressed what kind of difference it is. But this difference is linked with the contrast to the Perushim. Otherwise, v.1:24 would have no function.

Those who undertake the interrogation have no use for these answers. The quotation from Isaiah says, Yochanan is like the prophet Isaiah; like this one then in Babel announced something unheard new, so today—during the period of the Romans—Yochanan is the one who announces something new. The parallel is between the liberation from Babel and the liberation from Rome. This point escapes their attention. They want to know what all this—Yochanan and his action of Baptism—has to do with “Moshe and Elijah.” For you cannot trust somebody who differs from the “Torah and prophets.” What’s the point of all this baptism, if he—Yochanan—is neither Moshe nor Elijah?

He immerses in water, he says, “in your midst” is standing one who is coming after him. The expression “in your midst” points to Deuteronomy 18:15: “A prophet from the midst of your brothers.” If anyone is the longingly awaited “prophet” in Israel, it is the one who “is coming after him.” Opisō mou erchomenos, we translate: “the one who is coming after me.” {We have to consider the double sense of “after”: not only temporal but also spatial.} Likewise, we could write: “The one who is going behind me”, for in the Scriptures, “to go behind” means “to follow someone.” (72) Both are true. Yeshua belonged to the entourage of Yochanan the Baptist, and simultaneously he is the one who comes after him and inverts the relationship. The evangelist knows this “historical” fact from the life of Yeshua. Theologically—i.e. politically—he turns around this historical relationship: He—Yeshua—is to him—Yochanan—the first, the preceding one.

The people from Jerusalem don’t know him, nobody knows him, not even Yochanan (1:31). Hence they don’t understand the sense of the quotation. Yochanan only knows that he has to immerse in water. And he knows that the one who must come will not be a stranger but one from “the midst of the brothers”; liberation—so Yeshua will tell the woman at Jacob’s well—is from the Judeans, 4:22. In 1:29 ff. we will be told more details.

But that much is clear: Yochanan doesn’t regard himself as worthy to untie the sandal straps of the one who is coming after him. From the Scroll of Ruth, we know that to untie a sandal is a sign. In Israel a transaction is legally valid, as soon as one of the participants unties his sandal and gives it to the other (Ruth 4:7-8). Here is more in play as an expression for complete subservientness. Nobody in Israel can force the Messiah to act in and for Israel in a legally binding way, you can’t untie his sandals, not even their straps. At all events, what is in progress “in your midst” will turn upside down every notion of politics and resistance in Judea.

All this takes place in Bethany. Bethany is not a geographical location, but a theological one. What will happen in Bethany goes beyond the imagination of everybody in Israel, which is apparent from the narrative of recalling the dead Lazaros to life (John 11). So there is no need for worrying about the exact location of Bethany and the exact spelling of the name. For this purpose, the people who crafted the old manuscripts already applied a lot of wasted effort. So you have to ask for the part that is acted by the location throughout the narrative rather than for its exact position on the map. No: Bethany is the location of the testimony because it will be the location of the crucial sign.

1.2. The second day. Someone like God, 1:29-34

1:29 On the following day he saw Yeshua coming toward him,
and says,
“Look: The ewe coming from GOD
and taking away the aberration of the world order. (73)
1:30 This is the one of whom I said,
‘After me is coming a man
who happened before me,
for he is my beginning.’ (74)
1:31 I myself did not know him,
but so that he might be made manifest to Israel (75)
I came immersing with water.”
1:32 And Yochanan bore witness, he said,
“I have viewed
the inspiration (76) coming down like a dove from heaven,
and it stayed firmly with him. (77)
1:33 I myself did not know him,
but the ONE who sent me to immerse in water,
that ONE said to me,
‘The One on whom you see the inspiration coming down
and staying firmly with him,
this is the One who is immersing
in the inspiration of sanctification.’
1:34 And I have seen,
I have borne witness:
IT IS HE—the Son of GOD [One like GOD].” (78)

We have a Messianic week. After the interrogation, there are three “following days”, 1:29, 35, 43, and after these three days once again three days. On the third day—added together, the seventh—the “fundamental sign” is happening as we will see below. At the end of this week, the Messiah has openly revealed himself, and the first Messianic community came into being, 2:11-12.

While on the first day the game of questions and answers is crucial, in the second scene it is about what Yochanan is seeing, viewing, looking at. He is the first and possibly most important eye-witness: He saw Yeshua coming toward him (v.29), and in the end “he has borne witness and seen” (perfect) that “this one will exist like God.” He who comes “behind” Yochanan is the one who is “coming toward Yochanan.” From the depths of the Scriptures comes the future of Israel. Because and while Yeshua is coming toward him, Yochanan can say: “Look: The ewe (rachel, amnos) coming from God that takes up the aberration of the world order.” Here Yochanan intertwines two crucial passages of the prophets and of the Torah. In Isaiah 53:7.12 we hear,

He was oppressed, he, he submitted, did not open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to slaughter,
like a ewe (rachel, amnos), silent before its shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
. . .
He, he bore the aberrations of the many,
our transgressions struck him.

The second passage is from Leviticus 16:21-22,

And Aaron shall lay both his hands
on the head of the live goat,
and confess over it all the misdeeds of the sons of Israel,
all their transgressions, all their aberrations.
He shall put them on the head of the goat,
and send it away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness.
The goat bears on itself away (nasaˀ) all the misdeeds
into the land of separation.
He shall sent away the goat,
into the wilderness.

In this Agnus Dei both passages are intertwined. It is about a definitive Yom Kippur. The Messiah is the ewe of Isaiah 53, and as the goat of Leviticus 16 he carries away the aberrations of the world order, he abolishes it: that’s the meaning of that Hebrew word nasaˀ which almost always is translated by the Greek word airein. (79) The Messiah does not only passively carry the aberrations, but he actively abolishes the aberrations of a whole world order. John changes the dimensions; it is not about the “aberrations of the sons of Israel” but of the “aberrations of the world order, kosmos.” (80)

Kosmos, “world,” is both the living space of humans and the social order that is the outfit—“beautiful decoration”—of this space, as we hinted at in discussing 1:9. The only Hebrew word that comes near kosmos is tzavaˀ, “(military, astronomical) order.” YHWH ˀelohe tzevaˀoth thus means: “The NAME, God of the orders” (the German word “Heerscharen”—{similar to the archaic English word “host”}—is overly confined to military order).

But in the context of the Tanakh, there is another semantic field of kosmos. About the beginning of our calendar, the apocryphal “Book of Solomon’s Wisdom” was written in Alexandria. The author must have been a Jewish Torah scholar with a sound education in Greek philosophy. To him, the word kosmos is identical with what he calls ktisis; this word means to him “creation.“

He created the being of the whole,
liberating are the begettings [origins] of the world.
In them, there was not the poison of decay,
Hades did not wear a royal crown on earth (Wisdom 1:14).

Then it says,

Gott created humankind to be imperishable,
in the image of his own lastingness.
By the envy of the adversary, death entered the world
[the world got an order of death],
he leads them into temptation so that they get his lot
(Wisdom 2:23-24).

The word hamartia, chataˀ, means “to miss an aim.” Humankind was not created “sinful.” It missed its aim and since then goes astray. That is no hereditary sin, humankind can find back its way as the people of Israel is demonstrating to humankind. The theory of original sin of the Christian orthodoxy obscures what John is on about. Admittedly—given the circumstances, under the ruling order of the world—mankind only can go in the wrong direction. The world order (kosmos) itself is the aberration. What Yochanan sees coming toward him thus is the abolishment of this world order. The humans can’t abolish it of their own accord. The translation: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” is not wrong, but it is debased, the more so as with the word “sin” it calls forth the association of a personal moral deficiency. “Aberration/sin” is not an anthropological category, it is not a feature of a (fallen, sinful) human nature. The word that we hear at this point is a “cosmological” category in a political, not ethical, sense. According to John and the other Messianists, the world order as such is destroying every social coexistence and brings about every perversity, treason, and injustice that single humans are committing against each other—well, must do so. Now the future is that this will be no more. That is what Yochanan is seeing.

In John, the “sin” of a single human is nothing but a symptom of a perverse order under which he or she has to live; they have to take over responsibility for this personal aberration, it is true, and cannot push it off to an anonymous order. But in the end, they can only overcome it if the order, of which personal “sin” is the outflow, will be abolished. To John, kosmos, world order, Rome, is nothing less than an obsession. Nowhere else besides him the word appears that often. You needn’t share this view of the Roman Empire, but it is John’s view.

“He is the first to me,” Yochanan says, “he is my beginning.” Certainly, you can translate: “He was before me.” The members of the group that derives from Yochanan are told: The Messiah is the background and future of the Baptist and not vice versa, to Yochanan he is the principle of his life. Yochanan is up in the air if he doesn’t conceive Yeshua’s Messianic future as his own future. Yochanan will repeat that over and over. Neither in 1:15 nor here it is about who was temporally earlier but who is the “principle,” who ranks first. The “history” of the Messiah precedes Yochanan’s own “history,” it determines his history altogether, he doesn’t want to be anything else but the one calling of that Messiah who will “make straight a way in the wilderness.” All his life only served the “publishment” of the Messiah; what he does only serves as the basis for Yeshua in becoming a public phenomenon (phanerōthē) to Israel. Mostly, this is translated “to reveal.” Here the program of the Messiah is to be heard: Its concise summary just is “to be revealed to Israel.”

Twice, Yochanan says: “I myself did not know”, neither of him nor of his program. According to the awareness, he belongs to the people itself whose leaders had just as little “knowledge of him,” as we heard in 1:26. But his conduct distinguishes him from the leadership. He immerses so that the Messiah becomes manifest, a public event, “Therefore I (Yochanan) came immersing in water.” Only from his Messianic pre-consciousness, he can say that Yeshua already then determined all his life, “He was first to me!”

To this, we add that this view of the relationship between the Baptist movement and the Messianism of Yeshua of Nazareth certainly might not match the “historical facts.” But is a historical fact something else than a particular—more or less reasoned—view of history? Both movements were linked to each other, both shared the radical refusal of the ruling world order, both had their own view of their political role, their self-awareness.

After the sudden confrontation with Yeshua has unsettled all his former knowledge—“I did not know him”—, Yochanan presents his vision. The verb used here is about spectatorship (tetheamai, theasthai, see “theatre”): to watch what will happen, to have a vision.

“The inspiration comes down like a dove from heaven.” We avoid the word “spirit” because it is an expression of reified thinking. Both in Greek and Hebrew, this inspiration is described in a word that is about “wind, to blow.” It sets people in motion, “moves, inspires” them. The inspiration comes from heaven. Heaven is not-earth: “The heaven is heaven for HIM, the NAME, the earth he has given to the children of man,” Psalm 115:16. According to Exodus 20:2, the NAME is the one “leading out of the house of slavery,” moshiaˁ yisraˀel, the liberator of Israel (Isaiah 43:3, etc.). This liberator is absolutely confronted to earth and its inhabitants, like heaven to earth. The inspiration comes from this area, heaven “inspires” Israel, thus for Israel heaven is the liberator and not the transcendental, the numinous.

How to think this counterpart without having to make use of a metaphysical transcendence cannot be described here in detail. So much be said here: Liberation is what radically abolishes the ruling power system, what can’t anyhow be derived from the latter. It is the “nihil” of the really existing order, of its principle (archōn tou kosmou): It has no concern at all with the Messiah, as we will hear in John 14:30. The liberating NAME comes on Yeshua as inspiration, and that means, everything that Yeshua will speak and do “breathes, respires” (spirat) liberation. The Messiah Yeshua (SON) is the inspiration (SPIRIT) through the liberator, the NAME (in John: FATHER). From there you can think the phrase—though debased beyond recognition—Father, Son, Holy Spirit: that’s Yochanan’s vision.

Now what he views is portrayed not only with the image of wind but also with the image of the dove. Both of them we know very well from the story of the Flood, Genesis 8:1.6-12,

God remembered Noah and every living thing, all the livestock
that were with him in the ark.
God made a wind (ruach, pneuma) sweep over the earth,
the waters ducked down.
. . .
It happened at the end of forty days;
Noah opened the hatch of the ark that he had made.
He sent forth the raven,
it went forth to and fro and came back,
until the waters were dried up from the earth.
He sent forth the dove from him,
to see if the waters had lessened from the face of the earth.
The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot
and returned to him into the ark.
For the waters were still on the face of the whole earth.
He put out his hand, took her, and let her come to him in the ark.
He waited another seven days;
then again sent forth the dove from the ark.
The dove came back to him towards evening,
there: a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak!
Noah realized that the waters had lessened on the earth.
He waited another seven days,
he sent forth the dove, she did not return to him anymore.

The dove in the vision is the sign of the habitability of the earth. Apparently, this notion had a great vogue in Messianic circles. Mark uses it in his prologue (1:10), Matthew and Luke adopted it. If the inspiration has the form of a dove, then it is the warranty from heaven that the times of the destruction of the earth come to an end and the times of earth as the dwelling place for humans are beginning. When interpreting John 1:29-34, you have to read out aloud this part of the story of the Flood to pick out the sound of this context. All the four Gospels have this vision in common. The vision is a Midrash of Genesis 8. Each Midrash is an application of a fragment of the Scriptures to the new situation in which people live. What is coming is a new life for the humans on a renewed earth.

The Messiah Yeshua will immerse “in the inspiration of sanctification” (some manu­scripts add “and with fire”). Again, we only get the point of this if we question the Scriptures of Israel. It says, “You shall be holy, for I the NAME your God am holy”, Leviticus 19:2. In the third part of the third book of the Torah, wayiqraˀ (81) (Leviticus)—beginning in chapter 18—, the God of Israel once is called “the holy” (qadosh) and seven times active-causative: “who makes holy” (meqadish). In Leviticus 20:7-8 we hear,

Make yourself holy and be holy people,
for I AM the NAME, your God.
Keep my statutes, do them,
I AM the NAME, who makes you holy.

This active “making holy” is meant by “inspiration of sanctification.” To Israel, it was the empowerment to live the Torah. The question is whether John means the same Torah. No question is whether John means the same God or the same inspiration that animated the prophets of Israel. Essential to him is the amount of social vision that is hiding in the vocable God. The content of John’s vision is the remaining inspiration from heaven, i.e. from the NAME. It is related to Yeshua forever. Yochanan the Baptist summarized it this way: “And I have seen and have borne witness: IT IS HE—One like God!” Certainly, this translation is a provocation. But the provocation is necessary. Whoever reads the traditional translation: “This is the Son of God”, keeps in mind the whole Christian dogmatics from Nicaea via Chalcedon to Constantinople, the places where the dogma about Jesus Christ was formulated.

The word “son”, Hebrew ben, means “biological son.” As the son, he is that one who gives persistence to the name of his father, he continues the father’s life task. As the son, he acts like the father. Semitic names reflect this relationship as the essence of a name: Simon is bar Iōna or ben Yochanan; the king of the oil-producing desert land of Arabia—installed by the Britons—was called Ibn Saud, son of Saud, the Saud, one of the family Saud. The Arabian peninsula, therefore, is family property, Saudi Arabia. In the Synoptic Gospels, Yeshua was called “son of David”, i.e. one of David’s family, therefore one who has to continue the life task of David and his descendants. Yochanan briefly views this Yeshua as one “like (the) God (of Israel),” therefore the one who does only and nothing else but what the God Israel does for Israel. That has nothing to do here with “equality in nature” between God and Yeshua. (82)

1.3. The third day. The Messiah, 1:35-42

1:35 On the following day again Yochanan was standing
and two of his disciples. (83)
1:36 On seeing Yeshua walking his way, (84) he says,
“Look, the ewe [coming] from GOD.”
1:37 His two disciples heard him speaking,
and they followed Yeshua.
1:38 Yeshua turned around,
he viewed them following,
he says to them,
“What are you seeking?”
They said to him,
“Rabbi”—which translated means “Teacher”—
“where are you staying?”
1:39 He says to them,
“Come, and you will see.”
So they came
and saw where he was staying,
and with him, they began staying that day,
it was about the tenth hour.

1:40 It was Andrew the brother of Simon Peter,
one of the two of the listenership and followers of Yochanan.
1:41 This one first (85) finds his own brother Simon,
he says to him,
“We have found the Messiah”
—which is translated Christos [anointed]. (86)
1:42 He lead him to Yeshua.
Looking at him, Yeshua said,
“You are Simon, son of John,
you will be called Cephas”
—which is translated “Peter” [rock].

“Yochanan was standing again.” But this time something new is happening, the movement away from Yochanan toward Yeshua. About that, we will be conclusively informed in 3:25-30. He is not alone, two of his disciples are with him. This time, Yochanan does not see Yeshua coming toward him, but he is watching more precisely, the verb em-blepein here is an intensification of the seeing (blepein) in verse 29. He perceives what is happening: Yeshua “is walking his way”, peripatein. Thus he is not going for a stroll. The verb stands for what the Jews call Halakha, “the way of living, the path of life.”

Again the term: “ewe from God.” Exactly that is Yeshua’s path of life, he has to live according to the intimations of the images in Isaiah 55 and Leviticus 16. Yochanan doesn’t need to speak on, the disciples are in the know. When they hear the word, they follow Yeshua.

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.

They view him as the Teacher, the Rabbi. He is the Teacher (Rabbi), and they who are called teacher (Rabbi) are no teachers to John. He will demonstrate this in the dialogue with Nicodemos (3,10!).

The two disciples of John want to know where Yeshua “is staying.” The verb that at a first glance simply means “to stay” has—as it is often with innocuous words—a double bottom. In Semitic languages, there is no copula “to stay” (like “stay sane and healthy”). By this “to stay”, the Greek translators of the Scriptures often display roots like “to stand” or “to be upright.” The disciples don’t want to know Yeshua’s address but his “stand” [“position”] from where he can “stand, endure” this entire desolate situation of Israel. Later on, the verb will describe a basic virtue of the disciples; they shall not “remain in Christ”—which normal people can’t imagine anyway— but “stand firm with the Messiah.” So they ask: “Where is your stand?” “Come and see”, is the answer. Both of them stand firm with Yeshua that day, to begin with.

“It was about the tenth hour”, it says. Some refer to certain passages of the Talmud, (87) others to the “tenth day” of the months of the feasts when the Paschal lamb is chosen or else the great day of the coverage of the aberrations (“Yom Kippur”). (88) K. Hanhart remembers the fact that Yeshua died in the tenth hour. (89) Rudolf Bultmann—thoroughly educated in classical culture—like Pythagoras and Philo of Alexandria sees the number “ten” as “perfect number”; thus the tenth hour was “the hour of fulfillment.” (90)

John uses the word “hour,” hōra, 26 times. 8 times certain hours of the day are meant, 3 times thereof with a numeral. The remaining ones indicate the fixed point of time when anything, in particular, shall happen. Here the Greek word hōra is synonymous with kairos. If you disregard the disputed verse 5:4, the last word only appears in 7:6.8—but there it is 3 times. 7 times explicitly is talk of “Yeshua’s hour,” thus of that fixed point of time when Yeshua shall be “honored.” 4 most certain hours are emphasized with a numeral.

The sixth hour was the hour when Yeshua sat down at Jacob’s well in Samaria (4:6); here the Messiah calls the people of Samaria back to the unity of Israel. The seventh hour was the hour when the son of the royal official was healed (4:52). The sixth hour is mentioned once more; in John, it is not the moment when the whole country is shrouded in darkness but the moment when Pilate lead out the tortured Yeshua with the words, “There, your king!” (19:14). The tenth hour was the hour of the “come and see.” To come is an invitation, to see a request. Here the invitation goes to those who are not blinded by their prejudices.

Andrew is one of the two who had followed Yeshua in the first place. “What are you seeking?” Here comes the answer, Andrew says, “We (!) have found the Messiah.” By this “we” the group around Yochanan is meant whose task it is to inform the outside world about this finding. Andrew “finds” his brother as the “first,” namely as the one whom the Messiah will appoint to be the shepherd of Israel (21:15-17). At the word “Messiah,” Simon does not walk up to Yeshua of his own accord, but he is brought to Yeshua. Simon son of John received a new name, in other words: He has to be the foundation of Messianic Israel. Before he is able to do so, he has to be completely dismantled—as the follower who “denies” in a crucial moment. Yochanan the Baptist “does not deny,” but “confesses” (1:20), Simon does not confess, but denies, 3 times (18:25 ff.). By his choice of words, John joins together the crucial scenes of his narrative.

1.4. The fourth day. The Human, 1:43-51

1:43 On the following day he wanted to leave to Galilee.
He finds Philipp.
And Yeshua says to him,
“Follow me.”
1:44 Philipp was from Bethsaida,
the town of Andrew and Peter.
1:45 Philipp finds Nathanael and says to him,
“The one that Moshe wrote about in the Torah, also the prophets,
we have found him: Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth.”
1:46 Nathanael said to him,
“From Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?”
Says Philipp to him,
“Come and see!”
1:47 Yeshua saw Nathanael coming toward him,
he says about him,
“There, really, (91) an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
1:48 Nathanael says to him,
“From where do you know me?”
Yeshua answered and said to him,
“Before Philipp called you,
when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
1:49 Nathanael answered him,
IT IS YOU—the Son of GOD [One like GOD],
IT IS YOU—the King of Israel!”
1:50 Yeshua answered, he said to him,
“Because I told you
I saw you under the fig tree,
you are trusting.
Greater things than that you will see.”
1:51 And he says to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, (92)
you will see:
heaven opened,
the messengers of GOD ascending and descending
over the bar enosh [Son of Man], the Human.” (93)

Yeshua wanted to go to Galilee. To the Messianic writings, the Galil (Galilee) is what the wilderness is to the Torah. There everything began, there the disciples will find themselves again after the homicide of the Messiah. (94) To John, Galilee is the political periphery, the center is Jerusalem.

The landscape of the Galil doesn’t loom large in the Scriptures. A location “Kedesh in Galilee, on the mountain of Naphtali” is named as a city of refuge for people under suspicion of murder (Josiah 20:7; 1 Chronicles 6:76), a stretch of land that king Solomon assigned to the king of Tyre (1 Kings 9:11) and that was conquered by the Assyrians as one of the first areas of Israel (2 Kings 15:29): that’s all. Not until the king Judah Aristobulus (104-103 BCE), Galilee was united with Judea, its population became Judean partly by immigration from Judea, partly by forced conversion, (95) and was in a tense relationship to the center of Jerusalem. A text from the Book of Isaiah (reflecting the late Maccabean time?) counts the land among the periphery, together with the coastal areas and the Transjordan, “the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, the Galil of the nations” (Isaiah 8:23 [LXX]). This text is cited by Matthew, 4:15. About mid-1th-century BCE, the land was torn apart by civil-war-like conditions and “pacified” by people like Herod (about 44 BCE). By the lackeys of Rome who kept the title of king (say Herod Antipas) it was plundered more than administered and had a bad record in Jerusalem. It was a rebellious country, and in the great war against Rome (66-73 CE), the rebels here initially achieved their best successes. The Gospels depict Messianism as a movement that originated in the periphery of the Galil.

Heading for Galilee, Yeshua finds (!) Philipp. Peter is the “finding” (96) of two disciples, Nathanael the “finding” of Philipp, but Philipp is the “finding” of the Messiah himself. Philipp figures prominently in the Gospel. He comes from the same location as Andrew and Simon Peter, he puts people of the diaspora (Greeks) in contact with the Messiah (12:21); there, Philipp is addressed as kyrie, “lord”, a title which in the Gospel remains reserved to Yeshua himself. The first two disciples follow Yeshua of their own accord, Simon gets a new name, none but Philipp is summoned to follow him.

In the milieu of the Gospels, the word “to follow” is looming large, as well as in the Book of Revelation. In Paul and the texts dependent on him, it appears just as little as in the letters of the apostles. In John, to follow the Messiah (15 times) is a real possibility not before the raising from the dead of the Messiah. Both the first disciples follow Yeshua, still without knowing that this one is the Messiah (1:37-39). The crowd follows the Messiah because they expect him to establish the kingdom of Israel (6:2). Israel will follow when the Messiah will be the shepherd (10:4 ff.).

Philipp—who in the “Galil of the Gentiles” was close to the people of the nations—had the task of finding Nathanael, the Israelite “without deceit.” Philipp puts Yeshua in the tradition of Torah (Moshe) and prophets. “We have found,” he says, like Andrew, though he has not found but was found. Someone who stands for the Israel of the Diaspora has to instruct someone who stands for the Israel of the land about his finding.

This Messiah—announced by Torah and prophets—is a concrete human with an officially known name and origin: Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee. Nathanael asks: “From Nazareth? What good comes from it?” Almost always this question is conceived as a rhetorical question—that nothing good could come from Nazareth. In fact, the question mirrors the astonishment that he who all Israel seeks and hopes for is supposed to come from a location that is not found in the history of Israel’s liberation; in the Scriptures (Moshe and the prophets), there is no question of Nazareth at all. Matthew and Luke let the Messiah be born in Bethlehem, the city of David. John, however, interprets the origin from Nazareth as an entirely new initiative of God. To him, Nazareth is a break with the past, too. The sentence lightens up from 7:52 when the Perushim ask their comrade Nicodemos: “Aren’t you from Galilee? Search and see: no prophet arises from Galilee.” Nathanael’s objection is that Yeshua’s Messianity can’t be proved from the Scriptures, apparently a widespread objection.

Philipp answers in the same way as Yeshua answered the question of the first two disciples: “Come and see!” And Nathanael will see because Yeshua sees just like Nathanael is coming toward him; he says about him: “There, someone who really (adverb!) is an Israelite, in him is no deceit.” Was is a deceitful man in Israel?

They may not rejoice over me, my enemies, liars,
who hate me without reason, winking with their eyes.
They speak no words of peace toward the quiet of the land,
speak and devise deceit.

Psalm 35:19-20 says so, the verse that Yeshua will hint at (15:25). Nathanael asks from where Yeshua got to know him as a child of Israel without deceit. In Israel, the deceitful is the absolute antagonist to the one who is called “reliable” (tzadiq). “When you were under the fig tree, I saw you”, says Yeshua. The imagination of many exegetes then runs riot that Yeshua would have seen what a normal man was not able to see, anything what Nathanael secretly had been up to under that fig tree, a small demonstration “of supernatural knowledge”; (97) a certain Blank opines that The encounter with Jesus affects man by revealing to him the truth about himself, at that. (98) No, Nathanael’s alleged amazement at Yeshua’s parapsychological abilities reveals the cluelessness of the exegetes. Yeshua does not directly answer the question, rather he proclaims his vision: “Peace for Israel.” In the golden age of Israel when King Solomon still was a blameless man, it was put about, 1 Kings 5:4-5,

Peace was with him [Solomon] from all sides around him.
And Judah and Israel dwelt in safety,
everyone under his vine and under his fig tree,
from Dan to Beersheba,
all the days of Solomon.

The writer of the First Book of Maccabees had this vision as well; during the government of the ruler Simon Maccabee “everyone sat under his vine and fig tree” (14:12). This vision was alive in the Maccabean time. Yeshua calls Nathanael “an Israelite without deceit.” What this means, Yeshua explains by his view that Nathanael “was under the fig tree.” An Israelite without deceit is an Israelite who wants only one thing: Peace for Israel. “To be there under the fig tree” is the vision of peace of the Messiah and Nathanael’s matter of the heart. (99) Nathanael grasps immediately what Yeshua says to him. Yeshua—the Teacher—is “like God” and “King of Israel” like Solomon ben David and Simon, Judah Maccabee’s brother. That’s not a formulaic confession but a conceptual statement about Yeshua.

Yeshua suspects Nathanael’s misunderstanding that with him—Yeshua—the great old days of Israel would come back. He says to him: “Because I said that I see you under the fig tree, you are trusting. Greater things than that you will see.” Nathanael trusts that he will be “under the fig tree,” that he will experience peace, and peace is more than the absence of open war, peace is safety, and that is not really available under kings like Solomon or Simon. The evocative image of life in peace is sitting under the vine and under the fig tree. But this desire is not enough. There is a problem of the world order that is not solved by this peace. Between the vision of the revival and reunion of Israel in Ezekiel 37 and the blueprint of the reconstruction of Israel in Ezekiel 40-48, there is the text about Gog from Magog. This one comes “against a land of farmers, to prey on people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or doors” (Ezekiel 38:11). As long as there is Gog from Magog there is no true safety. What is greater than peace for Israel? A world order of peace.

John then brings a sophisticated quotation of the Scriptures referring to three passages, Ezekiel 1:1, Genesis 28:12, and Daniel 7:12. This conglomerate is commenced with the sentence, “You will see the heaven, opened.” The expression only appears in the Book of Ezekiel, 1:1,

Opened were the heavens,
I saw, sight of God,
. . .

What “sight of God” (marˀoth ˀelohim) means, we will get to know later. At first, John invokes Jacob’s vision: The disciples should see what Jacob saw in his dream, Genesis 28:12-13,

He dreamed,
there: a ladder set up on the earth,
the top of it reached to heaven,
there: messengers of God ascending, descending on it,
there: the NAME stood over him,
he said,
“I AM—the NAME,
the God of Abraham, your father,
the God of Isaac.
The land on which you lie
I will give to you and to your offspring . . .”

What they get to see is about Israel, the promise of the land. Today the land belongs to others, through the Messiah it will belong to Israel. Then there is the third element, bar enosh, the Human. Daniel watched that thrones were set up in heaven for an “Ancient of Days,” innumerable beings stood before him. Then it says, 7:10-14,

The court is seated, books are opened.
A vision happened to me then,
because of the voice of boastful words
that the horn [the Great King of Syria] was speaking,
a vision happened to me,
the beast [the kingdom of Syria] was killed,
its body destroyed and given over into the blazing fire.
As for the rest of the beasts [kingdoms]
their dominion was limited,
their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
I saw, a night vision,
There: coming with the clouds of heaven a Human
[bar enosh, One like a son of man],
to the Ancient of Days he went,
he was lead into his presence.
To him was given dominion, dignity, kingdom,
all people, tribes, and tongues paid reverence to him.
His dominion is a dominion for the ages that will not pass away,
his kingdom will not be destroyed.

This vision has the brunt of the will of the people not to surrender permanently to the power of the predators who until then ruled over Israel (Daniel 7:1 ff.). “The court is seated, books are opened.” What comes now is no more bestially but someone “like a Human.” The expression “son of man” simply means: “a Human.” We write the word initial-capitalized to signify a very specific human with a very specific task. The power of bestial kingdoms is limited in time, the power of humaneness is unlimited. With the clouds of heaven is coming what never was: the power of humaneness, embodied in the people of the holy ones of the Most High, by Israel (Daniel 7:27). And this humaneness all at once is criterion and executor of law.

To John, the embodiment of this Israel, of this bar enosh, this Human, is the Messiah Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth. Whenever in John we hear the expression bar enosh, “Son of Man”—we write “Human”—we have to hear this vision, too. The “greater things” that Nathanael and his condisciples will see are of three kinds.

They will get “sight of God,” i.e. “the heavens opened.” Heaven—the second work of God’s creation— is the vault (raqiaˁ) that shields the celestial from the terrestrial. So it’s fortunate that heaven remains shut. If it is opened, the disaster of the Flood happens, “the floodgates of the heavens were opened,” Genesis 7:11.

If further the heavens are opened, then secondly a future on earth is made accessible to Israel: the land.

Thirdly, however, the heavens are opened so that justice will happen to the earth and its inhabitants, Isaiah 24:18. The disciples will see that finally right will be done, divine law. It comes from the “heaven opened,” Ezekiel 1:1, with the “Human,” Daniel 7, to Israel, Genesis 28:10 ff. The Scriptures will be fulfilled.

The introduction is at its end. Now the “found” disciples have to grow into what can be called Messianic community.

2. The beginning of the signs in Cana, Galilee.
The Messianic wedding, 2:1-12

John structures his narrative by the great festivals of the Judeans. Right at the outset, he makes a reservation. The festivals are the festivals of the Judeans, i.e. John’s opponents. But take care! He does not replace the Jewish festivals with Christian festivals (100) but wants to show that in the days of the Messiah all festivals get a new orientation. This new orientation is given to the Jewish festivals by the principled (archē!) festival: the Messianic wedding, it signifies the essence of all festivals.

2.1. Messianic wedding, 2:1-11

2:1 And on the third day, a wedding happened at Cana, Galilee.
And the mother of Yeshua was there.
2:2 Called to the wedding was Yeshua, too, along with his disciples.
2:3 When the wine ran out, Yeshua’s mother says to him,
“They have no wine.”
2:4 Says Yeshua to her,
“What is between me and you, woman? (101)
My hour has not yet come.”
2:5 His mother says to the persons on duty,
“Whatever he will say to you, do so.”
2:6 There were stone water jars there, six,
being ready for the purification of the Judeans,
each holding two or three metretes. (102)
2:7 Yeshua says to them,
“Fill the water jars with water.”
They filled them to the brim.
2:8 And he says to them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the master of the feast.” (103)
They took it.
2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water
that had become wine,
and did not know where it is from
—the servants who had drawn the water knew—,
the master of the feast calls the bridegroom
2:10 and says to him,
“Every man serves the good wine first,
and when they are drunk the lesser.
You have kept the good wine—until now.”
2:11 This did Yeshua as the beginning of the signs at Cana, Galilee. (104)
He manifested his honor,
and his disciples began trusting in him.

The first words of this passage indicate a problem. You wait for a series: one day, the following day, the third day. Instead, in John 1:19-51, we have one day and three additional following days. Now you can continue counting: After the four days, there are two further days and, then, a third day. The result is a full week, the seventh day is a festival day, indeed. In the other Gospels, the third day is a constant figure; it signifies the day of the resurrection. To Paul, this third day was a traditional notion already, 1 Corinthians 15:4. John knows—that’s what we can safely assume—what Messianists connect with the third day.

The location of Cana from Josiah 19:28 is a northern border town of the tribal area of Asher. Asher is situated at the northern periphery, Cana in this periphery is again periphery. The third day of John 2:1, the day of the Messianic wedding, takes place in the periphery of the periphery. Like Nazareth, Cana has no past of liberation; with the great events of the life of Israel, it had nothing to do. It is a marginal location where there was “nothing going on.“ The other evangelists don’t know Cana. Cana is a theological and no geographical location; as the star of Bethlehem is not an astronomical, but a theological object. Cana is the place of the “beginning of the signs” and the place of the other (second) sign, 4:46. Here John’s political program takes on contours: the purpose of Israel, the Messianic wedding, takes place in the periphery, at a location which never had been thought of before, at that. The center (Jerusalem, the political establishment of Judea) will reject the perspective from the periphery.

At this marginal location, a wedding took place. In John’s language area, “wedding” is not any Oriental wedding where Yeshua’s family was invited. His language is normed by the language of the Scriptures. There can be no talk of Yeshua having bailed any wedding party out of any embarrassing situation and proving himself as wonder-worker. The prefiguration of the wedding is the wedding between Israel and its God. Here you should think of Isaiah 62:4-5,

No more shall you be called: “Forsaken!”
Your land shall no more be called: “Desolate!”
You [Israel] are called: “My Delight Is in Her,”
and your land: “Married.”
For the NAME delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you.
And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.”

The purpose of the “sign” is that the disciples find confidence in Yeshua who announced “greater things”: to see everything from the sight of God and to grasp that in this wedding it is about Israel. The sign answers this purpose and, to start with, the prerequisite of that seeing and understanding, the confidence in the Messiah, the bar enosh, the Human. It is about Israel, how should it then on the “third day” be about another matter? You can call this an allegory and reject it as “unscientific.” But: is it not the case that all the Scriptures is an allegory, does it not hint with all its words and images and narratives, tales, etc. to quite another (allos) matter, to the totally Other? In any case, Isaiah introduces more deeply into what happens than the feast of Dionysos on the isle of Andros where wine instead of water is alleged to have sputtered from the springs of the temple for three days. That made sense to Rudolf Bultmann; (105) our light is from another source!

John introduces another person, the mother of Yeshua. She plays a role that none of the other evangelists allowed to her. In Luke, she is the acting person in the narrative of the begetting and birth of the Messiah. From that, no special role arises to her, on the contrary: the Synoptics harshly reject every claim of an elevated position in the Messianic community: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers,” the Messiah asks. “Whoever does the will of my FATHER in the heavens is my brother and my sister and my mother”, Matthew 12:50, see Luke 8:21 und Mark 3:23.

In John, the mother plays a decisive role right at the “beginning of the signs.” The mother of Yeshua belongs to the wedding party in the first place, Yeshua and his disciples were called afterward. It is she who ascertains a grave deficiency that renders the wedding impossible: “They have no wine.” In Greek, “wine“ is the first word of the sentence, it is the chief thing. Just this chief thing is lacking. Thus Yeshua’s mother stands between the Messiah with his disciples and the wedding party. She acts as an intermediary between Israel and the Messiah.

Later on, the mother appears on the scene once more, under the cross. Then she is made the mother of the disciple to whom Yeshua was solidarily conjoined in particular, and this disciple the son of this woman. John never mentions the name of Yeshua’s mother. In him, she is none but the mother of the Messiah. In the Messianic community from which the Gospel of John originates, she must have figured prominently. In the narrative of the Messianic wedding, her role is to mediate between the Messiah and Israel. But she is not—as the Roman Catholic Mariology believes—the prototype of the Christian church.

Yeshua says to his mother: “What is between me and you, woman?” The expression is known from the Scriptures; it means that a common concern between two persons is called into question. (106) His hour—“the hour to come to pass out of this world order to the FATHER” (13:1)—has not yet come. Not yet on hand is the moment when the deficiency of wine is remedied, when Israel becomes Israel again by filling the abyss between Israel (the mother) and the Messianic community (Yeshua and his disciples). Apparently, the wine has something to do with the “hour.” The woman’s request is hidden in this ascertainment like an urgent plea. It is a plea like that of the disciples, Acts 1:6: “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” There the disciples were rejected (Acts 1:7-8) as here the mother is rejected. “Not yet,” Yeshua says here, and later he will say it to Maria from Magdala because she tries to touch Yeshua like a living man: “Not yet I have ascended to the FATHER” (20:17).

The salutation “woman!” (gynai) is neither irreverent nor repellent. The mother of the Messiah has called attention to the decisive point. They have no wine, what they have is water. Water is vital for life, water is the Torah, it serves to obey the central instructions of purification of the Torah.

Yeshua’s mother who has appropriated the central problem of the wedding turns to the servants. By her action, she interprets the question “What is between me and you?” not as a rhetorical but a real question. What have I—the Messiah—to do with this Israel? She answers this implied question by an action; she says to the servants that they shall do whatever Yeshua will say to them. With such an Israel, he does have something to do, indeed.

The meaning of the word diakonos is not simply “attendant, servant, slave.” The normal word for “servant” is doulos. The diakonos, however, is the one who carries out a higher duty at a royal court like those seven officers, “who carried out their duty before the face of the king Ahasuerus” (Esther 1:10, see 6:3). Martha carried out her duty in the house of her brother Lazaros before the face of Yeshua who had called Lazaros from the dead (12:1-2); that also was not the service of a servant (the appropriate word would be douloun, not diakonein). The one who is a servant, diakonos, par excellence is Martha, the sister of Lazaros (12:2). The diakonos is the one who will be there where the Messiah will be, the diakonoi are those who follow the Messiah, 12:26. Thus Yeshua’s mother is talking as to the court officials of a king.

You can puzzle over the six jars for the purification of the Judeans; to John and his listeners, they undoubtedly bore a meaning. The number six in 12:1 (“six days before the Passover”) can hardly be explained from here. A possible explanation may be: Twelve is the number of “all Israel.” This interpretation is supported by the narrative 1 Kings 18 where Elijah initiates to fill twelve—two times four—jars with water (18:34) after having erected twelve stones—“according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob” (18,31). Here, however, is only “half” Israel. The other half is not yet there. (See 10:16: “Other sheep I have that are not of this yard”). Torah-abiding Israel in the land (the six jars filled with water) has to turn into Messianic Israel (six jars filled with wine). Admittedly, the question remains: why six?

And now the architriklinos appears on the stage. The word is unique, it is to be found neither in the Greek editions of the Scriptures nor in nonbiblical Greek literature. A narrator—all the more a narrator of distinction like John—has his reasons for introducing a character and denoting it with a totally unusual word. All sorts of things are made use of to clear up the matter. Bultmann has “Tafelmeister” [“master of the table”], Barrett has “toastmaster,” Wengst has “Speisemeister” [“master of the food”]. (107)

Wengst would have been able to avoid this embarrassment. For the part of the word triklinos he himself refers to the passage of the Mishnah: “Rabbi Jacob says: This world equals to a front hall of the future world: gear up in the front hall so that you can enter the palace (triklinos, traqlin in Mishnah Hebrew)” (Mishnah Avot 4:16). The word explains the location of the wedding, the house of the bridegroom. Thus the character must mean more than a minor character. In any case, the architriklinos is the confidant of the bridegroom as will be shown. The bridegroom can represent—if we interpret the wedding according to Isaiah 62:4-5—none other than the God of Israel.

The architriklinos knows nothing, the ones who know are the servants, the diakonoi. The servants have no direct access to the bridegroom. The diakonoi know, the architriklinos is the one who does not know what the diakonoi know; from there the riddle that is proposed to us by this character has to be solved. Up to now we only had twice the assertion of the Baptist: “Me too, I did not know him” (1:31.33, kai egō ouk ēdein auton). About the architriklinos it is said: “He did not know.” Just as the Baptist didn’t know that Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth was the Messiah, so the architriklinos didn’t know where the wine—the effective sign of the Messianic time—came from. Who is the confidant or “friend of the bridegroom”? Let’s wait until 3:29!

This confidant says to the bridegroom: “Every man serves the good wine first, and when they are drunk the lesser. You have kept the good wine—until now.” Let’s begin with the last sentence. In John, the word “to keep” anyplace else means “to keep the commandments.” Twice more we’ll hear the expression “until now.” In 5:17: “My FATHER is working until now, and I too am working.” The other one is 16:24: “Until now you have asked nothing with my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full,” right at the end of the so-called “farewell speeches.” These passages explain our passage here. Yeshua has worked “until now”; until now the name of Yeshua played no role in the longing (praying) of the disciples. At the moment when they will connect their longing for the age to come to the Name of Yeshua, they will accept for what they pray, and their joy will be fulfilled. Now Israel turns into that “good wine”; until now it was far from being good wine, Isaiah 5:1 ff.:

Let me sing for my beloved,
a love song:
A vineyard belonged to my beloved, vineyard to him,
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up, cleared it of stones,
he planted it with the choicest vines,
built a watchtower in the midst of it
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he hoped that it brings forth grapes,
it brought forth only sour ones.

The same image is used in Jeremiah (2:21). The sign of Yeshua “at last” turns the bitter words of the prophets into what the beloved one always hoped from his vineyard Israel: good wine. God’s hope “at last” comes to fulfillment. The architriklinos helps the bridegroom out of a large embarrassment without even suspecting where the wine comes from and what is happening, after all.

The bride will be talked about in 3:29-30. Here it is about the principled sign. Not the first sign from a series of many further ones, but the beginning of the signs. The Gospel starts with the same words “In the beginning” as the Scriptures itself had started. Now we hear the same word once more. The sign of the signs—that what it is actually about and has to be about—shows: Israel turns into Israel, at long last. That’s what it’s all about in everything that Yeshua will be saying and doing. For that will be his honor. The honor of Yeshua is to lead home Israel.

The disciples trust Yeshua. This is the first time—except the preface—that we hear this word pisteuein, “to trust, to have confidence in.” About this trust, confidence, it will be. That Yeshua becomes the Messiah is clear to them (ephanerōsen, evident!) when Israel’s deficiency was remedied. They trust, not because a magician by a magic trick enchanted 600 (108) liters of water into just as many liters of wine, but because they have been made aware of what Yeshua must do and will do. The vast amount of wine stands for the abundance of the Messianic time.

Consequently—and that confirms our interpretation—Yeshua’s next action takes place in the traqlin, in the triklinos of the God of Israel, the sanctuary in Jerusalem. “Before the face” of the Messianic community that was constituted in Cana: The mother, the brothers, the disciples.

2.2. Messianic community, 2:12

2:12 After this he went down to Capernaum, (109)
he, and his mother, and his brothers, and his disciples.
And there they stayed not many days. (110)

The Messianic wedding in Cana, Galilee, is the festival of the foundation of the Messianic community. With it, he goes to Capernaum. Here—at the beginning of the signs—all who represent the original Messianic community are still together: the community to which Yeshua’s mother belongs, the community of Yeshua’s brothers in Jerusalem, and the communities of the disciples in the land and the region.

“There they stayed not many days,” it finally says. About Israel, it was said, “You stayed at Kadesh many days, the days you stayed there” (Deuteronomy 1:46), and: “We circled Mount Seïr many days” (Deuteronomy 2:1). At last, it says, “And the days that we went from Kadesh-Barnea to the brook Zered [the border to the plains of Moab], were 38 years” (Deuteronomy 2:14). “Not many days” means: the abidance in Capernaum shall not become like the abidance in Kadesh-Barnea: the 38 years of Israel are over. To understand that, we have to wait until 5:1 ff. The problem: John always poses riddles that you can’t solve before having read the whole text.

Scholion 1: What’s so reprehensible about allegorical exegesis?

Our way of exegesis is not timid about allegory. The allegorical interpretation has a venerable tradition. Only when modern historical-critical exegesis became dominant, allegory was discarded as “unscientific.” As a matter of fact, we know kinky examples of traditional interpretations of the Church Fathers, the old ascetic literature from the milieu of the monks, and the theologians until the Reformation period. In the Talmud, allegory is widespread, too.

The allegorical interpretation has seen something that in historical-critical goes by the board. This one mistrusts the text in hand, looks for “sources”, original versions, redactional revisions, and the like, and tries to set it back into its own historical (political, social, ideological) milieu. That is a necessary effort; without it, the text turns into an exotic object.

It alone does not explain the text at hand. But if you want to interpret the text, you have to know its structure. At first, the structure of a narrative is the network of roles that are acted in it by its characters. They and their actions are signs. The signs refer to what they signify, to what they are driving at, but what they are not for themselves. They sign-ify something that they are for us or by themselves; it is exactly this something of the text that we are interested in. Otherwise, we would not read it, interpret it, preach it, make it a topic of education. The sign presupposes the sign-ified as the other (allon), or it would be no sign, sēmeion. Exactly because of the pre-eminence of the word sēmeion in the Gospel of John—we hear it 17 times—in its interpretation, you can’t go very far without allegories.

Admittedly, danger is at hand. In the allegory, there is no limit to phantasy, and thus a danger of arbitrariness. The historical merits of criticism are to prevent allegorical arbitrariness. Criticism points at the narrative’s own social and political context, it is the element of diachrony that considers the difference between our time and the time of the narrative.

To us, allegory is not an arbitrary method but an essential component of the structural (synchronic) analysis of the text as a whole. In our view, allegory means to respect the whole that precedes the fragment and transcends it. This whole is the Other, and the characters of the narrative are pointing beyond their special role in the particular fragment to their role in the whole. This whole has its very own system of signs and images, characters and visions, its language in the comprehensive sense of the word. Therefore the characters in Cana do not play a part in any peasant wedding in any village where the people ran out of wine—it could have been beer, roast mutton, etc. as well—but in a Messianic wedding. If we don’t accept this Other which the sign “water turns into wine” points to, the whole scene becomes absolutely arbitrary, and Yeshua a Jack of all trades who can do everything, like enchanting 600 liters of water into wine. If the narrative does not mean that Other, it means just nothing.

All characters will appear again in the course of the narrative, Yeshua and his mother as well as his disciples, the bridegroom, the diakonoi, even the architriklinos. The characters are agents of a reality that points beyond them, they always are more than they are, or—to quote Sartre—“They are not what they are, and they are what they are not.” (111) The transcendence of the whole blows up what they superficially seem to be. The same is true for all great literature among which the Gospel of John is ranking without any doubt.

3. Passover. The Messiah as the Teacher of Israel, 2:13-3:21

3.1. A lesson, 2:13-22

2:13 Near was the Pascha of the Judeans. (112)
And Yeshua ascended to Jerusalem.
2:14 He found in the sanctuary
the sellers of cattle, sheep, and doves,
and the coin-changers seated there.
2:15 He made a whip from cords,
he cast them all out of the sanctuary,
the sheep and the cattle as well,
he poured out the coins of the money-changers,
knocked over the tables,
2:16 and to the sellers of doves he said,
“Take that away from here,
do not turn my FATHER’s house into a house of trade.”
2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written,
Zeal for your house devours me.” (113)
2:18 Now the Judeans asked, they said to him,
“What sign do you show us for doing all this?”
2:19 Yeshua answered and said to them,
“Break down this temple,
in three days I will raise it up.”
2:20 The Judeans said,
“It took 46 years to build this temple,
and you’re going to raise it in three days?”
2:21 But that one had spoken of the temple of his body.
2:22 Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they began trusting in the Scriptures
and in the word that Yeshua had said. (114)

Pascha (115) is the Aramaic word for the Hebrew pessach, Passover, the great festival of liberation from the house of bondage. John and the other Messianic authors have to leave the word untranslated because there is no Greek equivalent. But it is highly questionable whether John in mentioning pascha refers to Christian Easter. If the Messiah—“the ewe from GOD, taking up the aberration of the world order” (1:29)—is killed on the preparatory day of Passover, then what the first pascha aimed at becomes reality—the final liberation of every pharaoh.

Yeshua ascends to Jerusalem, for the pascha has to be celebrated at the location that the NAME had chosen. In John, pascha always is “near.” There Yeshua makes a discovery that makes any celebration of liberation impossible to him: in the sanctuary, he finds (!) those who turn it into a house of trade.

The sanctuary was a market for the interregional exchange of goods according to the principles of a monetary economy. It had this function already in pre-Hellenistic times, but in Hellenism, the sanctuary quickly evolved into a market of goods and services and played a role as a financial institution as well (2 Maccabees 3:10-11). In such markets, there were money-changers from the Hellenistic antiquity until the early modern time. Outside of the Gospels, there is no historical evidence of the existence of such markets in the area of the house of God. The city itself knew of such markets, indeed. Traders bought and sold, and as each little potentate of the region (say Herod Antipas) had at least a restricted right of coinage, a clutch of currencies was circulating. Even if the money-changers are only subserving the collection of the heave-offering to the sanctuary (usually called “temple tax”), John views them as traders like those who traded with sacrificial animals.

To John, the last sentence of the Book of Zechariah seems to be deciding. “There shall be no trader in the house of the NAME of the orders on that day.” A condition that pious Israel is longing for. In Israel and premodernity in general, the merchant class was regarded as abnormal, professional traders are called “Canaanites.” (116) At least on Shabbat, Nehemiah didn’t tolerate traders in the city (Nehemiah 13:15-22). In the eyes of the evangelists, Jerusalem was a Hellenistic city, a “trading city” (emporion), as the prophets called the Phoenician commercial metropolis Tyre; consequently, their trading partners were called emporioi, “traders” (Isaiah 23:17; Ezekiel 27:15). That must come to an end. Yeshua puts an end to it.

Striking is the violence that is used by Yeshua here; in John, he is none like Gandhi. To unbiased people this doesn’t make a good impression; they can’t escape the idea that here a fundamentalist Zealot is at work. This impression is wrong. Instead, all evangelists fully align Yeshua in the tradition of the Maccabean revolution. That they have Yeshua reject military Zealotism (John 10:8-11; 18:11; Matthew 26:52) is not at all due to dogmatic pacifism but on all accounts to a realistic estimate of the relative military strength. The disciples, however, remember that Yeshua was a zealot: “Zeal (zēlos) for your house devours me”, says the Psalm, and we think of Elijah who confessed: “Zealous I have been, zealous (zēlōn ezēlōka) for the NAME, the God of the orders,” 1 Kings 19:10. According to John, Yeshua was a zealot, but a proper one, no Rambo of the same batch as were the people who—during the Zealot regime in Jerusalem (68-70)—wreaked that bloody havoc which lead to the inconceivable catastrophe of the year 70. What is happening here, is a sort of Hanukkah, the purification of the house of God. Here the negative element of the Hanukkah is mentioned, the cleansing, in 10:22 ff. the positive one.

The Judeans lived in a city that culturally was deeply shaped by Hellenism. (117) They “countered” Yeshua and ask for a sign. They didn’t suspect that the principled sign already was given, at Cana, Galilee. They ask upon what grounds Yeshua by his action could endanger a policy of compromise with Rome. After all, the Zealot’s military adventure had led the people into an appalling catastrophe. They caused Rome’s barbaric intervention and the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. Not only proponents of Rome like Flavius Josephus but also other members of the people took that view. Thus the Judeans had every reason to ask Yeshua for his legitimation.

Yeshua’s answer is an outrageous provocation. What we experience here is typical of John’s literary procedure. He has Yeshua say something that his adversaries necessarily must misunderstand. Either the Gospel is written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and then John plays a wicked game with the fears of the Judeans. Or it is written after the destruction. Then the answer is unacceptable all the more. Yeshua does not make the slightest effort to take seriously the standpoint of the adversaries. Not even the disciples understood him; only after his death they grasped that he had not spoken of the sanctuary, the house of God, but “about the temple of his body.” Before his death, like all the others, they took it for granted that Yeshua spoke of the sanctuary and of nothing else.

The provocation is intended. They should have listened more closely; John always talks about the house of God as of the sanctuary (hieron). Only here he speaks of the temple (naos). John moves about in an imaginative space that was widespread among many Messianists. Thus the high priest during the interrogation before the Sanhedrin will understand Yeshua; this one had said: “I will break down this temple (naos) that is made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with human hands” (Mark 14:58; Matthew 26:61). This is not cheap polemics against “Jewish temple piety”; to the Messianists as well, the location in Jerusalem where Yeshua taught and politically enlightened was a location of the sanctity of the God of Israel, just “sanctuary.” Rather it is about resistance against a process of turning the Judean sanctuary (hieron) into a temple (naon) of the goyim. (118) The temple is denoted with the same adjective cheiropoiēton, “made with human hands” (Acts 7:48), that in the Scriptures is used for idols (maˁase yede ˀadam, Psalm 115:4). In the Messianic time, the temple will turn into the sanctuary again; this makes up the passion (zēlos) of the Messiah. John has Yeshua reproach the Judeans in Jerusalem—the Judean authority—with turning the house of the God of Israel into a Hellenistic institute for religious affairs with all its excesses of profiteering and being totally unaware of this fraud.

Not the destruction of the temple but the raising of the Messiah from the dead is the sign. To John, after the resurrection of the Messiah, the destruction of the city and the sanctuary carries no more actual weight. In John, no Messiah is weeping over the city (Matthew 23:37 ff.; Luke 13:34-35, 19:41-44). The temple has been destroyed, the Messiah killed, but the sanctuary could not be destroyed, because it was not made by human hands but was the location that the NAME himself chooses, admittedly for a very new service, namely bowing (adoration) according to “inspiration and fidelity,” as we will see in the interpretation of 4:20-24 (section 5.4). And the Messiah could not be held up by death in ascending to the FATHER.

The disciples as (not) acting characters of the narrative stand here for the Messianic communities after the destruction. Not they, either, saw through the answer to the question for a sign. According to John, that’s because the disciples—the Messianic communities after the year 70—have not trusted or understood either the Scriptures or Yeshua’s word. In front of the empty burial cave, the uninhabited site of the ruins of Jerusalem, the community is still standing uncomprehendingly, 20:11. John is hard on the depressiveness of his and other Messianic communities. He wants Israel to come to a real understanding of its Scriptures; his hermeneutic principle is the Messiah who had to die to be able to stand up. To Luke as well, the Messiah was the Teacher of the Scriptures, 24:32. A good House of Study is taking place if the people’s “hearts are burning at the opening of the Scriptures.” Here nothing is burning, here is only incomprehension.

3.2. “You are the teacher of Israel, and you do not understand this?”, 2:23-3:21

2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem
at the Pascha, during the festival,
many began trusting in his name,
when they observed (119) the signs he did.
2:24 But Yeshua did not entrust himself to them,
for he knew everybody
2:25 and didn’t need anyone to testify of man.
For he himself knew what was in man.

3:1 Now there was a man among the Perushim,
named Nicodemos, (120) a ruler of the Judeans.
3:2 This one came to him, by night.
He said to him,
we know it is from GOD that you have come as a teacher.
For no one can do these signs that you do,
unless GOD is with him.”
3:3 Yeshua answered, he said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless someone is begotten (121) from above
he cannot see the Kingdom of GOD.”
3:4 Nicodemos says to him,
“How can a man be begotten when he is old?
Can he go back into his mother’s womb a second time
and be born?”
3:5 Yeshua answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
unless someone is begotten of water and inspiration,
he cannot enter the Kingdom of GOD.
3:6 That begotten of the flesh is just flesh,
that begotten of inspiration is inspired. (122)
3:7 Don’t be amazed that I said to you
that you must be begotten from above!
3:8 The storm blows where it wants to,
and you hear its voice,
but you don’t know where it is coming from or where it’s going.
So is anyone begotten of the storm of inspiration.” (123)
3:9 Nicodemos answered and said to him,
“How can this happen?”
3:10 Yeshua answered and said to him,
“You are the teacher of Israel, and you do not understand this?
3:11 Amen, amen, I say to you,
what we know we speak about,
what we have seen we are testifying,
but you don’t accept our testimony.
3:12 If I tell you about the things of the earth
and you are not trusting,
how will you trust
if I tell you about the things of heaven?
3:13 No one has ascended into heaven,
if not the one who descended from heaven,
bar enosh, the Human.
3:14 Just as Moshe exalted the serpent in the wilderness,
so the bar enosh, the Human, has to be exalted,
3:15 so that everyone trusting in him
may have life in the age to come. (124)
3:16 For GOD so solidarized with the world (125)
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.
3:18 The one trusting in him is not judged,
the one who is not trusting has been judged already,
because he has not trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of GOD.
3:19 Now this is the judgment:
the light has come into the world,
but the humans solidarized with the darkness rather than with the light,
their works being evil.
3:20 Everyone who is acting wickedly (126)
is fighting the light with hate, (127)
and not coming to the light
so that his works won’t be exposed.
3:21 Everyone who is doing fidelity
is coming to the light,
so that his works may be made manifest,
for they have been worked with GOD.”

There is a certain dissent between the note that Yeshua “did many signs” in Jerusalem during the Passover, although he did his “second sign” (4:54) not before his stay in Jerusalem and after his way back from the Jordan through Samaria to Galilee. What “second” means there, we will explain.

Here we have an anticipated summary, see 12:37. Yeshua distances himself from those who “trusted in his name” on the basis of the signs in Jerusalem. We avoid the verb “to believe,” because “belief” has something static. It invokes a religious worldview. The Greek word pisteuein and its Hebrew equivalent heˀemin are no religious categories. What is meant is an attitude of confidence that there will be a radical change of the people’s situation, and this will come about by moving toward the Messiah in their way of life (Halakha). Yeshua does not estimate the movement of the Judeans toward his Name as a real movement. Of them is spoken in 8:31 ff., where a conflict of serious consequences arises. Yeshua knew what he had with these people. Here again, it is not about supernatural psychological knowledge, but about a political estimation. He didn’t need a testimonial about people, he realizes what is going on with them politically.

For instance: Nicodemos. He was a member of the party of the Perushim and of the political leadership of Judea, archōn. He was—as we will hear—“the teacher of Israel” (ho didaskalos tou Israēl, 3:10). In the Gospel of John, there are hints to contacts between the Messianic community around John and influential representatives of the synagogue or Rabbinical Judaism below the official level; the dialogue with Nicodemos is one hint to such contacts. In Rabbinic circles, there were efforts of a minority who wanted not to carry the conflicts to extremes and to avoid secessions of the synagogue. Apparently, it had to act cautiously, “by night.”

Luke in Acts 5:34 mentions Rabbi Gamaliel who advised caution to his colleagues in the Sanhedrin. (128) This Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin in the days of Yeshua, but when Luke was writing, his grandson—named Gamaliel as well—was the leading teacher of Israel (in the second tannaitic generation of the great rabbis, 80-120 CE).

There is a certain ambiguity concerning the role of Nicodemos. On the one hand, he is an example of those Judeans who trust in the Messiah Yeshua but don’t share his political estimation towards Rome. On the other hand, he is a rabbi, one of the rabbis of the 1st century. There was—this much we know—a messianic faction in Rabbinical Judaism. Rabbi Akiva is a famous example. Admittedly, Akiva didn’t think Yeshua of Nazareth to be the Messiah, but Bar Kokhba. (129) At all events, in Nicodemos we deal with a representative of a Rabbinic messianism.

Nicodemos appreciates Yeshua and his appearance (“signs”) and declares that God is with him. Nicodemos deduces this from the signs. By this statement, he wants to find a basis for the dialogue. Yeshua opens with a sentence that confirms his skepticism about those who trust in him because of the signs to which Nicodemos would belong. Not so much this trust as instead the 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.

Yeshua declares solemnly, “Amen, amen, I say to you, we know what we speak about, and we bear witness of what we have seen, but you don’t accept our witness.” Here the Messianic community is speaking, we. The counterpart is Rabbinical Judaism with its representative Nicodemos, the didaskalos tou Israel, the rabbi of Israel. The community speaks from its self-confidence, i.e. from its knowledge. It bears witness to what it has seen, it is an eye witness.

But what reason would Rabbinical Judaism have not to accept the witness? Yeshua speaks about “what concerns the earth.” The Dutch exegete Wout van der Spek says about John 3:35: “Where the talk is of the Kingdom of God, earthly things are at stake.” (130) If van der Spek’s remark applies that the proclamation of the things of the earth—ta epigeia—is the proclamation of the “Kingdom of God”, then John refers to the proclamation of those Messianic groups who had produced the Synoptic texts. If the Kingdom of God is a very earthly matter, as the parables of the Kingdom of God show (Mark 4; Matthew 13), and the opponents do not want to get involved, then John has to depart from this type of Messianic proclamation. With this word “we” he expresses his solidarity with those groups. In other words: “We tried to make the coming of the Kingdom of God clear and understandable. Our Rabbinical opponents did not accept this. Now I speak of the epourania, of that which concerns heaven.”

He does so with a reference to Daniel 7: “For no one has ascended into heaven, if not the one who descended from heaven, bar enosh, like a Human.” Of the Kingdom of God, he says, in your opinion, there is nothing to be seen on earth. But we both think that the Kingdom of God comes from heaven; I tell you how this happens.

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. For most commentators, the reference to this Torah passage plays no or only a minor role. Wengst points out that it

is not the copper snake that provides healing—not even Moses; it is rather a sign that points to God as the sole and real Savior. By placing the “exalted” Son of Man in this biblical analogy, John makes the crucified Jesus understood as a sign pointing to God. To adhere to this sign and follow it is to submit one’s heart to the Father in heaven . . . (131)

Such classical formulas of Christian orthodoxy miss the meaning of the Midrash. 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”}.

Johannes 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.

John goes one better here, he rubs salt into open wounds. How can a God “love” if he has his Son—his only one, monogenēs—thus become the plaything of Roman marauding soldiery? For Yeshua experiences in body and soul what the people must experience in and after the Judean War. Israel asks itself in that catastrophic time of the messianic wars against Rome between 66 and 135 CE, whether and how its God, the God of the liberations from each slave house, is still in solidarity with Israel. Here we hear the verb agapan for the first time. It is almost always translated as “to love”; we prefer the translation “to solidarize with” and have previously, in the interpretation of the first letter of John, justified this. (132) Therefore, the question is: How can Israels God be in solidarity with Israel? John answers with three sentences:

(1) For GOD so solidarized with the world,

(2) that he gave his Son, the only-begotten,

(3) so that everyone who trusts in him does not perish,
but preserves life in the age to come.

(1) The first sentence is about the material and social living space of people. The Torah tells how Israel becomes the firstborn of all peoples, how it is freed from the slave house and had to learn the discipline of freedom in the wilderness so that it can lead the lives of freed slaves in the land of freedom.

This narrative is not possible without the creation narrative. Without this, the Torah narrative is pious nonsense. The world, the living space for people, becomes the work of God only through the Torah (word of God) because only the Torah puts the living space in order. A Greek would call the ordered living space kosmos. Exactly this Torah order of the living space of the people in Judea no longer exists, nor can it exist under the worldwide orders of Rome. Here “world” as “ruling world order” becomes a negative idea. Through the mandatum novum, the new commandment of solidarity (13:34), the world is ordered in a way that God can solidarize with it.

The ambiguity inherent in the vocable “world” demands precise differentiation when translating and interpreting. When it comes to the living space to be ordered by the word of God, we write “world.” If it is about that ruling, inhuman order of Rome, we write “world order.”

This is John’s view. You can have a different opinion of Rome; we are trying to make John’s view understandable—politically! The God of Israel is solidarizing with the world by liberating it from the order that weighs upon it. How does the God of Israel exercise his solidarity with the world as a living space for people?

(2) John again offers a midrash in the second sentence, which is about the “binding of Isaac, the only one,” Genesis 22. (133) There Abraham is demanded to raise his son, “his only one,” as a sacrifice. Then the messenger of the NAME said to Abraham, Genesis 22:11 ff.,

The messenger of the NAME called to him from heaven . . .
Abraham said, “Here, I!”
He said:
“Do not send your hand out against the lad,
do not do anything to him;
now I realize:
you are in awe of God,
for you have not kept your son, your only one, from me.”
Abraham raised his eyes,
he saw how a ram got caught in the undergrowth with its horns.
Abraham went, he took the ram,
exalted him as a sacrifice of exalting in place of his son.

With the word monogenēs, yachid, John invokes this passage of the Scriptures. Christians always think of the dogma of the Trinity, Yeshua as the eternal Son of the FATHER, genitum non factum, “begotten, not made.” No; here the Son is not the figure of Daniel 7, but the representation of Isaac. Abraham had waited a lifetime for this son; he is his future. The God of Abraham must make it clear to Abraham in a wickedly drastic way that this Isaac is not the son of Abraham, but the son of his God, the FATHER of Israel, the people destined to be the firstborn one among the nations. If Isaac does not stay alive, Abraham has no future. He must remain alive, but only as of the son of God.

John here introduces Yeshua as the representation of Isaac. Like Isaac then, Yeshua is now the future. In the Hebrew text, it says that Abraham must “exalt” his son as a “sacrifice of exalting” (haˁala le-ˁola). It did not come that far; the binding of Isaac is dissolved, the slaughter of Isaac is prevented, because Abraham demonstrably no longer sees his son as his own particular future, but recognizes him as the future of “God.” God’s solidarity with Abraham was evident at that time in the prevention of Isaac’s sacrifice. In John, the God of Israel must do something that was never demanded of Abraham. Here Yeshua/Isaac is exalted, bloodily. Here the God of Israel goes all the bloody way with the world of humans because there is no other way to solidarize with them.

John alienates the narrative of Isaac’s binding. Abraham’s future is accomplished by the release of the binding of Isaac, but here the future requires the slaughter of the Messiah, thus brutally you have to interpret the word edōken, “gave, surrendered.” “God” goes all the bloody way down, because the world order forces the God, so to speak, to have “his only one” killed.

(3) The third sentence starts with “so that” (hina). The meaning is that everyone who trusts will receive the life of the age to come. Isaac, i.e. Israel, has a future. The small verse John 3:16 is nothing else but the attempt to cope with the defeat of Yeshua in the year 30 and the catastrophe for the whole people in the year 70. It wants to insist that the order of the world—come what may—is not to be an order of death, but an order of life. With the slaughter of the Messiah, all hopes end to find a place and thus a future for Israel within the valid order. Life is only possible in the age to come. To trust (pisteuein) despite and because (!) of the slaughter of the Messiah is the condition.

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.

Yeshua ends with an explanation of the court proceedings. What is meant, of course, is the trial from Daniel’s vision: “The court sits down, books are opened.” He who has no confidence that with the slaughter of the Messiah all world-order illusions will come to an end is judged, that is, he is condemned to death because he holds fast to the orders of death. The contrast is the trust in the NAME. The NAME is the “God” of Israel, and “the one like a Human” is “the one like God,” the “Son of Man” is the “Son of God.” This Human in his whole life, in everything he does and says and must suffer, is “like God,” like the God of Israel, the liberator from the slave house. Only in this way an end comes to the orders of Rome, to the world order of death. How—is written on another page, it is the central riddle of our text. A first hint comes with the explanation of the judgment. We hear that trust equals acquittal in court.

A court case brings light into all dark business. Light is to all Jews, and therefore also to all Christians, the first and principal creature; we know this since Genesis 1:4. And then God “divided between light and darkness,” between day and night. All clear, we think. Nothing is clear.

John begins with the main sentence: “This is the judgment” (3:19). So we are not dealing with Gnostic original principles, but with categories of jurisprudence. What the judgment is, is explained by two subordinate clauses, which are connected with each other by the particle kai: “The light has come into the world (order), and/but the humans solidarized with the darkness rather than with the light.” They do not want the light to be brought into the dark business of the world order. One might think, “This is a quieter way to live.” We will hear that John goes much further. His opponents do not want to bring light into the darkness because they themselves are deeply involved in these shady dealings.

In any case, the second subordinate clause is not a massive anthropological statement. John does not say here something like: “The people are just like that, they are bad from the bottom up.” Not men are bad, but their order, their kosmos is bad. And that altogether. A late disciple of John explains succinctly: “The whole world order lies in evil,” 1 John 5:19. This evil is dark, but only when there is light, darkness does exist, and not vice versa. Otherwise, darkness would be the “normal” thing according to the principle: Humans are just like that. The light shows that humans are just not “so“; they are responsible, responsible for the darkness that they produce.

The first subordinate clause is also a massive statement with the famous perfect tense which John uses to indicate that something has happened and that the situation has therefore become a completely new one, irreversible. Only when an alternative becomes visible, a decision can be made. The Messiah brings light into the matter of “world order.” This does not make people’s lives easier. One has arranged oneself, one makes one’s way. That goes rather badly than rightly, but it mostly goes just like that. As soon as the light comes into the confused matter of life in this world, you can no longer cheat your way through.

Bultmann has seen right here. He calls Yeshua “the eschatological event.” The massive ideological expression is not everyone’s taste. But Bultmann probably thinks that the light that has come makes a decision possible. He tries to interpret this passage in such a way that a person of the 20th century can understand it. But the detailed explanation of 3:20 (134) is based on a misinterpretation. It is not a matter of morality, Bultmann must agree. Then it says:

Rather, it is meant: in the decision of faith or unbelief it comes to light what man actually is and has always been. This mission [of Yeshua] can be an eschatological event because in it God’s love restores to man the lost freedom to grasp his authenticity [German: “Eigentlichkeit”].

In John, not the “Eigentlichkeit” of man is coming “to light,” that authenticity of the existentialists of that time, but the works of humans are coming to light. In this respect, there is no difference to Matthew. Matthew, too, is concerned with the works, feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink. It is the (political) practice of the people, which is to be criticized and if necessary condemned. But anyone who, like Bultmann, turns the campaign against Luther’s righteousness by works into an existentialist worldview and from there suppresses the works and their falsity or reliability or defames them as “mythologically dressed up moralism”, has obviously understood little. Who lives—and living is always practice—from the trust in this Messiah of Israel, who “practices fidelity” (poiōn tēn alētheian), his practice, his works (erga) come to light, become public, do not have to be hidden, “because they are worked godly.” En theō, godly, according to the NAME. A person’s practice decides on acquittal or condemnation, admittedly a practice that is based on the trust that with the slaughter of the Messiah the ruling world order will come to an end. If this is called an “eschatological event,” you can be at peace with the terminology if necessary.

Nicodemos remains silent.

Scholion 2: The antagonistic scheme in the Gospel of John?

A concluding remark on the alleged dualism or Gnosticism in the Gospel of John. No one would think of accusing Bertolt Brecht of dualism or Gnosticism. In the film version of The Threepenny Opera, he has the audience sing at the end:

For some are in the darkness
And the others are in the light
And you see those in the light
You can’t see those in the dark.

It is clear that some people agree more with the darkness than with the light; after all, the Threepenny Opera is about them. They do business that should remain in darkness for their own well-understood interests. Following the prejudice of seeing Gnosticism in all dualism, you could also call the scheme of antagonistic classes—which Brecht is dealing with here and which comes from Marx—Gnosticism. The bourgeoisie tends not to perceive real contradictions that exist within a valid social order (economic and social order). It calls today’s class antagonisms and the class paradigm in general communist nonsense, as it calls the old dualism in the Roman Empire fanciful religious construction—Gnosis.

Of course, Gnosticism has not been a pure fad. The Roman Empire aggravated the social contrasts everywhere and people felt the worldwide disharmony in body and soul. The Gnostics volatilized the real contrasts and turned the antagonism into an absolute principle. The absolutization of opposites had to meet with resistance from those people who tried to interpret their world from the Torah. This is the case with John, and for this very reason, his text is an anti-Gnostic text.

Nobody can deny that there are pairs of opposites in John that are irreconcilable in nature. This is often called dualism, thinking of the esoteric systems of Gnosis, which may have emerged at the interface of Diaspora Judaism and Hellenism. (135) John is now, some have claimed, a Gnostic text. Jürgen Becker has written the following on Johannine dualism in the third excursus to his commentary on John,

The Son sent comes to earth for the revelation of the Father unknown to the world. He encounters hatred, incomprehension, and unbelief; with few, he finds faith, recognition, and love. This means: birth from above, having a new origin, being from above, thus having eternal life, or if deterministic thought is given: gathering together his own. The Son returns to the Father because the devil has no power over him, i.e. he cannot kill him (cf. 5:26 with 14:30). Exalted from the earth and glorified in the Father, he draws people to himself by enabling faith and knowledge (3:13-14; 12:31-32) or through the sacraments (3:3.5; 6:51c-58). (136)

A good caricature sharpens main lines so that the reality it implies is more apparent. In Becker’s caricature, it is precisely the essential that disappears. In the minds of fundamentalist and arch-conservative circles, this quickly turns into life-threatening nonsense. Even “the old dualism” as in the sect of Qumran must be interpreted from the political situation and not from the superficial ideological contents and images. In the so-called community rule (ssefer sserekh ha-yachad) of the commune in Qumran the antagonistic scheme is unmistakable:

To seek God
do what is good and straight in his eyes,
which he commanded by the hand of Moshe and by the hand of his servants the prophets,
to love all that he chose,
to hate everything he rejected
. . .
To love all the sons of light, each according to his part in the council of deity,
to hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in the punishment of the deity.

This antagonism shows that the contrasts in society have become unbridgeable at all levels—social, political, and ideological. Qumran shows this physically by withdrawing from the real political world. John, however, wants to remain politically capable, in this, he rather resembles his favorite opponents, the Perushim. But exactly in the tradition of the unbridgeable political contradictions, the Yeshua of the Gospel of John is speaking.

Completely different world order and the traditional Jewish society, faithful to the Torah, have been irreconcilably opposed to each other since the Maccabean wars at the latest. According to John, the traditionalism of Torah loyalty is no longer enough, and Moshe cannot be repeated or updated today. That is the new thing about him. But Israel finds itself still faced with a choice: either life and good or death and evil, either the NAME (autonomy of farming families) or the baˁal (world order of large-scale landholding), Messiah or Rome. This is not a Gnosis, this is the staying power of the traditional revolution, which stretches from the Maccabean uprising to the Jewish wars of the 1st and 2nd century CE.

The essential thing about Gnosis is the liberation of (the souls of) people from the material world. It is about “fear of existence”, “the fear of the world corresponds to the fear of the self”, the “world-entangled existence must be left behind in redemption”, etc. (137) In John, the world itself is liberated, since the liberation of a single country is no solution; the tyranny of a king has given way to the tyranny of Caesar, i.e. to the Roman order. Where is Gnosis here? Gnosis turns real earthly and antagonistic opposites into two supernatural, metaphysical, and cosmic primal principles. However, Gnosis must be explained from the real contradictions in the inner-Jewish conflicts and not vice versa these conflicts, for instance in the Gospel of John, from Gnosis.

4. That one must increase, I must decrease, 3:22-36

4.1. The Baptist and the Messiah, 3:22-30

3:22 After this, Yeshua and his disciples went into the land of Judea.
There he was remaining with them and was immersing.
3:23 Yochanan too was immersing at Aenon, near Salim,
because there was plenty of water there;
and they were coming and being immersed.
3:24 For not yet had Yochanan been thrown into prison.

3:25 Now it happened:
There was a discussion between some of Yochanan’s disciples
and a Judean
about purification.
3:26 And they came to Yochanan and said to him,
the one who was with you beyond the Jordan,
of whom you have borne witness,
there, this one is immersing,
everyone is going to him!”
3:27 Yochanan answered, he said,
“No human can receive anything
unless it has been given to him from heaven.
3:28 You yourselves are bearing witness to me that I said,
‘I am not the Messiah,
but that I have been sent ahead of him.’ (138)
3:29 The one having the bride is the bridegroom.
The friend of the bridegroom, standing by and listening to him,
is rejoicing with joy at the bridegroom’s voice. (139)
Just this joy of mine has been fulfilled.
3:30 That one must increase,
I must decrease.” (140)

“After this, Yeshua goes into the land of the Judeans, the land of Judea.“

During the time of Hellenism and the Roman Empire, the land of Judea was almost always a victim of boundless exploitation with constantly changing agents of exploitation. The end of the Herodian monarchy in the year 6 CE was generally welcomed. The direct administration by Rome through procurators or prefects from the Roman knighthood may at first have been perceived as a relief. Alongside senators and praetors from the classical Roman aristocracy, Augustus strove to appoint those equites, “knights.” The latter owed their professional advancement only to the emperor and were more devoted to him than the Roman aristocrats, who tended to intrigue. They let themselves be called “friends of Caesar” (John 19:12).

The classical provinces of the empire in the late republican period were senatorial provinces. Militarily exposed provinces like Syria were administered by praetors. The incomes of the knight provinces were used primarily for the household economy of the emperors. Egypt, the granary of the empire, was a knight province; it supplied the bread that the emperors were obliged to donate to the people of Rome in addition to the games.

The emperors had an economic interest in maintaining peace and order in their provinces. In the days of Yeshua, the knights were called prefects, after the brief intermezzo under Herod Agrippa (39-44), procurators. The prefect Pontius Pilate (26-36) was deposed for mismanagement. The procurators of the fifties and sixties of the 1st century were often corrupt and incompetent. Since the last years under the procurator Felix (52-60) the unhappy province slipped inexorably into civil war.

In Judea, the Judeans had a not inconsiderable measure of self-administration rights. The beneficiaries were primarily Judea’s elites, above all the priesthood; the leadership was clearly pro-Roman. Galilee and the land beyond the Jordan were under the administration of Herodian princes and, in some ways, more independent than Judea. Nevertheless, the burden of the Roman rulers and the relatively wealthy landowning classes must have been great, for resistance to Herodians and Romans was much more militant in Galilee than in Judea.

“There he immersed,” it says. This information is taken back in the text a bit later: Unlike in the Synoptics, we do not learn what kind of baptism it was. Baptism is certainly connected with the dawning of the new age to come. Until late in the 1st century, the messianic group of Yochanan the Baptist was immersing; meanwhile, the Messianic communities had their own baptismal practice. Luke, however, describes the difference. The disciples of Yochanan immersed in water “for repentance,” Acts 19:3-4; Yeshua “in fire and the inspiration of sanctification,” Luke 3:16 cf. John 1:33. Where the places Ainon and Salim were, we do not know; the names have to do with wellspring and peace. People from the land of Judea “came along and were immersed.” That is, they were attuned to the age to come.

The theme of “purification” was already hinted at during the wedding at Cana with the six vessels for the “purification of the Judeans.” According to Leviticus 10:10-11, the two main tasks of the priests, i.e., the political leadership in the Torah Republic since the reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra, are,

You shall separate
between the holy and the everyday,
between the impure and the pure,
you shall instruct the children of Israel
in all the laws that the NAME has spoken through Moshe.

What is “pure” and what is not, is explained in the Torah, especially in the 3rd book of the Torah, Leviticus 11-15. Pure/impure is a topic of great importance in Israel. What is pure and impure to Messianists, Yeshua will explain to the disciples later, 13:1 ff. About the dispute between the disciples of Yochanan and a Judean on the question of purity, we do not learn anything precise.

The fact that the disciples complained to Yochanan about the baptismal practice of Yeshua shows that this Judean was a follower of Yeshua. Therefore, the disciples run to Yochanan to inform him about Yeshua’s action, “Everyone is coming to him.” A process began in which the Yochanan group was absorbed into those Messianic groups who saw Yeshua as the Messiah. This process was not yet complete in the days of the writing of John’s Gospel. John, like the Synoptics, must clarify the relationship between the two groups. The Messianic communities around Yeshua never talked about Yochanan else than with the greatest respect.

Yochanan reminds his disciples that he always had said that he, Yochanan, was not the Messiah, but that he had been sent ahead of the Messiah. The disciples of Yochanan lived in the expectation of the Messiah, they did not see him as the Messiah.

Yochanan was “the friend of the bridegroom.” The bridegroom is he who has the bride. The Semitic languages do not know the verb “to have.” In our languages, it wants to indicate any assignment of an object to a subject. Ownership is a form of assignment. The claim of ownership, which the God of Israel asserts among the people in Israel, is a unique and specific form of attribution, which differs from other forms common among people. Nobody may assert claims of ownership against a human being. If here is the talk of possession or possessing of humans, then in the Scriptures it can only concern the God of Israel.

In most ancient oriental societies, the man, as the head of the household, “has,” as “owner,” his wife as “property”; his wife belongs to him like everything else that is “his,” Exodus 20:17. The “possession of a woman” is peculiar to a patriarchal society. The relationship between the NAME and Israel is not the relationship between an owner (baˁal) and possession. This means that Israel is not free to look for a baˁal—lord, owner, spouse, just “god.”

The Messianic wedding is a wedding according to Hosea 2:18. (141) The bridegroom has the bride, but that does not mean: he is her baˁal, her master owner. Here it becomes apparent how difficult it is to translate the Semitic language gesture adequately into the Indo-European, here the Greek. Perhaps you should translate: “He who has the bride as his own is the bridegroom.” We must see the difference between nachala, “property,” and ˀachuza, “possession,” between what belongs inseparably to a family as the basis for its livelihood, what is its own, and what is alienable property, such as ox and donkey or slaves from foreign peoples (Leviticus 25:44-45). (142) Israel is the property and not the possession of the NAME, Psalm 33:12,

Happy the nation for which the NAME is God,
the people he chose as his own.

In this second wedding narrative in the Gospel of John, we are referred back to the narrative of the wedding at Cana. The friend of the bridegroom is the hestēkōs, the supporter, the one who “stands by.” Rightly Barrett, Bultmann, Wengst, and others refer to the function of the friend as (oriental) best man.

With this narrative, the main sign in Cana receives its proper dimension. The bridegroom is the Messianic King, the bride is Israel. Matthew uses the image of the Messianic wedding in the story of the ten girls, Matthew 25:1-13. Yochanan is the most important of all wedding guests, he is the architriklinos, “master of the feast” from John 2:1 ff: “I myself did not know him,“ said Yochanan, 1:33, just as the architriklinos did not know where the wine came from (2:9). Now the friend knows. For he hears the voice of the bridegroom.

We know the “voice of the bridegroom” from the Scriptures very well. Three times Jeremiah makes this voice sound like a dark refrain, once like a joyful message. In Jeremiah 7:34 (see 16:9 and 25:10) we hear,

I farewell from the cities of Judah, from the streets of Jerusalem
voice of bliss and voice of joy,
voice of the bridegroom and voice of the bride,
for the land is becoming a wasteland.

But in 33:10-11, it says,

So the NAME has said,
“Yes, it is heard again in this place,
of which you say: ‘It is a waste,
without man, without cattle,
and from the cities of Judah, from the streets of Jerusalem,
devastated, no man, no inhabitant, no cattle,’
voice of bliss, voice of joy,
voice of the bridegroom, voice of the bride,
voice of those who say,
‘Give thanks to the NAME of the orders,
because good is the NAME,
his solidarity for the ages’ . . .” [= Psalm 136]

It is about the “fulfilled joy,” the final Messianic turning point for a city where only the voice of war is heard and which is devastated in the days of this John. In the days of the Messianic wedding, the prophet—Jeremiah, Yochanan—steps back. The Messiah, the bridegroom, is to increase, whereas that one is to decrease. Against this background, John wants to be interpreted the process of the growing Messianic community and the shrinking groups of the Baptist disciples.

Thus, the riddle that Johannes poses to us with the figure of the architriklinos, “master of the feast,” has been solved. The “one who does not know”—confidant or friend of the bridegroom—is that Yochanan whom we call “the Baptist.” In John, he is Yochanan the Witness.

Scholion 3: About purity

In 1975, Fernando Belo, in his then sensational book Lecture matérialiste de l’évangile de Marc, distinguished between the symbol system “pure/impure” and the symbol system “donation/guilt.” (143) Kuno and Eva Füssel (144) recently resumed this systematization. Belo initially places the two systems next to each other without explicit value judgment. In an interpretation of Mark 7:1-23, however, he then prefers the system “donation/guilt.” Rochus Zuurmond and Andreas Pangritz critically examined the disqualification of the system “pure/impure.” (145)

John does not question the system “pure/impure,” but he doubts that, under the completely new Roman circumstances, purity is to be understood as Rabbinical Judaism wants it. This is a political debate. Christianity has discriminated against the Jewish concept of purity. Rabbinical Judaism has taken the practice of purification as a means of identification; it serves to ensure the identity of this people among the other peoples, especially the sign of circumcision. The Messianists had a different view of the political situation, and this led them to a new conception of purity. This difference must be noted and respected, two thousand years later. Kuno and Eva Füssel have remained tributary to the dogmatic view of Christianity. They, too, accept the subordination of the system “pure/impure” to the system of “donation/guilt,” play it off against each other and thus devalue it. (146)

A few years ago, in the Berlin Academy of Arts, some littérateur read passages from Leviticus 11-15 and ridiculed them to the amusement of the educated audience. This attitude is subliminally widespread and a root of anti-Judaism, of racism in general. You may express your incomprehension of these purity regulations. You must then say, “I do not understand this!” That is very different from, “Ridiculous, outrageous!” Rather, you may try out on yourself how your own tolerance stands when dealing with Leviticus 11-15. The Gospel of John refrains from any cheap polemic against the purity view of its opponents; Mark is sharper and coarser here. This could be related to John’s priestly origin, which some claim to have observed. (147) Purity results from the relationship of trust with the Messiah, this much is clear to John.

4.2. Heaven and earth; trust and distrust, 3:31-36

3:31 The one coming from above is above all.
The one being from the earth is from the earth
and is speaking of the earth.
The one coming from heaven is above all. (148)
3:32 He is bearing witness to what he has seen and heard,
yet no one is accepting his testimony.
3:33 Whoever does accept his testimony
puts his seal to GOD’s fidelity.
3:34 For the one whom GOD sent
is speaking the words of GOD.
For not according to the measure he is giving the inspiration. (149)
3:35 The FATHER is solidarizing with the Son,
and has put everything in his hands.
3:36 The one trusting in the Son has life in the age to come.
But the one distrusting the Son will not see life
but the wrath of God is staying on him permanently. (150)

The following passage is difficult to interpret. Some manuscripts add at the end of v.36: “After these things, Yochanan was delivered.” So they thought they had to frame the whole passage with the two verses 24 and 36 and attribute the words to Yochanan. Unlike them, Bultmann added the passage 3:31-36 to the conversation with Nicodemos. This solution is convenient, but hardly makes its interpretation any easier.

The passage 3:31-35 is a kind of summary explanation of the great section on the activity of the Messiah in Judea. V.31 seems to refer to the contrast between heaven and earth. Before we continue here, we have to make a fundamental statement. There is a clear difference between heaven and earth, but no opposition. Earth is not a synonym for world order. Psalm 115:16-17 says, “The heavens are the heavens of the NAME, the earth he gave to the children of men.” This fragment shows that there is no opposition. From the Scriptures of Israel, there is no dualism here, the God of Israel is “the maker (ˁose) of heaven and earth” (Psalm 115:15).

Verse 3:31 seems to be a kind of summary of 1:19-3:30; it begins,

He who comes from above is there above all.
He who is of the earth is from the earth,
he speaks from the earth.
He who comes from heaven [is there above all].

Who is the “one coming from above”? It makes sense to understand by him “who comes from above [heaven]” first of all the bar enosh, the Human. He is now above (epanō, ˁal) all, he exercises dominion. Anōthen (“from above”) in the first line is replaced by ek tou ouranou (“from heaven”) in the fourth line. The copyist of P66 (around 200 CE) had a source in which the third line appeared. He forgot it when copying, but added it in the margin. Obviously, it was more logical for him to go straight from the second to the fourth line. Many manuscripts left out the last words of the fourth line. Apparently, the verse caused problems early on. For according to the analogy of the first two lines, you would expect, “he speaks of the earth / he who comes from heaven . . . speaks of heaven.” It is not by chance that the fourth line is badly passed on. But it reminds us of the conversation with Nicodemos, 3:12-13.

The connection with 3:27 ff. exists from v.32. The witness is, as we have seen, Yochanan. The testimony is not accepted. He should be trusted because he bears witness to what he has seen and heard. But one does not trust him. One does not trust at all in the God of Israel. But if one “trusts the testimony” one assures under hand and seal (sphragizein) that God is faithful (alēthēs). It is about an official confirmation (Matthew 27:66) by the one who accepts the testimony. He acts in accordance with the God of Israel, who gives his people “the food that remains [= keeps alive] until the life of the age to come,” 6:27. Whoever trusts will survive the coming catastrophe of the world order: “But he whom God has sent, he speaks the words of God.”

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.” (151) 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.

The last verse 3:36 belongs to the sentences by which John, again and again, summarizes his message. They generally have the form: Who . . . who, who not . . . that not. “He who trusts in the Son will receive the life of the age to come. Whoever distrusts the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God will weigh on him permanently.” Throughout the whole Gospel, we will hear this sentence in countless variations. To trust the Son means to trust that finally right will happen and that this right will be the right of the God of Israel. Who, on the other hand, distrusts the Son, assumes that the one to whom the power to create right is given, will not appear, so that the right and the legal order of the God of Israel is an illusion. Whoever wants to live this way lives under the wrath of God. “Anger,” orgē, occurs in John only here. It is the word of the letter to the Romans, where we hear it eleven times. John means this wrath and shares with Paul the view that wrath is an essential element of the dikaiokrisia, the “approved judgment”, the veritable judgment. John 3:36 does not mean anything else, and he reinforces this by the verb menein, “to be permanently or firmly united.” The judgment of wrath is final and definitive.

Scholion 4: The source of John

The reference to Zechariah 5 gives many readers the impression that here we have an unsolvable equation of the type x = y; we know neither what John nor Zechariah wanted to say. Therefore a word about the function of the explicit and implicit quotations from Tanakh.

John used sources in the writing of his text; everyone is dependent on traditions that function as sources for his actions, speeches, and thoughts. The scholarly world often assumes that John had recourse to written sources. These assumptions are a continuation of the source hypotheses for the so-called Old Testament. The source hypotheses had the effect that the unity of the text has been cut up. One book then became many pamphlets, which were treated separately. In the succession of Rudolf Bultmann, the Gospel of John was also cut up. In the meantime, it has got about also in the learned world that one should take the present text seriously. No longer does one search for its “original” components, even for its “original” form and the supposedly used written models.

It is not unlikely that John knew the Gospel of Mark and the narrative traditions that preceded it. The fact is that he uses the Tanakh as his source because he quotes it explicitly. The language of the Scriptures is the common language of all children of Israel. Whether you speak a truthful language, can be proven in the arguments of the children of Israel among themselves only from the Scriptures. In the Talmud a certain view is presented and often concluded with the sentence: “For it is written . . .” with a subsequent Scriptural quotation.

In the time of John, the Scriptures were not yet a definitively finished entity. The Greek version of the Tanakh had, apart from a different order with ideologically far-reaching consequences, more material than the Tanakh, which was valid in Rabbinical Judaism. Whether John uses the Septuagint or a preliminary form of the Masoretic Text is not always clear.

Be that as it may, John is not understandable without comprehensive knowledge of Tanakh. For his language in the comprehensive sense of the word (French: “langage”, not “langue”) is, as with every Jew of that time who went to the synagogue, deeply determined by the language of the Scriptures, and this is not only evident in the explicit quotations. It is important to work out the implicit references. (152) Therefore, we quote explicitly where, in our opinion, John is quoting implicitly, so that the connections become traceable and verifiable. In the House of Study, it must be discussed whether the reference is correct or not.

In this case, the reference to Zechariah 5 seems far-fetched. But the expression ek metrou is not explained. So you must ask: what has metron (“measure”) to do with pneuma (“storm wind, spirit”)? What does John want to get at, what is in his mind? He has the Tanakh in his head and Zechariah 5 and 6 is the only Tanakh passage where both words are related to each other in terms of content.

For this reason, all teachers of exegesis must first and foremost be “Old Testament scholars,” and what they teach cannot be anything other than biblical theology. We must take the references we give as suggestions for a better understanding of the text so that we can then discuss them thoroughly in the House of Study. Under certain circumstances, it may turn out that the reference is too far-fetched and that the proposal does not go further. But we have always to try to understand John from the Tanakh.

5. The woman at Jacob’s well, 4:1-42

5.1. Samaria, 4:1-4

4:1 Now when Yeshua realized that the Perushim had heard
he was making and immersing more disciples than Yochanan,
4:2 —although not Yeshua himself was immersing but his disciples—,
4:3 Yeshua left Judea and set out again for Galilee.
4:4 This meant that he had to go through Samaria.

This introduction to Yeshua’s conversation with the Samaritan woman begins with a complicated sentence. “When Yeshua realized that the Perushim had heard that Yeshua made and immersed more disciples than Yochanan, he left Yehudah and went . . .” This structure is simple. Subordinate clause, second-order subordinate clause, third-order subordinate clause, main clause. The sentence is interrupted by another sentence, “Admittedly Yeshua did not immerse, but . . ..” This is now in clear contrast to 3:22, “There [in Judea] he stayed and was immersing.” According to this, the baptismal practice of the Messianic communities should go back to an example of Yeshua. Here it is said: Baptism is something that the disciples did, Yeshua did not! Apparently, there must have been a controversial discussion in the group about the sense and nonsense of baptism.

That Yeshua was immersing, the Perushim have from hearsay. This rumor makes Yeshua suspicious. Yochanan lived in great danger. Yeshua didn’t want to expose himself to this danger without need. Yeshua went away to Galilee, the land of the signs. He takes the way through the land of Samaria which is by no means a matter of course. To understand this you have to know the political geography of the country.

The books of the “Former Prophets” (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) show the course of Israel through the times as a unified history, from the crossing of the Jordan under Moshe’s successor Joshua to the devastation of the sanctuary by the Babylonians. South (Judah) and North (Israel) went separate ways after the death of King Solomon, ways that were nevertheless connected again and again. These books were the work of reflection on one’s own past after the catastrophe of the Davidic monarchy in Judah/Jerusalem in the 6th century BCE—possibly in the 5th century—as far as its core holdings are concerned. Their field of vision remained “all Israel,” all twelve tribes.

For the remake of this review of Israel’s history, the book “Speeches of the Days” (in our Bible 1 and 2 Chronicles) was only about the fate of Judah, the South. Although the inhabitants of the North were called “our brothers,” 2 Chronicles 11:4, the link between South and North, characterizing the Books of Kings, was severed. Only in connection with the entanglements under the Northern Dynasty of the House of Omri did the North come into view. The great prophets of the North are completely missing, and the prophet Elijah appears only with a letter to King Joram (2 Chronicles 21,12 ff.)—as a “Southern prophet,” so to speak. For the Chronicles and thus for the consciousness of the people in Jerusalem and Judah, Israel was coincident with Judah. An Israelite is a Judean.

This remake certainly has to do with the divergent development of the two districts of Judea and Samaria in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The people of Judea regarded the people of Samaria as bastards. After the end of the Babylonian epoch, the new Persian rulers made Samaria an independent province of the Great Satrapy “Beyond the River,” i.e. the Syro-Phoenician region of the Persian Empire. Judea with Jerusalem was initially under the provincial administration in Samaria but became an independent province around 440 BCE after the measures of Nehemiah. The independence of Samaria came to an end around 108 BCE when the Judean ruler John Hyrkan of the House of Hasmoneans conquered the city of Samaria and thus completely devastated it so that it was hard to be found and was never rebuilt. (153) Instead of it and in its immediate vicinity, Herod later had the city of Sebaste built. Twenty years earlier, John Hyrkan had already conquered the ancient city of Shechem and devastated the city and the central sanctuary on Mount Gerizim outside the gates of Shechem. An attempt to rebuild the central sanctuary of Samaria was interpreted by the Romans under Pontius Pilate as an uprising against Rome and prevented by force of arms. The perpetrators of this attempt (among them a man who revealed himself to be the prophet) were executed. This could have happened during the lifetime of Yeshua.

The mutual hatred between Samaria and Judea, between the “Samaritans” and the “Jews” has ancient roots, but in its virulent stage it dates back to the time of the conquest of the country by the Judean rulers from the House of Hasmoneans, i.e. the end of the 2nd century BCE. (154) Some Judeans preferred to make the detour from Jerusalem to Galilee or vice versa through the Jordan Valley or through Transjordan, rather than set foot on the soil of Samaria. They had good reasons for this. In the year 52 CE an incident occurred. People from Samaria had attacked pilgrims from Galilee and killed many of them. Thereupon a troop of Zealot Jews from Galilee set out to avenge the pilgrims. They burned a number of Samaritan villages in the south of the region. The population was massacred. The Romans had a number of Zealots crucified; at the same time, they had some of the Samaritan elites brought to Rome, where they were executed. (155) The hatred between the two peoples was very deep and grew deeper.

According to Hengel, (156) the place Sychar mentioned in John 4:5 is within sight of the holy mountain of Samaria, the Gerizim, about 1 km northeast of the ruins of Shechem, where the city of Neapolis (Arabian Nablus) was built. A good place for the peace narrative that now follows.

5.2. In the land of the beginning, 4:5-15

4:5 He comes to a town in Samaria called Sychar,
near the field Jacob gave to Joseph, his son.
4:6 There was Jacob’s spring.
So Yeshua, having toiled from the stretch of way,
sat down by the spring.
It was about the sixth hour.
4:7 A woman from Samaria comes to draw water.
Yeshua says to her, “Give me to drink,”
4:8 for his disciples had gone into town to buy food on the market.
4:9 Now the woman from Samaria says to him,
“How is it that you, a Judean, ask for water from me,
a woman of Samaria?”
—For Judeans don’t associate with Samaritans.—
4:10 Yeshua answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who it is saying to you, ‘Give me to drink,’
then you would have asked him;
and he would have given you living water.”
4:11 The woman says to him,
“Sir, (157)
you don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep.
From where do you have ‘living water’?
4:12 Are you greater than our father Jacob?
He gave us the well
and he himself drank from it, and so did his sons, and his fatstock.” (158)
4:13 Yeshua answered and said to her,
“Everyone who is drinking from this water will get thirsty again,
4:14 but whoever would drink from the water that I will give him
will not get thirsty into the age to come,
but the water I will give him will become a spring of water inside him,
welling up into the life of the age to come.” (159)
4:15 The woman says to him:
give me this water,
so that I won’t have to be thirsty and keep coming here to draw water.”

Yeshua—“having toiled” with the arduous path—sits down at the well in front of the village. What this word kekopiakōs, “having toiled”, means, becomes clear only at 4:38.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. The woman sets the water jug down. She puts her hands on her hips—so we may imagine the woman, the story will prove us right!—, speaks unmistakably and loudly, from top to bottom. So she will stay during the whole conversation, she is not to be made small. Yeshua asked her to give him a drink after he had sent the disciples away. Besides this impious figurative imagination, we need “Bible firmness.” We explain a Biblical text, the context of the narrative is the whole Scriptures and the current political situation, both. Our narrative first sends us into the book, In the beginning, Genesis.

The village of Sychar near Shechem evokes an event from Genesis. The area was a gift of Jacob to his son Joseph; Joseph here stands for Samaria. Jacob gave to Joseph “the mountain ridge [Shekhem], which I [= Jacob] took away from the Amorites with my sword and bow” (Genesis 48:22). Yeshua, like the fathers of Israel, like Isaac and like Jacob, sat down at the local well, which Jacob had already dug. Three names we have heard: Yeshua, Jacob, Joseph. Now comes a woman who makes us think of Rebekah and of Rachel—the mother of Israel and the mother of Joseph (= Samaria). The woman at the well is not some stupid person with a grubby past, she is one of the great women of Israel. Whoever does not realize this right at the beginning will not understand anything here.

We hear Genesis 24. Abraham sends his servant as a bride suitor to Nahor, his relative, to find a wife for Isaac, his son. The servant comes to the city “at eventide, the time when the women go out to draw water.” He says (Genesis 24:12-14),

Eternal, God of my master Abraham,
set it up for me today,
show solidarity with my master Abraham.
There, I have stationed myself by the water well,
and the daughters of the townspeople go out to draw water.
May it be:
The girl to whom I say,
“Hold out your jug that I may drink,”
and she says, “Drink,
I will also give your camels to drink”—
that one you have chosen for your servant Isaac,
in her, I recognize that you have shown solidarity with my master.

Rebekah came and fulfilled the wish of the servant of Abraham. “It was the sixth hour,” John now says. This again reminds us of Rachel, because Rachel came with her sheep when “it was still great in the daytime,” that is, in broad daylight, noon, sixth hour (Genesis 29:7). At this moment, at the well, the promises of Israel, which Jacob saw in the dream at Bethel and which Yeshua had called to Nathanael’s memory (1:51), begin to be realized: with the great love of Jacob and with the great esteem with which Yeshua will meet the woman from Samaria. We are still in the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning.” Jacob said, 29:7 ff,

“It is still high in the daytime, it is not the time to gather the cattle.
So water the sheep, go away, and pasture them.”
They said,
“We must not do so until all the flocks are gathered;
then we roll the stone from the well and water the cattle.”
While he was still talking to them, Rachel came with her father’s cattle;
she was a shepherdess.
It happened:
When Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother
and the cattle of Laban, the brother of his mother,
Jacob came forward and rolled the stone from the opening of the well,
and watered the cattle of Laban, the brother of his mother.
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. . .

The association with these passages of Genesis is intended, but the situation of Israel is completely different from that of Jacob. For Israel at that time, the slave house was still to come, here, however, Israel is—torn and maltreated—in the slave house of Rome.

That he, the Judean, addresses a question to her, the Samaritan, that is quite a miracle. Men, especially men with the dignity and authority of a rabbi, do not talk to women, and certainly not to a woman from the bastard people of Samaria. The woman feels anything but honored by the request. In sharp contrast to the old oriental customs that Rebekah embodied, she rejected him, “How do you, a Judean, come to ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink? Judeans do not associate with Samaritans,” says the woman. Under these circumstances she cannot be Rebekah, mother of Israel, and not Rachel, lover of Israel. Yeshua cannot be the Messiah of Israel for the same reason of “ruling conditions.” The situation is in the true sense of the word “impossible” because it is impossible for Yeshua—as a Judean—to see the Samaritan as a daughter of Jacob, a daughter of Israel. It is even more impossible that the Samaritan woman could believe that a Judean would see her as a daughter of Israel. To her, he can only be the master in the worst sense of the word, who wants to be served by a Samaritan as a slave. Not even sacred oriental hospitality is possible under “Bosnian” conditions.

Only the Messiah could do away with the situation, “Judeans do not associate with Samaritans,” this murderous political situation: This is the content of the narrative. Based on place and time, the Samaritan woman, the woman at the well—the setting invokes the association—represents Rebekah, the mother of Israel, and Rachel, the mother of Joseph, i.e. of Ephraim, i.e. of Samaria! Both names, Jacob and Joseph, do not appear here accidentally or casually. They are essential! All depends, then, on these two, Yeshua Messiah and the Samaritan woman, creating a new beginning for all Israel, Judea and Samaria. John intertwines the current political situation with the story in which Israel, the son of Rebekah and Isaac, and Rachel’s beloved, became the firstborn and among the peoples the people of all twelve “sons of Jacob/Israel”; Israel was not only Judea. Without this connection, the narrative becomes incomprehensible. With this linkage, it proves to be a fundamental political paradigm.

She does not know at all with whom she is dealing, Yeshua says, she has no idea of the gift of God, of “living water,” and should not give him, but rather he should give her to drink. She is by no means impressed, the political situation separates them. She calls him kyrie, “Sir,” but at the same time makes him ridiculous: he does not even have a bucket, but he still wants to give her to drink, her, a daughter of Jacob, who received Israel as his new name? Had not Jacob given them, the Samaritans, the well and thus kept their people and their cattle alive? Where should just he—the Judean—get “living water” from, who accepts many other things besides the Torah? The people of Samaria only know the Torah of Moshe, that alone is enough. She is proud and indomitable, she is a child of the Torah, she doesn’t need anything else, what should she do with “living water”, of all things, from a Judean hand? (160)

Whoever drinks of this, your water, says Yeshua, will become thirsty again; her insistence on tradition will not solve the murderous problem. In Capernaum he will say something similar to the Judeans, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died,” John 6:49. Both narratives are strictly parallel at this point; Yeshua has only one thing to say to all Israel, Judea like Samaria: the new that he announces and is in person creates a situation where things that were decided only with fists and swords can now be discussed again. Here, we are eyewitnesses of the political process that Yeshua wants to set in motion, the association of Israel. If Israel drinks the water that the Messiah will give him, which is the Messiah, it will not thirst anymore until the age to come, i.e, no longer remain in a hopeless political situation. Thus, people will see a real perspective for themselves in the age to come, and that will give them the strength to endure until that new world epoch, in which all problems will definitely be solved.

The woman is unbeatably sober. A new era would really have come for her if the women’s drudgery of scooping water from a deep well and dragging it from the well to the village would stop. Water in abundance is a dream of the Messianic time, it is the dream of the paradise of the Qurˀan almost in each of its 114 surahs. The two talk with each other, but past each other! Both speak politically, Yeshua of a political situation beyond the murderous situation of the relationship between the two peoples, she starts from the current state.

In her answer, bitterness immediately mixes with her sobriety, “The Judean of all people allegedly wants to free not only me from my daily toil but also our people from its hopeless situation!” She cannot understand this. Indeed, the image of the “dancing water” (hydor hallomenos, “water welling up”) is incomprehensible to her, and not only to her. Yeshua refers to the song yesusum midbar, “Let the wilderness rejoice,” Isaiah 35. All the decisive words in John 4:13 ff. also occur in that song. It says (Isaiah 35:5-7),

Then the eyes of the blind are opened,
opened the ears of the deaf.
Then the limping man will dance like a deer (yedaleg, haleitai),
the tongue of the mute will cheer.
For the waters (mayim, hydata) break forth in the wilderness,
and the rivers in the steppe.
The glowing wasteland will turn into a pool of water,
the thirsty ground (tzimmaˀon, gē dipsōsa)
to springs of water (le-mabuˁe mayim, pēgē hydatos).

Neither the woman at Jacob’s well nor the disciples and the Judeans could perceive that what Isaiah says could be a real perspective in Roman times. The disciples have the greatest difficulty with this until the end, and the woman can only think of what she has to do every day, to carry water. For her, the toil of daily life applies first and not unjustly; she does not see that the toil cannot be abolished under the prevailing conditions unless the conditions are changed from the bottom up. Yeshua sings to her a melody of the song yesusum midbar; she does not feel like such songs. That way the two do not get any further.

5.3. The husband you have now is not your husband, 4:16-19

4:16 He says to her,
“Go, call your husband,
and come here.”
4:17 The woman answered and said to him,
“I don’t have a husband.”
Yeshua says to her,
“Well you say that: ‘I don’t have a husband’.
4:18 Five husbands, you have had,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is trustworthy.” (161)
4:19 The woman says to him,
I am observing:
you are a prophet.

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.” (162) 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. (163)

The sanctuary on Mount Gerizim was destroyed by the Judeans under John Hyrkan. As mentioned above, a prophet had tried to rebuild the central sanctuary of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim; this was answered by the Romans with a massacre. This mountain could be seen from the village of Sychar. The people of Samaria no longer have a place where they can give to the God of Israel the honor that is due to him as their King (proskynein). The word is paraphrased by “worship”; in fact, it is about political homage. We come back to this verb in the discussion of 4:22. When the Judeans think of the sanctuary on Mount Gerizim, they think of the “Hellenistic Zeus,” to whom, according to Flavius Josephus, the Samaritans dedicated their sanctuary around 170 BCE. (164) The sanctuary is destroyed, but instead, Herod had a real temple of Baˁal erected in Sebaste, in the city he had built as a replacement for the destroyed city of Samaria, “In the middle of the city he marked out a place suitable in every respect of one and a half stadia, on which he built a great and glorious temple.” (165) State cult took place in such king temples.

Yeshua has correctly summarized the situation for her too, that the one she has is not her husband at all. Her reaction is completely correct, “You are a prophet,” because prophets in Israel always had the task to interpret the political situation truthfully. This sentence of the woman reminds us of the story of the prophet Elisha and the great woman (166) from Shunem as an analogous counter-narrative. This woman also had a husband who was not her husband, 2 Kings 4:8 ff., because she had no future, no son with him. Elisha’s servant Gehazi puts it in a nutshell, “She has no son and her husband is old.” Then she gets a child from her husband, just because Elisha had promised her. When the child becomes mortally ill, the husband has the child brought to his mother; it is obviously not his child. The child dies, the mother goes to the prophet, “Did I perhaps ask my master [Elisha] for a child?” (2 Kings 4:28.) We learn how the prophet brings the woman’s child back to life.

She came and fell at his [the prophet Elisha’s] feet,
she bowed before him (thishthachu, prosekynēsen) to the earth,
she took her son and went out (2 Kings 4:37).

The great woman from Shunem had a future because she had trusted the prophet, Elisha. Thus far we are not yet at this point. The Samaritan woman observes—sees through—(theōrei) the fact that Yeshua is a prophet, but he remains a Judean. She is the analog of the great women of Israel: exactly in the point where she is similar to them, she differs from them.

5.4. Neither – nor, inspiration and fidelity, 4:20-24

4:20 Our fathers bowed down on this mountain, (167)
but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where one has to bow down.”
4:21 Yeshua says to her,
“Trust me, woman,
the hour is coming
when you will bow to the FATHER
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
4:22 You are bowing to what you don’t know;
we are bowing to what we do know,
that liberation is happening from the Judeans. (168)
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; (169)
and those bowing to him
are to bow according to inspiration and fidelity.”

The woman at Jacob’s well did not fall on her knees before him when she called him a prophet. Rather, she brings up what stands between them: the whole bloody history between their peoples. In her eyes, Samaria is the victim, Judea the perpetrator. She puts it in a nutshell, “Our fathers bowed down (prosekynēsan) on this mountain here. But you say that in Jerusalem is the place where one has to bow (proskynein).”

The cult in the new temple of Sebaste would then be sheer paganism; to the woman, the ambassador of her people, it was an abomination, “I have no husband!” Her enemies are the Romans and the Judeans, both of them. That is why she cannot communicate with a Judean prophet, “Our fathers had said . . . but you say . . ..” Therefore she cannot act like her predecessor, the great woman from Shunem, she cannot and will not kneel before Yeshua. She says, “You see through our political situation, it’s true because you are a prophet. But as long as things are thus between us, you cannot impose political tasks on us here.”

She didn’t know what we know. We know what Yeshua said to members of his own people, “Do not make my FATHER’s house a market place” (John 2:16); and he underlined this with an action that was by no means non-violent! She does not know that he announced to the Judeans the required sign, “Dissolve this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (2:18), where John noted that he was talking about the temple of his body, in plain language, of the Messianic community. All this she did not know and could not know. Not even the disciples knew it, “Now when he was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered that he had said this” (2:22). Only then! The tearing down of absurd and murderous dividing walls is the embodiment of Messianic politics, peace politics (see John 14:27 ff. and Ephesians 2:14 ff.). In the place of the sanctuary in Jerusalem, you cannot “politically pay homage” to the God of Israel, for that means the verb proskynein, “to bow down.” On the level of the narrative (fiction), the sanctuary in Jerusalem still exists; on the level of the narrator (reality), both sanctuaries are destroyed. 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?

But then there is the sentence, “You bow to that of which you have no knowledge. We bow to that of which we have knowledge.” This double sentence seems to unmake again the “Neither . . . nor” and destroys the perspective that Yeshua had opened up to his and her people. 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.

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.

“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. (170) The woman from Samaria reacts in a third way, with skepticism.

5.5. l AM HE, 4:25-30

4:25 The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming who is called Christos [anointed].
When that one comes, he will announce everything to us.”
4:26 Yeshua said to her,
“I AM HE—the one speaking to you.” (171)

4:27 Just then, his disciples came.
They were amazed that he was speaking with a woman;
indeed, none of them said,
“What are you seeking?” or, “What are you speaking with her?”
4:28 At that, the woman left her water-jar,
went away into the town and said to the humans,
4:29 “Come, see a human who told me all I’ve ever done.
Is not this one the Messiah?”
4:30 They went out of the town and came toward him.

Again, it is the woman who leads back to the reality of the narrative. “The Messiah called Christos,” would have to come, who, “when he comes, would announce everything.” If he comes: her skepticism is unmistakable. There is still much left open for her. She has listened to Yeshua’s remarks about the fundamental presuppositions of his policy; all this she will see when the Messiah comes. At least she admits that the dilemma between the two peoples is to be overcome. Neither—nor was no perspective to her, and presumably to not a few in Samaria; the conflict gave a certain raison d’être to agitators with political ambitions in both peoples. To the woman at Jacob’s well, however, a messianic perspective is pure Utopia. It would be nice if “the Messiah, called Christos” would come. With this, she wipes the sentence from the table. Yeshua had said, “The hour is coming, and this is now.” Now is never-never day for her.

Yeshua ends the conversation. We hear for the first time in our text the words: “I AM, I WILL BE THERE.” 24 times in the Gospel of John we will hear this egō eimi, “I AM, I WILL BE THERE,” 24 times we will be reminded of the revelation of the NAME in Exodus 3:14, the foundation of prophetic self-consciousness. 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. With this, the announcement becomes true: “Trust me, woman, for the hour [of the neither—nor] comes . . . and this is happening now!” 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.

The expression exists in two forms, one absolute, without any further determination: egō eimi (“I WILL BE THERE”), one with a predicative determination, egō eimi ho lalōn (“I AM HE—the one speaking”), egō eimi ho artos (“I AM—the bread”), etc. The first form actually occurs only four times, 6:20; 8:24.28.58 (the places 9:9, 18:5.6.8 presuppose the predicate). In these four cases, it seems to us, only the direct reference to Exodus 3:14 comes into question. That’s why we translate “I WILL BE THERE.” In the other cases where Yeshua is the subject of the sentence egō eimi, we must remember the emphatic prophetic final formula: ˀani hu or ˀani YHWH. The emphasis must be reproduced in the translation, such as: “I AM HE, I THE FIRST, I THE LAST,” Isaiah 48:12. With the phrase: “I AM HE—the one speaking to you,” Yeshua invokes to the woman the liberation narrative they share. This happens here and now, this is Messiah.

The woman remains skeptical. But it is now clear to her that she has to discuss this matter with her people. In the meantime, the disciples had come. They didn’t like the whole thing. In this situation they have two disadvantages: They are men and they are Judeans. They wonder about a Judean man and teacher who is speaking with a completely strange woman from a hated people. No one comes to Yeshua with stupid questions like, “What are you doing with the woman, what do you have to talk to her?” They do not want to expose themselves. But they are Judean men, they think: Ours is not consorting with Samaritans, and certainly not with Samaritan women.

Meanwhile, the woman has the opportunity to leave the stage to fulfill her mission: to go to her people in Samaria as the first Messianic evangelist, leaving her water behind; this water she obviously no longer needs. After 1:39 and 1:46 we hear for the third time in the Gospel, “Come and see.” They shall come so they may see and hear, just as the first two disciples and Nathanael shall come so they may see. Here they shall see “a man who said to me all I’ve ever done.” Of course, most of the exegetes think of her “disgraceful marriage stories.” But he has brought the whole history of her people, her history, to the point and has opened up a perspective beyond the history of murder and hate. Maybe a peaceful outcome of the bloody story can now be expected after all, “Is not he, in fact, the Messiah, could not Messianic politics be realpolitik for us after all?” She remains skeptical but remains open to surprises. The people are setting out on their way.

The disciples are quite baffled.

5.6. What does eating mean here, 4:31-38

4:31 Meanwhile, the disciples were questioning him, they said,
“Rabbi, eat.”
4:32 He said to them,
“I have food to eat that you don’t know of.”
4:33 At this, the disciples said to one another,
“Did not someone bring him to eat?”
4:34 Yeshua said to them,
“My food is
to do the will of the ONE who sent me
and to accomplish his work.
4:35 Aren’t you saying,
‘Four more months, then the harvest is coming’?
Look, I say to you: lift up your eyes and view the countries!
They’re white, the harvest is coming!
4:36 The one who is harvesting receives his wages
and gathers fruit for life in the age to come,
so that the sower may be glad together with the harvester.
4:37 For in this matter, the saying holds true,
‘One is sowing, another is harvesting.’
4:38 I sent you to harvest what you haven’t toiled for.
Others have toiled, and you have gone into their toil.”

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,

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”,
“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.

5.7. Liberator of the world, 4:39-42

4:39 From that town many of the Samaritans began trusting in him
because of the word of the woman bearing witness,
“He told me all I’ve ever done.”
4:40 When now the Samaritans came to him,
they asked him to stay with them.
He stayed there for two days.
4:41 And much more they were trusting because of his word,
4:42 as they said to the woman,
“No longer we are trusting because of your speech,
for we ourselves have heard, and we know:
This one really is the liberator of the world.” (172)

An abrupt change of scene, the appearance of the people from Sychar. Many are trusting in this Messiah because of the testimony of the woman because he told her what she had done. John is keen to emphasize this fact, he says it for the third time. Why should people trust because a stranger knew about her what they all knew about her anyway unless by some absurd reason she lived secretly with some man in her oriental village? That would arouse curiosity, but not trust. He revealed to the woman what had happened to her, that is, to her people; he enlightened her politically. Here, at last, is a Judean who has understood what happened—especially during the previous century—to this unfortunate people in Samaria. This arouses confidence, and this is what the woman conveyed to them.

They want the Messiah to stay with them. In John, “to stay”, menein, always has the Semitic coloring of “standing firm, persevering, holding fast.” He stays with them for two days, just as he stays for two days in Transjordan after he has heard that his friend, the only friend, had fallen ill in Judea, 11:6. These two days in Sychar are the prelude to the other sign, “Your son lives”, just as the two days in Transjordan are the prelude to the last, final sign, “Lazaros, come out” (11:43), and as, finally, are the two days between the death of the Messiah and his coming among the disciples (20:19).

During these two days Yeshua must have conducted an intensive biblical-political House of Study in Sychar. The people of Sychar first trusted the testimony of the woman, now, after the House of Study, they trust the Messiah himself. They have heard themselves and know, their consciousness has changed. John can hardly be interested in playing down the woman’s testimony. The woman’s last words showed the messianic reservation. She represents a situation in Samaria where the Messianic community was met with distance. (173) The solemn confession, therefore, does not come from the mouth of the woman, but from the mouth of those who “themselves had heard and recognized that this one is really the liberator of the world.”

This is the open rebellion against the real existing emperors of Rome who call themselves “liberators of the world.” (174) In fact, this title is found in inscriptions of two emperors, Nero (54-68) and Hadrian (117-138). This title is due to them because they wanted to create “order” throughout the empire, which in Nero’s case is a ridiculous presumption. In the case of Hadrian, the title is all right as long as you understand by liberating and salutary order that efficient Roman, but still exploitative administration of the adoptive emperors of the 2nd century, which set a certain limit to the corruption of the provincial authorities. But this has nothing to do with liberation according to the standards of the Torah; in this respect, Hadrian’s self-designation is an arrogance, too.

In any case, the word is a keyword in the political propaganda of the Roman imperial regime. The people of Samaria are clarifying two things with their sentence, “This one really is the liberator of the world.” Firstly, for them only the God of Israel has been the liberator of Israel, moshiaˁ yisraˀel, sōtēr tou Israel, nobody else, as it says in the Book of Isaiah; if they did not accept the prophet Isaiah, they knew the Torah and the sentence Exodus 14:30, “And on this day, the NAME liberated (wa-yoshaˁ YHWH) Israel from the hand of Egypt.“ In the ancient Orient, the name always is also a life program. The NAME of God is essentially liberation; the NAME of Yeshua means “liberation,” namely liberation according to Exodus 14:30. And secondly, they denied Rome the claim to be the liberator of the world. They were the first to recognize the political implication of the Messianic confession.

6. The other sign in Cana, Galilee: Your son lives, 4:43-54

4:43 After the two days, he went from there toward Galilee.
4:44 For Yeshua himself bore witness
that a prophet is not respected in his own father’s town. (175)
4:45 Now when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
because they had seen all he had done at the festival in Jerusalem;
for they themselves had gone to the festival.
4:46 So he went again to Cana, Galilee,
where he had turned the water into wine.
And there was some official of the king (176)
whose son was ill in Capernaum.
4:47 This one, on hearing that Yeshua had come from Judea to Galilee,
went away to him,
and asked him to go down and heal his son,
for he was about to die.
4:48 Yeshua now said to him,
“Unless you had seen signs and proofs of power,
you had not trusted.” (177)
4:49 The official says to him,
go down before my infant dies.”
4:50 Yeshua says to him,
“Go your way,
your son is living.”
The human began trusting in the word that Yeshua had said to him
and was going his way.
4:51 Already while he was going down,
his slaves met him and said
that his child is living.
4:52 He inquired from them the hour he had gotten better.
They said to him,
“Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him.”
4:53 So the father realized
that it was the very hour when Yeshua had told him,
“Your son is living.”
And he was trusting, he himself and his whole house.

4:54 This other sign again Yeshua did
when he went from Judea to Galilee.

After the two days, Yeshua goes from there to Galilee. Why after the two days? Of course after the two days of political training of the people of Sychar. But that is only half the answer. The day in Cana is a third day, the day from death to life.

Why to Galilee? John has Yeshua himself give the answer. The answer refers to the hometown, “father’s town,” of Yeshua. In Mark and the other Synoptics, the hometown is in Galilee (Mark 6:1 par.) There it says, “A prophet is not undignified unless in his hometown.” But in John, the father’s town is Jerusalem, the place of the one whom Yeshua calls FATHER. The signs and the words of the Messiah inspire confidence in Samaria and in Galilee. The mission of the Messiah is to bring together the children of Israel who have been driven apart. The signs also invite contradiction, in Jerusalem, John 5 and 9, but also in Galilee, John 6. But the decision of approval or rejection is done in Yeshua’s hometown, Jerusalem. For the Messiah and his work—liberation—come from the Judeans, as already heard. Yeshua ben Joseph comes from Nazareth, Galilee, but the Messiah comes from Jerusalem. Matthew and Luke develop a similar procedure in their stories of origin (Matthew and Luke 1-2). Their Messiah must come from the city of David; he will renew the kingdom of David. In John, the Messiah is a priestly-prophetic Messiah, therefore he must come from Jerusalem.

The Messianic example of the other sign shall happen to a king’s official. John takes his material from a tradition that the Synoptics have also worked on. Mark does not have the narrative. Matthew and Luke are about a centurio, hekatontarchos, a “man of a hundred,” thus a Roman sub-officer. John is not about a goy, at least not about a Roman military man. The man is in the service of a patron king from the house of Herod, appointed by the Romans. Such branch managers of the Rome company additionally exploited the population. Herod Antipas and his officials were hated in Galilee. These people nominally were Israelites, their officials were recruited from the regional population. Our story is about one “of the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In John, it is, moreover, about his son, not about a slave, as in Matthew and Luke. In Israel, Judea and the Judeans are the center, Samaria, Galilee, and their inhabitants are the periphery. The officials of the Herodians—in terms of their social standing in Galilee—were a peripheral group.

The official had a son. The son is his future, and in the deadly illness, even his future is at stake. So he asks Yeshua to heal his son. Yeshua says something that seems to have little to do with the matter, “If you had not seen signs and proofs of power, you had not trusted.” The comments always see an accusation in v.48. So Wilckens,

They only believe if they have seen signs and wonders. The Old Testament expression has become established in the early Christian missionary language . . ., in this respect, a critical tone can certainly be heard in v.48 in the overvaluation of miracles in connection with becoming a believer.” (178)

Wilckens had given nine passages from Acts, Paul, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Not one of these passages is critical of “signs and wonders.” (179) Neither is Yeshua a theios anēr, “divine man,” like the ancient miracle doctors; Bultmann found such in his Semeia Source of John’s Gospel, and since then the invention has haunted the commentaries. Faith, in this kind of theology, is always something that cannot be seen, and always causes something that cannot be seen. The meaning of Yeshua’s answer, according to these commentaries, is a reproach, in the sense that “I have always to do signs and wonders so that you may believe—when will you believe without me having to do wonders?” The reproach is absurd, it would invalidate the whole Scriptures. We hear Deuteronomy 4:34,

If ever a god had tested it
to come, to take a people from among a people,
with trials, with signs, with proofs of power,
with war, with a strong hand, with an outstretched arm,
with all these awe-inspiring great things,
which the NAME, your God, has done for you in Egypt before your eyes?

Liberation has always to be experienced sensually in Israel, “Do not forget,” says Moshe, “all the speeches (180) you have seen, that they will not depart from your heart all the days of your life . . .” (Deuteronomy 4:9). So if Israel had not seen any signs and proofs of power even then, it would not have trusted and could not have trusted. It is about the double designation of what is happening; signs (ˀothoth, sēmeia) refer to Israel as the object of God’s action; proofs of power (mofthim, terata) refer to God himself as the subject. Therefore, these words often occur together, especially if God’s action is brought up in connection with the liberation from Egypt and in the wilderness. Signs and proofs of power always mean the verification of the liberation power of Israel’s God.

Of course, the official is in no mood for theology, he admonishes Yeshua to hurry before it is too late. The sign will be seen, “Your son lives.” “The human”—as he is suddenly called—“trusted the word (logos, davar) that Yeshua said to him. If humankind sees signs and proofs of power that are liberating and reviving, then they trust. But what if they see nothing more, how can they still trust? John invokes the question but only answers it in 20:24 ff.

The official insists, “Run down before my infant dies!” The answer is, “Your son lives.” The man trusts this word. Without having seen anything! This seems to contradict what we just said: Signs and proofs of power cause the trust of Israel. The understatement of the commentaries is anti-Jewish. Jews “believe” when they see signs and acts of power, Christians “believe” without the like, and that is genuine “belief.” We express it so that nothing anti-Jewish remains smoldering. Of course, in the days of the failure of the Messiah, of his departure, you can see nothing but the unshakable power of the world order and the ruins of Jerusalem. It is the difference between the Israel of sensually experienced and experienceable liberation and Israel in front of the ruins of its history. This Israel is required to hold on to a Messianic perspective at a moment when it seems to have lost its future. Certainly, there is a tension between seeing and trusting in this situation. There are times without signs and proofs of powers, as Israel knows and sings in the bleak song: Why, God, do you detest forever, Psalm 74:9,

We no longer see our signs,
Nowhere a prophet any more,
nobody is with us, who knows until when . . .

The official has no choice but to trust. Only afterward the man will find out whether he was in the hands of a messianic charlatan. What is true and therefore trustworthy can always be determined afterward, whether in good or in evil. He must have the affirmation that his son lives. The fever has left his child, his slaves say. “When?” “In the seventh hour.” The official must be sure that it is not a spontaneous recovery, but that the word of Yeshua has brought the child back to life and founded his future. The exact time is crucial. Only now it is possible to have real trust; the first trust was a trust in advance. If it is certain that something has really changed, has really turned to good, the word of Yeshua becomes a sign and a proof of power. He and his whole house—wife, children, servants—they trust because all have seen that the word is happening.

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.”


(64) TJ15, 14, JUDEANS: Ioudaioi, in the singular Ioudaios. In the 1st century CE, the word Ioudaios could mean two things: 1. a Jew in the ethnic sense; 2. an inhabitant of the Roman province of Judaea (as distinct from the inhabitants of Samaria, Galilee, etc.). This second sense is dominant in John. His Ioudaioi are inhabitants of Roman Judaea and thus, according to the logic of the text, automatically opponents of Yeshua. The Galilean Yeshua from Nazareth is indeed a Jew, but not a Judean, in the sense of the Gospel of John consequently not an Ioudaios either.

(65) TJ15, 14, JERUSALEM: John always writes hierosolyma, plural, to reflect the Hebrew dual Yerushalayim (but see Martin Hengel, Judaica, Hellenistica et Christiania. Kleine Schriften II, Tübingen 2002, 118 ff.). Luke writes Ierousalēm all but four times in the Gospel; in Acts, he uses both spellings to the same extent.

(66) TJ15, 14, HE SAYS: Legei, “he says,” present tense. John’s peculiar alternation between the present, imperfect, and aorist tenses (legei, elegen, apekrithē) can probably be explained by the author’s Aramaic background. Semitic languages do not have proper tenses like Indo-European languages. Rather, they have “verbal aspects,” the decisive criterion being whether an action is represented as completed (casually called “perfect” in grammar) or as not—or not yet—completed (“imperfect”). Whether the action is represented as (not) completed in the past or the future is meaningless (see Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, Oxford 141978, § 106-107; Segert, St., Altaramäische Grammatik, Leipzig 3rd ed. 1981, 244; J.A. Haywood/ H.M. Nahmad, A New Arab Grammar of the Written Language, London, 2nd ed. 1965, 96-97). This may explain why John writes “he says” here and “he answered” a few words further on. The question is whether we should smooth this over, as when in 1:38 two participles in the aorist (strapheis, theasamenois) are followed by a present tense (legei): Yeshua turned and perceived them following him, “he says.” This is very unusual for Greek; we can let the unusual be heard in our translation . . .
HS: TV added, “. . . but usually decide for the usual tense.” In TJ05, he had written, “As a rule, we adopt the tenses of the text.” For the English text, I prefer the alienating variant.

(67) TJ15, 14, VOICE OF ONE CALLING: The quote Isaiah 40:3 is structured according to the Hebrew text, with the musical accents of the Masoretic Text providing clues: “Voice of one calling / in the wilderness make a way for the NAME // set up in the steppe / a path for our God.” The well-known “voice in the wilderness” unfortunately has nothing to do with the original.

(68) TJ15, 14, PERUSHIM: Pharisaioi, “Pharisees.” The word “Pharisee” has entered the common language as a result of thousands of years of propaganda of an anti-Jewish Christianity synonymous with “hypocrites, deceivers.” The word has thus become unusable. Therefore, with the Jewish translator André Chouraqui, we write Perushim. The word means something like “split off,” because after the Maccabean revolution they had split off from the ruling wing of the anti-Hellenistic coalition. The word means something like “separated,” because after the Maccabean revolution they separated from the ruling wing of the anti-Hellenistic coalition.

(69) TJ15, 14, BETHANY: Bēthania. There are two alternative readings, each supported by numerous manuscripts: Bēthabara, Bētharaba. Bethany makes sense because decisive things will happen in this place, see John 11 and 12.

(70) Our translations always read “Jews.” But John refers to the Greek word Ioudaioi as a specific current among the “Jews” that was very influential indeed but did not yet have the ideological monopoly: Rabbinical Judaism. This will change after the last one of the three “Jewish wars” against Rome, 131-135 CE. Since then, Rabbinical Judaism—which established itself in about 140-150 CE after the end of the excessive persecution by Rome—actually was identical with Judaism in general. Before this time, there was no homogenous “Judaism.” The denotation “Judeans” serves to differentiate between Yeshua’s adversaries and the “Jews” since the middle of the 2nd century. To avoid the unpleasant connotations of the word “Pharisees,” we don‘t write this ideologically and emotionally loaded word, but choose the Aramaic equivalent “Perushim.”

(71) Flavius Josephus, Jüdische Altertümer. Übersetzt und mit Einleitung und Anmerkungen versehen von Dr. Heinrich Clementz, Wiesbaden (Reprint o. J.), 18, 5, 2.
HS: At further mentions, I refer to the work with the abbreviation “Ant.” The link indicated in each case leads to the reproduction of the English translation of the text on the Internet page by William Whiston, Hartford, Conn. 1905.

(72) HS: See halakh ˀachare, poreuomai opisō, Deuteronomy 6:14.19; Hosea 11:10.

(73) TJ15, 16, THE EWE COMING FROM GOD: Amnos tou theou. Amnos stands for Hebrew rachel, a female sheep that has already lambed. John refers to Isaiah 53:7: “the ewe that falls silent before her shearers.” Isaiah 53 is about a man who bore responsibility for his city Jerusalem and was held liable by the imperial government for the rebellion of the city’s inhabitants. “Bearing the sins” is taking upon oneself the consequences that result from rebellion. This is about the aberration of the world order, that is, the world that was ordered by the Roman Empire. The “Son of Man” is held liable for this aberration, he has to walk the way that the “servant of God” had to walk in Isaiah 53. So it is not about the moral misconduct of individual people, but about the aberration of the whole human world.
TJ05, 18 (7): John combines this image of the “suffering servant of God” with the image of the “scapegoat” of Yom Kippur, that goat on whose head the high priest thrusts his hands, thus transferring to it the wrongdoing of the whole people: “the goat bears (nasaˀ, lēmpsetai) all their transgressions,” Leviticus 16:22. The LXX always chooses the verb lambanein for this vicarious bearing; we find airein only in 1 Samuel 15:25; 25:28, as Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, ad.loc., shows. One person—Samuel, David—may “bear” and so, as the LXX interprets, “take away” the error or transgression of another person—Saul, Abigail. Airein means “to carry away, to lift,” thus, “to do away with” or “to abolish.” Let be done here what Saul asks of Samuel, “Do away with my aberration, turn back with me, that I may bow to the NAME.” Yeshua cancels the aberrations of Israel so that it may repent and bow to the NAME. We have to translate accordingly, by rendering rachel, amnos as “ewe” like in Isaiah 53. We try to preserve this saying with its rhythm in the translation: hinne rachel ha-ˀ
elohim / noseˀt chataˀth ha-ˁolam, // ide ho amnos tou theou / ho airōn tēn hamartian tou kosmou. We will translate the word group hamartia, hamartanein, hamartōlos with words from the stem “err-.” For hamartia is not an individual moral lapse (“sin”), but that which leads an entire society astray. Taking this into account, you can also understand the sacrificial texts of the Book of Leviticus; if you do something that damages, breaks society, you can only do justice to it by destroying things, animals. The word “sin” is much too religious to be able to express the scriptural dimension of chataˀth/hamartia.

(74) TJ15, 16, BEGINNING: See 1:15 and the note there.

(75) TJ15, 16, BE MADE MANIFEST: Phaneroun, Hebrew gala, nigle, “to show (himself) publicly,” “to manifest (as).” Jesus is to become publicly recognizable as the Messiah, to reveal himself as such. The public here—as in 2:11, 3:21, 7:4—is Israel, then in 17:6 all humankind, but in 21:1.14 the now restricted public of the circle of disciples.

(76) HS: Although TV’s reservations about the German word “Geist” probably don’t fully apply to the English word “spirit”—as relating to the Latin word spiritus—I agree with his translation of pneuma as “inspiration” because “Holy Spirit” as well might be misunderstood as a substance instead of a process:
TJ15, 16, INSPIRATION: Pneuma, traditionally “spirit,” stands for Hebrew ruach, i.e. for that “rushing (wind),” German “(Wind)braus” (as Buber often translates) which drives the prophets. See, for example, Isaiah 11:2: “‘Geisthauch’ [‘spirit breath’] of the NAME rests upon him, ‘Geist der Weisheit’ [‘spirit of wisdom],” etc. Even Buber cannot do without the word “Geist,” “spirit.” The Latin word spiritus better preserves what is meant by the word ruach. It seems appropriate to dispense with the word “Geist,” determined by a later Christian dogmatics and thoroughly corrupted by German idealism, as far as it is somehow possible. What is indicated by the word ruach is not a substance but a process: that which drives a person to lead his life in this way and not otherwise. “Holy Spirit” is accordingly that which drives a person to live according to Leviticus 20:7: “Sanctify yourselves, become holy . . . for it is I, the NAME, who sanctifies you.” Therefore, “inspiration of sanctification.” See 3:5; 14:17 and the notes to these passages.

(77) TJ15, 16, STAYED FIRMLY WITH HIM: Menein, “to stay, to remain,” in the LXX stands in very many cases (more than 50%) for the root ˁamad, “to stand,” and qum, “to be erect,” and thus has the connotation of a firm attachment.

(78) TJ15, 16, SON OF GOD: Aramaic bar elahin, Hebrew ben ˀelohim. The word ben indicates affiliation; baqar are “cattle,” ben baqar is a single cattle. Correspondingly ben ˀadam: “one who belongs to humankind, a single person,” thus “one like,” such as ben ˁawla, “son of wickedness, a wicked one,” or we-noach ben shesh meˀoth shana, “and Noah was a son of six hundred years,” thus he was (like) a six hundred-year-old man. “Son of God” means “one like God,” i.e., one who does perfectly the will of God. See Daniel 3:25. Houtos estin we translate analogously to egō eimi, see 4:26.
TJ05, 19 (10): To Jews—whether orthodox or heterodox like John—it is plainly inconceivable that the God of Israel should have a son coessential to him.

(79) The Greek version of Isaiah 53:12 does not use the verb airein but anapherein. But there is no doubt that John using airōn thinks of the Hebrew word nasaˀ in 53:12, just as amnos in John doubtlessly stands for rachel, “ewe,” from Isaiah 53:7. In Leviticus 16:22 “bearing the transgressions” is translated lēmpsetai, future tense of “to take.”
HS: I found it impossible to get the multiple meaning of the German word “aufheben”—from “to lift, elevate” and “to cancel, abolish, negate” and “to save, put aside” to the Hegelian “sublate”—in only one English word. So “he abolishes it” meets it only partially.

(80) The word kosmos occurs 76 times in John, more than in all other writings of the so-called “New Testament” combined, 38 times alone in the “farewell speeches” John 13-17, where it is about the existence of the Messianic community under the real conditions of the prevailing world order (kosmos).

(81) HS: Wayiqraˀ is the first Hebrew word in the book of Leviticus which gave the book its Jewish name (= “And he [the NAME] called”).

(82) See Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Das christliche Bekenntnis zu Jesus, dem Juden. Eine Christologie II, München 1991, 78ff.

(83) HS: I do not follow the CJB in translating mathētēs as talmidim according to the Hebrew root of lamad = “to learn,” because this word would insinuate that Yeshua’s followers or disciples were something like the later students of Talmud. But at the time of Yeshua, the Talmud didn’t yet exist.

(84) TJ15, 16, WALKING HIS WAY: Peripatein does not simply mean “to go, to walk, to stroll,” but a very specific “way of life, path of life.” Halakha, “walk,” among the Jews is a path of life according to the directives of the Torah and the oral traditions. It is this Halakha of Yeshua that drew people’s attention to him. John does not see Jesus strolling, but walking that very way of Isaiah 53. Therefore “walking his way.”

(85) TJ15, 18, FIRST: Prōton, accusative. Used adverbially, the word means “first.” Some manuscripts have the nominative, “Andrew as the first, finds the brother.” Here it is about the future function of Simon, who also gets the new name Peter, “rock.”

(86) HS: John 1:41 and 4:25 are the only places where the Greek word Messias occurs and is translated as Christos. To emphasize that “Jesus Christ” does not denote a first and last name but that John uses Iesous Christos to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, I translate Christos as “Messiah” everywhere except in these two passages.

(87) So Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 88).

(88) Joop P. Boendermaker/Dirk Monshouwer, Johannes: De evangelist von de feesten, Zoetermeer 1993, 31-32.

(89) In Boendermaker/Monshouwer, loc. cit.

(90) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 70.

(91) TJ15, 20, REALLY: Here alēthōs could stand for the Aramaic yatziv. In Theodotion’s Greek version of the Jewish Bible, the word alēthōs is found as the translation of yatziv in Daniel 3:24 (Masoretic text)—and thus as the opposite of “seemingly.” Hence the rendering chosen above as “really.” Reality is an element of trustworthiness.

(92) TJ15, 20, AMEN: The evangelists did not find a Greek equivalent for the Hebrew ˀamen. It means “it stands firm.” Revelation 3:14 treats the word as a noun: “This is what the Amen, the faithful witness, says.”

(93) TJ15, 20, THE HUMAN: The expression hyios tou anthrōpou, “son of a man,” or traditionally “Son of Man,” refers back to the Aramaic bar enosh, and thus to the figure encountered in Daniel 7:13. After the reign of beasts of prey and beastly monsters, the “Ancient of Days”—a circumscription for the God of Israel—gives “to the Human” all earthly power and administration. This figure is in Daniel “the people of the saints of the Most High,” that is, the Torah-keeping people of Israel. The Messiah Yeshua is the embodiment of this figure, i.e. of Israel. When Jesus is spoken of as the Son, the figure of Daniel 7:13 is to be thought of; that is why we write the word with initial-capital letters. To make this connection clear, we always translate the expression hyios tou anthrōpou as “Human” and add the expression bar enosh.

(94) In Luke, however, the Messianic community has to stay in Jerusalem, because in his Gospel the Messianic movement (Paul!) will go up from the center of Israel to the center of the world order—Rome.

(95) Flavius Josephus, Ant. 13, 11, 3.

(96) HS: In German TV uses the word “Erfindung” [= “invention”] sounding the word “finden”= “to find.”

(97) Charles K. Barrett, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1990, 208.

(98) See Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 94.

(99) Might that be a rebuke in the direction of Mark or Matthew who let Yeshua curse the fig tree (Mark 11:12 ff. par.)? Luke may have deliberately omitted this passage. As to the image of the fig tree see Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10.

(100) A more benevolent explanation would be that the expression “pascha tōn Ioudaiōn” distinguishes the Passover of the Judeans from the Passover of the people of Samaria which took place at another time.

(101) TJ15, 20, WHAT IS BETWEEN ME AND YOU, WOMAN: Ti emoi kai soi, gynai. The phrase is not Greek; it is often attested in Hebrew, ma li u-lakh. It means a distancing, such as “not my problem, your problem.” The address gynai is not disrespectful; the statement is aimed at the fact that the Messianic time has not yet come. What is happening here is the sign of the age to come, and indeed the first, i.e., principle, sign, archē tōn sēmeiōn, v.11.

(102) TJ15, 20, TWO OR THREE METRETES: Since a metrētēs contains about 40 liters, about one hundred liters go into each of the jars.

(103) TJ15, 20, MASTER OF THE FEAST: Architriklinikos. The word architriklinos did not occur in the Greek language until John. Triklinos meant “consisting of three beds.” In the Mishnah, it is transcribed as traqlin. In Mishna Avot 4:16 it means “palace.” This functionary, then, is ”palace ruler,” maior domus, as the Carolingians were at the Merovingian court, i.e., “majordomo.” The author of a widely read and otherwise thorough commentary, C. K. Barrett, suggests “toastmaster.” In German, we leave the word untranslated.
HS: In English, “master of the feast” seems appropriate to me.

(104) TJ15, 22, BEGINNING: Archē (see 1:1!) is more than a temporal beginning, that is, more than the first sign in a series. Otherwise, prōton would have to be here. This is essential for the interpretation of 2:1-12: the transformation of water into wine is the original, principled Messianic sign; in all signs happens in principle (therefore archē) what happens in Cana: the dawn of the Messianic time, the age to come.

(105) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 83.

(106) Examples: Judges 11:12; 2 Samuel 16:10; similarly Joshua 22:24, Jeremiah 2:18 etc.

(107) HS: The traditional English translations “ruler of the feast” or “master of the feast” come nearer to the proper sense of architriklinos than all the mentioned German ones.

(108) According to Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 102, a metrētēs contains about 39 liters.

(109) TJ15, 22, CAPERNAUM: Kefar Nachum. The name means “village of consolation.”
HS: On the descent to Capernaum, see also note 217.

(110) HS, NOT MANY DAYS: Many translations including the CJB have “a few” instead of “not many” and thus make it impossible to take notice of the reference to Deuteronomy 1:46 and 2:1, as TV will explain. The King James Bible translates literally.

(111) In many passages of the analysis of the pour-soi in L’Être et le Néant, 1943. Sartre demonstrates this relating to the numerous characters in his novels and plays from the time between 1935 and 1955.

(112) TJ15, 22, THE PASCHA OF THE JUDEANS: Pascha tōn Ioudaiōn. Pascha is Aramaic, Hebrew pessach. Pascha, Passover, is the great feast of liberation that plays an important role three times: here, at the bread speech of John 6, and at the Messiah’s departure, John 13-21.
TJ05, 23 (21): The more specific definition tōn loudaiōn may imply a distancing from the festival of the Judeans, but the expression could also serve to distinguish it from the Passover of the people of the Samaritans.

(113) TJ15, 22, ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE DEVOURS ME: This translation of Psalm 69:10 is by Buber.
HS: The first English translation of the Jewish Bible published in America in 1853 by Rabbi Isaac Leeser reads: “the zeal for thy house hath devoured me.”

(114) TJ15, 24, SCRIPTURES/WORD: John distinguishes between the written words (grammata), namely the words of the Scriptures (graphē), and the spoken words (rhemata), see 5:47.

(115) In the Aramaic language, the final vowel ˀalef of a substantive serves as a definite article—therefore “the” Pascha.

(116) Aristotle, for instance, has a very low opinion of trading (kapelikon) for the sake of earning money (chrēmatistikē) (Pol. 1257b).

(117) Martin Hengel, Jerusalem als jüdische und hellenistische Stadt, in: ders., Kleine Schriften II, Tübingen 2002, 115ff.

(118) HS: In German, TV speaks of a “gojischen Tempel” = “goyic temple,” because the words “pagan” or “heathen” don’t meet exactly the meaning of the Hebrew word goyim = “foreign people” from the viewpoint of Israel.

(119) TJ15, 24, OBSERVED: The verb theōrein occurs 22 times in John (also in 1 John 3:17). It is more than a simple “to see,” it is a very deliberate “to observe, note, consider, take into account.” In classical Greek, it also means “to muster” (of soldiers).

(120) HS: Although the CJB takes the Hebrew name Naqdīmōn to translate Nikodēmos, I refer to the traditional version “Nicodemos”—without deciding the question whether this man might refer to Naqdimon ben Gurion, a wealthy Jewish man who lived in the 1st century CE and is mentioned in Josephus’ “The Judean War” and later Rabbinic works.

(121) TJ05, 24 (26): Gennan (holid) means “to beget,” the passive form gennesthai (huledeth) “to be begotten” (see Matthew 1:2-16!). The hiphil form means “to make someone live.” That is a unique incident which means that the unique name of a human—by adding the name of the begetting one—is integrated into the whole of the history of the people: He/she is son/daughter of the begetting one, Yeshua ben Joseph. The new time of the Messiah all at once signifies a new start of history. “To beget” therefore is better than “to be born.”

(122) TJ15, 24, THAT BEGOTTEN . . . INSPIRED: To gegennēmenon ek tēs sarkos sarx estin, kai to gegennēmenon ek tou pneumatos pneuma estin. The opposition “spirit (inspiration)/flesh” is explained by the opposites ”heaven/earth“ and “above/below.” Inspiration proceeds from the God of Israel and the Messiah (FATHER and SON), as John will explain in 16:13-15. “Inspiration” means that which turns an earthly, carnal life into a heavenly and inspired life, a Messianic existence. The translation “spirit” in the sense of the German term “Geist” invokes an idealistic dualism: Spirit versus body. Those who think from this idealism must misunderstand John.

(123) TJ15, 26, STORM: See the note to 1:32. In 3:8 we translate pneuma as “storm,” because an image is used here for comparison. The equivalent in the fourth line must then read, “storm of inspiration.”
HS: In his former translation, TV had taken the weaker word “wind”:
TJ05, 25 (28): Here initially we translate pneuma as “wind,” because pnein, “to blow,” demands it. Phonē, “voice,”—heard from the Scriptures—is here more than “sound.” The voice that has hear very special words is the only way the God can sensually be experienced—in a voice of word, not in sound or noise (Deuteronomy 4:12, sulathi qol, “only a voice.”

(124) TJ15, 26, LIFE OF THE AGE TO COME: 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.

(125) TJ15, 26, SOLIDARIZED WITH THE WORLD: It is often claimed that John uses the verbs agapan and philein synonymously, meaning “to love” in either case. In fact, agapan is a rather prosaic word (see Plato, Politeia 330b, where money, poems, and children—as belonging to property—are possible objects). Philein has more emotional coloring, from “to be friends with” to “to kiss, to love.” In John, the response of human beings to the agapē of God is precisely not expected to be “love of God,” but agapē (“solidary relationship”) among humans. Solidarity, because you can’t demand that all people “love” each other. Therefore, God’s attitude to his people and to the living space of his humans, here to be translated as “world,” is that of unrestricted solidarity. The word is rather “modern,” but it makes clear the basic structure of the relationship between “God” and “human” in the Tanakh. The Hebrew verb ˀahav (phonetically close to agapē) is much more powerful. Anything from “being solidary” to “sensual-desirous love” is possible. Even murderous greed that ended in rape and had nothing to do with love, the story between Amnon and Tamar, is rendered with ˀahav, 2 Samuel 13:15.—As to the keyword “world,” see the note on 1:9.

(126) TJ15, 28, WICKEDLY: Phaula, a rare word. It is found, for example, in Proverbs 13:6, where it is a translation of hisslif, “to show as perverted, perverse”: “The iniquity makes it that the transgression is perverse.” It also stands for ˁevil, “foolish,” or ˁawla, “deviant, perverse, deviating from Torah.”
I considered translating as “foolishly” or “perversely,” but the first seemed too weak, the second too one-sidedly sexualized; instead, I chose the word “wickedly,” which I use nowhere else for the translation of John’s Gospel, especially since TV also wrote in the notes to his earlier translation:
TJ05, 26 (32): Here the contrast is agathos, “good,” phaulos therefore “foolish, wicked.”

(127) TJ15, 28, FIGHTING . . . WITH HATE: Misein, Hebrew sanaˀ, also has a wide range of emotional intensity, from aversion to ardent hatred. To be thought of in this context is Micah 3:1 ff, where it is said of the leaders of Israel, “They hate what is good, love what is evil.” We are talking about a political struggle that is being waged with passion on both sides. Therefore, “fight with hatred.”

(128) See Gerhard Jankowski, Und sie werden hören. Die Apostelgeschichte des Lukas. 1. Teil (1,1-9,31), in: Texte & Kontexte 91/92 (2001), 106-107.

(129) Bar Kokhba (the “son of the stars”) was the leading figure of the last messianic war against Rome, 132-135 CE.

(130) Wout van der Spek, Zwischen Galiläa und Judäa. Auslegung von Joh 2,12-5,18, in: Texte & Kontexte 26 (1985), 14-36, here 21.

(131) Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 134.

(132) Ton Veerkamp, Weltordnung und Solidarität oder Dekonstruktion christlicher Theologie. Auslegung und Kommentar (= Texte & Kontexte 71/72 (1996)), 35ff.

(133) In the interpretation of the first letter of John (ibid., 97) it was proven that the word monogenēs necessarily presupposes the connection with Genesis 22. We know the word in the Greek version of the Scriptures “of the seventy” (LXX) as a word for “only child,” the child of Jephthah (Judges 11:34) or Raguel and Tobit (Tobit 3:15; 6:14; 8:17). In the Book of Wisdom of Solomon, the word means “unique.” Three passages in the Psalms have yachid; there it means “unique” (22:20; 35:17) or “lonely” (25:16). The word monogenēs is missing in Genesis 22:2, where the Greek version is: “Take your son, the beloved, whom you love.” But in the Hebrew version, we read: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love.” Why the LXX replaces the word “your only one,” yechidkha, with “your beloved” (ˀohavkha) may have been because the old translators in Alexandria of the 3rd century BCE had a different source. But the Vulgate has not dilectum tuum, ˀohavkha, but unigenitum, yachid. John most likely thought of Genesis 22 when he heard the word monogenēs.

(134) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 114-115.

(135) Hans Jonas, Gnosis und spätantiker Geist, Teil 1, Göttingen 1988; Kurt Rudolph, Die Gnosis. Wesen und Geschichte einer spätantiken Religion, Göttingen 1994.

(136) Jürgen Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes, I. Kapitel 1-10, Gütersloh 31991, 174 ff., here 178.

(137) Hans Jonas, Gnosis und spätantiker Geist, Teil 1, Göttingen 1988, 145. Ibid., 149-150,

God and world, God and nature separate, become strangers to each other, become opposites . . . To be born into the cosmos means eo ipso: to be born into death, and stands opposite the pneumatic rebirth (eis zōēn), which leads out of the cosmos . . . Thus, in the compact counter-translation of this dualism, the desacralized cosmos becomes religiously specific again . . ., inasmuch as it—in quite substantial counteraction to the otherworldly ‘light and life’, to God,—is ‘darkness and death’.

It is no wonder that some here think they hear John. The Gnosis is also resistance against Rome, but a fantastic and aloof one. Under Rome, the world order is so bad and life so impossible that nothing more can be done. Only away from here, is the mood. But this can only be done magically, through rites and mysteries.

“Self-redemption,” says Micha Brumlik (Die Gnostiker. Der Traum der Selbsterlösung des Menschen, Frankfurt/M. 1992), and shows that this thoroughly un-Jewish attitude has a long life span, right up to our days.

(138) TJ15, 28, SENT AHEAD: We find a similar sentence in Genesis 45:7 where Joseph says to his brothers that God had sent him ahead of them.

(139) TJ15, 28, REJOICING WITH JOY: The expression has a definite Hebrew/Aramaic tinge.

(140) TJ15, 28, INCREASE/DECREASE: In the LXX, the Hebrew word para, “to bear fruit” (see Genesis 1:22.28) is rendered auxanein. Elattousthai, “to become lesser,” has to do with the Hebrew chasser, “to be deficient.” Yochanan the Baptist thus accepts the decrease in his number of disciples in favor of Jesus, so “to bear fruit” would not be correct here; the point is not that John’s work would be less fruitful.

(141) This Hosea quotation will occupy us during the discussion of 4:17 (“I have not a man”).

(142) It is true that texts such as Leviticus, Numbers, and Ezekiel 40-48 make no consistent distinction between nachala and ˀachuza. Nowhere it is said that Israel is “possession” (ˀachuza) of the NAME, 29 times its “property” (nachala) and six times that conversely the NAME is “property” (nachala) of Levi or of the priests. The own of the NAME is Israel, the own of the priests the NAME. From there the metaphorical relationship bridegroom—bride has to be interpreted.

(143) Fernando Belo, Lecture matérialiste de l’évangile de Marc, Paris 2. Auflage 1975, 63ff.

(144) Kuno and Eva Füssel, Der verschwundene Körper: Neuzugänge zum Markusevangelium, Luzern 2001, 228.

(145) In two articles of the exegetical journal Texte & Kontexte Nr. 24 (1984): Rochus Zuurmond, Der Tod von Nadab und Abihu, Lev. 10, 1-5, 23-27, and Andreas Pangritz, Jesus und das „System der Unreinheit“ oder: Fernando Belo die Leviten gelesen, Mk. 7, 1-23, 28-46.

(146) Kuno and Eva Füssel, op. cit., 228.

(147) Martin Hengel, Die johanneische Frage (WUNT 67), Tübingen 1993, 306 ff.

(148) TJ15, 30, FROM ABOVE . . . FROM THE EARTH: The contrast is between “he who is from above, that is, from heaven,” and “he who is earthly (ek tēs gēs).” On the one hand, corresponds to the Hebrew ˀeretz; this means “the (particular) land” and “all lands together,” that is, what we call “the earth.” On the other hand, is used for the Hebrew ˀadama; this word means “acre” or “acre dust.” According to Genesis 2:7, God forms humankind, ˀadam, from acre dust, min ha-ˀadama, ek tēs gēs. That is, the One who comes from above, from heaven, that is, as the figure of Daniel 7:13, has been placed as the Human over all earthly people. This is not Gnosis, but Messianic utopia.
TJ05, 27-28 (36): The Semiticizing participle ōn in the prefix and the personal form estin are from the same verb einai, haya. There is no ontological statement here, but a practical determination. From his speeches (lalei), from his devarim, words and deeds, a human’s being is determined, not from his nature. From his deeds one can conclude whether a person thinks, acts, speaks from heaven or not, whether he thinks, acts, and speaks according to God’s fidelity to Israel or not. The metaphor “above” or “from above” (anō, anōthen, 3:3.7.31; 8:23; 11:41!; 19:11!) does not denote metaphysical transcendence. In the thinking of the Jews of that time, a person can never cease to be “flesh” or “earthly.” He can, however, very well abolish the seemingly fated nature of his existence by overcoming “flesh” or “earthly conditions” as ruling conditions and choosing a new earth—and then also a new heaven!—decides. This is something different than Gnosis, the abolition of the earth and the flesh.

(149) TJ15, 30, ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE: Metron, Hebrew ˀefa, “measure, bushel, vessel”; the reference could be Zechariah 5:6. There it is about the measure (bushel) of Israel’s wickedness that leads it into exile, into the land of Shinar; there the inspiration of the NAME settles: “See, those who go out there into the land of the north, they set my inspiration at rest in the land of the north” (6:8), at the place of Israel’s abduction. Inspiration is no longer determined by the “measure of wickedness,” but by the inspiration given by the God of Israel and the Messiah. John assumes that his listeners are familiar with the referenced passage Zechariah 5:1 ff. Therefore, the definite article has to be translated as well. You should not translate adverbially, such as “moderately.”
TJ05, 28 (37): If you translate adverbially, “in [limited] degree,” {as the CJB does,} you have to include ‘limited’ between brackets to make the sentence understandable. We leave the definite article and refer to the explanatory Tanakh passage.

(150) HS, PERMANENTLY: TV translates “weighs on him permanently” in order to catch the full meaning of the Greek word menein that in John refers to Hebrew ˁamad and qum (see note 77).

(151) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 119.

(152) Klaus Berger mocks himself in his book “Im Anfang war Johannes. Datierung und Theologie des vierten Evangeliums” (Stuttgart 1997, 18 ff.) about alleged “allusion hunters” who, as “scientists,” smell “reference to what is written” everywhere. This polemic is ridiculous. John quotes the writing repeatedly. He fulfills Berger’s criterion, according to which “the text to which allusion is made . . . has been generally known.” The Tanakh was “generally known” among Jews. The book of Zechariah played a major role in Messianic circles. A further criterion would be, “The function of allusion must be clearly recognizable and theologically important.” That is what we are trying to prove. Against Berger, we can say: Comprehensive knowledge of the whole Scriptures is not a modern “biblicism” and has nothing to do with a “perfectionism of modern pious people.” Admittedly, unlike Professor Berger, we read John not as a Christian text but as a heterodox Jewish one born of Tanakh.

(153) Siehe Peter Schäfer, Geschichte der Juden in der Antike, Neukirchen/Stuttgart 1983, 83; Flavius Josephus, Ant. 13, 10, 2-3.

(154) Roger T. Beckwith, Formation of the Hebrew Bible, in. M. J. Mulder (Hg.), Mikra (CRINT II,1) 1988, 38-86, here 85.

(155) Flavius Josephus, Ant. 20, 6, 2.

(156) Martin Hengel, Das Johannesevangelium als Quelle für die Geschichte des antiken Judentums, in: ders., Kleine Schriften II, Tübingen 2002, 293 ff., here 298.

(157) HS: If Yeshua is addressed kyrie in Greek, it is usually translated into English as “Lord.” But this translation usually implies that he is identified with the Messiah. So I take the word “Sir” in cases where this identification is not yet clear. In German, this problem does not exist, because as in Greek the word “Herr” serves both the address of a man of higher rank and God or the Messiah.

(158) TJ15, 32, FATSTOCK: Thremmata. The word is rare, absent from the Septuagint, and occurs only once in the NT, in this very passage. It comes from trephein, “to feed, to fatten.”

(159) TJ15, 32: The reference is Isaiah 35:5-7. The words hallesthai (Hebrew dalag), “to leap,” as well as dipsan, “to thirst,” hydōr, “water,” and pēgē, “spring,” all occur in the song “Rejoice, wilderness” (yesusum midbar, Isaiah 35:1 ff. The connection with the song Isaiah 35 points to the final liberation. The signs of Yeshua (the paralyzed walking, the blind seeing, etc.) originate as signs of liberation from Isaiah 35.

(160) To the equation Torah = water: Texts like Isaiah 55:1, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water . . .” are often interpreted as an invitation to accept Torah, Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Taanit 7a. (Further proofs in Hermann L. Strack / Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch II, München 61974, 436; Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 159f.)

(161) TJ15, 32, TRUSTWORTHY: Alēthēs, “faithful, trustworthy,” adjective (the Codex Sinaiticus writes alēthōs, adverb). It refers to the fidelity of Samaria.
TJ05, 30 (40): What the woman says here is praised by Yeshua, “What you have said is trustworthy.” This woman, the representative of her people, says something that points to the fundamental fidelity of Samaria, this essential part of Israel, to the God of Israel. All other translations here have a sarcastic overtone and allow themselves to be misled by the prejudice of the woman’s allegedly “dissolute” life. Yeshua is not a moralist, and he is even less in a mood of sarcasm.

(162) Thus the exegete Schenke, quoted in Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 161.

(163) The commentators across-the-board are of the opinion that you should not interpret this symbolically. Johannes Calvin also sees here—not simply, but nevertheless clearly—the whore (Johannes Calvin, Auslegung des Johannesevangeliums [1553], übersetzt v. Martin Trebesius und Hand Christian Petersen, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1964, 94):

Meanwhile, I do not believe that she is simply marked as a whore here. That he says she has had five husbands, can also mean that the frivolous, immoral woman has always given her husbands a reason to divorce. I understand the words like this: although God had given you men for lawful marriage, you did not stop sinning until—after several divorces which were insulting to you—you became a whore.

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.

(164) Flavius Josephus, Ant. 11, 8, 4.

(165) Flavius Josephus, Ant. 15, 8, 5.

(166) ˀIscha gedola, probably an independent landowner according to Numbers 27 and 2 Kings 8:6.

(167) TJ15, 34, BOW DOWN: Proskynein, Hebrew hishthachawa, “to bow down in deep reverence,” such as to a king.

(168) TJ15, 34, IS HAPPENING: Estin in 4:22 is not a copula but emphatic: haya is here “to happen.” On “liberation” and “to liberate,” see note to 4:42.

(169) TJ15, 34, AS INSPIRATION, GOD IS WORKING. Pneuma ho theos, a declarative clause; therefore, one often translates “God is spirit,” subject “God,” predicate “spirit.” But the Scriptures are about understanding who is functioning as “God.” So Yeshua says that—in Israel—only this (Messianic) inspiration should be working as GOD.

(170) Gnosis doesn’t even leave the trace of a world transformation. All material things are evil in themselves and must burn. Only the non-material, the soul, the spiritual, shall and can live. Christianity never went thus far.

(171) TJ15, 34, Egō eimi ho lalōn soi. The emphatic egō eimi we hear for the first time in John, 23 more times we will hear the expression (only twelve times in the other three gospels together!). The usual translation “I am the one speaking to you” or the like strictly parallels the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14 in the LXX: egō eimi ho ōn, that is, “I am” joined with an active participle. The Septuagint translated the phrase ˀehye ˀasher ˀehye (“I-will-be-there who I-will-be-there”) here as “I am the being.” This is a makeshift translation because a translation egō eimi ho egō eimi in Greek hardly seemed possible. Rather, the ˀehye, which is unusual even in Hebrew, must be retained as the subject. “I-will-be-there” speaks to this woman; she is addressed as a child of Israel from the Exodus event. Where egō eimi occurs, you are always reminded of Exodus 3:14, Exodus 20:2, and especially Ezekiel, who uses the expression more than 80 times. We write the translation with large letters “I WILL BE THERE” (see e.g., 8:58).
HS: In this case, I do not follow the translation of TJ15, “I WILL BE THERE,” but fall back on the translation of TJ05, “I AM HE,” especially since TV in TJ15 as well wanted to translate 4:26 analogous to 1:34 and took “I AM HE” as the title of section 5.5. In TJ05, he had added:
TJ05, 31 (44): The preamble to the Decalogue comes to mind: ˀanokhi YHWH, egō eimi ho kyrios, Exodus 20:2. We find this expression more than 80 times in the book of Ezekiel. We often find the emphatic I (ˀani, ˀanokhi) in Isaiah 40-48. In such a case, we fully capitalize the verb and pronoun: I AM HE—(followed by a participle), or I AM—(followed by a noun). When the egō eimi occurs absolutely, such as 8:58, then it is recommended to write—analogously to ˀehye—“I-WILL-BE-THERE.”

(172) TJ15, 36, THE LIBERATOR OF THE WORLD: Sōtēr tou kosmou. Words from the root sōz(t)- stand for the Hebrew root yashaˁ. The root is a keyword in the book of Exodus, it means social, political, economic liberation. Hebrew ˀelohim yisraˀel moshiaˁ, Greek ho theos tou Israel sōtēr (Isaiah 45:15), “God of Israel, Liberator.” “Liberator of the world” we translate, namely, the liberation of the world from the order that weighs upon it. In any case, “Savior” is not to be translated here. Alēthōs we translate here as “really.”

(173) From other sources we can conclude that this Messianic movement had great problems especially in Samaria: Luke 9:52; Acts 8:14; see Gerhard Jankowski, Und sie werden hören. Die Apostelgeschichte des Lukas. 1. Teil (1,1-9,31), in: Texte & Kontexte 91/92 (2001), 1-169, here 139 ff.

(174) See Richard J. Cassidy, John’s Gospel in New Perspective, Maryknoll/New York 1992, 13.

(175) TJ15, 38, HIS OWN FATHER’S TOWN: His hometown is here, unlike in the Synoptic Gospels, Jerusalem: City of the FATHER!
TJ05, 32 (47): Otherwise the word gar, “for,” could not be explained.

(176) TJ05, 32 (48): Basilikos, “one who belongs to the king (basileus),” to the bureaucracy of Herod Antipas, king of Galilee.

(177) TJ15, 38, SIGNS AND PROOFS: Sēmeia kai terata, Hebrew ˀothoth u-mofthim, “signs and proofs” (Buber). This connection occurs 14 times in the Scriptures, mainly in Deuteronomy. With one exception, this connection always has to do with Israel’s liberation; Isaiah 20:3 is a sarcastic “application” to Egypt and Ethiopia. The sentence construction ean mē . . . ou mē with subjunctive aorist shows a general condition of the pattern “if . . . then,” but is related to the liberation at that time: “If you had not had these very definite signs and evidence at that time, you would by no means have trusted.” So also now the signs are a condition for trust; the sentence is therefore not at all reproachful!
TJ05, 32 (49): The signs were always a precondition for trust: “And Israel saw the great hand of the NAME, his deed against Egypt; the people had a reverence for the NAME. They trusted the NAME and Moshe, his servant” (Exodus 14:31). Neither signs, nor wonders, nor vision are in conflict with trust in the Scriptures. Trust without signs is not meritorious, but simply impossible. The “impossible” situation in which the Messianists from the time of John’s Gospel were found, is what John refers to at the end of his narrative, 20:29.
HS: TV refers to Martin Buber in translating mofthim as “Erweise, Machterweise” in German which I carry over into English as “proofs of power.” Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses, New York/Toronto 1983-1995, takes the word “portents,” but this sounds too much like “bad omen” to me.

(178) Ulrich Wilckens, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (NTD Band 4), Göttingen 2000, 90.

(179) See also Franz Schnider / Werner Stenger, Johannes und die Synoptiker. Ein Vergleich ihrer Parallelen, München 1971, 86, and almost all the others. Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 178, strives for a Jewish tradition as proof that it is about hearing, not about seeing signs (Shemot Rabba 5,13). But this Midrash—as an argument for obedience (something else than “faith”)—does not mean a devaluation of signs.

(180) HS: The Hebrew word devarim has a wide range of meanings: “word, matter, thing, fact, speech”; if it is about the NAME’s words or speeches, it is implied that this word at the same time manifests itself in deeds and facts, in signs and proofs of power.

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