The Hidden Messiah

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

On the occasion of five Judean festivals, the Messiah Yeshua brings about the liberation of Israel from paralysis, hunger, blindness, and death in four signs, but his Judean opponents do not accept him, even former confidants abandon him, his kingship is zealotically misunderstood: as the Messiah, he remains hidden.

Jesus calls the dead Lazarus from his tomb, but he remains hidden from the Judeans as the Messiah

At the center of John’s Gospel is the raising of Lazarus as a symbol of the revival of Israel (Image: Andrey Mironov, Resurrection of Lazarus, CC BY-SA 4.0)

PART II: THE HIDDEN MESSIAH, 5:1-12:50

The second part deals with the conflict between the Messianic community and its opponents, the Judeans. In this conflict Yeshua is not accepted as Messiah and is not perceived as such; as the Messiah, he is hidden. This part consists of five chapters of varying length. They contain the events during five different festivals of the Judeans. (181)

There are signs here too, and here too they appear in pairs: The healing of the paralyzed and the feeding of Israel (5 and 6) as well as the opening of the eyes and the revival of Israel (9 and 11). The signs are the works by means of which Yeshua completes the work of God. And the works are the signs and proofs of power (ˀothoth, mofthim).

Auch hier gibt es Zeichen, auch hier treten sie paarweise auf: Die Heilung des Gelähmten und die Ernährung Israels (5 und 6) sowie das Öffnen der Augen und die Belebung Israels (9 und 11). Die Zeichen sind die Werke, mit denen Jeschua das Werk Gottes vollendet. Und die Werke sind die Zeichen und Machterweise (ˀothoth, mofthim).

{But both chapters 6 and 12—and both “near Passover”—show that Yeshua as the Messianic King is completely misunderstood.}

7. A festival. Life of the age to come, 5:1-47

8. Near Passover. The nourisher of Israel, 6:1-71

9. Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. The great struggle, 7:1-10:21

10. Hanukkah, the festival of renewal. Living and dying, 10:22-11:54

11. The nearness of the Passover, 11:55-12:50

7. A festival. Life of the age to come, 5:1-47 (182)

The chapter consists of three sections of different lengths. The first part tells the healing of a paralyzed person on a feast day, 5:1-9a. This feast day is a Shabbat, and this fact causes controversy. At first glance, it is about the question of whether it is allowed to heal a sick person. This question is not dealt with here, it will be taken up later, 7:21 ff.

The second section of chapter 5 deals with the questions: Who “is working” (ergazesthai), and what “works” (erga) are actually at issue? The “work” of the God of Israel and of the one whom he sends is “to make alive,” zōopoiein, 5:9b-18.

The third section is introduced by a parable “of the father and son” (5:19-21) and then determined by the keyword krinein, “to conduct a trial”, and krisis, “judgment.” This passage itself has two subparts, “This is now” (5:22-30), “Moshe, my witness” (5:31-47).

Many commentaries connect chapter 5 with 7:9 ff. and close chapter 6 with the passage 4:43 ff.; thus, scholars say, you get a closed account of the appearance of Yeshua in Jerusalem. At the same time, the healing of the son of the official (4:43 ff.) is combined with the feeding of Israel (6:1ff.) in Galilee, and we get a logical explanation of how Yeshua came to Jerusalem all at once. Our logic is not John’s logic. His logic is the logic of the festivals. Not a single old manuscript has cast doubt on the order of the text that has been handed down.

7.1. The Work and the Shabbat, 5:1-18

7.1.1. Paralysis, 5:1-9a

5:1 After this, there was a Judean festival;
and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem.
5:2 In Jerusalem, by the Sheep Gate, is an immersion bath
called in Hebrew Bethzatha—house of olives—, (183)
having five porticoes.
5:3 In these lay a crowd of invalids—blind, lame, crippled. (184)
5:5 One man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. (185)
5:6 Yeshua, seeing this man lying down there
and knowing that the time had been long enough,
said to him,
“Do you want to become whole?”
5:7 The sick man answered him,
“Sir,
I have no human—when the water is disturbed—
to throw me into the immersion bath.
At the moment I come,
another one goes down ahead of me.” (186)
5:8 Yeshua says to him,
“Get up, take away your pallet and walk your way!” (187)
5:9a Immediately the man was whole, took away his pallet, and was walking his way.

We are talking about a festival Shabbat. The festival is not defined more closely. This is surprising because John usually always names the festivals, Passover (nine times), Sukkot, and Hanukkah (once each). A festival (heortē, chag) is a break in the series of days when people do their works. The interruption is dedicated to the completion of God’s work of creation. (188) At every great festival, all Israel is standing in front of its God. Which God? A God who “rested from all his work which he had made” (Genesis 2:2)? Or a God who “is working until today” (John 5:17)? This question must be answered at every festival, on every Shabbat: Has God accomplished, is God celebrating, or does he not? Do all the paralyzed walk, all the blind see, is the human really already “in the image of God and in His likeness”? Under the prevailing conditions, every festival invokes this question. For this reason, the festival can at first remain without a closer definition.

The place is an immersion bath at the old Sheep Gate, which was built under Nehemiah more than 450 years ago (Nehemiah 3). The immersion bath had five porticos. This statement seems to be superfluous. Either it indicates that it is a large complex; others see the symbolism of the five books of the Torah in the five columned halls.

It is a spa. According to the legend, a heavenly messenger was supposed to whirl the water and the first invalid who then went into the water was supposed to be healed. The first part of the book of Isaiah ends with the song, “Let the wilderness rejoice”, we already mentioned it in the discussion of 4:14. This song is about the final liberation of Israel from the stranglehold of his enemies. Then it says, 35:5,

Then the eyes of the blind are opened,
the ears of the deaf are opened,
then the paralyzed one jumps like a stag,
the tongue of the mute will rejoice.

In the Messianic groups, the song played an important role (Matthew 11:2 ff par. Luke 7:18 ff.). But there is an even clearer reference. The person in question was an invalid for thirty-eight years. Moshe had sent out scouts on his way to the land. After their return, they advised the people not to go further there, because the conditions in the country would not allow them to move in and live according to the Torah there, “Giants we have seen there,” Deuteronomy 1:28. The whole project had been foul from the beginning, “Out of hatred, the NAME has led us away from the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites and to destroy us,” Deuteronomy 1:27. The result: defeat and stagnation in the truest sense of the word, for thirty-eight years Israel will go round in circles. Then the turning point comes, Deuteronomy 2:1-3.13-14,

Then we turned away, moved into the wilderness, on the way to the Reed Sea,
as the NAME spoke to me [Moshe].
And we walked in circles around the mountain Seïr for many days.
The NAME spoke to me,
“It is enough for you to walk in circles around this mountain,
turn north.
. . .
Now get up, you shall cross the brook Zered [border river].”
We crossed the brook Zered.
The days we went from Kadesh-Barnea
until we crossed the brook Zered:
Thirty-eight years,
until the entire generation of war-capable men had died away
from the midst of the camp,
as the NAME had sworn to you.

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

In Deuteronomy, the initiative starts from the mobilizing word: “. . . It is enough for you to circle around this mountain; turn north. Now get up!” The word there created an Israel capable of action; now, according to John, the Human who embodies the word (1:14) creates a new, Messianic Israel capable of action. Yeshua recognized that “the time was long enough” and said, “Get up, take away your pallet and walk your way.” I do not understand why most commentators refuse to see this parallel. (189) At the moment they do not read politically, the difference becomes inexplicable and the connection is lost. In Deuteronomy, Israel’s capability to act presupposes a political situation—a short period in the slipstream of great politics or the politics of the great powers. According to John, the rule of the Flavian emperors leaves no political slipstream anywhere in the Orient. Any insistence on the possibility of being able to live in this Roman Empire according to the Torah of Moshe is illusory and leads the people astray (hamartia, “sin”). This is a principal moment in the political thought of John. The incapability to act, the political paralysis, must be made visible, especially in comparison with Deuteronomy; the number thirty-eight stands for Israel’s political incapability to act. Only Messianism, or better, the Messiah, redeems Israel from its political paralysis. The refusal to get involved with the Messiah is transfiguration and perpetuation of the paralysis—contends John.

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

7.1.2. The Shabbat, 5:9b-18

5:9b Now that day was Shabbat,
5:10 so the Judeans said to the man who had been healed,
“It’s Shabbat!
It’s against Torah (190) for you to take away your pallet!”
5:11 He answered them,
“The man who made me whole—that one told me,
‘Take away your pallet and walk your way.’”
5:12 They questioned him,
“Who is the human who told you,
‘Take it away and walk your way?”
5:13 But he who had been healed didn‘t know who it was,
because Yeshua had turned away,
being a crowd at that place.
5:14 After this, Yeshua found him in the sanctuary and said to him,
“There, you have become whole.
No longer go astray, (191)
that nothing worse may happen to you.”
5:15 The man went away and announced to the Judeans
that it was Yeshua who had made him whole.
5:16 And that’s why the Judeans were persecuting Yeshua,
because he was doing these things on Shabbat.
5:17 But he answered them,
“My FATHER is working until now,
and I too am working.” (192)
5:18 That’s why the Judeans all the more were seeking to kill him,
not only because he was breaking Shabbat,
but also he was saying that GOD was his own FATHER, (193)
making himself equal to GOD.

What follows now is structured in the same way as the process reported in chapter 9: Healing—questioning by the Perushim—new meeting with Yeshua—discussion with the Perushim. The problem is with the Shabbat. The healed person is confronted with the reproach, “It is Shabbat, and you are not allowed to take away your pallet.” He answers, “The one who made me whole, that very same one, has said, take away your pallet and walk your way.” We can assume that the man knew that it was Shabbat and that it is not allowed to carry pallets. But he who is able to make whole people like him has the right to say, even on the Shabbat, “Take away your pallet and walk your way.” The man can assume that Yeshua has a power similar to that of the heavenly messenger who stirs up the water in the immersion bath. Implicitly he pronounces what Mark 2:26 says, “The Human, bar enosh, is Lord even of Shabbat.” This is the common view of all Messianic groups, from Paul to Luke and John.

Yeshua had turned away from the healed man “because there was a crowd of people there.” This is always understood as a “logical” separation because of the crowd in the place. The verb is rare; it occurs only in this place in the Messianic scriptures and only seven times in the Septuagint. In all cases it means active and conscious action; Yeshua deliberately turned away from the event. (194)

The healed one could only designate his healer by his deed. That should be enough at first. It is then Yeshua himself who intensifies the conflict. As consciously as Yeshua turned away from him, as consciously does he seek him out. The man did not seek Yeshua, rather this one found him. Surely it is possible to write that Yeshua met him, but to find is accurate because he had something important to say to him: “Now that you have become whole, do not go astray any longer, lest something worse happen to you.” What then is the aberration of which the paralyzed man should be guilty? That can be nothing else but the paralysis itself, the incapability of Israel to move politically. What is worse for a people than political paralysis?

The political message given with the healing on Shabbat is the reason for the Judeans to persecute Yeshua politically. The struggle about the Shabbat is now hinted at, continued in chapter 7, until it reaches a climax in chapter 9.

Here Yeshua answers with a principled statement: “My FATHER works until now, so do I.” What John says in a dry sentence, Mark in 2:23-28 is telling in a small narrative, which boils down to the sentence that the Human is Lord also over the Shabbat. Mark has Yeshua ask in a dispute with the Perushim, “Is it permitted to do the good on the Shabbat or to do the evil, to set souls free or to kill?” Creation is the work of God, of which it is said, “And God saw that it was good.” Creation is “to make the good,” Genesis 1:31-2:4a,

And God saw that all that he had made was good, exceedingly!
It became evening, it became morning, the sixth day.
And completed were the heaven and the earth and all their order.
And on the seventh day God finished his works (erga) that he had made,
he rested solemnly on the seventh day from all his works (erga) that he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day, he sanctified it,
for on him he rested solemnly from all his works (erga),
which God created by making them.

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

7.2. The parable of father and son, 5:19-21

5:19 Yeshua answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
The son cannot do anything of himself,
but only what he sees the father doing;
whatever this one does, the son does in the same way.
5:20 For the father loves the son like a friend (195)
and shows him everything he does;
and greater works than these he will show him
so that you will be astonished. (196)
5:21 Just as the FATHER raises the dead
makes them alive,
so too the Son makes alive whom he wants to.

A peculiarity of the Gospel of John is the designation of the name of God YHWH with the vocable FATHER. Here John discloses to us how he came upon this title. He starts out from that social structure in which the chain of fathers—sons forms the supporting framework. We are dealing with a patriarchally structured society. The son continues the life story—the Scriptures say, the NAME—of the FATHER. He only does what he sees the FATHER doing, it says in John.

The sentence, “my FATHER works until today, so do I”, is now continued with a parable. The father does, the son also does, but always only what he sees the father doing. In patriarchally structured societies, in which not innovation but tradition is the condition of progress, this is a universally valid proposition; in the father’s workshop the son learns by imitation, “What the father does, the son also does.” Only in this way he honors the father. Because the father is connected with his son as with the one who will continue his history or his name, he shows him what he is doing, “For the father loves the son as a friend (philei)”—this applies generally—and the father “shows him all that he does”—this also applies generally. Even in patriarchally structured societies, there are intact social structures. The father is devoted to the son like a friend, not like a subordinate; he shows him what he himself does (his works) so that the son can do such works, even greater works (progress by imitation).

Then John resolves the parable. “To your astonishment” it is now no longer a matter of any father and any son, but of him whom John calls FATHER, and of him whom John calls Son of Man, bar enosh. The God of Israel shows the one whom he sends (Son) his works of creation, and even greater works: the raising of the dead (Ezekiel 37!), the restoration of creation. The transition from parable to theologically and politically grasped reality is shown in the transition from the present (deiknysin) to the future (deixei). The Father “will show him greater works so that you [the Judean opponents] will be astonished.” The work of the Father as the God of Israel is “to raise up and give life to the dead.” The work of the Son is also to make alive. Admittedly with the restriction: whom he wants to. This restriction invokes that authority that the Father, the “advanced in days” from the vision of Daniel, gave to the Son. Whom he wants to, therefore, is not arbitrariness, but the result of that trial that Daniel describes.

7.3. Interpretation of the parable: “And this is now”, 5:22-30

5:22 The FATHER does not judge anyone
but has given all judgment to the Son,
5:23 so that all may dignify the Son
as they are dignifying the Father.
Whoever is not dignifying the Son
is not dignifying the Father who sent him.
5:24 Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever is hearing my word
and trusting the ONE who sent me
has the life of the age to come
and does not come into judgment
but has crossed over from death to life.
5:25 Amen, amen, I say to you,
an hour is coming
—and that is now—
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of GOD,
and those who hear will live.
5:26 For just as the FATHER himself is living, (197)
so he gave it to the Son to live himself.
5:27 And he gave him authority to lead the trial,
because he is bar enosh, the Human.
5:28 Don’t be astonished at this;
because the hour is coming
when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.
5:29 They will go out,
those who did the good to a resurrection of life,
and those who practiced the foolish to a resurrection of judgment.
5:30 I cannot do anything of myself.
As I hear, I judge;
and my judgment is reliable; (198)
because I don’t seek my own will,
but the will of the ONE who sent me.

The trial is now entirely (krisis pasa) a matter of that Son—“for the Father does not judge”! The aim is the dignity of the Son. It is equal to the dignity given to the God of Israel. Exactly this “equality” (kathōs) is unbearable for the opponents. The “dignity” (timē), closely related to “honor” (doxa, kavod), creates a connection to Daniel, where timē stands for the Aramaic yeqir, “dignity”, the royal dignity of the judge (Daniel 7:14). The whole royal power and dignity have been given by the God of Israel to the bar enosh, the one like a human. When this transfer is completed, the Son is entitled to the same dignity as the one who sends the Son.

The sending belongs to the self-definition of the Father (active, the sender) as well as the Son (passive, the sent). What else “God” can or cannot be, is beyond any human grasp. “God” in Israel was he, she, it which Moshe sent (Exodus 3:15), “This is my name for the ages, this is my remembrance from generation to generation.” “God” in Israel shall now be he, she, it which Yeshua sends. All other or further or deeper “theology” is blasphemy.

This also applies to Islam. “God” is only revealed through the prophet Muhammad. Admittedly, Judaism and Islam do not follow this Johannine path to identify the messenger with the sender. There remains an unbridgeable difference. Therefore Moshe (Torah) is “debatable,” therefore the Talmud. With Muhammad, this is more difficult. The hadith Muhammad, the tradition of Muhammad, is indeed an indispensable guideline of life for the believers, but it is not the Qur’an, the word of Allah. The Qur’an is not “debatable,” there is no Islamic Talmud.

John here goes a step further than Moshe and Muhammad, but he does not make the messenger equal to the sender (identity of the essence—consubstantia). The Council theology of classical Christianity takes this last step. To Judaism and Islam, this is not comprehensible.

The following sentences belong to the center of what John has to say. We got to know the term zōē aiōnios during the discussion of 3:15 as the life of the age to come. “He who hears my words and trusts in him who sent me (because he sent me!) will receive the life of the age to come,” which means that he will not have to stand trial. “He has passed over from death into life,” accomplished fact, no future, present, “and that is now!” These sentences are introduced by the famous double Amen. It gave immense emphasis to what followed.

The next sentence is also introduced in this way. The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. “And this is now”—the pathos of revolution. All who ever proclaimed the revolution, 1776, 1789, 1848, 1917, etc., said of all the promises of revolutionaries, “This is now.” It is coming, and it can come only because it is already there—now. To the woman at Jacob’s well he had said, “Woman, the hour is coming—and this is now!” The hour of overcoming that history of murder, manslaughter, and destruction between Judea and Samaria—now! (199)

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

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

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

John 5:29 is based on Daniel 12:1-2,

At this time Michael, the Grand Prince, stands by your people.
This time will be a time of distress,
as it has never happened since there was a nation on earth.
At that time your people will escape,
all those that are written down in the book.
All those who sleep in the dust of the ground are awakened,
these to the life of the age to come,
those to the deterrent punishment of the age to come.

It is about the people that the NAME has written down in his book. In the scene of the Golden Calf, the NAME says to Moshe, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will wipe him out of my book” (Exodus 32:25). All Israel is awakened, the very Israel from the time of the Maccabean wars, where some remained faithful to the Torah, others surrendered to Hellenism. Strangely enough, in John, the criterion is not pointed to the trust in the Messiah, but we have a similar thought as in the great judgment scene in Matthew, 25:31 ff. “Doing the good” is the criterion, in the negative form “the foolish practice” (ta phaula praxantes). This is not Pauline, but it is evangelical! {And see 2 Corinthians 5:10, too.}

7.4. Moshe, my witness, 5:31-47 (200)

The fragment 5:31-47 can be divided as follows: The testimony, 5:31-37a, and the Scriptures, 5:37b-47.

7.4.1. The testimony, 5:31-37a

5:31 If I testify about myself, then my testimony is not trustworthy.
5:32 There is someone else testifying about me,
and I know that the testimony is trustworthy
that he testifies of me.
5:33 You have sent to Yochanan,
and he has testified to fidelity.
5:34 Not that I accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be liberated.
5:35 That one was the torch, burning and shining.
To the hour you were willing to rejoice in his light.
5:36 But I have a testimony greater than that of Yochanan:
The works that the FATHER has given me to accomplish them.
The very works I am doing testify about me
that the FATHER has sent me.
5:37a And he who sent me—the FATHER, (201)
has testified about me.

The objection of the opponents tacitly is that one they openly put forward in 8:13, “You testify about yourself; your testimony is not trustworthy.”

To this objection, Yeshua responds by admitting that his testimony would not be trustworthy if he gave testimony about himself. There is another witness, Yochanan. The opponents have demanded testimony from him, and his testimony is “to fidelity.” That is, this one had testified that the God of Israel keeps fidelity. Yeshua points to Yochanan; everything he says and does serves the liberation of Israel.

And John sets him a monument with the words, “This one was like a torch, burning, shining.“ He adds the—in most translations—enigmatic words, “You wanted to rejoice in his light for a short time.” (202) Are those who “sent to Yochanan” (1:24) identical with those who “rejoiced in his light to the hour”? Pros hōran, “to the hour,” does not mean “short time”; for this, John has other expressions. (203) Which hour? Psalm 5:12 reads, “Those who are sheltered with you will rejoice / until the age to come they will rejoice (eis aiōna agalliasontai). . .” If John refers to Psalm 5:12, agaliathēnai pros hōran means that the admiration for Yochanan is not based on the messianic aspect of his appearance, but on the moral appreciation of his person. Among the admirers was, for example, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who in his Jewish Antiquities describes Yochanan as a moral preacher,

. . . a noble man . . . who urged the Jews to strive for perfection by exhorting them to practice justice toward one another and piety toward God . . . (204)

People like Flavius Josephus had nothing to do with the messianic preaching of Yochanan, or even with his messianic testimony. They wanted him as an esteemed ethicist who did not really question the present order. “Yochanan? A noble man, one of us. He wants to make people better, but not overthrow the ruling order. But this Yeshua? A renegade. These messianists? Fanatics!” These must have been the arguments with which John and his group had to deal with and which probably caused trouble for some in his group. The admiration for Yochanan was obviously only a temporary thing.

The decisive testimony for Yeshua is his works. And the fact that Yeshua does these works he attributes to the accomplished fact that the Father has testified about Yeshua, perfect tense! This he has done by giving all power to Yeshua—and this, only this, is shown in the works. Here it is about the work through which he enables Israel—paralyzed for thirty-eight years and circling the mountain Seïr—to walk.

7.4.2. The Scriptures, 5:37b-47

5:37b No, you have never heard his voice,
as little as you have seen his shape;
5:38 for (205) you do not have his word firmly in you, (206)
because you are not trusting the one he sent.
5:39 Explore the Scriptures, (207)
because you think that in them you have the life of the age to come.
Yes, it is indeed they that are testifying about me,
5:40 but you don’t want to come to me to have life!
5:41 I don’t accept honor from men,
5:42 but I have recognized you
that you yourselves are not in solidarity with GOD.
5:43 I have come in my FATHER’s name,
but you don’t accept me;
if someone else would come in his own name,
him you would accept.
5:44 How can you trust
by accepting honor from each other?
But the honor, that from the ONLY ONE, (208)
you seek not!
5:45 Don’t think that it is I who will be your accuser before the FATHER.
There is someone who will be your accuser: Moshe,
in whom you have hoped.
5:46 For if you were trusting Moshe,
you were trusting me;
for about me that one has written.
5:47 If you are not trusting his written words,
how are you going to trust my spoken words? (209)

In the second half of v.37, a new idea emerges. To the Messianic groups, the so-called scriptural proof is essential. They do not want to be suspected of starting something completely new, even of founding a new religion. No, the foundation of their political, Messianic conviction is hai graphai, “the Scriptures.” At first, John reminds us of Deuteronomy 4. The people stood at the foot of the mountain. There was a lot to be seen, v.11, “The mountain burning with fire up to the heart of heaven, darkness, clouds, thunderstorm darkness.” Then it says, v.12,

The NAME speaks to you from the midst of the fire,
voice of the speeches you have heard,
shape you have not seen at all,
voice only!

It is to this verse that John aims and reverses it into an evil reproach,

No, you have never heard the voice,
as little as you have seen a shape,
for his speech is not firm in you,
because you do not trust him whom he has sent.

Then there is the invitation, “Explore the Scriptures because with them you think you can reach life in the age to come.” “You are of the opinion” (dokeite), says Yeshua. The opinion can, but need not be wrong, “. . . because they [the Scriptures] bear witness about me.” They did not want to move toward Yeshua, so the meaning of the Scriptures remains hidden from them. We will come back to the problem of the interpretation of the Scriptures at the end of the chapter.

At first, the passage serves to prove the reproach, “No, you have never heard the voice.” Rabbinical Judaism means to reach life in the age to come through the study of the Scriptures. In fact, lifelong study of the Scriptures and the oral tradition, as well as the protocols of this study (Talmud), has been the living heart of Rabbinical Judaism, indeed of Judaism in general. John’s accusation is directed against this self-confidence of Rabbinical Judaism. It misses the essential point of the writings, the fixed form of the voice, the Messiah. Not only the works but also the writings are testimony about Yeshua. Whoever does not understand that the Scriptures speak about Yeshua does not understand anything, so his study of the Scriptures is hollow. They, the opponents, do not want to go to Yeshua, and therefore they do not want to receive life. This is the first thesis, vv.39-40.

The second thesis refers polemically to the group structure of the emerging Rabbinical Judaism, related, by the way, to Matthew 23:1 ff. (210) At first, the reproach is reinforced, “I have recognized you; you are not really in solidarity with God. You preach Deuteronomy 6:4 ff., “Listen, Israel, . . . you shall be in solidarity with the name of your God, with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with your whole passion.” Precisely, however, you are lacking the core of the matter, and the core is the Messiah. According to John, you cannot be in solidarity with God if you are not in solidarity with the messenger of God, Yeshua.

They cannot, because they seek the honor of humans. If they would seek the honor of the NAME, they would accept him, because “I have come in the name of my FATHER.” What are you doing? You accept those who come in their own names. You accept what the great rabbi—Johanan ben Sakkai, Gamaliel, etc.— says, but because it is he who says it. You accept “dignitaries,” you practice—to use an expression of the Russian communists—“cult of personality.” But you don’t care about the matter, about the honor and power (kavod) of the ONLY ONE.

This becomes even clearer when John brings Moshe into play. The accusation of the opponents before God is not led by Yeshua himself, but by Moshe. “You,” he says, “put your hope in Moshe.” In fact, the core of the Rabbinical self-understanding is Moshe rabbenu, “Moshe, our teacher”; we will discuss this in detail when interpreting 9:27. The Perushim—the forerunners of Rabbinical Judaism—will clarify this in the discussion with the blind man, “We, however, are really Moshe’s disciples, we know that God [and only HE and no one else] spoke to Moshe,” 9:28. John turns the tables; he has Yeshua say, “If you trusted Moshe, you should also trust me, for that one has written about me.” Has he really?

Scholion 5: Christocentrism and disinheritance of Judaism

John at this point (5:39 ff.) fights for his reading, his pattern of interpretation—the interpretational principle of his reading, “If you do not trust his written words (grammata), how should you trust my spoken words (rhēmata)?” We are not surprised that he considers this reading the only legitimate one: a minority that has been subjected to exclusion and persecution never tends to be tolerant.

Originally, the Scriptures (graphai) were the written sociopolitical order of a small peasant people in the southern part of Palestine, in Judah. In the Hellenistic period, the order became a vision of humankind, after the Torah was translated into the world language Greek in the late 3rd century BCE. It became the Gran Narrative, i.e. the culture-giving universal narrative, in which people and nations know their own life narratives to be kept. In all cultural, political, and economic centers of the ancient Orient, from Mesopotamia to Anatolia and North Africa, there were groups of people who centered their lives around this written core of the ancient order.

The Judean population groups in the Hellenistic empires grew not only through the biological fertility of the people deported by the Babylonians, but certainly also through the influx of people of non-Judean origin. The latter may well have been the reason for translating the Scriptures into Greek. This points to the ideological inclusiveness of Israel’s Grand Narrative. The development from the order of ancient Judea to a vision of humankind is thus not the work of those Messianists from which later Christianity would emerge.

At the moment when Israel’s Grand Narrative is translated into one of the main languages of the goyim, the narrative becomes independent. Each author, at the moment of publication, gives his text into foreign hands; he no longer determines alone the direction of the reading. Israel’s Scriptures were already alienated long before Christianity appeared. The dialectic of the expression of Israel’s Scriptures in foreign hands has to be endured. Whatever the foreign hands bring about to the Scriptures of Israel, they remain the Scriptures of Israel, the written social order of this, and no other people. On the other hand, the children of Israel, our Jewish contemporaries, cannot undo the alienation of their Scriptures, which began in Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE. To the children of alienation—the goyim—the Grand Narrative has been made linguistically accessible by the children of Israel.

John is not a goy, he is a child of Israel, his reading of the Scriptures is a Jewish reading of the Scriptures, admittedly one that is quite bizarre in the eyes of the Jewish mainstream since the middle of the 2nd century CE. It is impossible to communicate with Jews about the reading of John. To Jews, it is simply outrageous that Moshe is said to have written about Yeshua ben Joseph as the ultimate messenger of God. The reading of John, according to which the Torah, prophets, and the other writings—Tanakh—are supposed to be directed to the Messiah (Christ), we call a Christocentric reading.

The conflict between the rabbis and heads of the synagogues in the diaspora was also a struggle about the reading of the Scriptures. The great rabbis and their disciples have a reading that is directed toward a specific line of traditions. We find it at the beginning of the Mishna tractate Avot, “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, the prophets to the men of the great congregation (ha-knesset ha-gedola).” The latter are the guarantors of the rabbis. For Rabbinical Judaism, the only authoritative reading is that traditional reading, oriented toward the tradition from Moshe, because this leaves the reading in their own hands, directed against the reading in foreign hands.

The dispute between the Messianic and Rabbinical communities about the year 100 in the Jewish diaspora is first of all a dispute about the “true” reading of the Tanakh. The Letter to the Hebrews and certainly the Barnabas Epistle are clearly attempts by the diaspora to attack the Rabbinical—Moshe-centered—monopoly of Scriptural interpretation; both letters advocate a similar—i.e., Christocentric—reading as John. This reading will set a precedent. Having resisted the temptation—on the advice of the heretic Marcion (around 150 CE)—to throw the Grand Narrative of Israel straight onto the garbage heap of history, the Christian church has consistently tried to read according to John’s maxim, “About me [‘Christ’] Moshe has written.”

The North African theologian and philosopher Aurelius Augustinus (356-430) in his De Civitate Dei (211) presents us with an exegesis of 1 Samuel 15. There it was told how Samuel, judge of Israel and prophet, announces to King Saul how he will lose his kingship because of the violation of a central Torah law. To the seventh chapter of Book XVII, he gives the title, “About the schism of the kingdom of Israel, which is the model for the eternal separation between spiritual Israel and Israel according to the flesh.” Since in Augustine “flesh” is a very negative category, his reading of the Scriptures becomes a pattern to read them in such a way that the Scriptures are taken away from Judaism (“Israel according to the flesh”). We call this process “disinheritance,” and Augustin was not the only one who pursued it.

You must not make Augustin an originator of Christian anti-Semitism; he was not an anti-Semite. The dispute over the “true” reading of the Scriptures had not yet been settled in the days of Augustin, hence his aggressiveness toward the Jews in Carthage and Hippo Regia. Later, however, his reading became an effective weapon in the hands of the Christian anti-Semites.

By their reading, the Messianists wanted to exclude that this Messiah was a Hellenistic Savior. To them, he was a child of Israel. The proof of Yeshua’s Messianity could only be given with Israel’s Scriptures. Nevertheless, from the Messianic reading of the Grand Narrative, another ideological formation arose, which consistently distanced itself from its origin of this same Grand Narrative and dissolved it into its own ideology, into Christianity.

Of course, Moshe did not write about Yeshua Messiah; in this respect, we too remain “historical critics.” But Yeshua is and remains understandable only from Moshe—and not vice versa. If John is supposed to have meant this, the sentence would be correct that Moshe wrote about Yeshua.

8. Near Passover. The nourisher of Israel, 6:1-7:1

In the succession of Rudolf Bultmann, many commentators have shifted this chapter. Now it should be inserted after the story about the recovery of the son of the royal official, in order to explain the sudden appearance of Yeshua in Galilee. However, narrators from ancient times do not have ourd logic. Our Western logic of chronic and topographical order is a narrative corset that, by the way, was untied in many novels of the 20th century. (212) Our text is about a place/time structure that is not structured by the chronometer and the map, but by the festivals.

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

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

The sixth chapter is a composition of an introduction and four parts, which are linked chiastically (crosswise) by the two keywords and thus explain each other:

6:1-4 Attunement: Near was Passover, the festival of the Judeans

6:5-15 and 6:25-59 Keyword “bread”

6:16-24 and 6:60-71 Keyword “I AM” and “YOU ARE”

8.1. Attunement: Near was Passover, the festival of the Judeans, 6:1-4

6:1 After this, Yeshua went away
to the far side of the sea of Galilee, of Tiberias.
6:2 A large crowd was following him,
observing the signs he did on the sick.
6:3 Yeshua went up to the mountain,
he sat down there with his disciples.
6:4 Near was Pascha, the festival of the Judeans.

John must have known traditions about Yeshua, which the Synoptics also knew. The tradition of the healing of the son of the royal official (4:43 ff.) belongs to them as well as the dispute with the sellers in the sanctuary, 2:14 ff. The following passage is the third element of tradition that John and the Synoptics have in common. The narration takes place “on the far side of the sea of Galilee.” In the time of Yeshua ben Joseph, the country was divided; the territories on both sides of the northern Jordan Rift Valley also later, at the time when our texts were written, were under different political administrations. The western bank was under Herod Antipas, the northern half of the eastern bank under Herod Philippos, and the southern half under the provincial administration of Syria.

The setting of the narrative is comparable to Mark 3:7-13, but also to Matthew 5:1, where the “Sermon on the Mount” begins. John presupposes knowledge of the Synoptic tradition. He says, “Yeshua went up the mountain,” a mountain that we therefore know. And sits down, as in Matthew 5:1; the disciples do not come toward him, but they are on the mountain with Yeshua. We expect “Sermon on the Mount”; we receive it in the form of a sign. The interpretation of the sign will take place in the synagogue of Capernaum, a speech that is no less programmatic than the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew. The sign is the nearness of the Passover festival. Near means: “not yet.” But the nearness of the Passover throws light on what is now being told. In 6:4 the nearness of the Passover festival is shown in the feeding of the people with bread, which satiates, but makes them hungry again. The people are promised the bread of life, which will drive out hunger “until the coming world order.” In the end, 6:70-71, the nearness of the Passover is the shadow of betrayal, the handing over of the Messiah.

8.2. The sign of the nourishment of Israel. A misunderstanding, 6:5-15

6:5 Yeshua lifted up his eyes,
and when he viewed that a large crowd was coming toward him,
he says to Philipp,
“From where should we buy bread at the market,
so that these here may eat?”
6:6 This he said to test him,
for he himself knew what he was about to do.
6:7 Philipp answered him,
“Bread for two hundred denarii is not enough for them
that each one would get even a little.”
6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, says to him,
6:9 “There’s a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread
and two pieces of side dish. (213)
But what are they for so many?”
6:10 Yeshua said, “Have the people settle down.” (214)
There was a lot of grass in the place,
so they settled down—the number of men was five thousand.
6:11 Yeshua took the loaves of bread,
said the prayer of thanks
and gave to all who were settled down
—and likewise of the side dish—,
as much as they wanted.
6:12 After they had eaten their fill, (215)
he said to his disciples,
“Gather the leftover chunks, so that nothing gets lost.”
6:13 So they gathered
and filled twelve baskets with chunks from the five barley loaves,
the rest left over by those who had eaten.
6:14 The humans saw that he had done a sign, they said,
“This one really is the prophet who is to come into the world.”
6:15 Yeshua now realized
that they were about to come and take him by force,
in order to make him king.
So he withdrew, to the mountain again,
he alone.

“Yeshua lifted up his eyes.” Thus begins the great prayer of the Messiah, John 17:1, but there it says, “to heaven.” Here his eyes remain fixed on the earth, “he views that a large crowd is coming toward him. In the catastrophic time of the period around the year 70, Israel starves to death, and the leadership of the Messianists does not see a way out, indeed hinder the work of the Messiah with arguments of “realpolitik.” This kind of realistic political braking is traditional. So it says in 2 Kings 4:42-44,

A man came from Baal-shalishah.
He brought to the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty barley loaves,
along with it fresh fruit in his bag.
He said,
“Give it to the people that they may eat.”
His official said:
“How can I give this to a hundred people?”
He said,
“Give it to the people that they may eat,
for the NAME says, eat and leave over.”
He gave it to them, they ate and Ieft over,
according to the speech of the NAME.

This is a story from the time of famine, “Elisha sat in Gilgal; the famine was in the land,” says 2 Kings 4:38. All the Gospels have connected this tale with Yeshua, two of them even twice. The disciples occupy structurally the same place in the narrative as the meshareth, “official,” of Elisha, that is, not simply a servant, but his representative, the diakonos. “It won’t work,” he says, they all say. “It will,” say two, Elisha and Yeshua, because the NAME, the God of Israel, says so. Elisha had twenty barley loaves for a hundred people. Here we must be even clearer. Yeshua had five barley loaves for five thousand people. In addition, two pieces of side dish, probably dried fish. The starting position for the Messianic movement is hopeless, hopeless in view of the superiority of the enemy.

For the first time after their vocation, the disciples perform. Andrew appears five times in the Gospel. He is the brother of Simon Peter and performs twice together with Philipp. All three came from Bethsaida, a place in Galilee. Philipp appears twelve times. Together with Andrew, he is a mediator between Yeshua and the Hellenistic diaspora (John 12:21-22), and he, the “finding” of Yeshua (1:43), conveys to Yeshua the “Israelite without deceit,“ Nathanael. The three from Bethsaida play a key role here. Andrew and Philipp as the skeptical political realists, Simon as the one who—despite all skepticism—sees no alternative to the Messiah Yeshua in the end (6:68).

Andrew and Philipp appear first. They are the only ones with Greek names, although they came from Galilee. We already mentioned that they had good connections to the Hellenistic diaspora. Both now doubt whether the Messiah can feed Israel with the means at his disposal, that is, keep them alive. The means are five barley loaves and two dried or fried fish, opsarion, “side dish.” We will find the word again in the last chapter; it marks 21:1 ff. as twin narrative to 6:5 ff. Here the Messiah is the nourisher of Israel, there the nourisher of the Messianic community (21:10). We will come back to the number five (see below to 6:32, the “real bread”). The realistic politician says that two hundred denarii would not even be enough to buy enough bread. You should know the text Isaiah 55:1 ff. if you want to understand how Yeshua “tests” Philipp. It says:

Oh, all you thirsty ones, come to the water!
He who has no money, come and buy, eat,
come and buy, but not for money,
not for the price of wine and milk.
Why do you pay money for unbread,
your toil for that which does not satisfy?

Yeshua asks, “Where shall we buy bread (agorazein, shavar)? With this question Jacob = Israel is tormented when he heard that there is grain in Egypt. He sends his sons to buy it (shavar, agorazein), Genesis 42. Both passages, Isaiah 55 and Genesis 42, resonate here. Isaiah 55 plays a role in the bread discourse when it is a question of what is real bread (lechem ˀemeth) and not unbread (lo-lechem). With the means of five loaves of bread and two fish for five times a thousand people—which the realistic politicians estimate as completely insufficient—the Messiah will feed Israel.

Exactly twelve baskets of bread chunks are left over. In any case, “twelve” means Israel, that remnant of Israel comprising the twelve disciples of Yeshua. The verb perisseuein (“to leave over”) is derived from the adjective perissos, which in turn stands for yether, “rest.” John uses a word that is missing in the story of manna in Exodus 16; there we have pleonazein, “to have excess.” The Messiah does not produce an excess, but rather feeds the “rest” of Israel, that rest which—in the prophets—was always the starting point for a new beginning. (216) It is about the remnant of Israel. The disciples cannot solve the problem. The Messiah is the nourisher of Israels, and the disciples can only be so as long as they keep to this Messiah. This is explained in the bread speech (6:26 ff.) and in the speech in which the Messiah says farewell to the disciples (15:1 ff.).

Yeshua says the traditional prayer of thanks, eucharistēsas. What happens here is really Eucharist, but this is neither the archetype of the Protestant communion nor of the Roman or Orthodox mass. Yeshua opens a new perspective to Israel and that is what makes him thankful. The word eucharistein,—except in the passage 5:23 where directly is referred to 5:11—is only found in 11:41 where Yeshua thanks the FATHER before calling Lazaros = Israel back to life from decay.

People see what is happening here. Not magic, but a sign. They interpret the sign correctly: this one is “the prophet who comes into (perhaps better against!) the world order.” So they say more than what the woman at Jacob’s well said, “I observe, you are a prophet!” (4:19) But they say less than Martha, “YOU ARE—the One-like-GOD, coming in (against) the world order,” 11:27. Yeshua is the prophet, really, like Elisha, like the prophet the people of Samaria are expecting, like the prophet Israel is expecting, like that Elijah whom the NAME will send, Malachi 3:23. A prophet who will give the people “bread” that will finally satiate, the Messiah.

What is more obvious to the people than to force (“to rob,” it says here literally) Yeshua to take over the political responsibility as king. Elisha appointed kings (and deposed them in a bloody manner) because that is part of his mission. But never in Israel the prophet himself was king. So Yeshua acts like a prophet in Israel has to act. “He withdrew, toward the mountain, he alone.” So three things happen.

“He withdrew (anachōrēsen),” in a certain sense he was an anchorite, but not a pious hermit. He did not go up the mountain “to pray,” as the Synoptics say. The Messiah is a king, as we will hear in chapter 12, but not a king under—and according to!—the prevailing conditions. His withdrawal was a political action.

“He alone,” monos, it says then. We had the Messiah as a prophet, like Elijah. Here we have the Messiah as Moshe. Now we know which mountain it is, why a definite article is written here, “Toward the mountain (eis to oros),” it says. The mountain of verse 6:3 was already known there as well. The Messiah climbs the mountain alone. He is Moshe, Exodus 24:2.

What does Israel when Moshe is alone on the mountain? Israel throws itself in front of the golden calf. What does the Messianic community when Yeshua is alone on the mountain? They struggle, in vain, seeing no land. The far side of the Reed Sea, of the Jordan, is out of reach. In any case, John here gets even with a kind of messianism that is guided by the political goal of a monarchy independent of Rome. There has been an independent monarchy under the kings from the house of Judah Maccabee. It could become nothing else but a kingdom like all the others. As long as nothing really changed in the condition of the world order as such, you could expect nothing else but royal business as usual. The catastrophic century 63 BCE (capture of Jerusalem by the Romans under Pompeius) to 70 CE (destruction of the city by the Romans under Titus) had to be the necessary consequence of a policy which the people of John 6:14 expect from the Messiah: a king and all will be well. Nothing became well, even with a king Yeshua nothing would have become well.

8.3. l WILL BE THERE, 6:16-25

6:16 When it had become late, his disciples went down to the sea,
6:17 they boarded a boat and set out across the sea toward Capernaum. (217)
Darkness had already happened, (218)
and Yeshua had not yet come to them.
6:18 A great wind was blowing, and the sea was getting rough.
6:19 When they have rowed about 25 or 30 stadia
they view (219) Yeshua walking his way on the sea, (220)
and coming near the boat;
they were afraid.
6:20 But he says to them,
“I WILL BE THERE, do not be afraid.” (221)
6:21 They wanted to take him into the boat,
and instantly the boat reached the land they were heading for.

6:22 On the following day, the crowd which had stayed on the other side of the sea
saw that there had been no other small boat there but only one,
and that Yeshua had not entered the boat with his disciples,
but that the disciples had gone away alone.
6:23 But now other small boats, from Tiberias, came near the place
where they had eaten the bread and the Lord had said the prayer of thanks.
6:24 So when the crowd saw that Yeshua was not there,
nor his disciples,
they boarded the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking for Yeshua.
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”

What happens to Israel without the Messiah? It becomes dark. This darkness is not the normal sequence of day and night. In this context, it is pointless to wave aside and say that it has become late and they are just having bad weather. The Synoptics avoid the word skotia, “darkness.” John had a reason to use exactly the word that was so important to him. Two important manuscripts foresee the danger of trivialization and replace “darkness was already” with “darkness has overcome them” (katelaben, according to 1:5). For these manuscripts, darkness was a hostile, active power. Even if we do not adopt their variant, the thought behind the interpretation is a guide. We think of Gen 1:2,

The earth had become a thohu wabohu (hayetha, egeneto):
Darkness over chaos (choshekh ˁal pene thehom, skotos epanō tēs abysson),
God’s wind brooding over the face of the waters.

The disciples find themselves in a situation that was far more desperate than that into which Israel had fallen during Moshe’s absence. They are in that condition in which the earth was before the first word sounded and the first light appeared. This sea has become to them that thehom of Genesis 1:2, seething chaos whipped up by the storm. It was on this sea, and through this chaos, that Yeshua walked his way. The Halakha of the Messiah takes place only through this seething chaos of the ruling world order (kosmos), near their boat. He does not calm them down, he rather says, “I WILL BE THERE, do not be afraid.”

Matthew, Mark, and John tell their stories in their own typical way. But all three of them have their eyes on the unruly sea, i.e. the completely chaotic political conditions after the devastation of Jerusalem. They observe the completely bewildered Messianic communities; in the case of Matthew and Mark, Simon Peter underestimates the situation; he is unable to cope with it. “Little trust” is the word, oligopistos. In John, Simon Peter plays an important role as well. But before John brings him into the game, many things have to be clarified, until Simon Peter can say in 6:69, “IT IS YOU!”

Matthew and Mark are having Yeshua calm the sea, “Duck down,” he says, and this shows what creation always means: not allowing the ever-threatening chaos to take hold. To John, this is obviously too naive. It will not be light, the wind does not settle, and the sea rages as before. Roman conditions are prevailing, and little will change in this respect in the near future.

The disciples have progressed twenty-five or thirty stadia—three or four miles—without seeing any land. But they watch the Messiah Yeshua “walking his way” on this raging sea of chaos. This frightens them. Not because they believe he is a ghost, a phantasma, as Mark and Matthew say; John avoids the word. Their fear is caused by the idea that the Messiah “walks his way” without anything being changed in the external circumstances.

Yeshua says, “I WILL BE THERE, do not be afraid.” Whatever happens, what was said to Moshe in Exodus 3:14 is remaining. The NAME is, “I WILL BE THERE!” Therefore the fear is understandable but unfounded. They wanted to take him in the boat, but it is not told that Yeshua entered the boat with them. Nevertheless, they immediately reach the shore exactly where they wanted to go, without the Messiah!

Those others from whom Yeshua had withdrawn could not be taken for fools. They held fast to their king’s project, saw that his disciples left without Yeshua, and concluded that the disciples and Yeshua had arranged to meet in Tiberias. But people from that place who had come by boat reported that neither Yeshua nor his disciples were there. Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas and made his capital. (222) Tiberias only appears in John. He alone refers to the great lake in the Jordan depression east of Galilee as the “Sea of Tiberias.” To John, Tiberias is “near the place where they ate the bread and the Lord said the prayer of thanks.” If the place is supposed to be worth mentioning, it is only because of the sign of the feeding of Israel. Yeshua was not there, so—the people guessed—he must be in Capernaum, in the “place of consolation,” the place where the dying son of the royal official revived. They found Yeshua and wanted to know in what wonderful way he had come to the other shore. This he does not tell them. He has something very different to tell.

8.4. In the synagogue of Capernaum.
The teaching of the bread of life, 6:26-59

8.4.1. The work that God demands, 6:26-29

6:26 Yeshua answered them, he said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you’re not seeking for me because you saw signs,
but because you ate from the loaves of bread and were satiated!
6:27 Don’t work for the food which passes away
but for the food that stays on into the life of the age to come,
which bar enosh, the Human, will give you.
This is the one whom the FATHER sealed, GOD.”
6:28 So they said to him,
“What should we do to work the works of God?”
6:29 Yeshua answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God:
to trust in the one he sent.”

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

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

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

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

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

The people are not stupid and grumpy opponents. They really want to know what they are to do to advance the cause of God, to do the “works of God.” They ask, “What must we do to work the works for God, ergazesthai ta erga tou theou?” This is a difficult question as long as we understand the genitive here as genitivus subjectivus. For the works of God are the creation (Genesis 2:2), the liberation of Israel (Psalm 73:28; 90:16), and the covenant with Israel (Exodus 24:3-8). Paul knows the Messianic community as the “work of God” (Romans 14:20).

The pious Judeans know the works as “works for God” (genitivus objectivus), the works that the God of Israel demanded, the fulfillment of “the commandments, laws and ordinances,” the very Torah that comes “from the mouth of God.” The works for God on a human level correspond to the works of God— creation, liberation, covenant.

But that is exactly what—as John believes—can no longer work today. The work, therefore, that God demands of Israel today is the trust in the one whom God has sent, who declares today’s age to be ended and defeated, and who embodies the coming epoch. Precisely this is implied by zōē aiōnion, not eternal life, unlimited in time, but a new life under completely new conditions.

Yeshua is not a Lutheran, he does not slam the faith in the messenger over the works of Israel. In the Messianic writings “Law and/or Gospel” is nowhere a contradiction. In order that the works of Israel do not go into the void, in order that Israel does not “putter around” without a real radical perspective for itself, the trust in the Messiah is a necessary condition.

8.4.2. No more hunger, no more thirst. The decisive day, 6:30-40

6:30 Now they said to him,
“Then what sign do you do,
so that we may see it and trust you?
What are you working?
6:31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written,
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (223)
6:32 Yeshua said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
Not Moshe has given you the bread from heaven.
But my FATHER is giving you the bread from heaven, the effective one. (224)
6:33 For GOD’s bread is the one that comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”
6:34 They said to him,
“Sir, forever give us this bread.”
6:35 Yeshua said to them,
“I AM—the bread of life. (225)
Whoever comes to me will not go hungry,
and whoever trusts in me will not be thirsty,
never!
6:36 But I told you: You have seen me, but still don’t trust.
6:37 All that the FATHER gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will not cast out.
6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will
but the will of the ONE who sent me.
6:39 And this is the will of the ONE who sent me:
that I should let nothing be destroyed of all he has given me
but should raise it up on the Day of the Final Decision. (226)
6:40 For this is the will of my FATHER:
that everyone who observes the Son and trusts in him
should have the life of the age to come,
and that I should raise him up on the Day of the Final Decision.”

Those who claim not to have seen a sign on the other side of the sea now demand a sign. The disciples are confronted with this demand in all the Gospels (Mark 8:11 par.). Apparently, the emerging Rabbinical Judaism demands evidence from the Messianists that their politics have indeed served Israel well. The evangelists deal with this demand in different ways. With John, this demand virtually becomes an obsession. Again and again, Yeshua must legitimize himself.

For the local opponents of the Messianists, who were probably followers of Rabbinical Judaism, Yeshua was at best a muddlehead, at worst an impostor, but always the embodiment of a disastrous policy. Here the question is simply, “What are you working, effecting, bringing about? What is the point of all this messianic excitement?” And they immediately refer to the difference between the spectacle of Yeshua on the other shore of the sea and the feeding of the people on their forty-year march through the wilderness—as it should be, with a Scriptural quotation (Psalm 78:24).

The opponents are different now. If those who wanted to make Yeshua king were short-sighted Zealots, now speak those who are most skeptical of any messianism. What would be the feeding of the five thousand compared with the feeding of Israel in the wilderness? (227) What follows is a fierce debate among the teachers of Israel about the interpretation of central Scriptural passages such as Psalm 78:24 and Exodus 16.

These Judeans are faithful disciples of Moshe, which is known to Yeshua. But he too points to a difference; he turns the tables. First of all, he states that this bread of heaven, the manna, does not come from Moshe, but the FATHER, the God of Israel. Yeshua’s answer undoubtedly contains a contradiction. But this contradiction must be written out completely, “Not Moshe has given (perfect), . . . my FATHER is giving (present).”

It is often noted that the quote is not literal. It is necessary that we hear the passage Exodus 16:4 in its context; all other passages, including our original text Deuteronomy 8:3, refer to this passage. The people came to the wilderness of Sin, then it says, 16:2-4,

They complained, the whole community (of the sons) of Israel,
against Moshe and against Aaron in the wilderness.
They said to them,
If only we had died by the hand of the NAME in the land of Egypt,
when we sat at the meat pot, eating bread for satiation;
instead, you have led us into this wilderness,
to kill the whole assembly of Israel.
The NAME said to Moshe,
“There, I will rain bread from heaven upon you. . .”

If his listeners do not accept the Messiah, they scorn what keeps them alive, the “bread from heaven.” And that is the effective bread, that which really is working today. Here we translate the adjective alēthinos as “effective,” because it is opposed to a bread that does not really solve the problem, is not working.

The manna stands for the “five loaves” from 6:9. It is about Moshe, about the Torah—hence “five”; “Moshe” can no longer be the answer today. Just as the five loaves can only temporarily satiate the crowd, just as the manna temporarily satiated the people then, so the Torah of Israel no longer nourishes today under the prevailing Roman conditions. It was precisely this view that Rabbinical Judaism rejected, and which today Judaism vehemently rejects. Under the given circumstances, Torah is non-real—ineffective—, says John, says Paul as well. Among those who vehemently reject this Messianic view is also the Messianist Matthew! It is not our task to express a preference for John or for Matthew. We have to interpret John.

Real—effective—, according to John, is only “the bread that descends from heaven and gives life to the world [to humans in their living space],” that is, it allows the world an order through which humans really can live. People know what Yeshua is talking about: It is about a new order that makes life possible; people want this bread because they suffer under the ruling world order. It is about politics, and people know it. It is literally about the definitive bread, about the new, definitive (pantote, “forever”) world order of the Messiah of Israel, about the definitive solution of definitive problems. This is what they want.

Yeshua pours them pure wine, says clearly and unambiguously, “I AM—the bread of life.” John introduces that famous conditional sentence that we hear dozens of times in his text, mostly constructed in a good Aramaic way with a participle, “If someone comes to me (ho erchomenos), he will not starve; if someone trusts me (ho pisteuōn), he will not thirst, never!”

Of course, seeing and trusting are two different things. A human must be able to recognize in what he sees what is actually happening. This did not happen during the feeding of the five thousand. He who recognizes this, or at least wants to recognize it, is not “repelled”—or rather “excluded, cast out”—by what the Messiah represents.

He becomes clearer. He, the Human, bar enosh, does not remain—as in Daniel—standing in front of the throne of God but comes down from heaven. Not his own will is done, but the will of the One who sent him, and this means: he has expelled him from the sphere of heavenly power into the powerlessness of a man who finds no attention. “Becoming flesh” is how the prologue summarizes this painful walk, the Halakha of Yeshua.

So why all this magic? So that people should be freed from the prison of the flesh and made into spiritual men? This is what Christianity has been preaching for almost two millennia. No, the purpose is that humans should not perish, not get lost, should not have to lead a life that means almost nothing but misery; rather, that they may lead “the life of the age to come.”

Now the symbolic action of collecting the chunks, “so that nothing is lost,” becomes clear—in both cases the verb apollesthai. Another conditional sentence: “Everyone who observes [theōrōn] the Son [the Son of Man, bar enosh], who sees him as he really is and trusts him, will reach the life of the age to come, and Yeshua will raise him up on the Day of Decision“—the day when “the court sits down and the books are finally opened” (Daniel 7:10), the day of the Son of Man when justice is finally done. On that day those who are guided by the vision of this Son can stand upright—all of them, even “the dead in their graves” (5:28). The purpose of the final judgment is that humans should be raised up, not that they should perish. This—and only this—is the will of God.

The expression eschatē hēmera literally means “last day,” or, in more sophisticated {German} language, “youngest day.” But the idea of a “last day” after which there are no more days was impossible for the Judeans of those days. Eternity as the contrast to the limited time (days) is a Christian, not a Jewish conception.

In the Qurˀan that day which John calls “the last day” is the day of judgment. In almost every one of the 114 suras of the Qurˀan, this day occurs. Afterward, a new time begins, in which those problems that determine and burden our lives have definitely been solved.

In the Tanakh, this expression is well known: be-ˀacharith ha-yamim, “in the lateness of days,” Martin Buber translates; the Greeks translate ep’ eschatōn tōn hēmerōn or en tais eschatais hēmerais. And if it really is about a “last day,” then simply about the last day of a certain series of days, for example, the Sukkot week, Nehemiah 8:18. The Tanakh does not know an absolutely last day. But it does know days on which decisive things will happen, for good (Deuteronomy 4:30) or for evil (Ezekiel 38:16).

That the dead can live again is a traditional idea; a very drastic example is the vision from the book of Ezekiel. The prophet was asked whether the many bones that lay around in a wide plain could live again,

and there were very many of them, very dry . . .
“Human child, will these bones live?”
He said, “My Lord, Eternal, you know it!” (Ezekiel 37:2-3)

These are the remnants of people who were not buried, people who were denied a dignified conclusion to life, victims of the annihilators of Israel. “Will these bones live?” It cannot be that these died in vain. It is the eternal question of all who must mourn for those who were murdered, who had to die long before their time.

This thought from the book of Ezekiel has occupied many since the Maccabean period. The Perushim were among them, they firmly expected the resurrection from the dead. And this happens on that day when “the court sits down and books are opened,” after the days of the beastly rule of the world powers. Then the days of the Human are coming, which will be completely different days, but will remain just earthly days. The last day is the day of that decision that will make all days new; it is the last day in the series of days of inhumanity.

As already said, it is the FATHER’s will that everyone who observes, who takes into consideration (theōrōn) the Son, should arrive at the life of the age to come, or, to put it another way, that this Son should make him stand up on the Day of Decision—precisely to that “upright walk” of which Leviticus 26:13 speaks and that only really is life. Resurrection to the life of the age to come therefore has to do with a Messianic theory, from theōrein, “to observe, to regard, to pay attention, to consider exactly.” Freedom is a theory that is a practice, the practice of him who walks his way of life, his Halakha, with this Messiah, taking him “into consideration” in all that he does.

8.4.3. Grumbling. Bread of life, eating meat, 6:41-51

6:41 The Judeans were grumbling about him because he said,
“I AM—the bread that comes down from heaven.” (228)
6:42 They said,
“Is not this Yeshua ben Joseph?
We know who is his father and who his mother.
How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?“
6:43 Yeshua answered, he said to them,
“Do not grumble among yourselves.
6:44 No one can come to me
unless the FATHER who sent me drags him,
and I will raise him up on the Day of the Final Decision.
6:45 It is written in the Prophets,
They will all be trainees of the NAME.
Everyone who listens on behalf of the Father and is trained (229)
comes to me.
6:46 Not that anyone has seen the FATHER
except for the one who is from GOD,
he has seen the FATHER.
6:47 Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever trusts has the life of the age to come:
6:48 I AM—the bread of life.
6:49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; they died.
6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that one may eat of it and not die.
6:51 I AM—the living bread that has come down from heaven.
if anyone eats of this bread, he will live into the age to come.
And the bread that I will give is my flesh,
for the life under the world order.” (230)

The heavenly bread in the Sin wilderness was the NAME’s answer to the “grumbling” of the children of Israel against Moshe and Aaron. It is on this “grumbling” (lun, gongyzein, diagongyzein) that John aims; he uses the word here for the first time. With this word, he connects this passage with the disputes in Jerusalem (chapters 7-8).

The verb “to grumble” disqualifies the real legitimacy of discontent. It is directed against the leadership by Moshe in the wilderness, against the leadership by the Messiah in the wilderness of Rome. Is it possible to live on eternal emergency solutions, “always only manna before our eyes” (Numbers 11:6)? Can you live on messianic illusions, is that bread, even “bread of life”? While the grumbling in the wilderness met with a certain understanding—after all, the quails brought relief—John does not waste much time with such objections: it is grumbling, grouching in a grumpy way. Yeshua for Israel plays exactly the same role as the manna in the wilderness: without this “bread from heaven” Israel will not survive the wilderness of Sin and the wilderness of Rome.

“We know you,” say the Judeans, “you are Yeshua ben Joseph, we know your father and mother!” They know where Yeshua comes from—so much for heaven! Is he to decide who will reach the life of the age to come and who will not?

John does not know a virgin birth, he does not know the metaphysical origin of a God being that is merely hiding in a material shell. The earthly mother of Yeshua appears at decisive points. And yet he is the one “who has come down from heaven.” To be, on the one hand, an earthly man with earthly parents, to lead a perishable and vulnerable existence, to be “flesh,” and, on the other hand, “having come down from heaven” is not a contradiction to John. “Having come down from heaven” means to be so completely penetrated by the will of God that there is no longer any room for an existence that would be driven by one’s own concerns.

This is extraordinary, but not unique. From the prophet of Mount Carmel, we do not even learn the name of the father, which in Israel always belonged to the own name. The name of this prophet has the NAME as its only, all-determining content: ˀEli-yahu, “my God is the NAME.” And the son of a certain Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee, has as name the liberation of Israel by the God of Israel, Yeshua as a short form of Ye-hoshuaˁ, “the NAME liberates.” That is what “having come down from heaven” means for a text that wants to be understood from the Scriptures of Israel.

“Don’t grumble,” says Yeshua, “do not behave as your fathers behaved in the wilderness of Sin.” And then Yeshua says that sentence, which could indicate divine arbitrariness, “No one comes to me, except that the FATHER, who sent me, drags him to me.” The verb means something more than just “to pull.” We think of Hosea 11:4, “With a human bond, I pulled you, with ropes of love,” or of Jeremiah 31:2-3 (LXX 38:2-3),

Thus says the NAME,
“They found favor in the wilderness,
the people that escaped the sword,
Israel walked to their rest.”
From far away the NAME allowed to be seen by me.
“With world-age love, I loved you (ˀahavath ˁolam ahavthikh),
so my solidarity dragged you (meshakhtikh chessed, heilkysa se eis oiktirēma).”

Of course, the Christian interpretation sees here the “grace of God,” which alone is to bring about the conversion of Jews and Gentiles. The interpretation of John is a different one. Just as the love and solidarity (ˀahavath, chessed) of his God has dragged Israel through the wilderness (mashakhthi, heilkysa), so the NAME/FATHER “drags” or “pulls” (heilkysē auton) Israel through the wilderness of Rome. Without him, without listening to him, Israel cannot survive the Sin wilderness, without the Messiah Israel will not survive the Roman wilderness. Yeshua “will raise them up on the Day of Decision,” for the third time in this speech we hear it.

This is written “in the prophets,” says John: “No one will train his comrade,” Jeremiah 31:33, and “All your sons will be trainees of the NAME,” Isaiah 54:13. “To train, school, teach” (limed) and “trainees of the NAME” (limude YHWH, didaktous theou) invoke the word “Talmud,” the teaching of Rabbinical Judaism. The sentence is directed against it, “He who listens to the Father and is [thus] trained (mathōn, mathētēs) (231), comes to me.”

But he warns that the Scriptures do not convey a vision of God, or, as we would say today, a religious experience. Only he who is “with God” has a “God experience,” and that is only the One sent by GOD. Only he has seen the FATHER. Thus he towers above Moshe, who was indeed granted a vision of God, but only “from behind, in passing” (Exodus 33:18-23). This relativizes the polemical sentence.

The Scriptures—and this is all that is “to be heard from the FATHER”—require training, and where there are disciples, there are teachers. Without scribes, there is no way, and anyone who opens the Scriptures at the behest of Billy Graham, or at his own good fortune, and reads them alone, will most likely understand nonsense and possibly take from them life-threatening instructions for action, such as the war in Iraq. Without a rabbi, without the teaching of an “Ecclesiastical Dogmatics,” (232) it won’t work. John was a teacher, a rabbi, though a very peculiar one.

After this is being cleared up, Yeshua takes up the bread theme again. Now a staccato of theorems is following. The one who trusts in Yeshua receives the life of the age to come. This one is the bread of life. This means: if the “I AM, I WILL BE THERE,” is still valid, then only as that bread which is the Messiah. The fathers ate the manna and died. It was not by chance that they died, but because they refused to go into the land of liberty, Deuteronomy 2:14. They ate but did not listen to the words of God through Moshe, so they died. The Messiah is the bread that comes down from heaven; just as the manna secured the life of Israel in those days, so the bread of Messiah now secures the life of Israel. This bread named Messiah is the living bread, the bread coming down from heaven, which secures life until the age to come.

Now Yeshua becomes concrete. The Messiah is the bread and as the most vital bread, he leads the earthly-political existence of the Messiah Yeshua ben Joseph, whose parents people know. He leads this political, endangered, and vulnerable existence. “Flesh” is what John calls the life of humans under the world order. The short formula for the Messiah’s existence is, “Flesh for the life of the world.” “World” does not live; people live, people in the world, that is, people living under the conditions of a real ruling world order. Being human is always to be in the world, to be under the world order. The existence of the Messiah is fleshin the world, under the world order, and thus for the world—so that its order can be an order of life. Messianic existence is political existence, otherwise is it nothing at all. (233)

8.4.4. The dispute among the Judeans, 6:52-59

6:52 The Judeans disputed among themselves, saying,
“How can this one give us his flesh to eat?”
6:53 So Yeshua said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
Unless you eat the flesh of the bar enosh, the Human,
and drink his blood,
you will not live yourselves. (234)
6:54 The one chewing (235) my flesh and drinking my blood
has life for the age to come,
and I will raise him up on the Day of the Final Decision.
6:55 For my flesh really is food,
and my blood really is drink.
6:56 The one chewing my flesh and drinking my blood
is staying firmly connected with me, and I with him.
6:57 Just as the FATHER, the living One, sent me,
and as I live through the FATHER,
so also that one chewing me will live through me.
6:58 This one is the bread that came down from heaven.
Not like the fathers ate—they died.
The one chewing this bread will live until the age to come!”

6:59 He said these things, teaching in a synagogue at Capernaum.

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

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

The fact that it says “to chew” instead of “to eat” is thus by no means a “stylistic variation,” as Wengst says. (236) Johannes does not have the sense of exercises in style here. Here our text is taking a far-reaching turn. Now he wants provocation. Whoever talks like that does not want any understanding. He wants separation, schism. That is the language of the sect.

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

Certainly, by this expression, John means a complete identification with the political existence of Yeshua, unconditional discipleship on the path of the Messiah, “He who chews my flesh, drinks my blood, remains united to me, and I to him.” But by formulating this thought in a way that is so repulsive to the Judeans, he obviously does not want them to find any access to this Messiah. This is scandalous in the true sense of the word, and John knows it, v.61! Consequently, the group around John ends up in a locked room, “doors locked for fear of the Judeans,” 20:19.26.

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

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

8.5. The decay of the Messianic community, 6:60-71

8.5.1. An evil speech, 6:60-66

6:60 Many of his disciples who were listening said,
“Evil (237) is this word—who can listen to it?”
6:61 But Yeshua, knowing himself that his disciples were grumbling about this,
said to them, “This is a stumbling block (238) to you?
6:62 What if you were to observe the bar enosh, the Human, going up
to where he was before?
6:63 It is the inspiration that makes alive,
the flesh can contribute nothing. (239)
The words that I have spoken to you are inspired,
they are life.
6:64 Yet there are some among you who do not trust.”
For Yeshua knew from the beginning
which ones would not trust him,
also which one would hand him over.
6:65 He said,
“This is why I told you:
no one can come to me
unless it has been given to him from the FATHER.”
6:66 Therefore, many of his disciples went away, backward,
and no longer walked their way with him.

Many disciples listened to this and reacted like Abraham when Sarah asked him to expel the slave girl and her son: “Evil (sklēros) was the speech, (240) and very much so, in Abraham’s eyes,” Genesis 21:11. The Greek word sklēros is often used for the Hebrew chazaq when referring to a “stubborn heart” (wayechazeq lev parˁo {e.g. Exodus 7:22}). Pharaoh’s heart was sklēros. All that Yeshua had said seemed to them evil and stubborn, blind for reality, fanatical. This is not difficult, no difficult theology, no, for “many disciples” of Yeshua this is fanatical sectarian ranting!

Of course, they too perceive the expression “eating flesh” and “drinking blood” as an evil provocation, but that is not the most important thing. Yeshua exactly knows what is going on. He places these disciples alongside the grumbling Judeans. He knows that they consider his speech not only as scandalous in our sense of the word, but as a stumbling block (mikhshol) or a trap (moqesh), highly damaging to the Messianic cause. These words stand behind the Greek word skandalon. But if, says John, they perceive this speech as a scandal and as a political stumbling block, what would happen if they were to watch the Human rising up? The stumbling block is precisely the way in which the rising will take place: the crucifixion.

Yeshua reminds them of Ezekiel 37:5-6,

Thus says my Lord, the NAME, to the dry bones,
“There, I am the ONE who makes inspiration come: You live!
And I give you muscles,
I cover you with flesh,
I stretch skin over you,
I give inspiration in you: you live,
you recognize: I AM—the NAME!”

The two lines about reviving inspiration frame the lines about the muscles, the flesh, the skin. The whole is more than the sum of the parts, the limbs, it is the breath of God, “the breath of life that makes mankind a living soul,” Genesis 2:7. This inspiration is the principle; flesh, muscles, skin only live through inspiration, “the flesh can contribute nothing to it.”

The classical translation, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is no help, is useless,” suggests an opposition between “Spirit” and “flesh,” which does not exist either in John or in the Scriptures. If the Messiah wants those who trust in him to “chew his flesh,” flesh cannot suddenly have a negative meaning here.

So the sense is enlightened from Ezekiel 37,5-6. The flesh is a part, perhaps also the sum of the parts, only the inspiration is the whole. Without the parts there is no whole, without the whole the parts are no parts, without the inspiration the flesh decays, but without the flesh, the inspiration has no real basis.

“The spoken words—rhēmata—that I have spoken are inspiration and life.” Perfect identification with the devarim, the speeches and deeds of the Messiah, chewing and drinking, are all that can inspire life. And he repeats that no human can identify himself with the Messiah if the God of Israel—and this is the Word of God—does not give it to him.

Among the disciples, there are some who do not trust this, who still have open questions. In a sect, open questions are not allowed. You may ask whether the unity of the sect does not force a member whose questions are not allowed to betray. John himself sets a connection here. It is precisely the politically intransigent nature of this text that leads to the effect that he seeks to avoid.

“Many” leave the group, and that means to John that they went “backward,” that they no longer walked the Messianic Halakha with Yeshua. Whether this means that they turned to Rabbinical Judaism, we cannot say for sure. In any case, they have enough of this kind of messianism. But not even the fact that the group was decimated was an occasion for critical self-contemplation, at least not in the phase of the group in which this chapter was written. The worst opponents are always the former sect members. More about this in chapter eight. In 8:31 ff. those who once trusted the Messiah and turned away from him have their say.

8.5.2. Words of the age to come, 6:67-7:1

6:67 So Yeshua said to the Twelve,
“Don’t you want to leave too?”
6:68 Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord,
to whom would we go away?
With you, there are words of life of the age to come.
6:69 We have trusted, we have recognized:
YOU ARE—the Messiah (241)—the Holy One of GOD.”
6:70 Yeshua answered them,
“Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve?
Yet one of you is an adversary.” (242)
6:71 He said this of Judas ben Simon Iscariot.
This one was about to hand him over—one of the Twelve!

7:1 After this, Yeshua was walking his way in Galilee,
for he did not want to walk his way in Judea,
because the Judeans were seeking to kill him.

“Do you want to leave too?” The question is addressed to the Twelve. In John, this is not a matter of course. Only at this place, the Twelve are addressed as such. Apart from 20:24, where Thomas is described as “one of the Twelve,” the Twelve play no role. In important Messianic communities, the disciples played a leading role because they belonged to the Twelve. John occupies a decidedly isolated position. Simon Peter cannot be negated by John; too unchallenged was his position among the Messianists from the children of Israel. But among his Twelve, precisely those who occupied leading positions in the other Gospels, such as the sons of Zebedee, James and John, play no role. They only appear in the chapter appended to the book, in which it is told how the group had broken through its political isolation, 21:2. In his case, it is Andrew, Philipp, Thomas, Nathanael, and that Judas who does not come from Kerioth. (243) This points to a political rift among the Messianists. But John cannot have the Twelve run away here as well, because the Twelve are the new, Messianic Israel and this Israel is what John is concerned with.

So the decisive answer is given by Simon Peter. The first part of the answer is weak. This could also mean that the others are no better. With Yeshua, however, there are “words of the age to come,” thus by no means an “evil speech.” They, the Twelve, have trusted, and consequently, they can say they have realized, “YOU ARE—the Messiah—the Holy One [the Son] of the [living] God.” This confessional answer has been handed down in old variants. (244) The Holy One is the character of Daniel 7:25. In the interpretation of the night vision, the bar enosh, the human, is described by the angel as “the people of the Holy Ones of the Most High to whom all kingly power under heaven is given.” Yeshua is the Holy One who chooses the people of the Holy Ones, the “Twelve” (see 15:16). Admittedly with a sinister restriction. The dark cloud of betrayal is rising here. For the time being, Yeshua wants to walk his way in Galilee. What was still a somewhat far-fetched threat in the fifth chapter now takes on sharper contours. One of those around him will be an instrument for those who seek to kill Yeshua, “one of the Twelve!”

Scholion 6: On the clerical-sacramental interpretation of the bread speech, especially 6:52-59

We begin with Johannes Calvin:

What Christ brings us, then, can only be felt by those who, after the world has been overcome, have the last resurrection before their eyes. From these words, it becomes quite clear that it would be wrong to refer the whole passage to the Lord’s Supper. For if without distinction, all who come to the holy table of the Lord were certainly to share in his flesh and blood, they too would have to come to life in the same way. But we know that many enjoy it unto death. And it would be foolish and untimely to speak now of the Lord’s Supper, which he had not yet instituted. That is why he certainly speaks here of the constant “food of faith.” At the same time, however, I admit that all that has been said for the faithful actually points to the Lord’s Supper and is true: Christ wanted the holy meal, so to speak, as the seal of this teaching. This is why John does not mention the Lord’s Supper. So Augustine also follows the correct order, in that he, in interpreting this chapter, does not touch the Lord’s Supper until he has come to the end. But then he teaches that the mystery is presented in this sign as often as the congregations celebrate the holy meal, be it here daily or only on the days of the Lord.

So if we reject the sacramental interpretation of John 6, we find support from called mouths. Rudolf Bultmann interprets John 6:51-59 sacramentally and solves the problem by taking the fragment as a later insertion. “Ecclesiastical editors” would interpret the bread speech from the ecclesiastical practice of the congregations. These editors thus proceed not unlike commentators like Barrett, Becker, Bultmann, Schulz, Weiss, Wengst, Wilckens, e tutti quanti. Exceptions are Klaus Berger and Boendermaker/Monshouwer. Berger writes, “The Gospel of John stands apart from the actual church practice as it was exercised in churches of the Pauline and Lucanian areas; there they regularly celebrated communion.” (245) Boendermaker/Monshouwer are clearer:

It is not easy to go back behind the conditions that have prevailed in the Western church for centuries. The meal in John, and even the sermon he preached, is far too harmless for a church that made the celebration of the Eucharist the cornerstone of church and ministry and also for a church that made participation in the meal subject to many conditions. Both the Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions have trouble acknowledging that their own habits could probably not have come from an evangelical source.” (246)

Just as John does not explicitly polemicize against the baptismal practice of the Messianic groups, he does not openly polemicize against the practice of commemorating the Messiah through bread and wine “until he comes.” But he gets along without them. We can at most suspect that John senses the danger of religious mumbo jumbo arising from this practice. If “sacrament,” then with him at most the washing of feet—the sacrament of solidarity.

The churches could not and cannot do much with it because the clerical administration of sacraments—which the Reformation by no means cleared up, but which it had confirmed by an administrative reform—remains the right to exist of all church orders and is not, like the Synoptic Lord’s Supper, a sign of a liberated, Messianic life. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1966), the Vatican had given the ritual of washing the feet a certain overall ecclesiastical consecration; but the whole thing is no more than religious folklore, as the Lord’s Supper was—and is—a kind of religious magic. (247) The speech of the “bread of life” is the speech of an unconditional Messianic discipline and not of a ritual act.

9. Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. The great struggle, 7:2-10:21

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, forms the framework of the great confrontation with the Judeans in Jerusalem. This long chapter can be easily divided:

1. Ascent to Jerusalem, 7:2-10

2. About the Messiah, 7:11-52

[Intermezzo: Being put to the test, 7:53-8:11]

3. The light of the world, 8:12-30

4. Before Abraham was born: I WILL BE THERE, 8:31-59

5. Of the blind and sighted, 9:1-41

6. About the unity of Israel, 10:1-21

Water and light determine the festival, for the Judeans the highlight of the year, and they also determine the chapter. At the end of the chapter, Yeshua unfolds his actual political program: the unity of Israel.

The text problem 8:1-11 was seen very early. There are, despite Franz Hinkelammert, (248) no serious objections to the view that this passage was inserted late—probably not until the early 4th century—by a theologian when the text was copied. No one can say where he got the fragment from. The diction reveals proximity to the Synoptic Gospels. After all, the piece has been handed down for fifteen centuries as part of the Gospel of John. We will have to ask ourselves what theological—and that always means political—reasons there were for the insertion.

The traditional festivals Pascha and Sukkot are festivals that last a whole week. Sukkot takes place in the first month, Pascha in the seventh month. The new eight-day festival, Hanukka, renewal, is not found in the Torah and was added to the festival calendar in the 2nd century BCE. These three festivals are mentioned by John. To him, these festivals are stations on the way from Pascha to Pascha. Sukkot, “leaf huts,” remind Israel of the time when it stayed in the wilderness. It is a festival of the Torah, of water and light. Another feast day is added to the festival, simchat Torah, “Joy of the Torah.” It is a cheerful festival and closes the first month of the year, the month of the Rosh ha-Shana (“New Year”) and of Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”). To John, the Messiah is the center of the festival: He gives the living water and he is the light. Of course, for those who want to see, even if they were born blind. Sukkot is the festival of Israel among the nations. The Messiah brings all of Israel from the land and from the countries of the nations together into one yard, like the shepherd brings the sheep into one yard. John tells this in 7:2-10:21.

9.1. Ascent to Jerusalem, 7:2-10

7:2 Near was the festival of the Judeans, Sukkot, Feast of Tabernacles.
7:3 So his brothers said to him,
“Leave here (249) and go away to Judea,
so that your disciples also can observe the works you do.
7:4 For no one does anything in secret,
he seeks to work publicly. (250)
If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world order!”
7:5 For not even his brothers were trusting in him.
7:6 So Yeshua said to them,
“My minute has not yet come;
for you, any minute is opportune. (251)
7:7 The world order can’t fight you with hate,
but it does fight me with hate,
because I bear witness against it that its works are evil.
7:8 You, go on up to the festival;
as for me, I am not going up to this festival,
because my minute is not yet fulfilled.”
7:9 Having said this, he stayed on in Galilee.
7:10 But when his brothers had gone up to the festival,
he too went up,
not publicly but in secret.

The disciples apparently expect something from the upcoming great festival, where all Israel was to gather for a week. Of these disciples, it is above all the “brothers of Yeshua” who want to see facts created at the Sukkot festival. Yeshua shall “explain” himself there and thus become the center of the festival. This is what happens, but in a different way than the brothers imagined.

Until the beginning of the modern age, Christianity could not imagine that Yeshua had brothers. He had brothers, and these brothers played an important role in the Messianic movement. The Messianic community in Jerusalem was the community of the brothers of Yeshua; James, the “brother of the Lord”—not to be confused with James, the son of Zebedee—was their superior. From their direct relationship to Yeshua, they developed claims to a leading role in the Messianic movement. All Gospels polemicize against this kind of leadership claims based on kinship, Mark 3,31-35 par.:

His mother and his brothers came.
They stood outside, sent for him, and called him.
Around him sat the crowd.
And they said to him,
“There, your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside
and seek you.”
He answered them, he said,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
He looked at those who sat around him, he said,
“Look, my mother and my brothers.
He who does the will of God,
he is to me mother and brother and sister.”

This polemic is directed against the Messianic communities, in which the kinship of Yeshua played an important role, and also against the Messianic community of John, where the mother of Yeshua apparently had a central position (19:26-27). (252)

John polemicizes here against the brothers; they see in Yeshua a political asset, “Make yourself known to the world order!” They wanted an open political challenge to the real existing political power. To them, the politics of Yeshua is the politics of a subversive existence; what he does, he does “in secret.” After all that he has shown in Galilee, this should end now. The crowd has recognized the Messiah on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Now he is to reveal himself as Messiah in the center of power, that is, to make his political claim.

To John, the brothers—the Messianic community of Jerusalem—had been sympathizers of the militant Zealot movement. The dispute between Yeshua and his brothers is about the word kairos. With him, the word occurs only here. John otherwise avoids the word. He prefers to talk about hōra, “hour.” Apparently, to him, the word kairos was infected with a Zealotic virus. Here he must use the word kairos. To the militants, kairos is always there; the Zealots always seek the opportunity to make the time “ripe” (hetoimos, “ready”) to fight the final battle.

Especially in the diaspora, there were people with militant views. Their war against Rome (115-117) also ended in a catastrophe. Each messianism constantly lives in the temptation to want to shorten the time. (253) Yeshua’s objection consists in the particle oupō, “not yet.” We hear this political “not yet” seven times in John, the last time in 20:17.

Even the resurrection of Yeshua is subject to the reservation of “not yet.” Maria from Magdala is sent by Yeshua to his brothers with the message, “I, Yeshua, ascend to my FATHER and your FATHER, to my God and your God.” Only then, the ascension can begin, it is not yet complete, “I have not yet (oupō) ascended to the FATHER.” Even the resurrection is no legitimation for the Zealotic kairos. Maria from Magdala is sent precisely to the brothers of Yeshua, who are apparently still busy with analyses of kairos. “Not yet” applies to the year 100, too; it applied to any point in time between the years 60 and 100; more to this, in the discussion of 20:17-18.

The seventh chapter can only be understood against the background of the great march of the Zealot fighters from Galilee to the city of Jerusalem in the year 67, a march to perdition, as John and his community knew. The militants did not think much of a life “in secret,” which John saw as the only realistic political option, “Even his brothers did not trust in him.”

The reason is the hatred of the world order. We will stick to the view that with kosmos is meant the (Roman) world order. Then the question arises, why Rome should not hate the Zealot fighters but Yeshua. Rome considers the Zealot fighters to be adversaries who are familiar with it. It fights them with that dispassionate determination with which it has always fought its opponents and almost always dealt with them. The Zealots fight Rome on the same level, with military means. On this level Rome is superior. Why should Rome hate the brothers of Yeshua?

“Me, however, the world order hates,” says Yeshua. To John, hate is always: uncompromising rejection. The world order rejects Yeshua uncompromisingly because he is uncanny to it. We ask, of course, why Yeshua is uncanny to it; it does not even perceive him. At this point, the question cannot be answered. John gives an answer as late as in the story about the interrogation of Yeshua by Pilate. On Pilate’s side, this interrogation is a mixture of arrogance and fear. Yeshua was uncanny to Pilate. There is only one word for this mixture: hate. Rome does not fight the Messianists with weapons, but with hate.

The attitude of the executioners during the so-called persecutions of Christians was always fed by a mixture of contempt and the feeling of uncanniness that the martyrs instilled in them. To this hateful order, you can only reveal yourself if there is an absolute alternative, that is, if “the moment is fulfilled.” That is just not the case, and that is why the world order, all who profess it, cannot recognize him as what he really is: the Messiah of Israel. He is hidden in what he does and is. The Messianic existence is subversive, that is what the verb kryptein says, “to hide oneself.”

Under the circumstances that the brothers want, he cannot and will not go up to the festival. He does not want to have anything to do with the Zealot messianic euphoria. “You may go up,” as so many people have gone up from Galilee. All they could achieve, was at the most riot, bloodily crushed by the Roman soldiers (Luke 13:1 ff.). To go up “publicly” means nothing but riot, senseless rampage. You may go, he does not go, says Yeshua, not with you, not as you go; not as a public figure, with claims to be made publicly (phanerōs), but in secret (en kryptō).

The next sections deal with the hiddenness, the subversiveness of the Messiah. And we will see that political unambiguity and subversiveness do not contradict each other but presuppose each other. Under Roman conditions, subversiveness without political unambiguity denatures into gangsterism; political unambiguity without subversive practice is only featuring the court jester of the system.

9.2. About the Messiah, 7:11-52

7:11 Now the Judeans were seeking him at the festival, they said,
“Where is he?”
7:12 There was much whispering (254) about him among the crowds;
some said, “He is good,”
but others said, “No, he is leading astray the crowd.”
7:13 However, no one spoke about him openly,
for fear of the Judeans.

7:14 When the festival was already half over,
Yeshua went up to the sanctuary and was teaching.
7:15 So the Judeans were astonished, saying,
“How does he know about written words,
without having been trained?” (255)
7:16 Yeshua answered them, he said:
“My teaching is not my own,
but from the ONE who sent me.
7:17 If anyone wants to do his will,
he will recognize from the teaching whether it is from GOD
or I speak on my own.
7:18 The one who speaks on his own
is seeking his own honor;
the one who seeks the honor of the one who sent him,
he is trustworthy,
there is nothing false (256) about him.

7:19 Didn’t Moshe give you the Torah?
Yet not one of you does the Torah!
Why do you seek to kill me?”
7:20 The crowd answered,
“You are possessed! (257)
Who seeks to kill you?”
7:21 Yeshua answered, he said to them,
“One work I did, and all of you are astonished.
7:22 Therefore:
Moshe gave you circumcision
—not that it came from Moshe but from the fathers—
and on Shabbat, you circumcise a human.
7:23 Although a human receives circumcision on Shabbat
so that the Torah of Moshe will not be broken,
you bawl me out, (258)
because I made a whole human whole on Shabbat?
7:24 Don’t judge according to the appearance,
but judge a reliable judgment!” (259)
7:25 Now some of them of Jerusalem said,
“Isn’t this the one they seek to kill?
7:26 There: he is speaking openly, and they don’t say anything to him.
Have the authorities really recognized
that this one is the Messiah?
7:27 But from this one we know where he is from;
but when the Messiah comes,
no one will have knowledge where he is from.”
7:28 Now he cried out, teaching in the sanctuary, Yeshua said,
“You know me, and you know where I am from!
And I have not come on my own,
but trustworthy is the ONE who sent me;
and him you don’t know.
7:29 I do know him because I am with him,
that ONE sent me.”
7:30 Now they sought to seize him;
but no one laid a hand on him;
because his hour had not yet come.
7:31 Among the crowd many trusted in him, they said,
“If the Messiah would come, he will do no more signs
as this one has done.”

7:32 The Perushim heard the crowd whispering these things about him;
and the leading priests and the Perushim sent officials (260)
in order to seize him.
7:33 Now Yeshua said,
“Still a little while I am with you, (261)
and then I go away to the ONE who sent me.
7:34 You will seek me, you will not find me;
and where I am, you cannot come.”
7:35 The Judeans now said to themselves,
“Where is this one about to go his way, that we won’t find him?
Is he about to go his way to the diaspora (262) among the Greek
and teach the Greek?
7:36 What is this talk that he said,
‘You will seek me, you will not find me’; and,
‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
7:37 On the last day, the greatest one, (263) of the festival, Yeshua stood there,
and he cried out, saying,
“If anyone is thirsty, he shall come to me
and he shall drink
7:38 who is trusting in me, (264)
as the Scripture says,
Rivers of living water
will flow from his body!” (265)
7:39 This he said about the inspiration,
that those who trusted in him were about to receive.
But there was no inspiration yet,
because Yeshua had not yet come to his honor.

7:40 On hearing these words, some of the crowd said,
“This one really is the prophet!”
7:41 Others said,
“This one is the Messiah.”
Still others said,
“No, the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?
7:42 Does not the Scripture say,
From the seed of David, from Bethlehem—house of bread—,
the village where David was,
comes the Messiah?”
7:43 A schism came about among the crowd because of him.
7:44 Some wanted to seize him,
but no one laid hands on him.

7:45 Now the officers came back to the leading priests and the Perushim,
these said to them,
“Why didn’t you bring him?”
7:46 The officers answered,
“Never a human spoke like this before!”
7:47 The Perushim answered them,
“You have not been also led astray?
7:48 Has any of the authorities trusted him?
Or any of the Perushim?
7:49 But this crowd that does not know the Torah,
they are cursed!”
7:50 Nicodemos said to them
—the one who had gone to him before, being one of them—,
7:51 “Does our Torah judge the human
without hearing from him first and recognizing what he’s doing?”
7:52 They answered and said to him,
“You aren’t from Galilee too, are you?
Explore and see:
From Galilee no prophet arises!”

The Judeans were looking for him: “Is he there or not?” At first, they were looking for nothing but an answer to this question. Their interest in him was fuelled by rumors. They wonder what to think of him, whether he is good. Good for what? The antithesis answers this question. Good for leading the people. Some thought he was “good” in this respect, others, rather, that he was leading the people astray.

These questions cannot be discussed openly, “for fear of the Judeans.” The Judeans seek him, there is a fear of them; the problem in 7:11-13 is the ambiguity of the subject. There is a tension between the crowd (ochlos) and the Judeans (Ioudaioi). In any case, the idea of Ioudaioi, Judeans, Jews, is here strictly ambiguous: “Jews” are afraid of “Jews.”

The festival is already half over, half of the great time of processions with palm branches and torches. Here a festival is celebrated that is not yet a festival at all. The indication of time in 7:14 is not a neutral determination, but rather denotes an empty space. The walk to the festival had been a hidden, subversive one. Now, it seems, Yeshua is lifting this hiddenness. In truth, he moves among Judeans who are afraid of Judeans; the Judean crowd protects him from the seizure of Judean officials; the crowd is the precondition for subversive existence.

This part (7:2-12:50) is about the question of who the Messiah is; what he is, proves itself in what he does. The question is answered by the two signs (John 9 and 11). Whether these signs are an answer depends only on trust in the Messiah. The brothers do not have this trust. The crowd does not yet have this trust, it is wavering (7:31).

Yeshua performs as a teacher (didaskalos, rabbi); in the days before the devastation of Jerusalem, the place of teaching was the sanctuary. In the sanctuary, the teachers authorized to do so taught, who had to go through appropriate training. Apparently, Yeshua was not an apprentice of a generally known rabbi; he was not “trained” (memathēkōs). They asked him where he got his teaching, who his rabbi had been or is. Since he cannot present a teacher, his teaching must have come from himself and is therefore not trustworthy.

The answer is that the teaching does not come from himself, but from the One who sent him. This is precisely the problem, and this is precisely what remains the problem, especially in the two chapters 7 and 8. Anyone who is not prepared from the outset to accept the teaching of the Messianic communities must at least remain skeptical, but in most cases reject it. Yeshua’s point is: All children of Israel must “do the will of God.” Who wants to do the will of God must decide whether the teaching of Yeshua comes from himself or from God. Every trustworthy teacher must refer to the teaching of his teacher.

In fact, the Talmud argues similarly. An assertion is made (the teaching) and reference is made to the teaching of recognized teachers, “Rabbi so-and-so said, etc.” The difference here is that Yeshua’s teacher is God himself, which is totally unacceptable to the Judeans, the representatives of Rabbinical Judaism. There is no place for Yeshua ben Joseph of Nazareth in the line of proven teachers from Moshe, Joshua, the elders, the prophets, the men of the great congregation to the teachers Hillel and Shammai, who appeared at the turn of the eras. (266) Whatever he is, he has nothing to say to the Judeans, he is simply not trustworthy.

For the fourth time, we hear the verb “to seek.” Trustworthiness, as Yeshua says, does not come from a place in the traditional chain of transmission, but only from the fact that the teacher seeks the honor of the one who sent him. Yeshua here does not explicitly say that God sent him; the sentence is general: the teacher honors the one who has entrusted his teaching to him, if and as long as he refers to him. Only then he is trustworthy and does not lead the people astray. For 7:18 refers back to the “untruthfulness” (adikia) that is in the reproach planan, “leading astray” (7:12).

Yeshua suddenly switches back (267) to the reproach that the Judeans had made to him on the occasion of the healing of a paralyzed man, that he revokes the Shabbat commandment and thus the Torah, i.e. Moshe (5:9b-18). All Messianic communities had to deal with this accusation (Mark 2:2 ff. par.). The bar enosh was Lord of the Shabbat (Mark 2:28), and in the synoptic tradition, he had the privilege of performing works on the day of the Shabbat that actually were prohibited.

John argues here in a different, almost Rabbinical way. The first argument is a kind of tit-for-tat: If I violate the Torah (Moshe), what about you? “None of you do the Torah, why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd is outraged. In fact, John is lumping together Judeans who are afraid of Judeans with those Judeans who instill fear in other Judeans. The outrage of the crowd is therefore justified.

But Yeshua’s reproach cannot be dismissed: If he violates a central rule of the Torah, he is, according to the Torah, guilty of death: Performing works on Shabbat is a capital crime, Numbers 15:32 ff.; Mishna Sanhedrin 7:8. Yeshua teaches them in a good Rabbinical manner. “Moshe has given you circumcision.” But beware: why doesn’t he say, “Moshe has given us circumcision”? The “Lord of the Shabbat, of the Torah,” is not subject to the Shabbat commandment, neither is the God of Israel, “My FATHER works until now; so I also work,” 5:17. Moreover, circumcision had been there long before Moshe had prescribed it, before “your Torah” existed, Genesis 17:9 ff.

Be that as it may, it is permitted, indeed prescribed, to circumcise a male child on the eighth day after his birth, even if it falls on a Shabbat; if this were not done, the Torah would be revoked. If it is permitted to make a man a member of the people on the Shabbat, (268) why should it not be permitted to “make a whole man whole on the Shabbat”? What does this expression mean? Through circumcision the circumcised child becomes part of the people, the whole paralyzed man becomes completely whole. This stands for the completely paralyzed Israel. “You bawl me out because I healed Israel on Shabbat?”

To do Torah means “not to judge according to outward appearances, but with the proven right,” Deuteronomy 16:18-19. Yeshua here does not distance himself from the Torah and neither from the Shabbat. But whoever handles the Torah as if it were a club of injustice (“your Torah,” nomos hymeteros) distances himself from the Torah itself, “None of you do the Torah,” says Yeshua, and that means, “The way you do the Torah, you turn it into the opposite.”

As in 7:12, we hear in 7:25 the inner discussion among the Judeans in the crowd. They are debating a rumor, “They” are seeking to kill Yeshua. But “they” let him calmly say what he thinks in public (parrhēsia). Have “they” perhaps recognized that the Messiah is performing here?

The people in this crowd show Messianic knowledge. The Messiah comes, without anyone being able to say from where. He is there and everything will be different. But the people know the origin of Yeshua, Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee. For this reason alone, he cannot be the Messiah. Yeshua says, “You know me,” my origin, but you know very well that nothing is said with the statement of my official origin; you know very well that I have not “come from myself.” What I am is that I am sent, no matter whether I come from Nazareth, Galilee, or elsewhere, no matter whether my father is Joseph of Nazareth, Galilee, or another. What you do not know is who sent me. I, so Yeshua says, know him, I am with him, he has sent me.

“They”—those fear-instilling Jews—have meanwhile recognized that no harmless fool appears here, they try to get hold of him. For the time being this does not work, because his hour has not yet come. Here it says “hour” against “opportune moment,” hōra against kairos. His hour will come, in this hour all foolish messianic expectations will be shattered.

The discussions continue. Many trusted because they had seen the works that traditionally are associated with the Messiah: The deaf hear, the blind see, the paralyzed can walk, as the prophet Isaiah said in the song yesusum midbar, “Let the wilderness rejoice,” Isaiah 35:1 (see above in the discussion of 4:14). The Perushim heard these discussions and knew: this is a highly political matter. They informed the authorities (archiereis, “the leading priests”) and ordered the arrest of Yeshua. Both leading priests and Perushim are the “official” Judea, although the Perushim were political opponents of the leading priests. Both groups together pursued the goal of arresting Yeshua. At the trial, the death sentence, and the execution, the Perushim are absent; they had played their part in the arrest. Only the leading priests were protagonists there.

Yeshua, however, is not very impressed. After kairos and hōra we hear a third word, chronos mikros, “a little while.” It is the “little while” when the Messiah is with his people and especially with his disciples (12:35; 14:9—here chronos without mikros; 16:16 ff.—here mikros without chronos). This can be compared with the “long time” (polyn chronon) in which Israel was paralyzed, 5:6. Chronos means “duration of time,” the other two words “points in time, moments.” The time of the Messiah is a little while, in John, it is a temporary period.

The Messiah is going away to the one who sent him, that is, to a place where they cannot get to. The Messiah enters the hiddenness of God. There every seeking will be in vain. Yeshua expresses himself in a cryptic way, the misunderstanding is intended, as in chapter 6. The crowd continues to discuss and puzzle about what is meant, whether Yeshua—after his failure in Judea—wants to go abroad, into the diaspora, to try his luck in teaching the Greeks—the Greek-speaking Jewish diaspora—or, as we will hear in 8:22, to kill himself. To John, misunderstanding is a literary means of breaking off a discussion that can lead to nothing. It remains hidden from the people who Yeshua really is as long as they do not trust. The festival is half over and nothing new has happened.

The hiddenness of the Messiah is deepened once more on the last and great day of the festival. Yeshua becomes loud for the second time, he calls out:

If anyone is thirsty, he shall come to me,
and he shall drink who trusts in me,
as the Scriptures says . . .
Rivers will flow from his body,
of living water.

Here all exegetes have a problem because the quotation from the Scriptures is nowhere to be found. We must first remember the conversation with the woman from Samaria, where it was also about “thirst” and “living water.” There too we heard the word pneuma, “inspiration” (“spirit”). The water that Yeshua promises to the woman proves to be the life-giving peace between the two peoples inspired by a new spirit.

What or who is “living water”? The answer from Jeremiah 2:13 is the clearest: “They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water.” The fountain of living water is the God of Israel. The new that is to be created here is like “a way through the wilderness, like rivers through the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). The concluding chapter of the great consolation speech in the book of Isaiah begins, 55:1, “O all who thirst, come to the water. . .” (see above in the discussion of 6:7). John Calvin was quite right when he wrote in his commentary that what is meant here is not a “particular scriptural passage” but “the testimony of the entire teaching of the prophets.” (269)

But people cannot understand exactly what is meant. John himself interprets his word by anticipating the end of his narrative. By “water” is meant what in the church is called “spirit,” and we have rendered with “inspiration.” This inspiration will come from Yeshua, but only when he will have reached his goal (19:28 ff.). More details we will learn not until the great passage “When he comes, the Summoned One (paraklētos) . . .,” 15:26-16:15. Yeshua will have reached his goal when all illusions about the Messiah, all foolish political Messiah projects, will have found their catastrophic end when Yeshua will have been crucified and finally gone into the hiddenness of his God, only then the inspiration will come from him, which will unite all Israel worldwide. “Rivers of living water” will then go out from the Messiah worldwide, and this is exactly what John means by inspiration of sanctification.

People suspect that decisive things are happening here. But everything that is politically decisive divides them. Some of them guess here at the Messiah. This presumption is shattered by that pseudo-knowledge with which a new political initiative is talked out of existence everywhere and at all times. The Messiah comes from Bethlehem, says the prophet, Micah,

And you, Bethlehem Ephrata,
too small to become one of the thousands in Judah,
out of you, someone comes forth
who will rule Israel.
His origin is as from the ancient days (5:1).

Like David, the Messiah will come from this place, so he will play the role of David. It is precisely this rumor about the Messiah that John fights against. “David” is a new kingdom for Israel, and such a Davidic Messiah project had ended in Jerusalem in the year 70 in a catastrophic massacre. Furthermore, he does not mention David with a single syllable in his Gospel. The Messiah is the biological son of Joseph—Yeshua ben Joseph—and not the son of David. If anything, he is the “Son of God”, One like GOD. In John, he does not have blue Davidic blood. The people were divided. Some thought that the works were the Messianic criterion, others that the right origin had to be added. The matter remains undecided for the crowd, the schism remains.

Some officials try to arrest him; the plan was—still—unfeasible. The officials return to their principals without having achieved anything. They ask them why they had not arrested Yeshua. Odd is the reasoning of the officials, “Never has a man spoken like this!” Not a possible resistance of the crowd, in which there were many sympathizers of Yeshua, but the power of his words kept them from getting violent. Political unreliability dawned to the Perushim, “Have you too perhaps been led astray?” In the crowd there had also been Judeans who believed that Yeshua was misleading other Judeans (7:12), and neither the authorities nor the Perushim trusted Yeshua. The archontes (“superiors, authorities”) are not only the leading priests but all those who exercise political power.

The Perushim bring a new argument. They do not accuse the crowd of political ignorance, but of anomy, lawlessness. They do not know the Torah, they do not recognize the Torah, that is the accusation. And whoever does not recognize the Torah in Israel is cursed according to the Torah. In this respect, the Perushim are right. For the question is whether the crowd actually does not recognize the Torah. Thus here Judeans interact with other Judeans, one party cursing the other!

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

The Perushim feel caught; they have condemned the crowd and had no right to do so. Now they accuse Nicodemos of being from Galilee and therefore trust a Galilean messianic pretender—but no Messiah comes from Galilee, as the Scriptures say, Micah 5:1-2. Only terrorists come from there. Yeshua will deal with the question of his origin, 8:12 ff.

A theologian from the 3rd century has seen a discrepancy at this point, between 7:52 and 8:12 there is a gap. Room for an instructive intermezzo.

[Intermezzo: Being put to the test, 7:53-8:11] (270)

7:53 And they went their way, each one to his own home.
8:1 But Yeshua went his way to the Mount of Olives.
8:2 At daybreak, he went again into the sanctuary,
all the people came to him,
on the Chair (271) he was teaching them.
8:3 The Torah-teachers (272) and the Perushim brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery (273)
and made her stand in the midst
8:4 and said to him,
“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery.
8:5 In our Torah, Moshe commanded to stone such.
What do you say about it?”
8:6 They said this to test him,
so that they might have [ground] to accuse him.
Yeshua bent down
and was writing with his finger on the earth.
8:7 When they kept questioning him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Who among you is without aberration,
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
8:8 Again he bent down and was writing on the earth.
8:9 On hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the older ones,
and he was left alone, and the woman being in the midst.
8:10 Straightening up, Yeshua said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
8:11 She said,
“No one, Lord.”
Yeshua said,
“Neither do I condemn you.
Go your way, and don’t go astray anymore.”

Before we discuss this passage, we make a few brief remarks about the text situation. Some of the old manuscripts of the Gospel of John bring our intermezzo here, others do not. The earliest almost complete manuscript on papyrus and in book form, P66 from the time around 200, does not provide it, and it is also missing in important old manuscripts written in capital letters and dating from the period between the 4th and 9th centuries.

Byzantine monks, who produced many manuscripts—mostly written in small letters—also passed on our intermezzo, but not unanimously. A certain family of such manuscripts had a problem here. The monks thought that the passage did not belong here (after John 7:52), but that it was worthy of tradition and inserted it into the Gospel of Luke after 21:38, i.e. after the great speech about the end of the ruling age and before the Passion narrative. (274) A Byzantine manuscript decided on an appendix after the Gospel of Luke.

We can see that there have been discussions about the authenticity of our intermezzo already in antiquity or the Byzantine Middle Ages. Moreover, the tradition of the fragment has not been smooth. Sometimes the verses 7:53 and 8:1, occasionally 8:2 are omitted.

The question is not whether John was the author of the fragment. The question is: Does the intermezzo help to understand the context of John 7-8 more precisely?

The fragment is a through-composed whole, it is a literary achievement of a great narrator. Where does it come from, from what context, why is this context, any known or unknown Gospel, not handed down? There is no satisfactory answer to these questions—unless the theologian inserts a narrative written or found by him to solve the problems he has with the text. Which did he have? (275) Why does the narrator have Yeshua go to the Mount of Olives all at once, only to reappear in the temple the next morning? And why at this point?

The problem is hidden in the scene with the officials, the Perushim and Nicodemos. The whole people is cursed without having been heard. Against this, Nicodemos objected that the Torah does not condemn a person without his guilt being established. It seems to us that the intermezzo is intended to solve a problem that John invokes but does not solve: What if the guilt is established, how does the Messiah then act? In the preceding scene, a rather absolute and negative judgment is pronounced on the crowd. Nicodemos at least takes this as a condemnation. The passage 8:12-20 is also about “to judge” and “judgment” (krinein, krisis). There is a substantial connection with our intermezzo.

The Mishnah (Sanhedrin 7:4) gives a list of those crimes which are to be punished by stoning: incest, bestiality, homosexuality, blasphemy, and idolatry. Also mentioned are cursing of parents, rebellion and serious offenses against parents, and desecration of the Shabbat. In this list, the Mishnah does not go beyond what is recorded in the Torah (Leviticus 20, Deuteronomy 22).

The legal case submitted to Yeshua for decision is adultery. We expect Yeshua to be told the reasons for the judgment. But he neither asks for witnesses nor does he question the woman. According to Nicodemos, the accused must first be heard before guilt is spoken of. Yeshua behaves abnormally. Or is the case completely different?

As Andreas Bedenbender has demonstrated in detail, (276) this is not an individual case of private adultery. The woman in the Scriptures represents more than this one and unique person. The conversations between Yeshua and the crowd were about anomy, lawlessness, not knowing the Torah. The intermezzo is about a woman who was caught in the act of committing adultery. If we read the story as if it were about a private woman, we are dealing with a rather misogynist story. There is no mention anywhere of the male accomplice in adultery—for adultery requires two, and both would be guilty of death according to Deuteronomy 22:22.

In the Scriptures, adultery is almost always a breach of the fidelity relationship between the people of Israel and their God. There can be no doubt with the Christian (!) narrator that Israel has gone astray because it does not trust the Messiah. The woman, the daughter of Jerusalem, is here pars pro toto for Israel. Then we really have another legal case. Israel has been caught in the act. Who judges, who then executes the sentence? That is indeed the actual question. Who can ever judge in this case? The Perushim have judged. They, Judeans, have condemned—cursed—those who do not know Torah, who are also Judeans. “None of you do the Torah,” Yeshua has said (7:19). If the Torah is the criterion, who is without aberration (anhamartētos)? Whoever is without aberration may execute the judgment.

There is a negative foil, which Bedenbender (op. cit.) pointed out. In the Scriptures, the finger of God writes the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. Here Yeshua writes with his finger (agreement) on sand (difference) and without making clear what he writes (difference). Bedenbender supposes that Yeshua writes down the sin, but does not chisel it in stone, so to speak durable for eternity, but writes it in the sand, perishable.

We do not think here that the Ten Commandments have been revoked. It is not said what Yeshua has written. Torah is no longer valid because Torah is no longer practicable, “No one does the Torah!” The Christian theologian confirms Paul’s conclusion, Romans 7:10, “The commandment to life, precisely this is to death!” Therefore the Messiah does not judge (krinei) or condemn (katakrinei). That is the main thing.

The passage ends with the sentence, “I do not condemn you either. Go and do not go astray again.” The same he said to the healed paralytic, 5:14. To go astray is: not to trust the Messiah. The narrator has inserted his narrative thus precisely into the style of the Gospel that you might think it was “Johannine” through and through. Therefore the discussion, whether of John or not, is idle. In any case, the narrative is a very precise commentary on chapters 7 and 8.

9.3. The light of the world 8:12-30

“I AM—the light of the world.” The light is the light of enlightenment; it enlightens humans about what is wrong with the order of this world. The light makes it possible to walk one’s way under the conditions of the world order. The matter with the light of the world will become clearer when the blind man becomes sighted, in chapter 9.

Sukkot was a festival of lights. The Messiah is the only glimmer of light for the people in a time when everything is dark because of the ruling order. Under the conditions of the world order, you can only walk your way in the world order if you entrust yourself to the Messiah. Otherwise, no matter how loyal to the Torah you act in the world, you would only confirm the world order; you then “walk with darkness.” Under today’s circumstances, says John, the walk (Halakha) is only possible with the Messiah Yeshua. This whole festival of lights only makes sense to John if you see the light in the Messiah. V.8:12 is a heading for the whole passage 8,13-9,41.

The following sections are difficult and depressing reading. The opponents are both vehement and aggressive, and they talk completely past each other—in a way that does not allow for any understanding. Here, as in the bread speech, the sect around John talks like sects talk, sectarian, self-opinionated, not willing to make concessions. Nevertheless, in these passages, John has very important insights to share. We must listen very carefully.

The eighth chapter in the usual counting falls into two parts. First Yeshua speaks to “them,” that is, to those who were his counterparts in the previous chapter, the Judeans, the crowd, 8:12-30; then he speaks to those who trusted him but got in his way, 8:31-59.

9.3.1. Where is your FATHER, 8:12-20

8:12 Again, Yeshua spoke to them, he said:
“I AM—the light of the world; (277)
whoever follows me will never walk his way in the darkness
but will have the light of life.”
8:13 So the Perushim said to him,
“You are testifying about yourself;
your testimony is not trustworthy.”
8:14 Yeshua answered, he said to them,
“Even if I do testify about myself,
my testimony is trustworthy;
because I know where I came from and where I’m going.
But you do not know where I came from or where I’m going.
8:15 You judge according to the flesh,
but I don’t judge—anyone!
8:16 But if I judge—myself—,
then my judgment is trustworthy;
for I am not alone,
but I and he who sent me—the FATHER. (278)
8:17 And in your Torah it is written
that the testimony of two humans is trustworthy.
8:18 I AM THE ONE—testifying about myself,
and testifying about me is he who sent me—the FATHER.” (279)
8:19 So they said to him,
“Where is your father?”
Yeshua answered,
“You know neither me nor my FATHER;
if you knew me, you would know my FATHER too.”
8:20 These words he spoke in the guarded treasury, (280)
teaching in the sanctuary.
No one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

The adversaries are not Judeans in general, but the Perushim, the spokesmen in receiving the unsuccessful officials and in condemning the crowd, which does not know the Torah. Since Yeshua, as their teacher, places himself protectively before the crowd, the condemnation also concerns him.

His opponents claim: Because Yeshua testifies about himself, what he has to say is not trustworthy. Apparently, this passage reflects a discussion between the synagogue and the ecclesia or community of John. The Messiah of the ecclesia is not legitimized by the testimony of any independent witnesses. The answer we get here is hardly suitable to convince skeptical, even hostile observers of the ecclesia.

Yeshua says that even if he testifies about himself, the testimony is trustworthy; reason: he knows where he comes from; they, his opponents, do not know. The word “where from” indicates the origin. Origin in Israel can only be the God of Israel. The word “where to” indicates the goal, just that condition in which the will of God will be done. Yeshua knows of himself that he acts and speaks only from God and that he knows no other goal than the will of God. Coming and going together mean the halakha, the walk according to the word of God. It is the decisive legal criterion in Israel.

His opponents use another legal criterion, the criterion of their political interests, and that is the flesh. Thus Yeshua cannot and will not judge any human. But if he judges, then his judgment becomes trustworthy, because his criterion is the will of God. This is of course a problem; on the one hand, there is no judgment, but on the other hand, judgment is passed. Judgment is made only when the bar enosh, the Human, is confirmed in his office of judgment, when he will have reached his goal, the ascension to the FATHER. The basic idea of a final, finally trustworthy justice is common to all Messianic groups. In this, they are no different from Rabbinical Judaism.

Yeshua anticipates a provision of the court rules that testimony must be certified by two independent witnesses. He is testifying about himself, but he is not alone. Thus the rules of proceedings prescribed “in your Torah” are fulfilled. Such reasoning is more than questionable. The Torah’s procedural regulations prescribe the testimony of two humans, Deuteronomy 19:15, who differ from the accuser and the defendant. But “I and the FATHER” are not two independent witnesses. Misunderstanding is therefore inevitable. First of all, the reproach that Yeshua is both accused and a witness at the same time in his trial remains. Second, his opponents do not take the word “father” as the designation of the NAME. They ask, “Where is your father?”—namely that Joseph from Nazareth. From the son, says Yeshua, you can infer the FATHER, and from the FATHER the son. Since you have no knowledge of the FATHER, that is, of the God of Israel, you cannot have any knowledge of me, and vice versa: If you had knowledge of me, you would have knowledge of God or the FATHER, and then the requirement of the rules of procedure would be more than fulfilled: The God of Israel himself gives testimony about the one he has sent. But the opponents simply have no idea, neither about him, his origin, his purpose, nor about God. They judge according to the facts of their daily politics, simply “according to the flesh.”

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

9.3.2. “I do what is straight in HIS eyes, ever!”, 8:21-30

8:21 Then again he said to them,
“I am going away, and you will seek me,
but you will die from your aberration. (281)
Where I am going, you cannot come.”
8:22 So the Judeans said,
“Is he going to kill himself?
For he says,
‘Where I am going, you cannot come’!”
8:23 And he said to them,
“You are of what is below, I am of what is above;
you are of this world order, I am not of this world order.
8:24 This is why I said to you,
that you will die from your aberrations;
for if you do not trust that I WILL BE THERE,
you will die from your aberrations.”
8:25 At this, they said to him,
“You? Who are you?”
Yeshua answered them,
”From the beginning, what I am speaking to you. (282)
8:26 Many things I have to speak and judge about you,
but the ONE who sent me is trustworthy,
and I:
What I have heard from him,
that I speak to the world order.”
8:27 They did not recognize that he was talking to them about the FATHER.
8:28 So Yeshua said,
“When you will have lifted up the bar enosh, the Human,
then you will recognize that I WILL BE THERE.
And of myself I am doing nothing,
rather as the FATHER taught me,
that is what I am speaking.
8:29 The ONE who sent me is with me;
he did not leave me alone,
because I do what is straight in HIS eyes, ever.” (283)
8:30 When he spoke this, many trusted in him.

Yeshua takes up the sentence, “I know where I am going; you do not know where I am going.” Here it says, “I am going, you will seek me, but in [or: from] your aberrations you will die.” Yeshua will explain exactly what he means by this harsh word.

John repeats here the thread of the conversation from 7:33 ff. But there are differences:

7:34 You will seek me and will not find me.
And where I will be, you cannot come.
7,36 The Judeans said to one another, Where then shall he go that we cannot find him?
Will he go into the diaspora among the Greeks? . . .

8:21 I am going, and you will seek me; you will die from your aberration.
8:22 Now the Judeans said:
Does he want to kill himself? For he says, Where I am going, you cannot come.

In Joh 7:33 ff. the word “to find” appears twice. Yeshua assumes, at least for some of them, that they want to find the Messiah. In Joh 8:21-22 the word “to find” is suppressed. Instead, his opponents accuse him of suicidal tendencies. Here the atmosphere is poisoned. They no longer want “to find” at all.

Yeshua reacts accordingly, “You are of what is below, I am of what is above. You are of this world order, I am not of this world order. Therefore I said to you that you will die of your aberrations.” The two terms “above” and “below” are now filled with content. “Above” is, “from God, determined by the will of God.” “Below” is, “from the requirements of the valid world order.” Thus it is not a matter of religious or Gnostic but of political opposites.

In the current commentaries the word hamartia means “sin,” and sin is here, it is said, unbelief. This is not formally incorrect, but it does not explain what is meant.

The Perushim pursued a very specific political strategy. In the world order ruled by Rome, it is about finding a place where the Judeans can live according to their Torah. This is not feasible without a political compromise. John thinks that exactly this strategy would mean the end for the Judeans and for Israel in general. In the niches that the Romans leave to the Judeans, they will sooner or later be brought into line politically and ideologically by the Roman power.

“To live according to the Torah of God under the conditions of the ruling world order” was an illusion not only to John but also to Paul and the whole Messianic movement. They were concerned with a completely different, a radically new order of the world: not living differently in the world, but actively expecting a different world, that was and is the opposite.

The expression “to die from your aberrations” was not a moral disqualification of the Jews but a political judgment of the opponents’ strategy. The contrast of 8:21-22 is antagonistic; here, no more compromises are possible. The idea of the “antagonistic contradiction” comes from Marxism, and it explains very precisely what is at stake here. Gnosticism is excluded as a frame of explanation. With “above” and “here,” John takes up those trendy—Gnostic—expressions, but he grounds them politically, “below” = partisan of the ruling system, and “above” = no partisan of the ruling system.

John does away with all mystifications. The sentence “If you do not trust Egō eimi, you will die from your sins,” sums up what has just been said. Who, we could paraphrase, does not trust that Exodus 3:14—ˀehye asher ˀehye” (LXX: egō eimi ho ōn)—is still valid, will perish. For egō eimi is written here absolutely, without a predicate, and this prescribes the translation: “I WILL BE THERE.”

They have understood the message, but they ask him, “You, who are you?” The answer, “First, to begin, the things I speak to you.” In the beginning (archē, tēn archēn) there must be relentless clarity. The contradiction is between what is called God in Israel, the NAME—or, with John the FATHER—on the one hand, and Rome on the other. Hic Rhodus, hic salta. One could still say a lot and judge and condemn, but here it is about the principle, about the archē.

Those who do not understand what Yeshua says here about the antagonistic contradiction will have no understanding at all. That is exactly what they do not grasp. That is why Yeshua will have to show this with his death: If the Human, bar enosh, falls into the hands of Rome, he must end up on the Roman cross. The cross is the end of all political illusions and so—and only so!—it will redeem. When they will see him so “exalted,” they will “recognize that I AM—I WILL BE THERE.” Indeed, for his opponents the cross was just the striking argument against his messianity; a Messiah does not lose, never!

Here we hear the egō eimi absolutely for the second time. The now-current shape of the I WILL BE THERE, the NAME, is this and no other exaltation of the Messiah. We must ask ourselves again and again what is to be redeeming about it, but that is what John tells us.

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

9.4. Before Abraham was born: I WILL BE THERE, 8:31-59

9.4.1. Fidelity and freedom, 8:31-36

8:31 Now Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, (284)
“If you stay firmly with my word,
then you are really my disciples,
8:32 and you will recognize fidelity.
Fidelity will set you free.” (285)
8:33 They answered him,
“We are the seed of Abraham and haven’t been slaves to anyone, never!
How do you say, ‘You will be set free’?“
8:34 Yeshua answered them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who practices aberration becomes a slave of aberration.
8:35 The slave does not stay in the house until the age to come.
The Son stays until the age to come.
8:36 So if the Son sets you free,
you will really be free.

The addressees changed. The almost unbearable vehemence by which Yeshua attacked these new opponents can only be deduced from the text itself. It is about Judeans “who had put their trust in him” (pepisteukotas autō Ioudaious) but now no longer do so. This requires a past perfect. A sect can talk of apostates only with hatred.

An additional difficulty is that in the further course (8:48), Judeans will be mentioned without further specification. But there too, it is about those very particular Judeans who “no longer walked the way with Yeshua,” 6:66. This does not excuse the boundless vehemence by which John harasses the “renegades,” as the apostates were called among communists. Apparently, the disappointed Messianists accused the group around John of not belonging to Israel, probably, of being members of the goyim, non-Judeans. John turns the tables. To him, they were “children (seed) of Abraham” and thus “children of the people of Israel,” you, disappointed Judean Messianists, should ask yourselves whether you are actually still “children of Abraham.” This question is the subject of the part that follows.

Yeshua passes a fundamental remark that he will repeat constantly in his farewell speeches—especially in chapter 15 according to the traditional counting. The verb menein has to do with steadfastness. According to John, the political situation requires steadfastness especially now—after the devastation of Jerusalem. This is missing, as we saw in the discussion of the decay of the Messianic community (6:60 ff.). This steadfastness is not a stubborn conservatism but is based on the fidelity of God to Israel. This is what the word alētheia means. This fidelity makes people free.

What is freedom? In the Scriptures, the Greek word eleutheros stands for the Hebrew chofshi or chor. Buber translates the latter as “nobleman,” meaning a class that is free from any taxes or work obligations. Chofshi is the condition after the release from slavery, i.e. free from the obligation to render services to the owner of the slave, free as opposed to enslaved.

Here it is said, “If you stand firm with my word, you are really my disciples, and you will recognize fidelity, and fidelity will set you free.” When Yeshua demands that freedom be given only by focusing on the word of Yeshua, they take this as an abandonment of their Judean identity.

In the Mishnah, those people are referred to as free or noble people (bene-chorin) who are engaged in the teaching of the Torah (thalmud thora) (Mishna Avot 6:2). Thus the occupation with the Torah makes people free. Although the Mishnaic quotation from the sixth chapter of Mishna Avot (qinyan thora) is much younger than John, it is probably an original and essential idea of Rabbinical Judaism that the Torah makes people free: as Judeans, they are “seed of Abraham,” as such never slaves (doulos, ˁeved) and therefore not in need of liberation. Their identity is freedom. To what else should fidelity liberate them? It says in this passage:

There is no free one for you (ben-chorin)
unless he who strives for the teaching of the Torah (thalmud thora).
Everyone who strives for the teaching of the Torah,
climbs height after height, for it is written [Numbers 21:18b-19],
From Mattana to Nachaliel, from Nachaliel to Bamot.

As I said, this passage dates from much later times. John was aware of the effort surrounding the thalmud thora. His opponents say: If someone strives for the whole Torah and tries to live the Torah, he can never be a slave of the world order. John thinks this is at best an illusion, but actually an evil and grumpy adherence to a tradition that is outdated.

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

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

Blessed shall be the seed of Abraham. This is of course a problem for the Messianic communities in the diaspora, which consist of Judeans and non-Judeans (goyim). The goyim are not the seed of Abraham. Paul saved himself from the affair by understanding the seed of Abraham as a singular, and this singular, this single person, is the Messiah (Galatians 3:16). (286) The question was: Who belongs to it, who does not? This was also discussed in other Messianic communities. The source shared by Matthew and Luke (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8) says, “God can raise children to Abraham from these stones.”

This view is problematic. By saying that the biological offspring from Abraham no longer plays a role, that it is all about trusting in the Messiah, it is only a small step to the disinheritance of the bodily Israel, which is distrustful of the Messiah Yeshua: the Christians are chosen, the Jews are rejected. Does John take this step? We leave the question for now.

9.4.2. The diabolos is not the devil, 8:37-47

8:37 I know you are the seed of Abraham.
Yet you are seeking to kill me,
because my words have no place in you.
8:38 What I have seen with the FATHER, I speak,
and you do what you have heard with the FATHER.” (287)
8:39 They answered and said to him,
“Our father is Abraham.”
Says Yeshua to them,
“If you were children of Abraham,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
8:40 Now you are seeking to kill me,
a human who has spoken to you of the fidelity
about which I heard from GOD.
Abraham did nothing like that.
8:41 You are doing the works of your father.”
They said to him,
“We are not begotten of fornication,
the ONE we have as FATHER, GOD!” (288)
8:42 Yeshua said to them,
“If GOD were your FATHER,
you would solidarize with me,
for I came out from GOD and have come;
for I have not come from myself,
but that ONE sent me.
8:43 Why don’t you recognize my speech?
Because you cannot listen to my word. (289)
8:44 You are from the father, the adversary. (290)
The desire of your father you want to do.
He is a murderer of humans on principle,
fidelity is not a standpoint for him,
because there is no fidelity with him. (291)
When he speaks lies and deceit,
he speaks what is his own,
he is a deceiver and father of deceit.
8:45 But me, because I speak of fidelity, you do not trust me.
8:46 Which one of you convicts me of aberration?
If I speak of fidelity, why don’t you trust me?
8:47 He who is from GOD is listening to the words of GOD,
therefore you are not listening, because you are not from GOD.”

After the concession that his opponents are the seed of Abraham, the harsh accusation follows: The opponents are “indeed” seed of Abraham “but” they seek to kill Yeshua. (292) This contrast is now explained. We hear the accusation of killing for the sixth time here. Apparently, this thought has become an obsession to John. This has probably to do with the fierce hostility to which his group was exposed by the synagogue in their town. We will go into this in more detail not until in the explanation of 16:2. So much may be said here that the conflict was threatening, even life-threatening, to both sides.

Yeshua, in explaining that “but,” begins by saying that he speaks what he has seen (!) with the FATHER; they do what they have heard from their father. Thus it is about the confusing contrast between FATHER/father. To Yeshua, FATHER is the God of Israel, the impulse of his whole life. Also, the opponents act from an impulse, which determines their way of life, from their father. They understand this genealogically, their father is Abraham. Your work, so Yeshua, is that you seek to kill me; this is not the work of Abraham, but the work of your father. Abraham did not kill his son, GOD (FATHER) forbid! You seek to kill me, the monogēnes (1:14.18), the new Isaac. Your god (father) must be the absolute opposite of my God.

Now the opponents understand what is meant, “We were not begotten from fornication: The ONE we have as FATHER.” They refer to Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear Israel, the NAME is our God, the NAME is ONE.” It is about the question, who really is the God in Israel, in Israel of the days of Yeshua and the days of his opponents. “Fornication,” porneia, zenuth, in the Scriptures means consistently turning away of Israel from the NAME as from his God and turning to foreign gods. They have understood correctly, the porneia is paganism, they have become Romans.

Now no more communication is possible. If the members of society can no longer communicate about “God,” about the basic order, civil war is called for. If the Christian listeners do not understand that the ambivalence of the word “God” and the NAME was the theological and therefore political main problem of the Jewish society in antiquity, they will never be able to understand the Scriptures. The “God” is not “non-God,” and “non-God” is not the “God.” The Book of Job explicitly deals with this problem. The question here is: what is working in each case as FATHER, as God of Israel?

Yeshua demands of his opponents that they see him as he sees himself, as the one who went out and came from God, as the messenger who does and speaks only what he was told. Why, asks Yeshua, can’t you understand this, why can’t you listen? Yeshua answers this question himself and with it at the same time the question of the respective real fatherhood.

Now the sentence is uttered, which to this day arouses hostility that led to the incomprehensible and unfathomable crime known as Auschwitz. The sentence in the traditional translation is, “You come from the devil as your father, and you want to do the lusts of your father. He was a murderer of humans from the beginning . . .”

We first have to explain the word diabolos. In modern languages, the word has been adopted untranslated: diabolos, diablo, diable, diawol, djævel, devil, duivel, devil. Everywhere the word from the so-called New Testament has penetrated into these languages. The association has been similar everywhere. With the word, a superhuman and extremely evil spirit was intimated. But the Greek word diabolos stands for the Hebrew word satan. This word also belongs to modern languages. The meaning is the same there.

In the Scriptures, the word satan occurs 32 times, 6 times as a verb, 26 times as a noun. It appears 14 times in the Book of Job. 7 times satan is clearly the political opponent (1/2 Samuel, 1 Kings). In 1 Kings 11, the Greek translators leave the word satan untranslated. It is Jeroboam, (293) who rebelled against King Solomon, later waged a secession war against his son Rehoboam and founded the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Satan also appears in the story of Balak and Balaam. Balaam is supposed to curse Israel on behalf of Balak. When Balaam set out on his way, the messenger of the NAME “as satan” came into his way (Numbers 22:22). The donkey of Balaam was wiser than his master, he recognized the messenger of God as an adversary of Balaam’s political mission.

In none of the 32 cases is it a supernatural evil spirit. Also at the heavenly court in the books of Job and Zechariah, a heavenly functionary appeared as a prosecutor and thus as an opponent in the heavenly court proceedings. Whenever a heavenly figure is involved, he is always sent or commissioned by God; nowhere is he the abysmal evil.

Here it is about a mighty adversary, who is not sent by God, thus about a mighty earthly adversary. This opponent has “desires” (epithymiai). They are factually identical with the desire—better: “greed”—of the world order (epithymia tou kosmou, 1 John 2:16-17). John 8:44 and 1 John 2:16-17 are the only passages in Johannine literature where the word for greed appears, in connection with diabolos. (294) Satan is an earthly Satan, he is the world order, he is Rome.

All this becomes clear when the leading priests in the scene in front of the praetorium assured Pilate, “We have no king except Caesar!” They explain where there is their unambiguous political loyalty, who is their “god.” For the functional word “god” denotes the convergence of all earthly loyalties. To the leading priests, the point of convergence is Caesar. This passage 19:15 explains our passage 8:44—and vice versa. Yeshua accuses his opponents of pursuing the politics of Rome, Rome is their god and father. They let themselves be determined in their political actions by the interests of the ruling world order, it is to this they are in solidarity. Therefore they cannot solidarize with the Messiah (“to love”—agapan).

Everybody can know that this Satan, this diabolos, is a murderer of humans, after the massacre that the Romans carried out after the devastation of Jerusalem. In this Satan there is no fidelity, he speaks “lies and deceit” (pseudos), “in principle (ap’ archēs).” Whoever pursues politics with Rome is “a deceiver (pseustēs) like his father.”

Yeshua is talking about fidelity, about God’s fidelity to Israel, and that is the word they do not trust, says Yeshua. No one can accuse him of being wrong, of leading himself and others astray, when he is talking about the fidelity of God, a fidelity diametrically opposed to Rome. Since they, as realpolitikers, start from the superior political reality of Rome, they cannot hear what Yeshua has to say.

9.4.3. Stones instead of arguments, 8:48-59

8:48 The Judeans answered, they said to him,
“Don’t our kind say it nicely that you are from Samaria?
You’re possessed!”
8:49 Yeshua answered,
“I am not possessed,
I am dignifying my FATHER. But you are degrading me. (295)
8:50 I am not seeking my honor.
THERE IS ONE who is seeking it and is judging.
8:51 Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word,
death, he will not observe until the age to come.”
8:52 The Judeans said to him,
“Now we have recognized that you are possessed:
Abraham died, and so did the prophets,
yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word
will not taste death until the age to come.’
8:53 Aren’t you greater than our father Abraham, are you?
He died, and the prophets also died,
to whom are you making yourself?”
8:54 Yeshua answered,
“If I honor myself, my honor is nothing.
It is my FATHER who is honoring me,
the one about you are saying, ‘He is our God,’
8:55 but you have not recognized him,
I have knowledge of him.
Indeed, if I were to say that I have no knowledge of him,
I would be like you: a deceiver.
But I have knowledge of him, and I am keeping his word!
8:56 Abraham, your father, was overjoyed that he would see my day.
He saw it and was glad.”
8:57 Now the Judeans said to him,
“You’re not yet fifty years old,
and you have seen Abraham?”
8:58 Yeshua said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
Before Abraham came into being:
I AM—I WILL BE THERE!” (296)
8:59 They picked up stones to throw at him.
But Yeshua hid himself,
he went out of the sanctuary.

To the reproach that “you cannot listen because you are not from God,” only the answer can come, “You are possessed” (daimonion echeis). Not only that; Yeshua is also made a Samaritan (Samaritēs), that is, one with whom the Judeans do not associate (4:9). As we have seen in John 4, the Samaritans are among the children of Israel. It is not the word Samaritan that degrades, but the intention to remove Yeshua from the community of Judeans, that is, of Israel. Yeshua understands the accusation as “degradation” (atimazete). Yeshua does not receive his dignity (timē) and honor (doxa) from humans but from the one who “seeks and judges.” What does Yeshua’s God seek? Those “who bow down before him inspired by fidelity“ (4:23). This one will “judge,” Yeshua does not have to defend himself here.

Immediately Yeshua switches to the old theme of the life of the age to come, with the expression Amen, amen, by which the following statement gains special weight. Judgment is God’s business, we have heard this repeatedly, and whoever hears the word judgment thinks of death. He who keeps the word of Yeshua will not see death until the new epoch begins (eis ton aiōna). To the opponents, this seems to be total nonsense. We shall all die, all have died, from Abraham to the prophets, “To whom do you make yourself?”

The theme “honor” resounds again. The honor comes from that God whom also the opponents consider their God. But they do not recognize him. If both parties use the word “God,” they each mean something else. If I, so Yeshua, were to say that I have no knowledge of God, I would be like you, a deceiver. He has identified himself with the God of Israel in such a way that everything he says and does comes from God himself, “His word I keep!” Whoever does not want to hear this shows that he has no knowledge of God.

What remains is the topic of Abraham. Life of the age to come—what does it mean, they ask; even Abraham died, so what is this talk about “not dying”? To whom are you making yourself?

Thus Abraham. Abraham has died, but he is not yet finished with life. His goal in life, says Yeshua, will be achieved when “his day” has come. Abraham, your father, rejoiced that he should see Yeshua’s day. Your father—this is never denied. Yeshua tells them that their father should cheer the day of Yeshua. He, who according to the opinion of all the Judeans, including Yeshua, lives in the hiddenness of God, has actually seen it. The Gospel often speaks of Yeshua’s hour, but only here of his day. The day at issue here is hēmera eschatē, the Day of Decision.

As so often, Yeshua puts up with the inevitable misunderstanding. Yeshua is not a very old man, not even fifty years old, so Abraham cannot have seen his day. This is not a flat interjection, how else should they react?

The interjection is the occasion for the decisive sentence, “Before Abraham was born: I WILL BE THERE.” To understand this verse, it is necessary to read the book Tholedoth/Genesis correctly. It tells how Israel became the firstborn among the nations. It is the book of geneseis (plural), in Hebrew, tholedoth. The book is structured by a series of geneseis, tholedoth, from Adam to Jacob: tholedoth ˀAdam (5:1), tholedoth Noach (6:9), tholedoth bene-Noach (10:1), tholedoth Shem (11:10), tholedoth Terach (11:27), tholedoth Yishmaˀel and tholedoth Yitzchaq (sons of Abraham, 25:12 and 25:19), tholedoth ˁEsaw and tholedoth Yaˁaqov (sons of Isaac, 36:1 and 37:2). (297) The expression tholedoth Avraham does not appear anywhere. (298) Abraham was begotten by Terach, his father. He is the subject of the begetting of his son Isaac. But this is an element of the tholedoth Yitzchaq, Genesis 25:19:

These are the begettings of Isaac.
Abraham begat Isaac.
Isaac was a forty-year-old,
when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Betuel the Aramean . . .

The content of the chapter Begettings of Terach is the life path of Abraham. That Abraham begat Isaac was the determining moment in Isaac’s life. Prin Abraam genesthai must not be translated, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is ontology, not Scriptural interpretation. Rather, yalad, “to beget,” is to be thought of, therefore, “Before Abraham was begotten/born, the NAME is there,” who made Abraham the father of the first-born among the peoples; before the decisive turn in the begettings (tholedoth) of humankind (ˀadam”) already applies: I WILL BE THERE, ˀehye, egō eimi.

Yeshua’s political program in John is the restoration of Israel as the firstborn among the nations, 10:16 in connection with 11:52. Abraham was the beginning, Yeshua is the completion of Abraham’s life. Therefore, Yeshua Messiah is given the title monogenēs, “only begotten”; it is the honorary title of Isaac, the Only One (yachid, monogenēs) of Abraham, Genesis 22:2. The Only-Begotten was the joy of Abraham. He sees that what his God began through him is completed through Yeshua, the begettings of Israel, tholedoth yisraˀel. It is about the becoming of Israel (Genesis), and only about that. The NAME is there, always, before the genesis of Israel, after the completion of Israel; before Abraham, your, our father, was born, is the NAME.

The opponents have not understood this reading of the Book of Genesis by John. The formulation of 8:58 is taken by them as a provocation. The opponents can only see here a “blasphemy—touching, infringement (see 10:36) —of the NAME” (Leviticus 24:11. The “I” they refer to Yeshua himself, who, in an evil way, claims the ˀehye of Exodus 3:14 for himself. According to them Yeshua “blasphemes the NAME.” For such a “blasphemy” the Torah provides the death penalty by stoning. Apparently, the “cult” of the Messiah Yeshua—“My Lord and my God,” John 20:28!—in the Messianic communities has led the synagogue to insinuate such blasphemy. Admittedly, John or his Messianic community does not make much effort to dispel this suspicion.

Anyway, we have reached here the point, where stones replace arguments. Yeshua evades confrontation, “he hid himself.”

9.5. From blind and sighted people, 9:1-41

The narrative talent of John is shown in this story of the healing of a man born blind. The first verses insert the narrative into the whole chapter about the Sukkot festival and especially the festival of lights on the last day of the festival. The narrative is the “light of the world” put to the test. Then follows the healing itself, the reaction of the neighborhood, the interrogation by the authorities of the Perushim. The narrative with the confession to the Messiah and with a principled statement about what is seeing and what is blind.

Yeshua saw “in passing.” He is on his way from the confrontation with the Judeans to the confrontation with Rome.

9.5.1. The works of God, 9:1-5

9:1 In passing, he saw a man blind from birth. (299)
9:2 His disciples questioned him, they said,
“Rabbi, who went astray, this one or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
9:3 Yeshua answered,
“Neither this one nor his parents went astray.
Rather the works of GOD shall be made manifest in him.
9:4 We must work the works of the ONE who sent me
until day happens. (300)
There comes a night when no one can work.
9:5 As long as I am in the world,
I am the light of the world.”

Since Job, we know that misfortune is obviously not the result of the mistakes or aberrations of an individual or his family. No one is entitled to judge whether the man born blind himself is to blame for his misery or his parents. Job was the victim of a god who had forgotten that he is the God of Israel, a god who thought he was an Olympic god; in other words: in the decades before the Maccabean revolution, Hellenistic conditions determined society and not the social vision of the Torah. Under such circumstances, anyone who was faithful to the Torah must go to rack and ruin, even if he is as wealthy as Job. No, neither the blind man nor his parents are to blame for the misery of no longer being able to see what is real. Of course, we mustn’t read with bourgeois eyes, which only know individuals and individual guilt. What is to be done? Under a world order that makes invisible the works of God, “the works of God must be made manifest” precisely in a person who is blind from birth. God must finally “appear” (phanerousthai).

Now we understand the strange verses from the fifth chapter after the healing of the paralyzed man, just on a Shabbat, 5:17, “My FATHER works until now. So I too am working.” Especially on a Shabbat, the works of God must be revealed.

Now John changes the subject. In 5:17 we hear “I,” in 9:4 “we,” “We must work the works of the One who sent me.” This is just as little bad English as John’s ergazesthai ta erga was bad Greek: it is about the “works,” about the erga. It is about a real question: Who is to blame for this misery? It is not the opponents of Yeshua who ask such a question, but the disciples; they do not want to test Yeshua, as the scribes and Perushim of 8:3 ff. They really do not know. And now the “we” resounds. Yeshua has been sent to this work, and to this purpose, the disciples will also be sent, 20:21.

As long as it is “day,” one can do the works; when it is “night,” no one can work—bring about—anything. “Night” is not the time of day here when people rest and do not go about their work. “Night” is the night of Rome. In it, no man can see, on principle not, not from birth. The works of God, which the disciples must work, are possible only in that light which is the Messiah. The work of God is the seeing human, created in his image and according to his likeness.

In 9,4 the small additional clause “until day happens” caused problems early and many handwritings have replaced “until” (heōs) with “as long as” (hōs). It refers to the day Abraham rejoiced over. Only when this day has come the works of God are completed, then is rest, Shabbat. Shabbat is the opposite of “night.” Therefore the reading “until” is better.

9.5.2. All at once I see, 9:6-12

9:6 Having said this, he spat on the ground,
made mud with the saliva,
and anointed with the mud his eyes.
9:7 He said to him,
“Go, wash in the immersion bath of Siloam,”—translated “sent one”.
So he went away, he washed,
and he came—seeing!
9:8 His neighbors, however,
and those who previously had observed him begging said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
9:9 Others said,
“He is the one.”
Still others said,
“No, but he looks like him.”
That one said, “I am.”
9:10 So they said to him,
“How were your eyes opened?”
9:11 He answered,
“A human called Yeshua made mud,
anointed my eyes, and told me,
‘Go to Siloam and wash!’
So I went away, I washed,
and all at once, I saw.”
9:12 And they said to him,
“Where is that one?”
He said,
“I don’t know.”

“When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud of the saliva and anointed it. . .” This “dirt of the street” (pēlos, tit, Micah 7:10, Psalm 18:43, etc.) must be washed away.

We should not be surprised that the man has to wash in the pool Siloam (Hebrew Shiloach) of all places. In John, we are still in the days of the Sukkot festival. On the last day of the feast, water is fetched from the Siloam to perform the great purification ritual in the sanctuary. In general, the water of the Siloam seems to have played an important role in the purification of those who had ritually contaminated themselves. The Mishnah remembers such rituals in Jerusalem before the war (Mishna Para 3:2, Mishna Zabim 1:5). The purification symbolizes the reintegration of a person into Israel who was excluded from Israel through impurity (sin, aberration).

John “translates” Siloam as apestalmenos, “sent one, messenger,” (301) he reinterprets the ritual function of the water of Siloam and gives the whole festival a new direction. Siloam is not the pool the water of which has ritual cleansing power. The sent one is Yeshua. He purifies, only he. John takes the festival very seriously, rituals that have become obsolete need not be reinterpreted.

9.5.3. The interrogation and the exclusion, 9:13-34

9:13 They took the man who had been blind to the Perushim.
9:14 It was Shabbat, the day when Jesus made mud and opened his eyes.
9:15 Now, the Perushim also questioned him
how he could see all at once.
He said to them,
“He put mud on my eyes, (302)
I washed,
and I could see.”
9:16 Some of the Perushim said,
“This one is not a human with divine order, (303)
because he doesn’t keep Shabbat.”
But others said,
“How can an erring human do such signs?”
A schism came about among them.
9:17 So again they said to the blind man:
“What do you say about him, since he opened your eyes?”
He said:
“He is a prophet.”
9:18 Now the Judeans did not trust him
that he had been blind but could see all at once,
until they called the parents of the one who could see at once.
9:19 They questioned them, they said,
“Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How then can he see now?”
9:20 His parents answered, they said,
“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
9:21 How he can see now, we do not know,
or who opened his eyes, we do not know.
Question him, he is an adult,
he may speak for himself.”
9:22 The parents said this because they were afraid of the Judeans.
For the Judeans had already agreed:
If anyone confesses (304) him as Messiah,
he would become one without a synagogue. (305)
9:23 This is why his parents said,
“He is an adult, question him.”
9:24 So a second time they called the human who had been blind,
they said to him,
“Give honor to GOD,
we know that this one is an errant human.”
9:25 That one answered,
“Whether he is errant I don’t know.
One thing I do know:
I was blind, now I see.”
9:26 Now they said to him,
“What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?”
9:27 He answered them,
“I already told you, and you didn’t listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
You don’t also want to become his disciples, do you?”
9:28 And they railed at him, they said,
“You are a disciple of that one,
but we are disciples of Moshe!
9:29 We know that GOD has spoken to Moshe,
of that one, we don’t know where he is from.”
9:30 The human answered, he said to them,
“What a strange thing that you don’t know where he is from
—considering that he opened my eyes!
9:31 We know that GOD doesn’t listen to errants,
but if anyone fears GOD and does his will,
to him, he does listen.
9:32 Since time immemorial (306) was never heard
of someone’s opening the eyes of a man born blind.
9:33 If this one were not from GOD,
he couldn’t do a thing!”
9:34 They answered and said to him,
“You are a misbirth, altogether, (307)
and you want to teach us?”
And they threw him out.

First of all, the healing is perceived as a physical impossibility. Neighbors and authorities doubt both the identity of the healed person and the fact of the disease according to the principle, “That which must not, cannot be” (Christian Morgenstern).

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the destruction of the great synagogue in Alexandria in the so-called Diaspora War 115-117, (308) after the annihilation of the assimilationist and self-confident Jewry of Alexandria, there was no other Jewish option than that of Rabbinical Judaism. To “fence around the Torah” means to preserve Israel’s view of a society of autonomy and equality within the world of nations. Of course, the fence was also a defensive measure, defense, however, creates alienation.

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

9.5.4. Your aberration remains, 9:35-41

9:35 Yeshua heard that they had thrown him out;
he found him and said,
“Do you trust in the bar enosh, the Human?”
9:36 That one answered and said,
“And who is he, Sir, so that I may trust in him?”
9:37 Yeshua said to him,
“You have seen him, and the one speaking with you—that one he is.” (309)
9:38 He declared,
“I am trusting, Lord.”
And he bowed to him.
9:39 And Yeshua said,
“For judgment, I came into this world order,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”
9:40 Some of the Perushim who were with him heard this and said to him,
“So we’re blind too, are we?”
9:41 Yeshua answered them,
“If you were blind, you would be without aberration.
But now you say, ‘We see.’
Your aberration remains.

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

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

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

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

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

9.6. About the unity of Israel, 10:1-21

There is hardly any other Messianic text that has given so much cause for Christian kitsch—in all Christian churches and sects—as John 10, known as The Good Shepherd. In fact, nowhere else does John get as politically clear as here, if we disregard 11:47-53. The passage is structured very clearly. A parable, 10:1-6; interpretation of the parable, 10:7-18; the reaction of the Judeans, 10:19-21.

9.6.1. A comparison, 10:1-6

10:1 Amen, amen, I say to you,
he who does not go into the courtyard (310) of the sheep through the door
but ascends (311) from elsewhere is a thief and a terrorist.
10:2 He who goes in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
10:3 To this one, the doorkeeper opens,
the sheep listen to his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name,
he leads them out.
10:4 When he throws out all his own, (312)
he goes on ahead of them,
and the sheep follow him,
because they know his voice.
10:5 They will by no means follow someone else, (313)
but flee from him,
because they do not know the voice of one else.
10:6 This comparison (314) Yeshua said to them,
but those did not recognize what he was speaking to them about.

All commentators assume that the parable speaks of a sheepfold. The Zurich Bible has sensed a difficulty here, “What is meant is a walled place in the open field where sheep and goats are driven for the night.” For the word aulē never means sheep pen and the Hebrew word for aulē, chatzer, means “sheep pen” just as little.

Chatzer occurs 145 times in the Tanakh. The word 115 times refers to the courtyard of the central sanctuary, alone 28 times to the courtyard of the tent sanctuary in the Book of Exodus and 47 times in the plan for the new sanctuary, Ezekiel 40-48. In the writings of the so-called “New Testament,” aulē also means a courtyard of the sanctuary, for example, John 18:15. Sheep and goats were driven into the village for the night; here chatzer stands for “homestead” or “village” (Joshua 31 times) {which, however, is translated into Greek not as aulē, but as epaulis or kōmē}.
We have come to know the verb anabainein, “to ascend,” in the Gospel as a technical term for the ascent to Jerusalem (7:1 ff.). (315) The combination of aulē and anabainein points without any doubt to the sanctuary. The sanctuary is the central institution of the Judean society.

Anyone who ascends allachothen, from elsewhere than through the door, is a thief or a terrorist. In the Gospel, only Judas Iscariot and Barabbas are described as thief or terrorist respectively. Both stand for parts of the Judean society, Judas for corruption, Barabbas for the Zealot terrorists.

The sheep know the shepherd by his voice, and the shepherd “calls” the sheep “by name.” We find this expression frequently in the Scriptures, especially in the first part of Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40-48). Isaiah 43:1 reads,

And now, so speaks the NAME,
he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel,
fear not, I have redeemed you,
called you by your name,
mine are you!

As the shepherd calls Israel by its name, it listens to him. The word idios has no Hebrew equivalent. Sometimes it only serves to paraphrase a possessive pronoun, as in Deuteronomy 15:2. Only if the shepherd is not someone else or a stranger (allotrios, tzar) the sheep are “his own.”

This own “he throws out completely.” This translation is required because it reflects the reaction of the shepherd to the throwing out of the blind man—in both cases, the verb ekballein, “to throw out,” is used—the more so as John uses the word for “to lead out“ (exagein) in v.3. This hard transition from exagein to ekballein is intended. Yeshua says to the Perushim, “You are throwing out my disciple? I also cast out my disciples, away from you, out of your court, out of your sanctuary.”

The sheep listen to the voice, they follow the shepherd of Israel. The allotrios—one who enters allachothen, “from elsewhere”—we know very well from Deutero-Isaiah, 43:11-12,

It is I, it is I, the NAME, no liberator but me alone,
I report it, I liberate, I let it hear,
No other (tzar, allotrios) (316) [god] with you, you are my witnesses,
announcement of the NAME: I am GOD.

They will not at all follow this other but flee, because they do not know the other voice. The shepherd, the God of Israel, has a voice—and this voice is the Messiah.

The listeners cannot do anything with the parable. Neither the Scriptural wording of the parable nor the political actualization through words like thief and terrorist has made them listen attentively, therefore, our commentators are in good company. They, too, see the parable as a purely cattle-raising process. These people should now be helped.

9.6.2. The interpretation of the comparison, 10:7-18

10:7 So once again Yeshua said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
I AM—the door (317) of the sheep.
10:8 All those who came before me (318) are thieves and terrorists,
but to them, the sheep didn’t listen.
10:9 I AM—the door.
Whoever goes in through me will be liberated:
He will go in, he will go out,
he will find pasture. (319)
10:10 The thief does not come
except to steal, slaughter, and destroy.
I have come that they may keep life,
and keep it in abundance.
10:11 “I AM—the good shepherd.
The good shepherd is putting his soul in for the sheep. (320)
10:12 The day laborer, who is not a shepherd,
not the owner of the sheep,
observes the wolf coming,
he leaves the sheep behind and flees,
and the wolf robs and scatters them. (321)
10:13 Because he is a day laborer, he does not care about the sheep.
10:14 I AM—the good shepherd,
I recognize my own, and my own recognize me,
10:15 just as the FATHER recognizes me,
so I recognize the FATHER,
and I am putting my soul in for the sheep.
10:16 And other sheep I have,
they are not of this courtyard. (322)
Those also, I must lead,
they will listen to my voice;
and there will be,
flock: one; shepherd: one! (323)
10:17 This is why the FATHER is solidarizing with me,
because I am putting my soul in,
all the more so that I take it.
10:18 No one is taking it away from me,
I am putting it in from myself.
Authority I have to put it in,
all the more I have authority to take it.
This commandment I took from my FATHER.” (324)

Yeshua begins the interpretation with the same emphasis as the parable itself: “Amen, Amen.” What follows is an allegorical interpretation: “I AM—the door.” Historical criticism—widespread since two centuries, and which has done its work rightly!—has brought allegory into disrepute. But that is wrong; we should take seriously those allegories which the Scriptures themselves present.

Those who enter allachothen, “from elsewhere,” come instead of the Messiah Yeshua. The translation “before” is not incorrect, but it conceals the current danger. In place of the Messiah (pro), still others are coming. It is about those who pretended and pretend to be the Messiah of Israel, therefore the present tense eisin, “are.” They are thieves—like Iscariot (12:6)—or terrorists—like Barabbas, who was sentenced to death because of terrorist activities (18:40). The lēstēs is a member of the guerilla—fighting against Rome and its collaborators. And Judas anticipates the thief John of Giscala, as Barabbas anticipates the Zealot underground fighter Simon bar Giora.

Some of the Zealots ascended to Jerusalem in late 67 CE, occupied it under the leadership of John of Giscala, and established a dictatorship. John of Giscala soon had to share power with another Zealot leader, Simon bar Giora. When Flavius Josephus was still commander of the insurgent troops in Galilee, he claimed to have endeavored at bringing discipline to the troops and driving out their unjust actions, adikēmata, including theft, terrorism, and looting (klopai te kai lēsteiai kai harpagē). (325) Now it is difficult to assume that John read the report of Flavius Josephus, but these three words also appear in John’s chapter on the “good shepherd.” If one does not know the political context of John, words like “courtyard, to ascend, thief, terrorist, robbery, etc.” cannot be assigned.

John 10 is an anti-Zealotic text. The liberation which the Zealots had feigned to themselves and to others is a caricature of what John imagines by liberation, “If anyone goes in through me, he will be liberated; he will go in, he will go out, he will find pasture.” Here we find a mixed quotation from Numbers 27:17 and Lamentations 1:6. This combination is intentional. (326) The passage of Numbers is about Joshua, Hebrew Yehoshuaˁ, Greek Iēsous, the name of whom means, “The NAME liberates!” He is appointed as Moshe’s successor. His task is to go ahead of Israel and to lead it back again,

And Moshe spoke to the NAME, he said:
May the NAME, God who inspires all flesh,
prescribe a man over the community,
who goes ahead of them,
who comes back with them,
who leads them out,
who brings them back,
so that the community doesn’t become
like a flock of sheep without a shepherd.

The first song from the role “Woe” [Lamentations] mourns the downfall of Jerusalem. In v.6 it says,

From the daughter of Zion, all glory went away,
their leaders became like deer without finding pasture,
without strength, they fled before the pursuer.

The new leadership of Israel should be like Joshua. Instead, “The thief does not come except to steal, slaughter, and destroy.” It can hardly be doubted that John here refers to the Zealot leaders of Jerusalem. From the outcome of the Zealot war, John judges the whole Zealot movement and its motivation: stealing, slaughtering, destroying. The new Joshua on the other hand will liberate Israel, he will find pasture. This evaluation of the Zealot war against Rome need not be adopted, but it is John’s evaluation.

Now the interpretation of the comparison takes a new turn. It is no more about the Zealots, but about those who graze the sheep on behalf of the owners of the sheep. A good shepherd is he who puts in his soul for the sheep. He may give his life for the sheep, but that is the extreme form of what is meant by “putting one’s soul in.”

John again quotes the Scriptures, this time the first word of burden that was added to the book of Zechariah. (327) In all the Gospels we find a number of motifs from the two burdens at the end of the book of Zechariah: the donkey of Zechariah 9:9, the thirty pieces of silver of 11:4 ff., the striking of the shepherds of 13:7 ff. Apparently many Messianic communities must have studied these two burdens intensively in order to understand and process the events surrounding the death of Yeshua and the destruction of Jerusalem. John makes the understanding of the Scriptures a prerequisite for the understanding of those dramatic events that affect the disciples (John 2:22; 20:9). Obviously, these texts deal with serious leadership crises in Israel/Judah, and it is useful to remember the Maccabean period. After 70, the Messianic community is without leadership and orientation.

Now, Zechariah 9-14 can also be interpreted as a midrash of Ezekiel 34. In this famous chapter, Ezekiel deals with “the dismissal of the shepherds,” i.e. the kings of Judah, who delivered the sheep (the people) defenselessly to the wild beasts of the field (the peoples, especially the Babylonians). The wolf must be seen against this background. In John’s parable, the wolf stands structurally in the place occupied by the wild animals in Ezekiel 34:2b-5,

Woe to you shepherds of Israel who have grazed themselves!
Should not the shepherds graze the sheep?
You consume the milk, you clothe yourselves with the wool,
you slaughter the fat ones, you have not grazed the sheep.
You have not strengthened the sick, you have not healed the infirm,
You have not bandaged the broken, you have not brought back the displaced,
you have not searched for the disappeared.
With strength, you have trampled them down, with force.
So the sheep were scattered because they are without a shepherd,
they became food for all animals of the field, were scattered.

This devastating reckoning with a ruined regime is behind John 10, admittedly in a broken form. John takes the refraction of the image from Zechariah 11:15-16,

The NAME kept speaking to me,
“Take the equipment of a false shepherd.
But ME—I will raise up a shepherd in the land:
He does not integrate the driven out,
He does not look for the young,
He does not heal the broken,
He does not supply what remains to stand,
He eats the fat flesh, smashes its claws:
Woe to the unworthy shepherd who abandons the sheep.
Sword over his arm, over his right eye!
His arm wither, his eye shall be blotted out, wiped out.”

The expression “good shepherd” (poimēn kalos, roˁe thov) does not exist in the Scriptures. Most shepherds were anything but good. “I raise up the one shepherd, my servant David, who shall feed them,“ says Ezekiel 34:23. The prophet still figured on the re-establishment of a purified monarchy from David’s house. Zechariah 11 does not figure on this anymore; rather, he reckons violently with the new monarchy that arose under the house of Judah Maccabi. (328) It is a matter of false shepherds, of unworthy shepherds. They are shepherds who leave the sheep when the wolf comes, says John. To him, these prophetic words are of tremendous relevance.

In many commentaries, you can read that the hired shepherds do not care for the flock, because it is not their property. That is a thoroughly bourgeois idea. But here it is about the only owner whom the Scriptures acknowledge, the NAME, the God of Israel, “Mine is the land, all of you are tenants and strangers compared to me,” Leviticus 25:23. Therefore, all those who graze the sheep on behalf of the owner are hired shepherds.

So it is about the political leadership of Judea in the years before the Judean War and during the war. Who abandoned the sheep? Some think of Yohanan ben Zakkai, who, according to the founding legend of Rabbinical Judaism, left the besieged city and went into the care of the Romans. If we are considering the flight of Zakkai, we should also think of the flight of the Messianic community of Jerusalem, led by the “brothers of the Lord.” They also abandoned the children of Israel. We know from 7:2 ff. that John had a low opinion of Yeshua’s brothers—and that means of the community in Jerusalem. Finally, we are told about the disciples themselves, “You will leave me (Yeshua) alone,” 16:32 (here and there aphiesthai). Here John enlightens his Messianic community about the total failure of the priestly leadership of the people at that time and the leadership of the Messianic communities as well.

Who is the wolf? Rome? There’s a lot to be said for it, the wolf is the mother of the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. It is more likely that John is thinking of texts like Ezekiel 22:23-31,

The superiors in the land are robbing, they rob like wolves,
shed blood, destroy souls,
make profit, profit. (329)

In John, it says, “The hired shepherd watches the wolf coming, abandons the sheep, flees—the wolf robs and scatters. The authorities were certainly “day-laborers” of Rome, but during the Judean War, a part of the priestly aristocracy joined the fighting people. After the Romans’ defeat at Beth Horon in 66 and the increasing radicalization of the resistance, many of the respected Judeans left the city. (330)

For the second time, we hear, “I AM—the good shepherd.” The first time “good” is filled with the attitude by which the shepherd puts his soul in for his sheep, the second time by “knowing.” This knowledge is based on reciprocity. The basic form of this reciprocity is the mutual “recognition” between FATHER and shepherd. For ginōskein means, “to recognize and trust one another.” The basic relationship between the God of Israel and the Messiah determines all other relationships. To know, to recognize, to acknowledge, to trust means in consequence: to put in one’s soul.

“Good shepherd” means “good regiment.” If a state (“just king,” Psalm 72!), then “good shepherd.” As a rule, however, a state is an apparatus that tends to develop a momentum of its own, in the worst case it becomes the corrupt self-service store of Ezekiel 34.

In v.16 the text seems to lose the thread, which it takes up again not until v.17. Obviously, the author seems to want to prevent a threatening misunderstanding. The people who hear these words might think that they, the Messianic Judeans, are the sheep, they alone. But there are others to whom the same commitment applies. After two thousand years, Christianity can think of nothing but a “pagan mission” here. John merely says that it is not only about the sheep of this courtyard, not only about the Judeans of Jerusalem, that there are other children of Israel, for example, the woman from Samaria, also those who live widely scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Among them are certainly also the non-Jewish sympathizers of (Hellenistic) Judaism, the “Greeks” from John 12:20 ff. The Messiah wants to unite them all: they shall all become “one flock, one shepherd.” Among those who “are not of this courtyard” may be members of other peoples (goyim). But they will belong to Israel—and not vice versa Israel to a completely new people of God, such as the Christian church! The ONE, the NAME, is the shepherd of Israel, Psalm 23:1; 80:2; Ezekiel 34:13-15, etc. (331)

Vv.17 and 18 take up the thought of v.16 again. The FATHER recognizes the shepherd Yeshua, the Messiah, to whom the political pastoral office was given (Daniel 7:14). The shepherd recognizes the FATHER, and this recognition consists in “putting in his soul for the sheep.” This is the statement of v.15. Why is the FATHER, the GOD of Israel, in solidarity with Yeshua? Not because he is the Son of God, but because he puts in his soul for Israel (for the sheep). Not because he is the Son, he puts in his soul, but vice versa: because he puts in his soul, he is the Son.

Then there is a cryptic subordinate clause, “again so that I take it,” or, “all the more so that I take it.” What does “to take” mean? The expression “to take a soul” means “to kill”; for instance Psalm 31:14, “They plot to take my soul.” That cannot be meant here. Rather, the Aramaic verb qebal stands behind “to take.” It is the verb we heard in Mishna Avot 1:1ff.,

Moshe accepted (qibbel) the Torah of Sinai.

This corresponds to the last line of v.18, “This commandment I took from the FATHER” (elabon, qibbel). The word palin doesn’t only mean a repetition, but also a reinforcement. “To put in one’s soul” means “to take the soul.” The only and real task of his soul, his life task, is to put in his soul, his life, for the sheep. The death of the Messiah, as the most extreme form of the putting in of his soul (“to take away” the soul, airein), does not happen because those who kill him would have the authority (exousia) to do so, but because he himself—and unhindered by others—went this way; he puts in his soul of himself. To this, he has the authority, he is commissioned with it, and in such a way that he accepts this commission from himself. His path of life is the consequence of the commission that the God of Israel gave him; to accept the commission, his life’s work, to take his soul is his decision. The purpose of this argumentation is to make it clear to the people that the assassination of the Messiah was not a sign of his political weakness, but that he goes this way of his own accord. To this, he has the authority.

In the background, there is the question, pronounced or unspoken, of what use is a Messiah if, in the end, he had to become the victim of prevailing conditions after all? This path, says John, is a consciously taken, political path. Whether it was the only possibility, we must ask ourselves.

9.6.3. Schism, 10:19-21

10:19 Again a schism came about among the Judeans because of these words.
10:20 Many of them said,
“He is possessed, he’s raging! Why do you listen to him?”
10:21 Others said,
“These are not the words of a man possessed.
Can possession open the eyes of the blind?”

The clearly political interpretation of the parable makes some of the listeners pensive, others stick to their judgment. The demeanor of the Messianic community apparently causes discussions among the Rabbinically oriented Judeans. Some consider the Messiah, the Messianic congregation, to be “possessed,” a crazy bunch of sectarians. But others see that Yeshua makes people “see”, that they get a perspective. These Messianic groups “enlighten” other people; this, they say, is surely something else than the possession of fanatics.

Thus John ends the passage on Sukkot, the Festival of Lights. Now follows the Festival of Renewal, Hanukkah.

10. Hanukkah, the Festival of Renewal. Living and dying, 10:22-11:54

10.1. The Messiah and God, 10:22-39

10:22 At that time it happened:
Hanukkah in Jerusalem.
It was winter.
10:23 Yeshua was walking his way in the sanctuary—in Solomon’s Colonnade.
10:24 Now the Judeans encircled him and said to him,
“Until when are you going to lift up our soul? (332)
If you are the Messiah, tell us publicly!”
10:25 Yeshua answered them,
“I told you, and you are not trusting.
The works I am doing in my FATHER’s name
are testifying about me.
10:26 But you are not trusting,
because you are not from among my sheep.
10:27 My sheep are listening to my voice,
I recognize them, they are following me.
10:28 I give them life for the age to come,
they will not be destroyed until the age to come,
and no one will rob them from my hand.
10:29 My FATHER, who gave them to me, is greater than all,
no one can rob them from the FATHER’s hand. (333)
10:30 I and the FATHER: ONE we are.” (334)

10:31 Again the Judeans dragged stones in order to stone him.
10:32 Yeshua answered them,
“Many good works I showed you from the FATHER.
For which one of these works are you stoning me?”
10:33 The Judeans answered him,
“We are not stoning you for any good work, but for blasphemy,
because you, a human, are making yourself GOD.”
10:34 Yeshua answered them,
“Isn’t it written in your Torah,
I have said, ‘Gods you are’? (335)
10:35 If it now calls those gods to whom GOD’s word happened
—and the Scripture cannot be dissolved—,
10:36 to the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world you say,
‘You are blaspheming—infringing the NAME!—’ (336)
because I said, ‘I am like GOD [Son of GOD]’? (337)
10:37 If I do not the works of my FATHER,
do not trust me.
10:38 But if I do them, then, even if you don’t trust me,
trust the works,
so that you may understand and recognize
that the FATHER is with me, and I am with the FATHER.”
10:39 Again they sought to seize him,
he got out of their hand.

Antiochus IV, Great King of the region of Syria-Mesopotamia—roughly on the scale of the New Babylonian Empire—had taken the city of Jerusalem on the 15th of the month of Kislev in 167 BCE. Since he also wanted to make his empire a unified entity ideologically, he issued a decree according to which all peoples had to abandon their respective traditional legal systems and adopt the royal legal order (1 Maccabees 1:41). (338) The king converted the sanctuary in Jerusalem into a state sanctuary, erected the statue of Zeus Olympiakos there, and decreed that sacrifices were to be made to the state god on the traditional sacrificial site. Daniel called this the abomination of desolation (Daniel 11:31). Three years later, Judah Maccabee liberated the city of Jerusalem, after he had defeated and chased away the armies of Antiochus IV, purified the sanctuary from the Hellenistic state cult. This act is called Hanukkah, Encainia, “renewal.”

Judah and his brothers said,
“There, our enemies have been crushed, let us ascend,
we purify the sanctuary and renew (enkainisai) it.”
He gathered the whole army camp and ascended to Mount Zion.
. . .
They cleansed the sanctuary
and threw the defiled stones into an unclean place.
. . .
There was great joy among the people, very much,
and the shame by the goyim was undone.
Judah and his brothers and the whole assembly Israels decided,
that the days of renewal of the sacrificial site shall be celebrated annually,
for eight days, counting from the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev,
with joy and cheerfulness” (1 Maccabees 4,36.43.58-59).

This whole section 10:22-11:54 is about the renewal of Israel. In the days of John, the sanctuary was devastated. The Roman emperor Titus in the year 70 not only desecrated the sanctuary and the sacrificial site, as his predecessor had done but razed it to the ground. His advisors probably made it clear that the sanctuary was the center of the social life of the Judeans. If there should never again be an uprising against Rome by this people, the sanctuary and the city would have to be completely destroyed. The question is: How should the place and thus the life of the people be renewed? Where is the Messiah?

“It was winter. Yeshua walked his way in the sanctuary—in the Colonnade of Solomon.” The phrase “it was winter” seems redundant. But in Mark, the Messiah asks his disciples to pray that the great catastrophe of the end times may not happen “in winter” (13:18). Perhaps John wants the listeners to make the connection with Mark 13:18.

On the ceiling of the colonnade stood the chambers of the priests. This is where the Messiah walks his way. This is something different than a stroll. Peripatein always means a way of life according to the will of God. Yeshua’s way of life is the way of life of the Messiah. The Judeans feel this, they literally encircle him.

Following the logic of the narrative, “Until when do you take up our souls, do you keep our souls in suspension?” The narrator’s logic says, “Is there anything more to come like the Messiah?” The two levels must be carefully separated. The level of the narrative is the event around the year 30, the level of the narrator is the event after the year 70. This interplay between the two levels is continuing.

Yeshua or the Messianic community have always claimed that Yeshua is the Messiah, but the Judeans do not trust him. They cannot see that trusting in this Messiah changes anything about the dismal situation. “The works that I am doing in the name of my FATHER testify about me,” Yeshua replies. On the narrative level, refusal to trust Yeshua seems dishonest. But on the level of the narrator, is it worthy of trust to point to works done long ago that no one can verify and that have demonstrably changed nothing in the situation of the people? We do not want to give up our role as an impartial interpreter. One can understand the skepticism of John’s Jewish opponents. After all, John is that realistic: Those who do not belong to his community can neither understand nor believe, and certainly not trust.

The arguments are not new, we know them from the great speeches and discussions of the previous chapters. They are now brought into the context of the parable about the flock of sheep. “Life of the world to come” means in this connection, “No one will rob them out of the hand of my FATHER. In the Messianic community they are safe from the rapacity of Rome. They are safe “in the hand of the FATHER.”

Reason: “I and my FATHER, ONE we are,” 10:30. “To be” here is a Semitic “to be,” an event, not a statement of identity. The sentence means: The actions of the creator of heaven and earth, the liberator and the covenant partner of Israel, and the actions of the Messiah have one direction, one goal: the unity of Israel. The unity of flock and shepherd derives only from this uniform action of God and his Messiah. From the Scriptures, John cannot be interpreted differently.

At the same time, the narrator knew very well what he was provoking with this formulation. He knew that the Judeans must understand this as an “infringing of the NAME.” He knew it since 5:18, since the reaction to the healing of the paralyzed man on Shabbat. Stones are the expected response to the provocation.

The good shepherd does “good works from my FATHER.” This expression is another term for the unity of action of FATHER and Messiah. Why the excitement? The unity of action is in fact at such a level of perfection that those who listened had to conclude on the unity of (Greek) being, on the unity of essence—later it will be called homoousios! That is why they strongly suspect that this is about blasphemy. (339) The opponents assume that Yeshua makes himself God. That would be blasphemy, a special form of idolatry, which is also a capital crime (Mishna Sanhedrin 7:6). In the eyes of the Judeans, the worship of Yeshua in the Messianic community is idolatry, blasphemy.

Yeshua/John knocks the argument out of the opponents’ hands with a Scripture quotation. Such arguments are often battles of quotations, not only between Jews and Christians or between different kinds of Christians, even among Marxists! Such discussions have never led to understanding.

Nevertheless, it is worth listening to Psalm 82, from which the quotation “Gods are you” is taken. Yes, “Gods they are, they are like the Most High (bene ˁelyon) / but like mankind (ke-ˀadam) they must die.” In itself, therefore, a human can be called “God” or “Son of God (the Most High),” at least as long as the Scriptures (“your Torah”) are still valid.

Though that is not the point. The point is the practice of the cult of Yeshua in the Messianic communities, a cult that goes far beyond the veneration of Moshe by the Judeans. Even we, who do not, as usual, condemn “the Jews” for their unbelief, but strive to understand both sides, find it difficult to see the unbridgeable gulf between both sides.

Yeshua, however, turns the conversation in the other direction, saying that the Judeans should trust the works when they do not trust him. The goal, the erection and unity of Israel, originates from the mission, the sending, of the FATHER. That is what they too should want. The healing of the paralyzed and the blind, the nourishment of the five thousand: these works serve the revival of Israel. Why can they not at least trust these works?

At this point the chasm becomes unbridgeable. Everything the opponents say and do deepens it. Rabbi Gamaliel, according to Luke in the Book of Acts, advised his people to remain calm. Either the strategy (boulē) or the practice (ergon) of the Messianists is purely human; then they dissolve by themselves, or it is from God, then nothing can be done about it, Acts 5:33 ff. Such a serenity offers itself if the opponent is called Luke. But if the opponent is John? A practice that tears down the fence around the Torah (the Shabbat)—see section 9.5.3—could never be a practice from God (ergon ek tou theou).

It all seems silly to us, why do the Jews make such a fuss about their Shabbat? Besides, the “Son of God” might have the right to do what he thinks is right on Shabbat. This Christendom-like attitude toward the opponents of Yeshua is not only unfair, but it is also—when it appears in “scientific” commentaries—factually wrong. For the Judeans at that time, the fence around the Torah was a matter of life and death.

That is why you may call the conflict “tragic”—although tragedy is not a characteristic of the Scriptures but of Hellenistic culture—tragic because everything the opponents say and do will render the contrast incurable. The Judeans could do nothing else but arrest Yeshua and put him on trial. After all, this was a step forward compared to the vigilante justice of 10:31.

Yeshua evaded his arrest.

Scholion 7: Legalism

Franz Hinkelammert, the sociologist from Costa Rica, wrote a book about the Gospel of John in 2001 under the title: The Cry of the Subject. It is an exegetical book, but it is not a classical interpretation. It is rather an attempt to appropriate a basic text of Christianity in a part of the world that is deeply marked by this Christianity, but does not belong to the “Western world.”

As a rule, Christianity served to imprint obedience in people to the prevailing political, social, and economic systems. People were to understand themselves as objects of the legality of such ruling systems and accept themselves as such. The theology of liberation in Latin America was and is an attempt to subvert the ideological subjugation of people to the laws of the systems with the same instrument by which the subjugation was ideologically organized, the Bible. As heterogeneous as the theology of liberation may be, it is a continuous subversive reading of the Bible; it is a contrary reading. The book of Hinkelammert is to be seen against this background.

Against the treatment of people as objects, people raise their voices; this is the cry of the subject. According to Hinkelammert, the Gospel of John is the cry of humans against a law that makes them objects. His attempt is therefore not only legitimate, but it is also necessary.

To Franz Hinkelammert, the passage 10:22-39 is central. It is about the divinity of humans. According to Hinkelammert, Jesus not only felt the claim to divinity as a prerogative of his own, but all people have this prerogative, “You are gods!” Humans stand above the law, just as the Son of Man stands above the law of the Shabbat, “This is the meaning of the criticism of the law and of the understanding of sin committed in fulfillment of the law” (133).

According to Hinkelammert, John makes this clear in that his narrative is not the description of individual salvation through the salvation history of Jesus, but rather the representation of a “world theater.” In fact, no other Messianic narrator and writer made Rome his theme as much as John. The subtitle of Hinkelammert“s book reads, “From the world theater of John’s Gospel to the dog years of globalization.” Hinkelammert shows that the priests who want and bring about the death of Yeshua do not act out of irrational malice, but highly rationally. The laws of the Roman Empire require a rationality on the part of the actors which they cannot escape. What is the death of one human against the continued existence of a community (see p. 78 ff.)? And so he reads the Gospel against the rationality of a global system that unfolds its deadly effect precisely on his continent.

Those who are familiar with Hinkelammert’s book can easily see that our interpretation follows other paths. Our aim is to make it clear that the Torah is more than “law.” The whole Torah, all five “Books of Moses,” is a Grand Narrative of liberation, and the laws function within—and only within—this narrative of liberation. That the Perushim (Pharisees) insist on the Torah against the Messiah of John’s Gospel is not a grumpy traditionalism; they rather want the vision of autonomy and equality to be preserved, even at the price of far-reaching compromises. We must accept that the law is a discipline of freedom.

The reproach of the Messianists was that what once—under the conditions of autonomy—could function as a discipline of freedom, can no longer function under the global conditions of the Roman Empire, but becomes a law in the sense of Hinkelammert. It would then mean a retreat into traditionalist niches. Any compromise with Rome would mean the end of the Torah as a discipline of freedom. It would then no longer have any social relevance.

To the Messianists, not the other life in an evil world, but life in another world was the solution. Life in the other, earthly world: this is the original meaning of what is called “eternal life” in Christian circles. This is the eternal debate between what is (making the best of it) and what ought to be (the better world). The last shape of this debate was the bitter discord in the labor movement between social democrats and communists.

We are therefore more hesitant than Hinkelammert in our interpretation of the opponents’ position, but his concern (the subject’s cry for humanity) is also our concern (the goal is the life of the age to come). However, the better world, let alone the age to come of the Messianists did not come. And the securing of niches did not really make the life of the Jews secure.

The anti-Judaism of the descendants of the Messianists, the Christians, has its deepest root in the feeling that the ecclesia adapted itself to the world even more thoroughly than the synagogue ever did. The Jews provoked by their sheer existence the bad conscience of Messianism in the Christians. Precisely because all this was almost always feeling, it could have such a devastating effect.

Rational argument, that is, the concession that the position of the opponents—their legality—was and is rationally justifiable, brings the opponents out of the realm of the unconscious and brings them into the cool light of reason. Reason is the absolute prerequisite for the effectiveness of tolerance. Franz Hinkelammert’s book is an attempt to understand the legality and polemics of John’s Gospel politically. Our interpretation is to be seen as a supplement and clarification.

10.2. Where it all began, 10:40-42

10:40 He went away, again beyond the Jordan,
to the place where Yochanan at first had been immersing,
he stayed there.
10:41 Many people came to him and said,
“Yochanan did no sign,
but everything Yochanan said about this one
was trustworthy.”
10:42 And many there began trusting in him.

The short note 10:40 ff. is more than an editorial conclusion. Commentators regularly rack their brains over where to find Bethany, whether there are several locations named “Bethany.” This has an old tradition. Producers of very old manuscripts thought that Bethany was located in Judea, near Jerusalem, and therefore they gave the baptismal site other names, Betharaba or Bethabara. However, the interpretation is not primarily concerned with the exact geography, but with the function of the place name in the narrative.

Bethany is the place on the other side of the Jordan where Yochanan was immersing. It was in this place that the Messiah was first testified. There Yeshua “found” the core of the new Israel. Of course, “beyond Jordan” can mean the whole area east of the Jordan Valley, but peran tou Iordanou, “beyond Jordan,” is the area where Israel gathered to “inherit” the land “freedom,” as the Book of devarim, “speeches” (Deuteronomy) repeatedly says. This is where it all began. In John, “beyond the Jordan” is not the land of exile, but the land of the beginning. Here, beginning means “the place where Yochanan first immersed.” That is exactly where Yeshua goes. He does not flee.

Many came to this place. They know that Yochanan did not do signs. His act was the preparation of Israel for the “signs” of the one he was talking about. The Messiah healed Israel, Yochanan attuned Israel to this healing. And now Yeshua returns to the place where it all began. It will be the place where he will do his last and greatest sign. Many have trusted the Messiah here. How this came about is told in the next passage.

10.3. You will see the honor of God, 11:1-45

The middle of the narrative in John 11 takes place in the conversation between Martha and Yeshua. Martha and her sister Mariam live among the Judeans as the Messianic community lives among the Judeans. All of them, the two sisters and their Judean environment, are affected by the death of Lazaros, but this concern is nothing compared to the agitation of Yeshua. The narrative is the center of the Gospel and is not accidentally placed in the middle of the text.
We subdivide,

Lazaros, 11:1-16,

Martha, 11:17-27

Mariam, 11:28-37

Untie him and let him go, 11:38-45.

10.3.1. Lazaros, 11:1-16

11:1 Someone was sick,
Lazaros (340) of Bethany,
from the village of Mariam and Martha, her sister.
11:2 It was that Mariam,
who anointed the Lord with balm
and dried his feet with her hair, (341)
whose brother Lazaros was sick.
11:3 So the sisters sent to him, saying,
“Lord, look: the one you are friends with is sick.”
11:4 On hearing it, Yeshua said,
“This sickness is not to death,
but to the honor of GOD,
so that through it the Son of GOD may be honored.”
11:5 Yeshua was attached in solidarity with Martha and her sister and Lazaros.
11:6 When he now heard that he was sick,
he stayed where he was for two days.
11:7 Then, after this, (342) he said to the disciples,
“Let’s go to Judea again.”
11:8 The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi,
the Judeans just sought to stone you,
and you want to go there again?”
11:9 Yeshua answered,
“Aren’t there twelve hours of the day?
If someone walks his way by day, he doesn’t stumble, (343)
because he sees the light of this world.
11:10 But if someone walks his way by night, he does stumble;
because the light is not with him.”
11:11 This he said, and afterward, he said to them,
“Lazaros, our friend, has laid down;
but I go there in order to tear him from sleep.” (344)
11:12 The disciples said to him,
“Lord, if he has laid down, he will be liberated.” (345)
11:13 Now Yeshua had spoken about his death,
but they thought he had been talking about laying down to sleep.
11:14 So then Yeshua said to them openly,
“Lazaros has died.
11:15 And for your sakes, I am glad that I wasn’t there,
so that you may trust.
But let’s go to him.”
11:16 Now Thomas—called Didymos, “twin”—said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us go too, that we may die with him!”

Lazaros is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleasar (Elˁazar). The name means “God helps.” (346) Eleasar occurs more than seventy times in the Scriptures. In almost 70 percent of the cases, Eleasar is the name of a priest, the oldest son and successor of Aaron, Numbers 20:25-28. After Aaron’s death, Moshe and Eleasar led the people through the wilderness. Eleasar was a witness when Moshe introduced Joshua to his office as his successor (Numbers 27:18-23). Joshua (Yeshua) and Eleasar were the successors of Moshe and Aaron.

The leading priests in Jerusalem were named after the descendant of Eleasar, Zadoq, bene tzadoq, “Sadducees.” According to 2 Samuel 8:17, Zadok was David’s state priest. John goes back behind this Zadok to his father Eleasar, from the state priesthood to the priestly people of the wandering in the wilderness. This is a procedure that we know well. In his announcement of the new monarchy, the prophet Isaiah goes back to David’s father Jesse, “Then a shoot goes up from the stump of Jesse,” Isaiah 11:1.

Lazaros from Bethany, from the theological, not the geographical place where Yochanan once immersed—this Lazaros embodies by its name the priesthood, the leading political class in Judea. In the current political constitution of Judea, the priesthood is the representation of the whole people. It is about the fatal illness of a human who, as we will hear, is the “exemplary concentration” (347) of Israel. To Israel, it is a matter of life and death. “Someone was sick, Lazaros from Bethany.”

Lazaros was also the brother of Mariam and Martha. Mariam was very well known to the listeners of John, that Mariam whose name was remembered in all the Messianic congregations of the Syrian-Palestinian region, probably also in a song. The Hebrew-Aramaic verse rhythm is unmistakable,

who anointed the Lord with balm
and dried his feet with her hair.

Martha is the female form of the Aramaic word mar, “master.” So she was not a maid, but the mistress. The tradition behind Luke 10:38-42 may also have been known in the group around John. Mariam and Martha were well-known figures in the Messianic movement and Lazaros is their brother. (348) John will have both women play a decisive role in his narrative.

Along with Simon Peter, Martha will pronounce the Messianic confession, when faced with the death of Lazaros/Israel, 11:27. It is she who will see the honor of God. Lazaros can only be understood from the perspective of the two women. Both women are concerned about Lazaros. They urge the Messiah to finally take care of the deadly ill Lazaros. The one “you are friends with” is sick. For Lazaros is the friend of the Messiah. (349) The fact that Lazaros was connected to Yeshua like a friend is a key element in the interpretation. We come back to this in the discussion of 11:25-26. This special bond was no secret; the Judeans will mention it in this narrative, 11:36, “See how deeply he was friends with him (pōs ephilei auton).”

Lazaros is Israel, Israel in a state of death. The Messiah remains closely linked to Israel in life and death. In John, the Messiah is not a universal savior but remains the Messiah of Israel also for us, non-Jews. In the farewell speeches and the stories about the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, the disciple emerges to whom the Messiah was related like a friend. Thus the mystery surrounding this anonymous disciple is not solved, but both play the role of exemplary concentration, Lazaros as the exemplary concentration of the people of Israˁel in the state of death, that disciple as the exemplary concentration of the Messianic community.

The sisters let Yeshua know that the one “you are friends with” has fallen ill; the narrator mentions the solidarity between Lazaros and Yeshua. According to Bultmann, the verbs philein (“to be united in friendship”) and agapan (“to be in solidarity”) are used indiscriminately. (350) Nevertheless, it should be noted that friendship (philia) includes solidarity (agapē), but not vice versa. One can and must be in solidarity with every person; therefore only agapē can be the epitome of the “new commandment” (13:34), not philia. One cannot and must not demand of anyone that he be a good friend to everyone, not to speak of “love” at all. Messianism is not philanthropy.

Lazaros, the friend of the Messiah, is chosen to demonstrate in his body—well, in his corpse—that his illness does not lead to death. He is chosen to the honor of God, “that the bar enosh, Human, may be honored.” The honor of God is living Israel. To the Messiah, the friend is the suffering, the terminally ill, even decaying Israel of his days. Solidarily united (ēgapa) was Yeshua to Martha and her sister “and to Lazaros,” as the narrator adds. The solidarity with the two women has a different emphasis than that with Lazaros.

The Messiah is in no hurry, he stays two days. Two days also the disciples, also Maria from Magdala, will have to wait, two days after the death of the Messiah.

“Let us go to Judea again,” says Yeshua, to the dismay of the disciples. Just to the very place where the Judeans are waiting for Yeshua, with stones in their hands. In such a case, Yeshua or John tend to go into the basics,

“Aren’t there twelve hours of the day?
If someone walks his way by day, he doesn’t stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if someone walks his way by night, he stumbles,
because the light is not with him.”

This statement is introduced by a rhetorical question, “Aren’t there twelve hours a day?” Twelve hours to do the works of the One who sends the Messiah, it says at the beginning of the story of the man born blind. Now it is about peripatein, about the halakha, the walk. Only the light of this world makes it possible to walk the path of God under the conditions of the ruling world order. The night is the time without light. Then you stumble, fall into the trap that this world order—which is darkness—sets to the humans.

The light, the listeners meanwhile know, is the Messiah, “I AM—the light of the world,” 8:12. It does not say, When it is night, there is no light. But, Because one does not go without this light (in the night), one must stumble, go into the trap of this world order. Without a Messianic perspective and the alternative it promises, the whole life becomes dark.

The conversation with the disciples goes on. In v.11 it says, “He said this, and afterward . . .” Thus John gives great emphasis to what has just been said. When this is clear, the story can go on.

“Lazaros, our friend, has laid down, but I’m going so I can tear him from sleep.” The misunderstanding is intentional. The disciples say, sleep is healthy, he will recover, “be liberated!” Scholars like Bultmann consider such a thing “clumsy.” (351) John considers the disciples worthy of criticism, but to him, they are not “clumsy.”

Johannes wants to have the prevailing illusion clearly expressed, the condition of Israels is a temporary downturn, it will soon get better again, Lazaros sleeps himself healthy. Nothing gets better, not to speak of liberation, neither on a Zealotic nor on a Rabbinical way. He relentlessly says, “Lazaros/Israel has died.” Here is indeed the night in which nobody can do anything anymore, see 9:4. Over and done with, rien ne va plus.

“I am glad for your sakes—so that you may trust—that I was not there.” A strange phrase that gets stuck in the air. Johannes inserts the real goal of the story as a tiny interjection. The point is that the disciples are to trust that the death of a person, a people, is not the last word.

Now it is time for the first appearance of Thomas. He stands for the type of Messianist, who is in solidarity with his comrades, but actually can no longer believe in the usefulness of the Messianic struggle. He is part of it, and he stays with it—let’s go down together!

Even after Lazaros was called out of the grave, Thomas will not know where the journey actually goes. 14:5, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.” And on the first day of the week after the death of Yeshua, Thomas is not convinced by the resurrection testimony of the other disciples, “We have seen the Lord.” Maybe you have, but not me! Among the Synoptics, Thomas is not known as Didymos, as a twin. The nickname is an invention of John. He is always two, the solidary and the skeptic.

So they are leaving.

10.3.2. Martha, 11:17-27

11:17 On arrival, Yeshua found that he had been in the tomb four days already.
11:18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen stadia.
11:19 And many of the Judeans had come to Martha and Mariam
to give them comfort (352) for the sake of their brother.
11:20 So when Martha heard that Yeshua was coming, she went to meet him;
but Mariam continued sitting in the house.
11:21 Now Martha said to Yeshua,
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
11:22 But even now I know:
Whatever you ask of GOD,
GOD will give you.”
11:23 Yeshua says to her,
“Your brother will rise again.”
11:24 Marta says,
“I know that he will rise
with the resurrection on the Day of Decision.”
11:25 Yeshua said to her,
“I AM—the resurrection and the life.
Whoever trusts in me will live, even if he dies.
11:26 And everyone living and trusting in me
will not die until the age to come.
Are you trusting in this?”
11:27 She says to him,
“Yes, Lord, I am trusting,
I have trusted (353)
that YOU ARE—the Messiah,
the Son of GOD, coming into the world.”

On his arrival, Yeshua finds Lazaros in his grave, already since four days. All this “near Jerusalem.” What will happen here is in close proximity to what has happened. Jerusalem has been destroyed, the people are victims of the genocide by the Romans, they are dead and more than dead. This is the state of affairs, a dark future for the characters of the story, a horrible present for the narrator.

Yeshua had waited for two days. He comes on the fourth day. So the third day is left out. With good reason. What happens on the fourth day is made possible by what will happen on the third day. It will take Yeshua three days to rebuild the torn down sanctuary, speaking of his body (2:19). This gap indicates that John 11 can only be understood from John 20; the tomb of the Messiah is the tomb of Israel. The resurrection of the Messiah will be the resurrection of Israel.

The Judeans offer comfort to the two sisters, for the sake of their brother. Judeans keep company with those who are friends with Yeshua. Both are united in the mourning for Israel, because Lazaros, as I said, is the exemplary concentration of an Israel, which does not see any future. “Jews” in John’s eyes are obviously not the gray mass of a homogeneous hate object. In times of deepest national mourning and deepest humiliation by the enemies, they are all Jews here. An old communist of Jewish origin said, “I do not believe in God, I do not believe in Zionism, but as long as there is still one anti-Semite, I am a Jew.”

Martha walks toward Yeshua, alone. In the form of an accusation, she will ask the question that all Messianists will ask after the destruction of Jerusalem, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The question is no other than that of the 74th Psalm, 74:9-11,

We no longer see any sign for us,
not even a prophet,
none of us knows until when!
Until when, God, the strangler may mock,
the enemy despises your name forever?
Why do you draw back your hand, your right hand,
from the center of your chest, altogether?

How often did this people have to sing such songs? How often did it ask, “Where is God?” Martha is not the first, not the only one to say, “If God had been there, we would still be alive!” This Messiah cannot prevent anything, even if Martha thinks she knows that God will give the Messiah what the Messiah asks for. In the so-called farewell speeches, this subject is treated 14:13; 15:7; 16:23. But there, the farewell of the Messiah is already anticipated.

Yeshua’s answer is the classical teaching of Rabbinical Judaism and the Messianists: the dead will rise. “Judgment shall be established, books shall be opened” (Daniel 7:10), everything that was in disorder shall be put in order, and the dead shall live. Yeshua, “Your brother will rise.” That he will rise on the “Day of Decision” does not comfort her. The “Day of Decision” (eschatē hēmera) is beyond the reach of human life.

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

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

If anywhere, the Gospel of John has had a resounding effect here. The sentences of 11,25-26 are generally understood as confirmation for the continued life of the individual person after death.
But Lazaros is not only an individual personality. A revival from individual death does not help him, he would have to die again. There is no statement, no narrated deed of Lazaros. He has no personality in the narrative—on purpose. This is not due to a lack of narrative talent. The woman from Sychar, the man born blind, also Nicodemos, also Thomas Didymos: they all have personality. Lazaros’ personality is completely absorbed in the function it has in the narrative: to represent the deadly condition of Israel. Whoever trusts the Messiah—as a child of the people—will die just as little as the people. If Israel remains, the name of each child of Israel remains.

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

Does Martha trust this word, this fact (davar)? “I have trusted, pepisteuka,” she says. The perfect is almost unanimously documented—almost. But the oldest almost complete text, Papyrus 66, writes a present tense, “I am trusting, pisteuō.” The present tense could read, “I want to trust that YOU ARE (sy ei), the Messiah, coming like God into the world order.” Does this trust remove death from the world, the death of the world order of death?

The sentence is the confession of the Messianic community. Such confessions of faith are not seldom spoken well-behaved. The decency out of Martha’s mouth can hardly conceal her skepticism, as we will hear at her brother’s open grave. Ecclesiastically, the perfect is identical with the Christian creed, the confessional state is the achieved state of the church. P66 distrusts the ecclesiastical credo. In view of the state of affairs, an empire under the administration of the first soldier emperors, and the increasingly severe persecutions of the Messianic communities, trust is always standing on the edge of the abyss. This was the situation of the one who prepared the manuscript P66 around the year 200. We consider the present tense to be appropriate. (354)

10.3.3. Mariam and the Judeans, 10:28-37

11:28 And having said this, she went away,
she called Mariam, her sister, and said secretly,
“The Teacher has arrived (355) and is calling you.”
11:29 When that one heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
11:30 Yeshua had not yet come into the village
but was still in the place where Martha had met him.
11:31 The Judeans now, who had been with her in the house giving her comfort,
saw Mariam get up quickly and go out.
They followed her,
thinking she was going to the tomb to weep there.
11:32 Now when Mariam came to where Yeshua was,
she saw him, fell at his feet, and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
11:33 When now Yeshua saw her weeping,
and also the Judeans who came with her weeping,
he snorted with rage, very much, he was utterly shaken. (356)
11:34 He said,
“Where have you put him?“
They said to him,
“Lord, come and see.”
11:35 Yeshua shed tears.
11:36 So the Judeans said,
“See how deeply he was friends with him!”
11:37 But some of them said,
“He opened the blind man’s eyes.
Couldn’t he have kept this one from dying?”

Martha calls Mariam, but her call was not meant for the public (lathra). Even among the Synoptics, lathra aims at an action beyond the public sphere (Matthew 1:19). Martha’s call is not meant to become a public matter here. This can hardly mean anything other than the lived, non-public, even subversive way of existence of the Messianic community for which Martha stands. This subversive strategy, however, is followed by the further course of the narrative.

One cannot shake off the Judean public in this way, and since John here tells the story the way he tells it, he doesn’t want to either. The existence of the Messianic community is the existence in the face of Israel. John does not want a Jewish secret sect. That he of all people ends up in a closed room—“the doors locked for fear of the Judeans” (20:19.26)—is the tragedy of this text, which the appendix —John 21—tries to escape.

What connects the Judeans and Mariam is the mourning for Lazaros. The mourning of a dead person is a public affair, everyone participates in the mourning and shows it. Martha and Mariam are two faces in the Messianic community, one in the “room with the locked doors,” the other in the confrontation with the Judeans. (357) The first face—Martha—is the face of the “confessing church,” the second—Mariam—is the face of the communities mourning for Israel with the Judeans. The Messianic community will never be without the Jews. This does not spare both sides the fundamental debate about the walk—halakha—in and against the world order.

Yeshua has not left his place, and the words that Mariam addresses to him are the same as the words of Martha. The scene is very different from that with Martha. Martha begins to speak immediately, Mariam “fell at his feet.” No conversation takes place. Yeshua saw the grief of Mariam and the grief of the Judeans. In the face of this grief, the Messiah was beside himself and was seized by a quite furious shock (enebrimēsato, etaraxen).

Some commentators see this shock as the wrath of Yeshua directed against the disbelief of Jews and Mariam. (358) Others see here a protest of Yeshua against the omnipotence of death. They are thus concerned with death in general. (359) The endemic anti-Judaism of Christian exegetes proliferates in them like a cancer of the mind. The Jew John is mourning with his fellow Jews; but to these professors, John is not a Jew but a Christian, so the mourning of the Jews must be a false, “unbelieving” mourning. If some enlightened readers of this interpretation think that this anti-Judaism has been overcome, they are greatly mistaken. The ever more widespread Christian fundamentalism is vehemently anti-Jewish. Let us return to the text.

Lazaros’ death is concrete, the death of Israel. He asks, “Where have you put him?” The answer—“come and see”—we know from the reaction of Philipp, when Nathanael doubted that something good could come out of Galilee, 1:46. Here, of course, not the good is to be seen, but the opposite. Yeshua shed tears. “Weeping” (klaiein) and “shedding tears” (dakryein) is, even today in the Orient, that public mourning of a deceased which is connected with violent emotional outbursts.

The Judeans note the deep friendship between Yeshua and Lazaros. In other words, they see how the Messiah or the Messianic community are concerned about the fate of Lazaros/Israel. All the more justified is the question: Why did the Messiah not prevent this, given that he had made blind people see? What good is a Messiah if something may happen that must not happen, the downfall of Jerusalem, the death of Lazaros? If such a question is suppressed, every Messianism becomes not only silly but dangerous.

10.3.4 Untie him and let him go, 11:38-45

11:38 Yeshua, again snorting with rage to himself, (360) came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone was lying in front of it.
11:39 Yeshua says,
“Lift the stone away.”
The sister of the accomplished one, (361) Martha, says to him,
“Lord, he is already stinking, it is the fourth day!”
11:40 Yeshua says to her,
“Didn’t I say to you,
If you trust, you will see the honor of GOD?”
11:41 So they lifted the stone away.
Yeshua lifted up his eyes and said,
“FATHER, I thank you that you have heard me.
11:42 I myself had known that you always hear me,
but I said this because of the crowd standing around,
so that they may trust that you have sent me.”
11:43 Having said this, he cried out with a great voice,
“Lazaros, come out!”
11:44 The deceased came out, his feet and hands wrapped,
and his face wrapped around with a sweat cloth.
Yeshua said to them,
“Untie him, and let him go away.”

11:45 At this, many of the Judeans who had come to Mariam
and had viewed what Yeshua did,
began trusting in him.

Yeshua snorted in anger again (embrimōmenos). He stands at the grave cave, a stone has been rolled to the front. We know the stone very well, Mark 15:46 ff. In Mark the stone was rolled away as if by ghostly hands, Mark 16:4. Here people are asked to roll away the stone.

Now Martha speaks, “the sister of the accomplished one (teteleutēkotos).” Yeshua will name his own “end” differently; he uses a slightly different verb (telein, “to achieve his goal,” telos, instead of teleutan, “to reach the end, to accomplish”). We will have to take this difference into account in the discussion of 19:28.30.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.4. Dying for the nation, 11:46-54

11:46 But some of them went off to the Perushim,
they said to them what Yeshua had done.
11:47 The leading priests and the Perushim gathered together in the Sanhedrin, (362)
they said,
“What are we going to do?
This human is doing many signs.
11:48 If we let him do so,
everyone will trust in him,
then the Romans will come
and bring ruin to both our place and nation.” (363)
11:49 But one of them, a certain Caiaphas, the high priest of that year,
said to them,
“You don’t know anything! (364)
11:50 You don’t consider (365) that it is in your interest
if one human dies on behalf of the people, (366)
so that the whole nation won’t be destroyed.”
11:51 He did not say this of himself,
rather as high priest of that year he prophesied
that Yeshua was about to die on behalf of the nation,
11:52 and not for the nation alone,
but for gathering the scattered GOD-borns into one. (367)
11:53 So from that day on they were determined to put him to death.
11:54 Therefore, Yeshua no longer was walking his way openly among the Judeans
but went away from there into the region near the wilderness,
to a town called Ephraim.
There he stayed with his disciples.

John proceeds structurally like his great predecessor Ezekiel. Between the great vision of the Book of Ezekiel about the revival of the more than dead Israel and the unification of the two houses of Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 37) on the one hand and about the reconstruction of the sanctuary or the new community (Ezekiel 40-48) on the other hand, the ghostly chapters about “Gog of the land of Magog” are inserted. The united destructive power of the peoples returns once more to destroy the land. So here in John as well. After the vision of the revival of Israel/Lazaros, the sober evaluation of the political situation is following.

Some of the Judeans went to the Perushim. For the third time in John’s Gospel a schism occurs among them, and for the second time (see 7:43) the schism is followed by a consultation at the highest level.

The situation is precarious. The problem is Yeshua, or rather the many signs he does. “If we allow him to do so,” they say, “. . . then the Romans will come.” It is the only time that the word “Romans” appears in the Gospels. The Sanhedrin fears that the appearance of Yeshua might bring the end of the place and the nation.

The political leadership and the Perushim as the official opposition do not want any changes to the status quo. They do not see that society has already fallen apart. The sign of the unstoppable disintegration of society is the death of Lazaros. There is no example in history that any political leadership can decide of its own accord that its system is finished and that something radically new must begin. The new would mean the end of the system.

However, they do not see the global system, the kosmos, but only their own local system, which functions within the global system. Their problem is the abolition of their system, Rome is not the problem for them. Arousin, “they take away, abolish,” is the word. (368) “To abolish the place” can mean to take the place away from the hands of the population and their leadership. This is consistent with ”abolish the nation.” “The place (ha-maqom)” is not only the city but the sanctuary as its political heart.

Now we must draw attention to the difference between “nation,” ethnos, and “people,” laos. Ethnos is goy in Hebrew, and laos is ˁam. Deuteronomy 4:6 both words meet in one sentence, “What a wise and reasonable people (ˁam-chakham we-navon), this great nation (ha-goy ha-gadol ha-ze).” An ethnos/goy is a people as it acts outward, to the outside world. A laos/ˁam is a people as it is held together inwardly. The Romans are dealing with an ethnos/goy; if they recognize the people as ethnos/goy, they grant them a certain degree of self-government. To “abolish the nation” is to deprive a people of the right of self-government. This is precisely what the political leadership fears.

Consequently, the kohen gadol (archiereus), the high priest, is in demand. He acts as the predominant chairman of the board of directors, who must put the helpless management (“You know nothing”) back on track. He does not appeal to morals, but to interests, “You do not consider that it is in your interest (sympherei hymin). To save the sanctuary and thus the people as laos/ˁam—and that means, in the eyes of the leadership, preventing the downfall of ethnos/goy—a human must die. Political interest ranks before morality; Caiaphas says, as Brecht later said, “First foods, then morals.” They are not interested in the people, but in their model of self-government, in the status of the ethnos Ioudaiōn. Their political interest is the maintenance of local self-government. For it is on this that their idea of the “place,” maqom, is reduced. They are not concerned with “the place (ha-maqom) that the Eternal One chooses to make his Name live there (Deuteronomy 16:2, etc.).

This cunning confusion of terms, this contamination of laos with ethnos, is part of the constant repertoire of all politics. Hyper tou laou, “for the sake of the people,” is the propagandistic element here. The hesitant leadership collective has to understand that Yeshua must be killed both in their interest (the real reason) and for the sake of the people (propaganda).

Here the political writer Johannes intervenes. Caiaphas does not say all this out of himself, out of jest and whim, writes John, but as the great priest of the year he must act as a prophet, that is, he must point to what is politically mandatory. Within the Sanhedrin, he gives a governmental declaration (which here means prophēteuein) that Yeshua should die for the sake of the nation, and so for the sake of the people. But, says John, here, in the Sanhedrin, it is not about the people (laos), but about self-government (ethnos). Yeshua will die, but not only for the sake of self-government (ethnos), as Caiaphas said, but “also to bring together into one all the children of God who have been scattered.”

To bring together all Israel, all the children of God, wherever they live under the ruling world order, in one synagogue (synagagein): this is the goal of Johannine politics. When all the God-born have been brought together, then there will be the place where the God of Israel will allow his name to live. For the God-born are not the children of Adam, or even the children of God—humans in general—but rather certain humans, the children of Israel. And a child of Israel is the human who accepts “the light,” “who is not begotten of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man (Abraham), but divinely,” 1:13.

Diaskorpizein, “to scatter,” always refers to the fate of Israel after the destruction of the first sanctuary. This centrifugal movement, which determined the life of Israel in the diaspora since the first destruction of the place, is reversed into a centripetal movement, towards the one place. This is not an invention of John, but a good prophetic tradition.

The message in John is not that “Jesus died for all humans” and that Israel according to the flesh has had its day, but that the humans, as far as they “accept the light,” find their destiny in the newly created people (ˁam nivraˀ) of Psalm 102:19. In John, this is something else than the heathen mission and the Christian church.

To the leadership, the whole story has only the consequence of planning the elimination of the Messiah; the decision is hereby taken. Like a good CEO, Caiaphas has asserted himself in management. The consequence for Yeshua is that he no longer wants to appear publicly (parrhesia) among the Judeans (peripatein, “to walk his way”). In this part about the hidden Messiah (John 7:11-11:54), there is always the contrast between “publicly” and “in secret,” 7:1 ff. The constant attempts to arrest him or stone him (7:30.44; 8:59; 10:31.39) make his public, Messianic walk among the Judeans impossible. Exactly where he must be the Messiah, he cannot be the Messiah. This will become clearer to us in the discussion of the King’s entry, 12:12-19.

Yeshua goes to a city near the wilderness called Ephraim. It is the biblical ˁOphrah, the commentators say. But the place is written very differently in the Greek scriptures, Aphairenem, Phophera, Phara, Aphar. There is a city of Ephraim in the war report of Josephus. (369) Barrett writes, “The name Ephraim has no allegorical or other special meaning, it is probably traditional.” (370) Which tradition? Barrett remains silent.

Ephraim, like Bethany, is a theological place, not a geographical one. In fact, the name is traditional, only different from what Barrett thinks. Yeshua resumes his mission of bringing Israel together, for Ephraim is an allusion to Israel of the ten tribes of the North. In order to make the reunion of all the children of Israel possible, Yeshua moves to the vicinity of the wilderness, the place where once Israel was united as one people through the discipline of freedom. He acts in fulfillment of the vision of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who speak of “the house of Judah and the house of Israel.” In a text of the Scriptures, the word “wilderness” (ˀeremos, midbar) always has this meaning: the place of renewal, Hanukkah. It is not only the renewal of the ethnos Judah, the political community of the two tribes Judah and Levi, it is also the renewal of Ephraim, the scattered ten tribes of the whole of Israel.

This is a meaningful conclusion to the passage about the festival Hanukkah. From now on there will be only Passover with John. (371)

11. The nearness of the Passover, 11:55-12:50

11.1. A funeral meal, 11:55-12:11

11:55 Near was the Pascha of the Judeans.
Many from the country went up to Jerusalem
to sanctify themselves for Pascha. (372)
11:56 They were seeking Yeshua,
and as they stood in the sanctuary they said to each other,
“What do you think?
He won’t come to the festival, will he?”
11:57 The leading priests and the Perushim had given orders
that anyone knowing where he is should denounce him, (373)
so they could seize him.

12:1 Yeshua however came to Bethany six days before Pascha.
There was also Lazaros whom Yeshua had raised from the dead.
12:2 They made a meal for him there, and Martha was hosting. (374)
Lazaros was one of those reclining with him [at the table].
12:3 Mariam then took a pound of nard balm, pistikos, (375) very precious,
anointed the feet of Yeshua and dried his feet with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the balm.
12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples,
who was about to hand him over, said,
12:5 “Why this balm was not sold for three hundred denarii
and given to the needy?”
12:6 He did not say this because he cared about the needy,
but because he was a thief
and having the money-bag took away what was put therein.
12:7 Now Yeshua said,
“Leave her alone!
She kept this for the day of my burial.
12:8 The needy you keep with yourselves all the time,
but you do not have me all the time.” (376)

12:9 A large crowd of Judeans recognized that he was there
and they came not only because of Yeshua,
but also to see Lazaros, whom he had raised from the dead.
12:10 The leading priests however deliberated
to put Lazaros to death too.
12:11 For because of him many Judeans were coming
and trusting in Yeshua.

The people move to Jerusalem, the designated place for the celebration of the Festival of Liberation. All must “sanctify” themselves, everything that hinders them from taking part in the festival must be cleansed. Certain rites are provided for this. The exhortation: “Sanctify yourselves (hagnisasthe)” serves as preparation for decisive events, such as the first crossing of the Jordan, Joshua 3:5, or the renewal of the covenant under King Josiah, 2 Chronicles 29:5.

Most people, neither the mass of the pilgrims nor the disciples of Yeshua, do not guess what a decisive day lies ahead of them. There is one who does, Mariam, the sister of Lazaros.

Again, people seek Yeshua, but the search is done under dire circumstances. The members of the Sanhedrin issued a decree calling on all to denounce.

Yeshua belongs to the pilgrims, and his way is via Bethany. To John, the way of the Messiah is always via Bethany. There the way began, there he enlivened Lazaros, the representative of Israel. There a meal takes place.

This meal is embedded within two notes on the Judeans’ search for Yeshua Messiah, 11:55-57 and 12:9-11. Yeshua only twice has meals in John’s Gospel. The first meal is a public affair, “Many people of the Judeans recognized that he was there,” 12:9. Only after Yeshua’s failure in the Judean public is ascertained, 12:37-50, the second meal takes place in a closed circle, 13:1 ff. At the meal at Bethany, the female disciples play the leading role, at the meal before Passover, the Twelve.

“Martha was hosting,” we translate. The deaconess is not a maid but belongs to the king’s court. The verb itself, diakonein, “to serve,” does not appear once in the Greek Scripture. We find the nouns diakonia, “hospitality, catering,” and diakonos, “privileged servant,” in the Role of Esther. There are seven sserissim who “served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,” Esther 1:10. (377) They probably acted as the models for the seven deacons in Acts 6. Martha’s duty is therefore a distinguished service.

What constitutes Messianic Diakonia, we will see later in this passage (12:26). During the meal at Bethany, there is a kind of foot washing. It is a prophetic-priestly ministry to the Messiah, but a very special kind of ministry. What Yeshua will do later, during the meal with the disciples, will be slave service of the Lord, douleia, not diakonia, “The slave is not greater than his master” (13:16). Yeshua does the slave service of washing the feet. He is the master, the disciples are in any case subordinated to him. Only during the long conversation after the meal do the disciples become friends (15:15).

Lazaros was one of those who “reclined” at the table, but the leading role is played by the sister of Lazaros and Martha. The scene of the anointing of Yeshua was a common narrative element among Messianic groups. It is important to see how John alienates the narrative by rearranging the individual elements. All three Synoptics know them.

Mark and Matthew, like John, have the scene shortly before Passover, but unlike John after the arrival in Jerusalem. In their case, the house of the meal belongs to a certain Simon: in Mark and Matthew it belongs to the “leprous Simon,” in Luke, this one becomes “Simon Parush (Pharisee).”

The woman who performs the anointing in Mark and Matthew is not specified, but she anoints the head of the Messiah. The anointing is an anointing of the King. In Israel, the priests perform the liturgical anointings. The king who is to be appointed in place of another (1 Samuel 16:12 ff.; 2 Kings 9:1 ff.) is anointed by the prophet. Luke has the story in a completely different place, 7:36 ff., in the so-called “little travelogue.” Luke pursued a different purpose than John, Matthew, and Mark. The woman must be a “woman of aberration” in Luke so that Yeshua can make something clear to Simon Parush. Every host was obliged to give his guests water to wash their feet. The washing itself was slave labor. The “woman of aberration” took over the duties of the defaulting host. As for the other three Gospels, the anointing is a prophetic-priestly action.

John takes the element of foot washing from the narrative tradition from which Luke also draws, but gives it a completely different significance. From Mark and Matthew, he borrows the proximity to the entry into Jerusalem. It shall be an anointing of the King, but the Messianic King will be a completely different king than all other kings and not a new David. For the explanation, we must wait until Pilate’s interrogation of Yeshua. The Messianic King will have his feet anointed, not his head. What this means, the washing of feet after the meal with the disciples will show: the Lord is the servant who washes the feet. The anointing of the feet, therefore, has a hidden meaning: this Messiah is different than everyone thinks. This is what Mariam is all about. You do not anoint the King with ordinary goods, but with selected balm, not the head, but the feet.

In John, the house in Bethany is the house of the three siblings. John wants to give the classical narrative a place within the framework of his own narrative. Mariam is not the weeping woman, after the revival of Lazaros she has no motive to do so. Mariam is the one with whom the Judeans are associated. Consequently, they appear immediately after the story of the anointing, 12:9-11. Mariam appears as the representative of the Judeans who trusted Yeshua. She of all people will take over the office of embalming Yeshua, who is still alive but approaching death. She does not yet know this, Yeshua will make it clear to her and to the Twelve, especially to Judas Iscariot.

Another detail is changed by John. In Matthew and Mark, the Twelve or unspecified “some” are outraged. The only one who is outraged in John is Judas, the thief and treasurer. In the Synoptics this is not surprising, since the needy, ptōchoi, ˀevyonim, play a central role in them; in John, they are notably absent. Here the needy ones serve as a hypocritical pretext of a predatory treasurer who mourns a lost prey. John regards him as a traitor and thief because he rejects the kingship of Yeshua, above all because he rejects a kingship that “does not function according to the ruling world order” and makes money out of the Messianic movement.

In 13:29, Judas is, so to speak, the administrator of poor relief. John is mainly concerned with big politics. The social question is an eternal question, says John, but here first of all the political question is in the foreground. That is why he quotes Deuteronomy 15 (especially v.11). This great Torah text deals with “social matters,” debt relief, distribution of wealth. A society that is based and wants to be based on the equality of all families of the people must do so. But here, in John, it is about the political line of kingship for all Israel. Shortly before the direct confrontation of the Messiah with the representative of the world order (18:33 ff.), social policy must take a step back. Who, like John, lets the poor appear only in connection with the traitor (12:5.8; 13:29) and otherwise not at all, wants to tell about Yeshua from Nazareth completely differently. This can be understood as political criticism of the group around John against the Messianic communities from the oriental Judeans. By the predominant concern for the poor, they would lose the big political line, the policy of the great alternative.

Mariam’s action makes it clear that the Messiah is a king, but one like none before. Judas Iscariot—ˀish qeriyoth, the man from Kerioth—sees this as silly political capers: Would it not have been better to give all that money to the needy, to deepen the support of the people? That may have been how Judas thought. John interprets Judas as the one who is blocking Johannine politics. (378)

But Mariam anoints the living Messiah who will die. She celebrates in advance the farewell of the Messiah, the King, who is not like all the others. He is the King who goes away, who says farewell, who is buried. To John, Mariam is decisively more political than Judas and the Twelve, who probably sympathized with Judas here. For Yeshua’s answer is addressed to all the disciples, “The needy you keep . . .”

Now Mariam’s companions, the Judeans, are coming, and a large number of them. Yeshua and Lazaros are a sensational attraction to the Judeans; they come to see the Messiah and revitalized Israel. What would be more legitimate to the children of Israel? To the leading priests—the Perushim are left out by John here—the fatal consequence of this popularity is that the elimination of the Messiah leads to the extermination of the revived Lazaros. Yeshua must go. Then Lazaros has to go too. The leadership of Israel also wants to kill the one who represented Israel— dead and alive. Leadership kills its own people. It was not the first time that leadership sacrifices its people; it will not be the last.

11.2. The Messianic King, 12:12-19

12:12 On the following day, a large crowd came to the festival.
They heard that Yeshua is coming to Jerusalem.
12:13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
Hoshiaˁ naset us free—,
blessed is he who comes with HIS name,
the King of Israel!” (379)
12:14 Yeshua found a little donkey,
he sat on it as it is written:
12:15 Fear not, daughter of Zion,
there, your King is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt. (380)
12:16 His disciples did not recognize this at first,
but when Yeshua had come to his honor,
then they remembered that this was written about him,
and that they had done this for him.
12:17 Now the crowd that was with him continued to testify
that he had called Lazaros out of the tomb and raised him from the dead.
12:18 Therefore the crowd came to meet him,
because they had heard that he had done this sign.
12:19 The Perushim said to each other,
“Look, you’re getting nowhere,
there, the world is going after him!” (381)

In John, the narrative of the entry into Jerusalem differs substantially from the narrative of the Synoptics. The event itself is the same to all: Yeshua rides on a donkey, the crowd greets him by waving branches of the olive tree and singing Psalm 118. John describes the entry as a normal event, at least, that is how the disciples experienced it. Only later, they did remember that it was not a normal event, but that the rejoicing was for the one who had awakened Lazaros.

All evangelists know the public liturgy—a real folk festival!—by which the Passover pilgrims are greeted. Psalm 118 served as a welcoming song to the pilgrims—in the alternate chant between the pilgrims and the inhabitants of the city. It begins with an alternating chant (vv.1-3):

Thank the NAME:
because of his solidarity until the age to come!
Let Israel say:
because of his solidarity until the age to come!
Let the house of Aaron say:
because of his solidarity until the age to come!

This is followed by a longer “solo” from v.5 onwards until vv.17-18,

I will not die, for I want to live,
the deeds of the NAME I will tell.
Chastened, the NAME has chastened me,
but he has not delivered me up to death.

Then the alternating chant starts again (vv.19-27a),

Open to me the gates of reliability.
Through them, I will go to thank the NAME.
This is the gate to the NAME,
The reliable ones get through.
I thank YOU, you have humbled me,
but YOU have become my liberation.
The stone that the builders rejected,
has become the main cornerstone.
From the NAME this has happened,
it is a marvel in our eyes.
This is the day the NAME has made,
a day for us to rejoice, to be glad.
Oh YOU, set us free (hoshiaˁ na),
oh YOU, give us success (hatzlicha na).
Blessed is he who comes in his NAME,
we bless you from the house of the NAME.
God is the NAME, he gives us light . . .

In the Messianic communities, this psalm has played a great role. We need to know this Psalm to understand what is happening here. In all great Christian liturgies, songs with words of this Psalm open the Holy Week. To all evangelists, v.25 (“set us free,” hoshiaˁ na) was crucial. In Christianity, the abraded form of the exclamation hoshiaˁ na, “Hosanna,” has become a completely debased phrase, not only linguistically, that arouses disgust in outsiders.

Then John inserts the word “King” after the Psalm verse, “Blessed is he who comes with his NAME: the King of Israel.” The Messianists turn a Jewish liturgy of welcoming pilgrims into an entry of the Messianic King. In Mark 11:9-10 it says, “Set us free, blessed one, coming in his NAME—blessed the Kingdom of David—set us free, in the heights.” Matthew 21:9 gets even clearer, “Set us free, Son of David, Blessed One, coming in his NAME, set us free, in the heights.” Luke 19:38 finally, “Blessed is the King, coming in his NAME.” A kingdom from the house of David is suppressed by John. As we saw, John does not know any Davidic origin of Yeshua; to John, he is simply Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee. Of course, Yeshua is King to him, but not like David (18:37-38 )!

In the midst of the turmoil when the pilgrims entered the city in the week before Passover, “Yeshua finds a little donkey.” In the Synoptics, the donkey is “ordered” in advance, so to speak, so that a royal entry can take place. Here Yeshua gives a hint which obviously is not understood by anyone. Cheered by the crowd was the one who awakened Lazaros and therefore should be king. This reaction is none other than the one after feeding the five thousand, 6:15. In fact, the crowd is cheering the Messianic King, but not a Zealot king, which is what they actually want. Therefore Yeshua “invents” the little donkey. To Wengst, “this king was not a ‘high lord‘ . . . but comes in lowliness“. (382) The danger of such remarks is that the Messiah is a nice, modest king. The mistake of most commentaries is that they do not take seriously the Scriptural evidence that John brings and do not explain it to today’s readers. Thus these do not learn to read John “from the Scriptures.”

The quote is from the first of the three “burden words” added to the Book of Zechariah. Zechariah 9:1-9 probably describes the conquest of the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea from Tyre to Ekron (from Lebanon to the Egyptian border) by Alexander the Macedonian. All this happens so to speak “under the direction” of the God of Israel, “The NAME has an eye on mankind and on all tribes of Israel,” 9:1. Then follows the fragment from which the quotation John 12:15 is taken, Zechariah 9:9 ff:

Rejoice loudly, daughter of Zion,
blow the trumpet, daughter of Jerusalem.
Your King comes to you,
a true one, a liberator he is,
a humbled man, riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the child of the donkey.
He exterminates chariots from Ephraim, cavalry (383) from Jerusalem,
the war bow is eradicated:
Peace will be granted to the nations,
its government permanently, from sea to sea,
from the great river to the edges of the earth.

In the Book of Zechariah, the messianic king brings peace to the city. We do not know exactly what situation this text aimed at. In any case, the king ends the war between Ephraim and Jerusalem, the great theme of the conversation between the Messiah and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The king of Zechariah 9 may have been Alexander. People tend to consider such great kings as Cyrus the Persian or Alexander the Macedonian to be Messiah.

John is fed up with such great Messiahs. This disillusionment is a consistent feature of the Messianic groups. If king, then one on a little donkey. No more great kings. The condition for peace between Ephraim/Samaria and Jerusalem/Judea is world peace for the peoples. This is exactly what the crowd may want, without really knowing they want it. They do not know that world peace is nothing but the other side of the revival of Lazaros/Israel. They do not know it and the disciples do not know it either. Only later they will know, they will understand “the Scriptures,” including the Scriptural passage Zechariah 9:9 ff. Yeshua’s “invention,” an invention of the whole Messianic movement—the little donkey (onarion)—is the fruit of the study of the Scriptures in the Messianic communities.

The Perushim, skilled in the Scriptures, understand very well what is going on here. “It’s no use,” they say, “the world has gone after him.” Mostly this sentence is understood as an announcement that even harder means are to be used now. What other means do they have left? No, the sentence is resigned. They do not know what to do. But the priests know!

11.3 He hid himself from them, 12:20-36

This passage has three parts. 1) The grain of wheat; 2) My soul is shaken; 3) Who is this bar enosh? Parts 1) and 2) are joined by the words psychē, “soul”, and doxa, “honor,” parts 2) and 3) by the word hypsothēnai, “to be exalted.” Once again, the question is who the Messiah is and what will happen to him.

11.3.1. The grain of wheat, 12:20-26

12:20 There were some Greeks (384) among those who went up
to bow at the festival.
12:21 They came up to (385) Philipp, the one from Bethsaida in Galilee,
they questioned him and said,
“Sir, we want to see Yeshua.”
12:22 Philipp comes and tells Andrew,
Andrew and Philipp come and tell Yeshua.
12:23 Now Yeshua answers, (386) he says,
“The hour has come
for the bar enosh, the Human, to be honored.
12:24 Amen, amen, I say to you:
If the grain of wheat that falls to the earth shall not die,
it stays by itself alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
12:25 The one loving (387) his soul,
is destroying it,
but the one hating his soul in this world order
will keep it into the life of the age to come!
12:26 If someone will serve me,
let him follow me,
and where I am, my servant (388) will be there too.
If someone will serve me, the FATHER will dignify him.

About the Greeks of 12:20, the exegetes have speculated a lot. Some saw in them diaspora Jews, others proselytes, some goyim (“Gentiles”), still others religious-minded people who sympathized with Judaism (sebomenoi, [God’s] worshipers, Acts 17:4.17, and others). There is much to be said for the latter. These are Greeks who went up to the festival of the Judeans. They do not want to “sanctify themselves” in the same way as the Judeans, but “bow down” to God.

They want to meet the Messiah, but they have no direct access to the Messiah. The connection to the Messiah is only through the mediation of the disciples. The contact person is Philipp. To the Greeks he is a person of respect, they call him kyrie, “Sir.” {See note to 4:11} Alone, Philipp does not see himself in a position to make a decision. He consults Andrew, who like himself and Simon Peter comes from the same place Bethsaida in Galilee. Both then go to Yeshua. This cumbersome procedure shows how difficult it was for the Messianic group around John to integrate people who are not from Israel into the Messianic movement. This confirms our thesis that John does not know any “heathen mission” as a genuine Messianic mission. On the other hand, access is not completely excluded. But a high hurdle is set up.

Yeshua immediately informs his present and future disciples about the conditions that the disciples actually have to fulfill. The direct contact with Yeshua obviously did not take place, at least if we refer the sentence, “Yeshua answers,” to Philipp and Andrew and not to the Greeks. The Greeks are not rejected, but they are not invited either. John is skeptical about Paul’s project of a Messianic community of Judeans and goyim.

The Messianic movement, viewing Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, was extremely fragmented during the time when John wrote. A uniform Messianism spread over the whole (kath’ holon) Roman world was not in sight at that time. By the end of the 2nd century, you could speak of something like a catholic church. The Roman Empire stabilized in the 2nd century, and revolutionary Messianism had become a Christian religion.

John, of course, did not foresee this development but feared that a significant entry of “Greeks,” or even of goyim, would make the Messianic community of the new Israel something else than the place where the scattered children of Israel were to be brought together. A community of Judeans and goyim is something different than the great unified synagogue of Israel mentioned in 11:52, John’s main political goal. That is why John (Yeshua) impedes the conditions of admission. With his disciples, as we will hear in 13-16, he will talk very differently.

Although the instruction on discipleship is not copied from the Synoptic tradition, it does show an understanding of the conditions of discipleship that was common to all Messianic groups. For example, the concept of the seed that bears rich fruit.

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

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

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

In John, the negation precedes the position. The position is that of discipleship. “Whoever wants to enter the service of the Messiah (diakonē, not douloi!), follow me.” Mark (8:35) puts the position first:

If anyone wants to liberate his soul, let him destroy it;
if anyone destroys his soul for my sake and the Gospel’s, he shall set it free.

In all Messianic communities the Messiah and the “Gospel of Yeshua Messiah” is the matter of the heart or soul, and everything else is void by comparison. We find a similar thought in Paul, “What was gain to me, for the sake of the Messiah, I consider as loss“ (Philippians 3:7).

This attitude is incomprehensible to all who have established themselves in the respective ruling world order. But it is familiar to those who want to replace the current order with a radical alternative. All truly convinced revolutionaries of the 20th century have lived this way, at least for a time.

Whoever gets involved in a truly Messianic existence must walk all the way with the Messiah, “Where I am, there my servant will be.” The diakonos will belong to the court of the Messianic King. This future will be a dignified one, “If anyone wants to serve me, the FATHER will dignify him.” The Greeks must accept this word if they want to see the Messiah. How difficult this will be, the Messiah himself says.

11.3.2. Now my soul is shaken, 12:27-33

12:27 Now my soul is shaken.
What can I say?
FATHER, free me from this hour? (389)
But this is precisely why I have come to this hour.
12:28 FATHER, honor your name!” (390)
At this, a voice came out of heaven,
“I have honored it, and I will honor it again!”
12:29 The crowd standing there and hearing it said,
“That was a thunderclap.”
Others said,
“A messenger from heaven has spoken to him.”
12:30 Yeshua answered, he said,
“This voice has not happened for my sake but for yours.
12:31 Now the judgment is upon this world order,
now the ruler (391) of this world order will be thrown out.
12:32 And I, when I will be exalted (392) above the earth,
I will draw all to myself.“
12:33 This he said, signifying (393) what death he would die.

“Now my soul is shaken.” We hear this sentence in Psalm 6:4. We find similar sentences in the psalms in great numbers; the subject is often “my heart” or “bone.” The wealth of Hebrew verbs expressing a strong emotion poses problems for the Greek language: One verb tarassein is used to translate more than forty different Hebrew verbs. It then covers emotional ranges from anxiety to total mental breakdown.

This shock felt in the soul is not new for Yeshua. The grief of Mariam and the Judeans had shaken Yeshua, 11:33. When he comes to speak of the imminent betrayal of Judas Iscariot, he will also be shaken, 13:21. Yeshua knows what is about to come: betrayal and death. He explicitly admonishes the disciples not to let themselves be overwhelmed by this fierce emotion, “Your heart shall not be shaken,” 14:1 and 14:27.

In John, the four verses 12:27-31 take the place that the scene in Gethsemane takes in the Synoptics. All who took the Messiah’s cause seriously knew that the Messianic existence implies a burden that is hardly bearable. The temptation to steal out of responsibility is great, “What shall I say: Free me—hoshiˁeni—from this hour?” The popular cheering hoshiaˁ na is here turned into a desperate prayer hoshiˁeni.

This is precisely why I have come to this hour,” says Yeshua. We ask, because of what precisely? Because of the honor of the NAME. The honor of God is “living Israel.” Yeshua had told Martha at the tomb, “If you trust, you will see the honor of God.” Yeshua prays here, “FATHER, honor your name!” Here we have to think of Psalm 115,

Not to us, YOU, not to us, no, give honor to Your name,
because of your solidarity, because of your fidelity.
Why should the nations speak,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven.
Everything that corresponds to His pleasure, He does . . . (vv.1-3)

This psalm sings about the uniqueness of the God of Israel, mocking the nullity of the gods of the nations,

Their wooden blocks with silver and gold, concoctions of human hands.
They have a mouth and do not speak, eyes they have and do not see. . . (vv.4-5)

The song ends with the proud lines,

Not the dead praise you, not those who descend into muteness.
No, we, we bless you, from now until the age to come. (vv.17-18)

Those who hear the words, “give honor to Your name,” know the song, the third song of the great Hallel (394) of the Passover festival, by heart. Especially in an hour when life and death are at stake, this song must resound. The request of Israel and the Messiah was, “Honor your name.” The answer is, “I have honored (at the grave of Lazaros), and I will honor again (at the grave of Yeshua).” Yeshua accepts the imminent death, but interprets it as “exaltation.”

The crowd hears the sound, but not the voice. We have to listen to Deuteronomy 4:11-12 with this passage,

You came closer, stood under the mountain,
the mountain burning with fire to the heart of heaven,
darkness, clouds, thunderstorm darkness
(the LXX adds: phōnē megalē, “great voice”).
And the NAME spoke to you out of the midst of the fire.
You heard a voice of words,
You have not seen any shape at all,
voice only (zulathi qol).

The answer to Yeshua’s outcry came as a “voice from heaven.” In Israel, the God always is “only voice,” but always “speaking voice” (qol devarim, phōnē rhēmatōn). The crowd is different from the people at the foot of Mount Horeb. They hear something, but not a speaking voice, and if they do, then a voice from some heavenly messenger.

Nevertheless, the voice happens because of the crowd. Yeshua is now the voice, “Now is the trial (krisis) concerning this world order. The word “now” invokes the expression “and this is now” from the conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well (4:23) and from the speech after the healing of the paralytic (5:25). Yeshua will say this again to his disciples: now the bar enosh, the Human, will be honored, 15:31. The exaltation of the Messiah is happening now, the abolition of this world order is also happening now.

The meaning of the word krisis is determined by the source from which the word in John is taken, Daniel 7, where a trial is being held. In the course of this trial a political monster is disempowered, and its power, indeed all power to come, is given to a figure like a man (bar enosh). This, according to Yeshua, is happening now.

Accused is “this world order” and, as pars pro toto, “the ruler of this world order” or, if you like, “the principle of this world order (archōn tou kosmou toutou),” the Emperor of Rome. This ruler or principle is “thrown out,” that is: excluded, no longer playing a role. The judgment in this trial is: this world order has played out. That is the negative aspect of this judgment.

The positive aspect is, “When I am exalted from the earth, I will draw all to myself.” “All” means “not only the nation, but all the scattered children of God,” 11:52, and perhaps people like those Greeks if they meet the conditions of discipleship. The whole trial, accusation and judgment, happens “when I am exalted from the earth. But this exaltation is the sign of his death. But what does “exaltation” mean, and “now”?

11.3.3. Who is this bar enosh, Human? 12:34-36

12:34 And the crowd answered him,
“We have heard from the Torah,
the Messiah stays until the age to come.
How do you say
the bar enosh, the Human, has to be exalted?
Who is this Human, bar enosh?
12:35 Yeshua, therefore, said to them,
“Still a little while the light is with you.
Walk your way while you have the light,
lest the darkness overpowers you.
He who is walking his way in the darkness
cannot know where he is going.
12:36 While you have the light,
put your trust in the light,
so that you may become like the light.”

This is what Yeshua said.
He went away,
he hid himself from them.

None of the interpretations we have consulted gives an answer to this question [what does “exaltation” mean, and “now”?] They are Christian interpretations, they do not see a problem here, because the immortality of the soul and eternal glory are the way out of this dilemma. Our question is not a question to them, and from this certainty, they interpret the Gospel of John. Only Calvin shows that he at least knows this question:

Therefore Christ proclaims that the prince of the world must be driven out; for it is from here that confusion and disfigurement originate because as long as Satan reigns, injustice also reigns. So, when Satan is cast out, the world is called back from its apostasy to the rule of God. If someone asks how Satan could have fallen at the death of Christ, who continues his unceasing struggle against God, I answer that this expulsion does not refer to any limited period of time, but that here is shown that unique effect of Christ’s death which is manifested daily. (395)

But every day, the power of “Satan” or “the government of injustice” makes itself felt. Calvin too has no answer, at least none that would be satisfactory to us. So we do not understand what could be meant in real terms.

Perhaps it can be said in this way: if we devote ourselves with our whole soul to the cause of the Messiah, the world order ceases to be our inescapable destiny. We begin to live differently. This is a triumph of the Messiah.

But if “Satan continues his fight against God unceasingly,” we ask: When will the world finally stop being the place of the “murderer of humans from the beginning,” when will it finally end? It is the task of theology to at least keep this question open if it cannot yet answer it.

John takes this into account by having our—and probably also his—concerns formulated by the crowd, “We have heard from the Torah that the Messiah remains until the age to come.” This is a traditional idea: the Messiah is the definitive solution to all problems. Yeshua speaks of a bar enosh, of a Human, who must be exalted. But who is this bar enosh? In plain English, “We see no change, so what is the purpose of that exalted, that is, crucified Human?”

There is no direct answer to this question, but rather a repetition of what was said in the Gospel of John from the first chapter on. It seems to us as if John wanted to say—or better: suggest—that there is no such thing as a Messiah as a definitive solution to all our problems. This very light merely is “a short time with you. Walk your way while you have the light, lest darkness overwhelms you.” The darkness is that empire of death. Whoever lives with a Messianic perspective, the empire has no final power over him, “As long as you have the light, trust the light, that you may become like light (become sons of light).” Unfortunately “the light of the world” has been murdered. The relativity of the Messiah relativizes everything that thinks itself absolute—above all the emperor of Rome: this is the message.

The reality is quite different. If, however, the empire seems to be quite consolidated, quite definite, then darkness seems to have overwhelmed us. Obviously, the disciples did not understand this. Therefore, John has to deal with the problem again and then even more clearly. This is done in the conversation between Yeshua and the disciples who are allowed to ask the actual questions—Thomas, Philipp, Judas non-Iscariot (John 14)—and especially in the big passage, “When the advocate arrives who I will send you” (15:26-16:15) and in the speech about the “little while” (16:16-24).

In the meantime, the Messiah has withdrawn into hiddenness. To that Israel, which represents the crowd of Judeans, he remains hidden. Even our Christian Easter festivals will not remove this hiddenness. The hiddenness is final. Not only to the world order and to the Judeans but also to the Messianic community. The Messiah will say farewell. What remains is the inspiration that will arise from him. Whether this answers our questions has to be rethought by every new generation. The now following verses should also be understood as words that refer to the Christians.

11.4 Conclusion, 12:37-43

12:37 Though he had done such signs before them,
they were not trusting in him,
12:38 so that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled,
Who could trust what came to our ears,
the arm of the NAME, to whom was it revealed? (396)
12:39 Therefore they could not trust, as again Isaiah said, (397)
12:40 He has blinded their eyes,
made their hearts as hard as stone,
so that they do not see with their eyes,
understand with their hearts,
and turn around, so that I could heal them.
12:41 This is what Isaiah said because he saw His honor and spoke about Him. (398)
12:42 Nevertheless, many of the authorities also began trusting in him,
but—because of the Perushim—were not confessing to it,
so that they are not excluded from the synagogue.
12:43 They loved human honor more than the honor of God.

Vv.37-43 is a bitter summary. “Though he had done such signs before them, they did not trust him.” The keyword “trust” is followed by a word from the Book of Isaiah as a fulfillment quotation. The first lines of the song Isaiah 53 immediately invoke the whole song to all who hear it,

Who could trust what we heard,
the arm of the NAME, to whom was it revealed?
He was like a sapling, like a root sprout from the earth,
no shape, no shine, that we might be aware of him,
no reputation that we should desire him.
He was despised, not worth mentioning,
a man of torment, recognized as an invalid.
He must hide his face from us,
despised, without attention.
And yet: he carried our diseases,
he dragged our torments with him,
pierced because of our rebellion,
beaten for our crimes.
Chastisement came upon him so that we might have peace,
through his scourge wounds, we are healed.

Isaiah 53 shows the contempt of his compatriots for a man unknown to us, a man who reminded them of their origin and their future in the Babylonian exile. This is also the fate of the Messiah Yeshua, nothing unusual for a prophet in Israel. The text ends in a deep depression. No more can be done here, says John. How could this happen?

Again Isaiah. We quote first the Hebrew version and then the rather free version in John. Isaiah had a vision of seeing the NAME. His lips were purified with burning coal so that he could really say to the people only what was to be said. The divine voice cries, “Whom can I send, who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here I am. Send me!” Then follows (Isaiah 6:9-10),

He said, “Go and say to this people,
‘Listen, yes, just listen, but do not understand,
look, yes, just look, but do not recognize.’
Make the heart of this people fat,
make its ears hard of hearing,
make its eyes smeared,
otherwise, it would see with its eyes,
hear with its ears,
understand with its heart,
that it could turn around and
He would heal . . .!”

John translates the last lines of Isaiah 6:9-10 like this,

He has blinded their eyes,
made their hearts as hard as stone,
so that they do not see with their eyes,
understand with their hearts,
and turn around,
so that I could heal them . . .

Here John has quoted quite freely. But his community knows how the text continues, 6:11-12,

I said, “Until how long, my Lord?”
He said,
“Until the cities are devastated,
no inhabitants, no houses, no more mankind,
the soil destroyed, wasteland . . .”

The devastations of the year 70, says John, are the result of blind eyes, deaf ears, and an obese heart. Today, he says, it is no different than it was then. Also today the Judeans could have seen with their eyes, heard with their ears, and understood with their hearts that everything must go wrong unless they would turn around to the Messiah. Then they would be healed, and the land would never be laid waste.

“This is what Isaiah said,” writes John, “because he has seen His honor and spoken about Him.” The question is, who is meant by “Him”? “To see the honor” refers to the vision of Isaiah, which is described in Isaiah 6:1 ff., “The earth is filled with HIS honor.” This very God has made the heart of this people fat, the ears hard of hearing, the eyes glued shut.

If a people exists in a condition of political blindness, every appeal to reason is not only in vain but leads to increasing hardening. The narrative of Moshe’s and Aaron’s negotiations with Pharaoh results in nothing but stubbornness, “I will make him hardhearted,” Exodus 4:21. The slave owner’s confrontation with the demands of freedom necessarily confirms his attitude, otherwise, he would have to stop being a slave owner and Pharaoh. The consequence is that violence has the last word, “I will kill your son, your firstborn,” Exodus 4:23.

“Nevertheless, many from the leadership were trusting,” 12:42, concludes John. But the public manifestation of this trust would have deprived them of the honor of man, about which they were after all concerned, and not the honor of God. We do not know whether it was actually “many from the leadership” who were trusting the Messiah. But the price would have been expulsion from the synagogue. It was not only about pure human honor, which was at stake. Under Roman conditions, the synagogue meant some degree of protection from life-threatening entanglements. We will come back to the expulsion from the synagogue and its consequences at the discussion of 16:2.

11.5 Summary of Yeshua’s teaching, 12:44-50

12:44 And Yeshua cried out, saying,
“He who is trusting in me
is not trusting in me,
but in the ONE who sent me.
12:45 He who is observing me
is observing the ONE who sent me.
12:46 I have come as light into the world order,
so that everyone who is trusting in me might not stay in the darkness.
12:47 And if anyone who hears my words, but does not keep them,
I do not judge him,
for I did not come to judge the world order,
but to liberate the world. (399)
12:48 He who is betraying me (400) and not accepting my words
has his judge:
The word that I spoke will judge him on the Day of Decision.
12:49 For I did not speak from myself,
but he who sent me—the FATHER,
he himself has given me a commandment
what I should say and what I should speak.
12:50 And I know:
His commandment is the life of the age to come.
What then am I speaking?
Just as the Father has told me,
so I am speaking!”

The last seven verses of the second major part are a summary of the Messiah’s teaching. All the decisive words of the Gospel appear here: to trust, to send, to watch, light, world order, to judge, Day of Decision, commandment, the life of the age to come. In this respect, these verses are a counterpart to the great prologue, John 1:1-18. We make a few remarks.

We hear Yeshua say that he did not come to condemn the world but to set the world free. We heard it already in the conversation with Nicodemos 3:17. Of course, it says 5:30, “As I hear, I will judge, and my judgment is reliable.” John, like the Perushim and most of the Judeans, reckons with a final judgment, 5:27-29.

But the judgment has already been pronounced: If someone is betraying the Messiah, he is already condemned. It is a matter of betrayal of their own cause, and John invokes the association with a word of Isaiah, where betrayal becomes an obsession, “For the betrayers have betrayed, with betrayal the betrayers have betrayed”—five times the root bagad, “to betray” (Greek athetein) in Isaiah 24:16. To betray the Messiah means not to accept the (spoken) words of the Messiah.

With the penultimate sentence, all that was to be said is said, “He who sent me, the FATHER, commanded me what I should say and what I should speak.” The commandment of Israel’s God is the life of the age to come. Yeshua has nothing else to say, in short, “What then am I speaking? As the FATHER has told me, so I am speaking.”

*

As announced, Yeshua and the Messianic community withdraw into hiddenness. What Yeshua has to say in the remaining part of the text takes place in secret. The Passion goes on in public, but what happens there is hidden from it. Amidst the preparation for Passover, the encounter of Yeshua and the Messianic community with the Judean public breaks off.

In no other text of the Messianic writings (“New Testament”) is what people associate with the idea of the Messiah problematized as much as in the Gospel of John. It shows that the reservations against this kind of messianism also existed among the Messianists themselves, among those “who trusted Yeshua,” 8:31, and among his disciples, 6:60. And the reservations that John puts in the mouth of Judeans are reservations that he must suppress in them and in himself. Even in the inner circle of leadership, there are not only traitors but also faithful ones who had understood nothing of the matter. The crisis has long since gripped the circle of the faithful, 14:9, “So long have I been with you, and you have not recognized me, Philipp?”

No other Messianic text knows a Messiah who says farewell that absolutely. This is shown in the next section.

Anmerkungen

(181) HS: Originally TV had placed chapter 11—concerning the nearness of the last and decisive Passover in John—at the beginning of part III instead of the end of part II.

(182) On the order of chapters 4, 5, and 6, see the introduction to the interpretation of chapter 6.

(183) TJ15, 40, BETHZATHA: The name of the place is transmitted differently by the manuscripts; also worth considering are the readings “Bethesda” and “Bethsaida.”

(184) TJ15, 40, CRIPPLED: After the word “crippled” other manuscripts (A, C, L, Θ, Ψ, etc.) clarify in view of the end of v.7: “. . . who awaited the movement of the water. A messenger from heaven descended into the immersion bath and swirled the water. Whoever was the first to enter after the swirling of the water became well, from whatever disease he might have been afflicted.” Especially the oldest manuscripts do not have this passage, and therefore the text edition of Nestle/Aland only includes it in the footnote apparatus.

(185) TJ15, 40, THIRTY-EIGHT: The number “thirty-eight” for the time of the disease surely refers to Deuteronomy 2:14, where it says that Israel, after refusing to go into the land, had to wander in the wilderness for 38 years. During that time, “the whole generation of the men of war died.” All that was valiant in Israel was dead. This aberration of Israel is also the subject here, as can be seen from 5:14.

(186) TJ15, 40, GOES DOWN AHEAD OF ME: See above on v.3.

(187) TJ15, 40, WALK YOUR WAY: Peripatein refers not only to the physical walking ability but to the way of life (Hebrew halakha), see 1:36.

(188) “Festival” (hadsh, having the same roots as the Hebrew chag) is what Islam calls the great pilgrimage to Mecca, which every devout Muslim has to undertake once in his life.

(189) The reference to Deuteronomy 2:1-3 and 2:13-14 is not seen by most commentators or is explicitly denied (Barrett; Bernhard Weiß: “pure gimmickry”). Only Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 184, sees the reference; it is “an action of God that turns the calamity.” Wengst rightly rejects the interpretation of the anti-Semite Emmanuel Hirsch, according to which this should be a disease of Judaism. But the 38 years can very well be interpreted as the condition of a politically paralyzed Israel in the time after 70 CE, without arguing anti-Jewish.

(190) HS: As the Greek expression ouk exestin, “it is not allowed, it is not lawful,” refers to the Torah, I take over this translation of the CJB.

(191) HS: The Greek word hamartanein in the Septuagint and in Messianic writings refers to the Hebrew word chataˀ, “to miss (an aim, the way),” which usually is translated as “to sin.” But TV avoids this traditional expression because of its morally and individualistically restricted implications, and considers hamartia most of all politically as “aberration” and hamartanein as “going astray.”

(192) TJ15, 42, WORKING: Ergazesthai, Hebrew ˁasa melˀakha. Apparently, according to John, creation is not complete, nor does God not “celebrate of all the works that He made,” Genesis 2:3. Since the final Shabbat is yet to come, Jesus too must do works like His FATHER.

(193) SAYING THAT GOD WAS HIS OWN FATHER: Patera idion elegen ton theon: So the problem is not that Yeshua calls God “Father”—this is also done by the Judeans in 8:41, and with the words ˀavinu malkhenu (“our Father, our King”) Judaism addresses God in many traditional prayers. The only problem is the singular. By referring to God as “his Father,” Yeshua seems to implicitly exclude the Jews from being children of God. In the eyes of the Judeans, the penetrating “my Father” in the mouth of Yeshua means that he claims the God (and Father!) of Israel for his own Messianic enterprise and makes it the real concern of God, everything else would be then godless. But “my Father” does not mean that Yeshua excludes all Judeans. In 8:41-44, he accuses very specific Judeans of having chosen the emperor, the diabolos, as their God, Father, King (see 19:15!), and thus excluded themselves from the filiation to GOD.

(194) HS (an additional comment on the content): Thus, Yeshua consciously turns away from the paralyzed man, to seek him alone, without any influence from the crowd. In the Scriptures, the word “to turn away, turning away” is said of Elisha when he turns to the disrespectful boys (2 Kings 2:24), and of Josiah when he turns to tombs to make the altar at Bethel unclean (2 Kings 23:16-18), from which he takes bones to burn them on the altar—but not the bones of two prophets of YHWH. Does John also want to invoke the “respect” that the healed one is due to him, that the healed Israel owes him? Does he want to invoke the purification of Israel from false gods by Josiah—his cultural revolution based on the rediscovered Torah in the temple—, and the question of which prophet deserves respect?

(195) TJ15, 42, LIKE A FRIEND: Here it says philei, “loves” (it is to be added “like a friend”—philos), and not agapa, “is solidary with.” 5:19-20 is a mashal, a “parable-speech,” about the well-known relationship between “normal” fathers and sons. Therefore we write the words “father” and “son” according to the usual spelling. From 5:21 on, it is then about the relationship between the God of Israel (FATHER) and the bar enosh, here indicated with the abbreviation “Son.” Here we must write “Son” to make the analogy audible. Only in 16:27 is FATHER the subject of philein.

(196) TJ15, 42, SO THAT YOU WILL BE ASTONISHED: Hina hymeis thaumazēte: You have to think of ethaumase, Aramaic thevah, “he was astonished,” namely King Nebuchadnezzar, when the three men came alive out of his furnace (Daniel 3:91 LXX; 3:24 in the Masoretic text). Therefore, unlike Nebuchadnezzar, the Judeans should not be surprised when the dead hear the voice (5:28).

(197) TJ15, 44, HIMSELF IS LIVING: Zōēn echein en heauto, literally “to have life in oneself.” “To have” is a verb that does not exist in the Semitic languages. There are a number of Arabic verbs (such as intalaka, “to obtain,” iqtani, “to acquire,” ahus, “to grasp”) that can be translated as “to have,” but the plain “to have” is expressed by a preposition with a personal suffix. There is also no reflexive pronoun in the proper sense. The expression probably paraphrases the Aramaic chay leh, “he shall live” (literally: “life for him”). In any case, God does not “have life.” He does not get it through others, like all living beings, including humans, but he is his own life and thus the origin of all life. He gave the Son the authority to be the origin of all life. The translation “to have life in himself” is meaningless.

(198) TJ15, 44, RELIABLE: Dikaios, “proven, reliable.” The stem dik– stands for the Hebrew root tzadaq, which according to Martin Buber are to be rendered with German words of the stem “wahr-.” Dikaiosynē is, therefore, “Bewährung, Wahrhaftigkeit, Wahrheit,” “probation, truthfulness, truth.” For “right” we have the Hebrew root shafat, “to do right, to let justice prevail, to judge,” krinein, krisis stands for Hebrew mishpat, “law and judgment.”
HS: Here I take the word “reliable” for tzaddiq, dikaios, because it is one of the possible English translations of the German word “bewährt.”

(199) Apparently, this has been a thorn in the side of some people from early on. An early reader of the Codex Sinaiticus from the 4th century, two Latin manuscripts from the 4th and 5th century, and Tertullian (around 200) delete these words in 5:25.

(200) Bultmann and commentators in his succession say that—in terms of subject matter and choice of words—section 5:31-47 belongs in the discussion contexts reported in chapters 7 and 8. Thus Becker, like Bultmann, shifts chapter 6 backward. Then it follows on seamlessly from the “Galilean” chapter. His order then is: 5:31-47 + 7:15-24 + 7:1. But even then the problems are not solved. For how can the opponents of the seventh chapter be identical with the opponents of whom it is said, “They wanted to rejoice in the hour with his (Yochanan’s ) light”? The Perushim, and the Judeans in general, are difficult to imagine as “fans” of the Baptist. With text manipulation, you solve one problem, and then at least two others are added. That is why we stick to the handed-down version.

(201) TJ15, 46, WHO SENT ME, THE FATHER: Ho pempsas me patēr. To John, the essence of God is that he sends, first Moshe, then Yochanan the Baptist (1:33), and, finally, Yeshua. John takes the participle as an essence-defining adjective, “The having sent me FATHER.” We can only translate this as a subordinate clause; see 8:16.18; 12:49.

(202) Barrett, Bultmann, and others refer pros hōran to Hermann L. Strack / Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch II, München 6. ed. 1974, 466. The expression is in contrast to aiōnion, “until the age to come.” In Philemon’s letter, we find this expression: “For perhaps that is why he had been separated for a short time, that you may keep him until the age to come.” (v.15). In the letter of the Ecclesia in Smyrna about the execution of Bishop Polykarpos of Smyrna in 156 we read, “You [= the Roman functionary] threaten with fire that burns for a short time and extinguishes instantly; but you misjudge the fire of the coming judgment and punishment in the age to come that is kept for the wicked” (Karl Bihlmeyer [Hg.]: Die Apostolischen Väter, Tübingen 1970, Mart.Pol. 11,2).

(203) Mikron (chronon): 7:33; 12:35; 13:33; 14:19; 16:16.17.18.19.

(204) Flavius Josephus, Ant. 18, 5, 2.

(205) TJ05, 37 (8): Kai, as already indicated, stands for the Semitic we– or wa-. It creates a general connection. The kind of connection remains undetermined and results from the context.

(206) TJ15, 46, YOU DO NOT HAVE HIS WORD FIRMLY IN YOU: Logon auton ouk echete en hymin menonta, literally: “his word you do not have staying within you.” Here you can clearly see the background of menein, namely ˀamad, “standing firm.”

(207) TJ05, 37 (9): Eraunan tas graphas, “to explore the Scriptures.” This expression refers to the teaching activity of the rabbis, their training of the people.

(208) TJ15, 46, ONLY ONE: The ONLY ONE points to the ONE, Deuteronomy 6:4: YHWH ˀelohim YHWH ˀechad, “the NAME (is) God, the NAME is ONE (or ONLY ONE).” Some manuscripts add the word “God,” but others, including very old ones, do not bring it.

(209) TJ15, 46, SPOKEN WORDS: rhēmata. Written words, grammata, mean the Torah of Moshe, the rhēmata are spoken words, the oral tradition. Here, oral tradition stands against oral tradition, the oral tradition of the Perushim against that of Yeshua.

(210) With the difference, of course, that Matthew, in contrast to John, acknowledged the authority of the rabbis, “Do what they say.” Admittedly he rejects their way of life, “Do not act according to their works” (23:3).

(211) Aurelius Augustinus: De Civitate Dei Libri XXII. Recensuit et commentario critico instruxit Emanuel Hoffmann, CSEL Vol. XXXX, Wien 1899.

(212) A modern narrator shows us how the logic of time and place determines our being and does not break it down into measurable sections. Jean-Paul Sartre does this in the second part of his novel Les chemins de la liberté, Le sursis. Here, in a dizzying confusion of places and people, time becomes the only connecting element between the people who, in the last week of September 1938, when the Western powers gave Hitler a free hand in Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference, saw their lives disappear into the shadows of the coming war. A “modern” reader must be able to deal with abrupt transitions; otherwise, he could not read a novel of the 20th and 21st centuries.

(213) TJ15, 48, SIDE DISH: Opsaria, actually “side dishes, additional food.” The main food is bread, plus the side dishes, fish, meat. Here it will have been fish, see John 21:9, which also speaks of bread and opsarion roasted on a charcoal fire, that is, fish. Therefore, you can paraphrase with “fish” to avoid the brittle “two pieces of side dish.”

(214) HS: In the ancient Orient people lay at meals; John uses two verbs to express this, anapiptein (6:10 [twice]; 13:12.25; 21:20) and anakeisthai (6:11; 12:2; 13:23.28). To this scene in the open air, the translation “to settle down on the grass” is suitable. In the later scenes inside a house, I will both translate as “to recline.”

(215) TJ05, 39 (13): Eneplēsthēsan, savaˁu, “they became full” or “satisfied.” The reference is Deuteronomy 8:10.12. In the land one gets satisfied if one keeps the commandments given by Moshe. Here the Messiah feeds the people in the land.

(216) Therefore the last line of 6:13 should not be translated as, “For those who had eaten, it had been too much,” but: “Those who had eaten left a rest.”

(217) HS, WENT DOWN . . . TOWARD CAPERNAUM: I add here an observation that Andreas Bedenbender discusses in detail in his book Frohe Botschaft am Abgrund. Das Markusevangelium und der Jüdische Krieg, Leipzig 2013, in chapter 14, “Am Ort und im Schatten des Todes.” Die neutestamentlichen Ortsangaben Kapernaum, Bethsaida und Chorazin als poetische Verweise auf das römische Reich (the following page references in square brackets [413 ff.] refer to this chapter). It is about the detail that Jesus in John’s Gospel always descends to Capernaum, katabainein. According to Bedenbender, it would be wrong to interpret this detail simply as geographical accuracy. In the context of a study of the curses on Capernaum in Matthew 11:23 and Luke 10:15, he demonstrates that “Capernaum” there is one of several aliases for the Roman capital Rome, and assumes [433] that in some sense

Johannine Capernaum also represents Rome. Finally, not unlike the Synoptics, Roman emperorship in John is an entity that stands in opposition to the God of Israel, insofar as it belongs to the sphere of Satan [note 45: See only Jesus’ accusation to his Jewish opponents in John 8:44, “You have the diabolos as your father” with the sentence of the chief priests, which leads directly to Jesus’ crucifixion, “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15)].

Bedenbender writes [432-433]:

The idea of descent (katabainein, “to go down,” in 2:12; 4:47.49.51; 6:16-17) is regularly associated with Capernaum in the Gospel of John. There is no second place of which such a thing is true. Capernaum thus functions as the antithesis of Jerusalem and the temple, where the way typically leads up (anabainein) [432, note 43: Nine of sixteen anabainein references in the Gospel of John refer to Jerusalem or the temple, another five . . . to the ascent to heaven]. The inner-worldly vis-a-vis of Capernaum and Jerusalem, however, is embedded in the larger vis-a-vis of kosmos and “Father.” Again, katabainein and anabainein form the central pair of terms—together they describe the movement of Jesus first from the “Father” down into the kosmos and then from the kosmos back up to the “Father.”

Capernaum, the deepest point in the world of the Gospel of John, seems to be the true goal of Jesus’ katabasis. Consequently, it is precisely in Capernaum where Jesus literally hammers into his audience: He is the bread that came down from heaven (6,33-58: seven times katabainein). And just as logically, the evangelist also situates here the most offensive concretion of the thought that the Word became flesh, which he becomes as a shibboleth on the path of discipleship: It is necessary to swallow the incarnation of the logos without any reservation—the flesh of Jesus must be “chewed,” his blood must be “drunk.” Whoever finds this too much of a good thing, according to John, has no place with Jesus.

This context also subsequently sheds additional light on the descent from the site of the two initial Messianic signs in Cana to Capernaum (2:12; 4:47.49.51) [432]:

Initially, in 2:12, the unity of the Messianic community manifests itself in Capernaum. Jesus’ mother, his brothers, and his disciples all act in the same way as he himself, “staying” (menein) with him in one place, i.e., enduring with him. Of course, this is only an interlude (“not many days”), which is without parallel within the Gospel of John [note 42: A parallel outside the Gospels would be Acts 1:14 (only Jesus is missing here; he has already ascended to heaven)]. And in 6:66, John locates the opposing idea of the disintegration of the community in Capernaum as well. If one takes both, the probation and the failure, together, then Capernaum is obviously the place where the community enters the krisis: In Capernaum, it is decided what will become of it, whether it will endure or perish.

(218) TJ15, 50, DARKNESS HAD ALREADY HAPPENED: Some manuscripts have here katelaben de autous hē skotia, “darkness overwhelmed them.” According to these manuscripts, 6:17-18 describes the condition before creation. It is possible to recognize the same idea in the line of tradition, which was preferred above. Therefore, we do not write, “it had already become dark” but “darkness had already happened,” according to we-choshekh ˁal-pne thehom, “darkness over the primeval sea,” Genesis 1:2. The troubled sea and storm also refer to Genesis 1:2. The unusual translation compels the hearers to make the reference to Genesis 1 and John 1:5.

(219) TJ15, 50, VIEW: Theōrousin. It ist about a vision, not a visual event.

(220) TJ15, 50, WALKING HIS WAY: See above, explanation of 1:36; 5:8.

(221) TJ05, 39 (15): See note on 4:26.

(222) It was the place of an important conference of the kings of Syria-Palestine who were associated with Rome around the year 40, hosted by King Agrippa I (Menachem Stern, The Reign of Herod and the Herodian Dynasty, in: Shmuel Safrai/Menachem Stern (Hgg.), The Jewish People in the First Century (CRINT I/1), Assen 1974, 216-307, here 297ff.). From 55 the city came under the administration of King Agrippa II, who ruled over Galilee and the surrounding areas until the early nineties of the 1st century. Tiberias was the city of the dynasty of Herod and at the same time a Greek polis with a traditionally Jewish population. At the time when the Gospel of John took shape, the city of Javne, between Askalon and Jaffa, was the capital of Rabbinical Judaism. After the Bar-Kochba War of 131-135 and a period of bloody suppression by the Romans, from 140 the center shifted to Galilee (Günter Stemberger, Das klassische Judentum. Kultur und Geschichte der rabbinischen Zeit, München 1979, 60). The city of Tiberias became a main center of Rabbinical Judaism in the second half of the 3rd century and played an important role until the Islamic conquest in the 7th century.

(223) TJ15, 52, BREAD VOM HEAVEN: Psalm 78:24; see Exodus 16.

(224) TJ15, 52, THE EFFECTIVE ONE: Alēthinos. This is about bread, which gives the world an order of real life.
TJ05, 40 (19): What is meant is the bread in which one can really trust because it makes possible a perspective of life.
HS: I take the word “effective” instead of “real” because of TV’s interpretation below.

(225) HS: I AM—THE BREAD OF LIFE: Thus I translate according to TJ05, 41, “ICH BIN ES: das Brot des Lebens” because TV sticks to this version in his interpretation. In TJ15, he writes:
TJ15, 52, I WILL BE THERE—THE BREAD OF LIFE: At first, it seems obvious to translate: “I am the bread of life.” The whole context here is the wandering in the wilderness of the children of Israel and their confrontation with Moshe. John emphasizes that even then it was not Moshe, but the same God who sends the Messiah today. Just as the God said of himself at that time, “I WILL BE THERE” (ˀehye, Exodus 3:14), so he says today.

(226) TJ15, 52, ON THE DAY OF THE FINAL DECISION: Tē eschatē hēmera. It is always translated as “on the last or {in German} youngest day.” This implies that after this last day the days cease and then eternity begins. But the origin of this expression is the Hebrew ˀacharith ha-yamim, “lateness of days” (Buber); “l’après des jours” (Chouraqui). Decisive things happen in the distant future. This is connected in John with the expression yom YHWH, “the day of the NAME,” 20 times in the prophets and just as often in related expressions such as “day of flaming wrath” (Isaiah 13:13). On that day, the decisive intervention of the God of Israel occurs, usually in the form of a trial (against the nations, against Babylon, against disloyal Israel). That day is a matter of life or death. Future and decision combine in eschatē hēmera, “Day of the Definite Decision,” the day when it is finally decided who will rise to the life of the age to come and who will not. On the new earth under the new heaven, there will still be days. So it is not about a “last” day. Therefore, “Day of the Final (see above) decision.”

(227) The difficulty with John is always the heterogeneity of his opponents: sometimes the emerging Rabbinical Judaism, sometimes the Zealots, sometimes disappointed followers, often referred to by the same word Ioudaioi, “Judeans.”

(228) HS, GRUMBLING: Though TV in TJ15 takes “to protest” instead of “to grumble,” I stick to his earlier translation because he refers to it in his interpretation.
TJ05, 41 (24): The verb gongyzein, lun refers to “grumbling” in the wilderness (Exodus 16:7; 17:3; Numbers 14:27.29; 16:41; 17:5), i.e. to stubbornness and rejection. In 7:12 gongysmos, thelunoth, is rather “murmuring.”
TJ15, 52, PROTESTING: Gongyzein, Hebrew lun: The verb is a basic word in the conflict narratives of the book Numbers. There the verb has to be translated as “to protest.” The people fight for their survival and protest against a leadership that deprives them of their means of subsistence (bread, water). (See Ton Veerkamp, Die Welt anders. Politische Geschichte der Großen Erzählung, Berlin 2013, 143.)

(229) TJ15, 54, TRAINEES OF THE NAME: Didaktoi theou, Hebrew limude YHWH, Isaiah 54:13 (see also 50:4). The Hebrew root lamad means both “to teach” and “to learn,” “to train” and “to be trained.” To be taught is practical; it is “training.” The Talmud (same root lamad) is the teaching structure for the halakha, the walk of life.

(230) TJ15, 54, LIFE UNDER THE WORLD ORDER: It is about life in the world order, thus not “life of the world.” For hē tou kosmou zōē is the absolute antithesis of zōē aiōnios. The Messianic eon overturns life under the world order. The flesh of the Messiah is precisely his life under the world order.

(231) In Greek there are two words for the act of teaching: teaching (didaskein) and learning (manthanein). The Hebrew helps itself with one root, lamad.

(232) HS: By this expression TV refers to the “Kirchliche Dogmatik” of the great German theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, in which he, bound to the faith of the Church, reflected in detail about this faith, instructed by the Bible.

(233) HS HS (translator’s comment on content): In my March 18, 2007 service, “Flesh for the Life of the World,” I addressed the connection of John 6:51 with Numbers 11, Psalm 104:20-22, and Galatians 5:14-15. In a nutshell: Those who lust after “flesh” (Numbers 11) live under the influence of Pharaoh’s or Rome’s world order and eventually kill the Messiah. The Messiah, however, gives his life freely and thus overcomes the system of eating and being eaten.

(234) TJ05, 42 (27): Echete zōēn en heautois: See the note to 5:26. To live oneself is not a life determined by the world order, but by the Messiah (di’ eme, 6:57).

(235) TJ15, 54, CHEWING: Trōgein, “to devour, to eat off, to chew, to gnaw”; the verb occurs nowhere in the LXX. Why does John use a completely unusual, coarse word? He wants to increase the provocation to the unbearable so that the rejection is complete. Therefore, the translation must make this provocation audible. Since there is no suitable noun in Greek for trōgein, John must take brōsis in 6:55, which is “normal” and means “food.”

(236) Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 1. Teilband: Kapitel 1-10 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2000, 253.

(237) TJ15, 56, EVIL: Sklēros does not mean “difficult to understand.” It rather means “unacceptable.” We find the word in the Greek version of Genesis 21:11. Sarah had demanded of Abraham that he should send his son Ishmael with his mother into the wilderness. The narrator comments: wa-yeraˁ ha davar meˀod beˁene ˀavraham, Greek sklēron de ephanē to rēma sphodra enantion Abraam: “The word (of Sarah) was to work evil in Abraham’s eyes.” But then God says that regarding the mother (Hagar) and her son (Ishmael) “it will work no evil” (ˀal-yeraˁ, Greek mē sklēron). In the same way, the speech of Yeshua, apparently evil, will in truth effect nothing evil.

(238) TJ15, 56, STUMBLING BLOCK: Skandalizein does not mean that people are angry, but that Yeshua is a stumbling block (Hebrew mikhshol) or trap (Hebrew moqesh) for Israel. The Septuagint translates both words as skandalon. The associated verb skandalizein means “to walk into the trap of false gods” or “to stumble over the false god in one’s walk of life.”

(239) TJ15, 56, THE FLESH CAN CONTRIBUTE NOTHING: Ōpheleō, “to help, to be useful.” But see the scene in Ezekiel 37.

(240) The LXX reads, sklēron de ephanē for wa-yeraˁ ha-davar. In Abraham’s eyes, Sarah’s request to send the slave and Abraham’s son Ishmael literally into the wilderness where they are to croak was unacceptable, in other words, “evil, and very much so.”

(241) TJ15, 56, THE MESSIAH: The words ho christos, “the Messiah”, can be found in several manuscripts, including P66. In several other manuscripts—including P45, א and B—they are omitted.

(242) TJ15, 56, ADVERSARY: See note on 8:44.

(243) HS: This explanation assumes that the name Iscariot would mean ˀish qerioth, “man from Kerioth,” a town in Moab, East Jordan, mentioned in Joshua 15:25, Amos 2:2, and Jeremiah 48:24.41.

(244) When the text was completed, many apparently thought they had to formulate it differently. They have the confession of Peter from Mark in their ears, “You are the Messiah” (8:29; not by chance also there are many variations, including “the Messiah, the SON of the living God”). Confession formulas have a life of their own, and the maker of a manuscript was inclined to adopt the formulation of the respective church liturgy. Here it is obviously not about a dogmatic controversy.

(245) Klaus Berger, Im Anfang war Johannes. Datierung und Theologie des vierten Evangeliums, Stuttgart 1997, 210.

(246) Joop P. Boendermaker/Dirk Monshouwer, Johannes: De evangelist von de feesten, Zoetermeer 1993, 115-116.

(247) See Ton Veerkamp, Der mystifizierte Messias – das mystifizierte Abendmahl. Abendmahltexte der messianischen Schriften, in: Texte und Kontexte 25 (1985), 16-42.

(248) Franz J. Hinkelammert, Der Schrei des Subjekts. Vom Welttheater des Johannesevangeliums bis zu den Hundejahren der Globalisierung, Luzern 2001, 30ff.

(249) TJ05, 45 (35): Metabēthi from metabainein. The verb occurs in the LXX only in the Book of Wisdom of Solomon and in 2 Maccabees. In the martyr legend 2 Maccabees 6, the verb means “to pass over to the side of the enemies.”

(250) TJ15, 58, PUBLICLY: En parrhēsia. “S’il cherche la publicité,” translates André Chouraqui. Adverbially as a dative without preposition, parrhēsia means “open.”

(251) TJ15, 58, John uses two different Greek words—hōra and kairos—to denote a moment or point in time in which a crucial change shall take place; both should not be translated as “time.” I translate hōra literally as “hour” and choose “minute” in the sense of “moment, instant” for kairos. To the following note from TJ15, I add in brackets a brief addition from TJ05.
TJ15, 58, MOMENT: Kairos, Hebrew ˁeth, is the appointed moment, see Ecclesiastes 3. Parestin comes from the same verb as parousia. In Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15, 1/2 Thessalonians, James, 2 Peter, and 1 John 2:28 it is a technical term for the dawn of the Messianic age. To the brothers, the moment is “justified” (hetoimos, hetoimazein, “to prepare”), hence “opportune” [the Vulgate translates eukairon in Psalm 103 LXX as tempus opportunum]. Perhaps this is an indication that the community of the “brothers” in Jerusalem is expecting the Messianic change for the very near future in the imminent war. The Messiah, however, has to “go away” first.

(252) This conflict was repeated in early Islam. According to many Muslims, the leader of the Umma, the community of believers, should be a man from the direct kinship of Muhammad. Others wanted to see Muhammad’s successor elected by the community. This led to a far-reaching split. Ali ibn Abu Talib, a cousin of Muhammad and husband of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, proclaimed himself caliph. The Umayyad family, who came from the city of Muhammad but did not belong to his family, established the caliph in Damascus. The Muslims in Iraq and the highlands of Iran adhered to Ali’s party (shiˀat Ali); they are the Shiites. The others recognized the authority of the Umayyads; from them, the Sunnite direction of Islam emerged. The conflict was decided by the sword. Ali’s son Hussain was killed in the city of Karbala by Yazid, commander of the Umayyad army. Hussain is the protomartyr of the Shiites, whom they honor on the 10th day (Ashura) of the month Moharram with scourge processions, among other things. To this day, the great imams of the Shiites derive directly from the family of Muhammad.

(253) Martin Buber’s Chassidic “novel” Gog and Magog is about this temptation.

(254) TJ15, 58, WHISPERING: Gongysmos, Hebrew theluna. We translated the corresponding verb gongyzein (lun) in John 6 with “to grumble,” because it is related to the “grumbling” in the wilderness (Exodus 16:7; 17:3; Numbers 14:27.29; 16:41; 17:5). Here it is rather about rumors, therefore “whispering.”

(255) TJ15, 58, TRAINED: Memathēkōs: in Rabbinical Judaism, the activity as a teacher (rabbi) requires a long time as a disciple of one of the great rabbis.
TJ05, 46 (38): The contrast to the training by the rabbis is the training by the FATHER, 6:45.

(256) HS, FALSE: As I explained referring to 5:30, it is hard to find English words corresponding to the Greek radical dik– which would also be related to each other “by roots”. As adikia appears only here in John, I take the CJB translation “false” as opposed to dikaios, “reliable”. The word “untruthfulness” as an equivalent for the German “Unwahrhaftigkeit” does not seem appropriate to me:
TJ15, 60, UNTRUTHFULNESS: Adikia: The word with the stem dik– stands for the Hebrew root tzadaq which we translate according to Buber as “wahr-.” Adikia is “untruthfulness,” i.e. what does not prove itself. The consequence is “injustice,” as vv.7:19 and 7:24 show.

(257) TJ15, 60, YOU ARE POSSESSED: Daimonion echeis: The expression indicates that a person is controlled by a power outside of him, which he can’t control. The LXX uses daimonion, daimōn, for five different Hebrew words, such as gad (“idols of luck”) or saˁir (“goat idol,” i.e. our horned little devil), never by the way for satan (see 8:44). “Being possessed” is the appropriate translation; the emotional value is similar to: “You are bonkers.”

(258) TJ15, 60, BAWL ME OUT: Emoi cholate, from cholē, “gall, bile, choler.” The word occurs only once in John. “To enrage” would be too weak. John evaluates the criticism regarding the Shabbat practice of Yeshua simply as “ranting, bawling.” The text refers to the healing that is told in chapter 5; but this does not give anyone the right to doubt the text that has been handed down to us in this way and to insert vv.7,15-24 after 5:47, like Becker, Bultmann, Wilckens, etc., do. It has to be translated what and how it was handed down, but never such a transposition was handed down.

(259) TJ15, 60: Cited from Deuteronomy 16:18-19, where the order of the lines is reversed. “Reliable judgment,” in Hebrew mishpat tzedeq. That summum ius can also be summa iniuria (adikia) was also known by the Tanakh: law must prove its value in view of the social criteria of the Torah. For this reason, both the Synoptics and John re-weight the Shabbat.
HS: Again, I take the word “reliable” for the Greek word dikaios as referring to the Hebrew word tzadiq—see 5:30 and 7:18.

(260) TJ15, 62, BEAMTE: Hyperētai, plural of hyp-ēretēs, originally “rowers,” from there generally “servants” and very often “servants in public service.” The German translation “Knecht” (Luther) is not exact, Chouraqui has “gardes.” More appropriate is the term “officials”; here it is probably about people with police powers, see 18:3.

(261) TJ15, 62, A LITTLE WHILE: Chronon mikron: Some manuscripts leave out these words, they will play a big role in the farewell speeches.

(262) TJ15, 62, DIASPORA: We leave the word untranslated because it has become a generally adopted term for the Jewish population outside Israel. Originally it describes the process of expulsion (thefutzena, diesparē, Ezekiel 34:5-6).

(263) TJ15, 62, ON THE LAST DAY: The last day of the festival is the decisive and the great day of the festival because Jesus is the origin of the living water. (Sukkot as the festival of water; in chapter 8, Yeshua himself is the light of the world order, which corresponds to Sukkot as the festival of light, Joop P. Boendermaker/Dirk Monshouwer, Johannes: De evangelist von de feesten, Zoetermeer 1993, 120 ff.).

(264) TJ15, 62: In early modern times, when our division in Bible verses was made, people had difficulties with the construction of the sentence. Verse number 38 stands immediately before “who trusts in me.” The first versions of P66 and of Codex Sinaiticus (א) don’t have “to me” (pros me) at the end of v.37 (later in these manuscripts it was added in each case), likewise, it is missing in codex D and in several Latin manuscripts. P75 and the Codex Vaticanus (B) offer a synonymous pros eme instead of pros me.

(265) TJ15, 62, RIVERS . . . BODY: Potamoi ek tēs koilias autou rheusousin hydatos zōntos: The Scriptural quotation is a combination of two different images of the Scriptures and refers to two different passages of the Gospel. We know the “living water” from the conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well (4:10 ff.), the word koilia from the conversation with Nicodemos, “Can a man go back into his mother’s womb and be born?” (3:4) The directly invoked passage of the Scriptures is found in Zechariah 14:8-9, “It shall be in that day: living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem . . .; it shall be: the NAME shall be king over all the land, in that day the NAME shall be the ONE, his NAME the ONE.” This verse again is a midrash about Ezekiel 47:1 ff. (potamoi, “rivers”). Koilia in the LXX stands 38 times for beten, “belly,” 24 times for meˁim, “intestines,” viscera, and 12 times for qerev, “interior.” We translate koilia as “body,” the Vulgate writes venter, “belly.” Ek tēs koilias means “from the womb” (see Isaiah 44:2.24; 49:1 etc.; Jeremiah 1:5). The “water welling up into the life of the age to come” (4:14) is the inspiration that enables a Messianic existence.—See also John 19:34 and 1 John 5:6.

(266) These two great rabbis endowed schools that appeared as factions within the political party of the Perushim. This may be one reason why the Perushim were perceived as a heterogeneous group. In the Gospels, Nicodemos is a “befriended” member of the Perushim.

(267) For this reason Bultmann had “rearranged” the text; 5:1-47 + 7:15-24 + 8:13-20 / 7:1-13 + 7:14 + 7:25-29 + 8:48-50 + 8:54-55 + 7:30 etc. Whether the text becomes more “logical” by this, may be decided by everyone. We stick to the traditional text tradition.

(268) See Mishna Shabbat 18,3; 19,1

(269) Johannes Calvin, Auslegung des Johannesevangeliums [1553], übersetzt v. Martin Trebesius und Hand Christian Petersen, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1964, 201.

(270) TJ15, 64: The famous passage “Who will cast the first stone” was only included in some manuscripts after 350 CE; the earlier ones don’t have it, many later ones did not follow this practice. The reason why it was inserted at this point is probably the keyword martyrein, “to testify,” which will play an outstanding role from 8:12 on. The woman is Israel.

(271) TJ15, 64, ON THE CHAIR: Kathisas,“ literally, “after he had sat down.” But the word invokes the kathedra Mōyseōs, the “Chair of Moshe” (see Matthew 23:2). In John, the Messiah is also the Rabbi. The last two lines are not to be found in all textual traditions; apparently, someone wanted to establish the relationship to Matthew 23.

(272) HS: We could as well write “scribes”; the word appears nowhere else in the Gospel of John.

(273) TJ15, 64, ADULTERY: Moicheia, Hebrew niˀufim, Ezekiel 23:43, see Hosea 2:4. In the prophets, the Hebrew root naˀaf in Piel refers primarily to idolatry, not adultery, as two individuals would commit it together (see Joh 8:41). The “deceived one” would then be the God of Israel here. This crime provides as punishment stoning to death (Deuteronomy 17:5); in the series of crimes for which stoning is provided as punishment, adultery in the literal sense is missing. To incur the punishment of stoning according to the law, the woman would either have had to have cursed the NAME and/or worshipped idols, or she would have had sexual intercourse with a relative or with an animal, see Mishna Sanhedrin 7:4. The facts of the case can be deduced from the context in which the text now stands. Cursed, according to the scribes, is the people of Judea, who does not recognize the Torah, this people is “adulterous.”

(274) The maker of the minuscule manuscript 225 from 1392 is not convinced that the episode after 7:52 was in the right place; he, therefore, brought it to 7:36. With this view, he remained without followers.

(275) Klaus Wengst—with Hans von Campenhausen—thinks that our intermezzo is of Christian origin, resulting from a debate about whether one should deal with adulteresses in the church as intransigent as the Torah allegedly prescribes. But where are the documents that prove this “Sitz im Leben”? Dead loss!

(276) Andreas Bedenbender, Der Sündlose unter euch werfe als erster auf sie einen Stein (Joh 8,7), in: Texte & Kontexte 58 (1993), 21-48.

(277) TJ15, 66, LIGHT: Light will be the keyword from now until the end of this large part: We will hear it eight times until 12:46. It is related to the ceremony with which the Feast of Tabernacles was opened (Mishna Sukka 5:2ff.). It is about the light for walking the way under the ruling world order. This light is the God of Israel and the one to whom he has given all power, the Messiah.

(278) TJ15, 66, BUT IF I JUDGE—MYSELF: Kai ean krinō de egō: The word egō, “myself,” is in pausa {i.e. the word is emphasized at the end of the sentence with an acute instead of a grave accent}, the rhythm is Aramaic. Also, the word FATHER is in pausa. This results in a parallelismus membrorum. The legal process of the opponents is “according to the flesh”; the opposite would be a “trustworthy legal process,” krisis alēthinē. Sarx, “flesh,” in John, is not a negative concept, see 1:14; 6:51-56. The judgment kata tēs sarka, “according to the flesh,” means a judgment in human discretion only, as Bultmann ad loc. also sees. The judgment, of course, that Israel awaits will be a judgment in which the fidelity of the God of Israel to Israel (alētheia, alēthinos) comes to light, again with Daniel 7 as background. So there are different standards at play, which is why both sides are talking completely past each other.

(279) TJ15, 66: The condition of the number two seems to be fulfilled: I bear witness about myself, and he who sent me does so also. But the number is not fulfilled, for the testimony must come from two other humans besides the accused person. The contrast is rather: in “your Torah” two people make the testimony trustworthy but in my case the God of Israel, who testifies for me, the one accused, who pleads not guilty.

(280) TJ15, 68, IN THE GUARDED TREASURY: Gazophylakion: The word only occurs here and in Mark (or in the parallel passage in Luke). The precious metal assets of the sanctuary (the “currency reserves” of Judea) are kept in this chamber, and it is the political heart of the sanctuary. It is here that Yeshua presents his teaching about the “light of the world.” Without assuming a direct literary dependence of John from Mark, it can hardly be a coincidence that the word appears here. In Mark, the word is in a context that is a literally annihilating criticism of the sanctuary.

(281) TJ15, 68, ABERRATION: Hamartia. In 1:29 we translated hamartian tou kosmou as “the aberration of the world order.” The word thus means what is “wrong, errant, crazy” about the actual world order. Here we hear the word for the second time. The two passages are to be related to each other; the “aberration” of the Judeans is to be sought in the fact that through their deeds they accept the “aberration of the world order.” This will become clear in 8:23 and even more so in 8:44 if you translate correctly. Since this world order is judged and condemned according to John and thus is approaching its end, those are condemned to failure who, according to John, have put on the cards of this world order, therefore “to die from your aberration.” The refusal to trust Yeshua as the Messiah is not the cause but the consequence of complicity with the world order.

(282) TJ15, 68, FROM THE BEGINNING, WHAT I AM SPEAKING TO YOU: The phrase is not exactly what you would call classical Greek; in any case, it is an anacoluthon. Chouraqui translates: “Des l’entête, cela même que je vous ai dit.” He refers to rosh, reshith, as in John 1:1. Probably, however, the background is not rosh, but the Hebrew root chalal, hence thechila, the “beginning,” see ba-thechila (or Aramaic be-qadmetaˀ, root qedam, Targum Onkelos) in Genesis 43:18.20, where the LXX has tēn archēn. “What am I still talking to you,” as occasionally is translated, does not fit the situation, for he continues to talk.

(283) TJ15, 68, WHAT IS STRAIGHT: Ta aresta, ha-yashar: The expression is found above all in Deuteronomy, 6:18; 12:25 etc. The dative autō stands in this context for ha-yashar be-ˁene YHWH, “what is straight in HIS eyes” (Buber). Yeshua does not do the optimum, as the superlative suggests, but what is given to Israel as the way, therefore “straight.”

(284) TJ15, 70, HAD TRUSTED HIM: Pepisteukotas, “who had trusted.” Otherwise, in John, the perfect forms always reflect a finally reached state. Here, however, we are concerned with those Judeans who followed Yeshua in the past, but are now trying to kill him, 8:37. The perfect can, therefore, only be understood here as a pluperfect. These may be former members of the group around John. Who they are cannot be determined. Since they are trying to kill Yeshua, they belong, according to John, to the synagogue which excluded the group around John (see note to 16:2). The answer to the question of who Yeshua is depends on the answer to the question of who are really the children of Abraham (who is really Israel). Apostates are judged particularly harshly, so words of mutual hatred are spoken here.

(285) TJ15, 70, FIDELITY WILL SET YOU FREE: One of the most famous sentences from John, “The truth will make you free.” About alētheia there is something said in the note to 1:7; it does not mean “truth” but “fidelity” (Hebrew ˀemeth). Not a certificate of descent, but the fidelity of the God of Israel decides who the real children of Abraham are, that is, children like Isaac and not like Ishmael, see Galatians 4:22 ff.; Matthew 3:9 par. This was communis opinio in all Messianic groups who saw in Yeshua the Messiah.

(286) See Gerhard Jankowski, Friede über Israel. Paulus an die Galater. Eine Auslegung, in: Texte & Kontexte Nr. 47/48 (1990), 63 ff.

(287) TJ15, 70, HAVE HEARD: The reading heōrakate, “you have seen,” is well testified; but in many manuscripts ēkousate, “you have heard,” is used at this point. In the first case, the “seeing” refers to the father Abraham, in the second case the “hearing” refers to the NAME (FATHER). Poieite is to be understood as an imperative.

(288) TJ15, 70, FORNICATION: What is meant is idolatry. In the apocryphal book “Wisdom of Solomon” it says in 14:12, “The principle (archē!) of fornication (porneias) is the recognition of idols.” The Judeans feel that Yeshua reproaches them of the service of idols—the gods of Rome, for nothing else can be meant—and denies them the seriousness of their confession, Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This confession they utter here: “Hear, o Israel, the NAME our God, the NAME is ONE!” Therefore we have to translate, “The ONE we have as FATHER,” and not, “We have only one Father.”

(289) TJ15, 72, SPEECH . . . WORD: In the first line of v.43 it says lalian, in the second logon. The Judeans do not recognize the speech of Jesus (that is, the way in which he speaks), because they cannot listen to the logos, Hebrew davar, the “word deed,” the “word of action.” “Hearing” is always “doing” as well. They cannot, because they are otherwise politically determined. This is what the following verse says.

(290) TJ15, 72, THE ADVERSARY: It is all about translating the word diabolos/satan factually correct. 32 times the Hebrew root satan is found in the Scriptures, 6 times as a verb, 26 times as a noun, 14 times alone in Job 1-2, three times in Zechariah 3. 7 times satan is clearly a political opponent (in 1/2 Samuel and 1 Kings); in the Psalms, the verb satan means “to combat,” all opponents are earthly. In Zechariah 3 and the Book of Job, satan acts as the representative of the accusation in the Court of God. Satan etc. is mostly translated as endiaballein, diabolos, diabolē, i.e. “to jumble up.” 2 times antikeisthai is used, “to resist,” further we have epiboulos, one who deceitfully gives wrong advice. 3 times the translators simply leave the word satan (1 Kings 11). In these cases, satan is never what we call “devil.” 33 times satanas appears in the Gospels and in the apostolic writings, 36 times the word diabolos. This finding does not necessarily require us to conclude that the supernatural influence of an evil spirit is present. Rather, the word is to be interpreted politically. “Desire of the diabolos” is factually identical with epithymia tou kosmou, 1 John 2:17, the greed of the world order. What Yeshua accuses his opponents of is complicity with Rome, therefore Judas is diabolos, “adversary,” 6:70; he is the prototype of a collaborator.
TJ05, 44 (34): The word diabolos in the LXX not only stands for satan. In the Role of Esther {7:6}, the word ˀish tzar, the “man of affliction,” is intimated with the word, Haman the persecutor of the Jews {Esther 7:44; 8:1}!

(291) TJ15, 72, BECAUSE THERE IS NO FIDELITY: You have to think of Pilate’s question, “What is fidelity?”, 18:38! Therefore you must translate pseudos/pseusthēs as “deceit” and “deceiver.” Truth is an element of fidelity, just as a lie is an element of deceit. “They are doing lie (Hebrew ˁose shaqer)”, i.e. “they deceive,” Jeremiah 6:13, for instance by predicting peace “and there is no peace.”

(292) Charles K. Barrett (Das Evangelium nach Johannes [KEK], Göttingen 1990, 350) writes: “These words seem odd in view of v.31 . . . Either John wrote very thoughtlessly, or he thinks that the faith of these Jews was very imperfect.” Their faith has been shaken by the events of the Judean War. Our commentator pretends that these people were simply unwilling or stupid and had no real reason to turn away from the Messiah. To Christian commentators, the Christian faith is something completely self-evident, and the Jews are stupid and stubborn, they are just still the judaei perfidi from the old Roman Good Friday liturgy, which the Second Vatican Council deleted in 1965.

(293) HS: To be precise, Jeroboam is one of three adversaries who are raised up by God against Solomon. The word satan is used only in the case of Hadad (11:14) and Reson (11:23).

(294) HS: The adversary who appears in the immediate vicinity of these verses (1 John 2:18, 22) is called antichristos; diabolos is spoken of 4 times in 1 John 3:8, 10.

(295) HS: In German, TV can translate timaō and atimazō in parallel into German as “würdigen” and “entwürdigen.” In English, there is no corresponding parallel to “dignify.” Most translations have “to honor” and to “dishonor,” but these words I reserve for Greek words of the root dox– as in the following verse.

(296) TJ15, 74, I WILL BE THERE: It cannot be emphasized often enough that in the sentence egō eimi the subject is the God of Israel and not Yeshua. The first part of the sentence: “before Abraham (was born)” (prin Abraam genesthai,—Genesis!) poses a problem which a number of manuscripts have also seen; they omit genesthai. Do these three Greek words stand for Hebrew beterem ˀavraham yulad or beterem ˀavraham yihye? In the latter case, interpreting genesthai as “ to happen, to become,” a parallel emerges between ˀavraham yihye and ˀani ˀehye. Then we would have to translate: “Before Abraham was (or: happened), I WILL BE THERE (or: HAPPEN).” This is possible. But genesthai can also mean “to be born,” thus: “Before Abraham was born, I WILL BE THERE.” There is much to be said in favor of this possibility. Yeshua has defined himself as the one who speaks “of fidelity,” fidelity to Israel. This fidelity, i.e. the NAME, is there before Israel became the firstborn among the nations. For the understanding of this verse, the correct reading of the book Tholedoth/Genesis as the story of how Israel became the firstborn among the nations is necessary (see Frans H. Breukelman, Bijbelse Theologie I/2. Het eerstlingschap van Israel, Kampen 1992).
HS (substantive note): Unlike TV, I think that also Yeshua himself can be understood as the subject of the egō eimi. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, Grand Rapids/Michigan 2003, makes a convincing case that Yeshua was worshiped very early on by those who saw him as the Messiah of Israel, along with the FATHER, as the unique embodiment of the NAME. Such worship, which he calls “binitarian,” was already uncontroversial practice even in the so-called Jewish Christian communities at the time Paul came into contact with the Jerusalem community (167),

As far as we can tell from Paul’s letters, there was never any conflict or complaint from Jerusalem leaders, or from those Jewish Christians who made it their aim to correct features of Pauline Christianity, about the Christ-devotion that was practiced in Pauline congregations. The most natural inference is that the pattern of devotional practices was not very different from that followed in the Judean circles with which Paul had these contacts.

(297) See the book of Frans Breukelman, Bijbelse Theologie I/2. Het eerstlingschap van Israel, Kampen 1992.

(298) See the passage “Not of the will of the flesh,” in the discussion of John 1:13 above.

(299) TJ15, 74, BIRTH: Genetē, “begetting” or “birth” (genesis); gennēthē, “begotten” or “born.” The noun occurs in the NT only in John, in the LXX only in Leviticus 25:47. This narrative is not about the individual fate of a human, but about the paradigmatic function. Israel must be begotten anew; the theme of tholedoth yisraˀel, touched upon in 8:58, is carried out here. It is not about the transgressions of three individuals, but about the works of God. The works of God always refer to Israel and these works must be revealed; here the work is the healing of Israel’s delusion. In the Book of Genesis, “to beget” (holid) is the verbal form used 59 times to describe the becoming of Israel and the nations. Since this chapter is told in the speech field of the Tanakh, especially of Genesis, we would have to write “to be begotten” here, but: “blind from the begetting” misses the reality. Embryos are at first always blind; now, therefore, “birth.”

(300) TJ15, 74, UNTIL: Some important manuscripts have seen the problem and replace the word heōs, “until,” with the word hōs, “while, as long as.” But the first one makes more sense. Work is done until the day when it is finally Shabbat, a holiday, see 5:17, “The FATHER works, and I am also working,” just on the traditional Shabbat. This is the reason for the conflict that is now arising, Jesus heals on the Shabbat. He must do this as long as people are in need of healing, Shabbat or not. As soon as they are “whole,” Shabbat (pending, therefore day without the definite article) can happen (genesthai, Hebrew haya), 7:23. This is the unanimous opinion of all evangelists. John often uses a procedure that prepares the conflict to be told by linking keywords. The keyword “day” links the theme of Shabbat with the theme of light through the keyword “work.” The keyword “night” (also without the article) indicates that condition where the work of healing humankind is interrupted; it is the condition of lack of trust: 11:10; 13:30; 21:3.

(301) This is what presupposes shiloach. For shiloach in Isaiah 8:6, the Greek translation (LXX) writes Siloam.

(302) TJ05, 57 (68): Epethēken (“put on”) and not epechrisen (“anointed”).The anointing is a Messianic act; here it is to make clear that it is about an act that is forbidden on Shabbat.

(303) TJ15, 76, WITH A DIVINE ORDER: Para theou (without the article), “from the divine,” para tou theou, “from God.”

(304) TJ15, 78, CONFESSES: Homologēsē (subjunctive), Hebrew yode (a hiphil of the root yada), “to confess,” but with the connotation “to praise publicly.”

(305) TJ15, 78, ONE WITHOUT A SYNAGOGUE: Aposynagōgos. This word is the creation of John. The synagogue was the meeting place of the Jewish ethnic group in the cities of the empire. There they regulated their affairs and possible civil disputes among members according to the status that the Empire granted them as ethnos. Those who were excluded from the assembly lost all rights of participation and became a subject without rights. Since their own group was no substitute in legal terms, such exclusion could have far-reaching consequences.

(306) TJ15, 78, SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL: Ek tou aiōnos, literally “from the age.” Meant is “from the beginning of all ages of the world,” therefore I translate loosely.

(307) TJ05, 58 (70): A MISBIRTH ALTOGETHER: En hamartiais sy egennethēs holos, literally, “with aberrations or transgressions you were wholly begotten or born.”
HS: What TV translates “Fehlgeburt, misbirth,” the CJB thinks of an insult as mamzer, which is—according to Wikipedia—a person born from forbidden relationships or from incest (as defined by the Bible), or the descendant of such a person.

(308) Mishna Sota 9,14 mentions a pulmos shel Qitus (other manuscripts have shel Titus). Qitus is the Roman general Quietus, who crushed the uprising in northeast Africa. Since then, it is said that, as a result of the war, it was forbidden for “a man to teach his son Greek,” practically the impossibility of assimilation that characterized Hellenistic Judaism in the empire. Thus remains de facto the dissimilation strategy of Rabbinical Jewry.

(309) TJ05, 59 (71): Almost, in the same way, the answer to the woman from Samaria, “I AM HE—the one speaking with you” (4:26).
HS: But in his interpretation below, TV will rather emphasize the differences between the two passages.

(310) TJ15, 80, COURTYARD: Aulē, Hebrew chatzer. The Hebrew word occurs 145 times in the Tanakh and means “courtyard,” mostly the courtyard of the sanctuary in the wilderness (Exodus 27 ff.) and in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40-48). In any case, it does not mean “sheep pen.”
TJ05, 59 (72): “Door” is the symbol of the officially appointed leadership of the sanctuary, (“court”). Only Yeshua replaces this leadership, the others are usurpers.

(311) TJ15, 80, ASCENDS: Anabainōn, “ascending.” “To ascend” is a standard term for the ascent to Jerusalem. Those who “ascended” from Galilee to Jerusalem in the Judean War to occupy the city and the temple, in the eyes of John were not Zealot freedom fighters, but “thieves and terrorists.”

(312) TJ15, 80, THROWS OUT: If we translate exebalon as “they threw out” in 9:34, then we must also translate ekbalē here as “he throws out.” The verb occurs 6 times in the Gospel, once with a negation (6:37); in all other cases, the verb has all kinds of unwanted items as its object, from the traders in the sanctuary to the leader of the world order (12:31). The transition from exagei, “he leads out,” in v.3 last line, to ekbalē, “he throws out” in v.4 first line obviously is intended. The Messiah “throws” his disciples out of the sanctuary in response to the throwing out of the disciples from the synagogue (9:34; 16:2).

(313) TJ15, 80, SOMEONE ELSE: Allotrios, in Hebrew tzar. Tzar is a collective term for people who do not belong, such as the “sojourner” (thoshav) or the “day laborer” (sakhir). Thus a connection is made between allachothen in 10:1 and allotrios here. Who is meant by this explains 10:10-11.

(314) HS: By the Greek word paroimia John obviously refers to the Hebrew mashal which—according to the Jewish Virtual Library—might be rendered as “comparison, saying, and derived meanings.” For the interpretation of John’s paroimia, the following explanation on the mentioned website may be helpful, “No distinction is made in biblical usage between parable, allegory, and fable; all are forms of the mashal and have the same functions of illustration and instruction.”

(315) In TJ05 we translated anabainein as “to climb in.” “To ascend” is a bit clumsy, but—because of the connotation “ascent to Jerusalem”—factually more correct.

(316) Buber: “Unzugehöriger, not belonging one.”
HS: Here I could not translate allotrios by using compositions of the English word “else” as I did in John 10:1.5.

(317) TJ15, 80, DOOR: Some manuscripts have “shepherd” instead of “door” here. In this way, they do away with the discrepancy that exists between door and shepherd (10:9). Egō eimi as “shepherd” is understandable because God is the shepherd. But how is God “door”? There is a similar “discrepancy” in Ezekiel 34, where God himself is the shepherd of the sheep (34:15) and his servant David is to be a shepherd (34:23).

(318) TJ15, 82, BEFORE ME: Pro emou, E. Nestle/K. Aland, Novum Testamentum Graecum, 27 ed., Stuttgart 2001, doubt whether this originally belongs to the text. However, the two words belonged to the text very early, for example in P66.
TJ05, 60 (77): Meant are those—messianic or other ones—who claim leadership in the place of the bar enosh.
HS: In this older version TV had explicitly translated pro emou as “instead of me.”

(319) TJ15, 82: A combination of Numbers 27:10 and Lamentations 1:6.

(320) TJ15, 82, PUTTING HIS SOUL IN: Tithenai tēn psychēn, Hebrew sim nafsho (be-kafo). The expression is rare, and then only in connection with be-kafo, “to put his soul into his fist,” i.e., to use all available power [1 Samuel 19:5]. This may mean as an extreme consequence the loss of one’s own life, but it does not have to. One should not translate psychē as “life.” Some manuscripts, including very old ones, replace tithenai with didonai, “give his soul.” The correction is done from John 18-19.

(321) TJ15, 82, SCATTERS THEM: Scorpizein is the technical term for the expulsion of Israel. The condition of Israel, having to live worldwide as “scattered,” is just the condition that the Messiah has to put an end to, 11:52. The disciples expect a similar fate as Israel when the Messiah is arrested, they are scattered, 16:32.

(322) TJ15, 82: What is meant are not the goyim, but the Diaspora of Israel. See note to 4:36. The talk is not of a unity of Jews and Christians, as is often heard, but of the unity of Israel, see 11:52!

(323) TJ15, 82, FLOCK: ONE; SHEPHERD: ONE: The background is Ezekiel 34:23: “I will raise up one (ˀechad) to them as a shepherd,” and Ezekiel 37:15 ff., “I will make them one people and one (ˀechad) as king will become king to them all” [v.22]. Thus the breach, reported in Zechariah 11, is healed.

(324) TJ15, 82: These two verses 17-18 are difficult. Palin, “all the more,” is a reinforcement. To put in the soul (tithēmi tēn psychēn mou) means to bring into action oneself, one’s life. This commitment happens “the more so that (hina) I receive it (the soul or the life).” The play of words with tithēsthai and labein corresponds to apolyein and phylassein in 12:24, to destroy the soul in order to preserve it.
HS: Three times in vv.17-18 I use the word “to take,” in the first line of v.18 to translate hairein, in the 3rd or 4th line of both verses for lambanein. TV interprets Yeshua’s own taking of his soul as an increase of his putting in of his soul in the sense of a conscious decision (out of political strength) to expose himself to being murdered by the world order— contrary to a view that his soul was taken away from him, against his will. With no single word TV refers to the traditional interpretation of the word lambanein in the sense of “to receive, to get back again”—as if it were about Yeshua’s resurrection: that he would get back his life and in this respect, everything would not be so bad.

(325) Flavius Josephus, Geschichte des Jüdischen Krieges. Aus dem Griechischen übersetzt von Heinrich Clementz. Durchsicht der Übersetzung, Einleitung und Anmerkungen von Heinz Kreissig, Leipzig 1978, 2, 20, 7.
HS: At further mentions, I refer to this work about the “Wars of the Judeans” with the abbreviation “Bell.” The link indicated in each case leads to the reproduction of the English translation of the text on the Internet page https://archive.org by William Whiston, Hartford, Conn. 1905.

(326) The only other passage in the Tanakh, 1 Chronicles 4:39, is about the sons of Simeon who wandered, seeking, and finding pasture. It is less meaningful for our context.

(327) Zechariah 9-14 confronts the exegesis with great problems that have not been solved satisfactorily until today. Perhaps they represent a bridge to apocalyptic literature, which played a major role in the Maccabean period. Some fragments are an early response to the challenges posed by the conquest of the region by Greeks under Alexander. The text of the “unworthy shepherd” (roˁe ha-ˀelil, Zechariah 11:17) is very difficult to interpret, we are still far from understanding what real events it refers to.

(328) This then presupposes a very late dating of Zechariah 11 in the late 2nd century BCE.

(329) Similarly, Zephaniah 3:3: “The rulers are like roaring lions, the judges like Arabian wolves.”

(330) Flavius Josephus, Bell. 2, 20, 1.

(331) We can also recall our interpretation of John 2:6. There were six stone water jugs at the wedding in Cana. “Half of Israel,” we said. Does John here, 10:16, mean the other half?

(332) TJ15, 84, LIFT UP OUR SOUL: Tēn psychēn hēmon aireis. We know the expression “to lift up the soul” only from the Psalms, “To you (God), I lift up my soul,” Psalm 25:1; 86:4; 143:8. So the questioners want to know from Jesus: Why do you raise Messianic expectations in us?

(333) TJ15, 84: The background may be Deuteronomy 32:39: we-ˀen mi-yadi matzil, “no one snatches it out of my hand,” although the LXX does not have harpazein, “to rob,” here. This passage invokes God’s rescuing Israel, despite Israel’s rebelliousness.

(334) TJ15, 84, ONE WE ARE: Hen esmen, Hebrew ˀechad nihye. About the verb einai, Hebrew haya, the necessary is said in the note to 1:1. It is “Semitic” here and not “Greek,” it is not about the identity of being. If anywhere, it is necessary here to thoroughly distance from Christian orthodoxy. The God of Israel and his messenger represent one issue, and that is Israel. In this matter, there is no difference between God and the bar enosh, the Human. The unity consists in the fact that God entrusted Israel (“sheep”) to Yeshua; they are in the hand of Yeshua as in the hand of God, no one robs them.

(335) TJ15, 84, I HAVE SAID, ‘GODS YOU ARE’: Psalm 82:6.

(336) HS, BLASPHEMING—INFRINGING THE NAME: Translating blasphēmeis as “you infringe the NAME,” TV follows Martin Buber who renders wayiqav in Leviticus 24:11 as “er tastete den NAMEN an.” As “to infringe” doesn’t exactly match the German word “antasten” (literally „to touch at”), and John already used the Greek word blasphēmein in 10:33, I put both translations side by side.

(337) TJ15, 84, LIKE GOD: Hyios tou theou. Several manuscripts have instead: hyios theou, without article. Theos without the article can be taken as theios, “divine.” The manuscripts that omit the article want to make it clear that Yeshua is to be absolved of the charge that he saw himself as God. Apparently, they have overlooked the Semitic coloring of the expression. In both cases, “son of (the) God” actually means “like God,” as the Psalm quotation in 10:34 (Psalm 82:6) already suggests. The article means “like the God of Israel,” so that there is no suspicion of a general divinity. See note on 1:34.

(338) Probably it is, if at all, a targeted decree against the province of Judea and not a decree for the whole empire.

(339) The word blasphēmia hardly appears at all in the Greek translation of the Scriptures; there it stands for neˀatza, “contempt,” Ezekiel 35:12. But factually this refers to Leviticus 24:10-16, where it is about “infringing of the NAME” (naqav) or “cursing of the name” (qalal).
HS: The Greek word blasphemein also appears in 2 Kings 19:4.6.22; Isaiah 52:5; Daniel 3:29 (LXX 3:96), among others as the translation for gadaf, “to revile.”

(340) TJ15, 86, TJ15, 86, LAZAROS: Lazaros. The Aramaic form is Elˁazar, from eliˁezer, “(my) God helps.”
TJ05, 63 (88): The LXX writes Eleazar, Numbers 20:28, etc., but also Eleazaros, 2 Maccabees 6:18, etc.

(341) TJ15, 86, WHO ANOINTED . . . WITH HER HAIR: Probably a quotation from a song known to the community of John. For the first line see Amos 6:6.

(342) TJ15, 86: Epeita meta touto, “then after”: an Aramaicism, kol-qobel dena, among others Daniel 3:8.

(343) TJ15, 88, STUMBLE: Proskoptein, Hebrew kashal. In 6:61 John used the word skandalizein for kashal.

(344) TJ15, 88, TEAR HIM FROM SLEEP: Why it is usually translated here as “to raise (from the dead)” is obscure; exhypnizein (“to tear from sleep,” ex hypnou) is a rare word. In the LXX it occurs only four times, in the evangelic and apostolic writings only here.

(345) TJ15, 88, LIBERATED: Sōthēsetai. The disciples do not say hygiathēsetai or hygiēs genesthai (see 5:6), “he will be healed,” because they understand Jesus correctly. Lazaros/Israel is in a political condition, which is compared to sleep, from which it can be freed; of course, Yeshua must make himself clear (parrhēsia): this condition is death, according to human judgment Israel cannot be liberated from the condition after the Judean War.

(346) See the German name “Gotthelf.”

(347) I owe this expression to the Dutch professor of Old Testament Han Renckens. In his book De godsdienst van Israel, Roermond/Maaseik 1962, 62, he writes, “It is a genuinely biblical procedure to concentrate what has been a slow-growing, so to speak, in a certain person at a certain time. . . Abraham is more than a historical figure, he is a biblical figure; that is: he is the exemplary figure of the people of God and the faithful man of all times. In short, he is the father of faith.” Similarly to Paul, the Qurˀan also deals with Abraham as chanif, the “rightly guided,” paradigm of all Muslims.

(348) In Luke 16:19-31 there is a completely different Lazaros. This one is a needy man (ptōchos); he is the Job of the Messianic scriptures. It is difficult to tell whether the Lukan Lazaros was the inspiration of the Johannine one or vice versa, or whether there were two independent traditions. For this reason, the tales of Luke 16 and John 11 must be interpreted independently of each other.

(349) The thesis “Lazarus = beloved disciple” is already advocated by Johannes Kreyenbühl, Das Evangelium der Wahrheit, 1900/1905 (Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 302). But Lazaros is no “disciple”; in the narrative, he only has the function of representing Israel. And the disciples are friends of the Messiah not until they say farewell, 15:15.

(350) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 302.

(351) Loc. cit., 304.

(352) TJ15, 88, GIVE THEM COMFORT: Paramythesthai, Hebrew nicham. The word is unusual, the LXX does not use it, but has parakalein. The Greek version of Symmachus has paramythesthai for nicham in 2 Samuel 10:2, which refers to a condolence delegation from Jerusalem to Ammon, or Job 2:11, where Job’s friends had come to nod to him and give him comfort.

(353) TJ15, 90, AM TRUSTING . . . HAVE TRUSTED: We follow here Papyrus 66, which has pisteuō, egō pepisteuka, all other manuscripts have only egō pepisteuka. A Semitic perfect points to an action that was started and completed in the past, a Semitic imperfect points to an action that started in the past and was not completed, or to an action that is just beginning, that has an open end. This can be translated into Greek with the imperfect or present tense. Martha does not make a statement here, “I have trusted,” but rather makes a confession, “I am trusting,” or rather, “I want to trust.” The death of her brother (the downfall of Israel) has destroyed her, “I have trusted that you . . .” Her trust was settled (“completed,” therefore perfect) by the past of the war. Now she wants to trust once more. This is the interpretation of P66, and this is what the Greek present says.

(354) HS: In his later translation (see the previous note), TV acknowledged that P66 has both verb forms, present and perfect.

(355) TJ15, 90, ARRIVED: Parestin invokes parousia, the final coming of the Messiah.

(356) TJ15, 90, SNORTED WITH RAGE: Enebrimēsato tō pneumati. The verb is rare. In the LXX it occurs only in Daniel 11:30, the only place in the LXX, where also the word Rōmaioi, “Romans,” is written. In the Synoptic Gospels, the verb occurs several times. The Hebrew verb here is zaˁam, it has shades of meaning from “to insult” to “to imprecate solemnly, to curse.” In other Greek versions, the word is used to reproduce zaˁam, in Ezekiel 21:36 zaˁami be-ˀesh ˁevrathi, “I snorted with the fire of my anger,” and Lamentations 2:6 be-zaˁam apo, “the snorting of his wrath.” Outside the Scriptures, it means “snorting (of a horse).” In Mark 1:43, Jesus threatens the leper healed by him; in Mark 14:5, the disciples reviled the woman who had anointed Yeshua’s feet. A translation like the one of the CJB—“he was deeply moved and also troubled“—is too weak. Jesus curses this death and is appalled at the condition Lazaros/Israel is in: decaying, more than dead. The addition tō pneumati means “completely” (see Matthew 5:3; Isaiah 57:15 etc.).
TJ05, 66 (97): En tō pneumati does not mean “in the spirit,” i.e. inwardly, but it is reinforcement. Shefalruach, Isaiah 57:15, does not mean “humbled in spirit” but “completely humbled” or “humbled in a way that there is no longer any spirit of life in him.” The LXX translates shefal-ruach as oligopsychois, “little of soul.” The ptōchoi en pneumati of Matthew 5:3 are not “poor in spirit,” but “wholly poor,” they suffer poverty that touches their spirit of life.
TJ15, 90, UTTERLY SHAKEN: Etaraxen heauton, see 13:21.

(357) In an earlier attempt, I overstretched the representational function of the characters in the narrative. It is not about the different types of Messianic congregations, it is about identity and difference of the one Messianic community in Israel (Ton Veerkamp, Auf Leben und Tod. Eine Auslegung von Joh 10:40-11:54, in: Texte & Kontexte 49 (1991), 14-36, here 16 ff.).

(358) Charles K. Barrett (Das Evangelium nach Johannes [KEK], Göttingen 1990, 396; Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 310.

(359) Ulrich Wilckens, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (NTD Band 4), Göttingen 2000, 179. The widespread poisonous anti-Judaism of the commentaries on John in the 19th century is found in Bernhard Weiß (“Oberconsistorialrath und ordent. Prof. at the University of Berlin”), Das Johannesevangelium (KEK) 8th ed. 1893, 412 f.,

What he was angry about, the context reveals through hōs eiden – klaiountas, which is explicitly contrasted with the weeping of the deeply feeling Mary (klaiousan) and is thus recognized by him as an empty condolence ceremony, so that he becomes angry in deep moral indignation at this hypocritical klaiein of the Jews, which is coupled with the bitterest enmity against the beloved friend of the mourner.

(360) TJ15, 90, YESHUA . . . TO HIMSELF: It does not say en pneumati here, but en heautō. Hence “to himself.”
TJ05, 66 (99): He does not direct his anger against others but against himself.

(361) HS: All common English translations have “of the dead (man)” here, although John doesn’t use the word tethnēkōs, “dead”, as in John 11:44. By using the German word “der Vollendete,” which I try to render into the English language with “the accomplished one,” TV tries to make clear that John deliberately wanted to imply a secondary meaning of “over and done with.” After all, Martha speaks of Lazaros already stinking because he lies in the grave for four days. In 19:28.30, John—instead of the word teleutaō used here—will take two other words—teleō and teleioō—derived from the same root tel– to express that Yeshua accomplished his purpose in his death and that he thus fulfills the Scriptures.

(362) TJ15, 92, SANHEDRIN: Synhedrion, “court of law.” The Mishna treatise Sanhedrin describes the competence of the individual courts. A court of three judges can decide property crimes; capital crimes are decided by courts of 23 judges, Mishna Sanhedrin 1:5. This is the “Great Sanhedrin.” This court is what John means; so it is about a political capital crime.

(363) TJ15, 92, BRING RUIN TO: Arousin hēmōn ton topon kai to ethnos, “devastate our place [the holy place, that is, the sanctuary] and abolish the status of self-government.” Arein usually means “to take up, to lift up, to abolish” (Hebrew nasaˀ), but in Isaiah 51:13 it stands for shicheth, “to destroy, to ruin.” Ethnos, in Hebrew goy, means people as a political entity, so we translate with “nation.”

(364) TJ15, 92, HIGH PRIEST: Archiereus, in Hebrew kohen gadol. The text suggests that the office changed annually. In itself, a successor was always to be appointed only upon the death of the office-holder, but the Romans dismissed high priests and appointed them as they pleased. Caiaphas, of all people, a very skillful politician, held office from 18-36 CE. The exaggerated reference to “the high priest of that year” is intended to emphasize that the high priests are basically functionaries by the grace of Rome. The high priest was the highest functionary in the Torah Republic since the Persian period and then again after the abolition of the monarchy by the Romans in the year 5 CE. He represented the interests of the nation and the people (laos, see note to 11:50). One of the most important tasks was to negotiate the amount of the tribute, i.e. the tribute of Judea to the Romans. This is about big politics, and Yeshua was an element of big politics here.

(365) TJ15, 92, CONSIDER: Logizesthai, Hebrew chashav, “to consider, plan, calculate, assign, estimate.” Caiphas reproaches them that the death of a human “to the benefit of the nation” was not an element in their political planning games. The death of a human “to the benefit of the nation” is to be subordinated to the preservation of the internal political status quo. This was then also decided.

(366) TJ15, 92, OF THE PEOPLE: Laos, Hebrew ˁam, “people, national community.” ˁAm has the same root as ˁim, “with” (ˁim-anu-ˀel, “with us is God”). “To die for or on behalf of the people” (hyper, Hebrew ˁal) means “to take upon oneself the death fate of the people.” Yeshua will, therefore, “die for the people,” not for the nation. For the real existing nation of the priestly henchmen of Rome, Jesus will indeed not die, but for a completely different nation, for a nation of all those God-borns who have been scattered (tekna tou theou dieskopismena, see note to 1:12), that is, of all the children of Israel worldwide; a nation, of course, which is open to all who, according to 1:12, trust Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel.

(367) TJ15, 92, GATHERING . . . INTO ONE: The verbal form synagagē clearly suggests the counter model against the synēgagon of 11:47 but also against the synagogue of the emerging Rabbinical Judaism. “Gather into one”: Here the vision of Isaiah 66:20-24 is in the background. Against the big politics of the leading priests and the Perushim (the appeasement of the Romans, the compromise with Rome) John sets the uncompromising anti-Roman political program of his Yeshua. Here we can find the actual impulse of the whole text.

(368) Only once the Greek translators choose airein for the Hebrew word shicheth, “to perish, destroy,” in Isaiah 51:13, “You were constantly horrified by the burning fury of the oppressor to destroy you (arai se).”

(369) Flavius Josephus, Bell. 4. 9. 9. P66 does not mention the place at all, the manuscript D writes Samphourin. Obviously, some people were at loose ends with Ephraim.

(370) Charles K. Barrett (Das Evangelium nach Johannes [KEK], Göttingen 1990, 404.

(371) HS: Originally, TV had placed the now following section 11 of his interpretation in his major part III, since everything from John 11:55 onward happens “near Passover.” But later on, he regards the summary of Yeshua’s teaching (12:44-50) and the negative reaction of the Judeans (12:37-43), which led to the final retreat of the Messiah into hiddenness (12:36), as the actual end of part II about the hidden Messiah. Therefore I let part III begin not until John 13:1—“Before Passover”—as TV also does in his translation TJ15 from 2015.

(372) TJ15, 94, SANCTIFY: Hagnizein, Hebrew hithqadesh, “to sanctify oneself.” The word aims at those actions that remove obstacles to participation in the festival. In Numbers 11:18; Joshua 3:5, etc., the people are asked to sanctify themselves. Here they go to the city to celebrate the festival, and for this purpose the people from the country, probably because they have not always been able to keep themselves cultically pure, must sanctify themselves. Therefore also hittaher, “to purify oneself,” may be meant, or hithchateˀ, “to free oneself from aberration.” All three translations are possible, but “to sanctify oneself” is a comprehensive concept.

(373) TJ15, 94, DENOUNCE: Mēnyein. The word in the Messianic and apostolic writings—except Luke 20:37—has negative connotations, “to inform in order to denigrate someone,” Acts 23:30; 1 Corinthians 10:28; but especially 2 Maccabees 6:11 and 14:37, “to denounce.” The mere “to inform” is too weak.

(374) TJ15, 94, WAS HOSTING: Diēkonei. The words diakonein, diakonos, diakonia are almost completely missing in LXX; only in the Book of Esther [1:10; 2:2; 6:3.5], we hear the words diakonos and diakonia. Here it is about high-ranking and respected officials (Hebrew mesharthim) of the Great King Ahasuerus. The background is the root sharath; Joshua in Exodus 24:13 is the meshareth of Moshe, the first minister (bailiff) and later successor. For ˁavad, ˁeved, ˁavoda the LXX has douleuein, doulos (pais), douleia. The apostolic writings and the Gospels very often have doulos for the service of God or the Messiah. The “normal service” is that which Jesus demonstrated, “the servant (doulos) be no more than his Lord,” John 13:16. Diakonia is a service that goes beyond the ordinary one (see Acts 1:17, etc.). Martha had a service of honor, like those diakonoi at the wedding festival of Cana, 2:5.9, people who did the honorary service at the table of the Messianic king. Neither here nor in Luke 10:40 is Martha a maid, but the “mistress of the house,” who had to take care of everything that a banquet required.

(375) TJ15, 94, PISTIKOS: Pistikos. Whether this word has anything to do with pistis, “faithful,” is uncertain, so the translation “genuine, unadulterated” seems doubtful. Some suspect the Aramaic pistaqa, “pistachio.” One ingredient of this balm would then be pistachio oil. We leave the word as it is. See note to 11:2.

(376) TJ15, 94, THE NEEDY YOU KEEP WITH YOURSELVES: See Deuteronomy 15:1 ff.
TJ05, 70(5): It is striking that the ptōchoi, the needy, occur only in this passage in John, in marked contrast to the Synoptics. To John, the political dimension (autonomy) is so dominant that the social dimension (egalitarianism) all but disappears. No social ethics can be made with this Gospel, and the agapē, “solidarity,” refers only to the members of John’s group, at most to the members of other Messianic groups.

(377) The verb sharath means a higher category of service. This ministry was performed by Joseph in the house of Potiphar; he was his major-domo, Genesis 39:4; Joshua was the first assistant (meshareth) of Moshe (Exodus 24:13), Elisha the first assistant of Elijah (1 Kings 19:21). The LXX renders this “service” as therapōn or leitourgos.

(378) Mark and Matthew argue in the same direction, but the accusation is directed against “some” or “the disciples.”

(379) TJ15, 96, Hoschiaˁ-na, “set us free.” The first two lines are from Psalm 118:25, the psalm from the so-called “Hallel” (Psalms 113-118 and Psalm 136), which according to tradition was sung by Moshe after the liberation from Egypt together with the Song of Miriam and is still a firm part of the Paschal Liturgy today. Psalm 118 apparently also served as a welcoming song for the pilgrims who came to the sanctuary in the city: the people in Jerusalem sang, the pilgrims answered, “His solidarity lasts until the age to come.” John retrospectively interprets this hymn of welcome as a greeting to the Messianic King, 12:16. The last line of 12:13 is rather from Zechariah 9:9. He who comes “with HIS name” is the King, and the King is Yeshua, as is shown in 12:14-15. When reading aloud, this word should be pronounced “Hebrew”—as two words, hoschiaˁ and na. The translation should then be read along with it, “deliver us, set us free.”

(380) TJ15, 96: The quote is from Zechariah 9:9. The two evangelists who bring this quote, Matthew and John, change the text. Instead of “Rejoice very much, daughter of Zion,” John has, “Fear not, daughter of Zion.” The Messianic King clearly has features that are directed against the militancy of the Zealots, for the text of Zechariah 9:9 continues, “I will smash chariot from Ephraim / cavalry from Jerusalem / I will break the bow of war / I will proclaim peace to the world powers . . .”

(381) TJ15, 96, GOING AFTER: Apēlthen, actually “goes away.” Opisō autou, Hebrew ˀacharav, “after him, behind him.” 1 Kings 18:21 shows that “to go after one” is the recognition of who God is, what order should prevail. The world seems to be “going after Yeshua.” The world order seems to be “Yeshuanic,” Messianic. But after this climax comes the anticlimax.

(382) Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangeliu