The Farewell of the Messiah

The world order, represented by Pilate, murders Yeshua, the King of Israel. By voluntarily taking upon himself the death on the cross, the Messiah is ascending to the FATHER, thus handing over to his disciples GOD’s inspiration of fidelity. This Holy Spirit of solidarity is overcoming the world order.

The meaning of solidarity is signified by Yeshua washing the feet of his disciples as a slave. As for overcoming the world order, he explains this to them in his farewell speeches and conversations. The events in front of and inside the praetorium show that the Roman world order is the real enemy of the Messiah, while the Judeans present here are standing for the part of the Judean people that has resigned itself to the Roman God-Emperor as the supreme ruler and is collaborating with Rome in order to get rid of the Messiah.

What Christians usually refer to as “Easter” is, in John’s Gospel, “day one,” which marks the beginning of a new creation and the victory of agapē (“solidarity”) over the “world order.” Paradoxically, the disciples nevertheless (at first) remain behind closed doors—for fear of the Judeans.

A station of the cross in the form of a square room with a roof on it, in the gable of which a cross can be seen. In the room Pilate sits on the left, and on the right the bound Jesus stands before him.

Yeshua, as the King of the Judeans, faces the representative of the Roman world order, Pilate (Image: Bronisław DróżkaPixabay)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we have reached the immediate vicinity of the Passover festival, the eve of paraskeuē, the preparation day for the Passover festival, which the Jews call ˁerev pascha.

The time before ˁerev pascha is divided into three sections: the time of the last supper (13:1-30a), the night (13:30b-18:28a), and the early morning (18:28b-19:13). You can see that the sections of the night are the main focus. This center is framed by two shorter pieces: The meal and Early morning in front of the residence of the Roman authorities. The first piece shows that the Messiah is called Lord, but is the slave. And the second piece of the frame clearly shows that the Messiah is King, but a completely different King than all the others before him and after him. Only as a slave, the Messiah is King.

During the long night between evening and early morning, Yeshua will try to explain the essence of his Messianity and the consequences for the disciples. We begin with the evening. The passage 13:1-30a can be divided well:

13:1-17 Lord and Teacher as a slave

13:18-30a Lord, who is it?

12.1. Lord and Teacher as a slave, 13:1-17

13:1 But before (401) the festival of Pascha, (402)
in awareness (403)
that Yeshua’s hour had come to pass from this world order to the FATHER,
being solidarized with his own under the world order, (404)
his solidarity with them came to its goal,
13:2 and after a meal was held, (405)
—after the adversary (406) had already set
the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to hand him over—, (407)
13:3 in awareness then,
that the FATHER had given everything into his hands,
that he had come from GOD and went to God:
13:4 He gets up from the meal,
puts off his garments,
and taking a linen apron (408) girded himself.
13:5 Then he pours water into the basin,
began washing the feet of the disciples
and drying them with the apron that he had girded himself with.
13:6 He comes to Simon Peter, this one says to him,
You are washing my feet?”
13:7 Yeshua answered, he said to him,
“What I am doing you do not understand yet,
you will recognize after this.”
13:8 Peter says to him,
“You will not wash my feet until the age to come!”
Yeshua answered him,
“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (409)
13:9 Simon Peter says to him,
“Lord, not only my feet but also my hands, my head.”
13:10 Says Yeshua to him,
“He who has bathed needs nothing but to wash his feet,
he is clean, entirely.
You too are clean, but not all of you.”
13:11 For he knew of the one who would hand him over;
this is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
13:12 When he now had washed their feet,
taken his garments and reclined again to the table,
he said to them,
“Do you recognize what I have done to you?
13:13 You call me ‘Teacher’ or ‘Lord,’
you say that well because I am.
13:14 Now if I—the Lord and Teacher—wash your feet,
you ought to wash each other’s feet as well.
13:15 For I have given you an example: (410)
as I have done to you,
you shall do as well.
13:16 Amen, amen, I say to you:
The slave is not greater than his master,
the sent one no greater than the one who sent him.
13:17 If you are aware of this,
you will be happy if you do so.

The part begins with a monumental sentence, built over two bridge pillars, the two active participles eidōs, “in awareness,” and agapēsas, “in solidarity,” on the one hand, and the repetition of the participle eidōs, “in awareness,“ on the other.

In between are two so-called genitivi absoluti, a grammatical figure denoting accomplished facts: The meal is over, the enemy has taken possession of a disciple.

This sentence is a prefix, the main sentence begins in v.4, “he gets up from the meal . . .”
The prefix contains in a very concentrated form all the themes that will be discussed in 13:1-17: the awareness and solidarity of Yeshua. Both determine the action to come. Yeshua, the Lord and Teacher, acts as a slave so that no one among them can become Lord: this is solidarity. That it is solidarity is not named until after the break of the betrayal: the words agapē and agapan, “solidarity” and “to solidarize,” we hear first in the great prefix about the awareness of Yeshua and then again in 13:34, in the night.

Yeshua’s awareness contains four moments: Yeshua knows that his hour has come to leave this world order to go to the FATHER, that his solidarity with his own has reached its telos, its “goal,” and, after mentioning two accomplished facts, Yeshua knows that all power has been given to him because his whole life is “moving from God to God.” These four moments: the hour, the goal, the power, and the way, summarize the first twelve chapters of our text. It is from this knowledge that Yeshua is acting.

The first genitivus absolutus: “when the meal was over.” So the decisive thing happens after the meal. The meal that is held here is not the Passover meal. The word deipnon, “meal,” occurs four times in John, once in 12:3, where Mariam anointed the feet of the Messiah, twice here and then again in Galilee, on the shore of the lake, 21:20, but where reference is made to this meal here.

So there are only two meals, the first was the anticipated funeral meal where Lazaros was present, Martha did the Messianic honor service, and Mariam “anointed the Lord with balm and dried His feet with her hair“ (11:2 and 12:3 ff.), six days before Passover (“Monday”); the second meal was one day before ˁerev pascha (“Thursday”). Does the deipnou genomenou refer to the first meal?

The second meal is linked to the first meal. After the meal, where Mariam anointed the feet of the Messiah, Judas ben Simon Iscariot will bring the poor into play to discredit the anointing. After this meal was done, Simon Peter sought to prevent the action of Yeshua on the disciples, the washing of feet, and Judas is asked to leave Yeshua and the disciples. Again, the needy are mentioned (ptōchoi). After the first meal, the death and burial of the Messiah are anticipated; after the second meal, the new commandment of solidarity is established. After the first meal, it is made clear that now was not the hour of the needy; after the second meal, the new commandment of solidarity among the disciples is proclaimed.

The second genitivus absolutus, “After the adversary had put Judas ben Simon Iscariot in his heart to hand him [Yeshua] over.” Judas acts on behalf of the adversary, satan, diabolos, not of an evil supernatural spirit, but an evil inner-worldly order. He acts on behalf of and as a henchman of Rome, we see him here, we see him going away (13:30), we see him again as the head of a mixed force of police of the Judean authority and soldiers of the enemy, 18:3. When the Scriptures use the word satan, it does not mean demons; for these, it has other words. We recall here what we said at the discussion of 6:70 and 8:44.

Once again, Yeshua’s awareness is emphasized before he is washing the feet of the disciples. He knows that he is the one to whom all power has been transferred, like the bar enosh, the Human. He has gone out from God, he returns to him, in this awareness he takes off his garments and takes an apron, the clothing of a house slave. The act of washing the feet of the guests at a banquet was an obligation of the house slaves. Yeshua takes over this role, to the horror of the disciple Simon Peter.

Why he? Were the others not horrified? Of course, because even a slave of Israelite origin is not obliged to wash the feet of his master. (411) Yeshua acts like Abigail who said to David, 1 Samuel 25:41, “There is your handmaid as a slave to wash the feet of my master’s slaves.” Yeshua is acting like the slave woman Abigail. The horror of Simon is emphasized because he embodies the leadership of the Messianists. John deliberately gives Simon the role of resisting the request of Yeshua. Yeshua knows that if he does not persuade Simon to submit to this act of Yeshua, his future role as “shepherd” and so the whole is at stake; otherwise, Simon (the Messianic movement) would have no part in him.

Simon’s desire that Yeshua should wash his hands and his head is strange, for the Scriptures never speak of washing the head, but of washing the hands; the latter is in any case related to the commandment of purity. Yeshua should wash those parts of his body that are not covered by clothing, that is, feet, hands, and head.

Yeshua takes this up by using the word “to bathe.” He who has bathed is pure. They have bathed, they have gone through the immersion of the words of the Messiah. The suggestion of Simon is therefore absurd; he has bathed, his feet, hands, and head are “bathed.” The washing that Yeshua performs here is not for purification. Only one is unclean, the henchman of Rome.

Foot washing is about something else. That is what Yeshua must explain. The disciples relate to Yeshua, to the Lord and Teacher, just as the disciples of a rabbi relate to the rabbi. Yeshua could claim this role for himself in this circle, eimi gar, “for I am,” namely Lord and Teacher. But he is the slave (doulos, ˁeved).

The conclusion is not a religious one, such as, “Because God (the Messiah) loves men and serves them, they shall love God (the Messiah) and serve him.” On the contrary, if the one “like-God” (hyios theou) makes himself a slave (doulos) of these humans, these humans must be slaves to one another: from the vertical (“I for you”) follows the horizontal (“you for one another”); in the language of Bonhoeffer this would mean “pro-existence.” The relationship of God to the Messiah and of the Messiah to the disciples is strictly exemplary, “As God to me, as I to you, so you to one another.” In John, there is no universal love of neighbor, and in him, there is certainly no religion. (412)

12.2. Lord, who is it? 13:18-30a

13:18 Not about all of you do I am speaking;
I know which ones I have chosen,
but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled:
The one chewing (413) my bread
lifts up his heel against me. (414)
13:19 From now on, I am speaking to you before it happens,
so that when it does happen,
you may trust that I AM—I WILL BE THERE.
13:20 Amen, amen, I say to you:
He who receives someone I send receives me;
He who receives me receives the ONE who sent me.”

13:21 When saying this, Yeshua was totally shaken, (415)
he testified and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you:
one of you will hand me over.”
13:22 The disciples looked at one another,
puzzling over who he is speaking about.
13:23 One of his disciples was reclining,
borne by Yeshua in his bosom,
the one Yeshua was attached to in solidarity. (416)
13:24 To this Simon Peter motions
to inquire who it is he is speaking about.
13:25 Leaning now against Yeshua’s chest, (417) that one says to him,
“Lord, who is it?”
13:26 Yeshua answers,
“It is the one to whom I will dip the bite and give it.”
Having dipped the bite, he gives it to Judas ben Simon Iscariot.
13:27 And after the bite, the adversary went into him.
So Yeshua says to him,
“What you are doing, do quickly.”
13:28 None of those who were reclining at the table recognized,
to what end he said that to him.
13:29 For some thought,
that since Judas had the money-bag, Yeshua would have said to him,
“Buy what we need for the festival,”
or that he give something to the needy.
13:30a So that one took the bite and went out, immediately.

After this exemplary act of Yeshua, there is the dissonant counterpoint, “Not about all of you do I speak.” The text does not linger long with psychological attempts at explanation. Judas is the evildoer of the psalms, and he is the one who commits crimes against the people. For the “I” of the Psalms always stands for Israel too.

Even the man of my peace,
on whom I relied,
who ate my bread,
attacks me from behind.

So it says in Psalm 41 (v.10). John has his own Greek version of the psalm. Instead of “eating” (ˀakhal, esthiein) he has “chewing, gnawing” (trogein) as in the bread speech 6:54 ff. The parallel is intentional: Judas was the one who chewed the flesh of the Messiah, that is, he was one of those who did not go away despite the scandalous sayings of the Messiah in the bread speech. It does not mean, then, that he took part in a Christian communion and then betrayed the Messiah; it means that he was fully engaged with the Messiah (chewing his flesh, drinking his blood). It is he who hands the Messiah over to the Romans and their collaborators, Judas ben Simon Iscariot, who once was chewing the flesh of the Messiah, drinking his blood.

Psalm 41 ends with a double Amen, “Bless the NAME / the God of Israel / from ages to ages / Amen and amen!” After Yeshua announces what will happen before it happens, “so that you may know: I WILL BE THERE,” he takes up the double Amen: “Amen, amen, I say to you.” Here again, the dialectic of the vertical and the horizontal, “Whoever accepts someone whom I will send [a Messianically inspired person] accepts me, the Messiah.”

John then leads the break in the narrative over foot washing and solidarity in a ghostly scene to a climax or to an absolute low point. This narrative of the break leads from the shaking of Yeshua (etarachthē tō pneumati) in v.21 to “it was night, however,” in v.30b. It begins with the double Amen of Psalm 41:14, this time turned into darkness, “Amen, amen, I say to you: one of you will hand me over.” The four acting persons are Yeshua, Simon Peter, the apprentice “to whom Yeshua was attached in solidarity,” and Judas ben Simon Iscariot.

Yeshua’s shaking is the same as the one in the face of the death of Lazaros. He prays the Psalm of the Shock in 12:27, “Now my soul is shaken.” The Messiah is completely and deeply shaken (tō pneumati) in the face of the corruption, the inner decay, prevailing in this people. Lazaros was the decaying Israel, Judas ben Simon Iscariot the son of his people, eaten up by corruption.

We do not want to add our own speculation about the disciple with whom Yeshua was friends. The text passes him on anonymously, and we should respect that. In any case, here begins the strange alliance between Simon Peter and the so-called beloved disciple. The disciple to whom Yeshua was united in solidarity (ēgapa) or in friendship (ephilei) is not necessarily identical with Lazaros, to whom Yeshua was also united in friendship (hon phileis, 11:3). He is the disciple who walked all the way with Yeshua, from the garden to the court of the great priest, from the court to the cross, from the cross to the open tomb, from this tomb to the fishing boat, from where he was the only one who recognized the stranger as “the Lord.” He is the exemplary disciple who will always remain until the Messiah comes, 21,22. He is the structural transformation of Lazaros. This one was the exemplary concentration of the dead and to be revived Israel, the disciple in the Gospel of John is the exemplary concentration of living Israel, the Jewish—not Christian!—Messianic community.

At the level of the narrative, the traitor remains unknown; Yeshua knows, perhaps that anonymous disciple knows, all the others will know only when they see him again in the garden beyond the brook Kidron. Yeshua hints at it, but in such a way that nobody recognizes who is meant. Yeshua gives the dipped bite to Judas, and the disciples assume that it is aimed at the story of Ruth and not at Psalm 41. Here the passages of the Scriptures, Psalm 41:10 and Ruth 2:14, are fulfilled. The second passage is turned into its opposite so that it can point to the first.

This is exactly the instant when the adversary “entered,” a truly “Satanic” reversal of the gesture of Yeshua, distinguishing Judas ben Simon as a housemate. So says the Scripture passage Ruth 2:14. Ruth came as a refugee from Moab to Boaz, the owner of a farm in Bethlehem, and asked for permission to gather barley after the harvest. Boaz said to Ruth at mealtime,

“Come closer; you may eat from the bread,
dip your bite into the sour dip.”
She sat down beside the reapers,
and he handed her roasted grain.
She ate, was satisfied, had some left over.

Thus Ruth was accepted by Boaz as a housemate. By accepting the dipped bite, Judas accepts recognition as a fellow housemate of the Messiah and deceives those present. He hides from those present by accepting recognition as a housemate that he will hand over Yeshua. He accepts the role that Rome—the Satan—assigns him.

Yeshua wants this theater to end quickly, “What you are to do”—namely, to carry out the assignment of the adversary, Rome—“do it quickly.” John keeps up the tension by having the disciples puzzle; they suspect nothing of what is really going on. “Immediately (euthys) he went out.” It is the first time we hear the word euthys in John. Twice more we will hear this word. Judas knows that the hour of Judas has come at the same time as the hour of Yeshua: He could no longer remain in the “house of the Lord.”

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

13.1. The new commandment, 13:30b-38

13:30b It was night, however. (418)

13:31 And when he had gone out, Yeshua says,
“Now the bar enosh, the Human, began being honored,
and GOD began being honored with him.
13:32 If GOD began being honored with him,
GOD will also honor him with himself, (419)
and, immediately, he will honor him. (420)
13:33 Children, still a little while (421) I am with you.
You will seek me,
but, as I said to the Judeans,
where I am going, you cannot come,
so I say it to you now.
13:34 A new command I am giving to you:
that you are solidary with each other,
that—just as I was solidary with you—
you are also solidary with each other.
13:35 By this, everyone will recognize that you are my disciples,
if you are practicing solidarity with each other.
13:36 Simon Peter says to him,
“Lord, where are you going?”
Yeshua answered,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now;
you will follow later.”
13:37 Peter says to him,
“Lord, why can’t I follow you now?
I will put in my soul for you!” (422)
13:38 Yeshua answered,
“You will put in your soul for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you:
The rooster will not call until you have denied me three times!

“It was night, however.” Now the night of the Messiah begins. The reading of our text up to this point has shown what night meant; it is the time without the Messiah, in which you cannot walk the way, but you must “stumble” (11:10), in which “no one can work,” 9:5. The night of Rome without the Messiah is the end of all hopes and all plans. But this night is the night of the Messiah.

John tries to make it clear to the group that the Messianic community also lives in the night. It must learn to decide whether its night is the night of the Messiah—a night in which the Messianic light shines upon it—or whether its night is the night of Rome—then it really can do nothing. How is it possible to live in the Messianic night without the Messiah? John seeks an answer to this question in the so-called farewell speeches.

The word “honor” (doxa, kavod, gloria) becomes increasingly important in the course of the Gospel. From chapter 11, the revival of Lazaros, to chapter 17, the prayer of the Messiah, that doxa, “honor,” is a main theme. The glory of God is not like the quickly offended glory of men. The honor, kavod, actually “force, brunt,” is his assertiveness in the realization of his “project” Israel.

At the revival of Lazaros we heard how sickness and death serve to “honor the one who is like-God,” and Martha’s despair is met with the word, “If you trust, you will see the glory of God.“ What is happening at the tomb of Lazaros means that “the glory of God” is that Israel is alive.

Whenever Yeshua’s shaking is reported (11:33; 12:27; 13:21), the “honor of God” comes into play. The Messiah prays, “FATHER, honor your name.” The “voice from heaven” declares, “I have honored it, and I will honor it again,” (12:28). And here, after the shaking experience that one of the Twelve betrays the Messiah, Yeshua says: “Now the bar enosh, the Human will be honored; with him, God will be honored . . ., and God will also honor him with himself, and immediately (euthys) he will honor him.”

We know what the honor, the power of God is: that Israel lives. This happens at the moment when the apparent doom is introduced by the betrayal: The Messiah is murdered, Israel lives! This is realized immediately, at that very moment when Judas ben Simon enters the ranks of the enemy. We can understand this only when we will hear the word euthys a third and last time, 19:34.

What happens here is unique; the attempt to imitate the Messiah is an illusion, “Where I am going, you cannot come,” he said to the Judeans (7:34), and he has to tell this to the disciples as well. Thus the question of Simon Peter is anticipated and, at first, answered negatively. Positively, the place is shown to him where he can and must go. This place is solidarity, the new commandment. The washing of feet is the sign of the new commandment. Here Bultmann is right,

There is no love directed directly at Jesus . . . as there is no love directed directly to God (1 John 4:20-21). Jesus’ love is not a personal affection, but rather a liberating service; its response is not a mythical or pietistic Christ-intimacy, but the allēlous agapan.” (423)

This inner solidarity of a political underground group seemed so urgent to John that he, the Judean, repealed Deuterony 6:5, “You shall love the NAME, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your passion.” It says, for the Rabbinical Judeans as well as for the Messianists, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” God—to whom the Messiah goes—is inaccessible to men. This is a basic insight of the Scriptures, “The human cannot see ME and live,” Exodus 33:20. But according to Rabbinical Judaism, “love” for God is not only a possibility but an unconditional obligation of Israel. In John there is the solidarity (“love”) of God and the Messiah with humans, but not vice versa. For humans only solidarity among themselves is possible—but then this is an unconditional obligation as well. Solidarity with (“love” for) the Messiah is to follow his commandment, we will hear this emphatically, 15:1 ff. In this way and only in this way God is honored. No double commandment in John.

The question after the defeat of the year 70 is: What is the point of a messianic vision? Because the crushing defeat in the year 70 meant the end of messianism for many messianists. To Rabbinical Judaism, messianism should no longer be a political priority for the time being. To the group around John, this is the real challenge. If the Messiah is not on the agenda, what is this group as such still doing among the children of Israel?

The Messiah goes to a place that is inaccessible to all, “Jews” or “Christians.” Even Simon Peter cannot follow him, “later you will follow,” is the enigmatic answer to Simon’s question in this regard. Only in chapter 21 will this become clearer: Simon Peter will have to go through the same defeat through which the Messiah likewise goes.

Simon-Peter conjures to Yeshua his readiness for the messianic jihad, his Zealotism, because that means tithesthai tēn psychēn, “to put in his soul.” Yeshua rejects the request of Simon by announcing his denial. For this expression “to put in one’s soul” does have a vertical dimension: the Messiah as the shepherd puts in his soul for his sheep, because he has received authority to do so (10:18). From this vertical dimension, however, only a horizontal dimension results for the disciples (see 1 John 3:16); you can put in your soul for the brothers, but not for the Messiah, let alone for God.

In the garden beyond the brook Kidron, Simon will try to follow the Messiah in his own way, with the sword drawn. In the courtyard of the great priest, Simon will do the obvious: he will deny Yeshua; he will understand that there is no chance with the drawn sword, he will finally and politically understand the Messiah.

The Messiah does not value the denial; he only notes that Simon, faced with the choice in the courtyard of the great priest, cannot follow the Messiah at this moment. He will have to “deny” him, i.e., do the opposite of what John four times calls homologein (“to confess, to admit”) (1:20 [twice]; 9:22; 12:42).

The point of Simon’s words here is the call for a new heroic or Zealotic adventure. “Why can’t I follow you now? I will put in my soul for you,” means, “Why don’t we fight? Let us fight the Romans for new Messianic world order.” Such succession would be the march to ruin—and was the march to ruin in the years 70 and 135.

13.2. Three objections, 14:1-14:26

13.2.1. The first objection: We don’t know where you are going, 14:1-7

14:1 Your heart shall not be shaken. (424)
Trust in GOD and trust in me.
14:2 In my FATHER’s house, there is for many a place of permanence. (425)
If not, would I have told you
that I am going to found a place for you? (426)
14:3 And when I have gone and founded a place for you,
again I am coming to accept you to myself, (427)
so that where I AM, you may be also.
14:4 And where I am going—you know the way.”
14:5 Thomas says to him,
“Lord, we do not know where you are going.
So how can we know the way?”
14:6 Yeshua says to him,
“I AM—the way and the fidelity and the life.
No one is coming to the FATHER except through me. (428)
14:7 If you have recognized me,
then you will also recognize my FATHER.
And from now on, you recognize him and have seen him.”

Of course, they are shaken. How can they not be shaken by the catastrophe of the year 70? Yeshua says he is going so that the disciples will be there where Yeshua will be there. Therefore their souls shall not be shaken, as the soul of the Messiah was shaken in the face of the friend’s death, 11:33, and he admitted this before the crowd, 12:27. Now he does not want to pray Psalm 6, “My soul is shaken.” Rather, defeat will be the turning point. The cross is his exaltation, and the exaltation is the turning point; he will draw all to himself. So we heard it in 12:27-33.

Now Yeshua goes into detail: he will “found a place.” Very soon, these words were understood to mean that Yeshua will establish a permanent dwelling place beyond this earth and this life for those who believe in him. This is a putting off to a hereafter that John did not know at all. Nevertheless, in his eyes, the real-earthly perspective of zōē aiōnios, the life of the coming world age, moves into a far distance. Although “heaven” is for John the realm from which the bar enosh, the Human, comes and to which he returns, nowhere is heaven a perspective for humans. We cannot understand the text if we are guided by a widespread (early) Christian transcendence. Yeshua does not search for heavenly homes for the disciples. The monē is a permanent residence on earth, “residence for many.” The house of the FATHER is not heaven. (429)

In need of interpretation is the difficult sentence, “Again I am coming to accept you to myself.” The statement of this sentence is determined by the following final sentence, “so that where I am you may be also.” In Matthew, the matter is clear: the bar enosh, Human, is coming on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead, the acquitted come “into the kingdom prepared for them, basileian hētoimasmenēn,” 25:34. John says something else. In his case, too, something is “prepared” (hetoimazein), instead of the kingdom, in John it is the place. John does not have a final trial (final judgment). Whoever does not trust the Messiah Yeshua is already condemned, he is lost, he has no more perspective. For such a person only comes what is already there anyway: the death order of Rome.

Nevertheless, there is a tension between going and coming again. This tension is intensified in 20:17 by the word “not yet.” The place is without any doubt that synagogue into which Yeshua will bring all Israel together. This is the place of Yeshua, where the disciples will be. In John, in the whole Scriptures in general, it is not heaven but the earth that houses the place to come (see Psalm 115:16).

In the conversation with the Samaritan woman, there was mention of the time when one is “inspired to the FATHER (NAME) and bows to him in fidelity” (4:23), but not of the place, or rather of the non-place: neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain (Gerizim).

But here it is about the place and not about the time. In the conversation after the expulsion of the merchants and money-changers from the sanctuary, there is mention of the breaking down of the sanctuary and of its erection after three days (2:19), but John says explicitly that Yeshua means the sanctuary of his body. The place, ho topos, ha-maqom, is the sanctuary. To John, the place is the sanctuary, which is erected after three days, the body of the Messiah (sōma Christou, see Ephesians 4:12), the Messianic community.

But the “coming” is not only the establishment of the body of the Messiah, the Messianic community. By the word “rather,” palin, there remains an open space. Rather, a Jew hears in the word “place” the political earthly center of Israel. The coming of the Messiah has as its goal (11:52) the reunion of the God-born who have been scattered apart, and for this purpose an earthly place is necessary. Under the real Roman conditions, the Messianic community is a temporary place. The Messianic community keeps the earthly, place-bound future of the Messiah open for Israel. We will have to go into this “coming” again in the discussion of 21:22. (430)

What is coming is the inspiration of sanctification. It can only come if the Messiah goes, “Where I am going: You know the way.” Thomas immediately teaches him better. “We don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?” Thomas—focused on the real political power balances—doubts that there can be a Messianic strategy. He said, “Let us also go with him, that we may die with him,” 11:16. Thus not, like Simon, “let us fight.” Yeshua’s answer does not convince Thomas, “If I cannot physically convince myself of the future of the Messiah, I will not get involved,” says Thomas, as 20:25 can be paraphrased. The words handed down are not suitable for a psychological profile of the historical Thomas, but are sufficient for the political attitude he has to represent here: Under Roman conditions, there is no perspective anywhere.

Yeshua answers in a saying that is one of the most quoted in the Gospel of John. In the traditional translation, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” By this saying, the absolute claim of Christianity is justified.

We have translated differently, “I AM—the way and the fidelity and the life.” This translation [fully capitalized “I AM” and breathing space indicated by a dash] first of all suggests that the statement is not a declarative clause, “I am the way . . .” The subject of the sentence is the Messiah. The definition of the Messiah is “the one sent by the FATHER (NAME).”

The definition of Moshe was also “the one sent” of the NAME: ˀEhye sends me, the NAME sends me, Exodus 3:14. But the unity of the sent Messiah with the sender—the NAME/FATHER—has a different quality to John. Moshe has spoken about way and life. In Deuteronomy 30:15-16, it says,

I have given you today:
life and good,
death and evil.
As I command you today,
to love the NAME, your God
to walk on his way,
to keep the commandments, the laws, the legal regulations,
and you will live,
you will be many,
the NAME, your God, will bless you,
in the land where you come to inherit it.

Here, “way” and “life” are in clear relation to the “NAME.” In the song “Listen, oh heavens,” it says of the God of Israel, Deuteronomy 32:4,

The rock, perfect his work,
all his ways are just,
a God of fidelity, without deceit,
a trustee is he, straight ahead.

The God of Israel is “way, fidelity, and life” for Israel. Yeshua is the way of God for Israel, he embodies the fidelity of God and is, therefore, the life for Israel. As the NAME happened by sending Moshe—and Moshe is the Torah—so the NAME happens today through the Messiah Yeshua, 1:17. Moshe proclaimed the way, fidelity, and life that God is for Israel. Now, Yeshua is the only embodiment of the way of God, the fidelity of God, and the life that God promises.

Here is a contrast, but Christianity has turned it into an antagonistic contradiction: Moshe or Yeshua. The contradiction is not absolute, but conditional. It is the new conditions that suspend the old conditions and ask new questions. They demand a new answer: this is the basic view of all Messianic groups of all tendencies. Without this new answer, nobody comes to the FATHER.

To “come to the FATHER” means to walk in his ways, to act according to his commandments. Under the new conditions, it means, to walk in the ways of the Messiah, to act according to his new commandment. He who knows this new answer, the Messiah, this Messiah, is recognizing God. “From now on, you recognize him, and you have seen him.” There seems to be a contradiction here, “No one has ever seen God,” says John 1:18 (1 John 4:12), following the word Exodus 33:20, “No human sees me and lives.” This remains unchallenged and undeniable for him. And now, all at once, “You have seen him!”

13.2.2. The second objection: Show us the FATHER, and it is enough, 14:8-21

14:8 Philipp says to him,
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
14:9 Yeshua says to him,
“This long time I am with you,
and you have not recognized me, Philipp?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say,
‘Show us the Father’?
14:10 Are you not trusting
that I am with the FATHER, and the FATHER is with me?
The words that I am saying to you, I am not speaking from myself.
The FATHER, permanently united with me,
is doing his works.
14:11 Trust me, that I am with the FATHER and the FATHER with me.
But if not, then trust because of HIS works. (431)
14:12 Amen, amen, I say to you,
the one trusting in me will do the works I do,
and even greater ones he will do,
because I am going to the FATHER.
14:13 Whatever you will ask for (432) in my name, (433)
I will do,
so that the FATHER may be honored with the Son.
14:14 If you ask me for something in my name,
I will do it.
14:15 If you are in solidarity with me,
you will keep my commandments.
14:16 I will ask the FATHER,
and he will give you another advocate, (434)
to be with you until the age to come,
14:17 the inspiration of fidelity (435)
which the world order cannot accept,
because it is neither observing nor recognizing it.
You are recognizing it,
because with you, it is staying continuously,
with you, it will be there.
14:18 I will not leave you as orphans,
I am coming to you.
14:19 Still a little while, and the world order no longer is observing me,
but you are observing me,
for I am living and you are going to live.
14:20 On that day you will recognize
that I am with my FATHER,
and you with me, and I with you.
14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them,
that one is in solidarity with me.
Who is in solidarity with me,
he will experience solidarity through my FATHER,
I will be in solidarity with him,
I will prove myself real to him. (436)

Philipp takes this up immediately, “Show us the FATHER, and it is enough for us.” Apparently, there were doubters and skeptics in the group who almost drove “John” to despair. But just as obviously he takes this fraction very seriously.

Their skepticism is justified, but it paralyzes the group in its struggle for a political perspective. In Yeshua’s reply, this despair resounds unmistakably about those who say, “I want security.” Like this: we would be in this phase and that phase, it would take so and so long until the whole realm of death would collapse at its inner contradictions, and then . . . what comes then? The Messiah? These people must see that the God of Israel is faithful to Israel only by smashing unreal messianic expectations at the cross of shame of Rome.

So, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John does not have the Messiah on the cross pray the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why do you forsake me?” Not for a single moment was the abandonment of God a reality in the life of this Messiah. This is the main content of the message—from the beginning. Philipp was present from the beginning (1:43), and Philipp was an important figure in this narrative (1:43 ff.; 6:5.7; 12:21-22). “So long have I been with you, and you have not recognized me, Philipp?”

He who sees the Messiah sees God, he who trusts the Messiah trusts in God. No other and no legitimate experience of God (“seeing”) is possible than seeing the Messiah, this Messiah, this failed Messiah! This seeing and recognizing is a practice. The practice of the disciples, if they see, recognize, trust, is that of the Messiah, and this practice will be more convincing than that of the Messiah himself (“greater works”). This Messianic practice is the honor of God, it and only it.

If you pray for it, it will be given, because praying for this practice requires seeing, recognizing, and trusting. The practice that arises from solidarity with the Messiah is the keeping of the Messiah’s commandments. In 15:12, it is again made clear what was demonstrated in chapter 13: Solidarity with the Messiah = solidarity with one another = serving as slaves of one to the other disciple, of the other to the one disciple.

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

What comes now has given rise to a wealth of speculation as well as useless and therefore unscientific discussions: Who is the figure that John calls paraklētos, the Paraclete? We translate “advocate” according to his function in the court (16:7 ff.).

The word can mean “comforter” because it comes from parakalein; this verb originally meant “to summon” and in a derivative sense “to comfort, to encourage.“ It derives from the Hebrew root nacham. In this sense, it is often used in the apostolic and evangelical writings, as is the related word paraklēsis, “comfort, encouragement.” The word group is missing in John, except for the word paraklētos, which in turn is missing in all other writings of both testaments. The word is found only in John and only if the world order is spoken of.

And John explains it: It is “the inspiration of fidelity,” which “the world order cannot accept or adopt.” One—the inspiration of fidelity—excludes the other—the world order of deceit—because the latter neither considers nor recognizes the former (fidelity is not an element of politics, not until today) and recognizing is to act in accordance with knowledge in the Scriptures.

Whatever or whoever the “Paraclete” might be, it or he is, in any case, the absolute contradiction to what is common practice in the world order of Rome. That is why this inspiration stays continuously with the disciples. Paraclete is what makes fidelity the center of all political practice. You don’t have to picture it as a “figure”; in this tradition, imaginations (“images”) are impossible. If you know that fidelity is downright an apolitical category to Rome (Pilate, “What is fidelity?” 18:38) and that paraklētos or pneuma has just fidelity (alētheia) as its essence, then you know enough. The advocate, the inspiration of fidelity, is given when the commandment of solidarity with the Messiah and with one another is kept. The place of solidarity, the Messianic community, is inspired by fidelity and is thus the counterdraft to the ruling world order.

A last element of the answer to Philipp is the estimation of the absence of the Messiah. It does not mean that the Messianic community is orphaned. To Rome, this absence means that the Messiah no longer plays a political role; Rome has executed him, and the problem is dealt with. To this day, problems are settled by force in the Roman manner. Still “a little” (mikron), and the world order will no longer consider the Messiah (theōrei), but the disciples will consider him. The word mikron, which already sounded in 13:33, will still prove to be a huge problem, 16:16 ff.

Here the disciples are assured, “I live and you will live.” To consider the Messiah means, “I with my FATHER, you with me and I with you,” that is the recognition. The recognition is threefold,

He who keeps the commandments and keeps them,
it is he who is in solidarity with me. (1)

Who is in solidarity with me,
he will experience solidarity through my FATHER. (2)


And I will be in solidarity with him, (3)
I will prove myself real to him.

The paraphrase for emphanizein is “to prove oneself real.” (437) The Messiah is real for those who trust him, are in solidarity with him, and keep his commandment; he determines the lives of those who trust him. Beautiful. But is this more than an imagination of the group, more than a hallucination of people who have maneuvered themselves into isolation? It doesn’t change the course of the world order. Nothing more or less than the reality of the Messiah and the sense of reality of the Messianic community is at stake.

13.2.3 The third objection: Why are you real to us and not to the world order? 14:22-31

14:22 Judas—not the Iscariot—says to him,
“Lord, what has happened,
that you are about to make yourself known to us
but not to the world order?”
14:23 Yeshua answered and said to him,
“If someone is in solidarity with me,
he will keep my word,
and my FATHER will be in solidarity with him;
to him, we will come.
We will make ourselves a place of permanence with him. (438)
14:24 He who is not in solidarity with me is not keeping my words.
And the word you are hearing is not mine
but of the ONE who sent me, the FATHER.
14:25 These things I have spoken to you while I am staying with you.
14:26 But the advocate, the inspiration of sanctification,
which the FATHER will send in my name,
he will teach you everything,
he will remind you of everything I have said to you.
14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you,
not as the world order gives, I give you. (439)
May your heart not be shaken nor timid.
14:28 You heard that I said to you,
‘I am going and I am coming to you.’
If you were in solidarity with me,
you ought to be glad
that I am going to the FATHER,
because the FATHER is greater than I.
14:29 And now I have said it to you before it happens
so that when it does happen, you will trust.
14:30 Not much more will I speak to you,
for the ruler of the world order is coming. (440)
With me, he has no concern at all, (441)
14:31 however, that the world may know
that I am in solidarity with the FATHER,
that I am doing as the FATHER has commanded me.

Get up! Let us leave from here!

The reality of the Messiah is the solidarity of the disciples. Judas non-Iscariot—the disciple, one of the Lord’s brothers (442)—understands this as a lack of sense of reality, “So why not real to the world order?” This objection corresponds to the request of the brothers of Yeshua to publicly manifest himself as the Messiah, 7:4, “Show yourself to the world order (phanerōson seauton tō kosmō).” Then the problem would be solved. But the Messiah has answered with his hiddenness.

This problem is extremely urgent in all Messianic circles. Since the Messiah does not prove to be the decisive reality toward Rome, the confession of Yeshua ben Joseph as the Messiah of Israel is completely hollow and dangerous for Rabbinical Judaism. His disciples might be tempted to prove the reality of the Messiah to Rome with a weapon in their hand, through renewed military but completely hopeless adventures. Therefore this kind of messianism should be fought.

Yeshua’s answer has two parts. First, the summary of the teaching, 14:23-26; then the alternative: what peace does Rome bring, what peace does the Messiah bring, 14:27-31?

The summary sharpens some things. Solidarity with the Messiah is the keeping of his commandments, and the commandments coincide with the one, new commandment. Then the God of Israel shows his solidarity with Israel (agapēsei); here, agapē is in substance congruent with ˀemeth, “fidelity.” This solidarity or fidelity is expressed in the fact that “we come to him and make ourselves with him a place of permanence (monē).” Here the announcement of 14:2 is specified, and it becomes finally clear that it is not a matter of a “dwelling in heaven.” The direction is, if you like, from top to bottom and not from bottom to top. We do not get into heaven; if at all, heaven comes to us.

God and the Messiah become real through his indwelling in the solidary human. (443) God and the Messiah become unreal if there is no solidarity. Thus Yeshua explains the verb emphanizein to Judas, “to become real.”

This is the sum of what the Messiah said, “while he was staying with them.” This is the persistent “teaching of the Messiah,” (444) it must remain in living “memory,” and this is the work of that “advocate” who here takes on the shape of a teacher: Only the “inspiration of sanctification” can teach the disciples all that the Messiah has said.

For the advocate, paraklētos, advocatus, works from God as “inspiration of fidelity,” pneuma tēs alētheias, and works on people as “inspiration of/for holiness,” pneuma hagion. In the Scriptures, “holy” is following God, Leviticus 20:7-8, that is, not a religious category, but a category of political practice, the practical implementation of the Torah.

This inspiration means “to remind.” Without solidarity, there is no living memory of the Messiah, and without this living memory of the Messiah, there can be no solidarity in the long run. The Messianic reality, that which manifests itself as real, is the coherence of the group. There, and only there, is God, is the Messiah, real.

John’s view of reality is a very condensed one. You get the impression that Judas non-Iscariot, with his very legitimate question, gets fobbed off by a very shortened answer. This will have far-reaching consequences in the history of Christianity during the modern age—especially in pietism. The life of the age to come will become the individual eternal life beyond earthly places and times. But in John, the indwelling of God in the Messianic community is not the inner experience of a small circle but also a challenge to the world order.

The second part of Yeshua’s answer is the challenge and refers to the absolute contradiction between the pax Romana and the pax Messianica. Peace is a desire because almost never was peace, and what was considered as peace was shabby, “greasy” (Ezekiel 13:10,16!) violence, on a large and small scale, Jeremiah 6:13-15,

From small to large,
as profit takers, they profit;
from prophet to priest:
all their activity is a lie.
Allegedly they heal the rift through the people
and recklessly, they say:
“Peace, peace!”
But there is no peace. (445)

But this is pax Messianica, Psalm 72,

God, give your right to the king,
your truthfulness to the king’s son.
He shall judge your people truthfully,
over your oppressed ones with justice.
Then the mountains bring peace to the people,
and the hills in truthfulness.
He shall create justice for the oppressed of the people,
liberate the needy,
crush the oppressor.
Awe for you remains as long as the sun,
and the moon, generation by generation.
He may descend like rain on the meadow,
like dew trickle to the earth:
in his days the true ones flourish
and peace increases until there is no more moon . . .

Peace, truth, and justice belong indissolubly together in this Grand Narrative. Where there is no justice for the oppressed, where the exploiter flourishes, there is no peace. Peace happens to a people to whom justice happens, and justice is liberation from the oppressor, liberation from need. This pax Messianica is meant.

But where Rome appears, interferes in civil wars like the civil war of the Judeans in the province of Judea, there it does not heal a rift in the people, but it destroys a part of the people and grinds down the house of its God. Pax Romana is war by other means, but no peace. Such “healing” always leads to wars—until today!

Why they should rejoice that he is going away remains unanswered here. That the Father is greater than the Messiah is no great consolation, since the presence of the Messiah is supposed to be the proof of the faithfulness of the God of Israel. We must wait for the reasoning 16:5 ff.

The Messiah has to say all this before the hour of probation comes; it comes when the “ruler of the world order” comes. (446)

What the Messiah has to do here serves to make the world order recognize that nothing and no one can drive a wedge between the Messiah and the God of Israel; they are to recognize “that I am in solidarity with the FATHER.” He must give himself into the hands of this ruler (literally, because Pilate is the representative of this ruler, the priests call him “friend of Caesar,” 19:12). Yeshua will testify before him that there can be no mediation between the pacification by Rome and the peace of the Messiah: Between Caesar and the Messiah, there is only the connection of nothing, “With me, he has nothing {no concern at all},” it says. There is no mediation, no third, just “nothing,” ouden. The contradiction is absolute.

The departure of the Messiah is the “commandment of the FATHER,” because, under the real circumstances created by Rome, defeat is the only possibility of victory. On the cross, the world order is put in the wrong once and for all. This is the final unmasking of Rome. Unmasking is not the victory that we actually want, but Rome is in any case no longer fate, and there is no longer any reason for resignation. “Get up, let’s leave from here,” says Yeshua.

Is everything clear? Nothing is clear. Yeshua has to explain everything again before they can really “leave from here.”

13.3. The parable of the vine. Solidarity, 15,1-17

15:1 “I am the faithful vine, (447)
and my FATHER is the vintner. (448)
15:2 Every branch (449) in me bearing no fruit he takes away,
and every one bearing fruit he cleanses, so that it may bear more fruit.
15:3 Already, you are clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
15:4 Stay united with me, (450) as I with you. (451)
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,
if it does not stay united with the vine,
so you can’t if you do not stay united with me.
15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches.
The one staying united with me and I with him,
he is bearing much fruit. (452)
Apart from me, you can’t do anything.
15:6 If someone does not stay united with me,
he will be thrown out like a branch and dries up.
Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
15:7 If you are staying united with me,
and my words stay firmly in you,
ask for whatever you want,
and it will happen for you.
15:8 By this, my Father is honored
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.
15:9 Just as the FATHER was in solidarity with me,
so I was in solidarity with you.
Stay firmly with my solidarity.
15:10 If you keep my commandments,
you will stay firmly with my solidarity,
as I have kept my FATHER’s commandments
and am staying firmly with HIS solidarity.
15:11 This I have spoken to you
so that my joy may be with you,
and your joy will be fulfilled.
15:12 This is my commandment:
that you are in solidarity with each other
as I was solidarizing with you.
15:13 No one has greater solidarity
than someone putting in his soul for his friends.
15:14 You are my friends
if you do what I command you.
15:15 I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
You, I have called friends,
because everything I heard from my FATHER
I made known to you.
15:16 Not you did choose me,
but I chose you,
put you to go and bear fruit,
fruit that will last,
so that whatever you ask for from the FATHER in my name,
he may give you.
15:17 This is what I command you:
that you are in solidarity with each other.

Here the “farewell speech” was finished. Obviously, the passage John 13-14 did not dispel the concerns in the group. John 15-16 summarizes another discussion (phase) in the group. At first, this is done in a long monologue, 15:1-16:15, but then John resumes the form of dialogue characteristic of him, 16:16-17:1a. The same themes from chapters 13 and 14 are discussed again.

This discussion starts with a classic Israelite metaphor, the vine. Three texts are in the background of the first verses of this section, 1-7.

The first one is Isaiah 5:1 ff.,

I want to sing for my friend,
the chant of my friend’s vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard,
on a fatty slope.
He dug it up, freed it from stones,
planted it with red vines (soreq, ampelos sorēch),
built a watchtower in the middle of it,
hit a wine press pit from him.
He hoped for a grape yield,
it carried only rotten fruit.

Then Jeremiah 2:21,

I myself have planted you as a red vine (soreq),
all faithful seed.
How you have transformed yourself to me,
wrong, foreign vine?

In the Greek version,

I myself have planted you,
fruit-bearing vine (ampelos), very faithful.
How have you turned to bitterness,
you, foreign vine (ampelos)?

Then the song “Shepherd of Israel, listen” (Psalm 80). In this song, Israel is compared to a vine that God brought up from Egypt into the land, “its root rooted in . . . its branches stretched out to the sea.” The keywords of our parable John 15:1-2 (ampelos, “vine,” and klēmata, “branches, flowering twigs”) are also found in this song. The theme of the song is the decline of Israel, which has become the prey of foreign peoples. The refrain of the song (four times, v. reads,

God: let us return,
let your face shine,
we will be liberated.

The texts see Israel as a vineyard where the vines bear fruit: Israel’s hoped-for yield is the legal order of its God. But in fact, Israel is the foreign vine that bears no fruit, and if it does, then only beˀushim, “rotten fruit.” To the desires for the restoration of Israel, the Messiah answers, “I AM—the faithful vine.” In Psalm 80, of all places, there is talk of a ben ˀadam (the Hebrew form of the Aramaic bar enosh), v.18-19,

Let your hand be over the man of your right hand,
over the Human, you made strong for yourself.
Never again we want to turn away from you,
let us live, who are called by Your name.

This background makes us understand what is said with this parable. The Messiah of Israel is that bar enosh, Human, and so Israel itself, Daniel 7:27. He is the absolute opposite of that deceptive Israel, that “wrong, foreign vine.” To describe Israel as a collective, the metaphor “vine” is used. The vine is the Messiah, the members of the group are the flowering branches, the grapes. They must be provided for so that the grapes bear fruit. This is not the work of the Messiah, but the vintner, the God of Israel.

The work of God is “to cleanse.” Through the word (logos, davar) of the Messiah the disciples are clean, 15:3, that is, through the word, the disciples “already” fulfill that condition of purity which has always been fulfilled for each member of the people to participate in the community.

This is based on the intense connection with the Messiah, “Stay firmly with me, as I with you.” (453) The Messianic vision is the basic condition for a truthful life. If you are not really confident that the prevailing conditions, namely the “world order,” are not unchangeable, but that “life in the age to come” (zōē aiōnios) is a real perspective for life of people on earth, you cannot do anything: For “separated from me (chōris emou) you can do nothing.” Otherwise, all doing is useless, barren, unfruitful.

To stay united with the Messiah is to stay united with his spoken words (rhēmata). And if you are firmly united with the Messiah, every prayer will be heard—admittedly based on this union—because the words dictate, so to say, what is to be asked for. These words are—so we shall hear—commandments.

The second part of this section (vv.8-17) is structured according to strict logic. First, however, it is stated what “to honor God” means to John. “To be a disciple of this Messiah” and “to be fruitful” is the Johannine definition of a truthful life that is worth living. The basic figure is always: The Father is in solidarity with me, I with you, you with each other. So that this figure may become real, a basic condition is formulated, “If you keep my commandments, then you will stay firmly in my solidarity.” To keep the commandments is, therefore, the union with the Messiah and thus a condition for fertility. The Messiah’s solidarity with the God of Israel is the keeping of his commandments. Therefore, what is required of the disciples is strict imitatio Christi, following the Messiah.

Before we hear the exact content of the commandments, the sentence about joy resounds. Four times we hear in the Gospel, “Joy is fulfilled.” Once it is said by Yochanan, three times by the disciples. It is both the joy of the Messiah and about the Messiah being fulfilled (3:29; 15:11; 17:13). Yochanan says that the bridegroom’s friend “rejoices with joy” when he hears the bridegroom’s voice; “this my joy is therefore fulfilled: He must increase, I must decrease,” 3:29. Twice the joy of the Messiah is fulfilled in the disciples, 15:11 and 17:13; once the joy of the disciples is fulfilled like the joy of a woman who has given birth to her child, 16:24. In the parable of the vine and its interpretation, joy is fulfilled through fruitfulness in the work of solidarity. It is about the fruitfulness (the works!) of the Messiah himself, which becomes real in the disciples. In the case of Yochanan, fertility had to decrease so that the Messianic fruitfulness could be all the more evident. (454)

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

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

John himself senses that despite all friendship the proportions must remain clear. Not the disciples chose the Messiah, but the Messiah chose the disciples, stating the purpose of this election, “To bear fruit = to be in solidarity with one another.” We will have to come back to the election at the discussion of 15:19. The friendship of the Messiah effects that he will obtain the answer of the FATHER to their prayer. Friendship is a gift of the Messiah; there is no legal title for it.

Once again we draw attention to the very narrowly defined area in which solidarity is effective. We can hardly imagine it. To us, the disciples are simply the placeholders for all Christians. Since Christianity has at times been presented as congruent with the whole of humankind, solidarity among the few friends becomes a general virtue. But this makes it impossible to understand our text correctly. We have called solidarity a combat term and interpreted it analogously to the solidarity in the labor movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. (455) In the sectarian milieu of the Gospel of John and the Letters of John, agapē was primarily an in-group virtue. Only when the sect broke through its isolation and John became a church text, Johannine solidarity could become politically fruitful. Admittedly, in church use, solidarity, as a Messianic virtue par excellence, became general human love and thus lost its political power. It was once coherence in the fight against the world order of death. It became the general philanthropy sauce that was poured out over the world order of death. Such moralization is foreign to John.

13.4. The fight, 15:18-25

15:18 If the world order is fighting you with hatred
recognize that it has fought me as the first of you.
15:19 If you were of the world order
the world order would be friendly to its own.
Because you are not of the world order
but I have chosen you out of the world order,
therefore, the world order is fighting you with hatred.
15:20 Remember the word that I said you,
‘A slave is not greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; (456)
if they kept my word, they will keep yours too.
15:21 But they will do all this to you on account of my name
because they have no knowledge of the ONE who sent me.
15:22 If I had not come, had not spoken to them,
they would not have gone astray.
Now, they have no pretext (457) for their aberration.
15:23 The one fighting me with hatred
is hating my FATHER too.
15:24 If I had not done the works among them
which no one else did,
they would not be in their aberration.
Now, they have seen them,
and have fought with hatred both me and my FATHER.
15:25 But that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their Torah:
They hated me for no reason at all. (458)

In this passage, mention is made of the world order (18-19) and of the synagogue 20-25; 16:1-4). The two verses 15,26-27 anticipate the next section.

The keyword for the attitude of the world order towards the Messianic community is misein, “to hate.” (459) Since this is a political process, it is advisable to write “to fight with hate.” “To hate” alone would describe the emotion. The world order, Rome, can fight Messianism and does so consequently but dispassionately because it is vastly superior to its enemies. In order to mobilize its subjects for the dispassionate fight against the political enemies, they must be made to feel the passion of hatred. The hatred of the commissioners themselves is unemotional, completely rational, and calculated; the hatred of the performers is blind, must be downright blind so that the threshold of violence which is present in every living being can be crossed.

In the psalms, the group of words “to hate, hater, hate” occurs very often. Here it is about more than envy, weariness, jealousy between individual people; it is basically always about the enemies of Israel, to whom the “I” of the Psalms—Torah-abiding Israel—is almost hopelessly inferior. You can get an idea of this if you allow the following words to work on yourself, Psalm 139:21-22,

Your enemies, ETERNAL,
shouldn’t I hate them?
Who rebel against you,
Shouldn’t they disgust me?
With all my hatred, I hate them,
enemies they have become to me.

The reason for this “hate” is political enmity. Why does Rome treat the disciples as political enemies? Because it hated the Messiah “as the first,” because it had to fight the one who stands for the radical alternative to Rome “in principle” (this is how the word prōton can be paraphrased here), with extreme cruelty, just “with hate.”

The world order maintains friendly relations (ephilei) with those who think and act according to its orders and principles, which here means “from the world order” (ek tou kosmou). Why do the disciples not come “from the world order”? Obviously, this is not self-evident. Rather, it would be natural for the disciples to behave like most other people who have adapted to the world order. Adaptation is the normal thing, it is often a sheer survival strategy.

Unadapted behavior, even more so unadapted political behavior is something astonishing and life-endangering. They are not adapted, not because they chose it themselves, but because they were “chosen out of the world order,” the same words ek tou kosmou, but with a completely different thrust. To be chosen means: they were unexpectedly confronted with an alternative that they could not have considered of their own accord.

In the Scriptures the chosen one is Israel, bechiri, “my chosen one,” Isaiah 43:20; 45:4; 65:15 etc. The verb “to choose,” bachar, is more frequently used in Deuteronomy and in the Book of Isaiah (especially Isaiah 40-66). Both books aim at an unexpected new beginning, Isaiah 43:22; 44:1,

And not you called on me, Jacob,
would you have toiled for me, Israel?
. . .
But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel: I choose it!

Or Deuteronomy 7:7-8,

Not because you are more than all nations
the NAME has attached itself to you,
he has chosen you,
because you are the least of all nations.
No, because he loved you . . .

The election is a sovereign act, like love; there are no legal claims and no rational reasons. Love you do not justify. Therefore, agapan is to be translated here as “to love.” Only when he had “made a covenant with his chosen one” (Psalm 89:4), there are legal titles.

The election of the disciples is told by John in 1:37-51. Above all Nathanael makes that clear. He did not call for the Messiah, did not strive for a Messiah, rather, he says, nothing good can come from Nazareth. He sees and hears what he did not expect at all. A completely new political perspective can completely tear a human out of the course of events, he can begin a completely different life overnight; John’s formulation—“to be chosen out of the world order”—is thus very precise. (460) If the thought As the Lord, so the slave in 13:16 could perhaps demand a mere moral imitatio Christi, in 15:20 a common political fate is undoubtedly meant: common struggle, common fate: to be persecuted, to be hated.

But now the subject changes, from “world order” to “they.” There can be no doubt that by this plural Rabbinical Judaism is meant. They “persecute, fight with hate, exclude from the synagogue, do not recognize.” The object is “the disciples,” the reason “because of my name.” The object of hatred, John interprets, is not so much the disciples, but rather the Messiah and the God of Israel, the FATHER.

To John, this is actually incomprehensible. He cannot understand why the synagogue behaves in such a way toward the Messianic community, and he includes himself among those who were hated for no reason in Israel, Psalms 35:9; 69:5 or Psalm 109:1 ff.,

God of my praise, do not be silent.
For the mouth of the criminal
and the mouth of deceit
open themselves against me.
Speeches of hatred surround me,
are waging war against me for no reason (dōrean, chinnam)!
Instead of love, they are a satan for me,
me—a prayer! (461)
They do evil to me instead of good,
hate instead of my love!

Without reason, chinnam, dōrean, in Israel is always a very serious reproach. Thus the Book of Job accuses the God of his fate of devouring the righteous without reason.

Rome’s hatred against the Messiah is not justified, but it is reasoned. This can be understood. The hatred of the synagogue is not rationally comprehensible to John. They have only “pretexts” (prophaseis) for this hateful fight. If the Messiah had not done these works, then . . .! But now it says with the psalm, “Hatred instead of my love.”

If anywhere, it is clear here that a rational discussion of political paths between ecclesia and synagogue has not been conducted; both are irrational for each other. In the case of Rome, you might understand this; it has reasons to “fight the Messiah with hatred.” But the Judeans. They have seen the works, “which no one else has done.” They fight him and us, says John, “without reason.”

We are not biased here. We only have to state that with the accusation “without reason” a conversation, let alone an understanding, becomes impossible. We observe that John does not want to look for reasons among his opponents—and the search for reasons on both sides would be the basic condition for a conversation between both sides. John, for his part, assumes without any reason (!) that Rabbinical Judaism cannot have any reasons. He makes no effort at all here. The interpretation must state what is irrational in the vocable chinnam, dōrean, without being a party to this conflict.

13.5. The farewell, 15:26-16:15

This passage is clearly structured:

“When he comes, the advocate” (hotan elthē ho paraklētos), 15:26;

“That one comes” (kai elthōn ekeinos), 16:8;

“When that one comes” (hotan de elthē ekeinos), 16:13.

13.5.1 When he comes, the advocate, the inspiration of fidelity, 15:26-16,7

15:26 When he comes, the advocate, whom I will send you from the FATHER
—the inspiration of fidelity that is going out from the FATHER—
that one will testify about me.
15:27 And you are testifying too
because you are with me from the beginning.
16:1 These things I have spoken to you so that you do not stumble. (462)
16:2 They will make you people without a synagogue,
in fact, the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think
he od doing a work of public service for God. (463)
16:3 And they will do so because they recognized neither the FATHER nor me.
16:4 But this I have spoken to you
so that when their hour comes, you will remember what I said to you.
I did not say to you this from the beginning, because I was with you.
16:5 Now I am going away to the ONE who sent me,
and none of you is questioning me, ‘Where are you going?’
16:6 But because I have spoken these things to you,
the pain has filled your heart.
16:7 According to fidelity I say to you, (464)
it is to your advantage that I go away,
for if I wouldn’t go away, the advocate will not come to you;
however, if I do go, I will send him to you.

The advocate (paraklētos) is sent by Yeshua “from the Father.” He is the “inspiration of fidelity”; holding fast to God’s fidelity to Israel and to that exemplary concentration of Israel, which is the group (“the Twelve,” 6:67) inspires the disciples. The inspiration comes from the God of Israel; it does not bring a new world religion, but what is said and done with the word FATHER = God of Israel. This needs to be explained in more detail, and John does this in 16:13-15. Now it is about the testimony: That which comes from the God of Israel testifies of Yeshua. And to this testimony, the disciples are enabled, “inspired.”

The word “beginning” plays a predominant role in the Gospel; “in the beginning” literally stands “at the beginning” of the text. John distinguishes between ex archēs and ap’ archēs. The first means “at the beginning” in the temporal sense (6:64; 16:4); the second, it seems to me, is “from that beginning,” which is the basic principle of the Gospel (en archē, 1:1). The “principle” of the disciples is the Messiah, who is the “Word in the beginning,” the principle Word of the God of Israel. The testimony of the disciples is: Our principle is the Messianic epoch to come; this inspires our lives and aligns them because we are—in principle—with the Messiah. This is how the last words of 15:27 can be paraphrased. This also explains the present tense este, “you are.”

Rabbinical Judaism now makes the disciples people “without a synagogue” (aposynagōgoi). This, says Yeshua, should not be a trap or a stumbling block for them, the word skandalon means both. The threat of expulsion is supposed to make impossible both—as a trap—the Messianic perspective, and— as a stumbling block—the walking on the chosen Messianic path.

The synagogue was not a church, not a religious community. Rather, it was both a place of assembly and an organ of self-government, where the children of Israel were able to manage their own affairs within the framework of the status of an ethnic group recognized by the Romans with their permitted cult (religio licita, politeuma in Alexandria). This meant not insignificant protection against administrative sanctions and arbitrariness by the authorities. The degree of autonomy varied according to time, city, and region. (465) The synagogal status was something between full citizenship and the status of a stranger and immigrant.

But the status was precarious; there is ample evidence that privileges were confiscated and that there were expulsions and pogroms tolerated or even instigated by the authorities, such as the pogrom 37/38 in Alexandria. The synagogue, therefore, had to take care that groups with views hostile to the state did not gain the upper hand.

Apparently, the leadership of the synagogue at the place where John and his group were staying had concluded that they posed a danger to the synagogue. It was therefore their duty to expel such groups. The leadership of the synagogue, where John’s group belonged, represented the direction of Rabbinical Judaism, but John made no secret of his aversion to this direction. The exclusion was a legitimate and politically understandable act of synagogal leadership. This is the reason we can and have to see, and therefore the word “without reason” (chinnam, dōrean) is misplaced. It is part of the self-evident duty of non-Jewish exegetes to understand the conflict also from the perspective of the synagogue and not to take sides with “Jesus and the apostles“ from the outset. As I said, John does not even bother to search as to the reasons for the exclusion. Here we do not have to be disciples of John.

If, on the other hand, a group is expelled from the synagogue, it loses status and protection, and the members of that group must deal with the Roman authorities individually. This meant danger to life. The execution of anti-state elements was an act of political loyalty, and such loyalty at that time was ipso facto religious in nature. Whoever took part in such persecution performed a “public service” (latreia) to that God who was the God of the State.

According to John’s view, the followers of Rabbinical Judaism participated in the persecution. There is no evidence of this outside the Gospel. Messianists (“followers of a certain Chrestos,” the governor of Bithynia, Pliny, wrote to Emperor Trajan around 110) were executed by Romans; members of the Judean ethnic group hardly had this possibility, but they had the possibility of denunciation. Whether they made use of this possibility, we cannot know. But the synagogue could not kill anyone. While there may have been murder and manslaughter among the opposing factions, this happened at best privately and certainly not as a “public service” (latreia). (466)

In any case, the political consequences of the exclusion explain the sharpness in which John turns against Rabbinical Judaism; and they also explain why John could not find rational reasons for their attitude among his opponents. “You seek to kill me,” 7:19; 8:40; 8:59; 10:31; 11:53; 12:10, is the constant reproach. Given the persecution and murder of Messianists by Rome, which began early on, this accusation is obviously not completely unfounded; the exclusion meant danger to the lives of the ones excluded. “One does not do such a thing; there are no justifiable reasons for an exclusion which means danger to the life of the excluded,” thus the reproach of John can be paraphrased.

Admittedly, the political orientation of the Messianists is rationally comprehensible as well. If under Roman conditions the situation of the children of Israel is precarious inside and outside the country, then they must not hope to find niches in which they can survive, but then they need a completely different world. Paul says this no less clearly than John. (467) The fact that there is no mediation between survival and world revolution makes the conflict tragic in the truest sense of the word. We can discover rational reasons on both sides from the safe distance of two millennia. But for those affected at the time, a rational confrontation was obviously not possible.

To John, the synagogue places itself outside of Israel, “They recognize neither the FATHER nor me.” “Not recognizing God“ is the revocation of the covenant that the God of Israel has made with the fathers and with the children of Israel. In contrast to the accusation of killing, this accusation that Rabbinical Judaism has given up its commitment to the God of Israel is definitely unfounded; we must contradict it. If Rabbinical Judaism is reproached with this, if this becomes the thing—and it became the thing—Israel will be disinherited by Christianity. The accusation is strictly analogous to the accusation of atheism that the Roman authorities will put on the Christians. However, John had no power, and the accusation could be dismissed as ridiculous. But when Christianity became a state religion and the Christian church a state institution, the accusation had far-reaching political consequences.

Yeshua warns his disciples, “But this I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember what I have said to you.” (468) The slave is no more than his master, and the master will be crucified as long as Rome is standing. Ap’ archēs, “from the beginning” (15:27), the disciples were with him; it became their life principle to be disciples of this Messiah. But what this means under the prevailing circumstances, the Messiah did not say at first, ex archēs, “at the beginning” (16:4). That the principle must prove itself in persecution and death, he has made clear to them not until now. For the time being, the great priests and Pilate have the final say. This world order, their hour.

The Messiah is well aware of it, “Pain has filled your heart,” your heart is now only pain, only sheer despair: He goes, we stay; what remains for us, is anything coming at all? The question of Simon Peter, 13:36, and the skeptical question of Thomas, 14:5, are not even asked here, nor is Philipp’s justified request, “Show us the FATHER“ (14:8), nor the other Judas’ call, “Show to the world order who has the power” (14:22): all this no longer comes up here, they know in the meantime what is in store for him and them; there is nothing else to be seen at all anymore but defeat, only defeat. The “going to the Father” is, after all, going to a terrible death.

Most commentators make it pretty easy for themselves. The saturated existence of professional theologians obstructs their view of a situation that could not have been more desperate: completely marginalized, with no prospect of a change for the better, let alone the life of the age to come. To them, and for countless others who follow them in a similar situation, this is the end, not the turning point. To the commentators, the disciples are always the stupid ones who do not have the perspective; to Bultmann, the pain was a “misunderstanding.” (469)

At this point, John gets even with a very specific messianism as a political strategy. The departure of the Messiah “is useful,” sympherei. This expression occurs again in John 11:50 (and its echo in 18:14). There the great priest presents the death of Yeshua as politically useful. The political utility is meant here as well. As long as the people think that the Messiah in the fight against Rome will eliminate the problem which the world order represents for the people by a military victory, they will think in categories of the world order. The basic category must be fidelity; therefore Yeshua says “according to fidelity” (tēn alētheian) that it is according to the policy of fidelity not to win a quick victory but to go away to his destiny, the FATHER. This path leads only through defeat. Here John is clearly directed against the messianism of the Zealots. In this way, you cannot conquer victorious Rome, and that advocate cannot come. What happens when he does come?

13.5.2. That one comes and accuses, 16:8-12

16:8 That one comes and accuses the world order,
because of the aberration,
because of the reliability,
because of the judgment.
16:9 Admittedly, as to the aberration,
that they are not trusting me;
16:10 but as to the reliability,
that I am going to the FATHER and you are no longer observing me;
16:11 and as to the judgment,
that the ruler of this world order has been judged. (470)
16:12 I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.

This advocate is the inspiration of fidelity, in other words: as long as the disciples remain faithful to the vision of God’s fidelity to Israel, that is, to the vision of the Messiah, no one else can come and make them believe, for example, that with Rome it could actually be worse, that you should also see the positive things about Rome, that times have changed and that you should adapt to them.

Messiah kata pneuma, Messiah “according to inspiration,” John says here in a manner analogous to Paul; what remains of the Messiah is the inspiration. Thus the Messiah kata sarka, Messiah “vulnerable in his human existence” is not abolished, because God’s fidelity to Israel is attached to the Messiah “according to the flesh,” says John in the preface, 1:14. You must therefore not forget the expression “according to the flesh” when it is here about the pneuma, the “Spirit.”

For which purpose is the inspiration? Its task here is to “accuse.” The word underlying the Greek elenchein is the Hebrew yakhach. It has a range of meanings from “to argue” and “to admonish” to “to accuse, to reject.“ Since it is about a court trial, “to accuse” is appropriate. Accused is the world order, in terms of aberration, reliability, and judgment. And all are on trial: Rabbinical Judaism, the Messianic community, and the political leadership of the world order.

First. Rabbinical Judaism did not trust the Messianic vision as embodied in Yeshua. A strategy of the “safe place” without a Messianic vision would be a capitulation to Satan, the enemy, to Rome. This is the basic political error, the hamartia, Hebrew chataˀ.

If we were to get into the habit of finally translating these words as “aberration, error, being misguided,” and not as “sin,” we would be rid of the moralistic stale that is associated with “sin.” Hamartia is the opposite of the path of life in the light, enlightened by the Messianic vision (11:9; 12:36). Chataˀ is, therefore, the walk in the politically wrong direction. (471) Whether John or the rabbis are right is another matter, but in any case, this is what is meant by hamartia.

Second. The Messianic community, of course, has to be made responsible precisely for the fact that it does not prove itself, because it cannot explain to itself and its environment the departure of the Messiah and precisely this departure. It is the attitude that Luke also knows, “We had hoped so,” his disciples of Emmaus say. This Messianic community had a ready-made opinion about the Messiah, his political ways, his prospects, his absolutely certain victory.

John summarizes the political views of these people with the word theōrein. Almost all commentators consider this verb a synonym for blepein, “to see.” But it rather has to do with what we call “theory,” with the Messiah theory of the community. The departure, this very departure, did not actually exist to them. It would have thrown their common Messiah theory (Christian theologians call it Christology) overboard. Defeat as a victory? Heaven forbid! This is about the answer to Judas non-Iscariot’s question: what is the effect of the Messiah on the world order?

The fact that their theories are still stuck to a certain image of the Messiah shows that they are not proving themselves as reliable, ouketi theōreite me, there is actually no place for me in your theory. In this Messianic community, there would be no dikaiosynē, “reliability.” The central importance of this matter is shown in section 16:16-22, where it is about “seeing” and “observing.” The inspiration of fidelity convicts the Messianic community of following the old Zealot ideas of the Messiah and, once these were shattered, no longer “considering” this Messiah (me).

Third. Rome, so the inspiration of fidelity makes clear, is already condemned, kekritai, perfect. The leader of this ruling world order has no future, the verdict is final, it corresponds exactly to the verdict on Antiochus IV, that tenth horn of the monster of political Hellenism (Daniel 7). Just the defeat—on the cross and in the year 70—confirms this. There is nothing good about this world order and its emperor. (472)

This is hard to explain to people, especially if this world order continues to prevail for the time being. More than four centuries later, the North African Augustine formulated a fundamental critique of Rome in the first ten books of his major work (De civitate Dei, “The City of God,” written between 412 and 417). (473) The inspiration of fidelity here means being convinced: It is over with Rome. Nothing was over with Rome; its great time, 98-180, is only just ahead. Therefore, the people around John are very skeptical.

Much could be said about it, Yeshua says, but that will not work. Now, before the departure of Yeshua and the arrival of the inspiration of fidelity, this would be hard to understand. Nor after; that is why John writes his Gospel with the farewell speeches and their desperate questions. This sentence probably means that the statements of the theologian “John” were still under debate. The text is a temporary result of ongoing discussions in the group. But the fundamentals are said here: To go astray means not to trust. To persevere, but without messianic-Zealotic illusions, means reliability. In any case, the final and decisive word has been spoken about Rome.

Nevertheless, John must turn against further opponents in the Messianic movement who think, “Now we are doing something different, something new.” Against this view, John sets his own theology, namely a trinitarian theology, as we shall see.

13.5.3 When that one comes, the inspiration of fidelity, 16:13-15

16:13 But when that one comes—the inspiration of fidelity—,
it will lead you on the way with all fidelity. (474)
Not will it speak of itself
but what it will hear it will speak,
and it will announce to you what is to come.
16:14 That one will honor me,
and what it will receive from me, it will announce to you.
16:15 [Everything the Father has is mine;
this is why I said, what it receives from me, it will announce to you.] (475)

Now when “that one” (the advocate) comes, “the inspiration of fidelity,” it leads the group “along the way (hodēgēsei),” “with whole fidelity.” This fidelity, ˀemeth, alētheia, is the fidelity toward Israel. It leads the group on the Messianic path. It does not speak “of itself.” Its speech has the honor of the Messiah as its goal; that is what is to come. What belongs to the Messiah—and only that—it will receive and announce. And what belongs to the FATHER, to the God of Israel, is what belongs to the Messiah. The inspiration allows the disciples to speak only what it, the inspiration, itself hears: namely, the fidelity of God to Israel, and this fidelity, according to John, ultimately takes shape in the Messiah Yeshua. FATHER, Messiah, inspiration of fidelity, this is an unbreakable unity. Here, and only here, is the root of what Christianity will call the Trinity. (476)

This means: there is no new project of God. The Jewish philosopher Jakob Taubes sees the tendency toward a new project, and that is in the case of Paul,

The foundation and legitimation of a new people of God are pending for Paul. After two thousand years of Christianity, this does not seem very dramatic to you. But it is the most dramatic process that one can imagine in a Jewish soul. (477)

If Taubes interprets Paul correctly, then the verses John 16:13-15 are a direct polemic against Paul, at least against what the Messianic-Pauline communities are said to have made of Paul’s theology. God’s fidelity to all Israel presupposes the trust of this Israel in the Messiah, for “all that is of the FATHER is also mine.” This unity is the main theme of the whole Gospel, the unity with the God of Israel. The project of a new people of God separates John from Paul. His horizon is kol yisraˀel, the whole of Israel, including all heretics and such “bastards” as the people of Samaria. This separates him from Matthew and his kol ha-goyim, all peoples, even if they have to learn the whole Torah of the rabbis (478) from him (Matthew 28:20). For this reason, the group around John later accepted Simon Peter as their shepherd, i.e. the leadership of the Messianists of Judean origin, despite apparently serious reservations (John 21). Luke made a grandiose attempt to link both Messianic directions (“Peter” and “Paul”) with each other. But nowhere the physical affiliation of Yeshua to Israel (“flesh”) has been emphasized as much as in the school of this John.

Inspiration does not speak of itself, it does not invent a new religion of the spirit. What it hears is the word of the Messiah; “this is what it will announce.” The word of the Messiah is the word of the FATHER. So what the inspiration announces is the word of the FATHER, which is also the word of the Messiah. The one word is the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel, the inspiration of the Messiah of Israel. This is the Johannine Trinity.

What therefore is to be announced and proclaimed is the unity of the FATHER, the Messiah, the inspiration of fidelity. The unity has its material accomplishment in Israel, sharpened in that Son of Israel, who as the Messiah of Israel is the exemplary concentration of his people. Certainly, this inspiration is presented as something that will “hear” and “announce what is to come,” but its effect is like pneuma, like wind, like air to breathe, like the inspiration that comes from what is heard, and inspiration that comes from what is to come, the age to come (erchomena, ha-baˀ, ˁolam ha-baˀ, ho aiōn ho mellōn).

This is the vision: that all things go on toward their true and just destiny, that not everything remains as it is. What is to come is the new, but it is not the other, and certainly not the new religion. Given the ruling world order, kosmos, ˁolam ha-ze, the inspiration of fidelity to the covenant of Israel is the actual content of the announcement. Out of this inspiration of the God and of him who is “like God” (hyios theou) the disciples and their followers will live. (479)

And the task of the inspiration of fidelity is to “announce, announce, announce (anangelein) this,” three times! If we want to rethink the central tenet of Christianity, the dogma of the triune God, at all, then we must begin with this Johannine Trinity.

13.6. The hour of the woman, 16:16-28

16:16 A little while, (480) and you are observing me no more,
a little while in contrast, (481) and you will see me.“
16:17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another,
“What is this that he says to us,
‘A little while, and you are observing me no more,
a little while in contrast, and you will see me’?
‘I am going to the Father’?”
16:18 So they say,
“What is this ‘a little while’?
We don’t know what he’s speaking about.”
16:19 Yeshua recognized that they wanted to question him,
so he said to them,
“About this, you are searching among yourselves because I said,
‘A little while, and you are observing me no more,
a little while in contrast, and you will see me.’?
16:20 Amen, amen, I say to you:
You will weep and wail,
the world order will rejoice.
You will have pain,
but your pain will turn to joy.
16:21 The woman, when giving birth, has pain because her hour has come.
But when she has born the child,
she no longer remembers her tribulation,
because of the joy that a human was born into the world.
16:22 You also have indeed grief now,
but the more I will see you,
your heart will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
16:23 And on that day, you will not question me anymore.
Amen, amen, I say to you:
Whatever you ask for from the FATHER in my name
he will give you.
16:24 Until now, you have asked for nothing in my name.
Ask, and you will receive,
so that your joy may be complete.
16:25 These things I have spoken to you in parables.
An hour is coming
when I will no longer speak to you in parables
but will openly announce about the Father.
16:26 On that day you will ask for in my name,
and I do not say to you that I will ask the FATHER on your behalf.
16:27 For the FATHER himself is a friend to you,
because you have become my friends (482)
and have trusted that I came on behalf of GOD.
16:28 I came on behalf of the FATHER and have come into the world order.
Again, I am leaving the world order and going to the FATHER.”

But the problem of the disciples is somewhere else. For them, time is the problem. The Messiah has gone away, is the Messiah still coming, and when? John apparently explains the sentence 14:19, “Still a little while, and the world order no longer observes me, but you observe me, for I live and you will live.” Here, in fact, the opposite is said, “A moment, and you—like the world order!—will no longer observe me.” He takes up again the accusation of 16:10—known to the court—, and begins with a saying that no one understands.

In former times, this passage was read in the Roman Catholic liturgy on the third Sunday after Easter, in the Latin of the Vulgate, modicum et iam non videbitis me et iterum modicum et videbitis, “Little, and you will see me no more; little again, and you will see me.” This is abracadabra, and this is also because the old Latin manuscripts and also Hieronymus have translated badly here. They suppress the difference between theōreite and opsesthe, between “you will observe” and “you will see.”

The whole guild of commentators are, needless to say, well informed. A sample, Ulrich Wilckens at 16:16 ff.,

The readers know, of course, the first time they read it, what is meant by the succession ‘in short’ and ‘again in short’: after Jesus’ death, his resurrection will follow on the third day (see 1 Corinthians 15:4) . . . (483)

John could have had Yeshua say here, as in the Synoptics, “The Messiah is handed over, crucified, he dies. But after three days he will rise from the dead.” John does not do that. Easter and faith in Easter do not solve the problem of time. John rather has the saying of Yeshua heard three times.

On the level of the story, the disciples naturally do not know what will happen in the coming hours and days. They are puzzling about the word. But why must John present a baffled, restlessly discussing circle of disciples? Apparently, on the level of the text, one or two generations later, the problem is acute. Rome has triumphed; it seems to have eternal life, not to see a Messiah far and wide.

After the dispute about the breaking down of the sanctuary in 2:22, it was said, “Now when he was raised from the dead, the disciples remembered what he had said, they trusted the Scriptures and the word that Yeshua had said,” and, at the open tomb, “Admittedly, they did not yet have any knowledge of the Scriptural passage according to which he must rise from the dead,” 20:9. This means: the inability to understand the word “a little, etc.” has to do with a lack of understanding of the Scriptures (see 12:16)!

In Luke, Yeshua has to explain the Scriptures to the disciples of Emmaus; “beginning with Moshe and all the prophets, he translates to them what is [written] about him in the Scriptures,” 24:27. John has Yeshua answer with a general announcement that pain will turn into joy.

It seems now that Yeshua gives a nice example: A woman is in great pain at the birth of her child; when it is there, she forgets her pain. Ulrich Wilckens refers with Nestle-Aland to Isaiah 26:17. It is indeed about a situation similar to the situation of the disciples, “ETERNAL, our God, our Baals play the Lord, unlike you,” 26:13. But then it says, 26:17-18,

Like a pregnant woman about to give birth,
she writhes, screams in her labor pains.
This is how we have become,
away from your face, ETERNAL!
We were pregnant, we writhed,
wind, we have born.
Liberation was not done to the country;
the settlers of the earth did not fall . . .

As everybody could see, this reference does not explain our passage; in John 16 no wind is born, but a child! Yeshua answers rather with a midrash of the song “Rejoice, barren woman (rani ˁaqara)”, Isaiah 54:1-17. In v.7-8, it says,

For a little moment (chronon mikron, regaˁ qaton) I left you,
with great mercy I brought you back;
With a flood of anger, I hid my face
a moment before you,
with agelong affection I have had mercy on you:
said the NAME, your redeemer.

And the song began like this, 54:1-2,

Rejoice, barren woman who did not bear,
break out in jubilation, rejoice who were never in labor,
more are the sons of the desolate
than the sons of the wife of Baal,
said the ETERNAL.

The group does not understand the Scriptures, so they cannot understand John/Yeshua. What happens to Israel after the defeat against Rome and the destruction of the place [maqom, the temple of Jerusalem] is not the first time. The micron of 16:16 is the little moment of Isaiah 54:7-8. The birth of the child of the woman of pain, who transforms her pain into joy, is the return of Israel from the desolation of the deportation to Babylon.

And now the decisive reversal takes place. The Messiah seems to have played out his role with the disciples through his defeat, they are no longer observing him, the Messianic vision is so overwhelmed by the massive fact of the power relations that Messiah becomes a silly vision (ouketi me theōreite). This will take “a little while” (mikron).

But then they will see. But they can only see when they are seen. Here, 16:22, the syntax changes: the subject becomes the object, the object becomes the subject, “The more I will see you, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

The disciples do not say farewell to the Messiah, but the Messiah says farewell to the disciples. The disciples will not (any longer) observe the Messiah, but the Messiah will see them, and then they will see him as the Lord (kyrios), “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (20:20), but only after the wounds on the hands and chest were shown to them. They see that the murdered man—as the murdered one—is the Lord, in the place of those who act as masters. But that is still a long way off, as we will see in the example of Thomas. Back to the farewell.

“On that day, you will ask me nothing,” it says. On which day? On the day when the disciples will realize “that I am with my FATHER and you with me and I with you,” 14:20. For then, there will be no more distance between the Messiah and his disciples. Now, this distance is there (they do not observe the Messiah). Once again, the reassurance: the FATHER will give what the disciples will ask for in the name of the Messiah. And then the statement, “Until now you have not asked for in my name.” Obviously, the group’s prayer practice did not happen in the name of the Messiah. What is to be prayed for here, we will hear in the prayer of the Messiah.

Now “openly” comes up, what will be “on that day.” Questions are no longer necessary. Then they will ask for in the name of the Messiah, and no more intervention of the Messiah is needed: the disciples will then be not only in solidarity but in the friendship of God: the FATHER himself is a friend to them. And he will be so because the disciples will have realized the friendship with the Messiah and the trust in the Messiah. This is what the two perfect tenses pephilēkate and pepisteukate denote.

The next sentence comes abruptly: The Messiah went out from the FATHER and came into the world order. All the more he leaves the world order and goes to the FATHER. The movement, the life movement of the Messiah, is a departure from God—what the coming into, well, under, the world order really is. Leaving the world order is not only simply going away and leaving the world order as it is. We will hear the opposite in the last sentence of the farewell talk, again a Johannine perfect: nenikēka ton kosmon, I have defeated the world order. The walk to the FATHER is the transformation of the world order. As long as this movement is not accomplished—and it is not accomplished with the resurrection—the walk to the Father is not accomplished. But this becomes clear only in the encounter with Maria from Magdala, 20:11-18.

13.7. Conclusion of the farewell talk, 16:29-17,1a

16:29 His disciples said,
“Look, now you are speaking openly,
not a single parable, you say.
16:30 Now we know that you know everything
and you don’t need anyone to question you.
Therefore, we are trusting that you went out from GOD.”
16:31 Yeshua answered,
“Now you are trusting?
16:32 There, an hour is coming
—and it has come—,
when you will be scattered, each one for himself, (484)
and leave me alone.
But I am not alone,
because the FATHER is with me.
16:33 These things I have spoken to you
that you may have peace with me.
Under the world order, you will be in tribulation. (485)
But fear not!
I have conquered the world order!”
17:1a These things Yeshua had spoken about.

The disciples say they have understood. Yeshua has unfolded everything, no more riddles. Yeshua immediately dampens the euphoria. The hour is coming, the hour of probation. And this probationary hour, they do not pass.

All commentators think of the hour of the arrest. But this hour is not meant. Simon is fighting, two disciples are following the police force that arrested Yeshua. The “beloved disciple” is standing under the cross, in clear deviation from the Passion narrative of the Synoptics. Unlike Matthew and Mark, John avoids the reference to Zechariah 13:7 in the narrative of the arrest, “Strike the shepherd, and the flock of sheep will be scattered.”

At this point, John leaves the level of the narration (fiction) and enters the level of the narrator (reality). This is the hour in which the group is dispersing, the hour that Yeshua foretold and which is an element of the narrative at the end of the bread speech, “For this reason, many of his disciples went away, backward, their walk was no longer with him,” 6:66. The moment they are without a synagogue, the tragedy of separation is repeated. They gave up their Messianic vision. “Leaving the Messiah alone” is nothing else than abandoning the Messianic vision, and according to John, the abandonment of the Messianic vision occurs at the moment when, faced with the choice between this Messiah and the synagogue, they remain with the group or turn to the synagogue.

Once again it is emphasized that the unity between the God of Israel and the Messiah remains, the cause of the Messiah is the cause of God, and the cause of God remains Israel. Once again the theme of peace of 14:27 is taken up, but this time with a different tendency. There, 14:27 ff., the contrast between the pax Messianica and the pax Romana is established. Now we hear,

This is what I have said to you [=14:27 ff.],
that you have peace with me:
Under the world order, you will be in tribulation.

New is the experience that having peace with the Messiah necessarily means having tribulation with the world order. Thlipsis, tzara, was and is the normal condition of Israel among the peoples and even more so under Rome. John assures the group that tribulation can only be endured if they see the peace of the Messiah as a real political perspective for themselves. That is why he weaves the connection to Exodus 14: John chooses the word that he avoids in his narrative about Yeshua walking on the water. The Synoptics have at this point, tharsei, “be undaunted.” In most cases, the translators of the Scriptures of Israel, like John in 6:20, have the usual mē phobeisthe (ˀal thiraˀu), “do not fear.” In some cases, however, they choose the positive tharsein, “to be undaunted.” Among others at a crucial point. The people spoke to Moshe, Exodus 14:12,

Was this not the speech we spoke to you in Egypt,
“Depart from us, we will serve Egypt,
because it is better for us to serve Egypt,
than to die in the wilderness”?

Moshe responds, Exodus 14:13,

Fear not [ˀal-tiraˀu, tharseite]
line up,
see the liberation through the NAME,
by which he will free you today.
For as you see Egypt today
you will see it no further, agelong!
The NAME will fight for you,
so be silent!

This is exactly the word John chooses. What is Egypt in the Torah, is the kosmos in the Gospel, the world order, is Rome. Yeshua thinks of this victory of the NAME over Egypt when he says, “I have conquered the world order.” Because the NAME has defeated Egypt. Of course, nenikēka ton kosmon, “I have conquered the world order,” is a slogan of perseverance. No really serious person can get along in crises completely without slogans of perseverance. But this slogan of perseverance has a degree of reality in the memory of the liberations of Israel from the tribulation among the peoples. The perfect here is the perfect of Exodus 14:30,

The NAME freed Israel on that day (wa-yoshaˁ YHWH)
from the hand of Egypt.
And Israel saw Egypt
dead on the shore of the sea.

There are no idylls in the Scriptures. In the ruling world order, there are no idylls either. With this sentence, “I have conquered the world order,” the farewell talk ends. But here, Egypt is not dead; the tribulation remains. That is why no Miriam sings here as in Exodus 15, but the Messiah prays the great intercession for the Messianic community.

13.8. The prayer of the Messiah, 17:1b-26

17:1b And he lifted up his eyes toward heaven, he said,
“FATHER, the hour has come,
honor your Son,
so that the Son may honor you.
17:2 Thus you gave him authority over all flesh, (486)
that he will give them all you have given him:
Life for the age to come.
17:3 And this is the life for the age to come:
to recognize you, the only trustworthy GOD,
and whom you sent, Yeshua Messiah.
17:4 I honored you on the earth
by accomplishing the work
you gave up on me to do it.
17:5 And now honor me, you, FATHER, with yourself,
with the honor, I had with you
before the world order came into existence.
17:6 I made your name manifest to the humans
you gave me out of the world order. (487)
They were yours, you gave them to me,
they have kept your word.
17:7 Now they have recognized
that everything you have given me
is happening on your behalf.
17:8 For the spoken words you gave me (488)
I have given to them;
they accepted them and recognized with trust
that they went out from you.
They began trusting that you sent me.
17:9 I am asking for them
—I am not asking for the world order,
but for those, you have given to me,
because they are yours;
17:10 all that is mine is yours, and yours is mine,—
[I am asking] that I am honored in them.
17:11 I am no longer under the world order,
but they are under the world order,
and I am coming to you!
keep them with your NAME you have given to me,
so that they may become one, just as we are. (490)
17:12 When I was with them,
I kept them with your NAME you have given to me,
I guarded them, and not one of them was destroyed
except for the son of destruction, (491)
so that the Scripture may be fulfilled.
17:13 Now I am coming to you,
and I am still speaking this under the world order
so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
17:14 I have given them your word,
and the world fought them with hatred,
because they are not from the world order,
just as I am not from the world order. (492)
17:15 I do not ask you to take them out of the world order,
but to protect them from evil.
17:16 They are not from the world order,
just as I am not from the world order.
17:17 Sanctify them with your fidelity;
your word is fidelity. (493)
17:18 As you sent me into the world order,
I sent them into the world order.
17:19 For on their behalf I am sanctifying myself,
so that they too may be sanctified through fidelity!
17:20 I am asking not only for these,
but also for those who are trusting me through their word,
17:21 that they all may become one:
as you, FATHER, are with me, and I with you,
so that they may be [one] with us, (494)
so that the world may trust that you sent me.
17:22 And I have given to them the honor which you have given to me,
so that they may become one, just as we are one (495)
17:23 I with them and you with me,
so that they may become completely one,
so that the world order recognizes
that you sent me and were in solidarity with them
just as you were in solidarity with me.
17:24 FATHER,
I want (496) those you have given me
to be with me where I am
so that they may observe my honor, which you have given me
because you were in solidarity with me
before the rejection of the world order. (497)
the world did not recognize you,
but I recognized you,
and these recognized that you sent me.
17:26 And I made your name known to them,
and I will make it known
so that the solidarity in which you were solidary with me
may be with them, and I with them.”

The prayer of the Messiah takes the place of the scene that the Synoptics insert between the departure from the room of the meal and the arrest. No “angel” comforts the Messiah here, because the “shaking of the soul” is already mentioned and overcome.

The concern of the Messiah in this prayer is the opposite of the skorpizesthai, being scattered, of 16:32; it is the unity of the Messianic group.

The Messiah prays as Israel prays, Psalms 121:1; 123:1, etc., “he lifted up his eyes to heaven.” Heaven is where the Messiah comes from, but it is not a place. Heaven, inaccessible to humans, is the hiddenness of God. The Messiah comes out of the hiddenness of God and goes back into the hiddenness of God. That is, what is entitled to claim our ultimate allegiance, namely “God,” eventually escapes all we can plan, design, and execute. The Messiah is and remains from heaven.

Heaven is basically closed for humans. The second work of God’s creation, that “dome” (raqiaˁ) of Genesis 1:7, hermetically seals off that heavenly realm from earthly reality. Heaven can never be the destination of humans, of human life. The Messiah remains “there,” but never as an element of our planning. Fixing his eyes on the closed heaven, Yeshua says, “FATHER, the hour has come, honor your Son.” The hour is the hour of honor. The phrase is tied to 12:27-28,

“Now my soul is shaken, and what can I say?
FATHER, free me (hoshiˁeni) from this hour?
But this is precisely why I have come to this hour.
FATHER, honor your name!”
At this, a voice came out of heaven,
“I have honored it,
and I will honor it again!”

“Honor your Son, so that the Son may honor you.” Son is here the “Son of Man” and the “Son of God,” he is the bar enosh and thus the one “like God,” as we always translated hyios theou. The hour is the fulfillment of God’s mission, which determines his whole essence. It is for the honor of God, which is the honor of the Messiah, as the honor of the Messiah is the honor of God. And the honor of God and the Messiah is Israel, namely Israel freed from the worldwide slave house of Rome.

The honor of the Messiah presupposes that he has defeated the world order and that those (of Israel) whom the FATHER has given him will have the life of the age to come. This is the honor of God, and now God shall honor him with that honor which he had with God “before the world order came into existence.”

This expression is without great mysteries for the Christian orthodoxy. Kosmos here would be simply “world,” that is, cosmic space, that is, creation. Here John, so the orthodoxy says, thinks of the pre-existence of the second person of the Trinity. What John may have been thinking of, we know only from the text before us. Neither a metaphysical nor a theological-orthodox pre-existence emerges from the text. But this will become clear only in 17:24, pro katabolēs tou kosmou, before the rejection of the world order.

This long passage has two “stanzas,” each with a rhyme of thought at the end, 17:11 fourth line; “that they may become one like us.” And 17:23, “I with them and you with me, so that they may become completely one.” This unity is a matter of the heart for John. His political program was to bring Israel together for unity. Therefore, there must be an unbreakable unity from the beginning and to the end between the Messiah and God, “I and the FATHER: ONE we are!” (10:30).

With great confidence, John says that what is prayed for in the name of the Messiah will be given. What is prayed for is Messianic unity. This unity is demanded by the Messiah. This is what those who have been given by God to the Messiah will pray for; nothing else comes to their mind because they keep the words that the Messiah has given them, because they confidently (alēthōs) accept and recognize that this Messiah goes out from this God.

Then in v.9, there is a sentence that could be of utmost importance for the practice of later generations. “Not for the world order I desire.” Apparently, there was an effort to pray for the world order and its agents to be made serviceable to God; this is so far from John’s mind that he must emphasize it again here: the world order—and that means the supporters of the real ruling order, government, kings, prefects, their hangers-on, and henchmen—can never and must never be the object of intercession. For “king and fatherland” is not to be prayed here. The prophet Jeremiah did not demand this from the people who were carried away in Babel. (499)

The object of prayer are those whom God has given to the Messiah because they are the Israel of God, and because they are of God, they are also of the Messiah. In them, the Messiah has “received his honor,” dedoxasmai, perfect, as nenikēka, “I have conquered.” That there may be such, that is what is to be prayed for. All other praying is nonsense or superstition. The honor of the Messiah takes place in the Messianic community!

With all unity, there is a difference in the situation. The Messiah goes into the hiddenness of God (“to the FATHER”), the community remains under the world order. When this is made clear, the Messiah can pray, “guard them!” And this for the unity, which can be none other than the unity between the God of Israel and his Messiah, between the Messiah and the community, between the members of the community among themselves.

The Messiah “kept” the disciples with the NAME that God had given to the Messiah. “Name” always means that life task which a human has and which only he can fulfill. The name “Yeshua” has to do with yashaˁ, “to liberate.” The liberation of Israel is the name of the Messiah. Liberation is the Messiah, the doctrine of liberation (soteriology) is the doctrine of this Messiah (Christology) and vice versa. (500)

The God of Israel is his NAME, that and only that, by which he wants to make himself known to the people. His essence is and remains inaccessible to us. The NAME by which alone we can know God is “He who leads out of the slave house.” This NAME is remaining.

The Messianists among the Judeans mean that “now” the God of Israel makes Himself known to the people with the NAME “Yeshua Messiah,” not only to the people of Israel but also to the people of all nations. John means restrictively: To the children of Israel who live among the nations, and to those from the nations who profess Israel.

But also the Messiah is in the hiddenness of God. He cannot be incorporated in any of the human undertakings. It is true that the Messiah leaves his commandment of solidarity to humans and inspires them permanently, but he is never within our reach. Everything we say and do is toward him, insofar as it comes from him, that is, it is inspired. The NAME of the Messiah is thus a spelling of that NAME of God who sends Moshe to lead Israel out of the slave house, Exodus 3:11 ff.

This NAME “keeps” the disciples. It thus “guarded” them from going the way of the “renegade,” who had committed himself to the world order. This is an utter joy, like that of 16:21-22: that the barrenness has been taken away from Israel, “Joyful mother of children,” Psalm 113:9. The utter joy is contrasted with the hateful suppression of the disciples by the world order because the latter knows that to it the mere existence of a Messianic community is an unacceptable contradiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fidelity of the Word of God is the prerequisite for the mission of the Messiah and for the mission with which the Messiah commissions his disciples. Their mission in or under the world order is no other than that of the Messiah, and it will also have the same consequences. The fidelity of God “sanctifies” them, makes them people who do not live from the world order. This is not the new world religion, but it is the infinitely condensed Torah of an isolated sect under completely new conditions, the new commandment. (501)

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

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

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

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

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

The Messiah asks that the disciples may be where the Messiah will be. The goal is (hina) that they may “observe” that the Messiah will be honored. The honor of the Messiah is the unity of the Messianic community as the archetype of the coming unity of Israel. In other words, they may experience a situation where the Messiah and his Messianic order will be the measure of all things. Here we hear again the verb theōrein. What they are unable to observe now, 16:10; 16:16 ff, is to become possible and real. To the prevailing world order, Messiah does not come “into consideration”; in it, the only thing that is Messianic is the solidarity of the disciples with each other.

In a note to 17:24, we have given detailed reasons why we write here “rejection of the world order” and not “foundation of the world order.” The world is always a concrete world order: Roman organized human society. And in John, this order is always condemnable. The verb kataballein (“to reject”), which stands behind katabolē, has an exclusively negative meaning in the Greek version of the Scriptures. John chooses the word because it fits the negativity of the world order.

Before the conditions among humans were ordered in such a way that they had to suffer under them, “before the world order came into existence,” 17:5, the Messiah had the “honor with God” (17:5). Here again, the “honor of the Messiah” is spoken of. He had the honor before this order came into existence, he will have it after the judgment on the world order, its katabolē, its rejection, will have come into effect, and he has the honor now that the judgment has been pronounced (kekritai, 16:11) but not executed. Why?

Because the God of Israel is in solidarity with his Messiah, his bar enosh, who represents “the people of the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:27), that is, with Israel, and that even “before the rejection of the world order.” The Messiah—that is, Israel—is not dishonorable and undignified under the prevailing conditions of the world order. Rather, the hour has come when the Messiah—and Israel with him—will be honored. With the rejection of the world order, Israel—and with it, all humankind—is not rejected, but will be honored.

The circle that was opened at 17:5 is closed. God does not act as he once acted, Gen 6:5,

The NAME saw
that the wickedness of humankind increased on the earth,
that all the imaginings of the thoughts of their hearts
were only evil, all the days,
the NAME was sorry
that he had made humankind on the earth,
it saddened him in his heart.
The NAME spoke:
I will wipe away humankind, which I created,
from the face of the earth . . .

As the hope of humankind is based on the fact that the future is not annihilation, but that through the Messiah all God-born who have been driven apart will become partakers of God’s solidarity, this sentence 17:24 is the main sentence of the doctrine of liberation (soteriology). The solidarity with the humans is valid despite the ruling world order; the subjugation of the world order is not the annihilation of the world, according to the oath of God in Genesis 8,21b,

“Never again will I curse the face of the earth for the sake of humankind,
because the heart of humankind was an image of evil from its youth,
never again will I continue to strike all life that I had made.”

The world order, so the sentence continues, did not recognize the FATHER; the Messiah recognized him; therefore, the God of Israel was in solidarity with the Messiah, not with the ruling world order. Any other interpretation is hardly possible in this context. The recognition of God is based on the insight that the Messiah is the messenger of this God. The NAME is what this God does to Israel; this NAME is made known by the Messiah. The NAME now means, John says, that God is in solidarity with the Messiah and the Messiah is in solidarity with these humans. Only with this sentence in our ears can we bear what John has to tell us in the next two chapters.

13.9. Arrest and interrogation, 18:1-28a

What is told now is entirely determined by the immediate nearness of Passover. In general, Passover is always “near.” The word pascha is used ten times, three times in connection with the word “near,” three times with determinations such as “before,” “six days before,” once as “preparation” (paraskeuē). Twice the Passover was an occasion, 2:23 and 18:39. Once pascha means the Passover lamb, 18:28.

Neither Yeshua nor the disciples celebrate the great feast of liberation in John’s narrative. Passover here is a pure future. Liberation can not be celebrated until all Israel will have been brought together by the Messiah into one synagogue. “Easter” is not an accomplishment, but, as we hear, a beginning, the beginning of the mission of the disciples. If Christians were to follow John, they would probably have to be a little more humble and not take their Easter as a Passover superlative.

We heard in 13:30, “But it had become night,” the night of the Messiah. This night continues until Yeshua will really be handed over into the hands of the Romans, “But it had become early in the morning,” 18:28b. The walk into the garden marks the beginning of a new and decisive phase of the Messiah’s night. Yeshua is no longer in the circle of the disciples but enters the confrontation with the world order, publicly, and first with the collaborators of the enemy, the leading priests.

This final section of the night of the Messiah, “arrest and interrogation,” has two parts: 18:1-14 the arrest and 18:15-28a the interrogation. The actual Passion narrative does not begin until 18:28b. It is advisable to separate the section “arrest and interrogation” from the actual Passion narrative, as John does with his time entries.

John uses traditional material, but he adapts it to his political purposes. To be sure, the leadership of Judea hands Yeshua over to the Romans, but the Messiah dies in the fight with Rome, not in the fight with the Judeans. Except for the women and the friend under the Messiah’s cross, there are no more children of Israel. Yeshua is alone with the Roman soldiery. This is a significant political difference from the Synoptics’ account. Even in the scene of arrest and interrogation that now follows, there is no longer any confrontation with the Judeans. Yeshua, we will hear, has told them all that needed to be said. Now it is about the kosmos, about the world order as such.

13.9.1. Arrest, 18:1-14

18:1 After Yeshua had said this,
he went out with his disciples beyond the brook Kidron, (502)
there was a garden.
Into it, he himself went with his disciples.
18:2 Judas, who handed him over, also knew the place,
because Yeshua often met there with his disciples.
18:3 Now when Judas had taken over the military cohort
and officials of the leading priests and the Perushim
he went there with torches, lamps, and weapons.
18:4 Now Yeshua, knowing all that was going to happen to him,
went out and said to them,
“Whom do you seek?”
18:5 They answered him,
“Yeshua the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”
Also standing with them was Judas who handed him over.
18:6 When he now said to them, “I AM,”
they went backward from him and fell to the ground.
18:7 Again, he questioned them,
“Whom do you seek?”
They said,
“Yeshua the Nazorean.”
18:8 Yeshua answered,
“I said to you that I AM.
So if you seek me,
let these go.”
18:9 Thus should be fulfilled the word he had said,
“Of those you have given me,
I let not anyone become destroyed.”
18:10 Simon, however, Peter, having a sword,
drew it, struck the slave of the leading priest,
and cut off his right ear.
The slave’s name was Malchos.
18:11 Yeshua said to Peter,
“Put your sword in its sheath!
This is the cup the FATHER has given me; am I not to drink it?”
18:12 So the cohort and the tribune, (503)
together with the officials of the Judeans,
arrested Yeshua,
they bound him,
18:13 and first presented him to Annas.
For he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas,
who was the great priest of that year.
18:14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Judeans
that it would be in their interest if one man dies on behalf of the people.

John, in the second part of his Gospel, portrayed the Messiah as “the hidden one.” This did not only refer to the fact that the Messiah was not recognized as such by the greater part of the people, i.e. remained “hidden” from them. He also had to physically hide himself again and again (7:10; 8:59; 12:36).

Now Yeshua enters the place where he was hiding, the garden beyond the brook Kidron. They serve to describe a hiding place that was known to insiders only—among them Judas Iscariot. Judas ben Simon Iscariot was among the Twelve a representative of the enemy, a confidential informant of the Roman authority and not of the temple elites, a Satan, an enemy, as John calls him, 6:71. This man leads a mixed police force of officials of the self-governing authority and Roman soldiers into the garden.

Yeshua knows that the time of hiddenness is over; he knows “all that is coming upon him.” Again, the word “to seek.” He knows that he is being sought in order to have him put to death. “Yeshua the Nazorean,” that’s the Roman warrant of apprehension, and that’s what Pilate’s reasons for the judgment will call him. This is also how he is called in Matthew and Luke; in John, the surname occurs only here. As “the Nazorean” (the prince (504)) he was known to the police. “I AM,” says Yeshua, with the same emphasis with which the NAME made himself known through the mouths of the prophets of Israel (e.g. Isaiah 43:10; 48:12; Jeremiah 29:23). He is a wanted man for them (see 11:57!), but he is more than that.

“Judas, who handed him over, was standing with them,” is said here; he is only a part of the police force, no more. And he backed away with the others from the majestic self-confidence of the Messiah and fell as if struck by lightning.

Once again: question, answer, self-confession. The game does not repeat itself. Yeshua’s only interest is to prevent his disciples from coming to death with him. It is they, only they, who are to proclaim the NAME of the Messiah, they must remain alive, lest any possibility of Messianic existence die with Yeshua, “If you seek me, let these go.” To John, the words of Yeshua have the same rank as the Scriptures of Israel: they will be “fulfilled” or must be fulfilled; here we are concerned with 6:39 and 17:12. The future of the Messianic movement depends on the rescue of the disciples. They are what Yeshua is concerned with. We will discuss this later considering the denial of Simon Peter.

The latter, however, shows which policy he wants to pursue: that of open and armed struggle. Simon is indeed the Zealot. The Synoptics know a second Simon as one of the Twelve and call him “Simon the Zealot” (Mark 3:18). John does not allow this difference, and he wants to show into which dead-end the Zealot policy of armed struggle leads the Messianic movement. In John, Simon the Rock is also Simon the Zealot. He has not the slightest understanding of the real situation. He is fighting the battle on the field where he has to lose, the military field. On this field, only one can win, Rome.

This realistic argument is made by Matthew, “All who take up the sword will perish by the sword,” 26:52. John argues differently here. Yeshua is not a pacifist even with him, and, all the more, he does not crave a bloody martyrdom. He must, whether he wants to or not, go his way to the bloody end. There is no way around this end. That is the cup that must be drunk. That is why Simon shall put away his sword, not because Yeshua is “against violence” in principle, but because the path leads to victory over the defeat that is truly taken note of. The people of the Judeans, in the country, but also the diaspora, must take note twice more, that the sword leads to the downfall and the consciously accepted defeat leads to life: Diaspora War, 115-117 and Bar Kochba War, 131-135. However, Rabbinical Judaism will draw completely different political consequences from this than the Messianists.

The police force, under the command of a high Roman officer—a military tribune, chiliarchos (tribunus)—brings Yeshua bound to Annas, the father-in-law of the officiating grand priest Caiaphas. We have already met the latter at 11:47 ff. and he will have the last word as far as the Judean authorities are concerned because he formulated the political interest of politics in Yeshua’s execution most clearly.

13.9.2. Simon’s discipleship. Yeshua before the great priest, 18:15-28a

18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Yeshua.
This disciple was known to the great priest.
He went with Yeshua into the courtyard of the great priest.
18:16 Peter yet was standing by the door, outside.
So the other disciple, the one known to the great priest, came out;
he said something to the doorkeeper, and she led Peter in.
18:17 Now the maid, the doorkeeper, says to Peter,
“Are you not also one of the disciples of this human?”
He says,
“I am not.”
18:18 But the slaves and the officials were standing around,
having made a charcoal fire because it was cold,
they were warming themselves.
Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
18:19 Now the great priest questioned Yeshua
about his disciples and about his teaching.
18:20 Yeshua answered him,
“I have spoken publicly about the world order, (505)
I always taught in a synagogue and in the sanctuary
where all the Judeans come together,
and I spoke nothing in secret.
18:21 What are you questioning me?
Question the ones who have heard what I spoke to them.
There, they know what I said.”
18:22 When he had said this,
one of the officials standing by slapped Yeshua in the face, (506)
he said,
“This is how you answer the great priest?”
18:23 Yeshua answered him,
“If I spoke evil, testify about the evil.
But if good, why are you beating me?”
18:24 So Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the great priest.
18:25 Simon Peter, however, was standing and warming himself.
They said to him,
“Are you not also one of his disciples?”
He denied it, he said,
“I am not.”
18:26 One of the slaves of the great priest,
a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, says,
“Did I not see you with him in the garden?”
18:27 So again Peter denied;
immediately a rooster called.

18:28a They led Yeshua from Caiaphas to the praetorium. (507)

Two disciples followed the police force, as one may assume, at a due distance; Simon Peter and “another disciple.” This other disciple is the disciple who was present at the crucifixion. It is necessary for the narrative that some disciple was recognized by the guard outside the court of Annas as “an acquaintance of the grand priest.” Otherwise, Simon’s access (508) “with Yeshua” would hardly have been possible. At the decisive moment, the anonymous disciple from the environment of the priestly elites will stand at the side of Simon, here and at the opened grave.

This one hung around the access door to the room of the interrogation, where a maid kept an eye on the audience. All the Synoptics know the maid who approached Peter about his acquaintance with Yeshua. Here she is a doorkeeper. She makes a guess, Peter has to answer with a denial. He withdraws from the door because otherwise, his importunity would have made him suspicious. The fire provides a good reason for the withdrawal, “because it was cold.” We let ourselves be carried along by the narrative; the whole narrative not only has a point but is itself the point. The narrator acts as a good film director. Change of scene.

Here, Annas acts as an investigating judge who must decide whether further proceedings were necessary. Judges like Annas usually ask about things they have long known. The questioning serves the appearance of legality of the proceedings.

Annas asks Yeshua about his disciples—accomplices in his eyes—and about his teaching, that is, about his political intentions. Yeshua lets the judge come to nothing. First of all, Annas knows all about it long ago; secondly, he would have to question those who have listened to Yeshua during his public speeches. They could give more objective information than he himself.

This calm and composed response of Yeshua unmasks the whole arrangement and casts Annas in a ridiculous light. This catches the eye of one of Annas’ eager officials. He slaps Yeshua in the face and justifies his action by pointing to Yeshua’s insubordination. Yeshua’s reaction is meant to arouse our indignation. In fact, Yeshua’s attitude challenges violence. The narrative of the trial of Yeshua is a timeless one; this is what happened to all who engaged in political resistance to an autocratic regime and were arrested as a result. Yeshua is a political prisoner among the many others before him and after him who had no chance of being treated fairly.

So far, so good, if we didn’t have the word rapisma, “blow in the face.” The word actually means “to lash (across the face).” In the Greek Tanakh version, the Septuagint (LXX), the word is rare. The corresponding verb rapizein occurs only three times, rapisma itself only in Isaiah 50:6. The verb for “to strike” or “to slay” in the Tanakh is nakha. The LXX has forty different words for this verb, but only two are used frequently, patassein and typtein.

Rapisma, rapizein are found in the Messianic writings only in the Passion accounts of Matthew (26:67) and Mark (14:65). The famous passage in the Sermon on the Mount 5:39 (“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek . . .”) is to be interpreted from its use in the Passion of Yeshua. The passages in Matthew, Mark, and John clearly invoke a passage from the second chant of the “Slave of the NAME” in Isaiah. Isaiah 50:5 ff. reads,

My Lord, the NAME, opened my ear,
I was not rebellious, I did not turn back.
My back I gave to the thugs, my cheeks to their fists [LXX: eis rapismata],
my face I did not hide from scorn and spitting.

This text will also be of concern to us when discussing the scene with the crown of thorns.

John points us to the role Yeshua must play here, the role of the “Slave of the NAME.” The word derein, “to flay,” is very rare in the LXX and is used there only for flaying a sacrificial animal (Leviticus 1:6). (509) In the Messianic writings, it means “to thrash.” The apostles had experience with this (Acts 5:40), and Paul, in his days as a fanatical member of the Perushim, had his opponents thrashed soundly (Acts 22:19).

Here the official feels authorized to anticipate an order punishment of the court and to execute it immediately, without anybody having judged the statement of Yeshua as an offense against the dignity of the court. The reaction of Yeshua proves this. Without knowing it, the henchman of Annas acts here to point out the role of Yeshua as a “suffering slave of the NAME.” Meanwhile, the investigating judge sees no grounds for release and refers the matter to the next instance. Change of scene.

Simon Peter warms himself and—for the second time—is recognized as a disciple of Yeshua. Simon denies. Things get dicey when a relative of Malchos, who was injured by Simon, says, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Each time, the suspicion is expressed in the form of a guess. Because of the darkness, Simon could deny convincingly; at least, he could get out of the affair.

The rooster crows. John does not go into the state of mind of Simon, unlike Matthew. What Simon does here is not a brilliant performance, but John spares reproach. Rightly so. Yeshua had only predicted that Simon would deny him three times before the rooster crows and announces the morning of the day of execution. Those who, like Wengst, speak of cowardice here, (510) miss the point. One must rather ask whether an open confession for Yeshua would have had any political sense in this situation. Simon would have been killed at the same time. In the resistance, it was and is the highest commandment not to incriminate fellow fighters, not to speak of self-incrimination. Moreover, Simon was not a coward; otherwise, he would have made off in the garden. In fact, he was the only one who resisted Yeshua’s arrest with a weapon in his hand.

For a correct understanding of this text, it is necessary to read the narrative in its context. Simon Peter was the undisputed leader of a political Messianic movement. No one questioned his leadership position. Nevertheless, after the Judean War, people generally criticized him—and that means the political quality of his leadership. To Paul, Simon’s wavering between fidelity to the Torah and overcoming that fidelity in favor of fidelity to the Messiah was worthy of criticism, Galatians 2:11 ff. To John, the criticism of the Messianists’ leadership consists of their wavering between Zealotry and denial. The narrative of the triple denial, which was common throughout the Messianic movement, is, in John, a critical inventory of the Messianic movement during the Judean War, combining loyalty to Simon and harsh criticism of him. Change of Scene.

The penultimate instance is Caiaphas, the officiating great priest. From him, Yeshua has nothing to expect. For Caiaphas, the death of Yeshua was a necessary political sacrifice. He immediately referred the matter to the jurisdiction of the Romans.

They took him to the praetorium, the administrative seat of the procurator of the province of Judea. They: the police group and those who were present at the interrogation by Annas and Caiaphas. They are the Judeans of the following sections. They are very specific Judeans; for the understanding of what follows, this “they” is of vital importance. The Perushim are not there, nor is the crowd arguing about whether or not Yeshua was the Messiah. There is no crowd (ochlos) before the praetorium. It is very specific members of the people who want to see Yeshua on the cross. John was not an anti-Judaist or even an anti-Semite! He was very much an enemy of the Judean leadership and their satellites.

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

The Passion narrative itself, 18:28b-19:42, has two parts, divided by two points in time: “Early morning” and “It was ˁerev pascha, about the sixth hour.” The first part begins with the open exposure of world power, 18:28b-19:13. If anywhere, the “structure of contradiction with dominant” (Althusser (511)) is evident here. The dominant is the contradiction between Yeshua and Pilate or Rome. It dominates the opposition between Judeans, here represented by the leading priests—the Perushim no longer play a role—and the Messiah Yeshua. The second part of the Passion narrative, 19:14-42, answers the question of who is the King of Israel and tells how the King dies and is buried.

14.1. What is fidelity, anyhow? 18:28b-38a

18:28b It was early morning.
They themselves did not go into the praetorium
lest they should defile themselves but might eat the Passover. (512)
18:29 Pilate, therefore, came outside to them, saying,
“What accusation are you bringing against this human?”
18:30 They answered and said to him,
“If this one were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you.”
18:31 Pilate said to them,
“You take him and judge him according to your Torah.”
The Judeans said to him,
“It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”
18:32 so that Yeshua’s word might be fulfilled which he said,
signifying by what death he was going to die.
18:33 So Pilate went back into the praetorium.
He called Yeshua and said to him,
“Are you the king of the Judeans?”
18:34 Yeshua answered,
“Are you saying this of yourself,
or have others made a statement about me?”
18:35 Pilate answered,
“Am I a Judean?
Your nation and the leading priests have handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
18:36 Yeshua answered,
“My kingship is not of this world order.
If my kingship were of this world order,
my officials would have struggled
that I would not have been handed over to the Judeans.
But now, my kingship is not from there.”
18:37 Pilate said to him,
“So you are a king, after all?”
Yeshua answered,
“You say I am a king.
I have been begotten to this and have come into the world to this
to bear witness to fidelity.
Everyone who is from fidelity is listening to my voice.”
18:38a Says Pilate to him,
“What is fidelity, anyhow?”

The night of the Messiah, the betrayal, the farewell, the arrest, and the interrogation is over. From now on, Yeshua is only on his own. In this whole passage, Yeshua and the procurator are in the building, and his opposing compatriots, the Judeans and especially the leading priests, are in front of the building. Entering the praetorium makes one unclean, that is all John says. To derive from this sentence a general rule according to which entering any building of the goyim makes unclean is allowed at most by some passages of the Mishnah. (513)

To the leading priests, the praetorium is off limits; a Judean makes himself unclean when he crosses the threshold of the praetorium. Yeshua, on the other hand, is already unclean in their eyes; he is no longer a child of Israel. The refusal to enter the praetorium creates a political distance between them and the Roman authority on the other hand. John has a politically elaborate dramaturgy. The main contradiction is and remains that between Rome and the Judean people. Now, by instrumentalizing Pilate for the elimination of a Judean—formally mindful of their purity and so of distance—they will have to give up any distance from Rome, “We have no king unless Caesar.” To their formal distance is given the lie by the political commitment to Caesar. It is not Yeshua who will be excluded from Israel, they will exclude themselves from Israel. Before this happens, many things have to happen.

Every authority is anxious to declare itself not in charge, even more so in a case that brings it trouble. Pontius Pilate, the procurator, asks about the nature of the crime, indicating that he probably does not have jurisdiction. He is told that Yeshua is an “evildoer,” that is, a person who commits acts that are punishable by the Romans. Pilate is stubborn, not he but they are responsible; they have their self-government (autonomy) recognized by Rome to proceed according to their own laws.

They answer that they do not have the right to put any human to death. The answer is incorrect. They have the right to execute death sentences, and they tried to do so, 7:53 ff; 8:59; 10:31. But the political leadership of the self-government wants to achieve two goals: first, the elimination of an internal Judean opponent, and second, to prove their political reliability to Rome. This is a political interpretation of the historical fact of the death on the cross of Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee, by Messianists like John. This political interpretation is what is at stake, and that is why the trial is told as John does.

So we have here fiction, no reality, no historical documentation. We have no documents, no trial record, no eyewitness evidence that such a trial took place. (514) It is even questionable whether the authorities, Judean and Roman, would have made much of a fuss with any Galilean fanatic in their eyes, for instance, through a public trial. Romans everywhere used to make short work—that is, without any trial—with suspected rebels. We know nothing.

But we have four narratives. Here we are told: A political leadership delivers a disliked member of the people to an occupying power in order not to jeopardize its business basis for a proper and probably profitable relationship with the occupying power. It is not the task of an interpretation to establish historical facts, especially since the endeavor would be futile. Its task is to interpret the narrative in its internal contexts and to place it in a known socio-political context of contradiction. This is true for the Gospel as a whole and even more so for the Passion narrative. It cannot do more but at least it should do this.

Pilate acts here as the supreme judge. He asks Yeshua if he is the king of the Judeans. Yeshua answers with a counter question. He wants to know where Pilate got this information. Did the Romans investigate themselves or had he been denounced? Pilate confirms the latter assumption. He, Pilate, was not a Judean, he had no reason of his own to take action against Yeshua.

The arrest involved “officials of the Perushim” (Pharisees), the great opponents of Yeshua; they are not represented at the trial before the Roman court. In John’s Gospel, the Perushim stand for the emerging Rabbinical Judaism. They were and are the opponents of John’s Messianic community. But he does not hold them responsible for the transfer of Yeshua to Roman jurisdiction.

This argument e silentio is important. The eternal anti-Semitic accusation that the Jews—and all Judaism was Rabbinical Judaism until modern times—killed Jesus finds no support in John. The Gospel’s accusation of killing refers to the exclusion of the Messianists around John from the synagogue, as we saw above, in the discussion of 15:26-16:15. (515)

The triangle of actors in the Passion narrative thus consists of Pilate (Rome), the leading priests (the Judean government) or their followers, and Yeshua. The Judean government has put it to Pilate that Yeshua is striving for political power, i.e. kingship. For the Romans, this is interesting information. They, as the real authorities, need to know who might be challenging Roman power, or if it is an internal dispute on power in self-government. So Pilate asks, “Your nation and the leading priests have handed you over to me, what have you done?”

Yeshua’s answer to this double question is a three-liner:

(1) “My kingship is not of this world order.

(2) If my kingship were of this world order, my officials would have struggled so that I would not have been handed over to the Judeans.

(3) But now my kingship is not from there.”

Yeshua refers to the royal history of recent times among his people and to the discussion about kingship that had been going on in Israel since the return from Babylon and especially in the Maccabean period. Pilate is unaware of this discussion. He, therefore, has no idea what to make of Yeshua’s answer.

The answer has three lines; the first and the third are almost identical; the kingship of Yeshua is determined negatively, it is “not of this world order.” Here kosmos is clearly to be translated as “world order.” The middle line brings the definition of the kingship of this world order; it was the product of a military struggle. The negation of the third line is further defined by the second line, this is shown by the introductory particles of the third line nyn de, “but now.” Thus, the kingship of Yeshua is not defined by the military.

Pilate and not a few of us do not know the Scriptures. Therefore we point out some important passages of the Tanakh.

In the Torah, the king of Israel occurs only in one place, Deuteronomy 17:14-20. A king not necessarily has to be, all the more so a king “as among all peoples” (ke-khol ha-goyim). But if the people of Israel absolutely want a king, then they are to take a “king from the midst of the brothers” by all means.

The further restriction of a possible kingship is first: not too many horses = armor, cavalry; second: not too many wives = alliances with foreign powers (see 1 Kings 11:1 ff.); third: not too much silver and gold = exploitation of the subjects.

According to the Torah, a king’s duty is to obtain a copy of the Torah—the constitution of liberty and justice—and, sitting on the throne, to “read in it all the days of his life.” There has never been such a king.

This brings us back to Psalm 72,

God, give your right to the king, your truth to the king’s son,
that he may judge your people by truth, your oppressed by justice.
The mountains carry peace to the people, the hills justice.
He establishes justice for the oppressed of the people,
he frees the needy,
he crushes the exploiter.

According to this text, the core task of every king, that is, of every state, every government, is truth and justice. And that is justice for the humiliated and needy (ˁanaw, evyon). The measure by which one measures the king, the state, the government, is what is called in the Scriptures tzedaqa, “truth, probation, reliability.” Truth in the Scriptures has justice as its true content. The tzaddik is a truthful one and so a just one. Justice is proven only by what happens to the humiliated and poor of a people.

This is kingship, and Yeshua means this kingship. He, the Messiah, is the Son of the King for whom the psalmist prays here. Yeshua as the Messianic King is different all along the line and in its essence from kingship according to this world order, basileia tou kosmou toutou. Yeshua’s kingship is a radical alternative, but it is not something otherworldly, purely spiritual or inward. It is a radically this-worldly, earthly kingship.

With the Torah, Israel has taken leave of the normality of ancient Near Eastern oppression and exploitation, of the “production” of ˁanawim we-evyonim, of the oppressed and needy, “there shall be no needy among you,” Deuteronomy 15:4. Yeshua’s response only ties in with the hallowed tradition of the Torah republic of the ancient Judeans. Yeshua does not want an unheard-of new thing; he wants a kingship according to the Torah. Since, as I said, there has never been such a kingship, Yeshua wants unheard-of novelty. It is precisely the traditional that is the novelty!

The paraphrase of the “king of this world order” in Hebrew is, melekh ke-khol ha-goyim, “king as among all peoples.” This is exactly what the elites of Israel demand of Samuel, 1 Samuel 8:4 ff.,

All the elders of Israel gathered together.
They went to Samuel in Ramat.
They said, “There, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.
Now, hire a king over us; he will establish justice for us as for all the peoples.”
Evil was this word in the eyes of Samuel,
because they said, “Give us a king, that he may do us justice.”
Samuel prayed to the NAME.
The NAME said to Samuel,
“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you.
For it is not you, they have rejected.
Me they have rejected, that I should be King over them.”

This is exactly what will happen here again, John 19:15, “We have no king unless Caesar!” Samuel then shows what the king’s legal order (mishpat ha-melekh) is, 1 Samuel 8:11,

This is the legal order of the king who will be king over you:
He will take your sons and make them his charioteers and soldiers,
that they may go before him and his chariots.
He will make them captains over a thousand and captains over fifty.
He will make them plow his land and reap his crops.
He will have them make implements of war and chariots.
He will take your daughters as beauticians, cooks, bakers.
Your fields he will take, your vineyards, oil groves, the good ones;
he will give them to his ministers . . .
. . . and you will be his slaves.
On that day, you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen.
But the NAME will not answer you on that day.

We have quoted these texts in such detail so that we can get a Scriptural idea of the basileia tou kosmou toutou. The kingship of God, in which Yeshua is the Messianic King, is absolutely different from that “legal order of the king (mishpat ha-melekh).” What Samuel describes fits all the great empires of antiquity, and it fits Rome even more. The kingship of the Messiah, the third line, is, according to the Torah and the Prophets, the absolute alternative to the malkhut ke-khol ha-goyim, to Rome.

Pilate cannot understand this. He understands only one thing, that Yeshua is somehow a king. Therefore he formulates his question in such a way that the answer must be positive. Yeshua reacts wisely. Wisely, because he does not want to incriminate himself in the sense of the Roman court order, “You say [not I!] that I am a king [but not a king, as you think].”

The answer continues. Twice we hear eis touto, “to this.” This can refer to what precedes, the kingship of Yeshua. It can refer to what follows, “bearing witness to fidelity.” Both are meant. In Israel, the king of Psalm 72 embodies God’s fidelity to Israel. For this purpose he was “begotten and came into the world,” namely, to be a righteous, right-making shepherd of the people and to keep the individual members of the people (the sheep) together. The real kings of the nations and also of Israel usually did and do the opposite (see Ezekiel 34).

Why “was begotten”? “Came into the world” would be quite enough (see 11:27). John, however, invokes the association to Psalm 2:6-7,

I have appointed you my King,
over Zion, the mountain of my sanctification.
I will tell it, the decree:
The NAME said to me, “My son you are.
This day have I have begotten you.”

With the words “to this, I have been begotten, to this, I have come into the world,” we hear at the same time “how the nations rage,” (Psalm 2:1) how “the kings of the earth, their illustrious ones, call together a session, against the NAME and his Messiah (‘anointed one,’ meshicho, christou autou).” (2:2) This is exactly what is happening here.

“Ask, and I will give you the nations as an inheritance, for your possession the edges of the earth (the Roman Empire), you may shatter them with a rod of iron, smash them like a device of clay.” (Psalm 2:8-9) This is a language we don’t like. But the exaltation of this Messiah is the end for Rome, the shattering of that empire, the destruction of the mishpat ha-melekh, the legal order of the king. To this end, John lets us hear Psalm 2. In times after the catastrophic defeat of 70, the second psalm is the straw to which John’s isolated Messianic community clings.

Pilate understands nothing of it. The word “fidelity” seems “Greek” to him anyway. Fidelity has no place in realpolitik. Politics is a game of intrigue, lies, betrayal, and false friends who are just waiting for an opportunity to trap their rivals. The gods of Greece and Rome were also notoriously faithless. From this circumstance, the great tragedian poets drew their material. “What is fidelity?” Pilate, shrugging, turns away from Yeshua and toward the Judeans outside the Praetorium.

14.2. There, the Human, 18:38b-19:11

18:38b Having said this, he went out again to the Judeans and says to them,
“I find no case against him.
18:39 However, you have a custom that at Pascha I release someone to you.
Do you want me to release to you the king of the Judeans?”
18:40 They cried out again, saying,
“Not this one but Barabbas!”
But Barabbas was a terrorist. (516)
19:1 Pilate then took Yeshua in and had him flogged.
19:2 And the soldiers wove a wreath of thorns,
put it on his head, and threw a purple robe around him. (517)
19:3 They went up to him, saying,
“Hail, king of the Jews!”
And they slapped him in the face. (518)
19:4 Pilate came outside again and says to them,
“There, I am bringing him outside to you,
that you recognize that I find no case against him.”
19:5 Now Yeshua came outside,
wearing the wreath of thorns and the purple robe.
(And says to them, “There, the Human!”) (519)
19:6 Now when the leading priests and the officials saw him
they cried out, saying,
“Crucify, crucify!”
Says Pilate to them,
“You take him out yourselves and crucify him,
for I find no case against him.”
19:7 The Judeans answered him,
“We have a Torah,
and according to the Torah, he ought to die,
because he made himself a divine.” (520)
19:8 Now when Pilate heard this word,
he was even more afraid.
19:9 He went into the praetorium again and says to Yeshua,
“Where are you from?”
But Yeshua gave him no answer.
19:10 So Pilate says to him,
“You don’t speak to me?
Do you not know
that I have authority to release you,
and I have authority to crucify you?”
19:11 Yeshua answered him,
“You have no authority over me at all
unless it is given to you from above.
This is why the one who handed me over to you
is committing a greater aberration.” (521)

Pilate has not understood that Yeshua wants an absolute alternative to the Roman world order. And if he had already understood this, he cannot recognize any acute political danger in him. Yeshua has no desire to have divisions or legions. Such do-gooders may be annoying, but they are not dangerous. It would be best to negate him and let him go, “I find no cause at all for a trial against him.” The Judeans have a different view. They know about the danger posed by Yeshua and those like him. They know the Scriptures and know what political force traditionalism represents in Judea.

Pilate, on the other hand, knows his Judeans, and being a shrewd politician, he proposes a horse trade to them. He had another political prisoner, a certain Barabbas, a lēstēs, “terrorist.” Mark 15:7 adds that Barabbas was captured on the occasion of an insurrection in which a murder was committed. Barabbas was most likely a Zealot, a militant fighter for a Judea where the Torah will have unlimited validity. Pilate invokes an alleged customary law by which the authorities can release a prisoner. This customary law is asserted by our Gospels, but there is no other evidence for this assertion. For the narrative, however, it is an important element.

Rome confronts the Judeans with the choice of demanding a harmless, non-Zealot, in Rome’s eyes “non-violent” do-gooder, the so-called “Prince (Nazorean), King of the Judeans,” or a violent freedom fighter who poses a far greater danger to them. But they demand Barabbas. The devout Christians are outraged here: the Jews want a merciless murderer instead of a gentle Son of God. But the text is not moral; it is political. These Judeans have actually engaged in the armed struggle; they have actually chosen Barabbas.

The Messianists who referred to Yeshua disagreed, John says. You may doubt this, you even have to, as long as you stay on the level of the narrative. Simon Peter drew the sword, he wanted the fight, the armed fight. Only after the catastrophic outcome of the Judean War, that is, only in the present time of the narrator, the spokesmen of these Messianists, that is, Matthew, Mark, etc., have been finally cured of their sympathies for the Zealots. Therefore, they weave into their narrative the incident surrounding the release of Barabbas in order to make it impossible for their communities to have any flirtation with the Zealots, who were politically active even after the war.

Pilate gets nowhere with his horse trade; he makes a concession. He has Yeshua flogged. The punishment is almost a death sentence. Many did not survive the ordeal. The scourging of Yeshua, like the whole following scene, is surely meant as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4-5,

But he was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our crimes.
Chastened to pacify us,
by his scourging bruises, we were healed.

The soldiers have their fun playing the game. If this one really made himself king, then we will treat him as a king, endow him with purple and crown, “Hail, King of the Jews.” And they beat him with their fists, rapismata, like the official of the great priest, 18:22.

Pilate reckons that his concession has appeased his opponents. He says he finds no guilt in Yeshua, proving his cynicism, and showing, without realizing it, how much Yeshua has become one with the servant of the NAME of Isaiah 53. He brings Yeshua out in full royal regalia, with purple and crown of thorns, and says, “Look at the human!” He quotes, without knowing it, Isaiah 53:3,

Despised, avoided by men (ˀishim), a man (ˀish) of pain,
aware of illness, without a face, hidden from us,
despised, we no longer esteemed him.

The Hebrew text speaks of ˀish, “man”; whereas the Greek version speaks of anthrōpos, “human.” In John the word also refers to the hyios tou anthrōpou, bar enosh, “Human.” Pilate, of course, does not know the bar enosh. But John’s audience must learn that the Human does not “come on the clouds” as in Matthew (25:31), but comes in the guise of one who has been maltreated, made contemptible. This, and only this, is how liberation happens, John says.

The Messiah concept of a “suffering servant of the NAME” is traditional indeed, but this tradition is not popular. Yeshua is the total and absolute antitype of the Zealot Messiah. Many may have great problems with this liberation figure. Suffering does not save, they say; it leads to annihilation no less than the Zealot adventure 66-70. John says: The Human is presented like this, here in front of the Praetorium. This one is the Human.

Nevertheless, Christians should not make it too easy for themselves to say, “By his scourging bruises, we were set free.” Christianity has relied on the sword rather than on vicarious suffering throughout its history.

Every new generation should think anew about this Human as about our Messiah and Liberator. This theological task cannot be anticipated by any interpretation of the Gospel of John. In any case, no Messiah miracle man comes anymore, even less one with the sword. What is liberating concerning the Human of pains—faceless, despised? Whatever it is, it is the end of all illusions that the power that Pilate represents can be met with a power of the same caliber.

What Pilate may have thought or felt when he presented Yeshua, John did not tell us. His narrative figure Pilate is not quite a humane figure. Pilate can only mean the word “human” disparagingly. He wants the people outside the praetorium to see Yeshua as a pitiful figure from whom no danger can come either for them or Rome.

We know an incident from the account of the Judean War by Flavius Josephus. A certain Yeshua ben Channan ran through the city in the year 62 with a cry of woe, “Battle cry from the east, battle cry from the west, battle cry from the four winds. Woe to Jerusalem, woe to the sanctuary, woe to the bridegroom and bride, woe to all the people,” like Jeremiah (7:34). Day and night he shouted, he got on the people’s nerves so much that they handed him over to Albinus the procurator. The latter had him flogged, “mangled to the bone.” He continued to cry out even under the ordeal. Albinus, convinced that he was dealing with a madman, let him go. (522)

We do not know if this incident had anything to do with the scene of scourging in our Gospels. Pilate, however, could have acted with Yeshua ben Joseph as his successor Albinus acted with Yeshua ben Channan thirty years later.

But Yeshua was crucified, and John has Pilate play the role of the unaware prophet again, just as he had Caiaphas play that role, 11:51. “Look at the human” is, from the mouth of the cynical Roman, the fulfillment of the scriptural word Isaiah 53:3.

Apparently, Pilate assumes that the image of this maltreated and mocked man would be enough to appease the mob outside the praetorium. The opposite is the case. They want to put him on the cross. Pilate is tired of it; he gives in.

In one respect, he remains stubborn; he does not want to have established guilt in Yeshua. This is not enough for the elites of Jerusalem. According to their Torah, Yeshua is guilty and must die; he has made himself the “Son of God.” This is to be established officially. The Torah provides for stoning as the death penalty for “infringing the NAME,” Leviticus 24:10. In general, the oral Torah provides for only four types of killing: Burning, beheading, stoning, and strangulation, Mishna Sanhedrin 7:1. Crucifixion is not one of them. Crucifixion is the Roman way of settling accounts with rebels.

Who calls himself “Son of God” fulfills the facts of the blasphemy in the sense of the Torah and the high treason in the sense of Rome. They want both to be established. The political calculation of the leading priests was the exposure of Yeshua as a criminal in the sense of Rome. They want a political trial before a Roman court. In the case of condemnation, only the sentence remains, Death by the cross. Only if Pilate pronounces the sentence “death by crucifixion” the leading priests have taken him into their political boat.

The accusation that Yeshua claimed to be the Son of God is much more serious, even to Romans, than the accusation that Yeshua claimed to be the King of the Judeans. Pilate has nothing to do with the Torah, but he does with one who claims divine dignity for himself. Only Pilate’s highest master, the emperor of the Roman Empire, the real “son of God,” one like-God, has this right. Pilate’s fear is not of magico-religious but of political origin. He must fear all the more that there is more behind this prisoner than some local fool. Perhaps he is, after all, someone who challenges the emperor as “God’s son” and behind whom there is a serious political movement. Then the emperor would hold him, Pilate, liable for letting an adversary of the emperor himself go free.

Pilate must therefore get to the bottom of the matter. He wants to conduct the questioning in camera, as he did the first time. Again he has Yeshua led into the praetorium and asks, “Where are you from?” This question was often asked of Yeshua, especially by his opponents, 8:25. He is silent.

The Roman puffs himself up that he has the power to have Yeshua crucified or to release him. That a maltreated man, beaten almost to death, can display such sovereignty as Yeshua does is hard to imagine, but there have been such examples in recent history. John wants to make it clear that Yeshua “defeated the world order (Rome) (16:33)” and that the “leader of the world order (the emperor) was thrown out (12:31).”

We must insert a small text-critical digression here. The problem with Yeshua’s answer in v.11 is that there are two versions, both well attested. The first version has the present tense, “You have no authority over me unless it is given to you from above.” The second has the imperfect tense, and for most translators, this has an irrealis, “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” The decision between the variants must be made from the Gospel itself.

Yeshua comes “from above” (anōthen). Can Pilate’s power then come “from above”? Pilate’s power comes from Rome and not “from above.” Now the irrealis requires the imperfect but at the same time the particle an. But this is missing in all versions. The normal translation {for example of the CJB} reads, “You would have (eiches) no power over me if it hadn’t been given to you from above.” The logical continuation is, “The power is given to you from above, therefore you have power over me.” In the structure of John’s Gospel, this cannot be.

It has to be translated, “You have (echeis) no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” In this case, the logical continuation is, “Authority has not been given to you from above, so you have no authority over me.” The police force also had no authority over Yeshua (18:5).

Therefore, the idea that God gave Pilate authority is absurd. Pilate may have had leeway, but not authority. He should have used his leeway and released Yeshua, yet he does not use it. This is an aberration (“sin”). A greater aberration is committed by him “who handed me over to you.”

Was Judas Iscariot meant here? Hardly. It was Caiaphas who handed Yeshua over to Roman jurisdiction, 18:28, for political reasons alone, 11:50. Pilate himself says, “Your nation and the leading priests handed you over to me,” 18:35. They commit greater aberration. Here we see what chataˀ actually is. Caiaphas is shown here not so much to be a morally reprehensible man, rather he commits an unforgivable and catastrophic error, he delivers his people with Yeshua entirely into the hands of the Romans. We will hear this more clearly.

Scholion 8: Authority from God?

We interrupt here to point out the ideological bias of theologians. Nestle-Aland, the 27th edition, refer to Romans 13:1. They assume that state power is from God (exousia . . . hypo theou). The really existing state power (ousai) is ordered by God (hypo theou tetagmenai). Apart from the fact that hypo should not be translated as “from” but as “under,” the theologians construct a state-theoretical uniform mush in the so-called New Testament. There is no such thing, and John’s attitude toward Rome is clearly different from Paul’s. (523)

From his point of view, Martin Luther had good political (less theological!) reasons to radically reject Thomas Muentzer’s communist experiment in order not to endanger the superior experiment of the Reformation. For this, he needed the theological anchoring of the actually existing state power as wanted by God in these circumstances.

So the theologians construct as follows. God has given authority to every state and thus to Rome as well, and Pilate legitimately exercises this God-given power in his area. Yeshua, therefore, submits to this divine decree. But why then “sin” or, as we say, “aberration”? Let us listen to Rudolf Bultmann:

The peculiar intermediate position of the state between God and the world is also indicated by the continuation of Jesus’ words, “Therefore, he that handed me over to you has the greater sin.” The state, if it really acts as a state, performs its actions without personal interest; if it acts objectively, there can be no question of hamartia [“sin”] with it at all. If it acts unobjectively, by allowing itself to be abused by the world for its desires—as Pilate is in danger of doing and actually does—its action still retains something of its authority. At least the form of law is still preserved and the authority of law recognized so that the unjustly condemned must submit [follows a reference to the example of Socrates]. The state, while it still acts in any degree state-like, cannot act with the same personal enmity, with the same passionate hatred, as the world does—however much it may ruin its authority by lack of objectivity. It may become addicted to the world, but its motives are never identical with those of the world. And in the present case, it is clear: Pilate has no personal interest at all in the death of Jesus; he does not persecute him with hatred like the Jews who handed Jesus over to him. They bear the greater sin, the actual responsibility. And their sin is, so to speak, double, because to their hatred of Jesus comes the abuse of the state for their own purposes. (524)

The issue here is not so much Lutheran “state piety” (525) and Bultmann’s hostility to Jews as demanded by the Hitler state. They may speak for themselves. Our concern is that the exegete Bultmann missed the real point of John’s Gospel all along the line. If he had been guided by images of resistance at that time, he would have read the Gospel completely differently. He would then have chosen the variant echeis.

Pilate had no authority over Yeshua. He could exterminate him, but he had no authority over him. The Gestapo henchman who interrogated Sophie Scholl had no authority over her. He even had to offer her a golden bridge, “If you tell me your accomplices, I will see to it that you can get your head out of the noose.” Sophie Scholl rejected the request, and at that moment the Gestapo had no authority (oudemia exousia) over her.

Or one thinks of a famous picture. A huge SS man has built himself up in front of a feeble prisoner. This prisoner was Carl von Ossietzky. The SS man could swat Ossietzky to death with one blow like a fly, but he had no power over him.

Such prisoners might reflect on who had the greater “sin,” the state, from which nothing else could be expected, or the traitor or collaborator who turned them over to the state. Yeshua was of the latter opinion. To deduce from this a right of a criminal state—and to John and many Messianists, Rome was a criminal state—as Bultmann and the editors of Nestle-Aland apparently did and do, maybe due to the ideological mind cuffs of German Protestantism, it has nothing to do with John.

Augustin read John. His method is not our method, but he understood John better than Bultmann & Co. Augustin sees Rome as John saw Rome, “Remota igitur iustitia quid sint regna nisi magna latrocinia? Without justice, what are kingdoms but great dens of robbers?” (526) The legitimate state derives here from justice, and biblical justice at that, and not vice versa, justice from the respective actually existing state. To Augustine, Rome was never “an authority decreed by God,” but throughout its history a state of injustice and demonology. This did not prevent him from demanding state intervention by a state that had become Christian in the meantime against the Donatists and the radical Circumcellions. But neither in Augustin nor in Luther is the state a theologoumenon {i.e a theological statement or concept}.

14.3. Friend of Caesar, 19:12-13

19:12 From then on, Pilate sought to release him.
But the Judeans cried out, saying,
“If you release this one, you are no friend of Caesar!
Everyone who makes himself king
is contrary to Caesar!”
19:13 Now when Pilate heard these words,
he brought Yeshua outside
and sat down on the judge’s seat,
in the place called Lithostrotos—Pavement,
but in Hebrew Gabbatha. (527)

“From above” can only be understood by Pilate as “from Rome.” Yeshua does not seem to pose any danger to him. For this reason (ek toutou), he tries to release him. But this does not depend on him.

The leading priests now play their best card, they blackmail Pilate exactly where he can be blackmailed, his relationship with the Roman center, with the emperor. Their argument is strikingly simple and logical. Whoever makes himself king—apparently against the will of Rome—puts himself in a contradiction (antilegei) with Rome, is an enemy of Caesar. Whoever bears the almost official title of “friend of Caesar” can hope for lucrative posts in the provinces. Whoever supports someone who is at odds with Rome puts his friendship with the emperor and thus his function at risk. The one who releases someone who opposes Rome is not a friend of Caesar, say his opponents in front of the Praetorium. If the self-government insists on a death sentence, he, Pilate, must act accordingly; otherwise, they will file a complaint against him with the central office.

He will make his opponents pay a high price for trying to corner him. They want a court judgment? Well, they shall have it, but not as they think. He sits down in the judge’s seat, bēma, a stonewalled tribune, Lithostrōtos, Gabbatha. John chooses his words carefully. It is indeed a judge’s seat, known to the Aramaic speaking inhabitants of Jerusalem as Gabbatha, which John must translate for his Greek-speaking audience: there it was, right there! Pilate will act as Caesar’s friend, even more as Caesar’s representative, he will not disappoint the trust that Emperor Tiberius had put in him.

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

What happens now—from the sixth hour until sunset on the preparation day of Passover—is indeed the preparation for the festival of liberation. Nowhere in the Gospel is Passover, ever. We are only ever in the “nearness of Passover,” but we do not get beyond ˁerev pascha, the eve of Passover. Just as slaughtering the Passover lamb was the necessary preparatory act to be able to celebrate Passover, so what is being told now is the necessary preparation for the Messianic, ultimate Passover.

Also what is told “on day one of the Shabbat week” belongs to the prelude of the Messianic Passover. “Not yet” the Messiah Yeshua will say to Maria from Magdala.

The ˁErev Pascha is about the King of Israel (14-21), the goal the King achieved on the cross (22-37), and his burial (38-42). In all three sections of 19:14-42, there is an explicit reminder that all of this occurs on ˁErev Pascha. The recognition of the King, his death and burial: this, and only this, is, to John, preparation for the Passover, ˁErev Pascha.

15.1. King of the Judeans, 19:14-22

19:14 It was ˁErev Pascha, the eve of the Passover, (528)
about the sixth hour.
And he said to the Judeans:
“There, your king!”
19:15 But they cried out,
“Upward, upward, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them,
“Your king, I shall crucify?”
The leading priests answered,
“We have no king except Caesar.”
19:16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took over Yeshua.

19:17 He himself carried the cross
and went out to the so-called Kraniou topos— place of the skull,
called in Hebrew Golgotha. (529)
19:18 There they crucified him
with him two others, one here, the other there, Yeshua in the middle.
19:19 Pilate also had a title written (530)
and put it on the cross.
It was written,
Yeshua the Nazorean, the King of the Judeans.
19:20 Now many Judeans read this title,
because the place where Yeshua was crucified was near the city.
And it had been written in Hebrew, Roman, and Greek.
19:21 The leading priests of the Judeans now said to Pilate,
“Do not write, The King of the Judeans,
but, He said, King am I of the Judeans.” (531)
19:22 Pilate answered,
“What I have written, I have written.”

Now Pilate shows that he was the more savvy politician after all. He faces a popular assembly that was not one. The Perushim, the official opposition, are absent. Only the priestly elites and their staff are present. The whole thing is a democratically dressed-up farce.

Now he doesn’t say, “Look at the man,” now he says, “There, your king.” They roar, “Upwards, upwards, crucify him.” Pilate demands the “democratic” legitimacy of the death sentence, “Your king shall I crucify?” He has them where he wants them. The leading priests—not the people of the Judeans—say, “We have no king except Caesar.” What they probably don’t realize is that they are solemnly declaring that they want a melekh ke-khol-ha-goyim, basileia tou kosmou toutou, a king according to this world order. This is the political price that Pilate demands from them. They are paying it.

Let us try to understand the process. Jürgen Becker describes Pilate as one who has to “run back and forth between the Jews outside and Jesus inside. . . . A demonstrative piece of ridiculousness! He can’t get along with the Jews . . .” (532) As little as Peter is “cowardly,” Pilate is “ridiculous.” Pilate does his “job” on behalf of Rome not badly. . True, he has a man executed to whom he attaches no weight and whom he would actually like to let go, but he forces a political commitment to Rome by the Judean self-government. The emperor would be pleased with him. We always tend to ridicule politicians we detest. Understandable as a psychological relief tool, often politically unwise. John takes Pilate (Rome) very seriously. Interpretations should do the same.

John relates an event that happened at least two generations ago and fits it into his own political situation. He wants to make two things clear. First, that the Messiah was executed or murdered by Rome, that is, by what he calls kosmos, “world order.” Second, that the representative of this world order was pushed by the political leadership in Jerusalem to kill an internal opponent of that leadership. The leadership does this because they are part of this world order they affirm: the emperor is their king, and they are now an element of the imperial world order.

John knows how the intrigue between priests and Roman authority works; he knows what politics is: a field where suspicion, cynicism, theater, mass manipulation are the decisive factors, “What is fidelity,” he has Pilate ask. Both parties achieve their goal: the Messiah is eliminated, Pilate forces the self-government to a confession of unconditional political loyalty.

The actual winner of this evil game is the Roman authority. The priests have gambled away their legitimacy with their confession of a goy as their king—in the flagrant desecration of the Torah. (533) By deciding against the Messiah, they necessarily decided for Caesar as their king and for Rome as their god. Necessarily: a third was excluded. This is how John interprets the behavior of priestly leadership. They have finally said farewell to the Israel that John wants.

John does not make it quite so simple. The principle of the “excluded third” would mean that everyone who decides against the Messiah, decides ipso facto for the world order (kosmos). It would have been a trifle to have the Perushim also appear in his narrative of the death sentence as companions of the priests. The Perushim also vehemently reject Yeshua as Messiah. They, too, want the elimination of a political opponent, but not at the price of having to share the political confession, “We have no king unless Caesar.” That is why John does not have them appear here. This blank space in his narrative is telling: the Perushim are and remain political opponents in the struggle for Israel, but they are not the enemy, they do not belong to the kosmos, to Rome, without ifs and buts. That is why John leaves them out of the game. After the arrest, they appear nowhere.

John knows the political business, he knows what to say and what not to say. Let us recall the description of the appearance of Caiaphas when he tried to win over his colleagues in the Sanhedrin for the elimination of Yeshua, 12:50 ff. No Messianic writer has illuminated the political processes between the occupying power and the collaborating local elites as mercilessly as John.

We leave the praetorium and the back and forth between Rome, the Judean government, and the Messiah. But even on the way between the Lithostrōtos, Gabbatha, the Roman judgment seat, to the place of the skull, Kraniou Topos, Golgotha, the theme of the king remains the dominant motif. The king himself carries the instrument of his execution. John emphasizes this, not only because the condemned had to carry their cross themselves, but primarily to indicate that this is exactly what Yeshua wants. Yeshua had no inclination for martyrdom, he is not a suicide perpetrator. Nevertheless, he chooses himself and completely consciously the way from Gabbatha to Golgotha, because this is the only one on which the people find their peace and healing from their political adventurism, “Did he not thus bear the error of the multitude?” asked Deutero-Isaiah, Isaiah 53:12. The Human, this Human as the King. He is crucified between two others. Also here the song of the suffering slave resounds, “He bared his soul until death, among the rebellious he was reckoned,” Isaiah 53:12.

Precisely at this point, the Messiah asserts himself against Rome and against his Judean opponents. The reason Rome had Yeshua executed is that he is the King of the Judeans. This officially seals the Kingship of Yeshua, the absolute contradiction to the Kingship of Rome, in three languages, Aramaic, Latin, Greek. Many of the Judeans—from all over the world, for it was Passover—read this reasoning.

But the leading priests of the Judeans sensed political mischief. It must be made clear that this was an illegitimate claim by Yeshua. Otherwise, such reasoning would call into question the legitimacy of the power of leading elites. Pilate should correct this.

Now Pilate asserts himself against the leading priests. They had demanded that he writes, “He said, ‘King am I of the Judeans,’” instead of “King of the Judeans.” Pilate rejects the request harshly; what he had written, he had written. That’s the way it is: Yeshua from Nazareth is the King of the Judeans, the priests themselves have demanded his crucifixion, now they have no other king than Caesar! They are no longer legitimate authorities because they have demanded the crucifixion of their true king. This is not a shabby retort of Pilate, who is supposed to have lost the game against the priests. No, he is sticking to his guns: Yeshua is the Messianic King, and Rome is killing him at the request of the leadership of the priestly elites. Rome’s authority now seems definitively established, the leadership recognizes Caesar as their only legitimate king, Rome has won. Has it?

15.2. At the cross, 19:23-37

15.2.1. First scene: Over my garment, they cast lots (Psalm 22:19), 19:23-24

19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Yeshua,
they took his clothes
and made four shares, a share for each soldier.
In addition, the under-robe.
The under-robe was seamless, woven all the way through from the top.
19:24 So they said to one another,
“Let us not tear it
but cast lots as to who it shall belong to,”
so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says,
They share among themselves my clothes,
over my garment, they cast lots. (534)
This is exactly what the soldiers did.

Roman mercenaries were not lavishly paid, so they took advantage of the estate of a condemned man. The estate of Yeshua consisted only of the clothes on his body. For the Messianic narrative, this detail is important because it is a fulfillment of the Scriptures—here the 22nd Psalm. The psalm is one of Israel’s most harrowing songs. We cannot discuss it, but ask the readers to read the whole psalm at this point. You will understand why in this song of a desperate child of Israel, the Messianic communities saw the Messiah Yeshua. The psalm begins (vv.2-9),

My God, my God, why do you abandon me?
I cry out, far is my liberation.
My God, I call by day, and you do not answer,
at night, and I cannot keep silent.
Are you the Holy One, dwelling in the praises of Israel?
In you, our fathers found security,
safe they were, for you allowed them to escape.
To you they called, you let them flee,
they were safe with you, they were not put to shame.
But I am only a worm and no human,
scorned by humans, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me,
they pucker their lips, shake their heads,
“Blame it on the NAME, may he let him escape,
may he save him, if he feels like it!”

The Synoptics have the onlookers pass by the crucified Messiah and say, “Others he has set free, himself he cannot set free. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, descend from his cross, and then we will trust him . . .,” Mark 15:31-32. These Bible-believing onlookers are absent from John; here are only goyim. Further, the Psalm, v.16b-19, states,

Into the dust of death, you drag me.
For dogs surround me,
the assembly of the wicked encircles me,
they bind me hand and foot,
I can count all my bones.
They stare, they look at me,
they share my clothes,
over my garment, they cast lots . . .

The commentators provide interesting information about the unseamed robe. John deviates from the psalm. He has them soberly consider, “It would be a shame to tear the good piece; let us roll the dice.” John wants to show that they indeed “know not what they do.” To him, it’s all part of their bloody job. Behind the backs of the perpetrators, the great drama takes place, in which they play along unconsciously: Rome is fulfilling the Scriptures here. The Messiah of Israel is not the radiant commander of the end-time victory; he is the slave of Isaiah 53; he is the maltreated one of Psalm 22.

“What do I get out of it?” This question of the redemptive or liberating value of this bloody spectacle is the question we encounter again and again. To be sure, the psalm ends like this (vv.28-32),

They will remember, they will turn back to him, the NAME,
all the edges of the earth.
They will bow down to your face,
all the clans of the nations,
for the kingdom belongs to the NAME,
he rules over the nations.
Those who devour all the fat of the earth,
bow down,
they go down on their knees before him, all of them,
who have sunk down to the dust—
and their soul does not remain alive.
But the seed may serve him.
It is told of my Lord to the coming generation.
They will announce his reliability to the people to be born,
what he has done.

In Israel, no downfall is final. That is why Psalm 22 must be prayed along with every account of the Passion of the Messiah.

“So this is what the soldiers do,” John says.

15.2.2. Second scene: Mother and son, 19,25-27

19:25 Standing by the cross of Yeshua were
his mother,
his mother’s sister Maria the wife of Klopas,
and Maria from Magdala. (535)
19:26 When now Yeshua saw his mother
and, standing by her, the disciple he was attached to in solidarity,
he says to the mother,
“Woman, there, your son.”
19:27 Then he says to the disciple,
“There, your mother.”
And from that hour on, the disciple took her to his own.

The women who followed Jesus keep a great distance in the Synoptics. After all, they followed him on his way to death. The male disciples are conspicuous by their total absence. In John, there is no such difference. Four of those close to Yeshua are there at the moment of death, three women and one man. (536) Of these four people, three play an important role in the narrative. We know nothing further about Maria of Klōpas.

Maria of Magdala, on the other hand, has been a well-known personality of the early Messianic communities. She will be the first to bring the message of the “not yet” to the disciples—and thus to humankind, 20:17-18.

The disciple Yeshua was friends with is the disciple who leaned on Yeshua’s chest, 13:25, who saw and trusted at the open grave, 20:8, who recognized the Lord, 21:7, who remains until the Messiah comes, 21:22; he may also have been the same as the “other disciple” who was in Annas’ court, 18:16.

The mother of the Messiah mediates between the wedding guests (Israel) and Yeshua. There it was about the missing wine, about what should make the wedding a Messianic wedding. The mother of Yeshua has no name of her own in John; we never hear her called Maria(m) in his work. This must have some significance, for the name of Yeshua’s father is given by John (1:45; 6:42). The mother of the Messiah had led Yeshua to show his honor publicly for the first time, and she did so by telling the “servants” (diakonoi) to do what Yeshua would tell them to do. She is thus the admonisher who is always to urge the Messianic community to do that—and that alone—what Yeshua says.

The mother of the Messiah is to accept the “beloved” disciple of Yeshua as her son, and the latter her as his mother. Also, the name of the beloved disciple is not mentioned. Both nameless ones, the mother of the Messiah and the beloved disciple, are literally prototypes. The mother represents the Messianic community as such, the beloved disciple the disciple (male and female) as such.

The mother of the Messiah, the Messianic community, is the admonisher, “What he will say to you that you shall do!” As the admonisher, she is the authority over the disciple. The disciple must accept her, the community, as a mother, precisely as that admonishing authority. The two other women serve here as testamentary witnesses: it is therefore about the last will of the Messiah.

“From that hour on, the disciple took her to his own, eis ta idia.” This hardly means something like “taking her home,” and it certainly does not mean the bodily care of the old and defenseless mother. That would be pious kitsch. The writer of the prologue says, “It [the word] comes into its own (ta idia), yet its own (hai idioi) do not accept it.” “The own [hai idioi]” are the children of Israel, the Judeans, but they have not accepted the word, 1:11. These people are the very milieu of the word, precisely the “own [ta idia].” This own is from now on the place where Israel will gather around the Messiah, the Messianic community. She—the mother of the Messiah—is the new Messianic Israel!

Scholion 9: Peace among the Messianic communities

You might ask about the meaning of this “last will” of the Messiah. It must have something to do with the very difficult relationship between the individual Messianic communities. The community of the “brothers of Yeshua” in Jerusalem around the middle of the first century certainly had a leading role. Paul had to get his legitimation for the proclamation of the Messiah among the nations from there, Acts 15:12 ff. (537) To understand this, we need to remember a fragment from Mark’s Gospel, 3:31; we had briefly mentioned this passage in our discussion of John 2:1 ff.,

His mother came, also his brothers.
They were standing outside, and they sent for him, had him called.
A crowd was sitting around him.
They said to him,
“There, your mother, your brothers, your sisters are outside, seeking you.”
He answered and said to them,
“Who is my mother, who are my brothers?”
And looking around him at the crowd sitting all around him, he said,
“There, my mother and my brothers.
Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, and mother.”

We know from John himself that he did not think much of the brothers of Yeshua, 7:1 ff. This aversion is clearly a rejection of the Messianic community in Jerusalem, in any case of its claim to leadership, which James, “the brother of the Lord,” raised, see Acts 15:13; Galatians 2:12 ff. John’s community, in which the mother of John must have played an important role, must therefore have taken precedence over the community in Jerusalem, for the mother of John was also the mother of James, “the brother of the Lord.”

The whole thing points to a kind of ranking competition between the different communities. The Synoptic Gospels vehemently reject this ranking, “Let it not be so among you,” they admonish their communities (Luke 22:24 ff., Mark 10:42 ff., Matthew 20:25 ff.).

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

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

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

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

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

In light of this background, the scene at the cross is not exactly edifying. We have to turn off our feelings here. It is not about the reverence of the son who entrusts the lonely mother to a beloved disciple. Where she appears in the Gospel, she doesn’t give the impression of being dependent on such caring. In the competition among Messianic communities, it was true that whoever “has” the mother of the Messiah has an advantage in the ranking of Messianic communities. To those who belittle the “value” of the mother of the Messiah, as Mark does in 3:31 ff, by this scene is said that the membership of the mother of Yeshua in the congregation of the “beloved disciple” was ordered by the Messiah himself and in a dramatic moment. Since the mother of Yeshua was also the mother of the “brothers of the Lord,” the Messianic community of the disciple Yeshua was friends with was entitled to special respect. (538)

What John says remains human words and, as such, is not free from self-interest. At the same time, John also teaches us that the Messianic community and in its succession the general (“catholic,” not “Roman Catholic”) church and the communities in which this church exists have to do only what the Messiah says and nothing else. By taking the Messiah’s mother to his own, the disciple takes up the voice of the woman who says, “What he says to you, that you shall do.” This kind of Mariology—not all the fuss that the Roman Catholic Church has made of it—is part of the essence of the Messianic, catholic church worldwide. In this respect, the group-ego, interest-driven testament of the Messiah becomes the Messianically inspired word of God. John is then more than John! But this is true for the whole Holy Scripture.

15.2.3. Third scene: The goal has been achieved, 19:28-30

19:28 After this,
in awareness that all things had already achieved their goal, (539)
Yeshua, in order to fulfill the Scriptures, says,
“I am thirsty.” (540)
19:29 A vessel full of sour wine was there.
They put a sponge full of the sour wine around a hyssop
and brought it to his mouth.
19:30 Now, when he had taken the wine, Yeshua said,
“The goal has been achieved!”
He bowed his head,
he handed over the inspiration. (541)

The narrative of the death of the Messiah is linked to the introduction of the narrative of the washing of the feet, with the words eidōs, “in awareness,” and the word telos, “goal.” The solidarity with the disciples reached its goal; here we are told how the goal was reached. To this, John uses the verb telein, belonging to the word telos, in the perfect-passive, tetelesthai. In John, the death of the Messiah is a fully conscious process. Through death, the goal of solidarity is realized. The realization of the goal is the handing over of inspiration.

Everything is done that had to be done, everything is “accomplished,” as the perfect tense tetelesthai is usually translated. The hour in which the Messiah goes to where he had come from, to his God, who is the God of Israel, is the hour of union with God, not the hour of abandonment of God.

The Synoptics interpret the death of the Messiah as the sign of God’s people’s abandonment of God: Their sanctuary destroyed, their city annihilated, their land taken possession of by foreign powers. John rejects this depressive account of Mark. He knows Psalm 22 and interpreted it as the soldiers distribute the clothes of Yeshua among themselves: the Messiah is abandoned by his people. But he is not abandoned by God.

John does not have the Messiah pray the first line of Psalm 22, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” Rather, he says, “I thirst.” Yeshua prays a different psalm. The commentaries all refer to Psalm 69. In v.22 we hear, “They put poison in my food; they quench my thirst with vinegar.”

The bystanders hear the word “thirst” and fulfill the Scriptures by soaking a sponge with sour wine and handing it to Yeshua; Barrett (542) rightly notes that the bunch of hyssops is not appropriate for the presentation of the sponge. The hyssop served to smear the blood of the Passover lamb on the door so that the angel of death would pass by the houses of the Israelites, Exodus 12:21 ff. Mark does not have this connection, for he has the sponge attached to a cane (15:36). John, according to Barrett, altered Mark’s account to portray Yeshua as the true Passover lamb. But this interpretation is difficult because there is no mention of blood in this passage. Otherwise, hyssop is an element in the purification ritual (Leviticus 14, Numbers 19, Psalm 51:9). We do not find a really plausible explanation for the use of hyssop. But one must also think of Psalm 42:2-4,

As the deer pines for the brook of water,
so my soul pines for you, God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the divinity of life.
When may I come, may I be seen before the face of God?
Tears have become my bread, day and night,
because all day long they say, “Where is your God?”

Thirst, like hunger, has a special meaning in John’s Gospel. We heard the word in the conversation with the Samaritan woman, John 4:13 ff, in the speech about the bread from heaven in the synagogue at Capernaum, 6:35, and in the speech of Yeshua during the feast of Sukkot, 7:37. The thirst for God fills Yeshua completely. His whole life was never anything but the thirst for his God, the God of Israel. John reminds us of both Psalms. Psalm 69 ends like this (vv.36-37),

For God will liberate Zion, he will build up the cities of Judah;
They will return there, they will inherit them.
The seed of his servants will have them as their property,
those who love his name will dwell there.

The death of the Messiah will be the liberation of Zion and the rebuilding of Judah. That is why Yeshua, “having taken the sour wine, says, tetelestai, the goal has been achieved.”

John uses two different verbs for “to accomplish”: teleioun and telein. (543) The first verb is used mainly with the word ergon, “work,” 4:34; 5:36; 17:4. It then means: to complete a work, to accomplish. In 17:23 something similar is suggested; the unity of the disciples is the work to be accomplished. Telein means, “to achieve the goal”; the related noun telos means “goal.” Telein points to the endpoint of a movement, teleioun to the completion of a task. In 19:28 both verbs occur, telein and teleioun (“to fulfill” the Scriptures). In 19:28 and in 19:30 John uses the verb telein. Here a verb is reserved to reflect the unique act that happens at the cross.

The perfect tense in John always indicates something final, definitive. Yeshua, at the moment of his death, has achieved the goal that the FATHER has set for him. The translation, “It is accomplished”—sanctified by tradition and by the music of Bach’s St. John Passion—is implied in what the perfect tetelestai wants to say. In the accomplishment (teleioun) of the work that the FATHER has given him, the political goal of Yeshua’s life is achieved (telein). Therefore, John does not write teleiōtai, “it is accomplished,” but tetelestai, “the goal has been achieved.”

It was all about this moment. The Messiah achieves the goal that Psalm 69 indicates: the liberation of Zion. His death is neither the end nor the accomplishment of Yeshua; this death is the end of Rome. Through Yeshua’s death, “the leader of this world order is cast out,” 12:31. Yeshua has a future in and through this death because his death means that he passes on his inspiration. This inspiration will ensure that Yeshua will be spoken of as Messiah (Christ) throughout the millennia and that people will “do works” in his name and through this inspiration that will be “greater” than Yeshua’s works, 14:12. Rome, however, no longer has a future.

This is what John says and hopes.

“Yeshua bowed his head (klinas tēn kephalēn),” it says. The expression does not occur in the Greek version of the Scriptures; in the Messianic writings it occurs only in Matthew 8:20 and the parallel passage in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but the HUMAN has nothing where to incline his head (tēn kephalēn klinē).” So the expression does not have to mean dying.
For the final act of Yeshua’s life, John uses the expression “to hand over (paradidonai) the inspiration (to pneuma).” After all, we have learned about the pneuma, “inspiration,” just in John, we must explain this expression from the overall context.

Matthew has “to give away the inspiration” (aphienai to pneuma), Mark “to despirit” or “exspire” (ekpneuein). Luke adopts Mark’s uncommon word and explains it with a quotation from the Psalms, 31:6. (544) Apparently, there has been difficulty in finding the right word here. What happens here is more than “to die” for all the evangelists.

The verb John uses, paradidonai, up to this point meant a political or police handing over. The paradidous par excellence is Judas Iscariot. What Yeshua does by dying must be related both to his announcement of sending the inspiration as an advocate and to his being handed over to the Romans. He works exactly the opposite of what Judas Iscariot and the political leadership of the Judeans intend: the elimination of the Messiah. By Yeshua dying, his inspiration takes effect, his disciples become “inspired.” As inspired people, they will bring about the liberation from Rome—exactly the opposite of being handed over to Rome. This death is the “going away” of the Messiah, 16:7, and this is precisely the condition for inspiration.

The expression “to give up the ghost” used in everyday language (545) comes from a superficial interpretation of John 19:30. “To give up the spirit” is also “to die,” but at the same time much more than “to die.” We must wait until the discussion of 20:22, where “handing over the inspiration” (paradidonai to pneuma) becomes visible as one side of a reality, and “accepting the inspiration” (lambanein ton pneuma) as the other. We will see this more clearly in the following scene.

15.2.4. Fourth scene: The stabbed one, 19:31-37

19:31 Since it was ˁErev Pascha,
—the bodies were not to remain on the cross on the Shabbat,
for great was the day of that Shabbat,—
the Judeans asked Pilate
if they might break their thighs and take them off.
19:32 So the soldiers came and broke the thighs of the first,
and also the other who had been crucified with him.
19:33 But when they came to Yeshua
and saw that he was already dead,
they did not break his thighs.
19:34 However, one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear,
and immediately, blood and water came out. (546)
19:35 And he who saw it has testified,
trustworthy is his testimony.
And that one knows that his testimony is trustworthy,
so that you too may trust.
19:36 For these things happened to fulfill the Scriptures:
His bones will not be broken. (547)
19:37 And again, another passage says,
“They will look at him whom they have stabbed.” (548)

The penultimate scene in the narrative of Yeshua’s death begins with a simple phrase, “The Judeans now asked Pilate if they . . .” Between the subject and the verb, John interposes an intervening clause. At first glance, this intervening clause is rather awkward. Between two determinations of the day, “it was preparation day (ˁerev pascha)” and “it was even a great Shabbat,” John quotes the Torah, Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (see Mishna Sanhedrin 6:4),

If an aberration worthy of a death sentence is found on a man,
you have hanged him on a tree trunk,
do not leave his body overnight,
but bury him, bury him on the day itself.
For a hanged man is a curse to the NAME.

Yeshua’s body is therefore not allowed to hang on the cross overnight. The Judeans are not present at the execution; they remain near the chief representative of Rome, Pilate. John wants to present the execution of the death sentence as a matter that takes place exclusively between the Messiah and Rome.

According to John, the Passover Shabbat fell on the seventh day of the week, hence “great Shabbat.” The Torah prescription in itself has nothing to do with Shabbat or the day before Passover, but the fact that the great Shabbat of Passover is imminent makes it all the more urgent to get the bodies off their crosses before sundown. To do this, the condemned must first be dead. So soldiers step forward to carry out the sentence once and for all. What happens to the bodies of the executed afterward is decided by the court that had pronounced the death sentence, in this case, Pilate. The intervening clause serves to make clear the connection between the Passover and the exaltation of the Messiah through death on the cross. The entire section 11:55-19:42 is dominated by the nearness of the Passover. We approached the festival gradually, six days before the festival (11:55), before the festival (13:1), and finally on the preparation day before the festival, 19:14. For the first time, we heard the word paraskeuē, ˁErev Pascha, at the moment when the Roman court pronounces the death sentence against Yeshua. Now we hear it for the second time.

We know that the preparation day is also the day when the lamb intended for the Passover is slaughtered. John wants to link both, the slaughter of the Passover lamb and what happens after the death of Yeshua. Yeshua is dead, and a—Roman!—soldier thrusts his lance into Yeshua’s chest—“he’s gone,” he means to say, “don’t bother.” One can take this as an “official statement of death.” A Roman soldier cannot do anything else on his own. But he does more for John’s audience. He does what has been part of the basic knowledge of the Messiah in all Messianic communities for a very long time. Paul wrote at least a generation earlier, “Our Passover (lamb) is slaughtered: the Messiah,” 1 Corinthians 5:7. With his unconscious act, the soldier ‘fulfills’ the Scriptures.” Everything in the Scriptures, according to John, comes down to this moment. This is John’s view of the Scriptures, “That one (Moshe) wrote about me (Yeshua),” 5:46. (549)

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

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

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

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

The Messiah is the Passover lamb, therefore “his bones should not be broken.” The phrase occurs only once in the Hebrew version of the Passover statute, Exodus 12:46, twice in the Greek version, 12:10.46. Today, John seems to be saying, liberation no longer occurs through the traditional slaughter of the Passover lamb, which takes place in the sanctuary precisely on the preparation day of Passover, but has already occurred through the officially sealed death of the Messiah.

John, however, goes one step further. He interprets his account of the death of the Messiah as a midrash on Zechariah 12. The second gives a political orientation to the first scriptural quotation. For the equation Passover lamb = Messiah allowed in a Gnostic milieu a symbolic orientation; the newness of the liberation would then be an inner redemption. But John is about the liberation of the people and their world from the order that weighs on it. That is why Zechariah 12:10 is to be read in its context, 12:1-4.9-11,

Burden word, a speech of the NAME over Israel:
Proclamation of the NAME.
Who spreads out the heavens, establishes the earth,
who forms breathing spirit within humans:
I set Jerusalem as a tumbling basin for all the peoples around,
even over Judah in the siege of Jerusalem.
It will come to pass on that day:
I set Jerusalem as a stone of burden for all the nations,
the whole burden, on it they shall chafe, well, chafe,
all the powers of the world joining together.
On this day—proclamation of the NAME—
I strike the whole cavalry with confusion,
the whole chariots with errantry.
. . .
It will happen on that day:
I seek to cut off all the world powers that came against Jerusalem.
I pour out on the house of David, on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
the inspiration of mercy and amnesty.
Then they will look up to me.
Over him whom they have stabbed, they will mourn,
as with the mourning over the only one,
become embittered for him, as with the bitterness for the firstborn.
On that day, there will be great mourning, the mourning in Jerusalem,
like the mourning for Hadadrimon in the Valley of Megiddon. (550)

As is well known, the last six chapters of the book of Zechariah are difficult to interpret. No one knows exactly whom Zechariah meant by the “stabbed one” and what political situation was in the background.

The stabbed one, over whom is mourned, is the “only one” (yachid). This calls to mind Isaac, who is called agapētos in Genesis 22:2 according to the Septuagint, as in Zechariah 12:10. The context is the house of David, and the locale suggests King Josiah, the reform-oriented king whose policies Jeremiah so passionately defended. Josiah’s death marked the end of all efforts to secure the city’s future. “Only one” and “firstborn” are ciphers for the only that promises the future.

John quotes the passage neither from the Hebrew text nor from the Septuagint, but “freely,” “They will look up to him whom they have stabbed,” and applies the phrase to Yeshua: he is the “only one” and the “firstborn,” he is the future of Israel, he has been stabbed. As always, a brief quotation invokes the immediate context that the listeners have in their ears. We have already noted in discussing the entry into Jerusalem (12:12 ff.) that the Messianic communities studied the latter part of the book of Zechariah intensively. Immediately before the quotation, Zechariah [12:10] speaks of the “outpouring of inspiration (shafakh ruach, ekchein pneuma).” John connects the events of the cross with the situation of the city against which “the nations around”—Rome—had come, and he implicitly announces the gift of inspiration with this quotation.

15.3. The burial, 19:38-42

19:38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, (551) a disciple of Yeshua
—but a secret one for fear of the Judeans—,
asked Pilate if he might take away Yeshua’s body.
Pilate gave his consent.
So he came and took the body away.
19:39 Also Nicodemos came
—who at first had come to him by night—,
and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes,
about a hundred pounds.
19:40 They now took Yeshua’s body,
wrapped it up in linen sheets with the spices,
as it is the burial custom among the Judeans.
19:41 At the place where he was crucified was a garden,
and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been buried.
19:42 So there, because of ˁErev Pascha of the Judeans,
and because the tomb was nearby, they buried Yeshua.

When Rome seizes a human to execute him, that human still belongs to it after his death. The act of reverence toward a deceased person was an unconditional duty in ancient times. This reverence was denied to an executed person; he was literally disposed of as a piece of dirt. The disciple named Joseph from the village of Ramatajim wanted to prevent at least that.

He is a “hidden disciple.” The reason was “the fear of the Judeans.” We heard the expression already in 7:13, where they were afraid to speak publicly about the Messiah Yeshua. Two days after the death and burial, we will find the disciples in a room that was locked “for fear of the Judeans.” John’s Messianic community could not imagine a situation where one could be a disciple of Messiah Yeshua without fear of the Judeans. In John, all disciples are hidden disciples. The word phobos, “fear,” exists in John only in connection with the Judeans. For the second time, we hear “fear of the Judeans,” for the third time, we encounter Nicodemos, the prototype of the hidden disciple. The whole funeral is determined by this fear.

They carefully wrapped Yeshua’s body in cloths, along with “about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.” The unusually large quantity of balsam herbs corresponds with the “very precious pound of nard balm” used by Mariam, Lazaros’ sister, for the anticipated burial of Yeshua, 12:3 ff. The endowment of Yeshua’s burial is the endowment at the burial of a king.

Yeshua was buried “according to the custom of the Judeans,” even in his death Yeshua remained a child of Israel. Since haste was required because of the advanced hour—the great Shabbat of Passover, which in that year coincided with an ordinary Shabbat, began at sunset on the day of preparation—Yeshua was buried in a new tomb in a garden nearby. Between the two gardens, the Garden of Betrayal and the Garden of the Tomb, the dramatic events of the ˁerev pascha, the paraskeuē of that Passover, took place. John passes by this “Passover of the Judeans” in silence. The corpse remains behind, wrapped in cloths.

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

Preliminary remark: The time specification “day one”

This chapter consists of four narratives and a conclusion. We must begin with a detailed linguistic exposition. The Hebrew language distinguishes between the ordinal number rishon (“first”) and the cardinal number ˀechad (“one”); in the case of the number 1, the cardinal number has a different root than the ordinal number. (552) The Hebrew text of the Scriptures writes the cardinal number in special cases where we would expect an ordinal number, e.g., in the specification for the day number of a month, “It happened in the thirtieth year, in the fourth [month] on the five [fifth] of the month.” The days of the week are indicated with normal ordinal numbers.

In the narrative of the creation of heaven and earth, we hear,

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
The earth became crazy and mazy: (553)
Darkness over the surface of chaos,
stormwind roared over the face of chaos.
God spoke,
“Let there be light!”
Light came about.
Gott saw the light—that it was good.
And God separated between the light and the darkness.
God called out to the light: Day.
To the darkness, he called out: Night.
It became evening, it became morning:
Day one (yom ˀechad).

The further days of creation are marked with ordinal numbers: yom sheni, yom shlishi, yom reviˁi, and so on. The first day, however, is not “first day,” yom rishon, but “day one,” yom ˀechad. The Greek translation has followed this anomaly. It too counts hemera mia (not prōtē as usual), then, as usual, continues hēmera deutera, hēmera tritē, hēmera tetartē, etc. Not differently the Vulgate: dies unus (not, as usual, primus), dies secundus, dies tertius, dies quartus, etc. In the famous Torah commentary of Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, called Rashi, from the late 11th century, we read,

Yom ˀechad (one). According to the ordinary order of language in this chapter, it should have been written, yom rishon (first). Why is ˀechad, “one,” written? It is because the Holy One, blessed be He, was alone (yachid) in His world, because the angels were not created before the second day, as explained in Bereshit Rabbah [a 5th-century midrash collection—TV]. (554)

You need not agree with this explanation, but the problem was seen early on. All important translations from the late classical period have left the anomaly standing. (555)

The Gospels adopted this theological usage from Genesis 1 for the day after the Passover Shabbat when Yeshua was in the grave. Just as at the creation the day of the creation of light was not just a “first” day in a series of similar days, but a day that is a prerequisite for all days to come, so to all Messianic communities, the day after that great Shabbat is not just a “first” day of a new week, but a prerequisite for all days to come. Our translations must take this fact into account. Just as the day of distinction between light and darkness is norming all the distinctions to come, such as heaven/earth, sea/dry, so day one of the Shabbat week is norming the whole life of all the disciples of Yeshua.

The translations we are familiar with translate tē mia tōn sabbatōn as “on the first day of the week.” Factually, this is correct at first glance. The “great Shabbat”—the Passover of the Judeans—is skipped; a new week begins. That we are dealing with an absolutely new day is indicated by the expression mia tōn sabbatōn. Now mia is the feminine form of a cardinal number. The ordinal number would be prōtē.

John’s specification of the time places him in the middle of the mainstream of Messianism. Like the other evangelists, John skips the great Shabbat. It is not celebrated.

The great silence on the Shabbat, however, does not mean a devaluation of the Passover. Rather, the festival of Israel’s liberation from the house of slavery is and remains the foundation. But Israel, according to all Messianic communities, is in the slave house today. It must be liberated once again—and this time definitely.

This definitive liberation is manifested on day one of the Shabbat week, according to those who saw in Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, a new calendar, so to speak. This is quite in accordance with the Tanakh. The Book of Jeremiah also knew the surpassing of the Passover, 23:7-8. Paul speaks of a new creation (kaine ktisis, beria chadasha) in 2 Corinthians 5:17. You have to read John 20 and Genesis 1 together.

16.1. The tomb, 20:1-10

20:1 On day one of the Shabbat week, (556) Maria from Magdala comes
—early, darkness is still— (557)
to the tomb;
she sees that the stone has been taken away from the tomb.
20:2 So she is running,
she comes to Simon Peter and to the other disciple
Yeshua was friends with,
and says to them,
“They took away the Lord out of the tomb,
we don’t know where they buried him.”
20:3 Now Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
20:4 The two were running together,
but the other disciple ran ahead, faster than Peter.
He came to the tomb first.
20:5 Stooping down, he sees the linen sheets lying there but did not go in.
20:6 Then, following him, Simon Peter also comes
and went into the tomb.
He also observes the sheets lying there,
20:7 and the sweat cloth that had been on his head
lying not with the sheets
but folded up separately in a certain place.
20:8 Then the other disciple who had come to the tomb first also went in;
he saw, and he began trusting.
20:9 Admittedly, they did not yet have knowledge of the Scripture passage
that he has to rise from the dead.
20:10 So the disciples went away again to themselves.

Maria(m) (558) of Magdala appears in all the Gospels. She is a constant witness of the resurrection. In John, she is the only woman who brings the decisive news. Why it is women that the Gospels cite as chief witnesses to the resurrection, probably has little to do with sudden feminist conversions.

Paul knows only one tradition, according to which the “rising”—we will explain why we do not say “risen”—Messiah appeared exclusively to men, including “five hundred brothers” (!), 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. No trace of women.

The “male” tradition of the resurrection dates from the time before the Judean War, the “female” tradition from the time after. This is where you would have to start. Those who were considered less than the male apostles in the Messianic communities here become the evangelists of the actual message. The leadership of the Messianic communities had failed before and in the great war, and they had no answer to the catastrophe of 70. Now others— women—become the promoters of the decisive message. They were the first to see “the honor of the Messiah,” as Yeshua announced to Martha at the tomb of Lazaros, of Israel, 11:40.

There is no need to have any illusions about the position of women in the Messianic communities. The patriarchal shaping of all social relations in antiquity will hardly have stopped at the Messianic communities.

In the narrative about Yeshua, all of a sudden, those play a key role, who otherwise were only intended for the minor parts. But now, there is a radically new situation, which is reflected by the time designation explained above. Now, not Kephas, the Twelve, the five hundred brothers, James, the brother of the Messiah, all the apostles mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, and last of all the “misbegotten among the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:8), Paul, play the role of the protagonists of the resurrection narrative, but the women known in all Messianic communities.

The Messianic movement was led by those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. The Judean War meant at the same time an existential crisis of the communities in the Aramaic-speaking area, Syria-Palestine. It could not continue as it was until then, and therefore the resurrection had to be told completely new and completely different.

In important places, four women played key roles in John up to “day one”: the mother of the Messiah at the Messianic wedding in Cana/Galilee, the living water and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar in Samaria, and the two sisters Mariam and Martha at the revival of Lazaros = Israel and at the Messianic meal in Bethany.

Now comes the fifth woman, Maria from Magdala. In John, she has no past. John has no idea of the seven demons that, according to Luke, Yeshua cast out of Maria (8:2). Her role is first to note that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. She cannot interpret the event; she carries the news to the leadership of the Messianic movement.

To John, the Judean movement consists of two components. One is represented by Simon Peter (Kephas), the other by “the disciple Yeshua was friends with,” the central figure of the group around John. Maria from Magdala sets in motion these two protagonists of Judean Messianism—and how! “The two were running (etrechon) together,” and then “the other disciple ran ahead (proedramon),” faster than the other, the leader of Judean Messianism recognized by all, Simon Peter. The whole triangle of acting persons brings to light, barely concealed, the complicated relations in the Messianic movement. The apprentice is the first to come to the tomb, is the first eyewitness, but gives way to Peter. This is not explained until the appendix, 21:15 ff. The last two chapters of our text also tell how the rather isolated group joined the Messianic movement as a whole and submitted to the leadership of Simon Peter.

This running to the tomb is a clear sign. Why is this image—the two ran together, one of them ran faster—chosen? The verb trechein, “to run,” occurs in three resurrection narratives; Mark does not have the verb here, and in Luke 24:12 may have been inserted later under the influence of John’s Gospel. The news of the empty tomb at first gives the impression of horror. Mary finds the open tomb and runs to Simon; Simon and the other disciple run to see for themselves the open tomb and the disappearance of the body.

All three assume a grave robbery. The meticulous description of the condition—shrouds and sweat cloth are lying separately and not in a heap, the latter carefully folded—suggests that no robbers were at work here; thieves and robbers are always in a hurry. The whole thing seems like “securing evidence.”

What Simon thinks is not handed down; the other disciple who enters the tomb after Simon “saw and trusted”—namely the announcement of Yeshua in 2:20 and the explanation to it, 2:21-22. This disciple—and probably Simon Peter and Maria of Magdala after him—first had to see in order to trust. John will speak about this dialectic of seeing and trusting in detail. Trust in the Messiah presupposes the understanding of the Scriptures; the carefully folded cloths are at best a confirmation that no grave robbery has taken place here. Here as in 2:22, the non-understanding of the Scriptures is the cause for the lack of trust in the Messiah.

What passage of the Scriptures is it about? Many psalms are songs of lost people, who were close to the downfall and were rescued by God from the danger of death. But the song Isaiah 53 is probably the Scriptural passage par excellence. We used it in discussing and interpreting 1:29 (“Lamb of God”), 12:37-38 (“Blinding of Israel”), and 19:5 (“Look at the human”). Here, too, the song suggests itself, 53:9 ff.,

They gave his grave with the criminals, his death with the rich, (559)
although he never did violence, never was deceit in his mouth.
The NAME wanted to crush him, to make him sick,
so that He could use his soul as a guilt offering.
But he will still see a seed, prolong his days.
This is what the NAME wants: to save him by His hand.
Without pain for his soul, he will see, will be satiated.
By this knowledge, he will prove himself for the many
—proven one, my servant—,
because he bore the burden of their transgression . . .

All Messianic communities of Israel had to try to understand from the Scriptures what had happened and had to happen. The Messiah of Israel was both the bar enosh, the Human, and the suffering representative of his suffering people. This too is common knowledge in all Messianic communities. Whatever the consequence of the resurrection, in any case, a new reading of the Scriptures begins in the Messianic communities.

The mysterious guest of the disciples of Emmaus “interpreted to them, beginning with Moshe and all the prophets, in all the Scriptures [what was written] about himself.” Only after they “recognized” the guest “in the breaking of the bread” did they realize “that our hearts were burning as he spoke to us on the way, as he opened to us the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27.32).

It was widely believed by the Perushim that on the Day of Judgment the dead would rise, but no one expected someone to be raised from the dead before the Day of Final Judgment. A constant in all resurrection narratives is the fact that Yeshua’s resurrection was completely unexpected. The Jews do not read the Scriptures—e.g. Isaiah 53—as referring to Yeshua.

Biblical theology is proof that the Messiah rising from the dead is understandable from the Scriptures—and only from them. This is something completely different from the traditional interpretation of the Scriptures by Christians “toward Jesus.” The Grand Narrative has an open end and remains good for any surprise. For example, it nourishes the confidence that death does not have the last word, and certainly not the death of Yeshua, decreed by the representative of the principal (archōn) of the ruling world order.

One element of this first narrative of day one is still not explained. What are the significance of the two disciples running and the indication that the “other disciple” was running faster? A nice and vivid description of the events? In John, you need not jump to conclusions about incidental details for the sake of pleasing literary embellishment.

There is a strange narrative in the Second Book of Samuel. The rebellion against David had been put down, and Absalom, the author of the rebellion, had perished. Ahimaaz, the son of the priest Zadok, presented himself to Joab, the commander of the army; he would like to bring to David the “gospel” of the victory (ˀavasera, euangeliō, “I will proclaim,” 2 Samuel 18:19). Joab strongly advised him not to. Instead, Joab sent the Ethiopian mercenary to bring the message to David. The Ethiopian ran, but Ahimaaz ran after him and faster than him. The “gospel” of victory over Absalom was indeed “good news,” but not only. To David, whose kingship was saved, the victory came at an almost unbearable price, the death of his beloved son, “My son Absalom, my son Absalom. What would I have given if I had died in your place, Absalom, my son, my son,” 2 Samuel 19:1. The “gospel” (besora) was not just “good news”; nor is the besora of the empty tomb just “good news.” As is now reported.

16.2. Not yet, 20:11-18

20:11 But Maria was standing outside by the tomb, weeping.
As she was weeping, she stooped down into the tomb.
20:12 She observes two messengers in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet,
where the body of Yeshua had lain.
20:13 They say to her,
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
She says to them,
“They took away my Lord,
and I do not know where they buried him.”
20:14 Having said this, she turned around backward;
she observes Yeshua standing there, but she did not know it was Yeshua.
20:15 Yeshua says to her,
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
She, thinking he is the gardener, says to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you buried him,
and I will take him away.”
20:16 Yeshua says to her,
Turning, she says to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni!”—that is, Teacher.
20:17 Yeshua says to her,
“Do not touch me,
for I have not yet gone up to the FATHER.
But go to my brothers and say to them,
‘I am going up to my FATHER and your FATHER,
to my GOD and your GOD.”
20:18 Mariam from Magdala goes and announces to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord!”
—and this is what he had said to her. (560)

Mary had followed the two men. They had moved away from the tomb, and Mary was alone at the tomb. She also bent down and saw what the men had not seen: two messengers.

Mary wept, not in mourning for the dead, but in despair that she had been deprived of the opportunity to do what was a human duty in the ancient Orient: weeping for the dead. That Yeshua should have been resurrected did not occur to her, not even after the messengers asked her why she was weeping. She sticks to her opinion.

She cannot see Yeshua from herself, even if he were there himself. She takes him for a gardener who was responsible for the order in the garden and who had taken away the corpse hastily buried before the great Shabbat on the day after Passover. Yeshua is not to be recognized unless he makes himself known. This is true not only to Maria but it is also true in general. You can read and explain our texts as politically—indeed, materialistically—as you like, the Grand Narrative remains closed to the outsider. The circumstantial evidence in the abandoned tomb is just that, no proof is given here. To every human, also to Maria, the death of Yeshua, like the death of every other human, was simply the last word. There is just the gardener, who also does not know more than Maria and can only ask, “Woman, why are you crying, who are you looking for?” No one can see anything else than the gardener here.

Yeshua does not make himself known until he pronounces Mariam’s name. The moment she knows herself being addressed, she can recognize him as her teacher. The relationship between Yeshua and Maria from Magdala has given rise to the wildest imaginations. In John, the relationship is clear: he is the teacher, she the disciple. John explicitly explains his Aramaic rabbouni by the Greek didaskalē in order to avoid any misunderstanding. She is addressed by the teacher and his teaching, and she lets herself be addressed. But also this happens only because he addresses her, not because she gets involved with him. Faith, trust, is not a “work,” but trust is awakened when the one who trusts is addressed by her or his own name, by the one who is trusted.

Yeshua then says, “Do not touch me.” John does not tell us that Maria was about to fall down and clasp his knees. A number of manuscripts found this illogical and added, “She ran up to touch him.” But we have an absolute prohibition, which is also reasoned, “For I have not yet ascended to the FATHER.”

We need to discuss here the Torah passages Leviticus 11 and Numbers 19. In Leviticus 11:24-40, it is said that touching animal corpses (thnēsimaiōn, nevela) impurifies. The touch causes “uncleanness until evening.” Numbers 19:11 ff. says,

He who touches a dead human being, whosoever,
becomes unclean for seven days.
He who has thus defiled himself, make himself free from defilement
on the third day and on the seventh day;
he becomes clean.
If he does not make himself free from aberration
on the third day and the seventh day,
he will not be clean.
Anyone who touches a dead person, a human soul that has died
and does not make himself free from aberration:
he has defiled the dwelling place of the NAME.
Extirpated is that soul from Israel . . .

The verb haptesthai, nagaˁ, “to touch,” quite frequent in the Synoptics, is found in John only in this one place 20:17. The one who is untouchable is the Messiah completely marked by death. He will not show himself differently to the disciples.

The command and its reason explain each other. At the death on the cross, inexorably begins the honoring of the Messiah, inexorably begins the ascent to the FATHER. We have seen this in the discussion of 12:28 ff. But this death and resurrection are not an accomplishment. The perfect tense John uses for accomplished facts is here determined by not yet: “I have not yet ascended” (oupō anabebēka). The perfect, as we have seen, is John’s rendering of an action completed in the past. The “not yet” does not refer to the verb itself, but to the tense, to the perfect; not the going up itself, but the perfect is negated.

With this negative message, Maria from Magdala is sent as the first evangelist to the brothers of Yeshua, “Not yet have I ascended to the FATHER,” perfect tense, but then with the decisive positive message, “I am ascending,” present tense. The brothers of Yeshua—in the flesh—belonged to the original Messianic community, 2:12, where a distinction is made between “the brothers” and “the disciples of Yeshua.” This distinction is made clear in the confrontation of Yeshua with his brothers on the occasion of the ascent to Jerusalem for the Feast of Sukkot.

In fact, as it says in the following verse 20:18, Mary then goes to all the “disciples” after all; Yeshua calling them “brothers,” however, decisively illustrates the critical view of the in John’s eyes still Zealotically infected leadership of the Messianic community in Jerusalem. They must be told, “I am ascending.”

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

On the level of the narrative, that is, John’s situation after the year 70, this means that the community of the brothers of Yeshua, which in the period before the war had or still is claiming a prominent position among the Messianic communities, must be told, “Nothing is completed; neither cross nor resurrection completes the movement.” Obviously, the present tense contains a clear criticism of the policy of the congregation of the brothers of Yeshua.

But the present tense and the criticism do not cancel out the fundamental common ground. Yeshua remains connected to the community in Jerusalem despite all the fierce disputes (7:1 ff.), “my FATHER, your FATHER, my God, your God.” The conflict then, 7:1ff, was about the kairos. That kairos has now come, but quite different than Yeshua’s brothers thought. John placed them in the vicinity of the Zealot adventure of an illusory seizure of power. To the successor of the community of Yeshua’s brothers after the war is to say: the kairos is the beginning of a process, inexorable perhaps, but not finished.

Scholion 10: Death and resurrection of the Messiah; once and for all?

The author of Hebrews seems to emphasize: Unlike the annual celebration and experience of the Passover night, the death of the Messiah is an event “once for all” (ephapax, Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; see Romans 6:10).

During the Jewish celebration of the Passover night, the son must ask the father, “Why is this night different from other nights? . . .” And according to the son’s comprehension, the father instructs him. He begins with the mercilessness and concludes with the honor,” Mishna Pessachim 10:4. Annually this night is lived through and celebrated.

Christians do not do otherwise, at least not if the annual liturgy of the Easter Vigil is somewhat Scriptural. The ephapax is like the liberation of Israel. If the people was liberated once and uniquely from the hand of Pharaoh, this unique event determines the whole history of the people. At the same time, this liberation had to be fought for again and again, and in order to be fought for, it must be remembered again and again.

The classic document of the “again and again” is the Book of Judges: there, liberations are taking place, again and again, but the Passover was never celebrated in that time, 2 Kings 23:22! The Passover of the Jews is like the Christian Easter: what happened once is still pending. Pharaoh was defeated, and Pharaoh continued to reign. Rome is defeated, and Rome continues to reign. The night of the Messiah is unthinkable without the night when the Angel of Death passed by the doors smeared with the blood of the Passover lamb.

We must therefore treat John’s distancing expression, pascha Ioudaiōn, the Passover of the Jews (2:13; 6:4; 11:55), with great caution. Here no Jewish Passover is abolished, but the same Passover is sharpened under completely new, Roman circumstances: as a promise for all peoples. Therefore, according to John, the Christian Easter is not the substitute for the Jewish Passover. We must not underestimate this difference.

Even if John, according to our reading of the Gospel, limited his Messianic mission to worldwide scattered Israel including the ten lost tribes (Samaria), he sees himself in the tradition of Jeremiah 31:31. There the NAME makes a “new covenant” (berith chadasha) with Israel. A “New Testament” with a new era was not a Christian but a Jewish invention! Of the Passover, Jeremiah (23:7-8) says,

There, days come—announcement of the NAME—,
there you no longer say:
May the NAME live,
who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt.
No! May live the NAME,
who brought up, who caused to come,
the seed of the house of Israel from the land of the north,
from the lands where they were carried away,
and shall dwell on their ground.

Just as Jeremiah did not see the liberation from Egypt as outdated, so too the death of the Messiah does not outdate the liberation from Pharaoh’s slave house. To Paul and Luke, probably also to Matthew, and ultimately also to the school of John, Passover is a promise for the nations. Exactly at that point, the ecclesia and the synagogue diverged. The death of the Messiah makes liberation a worldwide perspective for all peoples—not just any liberation, but the liberation of Israel from the house of slavery: The God of the Christians is the God whose NAME can only be pronounced as the one “who led Israel out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” Exodus 20:2.

The opening of this perspective has happened “once and for all.” We cannot and must not go back behind this “once for all.” Israel and the nations, the Jews and the Christians, must admittedly say with the school of John, 1 John 3:2-3, that

it will not yet be revealed what we will be.
We know: When he [the Messiah] shall be revealed,
we will be like him,
because then we will see him as he is.

The decisive thing has happened, that is John’s message, but this decisive thing is determined by that “not yet.” The ascent to the FATHER means the liberation of the world. This is the moment, the kairos, for which we are waiting. The very kairos of the Messiah “is not yet fulfilled,” 7:8. At that time, the ascension to the festival had to be “not publicly (phanerōs) but in secret (en tō kryptō),” 7:10. Even the resurrected Messiah remains the hidden Messiah. The two passages 7:8.10 and 20:17 presuppose each other.

“Not yet,” however, has as a consequence “again and again.” Nikos Kazantzakis wrote a novel after World War II about a young shepherd who tried to live like Christ and was murdered like Christ. The title of the novel is Ho Christos xanastaurōnetai, “Christ is Crucified Again.” (561) The novel is a parable; it is set in the mountains of Western Anatolia just before Ataturk expelled the Greeks from Asia Minor. The shepherd Manolios, the hero of the novel, is more than any Greek at a particular moment in Greek history. Christ appears to him, tells him to tell his people, “I am hungry, go to the doors of the village, and ask for alms.” And Manolios says what he should say.

He is among us again and again, the Messiah. And people like Manolios are crucified again and again until “it will be revealed what we will be” (1 John 3:2). The crucial thing is that this murdered Messiah is among us, again and again, because he has not yet ascended. In Kazantzakis’ novel, the wind of Messianic inspiration is blowing.

Because everything is decided, we must and can always start again from the beginning. The Messiah is there just as he and she who are inspired by him. They live because and insofar as they are inspired by the Messiah. Their life is even now and not yet the “life of the age to come.” It is not revealed, it is hidden, as the Messiah is hidden.

At this moment it becomes clear, John tells us. Behind this moment no one can go back. Therefore ephapax, “once for all.”

16.3. The locked doors, 20:19-23

20:19 When it was late, on that day one of the Shabbat week,
and where the disciples were the doors were locked for fear of the Judeans,
Yeshua came,
placed himself in the middle,
and says to them,
“Peace be with you!”
20:20 Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
20:21 Once again Yeshua said to them,
“Peace be with you!
As the FATHER has sent me,
so I am sending you.” (562)
20:22 Having said this, he breathed on them and says to them,
“Accept the inspiration of sanctification!
20:23 If you forgive someone’s aberrations
may they be forgiven.  (563)
As far as you let remain with them hardening,
they remain hardened.” (564)

That a Messianic group with a worldwide perspective finds itself in a room with locked doors is absurd in itself. The situation description “locked doors” remains in the next scene. The group finds itself in political isolation that cannot be more total. The reason is “the fear of the Judeans.” We should reflect on this.

The separation from the Judeans, even more so from Israel, must lead to political isolation. The group isolates itself from the very ones Yeshua wanted to “bring together in one” (11:52), to gather in a unified synagogue, and turns his very goal into the opposite. The rising Messiah breaks the isolation from outside, but the disciples do not break it from within. Even though Yeshua allows himself to be seen twice by the disciples, they remain trapped within a locked room.

“Yeshua came and placed himself in the middle.” He says, “Peace be with you!” This is more than an Oriental “good day”—shalom or salam ˁalaikum. The Messiah’s peace is in sharp contrast to the “peace” that the world order tends to enforce, 14:27. That is why he shows them the gaping wounds in his side and in his hands. He is concerned with more than a proof of identity. Indeed, the rising Messiah is still marked by death. Peace in a locked room full of fear-stricken people is indeed a contradiction in terms! The disciples rejoice nonetheless. The joy will have been limited because, as we will hear, the doors will remain locked for the next eight days.

Once again the Messianic wish for peace. Then Yeshua says how the process of rising will continue, “As the FATHER has sent me, so I am sending you.” There is no essential difference between the two verbs apostellein and pempein, “to send.” Both verbs reflect the sending of the Messiah by the God of Israel and the sending of the disciples by the Messiah. Now, when the verb is changed in a sentence, a difference between the two sending processes suggests itself. We can only say that the FATHER sends the Messiah and the inspiration that comes from both; however, people are not sent by the FATHER, but only by the Messiah. Here, no messengers are coming directly from God, and the messenger who did so, Moshe, is superseded by the Messiah in John’s group. Also in Matthew, all sending is sending through the Messiah. So the Messiah sends the disciples, and this mission is absolutely equal to the mission of the Messiah through the FATHER: to put in his soul for the sheep, i.e. the children of Israel, 10:15.

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

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

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

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

Only from such central texts of the Scriptures, we can understand what Yeshua is doing here. He says, “Accept the inspiration of sanctification.” We announced this passage in our discussion of 19:30, Yeshua “gave the inspiration.” Here, 20:22, we have the corresponding complementary injunction, “Accept . . .” “It is the inspiration that makes alive, the flesh can contribute nothing,” we heard in 6:63. The threatened, vulnerable existence of these intimidated people, flesh, is inspired and shall be transformed into Messianic existence. This is not told here; for the time being, the isolation, the locked room remains. Only when the group goes to Galilee, the transformation becomes a reality. The inspiration coming from the Messiah, wounded and killed, animates these people and enables them to fulfill their mission.

The following sentences are difficult to translate and even more difficult to explain. Let us say in advance: The Sacrament of Confession is not established here, as the Catholics read.

It is about aberration (hamartia, chataˀ, “sin”), about taking away (aphienai, ssalach), and about to have become hardened (kratein). The verb kratein occurs only here in John, while the verb aphienai occurs fourteen times. Except for 20:23, the latter means “to leave, to let go.” One then translates “to remit sins, to forgive.” Because we avoid the word “sin” because of its moralistic flavor and speak of “aberration,” we must paraphrase aphienai with an expression like “to do away with.” In the Scriptures, “sins” are “forgiven” only by God, “aberrations” are “covered” (kipper, see yom kippur) or “canceled” only by God, see Mark 2:7. The verb ssalach (“to forgive”) has no other subject in the Scriptures than God or the NAME.

What happens if aberrations are done away with? The first chapters of the Book of Leviticus talk about going astray. The one who has gone astray must offer a sacrifice; he must destroy something, burn a handful of flour, or slaughter an animal. He shows drastically that something has been broken because of his aberrations. When he shows this awareness—with a drastic sacrifice—the aberration is covered and can no longer develop its society-destroying effect. So people can do again what their real destiny demands from them.

The Hebrew verb chataˀ means something like “to miss a target.” “To forgive” then means “to reorient toward the original goal.” As I said, in the Scriptures, this reorientation comes only from God. “Who can do away with aberrations except for God?” ask the Perushim at the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:7. Indeed, aberrations cannot be eradicated by “forgiving them.” The original destiny of human beings is restored by God—from whom this destiny comes—making it again the destiny of human beings. In the authority of “God,” the Messiah can do this, and in the authority of the Messiah, the disciples inspired by the Messiah can do it. In other words, only if a person again accepts God and his social order—the Torah—as his sole destination “has he been forgiven” (nisslach lo, aphethēsetai autō). (565) This authority is granted by the Messiah to the disciples through his inspiration of sanctification.

Kratein is apparently the opposite. Kratein, “to seize, to arrest.” We should remember John 9:41: Yeshua told them, “If you were blind, you would be without aberration. Now you say, we see. Your aberration remains.” So, when the disciples find that people are (politically) in error, that this aberration is “fixed” in them, such as when they claim they are on the right path, then there is nothing left but to let them go in the wrong direction, then the aberration “has been made fixed” in them, this is how we can paraphrase the passive perfect kekratēntai.

The disciples and their Messianic communities should be encouraged to “do away with (aphienai) the resignation and powerlessness toward the world order.” However, those who take the supremacy, even omnipotence of the world order as a fact without alternative, their aberration then is so deep-seated that they can no longer move. This is stubbornness, hardening. By demonstrating the alternative, even by living it, the disciples turn political blindness into obduracy. Thus, in a way, they cause obduracy.

We need not take this passage as a reason for the Sacrament of Confession, but try to understand it in the light of the fulfillment quotation Isaiah 6:10, which John 12:37-43 made us hear in a bitter summation. There it was about hardening. The disciples are to do and speak like the prophets, like Ezekiel, “that the erring man who turns back from his error may keep his soul alive” (Ezekiel 18; 33:1-20); like the prophet Isaiah: a people “with a fatty heart, hard of hearing, and smeared eyes” will perish (Isaiah 6:10). Not an enviable task for the inspired disciples. Prophets are rarely heard!

16.4. To see and to trust, 20:24-29

20:24 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, called “Twin,”
was not with them when Yeshua came.
20:25 So the other disciples say to him,
“We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see in his hands the striking place of the nails,
put my finger into the place where the nails were struck,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not at all trust.”
20:26 And after eight days his disciples were inside again,
Thomas was also with them.
Yeshua came in—the doors were locked—,
placed himself in the middle and said,
“Peace be with you!”
20:27 Then he says to Thomas,
“Take your finger here, see my hands,
take your hand and put it into my side.
Do not become trustless, but have trust!”
20:28 Thomas answered and said to him,
“My Lord and my God!”
20:29 Yeshua says to him,
“Because you have seen me, you have trusted me.
Happy those who did not see but began trusting.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: That you may trust, 20:30-31

20:30 Although Yeshua did many other signs in the presence of the disciples,
which have not been written in this book,
20:31 but these have been written,
so that you may trust that Yeshua is the Messiah, Son of GOD,
and that by this trust you may have the life [of the age to come]
with his NAME! (566)

The trust is happening on the basis of the testimony of the eyewitnesses. These last words are followed by the original conclusion of the Gospel. John writes what purpose he had with his text. He wanted to describe a part of the signs of Yeshua, which he did before his disciples. Many are not included in his book. So he made a selection: the sign of the Messianic wedding in Cana, Galilee, the healing of the son of the royal official in Cana, Galilee, the healing of the paralytic in Jerusalem, the feeding of the five thousand, the healing of the man born blind, also in Jerusalem, and the reviving of Lazaros in Bethany. This shows that John knew a number of other traditions, but these six paradigmatic signs were written down with the purpose of trusting that Yeshua is the Messiah, the one like God. This trust has a purpose: those who do not see, yet trust, receive the life of the age to come “with his name.”

The Gospel as a text of the Messianic movement could not end here and like this. It was at first just the self-understanding of a group in a locked room, so to speak the text of a closed society. Only the 21st chapter according to the traditional counting, which was mostly called an appendix inserted later and to which we now turn, tells how the group around John could break its isolation, how it became part of a Messianic movement, and how his text became a Messianic, later an ecclesiastical text. It had a hard enough time as it was to be generally accepted, harder than the letters of Paul, harder than the Gospel of Matthew, the ecclesiastical Gospel of the second century, and the counterpart of Paul.


(401) TJ15, 102, BEFORE: Pro with genitive means both “before” and “instead.” The old church, especially in the West, took pro to mean “instead.” In the so-called Quarto Deciman quarrel, at the end of the 2nd century, the struggle about the interpretation of pro was fought (Susanne Hausamann, Alte Kirche. Zur Geschichte und Theologie in den ersten vier Jahrhunderten. Band 1: Frühchristliche Schriftsteller. “Apostolische Väter”, Häresien, Apologeten, Neukirchen/Vluyn 2001, 117 ff., Ton Veerkamp, Die Welt anders. Politische Geschichte der Großen Erzählung, Berlin 2013, 359-360).

(402) TJ15, 102, PASCHA, PASSOVER: We recall that John distancingly referred to Passover as “the Pascha of the Judeans,” 2:13; 6:4; 11:55. Seven times the word occurs without this reference, including once with the addition of “festival,” just in 13:1. To John and his group, Passover is no longer the festival of liberation, but rather the “exaltation“ of the Messiah, for which the handing over of the Messiah by Judas Iscariot is the precondition. The unusually extended and solemn introduction (deipnou genomenou—tou diabolou ēdē beblētokos—eidōs) shows how the text prepares the decisive turning point. This implies the separation of the synagogue and the Judeans from the group around John: The Judeans had no reason to see Pascha differently from the festival of Pharaoh’s liberation from Israel. Pro de tēs heortēs tou pascha, therefore, means: Before the festival happens what according to John would give the festival a completely new orientation.

(403) TJ15, 102, IN AWARENESS: The verb eidenai (participle eidōs, indicative oida) means that a process of cognition (ginōskein) has found its conclusion in knowledge and that this knowledge has become a component of awareness. Therefore vv.1.3 “in awareness,” v.17: ei oidate, “if you are aware of this.”

(404) TJ15, 102, UNDER THE WORLD ORDER: We translate en tō kosmō as “under the world order.” It is not about a neutral “in,” but about the fact that the world order is fighting them with hatred (15:18 ff.; 17:11 ff. etc.) and that the Messiah and the disciples suffer from this hatred.

(405) TJ15, 102, AFTER A MEAL WAS HELD: Deipnou genomenou. John does not have Yeshua and his disciples hold a Passover meal; what happens, according to him, the act of washing the feet (an example of “putting in the soul,” 13:37-38; 15:13) on the evening before the Shabbat evening and the walk to Pilate and Golgotha, is the new Passover on the day of para­skeuē, the preparation of the Passover; see John 19:14. In John, the break between the two, the Passover of the Judeans and the event told in chapters 13-20/21, is almost absolute.

(406) TJ15, 102, ADVERSARY: Diabolos, satan, see note to 8:44. The word diabolos, satan, in John occurs only in 8:44 and twice in connection with Judas Iscariot. The adversary is Rome, and this Judas is the henchman of Rome par excellence, as we will learn in 18:3.

(407) TJ15, 102: Both parts of v.2—about the meal and about the adversary—are constructed in parallel, each with a genitivus absolutus, the first in the aorist, the second in the perfect. Action and counter-action, solidarity and betrayal, are linked together, and therefore one must translate in parallel.

(408) TJ15, 102, LINEN APRON: Leption, a word that does not appear in the Greek language before the 1st century CE and stands for the Latin linteum. John uses an unusual word to indicate the uniqueness of the situation.

(409) TJ05, 75 (24): En cheleq ˁimakh, ouk estin meris meta sou, “he has no part with you,” Deuteronomy 14:27; it is about the Levite, who has no property and no part apart from the landowning extended families, who is a person of lesser right and therefore in special need of protection like orphans and widows. Yeshua says that Simon, in the kingship of the Messiah, “will have no part beside the Messiah,” that is, he will be a person of an inferior right like the Levite if he does not have his feet washed and does not act accordingly toward his brothers.

(410) HS: Here I don’t follow TV who translates hypodeigma into German as “Weisung,” “instruction, order,” possibly referring to hypodeiknymi in 2 Chronicles 15:3.

(411) Hermann L. Strack / Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch II, München 6th ed. 1974, 557.

(412) HS: Here we could discuss whether what TV describes here, namely a proexistence that emerges from the solidarity of God, would not also be called religious.

(413) TJ15, 104, CHEWING: Trōgōn, not esthiōn, see 6:54.

(414) TJ15, 104, BREAD . . . HEEL: Psalm 41:10 (LXX: Psalm 40:10). John “explains” a Hebrew phrase “making a big heel against someone,“ i.e., taking advantage of another person’s situation in a deceitful way. The verse reads in the original: “Yes, the man of my peace, / of which I was sure / ate my bread // made great against me his heel (higdil ˁalay ˁaqev; LXX: emegalynen ep’ eme pternismon).

(415) TJ15, 104, TOTALLY SHAKEN: Etarachthē tō pneumati, see the note to 11:33.

(416) TJ15, 104, ONE OF HIS DISCIPLES . . .: The disciple belongs to an inner circle of disciples to whom Jesus wants to entrust his legacy. Here it doesn’t say en stēthei, “at the chest,” but en tō kolpō, “which Jesus carried in his bosom”; the text itself explains the expression en tō kolpō, “the one to whom Jesus was especially attached,” see 1:18 and the note there. Only in v.25, it says stēthos.

(417) TJ15, 106, LEANING NOW . . . CHEST: Some manuscripts additionally offer the word houtos, “so,” after the “now.”

(418) TJ15, 106, NIGHT: In this third main part of the Gospel, John structures the material by the time: Before the Passover (13:1), It was night (13:30b), Early morning (18:28b), Eve of the Passover (19:14), Day One (20:1).

(419) TJ15, 106, WITH HIMSELF: Heautō instead of autō, with a number of important manuscripts.

(420) TJ15, 106: This verse has been badly passed down. Many manuscripts simply omit the first line of v. 32; the shorter version is supported by the oldest manuscripts. The verb doxazein, Hebrew kibed, refers to the kevod YHWH, the honor (“force, brunt”) of the NAME. “Glorification” has become commonplace, but is misplaced.

(421) TJ15, 106, STILL A LITTLE: Eti micron, meˁat, a little (see Exodus 17:4: little was missing, or . . . etc.). The meaning is explained in detail in 16:16 ff.

(422) TJ15, 108, PUT IN MY SOUL: See note to 10:11; tithēmi tēn psychēn can, but does not have to mean: “give his life.”

(423) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 404.

(424) TJ15, 108, YOUR: Some manuscripts (including a Latin one from the 4th century) have at this point, “And he said to his disciples: Your . . .” Obviously, a break was felt early on. But the connection arises from 13:33, “Where I am going . . .” This connection remains until 14:28, “I am going to the FATHER,” and 14:31, “let’s leave here . . .” The denial of Simon Peter has to do with the complex, “to go away . . . to follow.”

(425) TJ15, 108, A PLACE OF PERMANENCE: Monai, the plural of “place to stay,” is difficult. In the LXX the word does not exist (except 1 Maccabees 7:38, where it probably means maqom). We have said in the note to 1:32 about the verb menein that it has as background ˁamad or qum. Of course, the next line says topos, maqom. Monē shows the aspect of duration, a permanent place. But “place to stay” has the meaning of “roof over your head” in contemporary language. We have to paraphrase this very specific maqom, “for many a place of permanence.”

(426) TJ15, 108, TO FOUND A PLACE FOR YOU: Etoimasai topon hymin. In 1 Chronicles 15:1, it is said that David founded or donated a place to the covenant shrine (Hebrew wa-yakhun maqom, Greek hētoimasen ton topon). In any case, topos in this context is not just any place, but the most important place, the house of God (the FATHER), pars pro toto Jerusalem or the land of Israel (see Genesis 13:14, where the land that God shows to Abraham is called maqom, “place”). The house of God (the place, maqom, which God chooses to make HIS NAME dwell there, Deuteronomy 12:11, etc.) is the only place for that Israel which trusts the Messiah. The Messiah founds a place that, unlike the house of God in Jerusalem, will be a place of permanence (monē), a place that will not be destroyed. Heaven is certainly not meant by this, but rather the Messianic community itself.

(427) TJ15, 108, AGAIN: Palin; see the note to 16:16. Jesus does not go to heaven to return, but he goes the way he must go, the way to his death; he comes on day one of the Shabbat week (20:19) to give the disciples the inspiration of sanctification. Then the place is established where Jesus and his disciples are, the Messianic community.

(428) TJ15, 108: The God of Israel is the way, the fidelity, and the life. No one finds the way there, except through the Messiah.

(429) Not only in Rabbinical Judaism but also in circles that created apocalyptic literature, there has been a lively debate about what happens to the righteous after they die and before the age to come. For this time, the gan ˁeden, the Garden of Eden, serves as a temporary place.

(430) “In John, there is actually no future anymore,” I wrote in the interpretation of the farewell speeches (Ton Veerkamp, Der Abschied des Messias. Johannes 13-17, in: Texte & Kontexte 95/96, 2002, 30). Thus I clearly missed the target. It is true that everything is decided in the “going” of the Messiah, including the “coming.” But precisely in this way, the earthly future remains open for Israel. At that time, I had blatantly underestimated the little word palin, “again” (or “rather”).

(431) TJ15, 110, HIS: Autou, according to P66 and some other manuscripts. The majority has auta, “the works themselves.” The meaning remains the same. Jesus does nothing but the works of the FATHER, and the work of HIS hands is Israel, the revival, unification, and liberation of Israel.

(432) TJ15, 110, YOU WILL ASK FOR: Aitēsete. The verb aitein or aiteisthai and the verb erōtan stand for the Hebrew shaˀal or the Aramaic sheˀal or beˁa. These verbs mean “to ask, to demand, to inform, to ask, to wish.” When Jesus addresses God “asking,” erōtan is used. If this verb is related to human objects, “to ask for” in the sense of “to beg, to request,” is more likely to be used. For “praying” the Hebrew has the root palal (hithpalel), Greek proseuchesthai. Here it is about “asking for” (when people ask something of God) and “asking” (when the Messiah addresses God).

(433) TJ15, 110, IN MY NAME: En tō onomati mou, “in my name,” is in pausa [see note on 8:16]; it has a special emphasis. People should not ask for anything, but only for that which is in accord with the name of the Messiah.

(434) TJ15, 110, ADVOCATE: Paraklētos. The word is missing in the LXX. In the Greek versions of Aquila and Theodotion, it serves as a translation of menachem, “comforter.” Paraklēsis occurs more often, it means “comfort, consolation, putting off!” However, the Hebrew root nacham is more comprehensive, “to comfort, to regret, to be tired, to have compassion.” In Romans 12:1, Gerhard Jankowski translates parakalein as “to encourage” (see Gerhard Jankowski, Die große Hoffnung. Paulus an die Römer. Eine Auslegung, Berlin 1998, 262.264). Since it is about court and legal proceedings, “advocate” (“the in-voked one,” ad-vocatus) is appropriate (see 16:8-11).

(435) TJ15, 110, INSPIRATION OF FIDELITY: Pneuma tēs alētheias, “inspiration of fidelity.” The fact that God is faithful to Israel is the only inspiration by which these people can live; fidelity is visible and audible in the Messiah Yeshua. The inspiration of fidelity is, in any case, anti-Roman (to Rome, it does not matter and is therefore not to be recognized). The role of that advocate would need further explanation. This happens in 16:13-15; see the note there.

(436) HS, I WILL PROVE MYSELF REAL TO HIM, this translation differs from the one given in TJ15:
TJ15, 110, I WILL MAKE KNOWN MYSELF TO HIM: Emphanizein occurs twice in the LXX, both times in Exodus 33, in v.13 for “to be recognized,” and in v.18 for “to be seen” (but there only in one manuscript). Since chapter 14 is about “seeing God,” Exodus 33 could be the background. The core sentence there, “the human cannot see ME and live” (33:20), is the basic requirement for the theology of John; see 1:18 and also 1 John 4:12. No theophany is thought of; here the LXX always writes ōphthē. The translation, mostly chosen in 14:21-22, as “to reveal” is less suitable. For “to reveal, make public” John always uses phaneroun. “To see God” means to recognize Yeshua as Messiah.
TJ05, 80 (46): The book “Wisdom of Solomon,” probably from Alexandria around the beginning of our era, has the rare word and its derivatives seven times. It means “apparition, to appear,” in the sense of “to prove oneself real.” This paraphrase lends itself well.

(437) To the translation and its reasoning, see TJ05, 80 (46) and the note on 14:21.

(438) TJ15, 112, A PLACE OF PERMANENCE: Monē, Hebrew maqom, “location.” The phrase means that the one who demonstrates his solidarity with the Messiah by keeping his word becomes meqom ˀelohim, “location of God,” a similar thought we find in 1 John 4:12, “If we are in solidarity with one another, God remains steadfast (meneimonē!) with us.” A minority of the manuscripts have changed the medium poiēsometha to Active: poiēsōmen. Obviously, the medium was not understood, i.e. it was not understood how God and his Messiah could make themselves a place. The faithful one (pisteuōn) is the place of God. “Make our home with him” has the aftertaste of “move in with him,” which is silly.

(439) TJ15, 112: The world order dictates the conditions of surrender. The fulfillment of these conditions is the price for the world order to refrain from the use of further military force. It is this condition that—after the year 70—it calls “peace.”

(440) TJ15, 112, RULER OF THE WORLD ORDER: The Emperor of Rome, see note to 12:31.

(441) TJ15, 112, HAS NO CONCERN AT ALL: Ouk echei ouden, literally, “has nothing.” Some manuscripts do not understand the verb echein; they add “in me, he finds nothing” or “in me, he has nothing to find.” The Greek verb has no equivalent in the Semitic languages. John uses it for any kind of assignment between subject and object, in this case, Caesar (archōn) and nothing (ouden). The “nothing” is assigned to Caesar, an Aramaic figure of speech, to indicate an absolute contradiction, for example, “He and I are connected only by the nothing,” so there is no relationship at all. This must be made clear in the translation. The German expression “mit jemandem etwas haben” (“to have something with someone”) reflects an intense relationship, “mit mir hat er nichts” (literally, “with me, he has nothing”) is, therefore, a “zero relationship.”
HS: Instead of the literal translation of the German paraphrase just mentioned, “has no concern at all” seems more appropriate to me.

(442) HS: TV identifies this Judas as a brother of Yeshua because of his attitude, which corresponds to Yeshua’s brothers in 7:2-10. He might also think of Jude 1, where Jude (written in Greek as Ioudas) presents himself as “a slave of Yeshua the Messiah and a brother of James”—the latter of which is known as the Brother of the Lord.

(443) With the strange word monē John may indicate what later in Judaism and, especially, in its mysticism will be called Shechina, indwelling in the scattered Jewish people.

(444) Genitivus subjectivus, thus no Christology, teaching about the Messiah, Genitivus objectivus!

(445) Very similar to Ezekiel 13:1-16.

(446) HS: TV also explains here why in the German version it says “Fuehrer” instead of “ruler” of the world order:
For a long time, we have hesitated to translate archōn as “Führer.” But to John, Caesar is a “murderer of humans” (8:44), and the soiled word “Führer” is appropriate.

(447) TJ15, 112, I AM: Here, egō eimi must be translated as a simple predicate sentence because Yeshua is clearly different from the FATHER: I the vine, HE, WHO WILL BE THERE, the FATHER, the vintner.

(448) TJ15, 112, VINTNER: The georgos in 15:1, second line, must not be translated here as “farmer” but as “vintner.“

(449) HS: TV translates klēma into German as “Traube,” “grape,” but only in v.2. As in vv.4-6, he takes “Rebe,” “[vine] branch,” I translate klēma as “branch” here as well. His following remark can be related to my translation as well:
TJ15, 112, TJ15, 112, GRAPE: Klēma, Hebrew qatzir, means the inflorescence of the grapevine. The disciples— sprout for the Israel of the Messiah—are the fruit-bearing part of the vine; without the Messiah (the plant) all their efforts for Israel are fruitless. The vine is Israel, it is also the Messiah. This collective interpretation of an individual figure (see Isaiah 53!, the tortured and killed slave is—as an outstanding member of the people—Israel itself!) comes from Daniel 7:27, where the messenger Daniel collectively interprets the bar enosh as “the people of the saints of the Most High.”

(450) TJ15, 114, STAY UNITED: Menōn has the connotation of “to stand firm” and “to stay firmly united”; see note to 1:32.

(451) TJ15, 114, AS I WITH YOU: Kagō en hymin. The kai in kagō has, as so often in John, a meaning that goes beyond the mere “and.”

(452) HS: TV translates karpon polyn into German as “viele Früchte,” “many fruits,” explaining:
TJ15, 114, MANY FRUITS: In the original singular: karpon polyn. In Semitic languages, the singular often has a collective meaning similar to our plural.
HS: But in the English language “to bear fruit” is the appropriate translation, as well, so I take “much fruit.”

(453) To this translation of the verb menein, “to stay,” see the note on 1:32.

(454) See the interpretation of John 3:22 ff. above.

(455) In my interpretation of the First Epistle of John, Ton Veerkamp, Weltordnung und Solidarität oder Dekonstruktion christlicher Theologie. Auslegung und Kommentar (= Texte & Kontexte 71/72 (1996)), 35ff.

(456) TJ15, 116, IF THEY PERSECUTED ME: Here, the subject changes. From the context, it follows that in the passage 15:20-16:4 not the world order but Rabbinical Judaism is meant.

(457) TJ15, 116, PRETEXT: Prōphasis. The word is rare in the LXX; it stands for the Aramaic ˁillah (in the Greek Bible translation of Theodotion twice in Daniel 6:5-6). There, some men bring “false accusations” against Daniel before King Darius. In Mark 12:40 par. the scribes or Perushim eat the houses of widows under the pretext—prophasei—of long prayers. “Excuse” would be too weak. This is about pretexts: they pretend that the Messiah never spoke to them.

(458) TJ15, 116, HATED ME . . . FOR NO REASON AT ALL: Hebrew sonˀay chinnam; see Psalms 35:19; 69:5. Psalm 69 was already quoted in John 2:17. Both psalms are songs of those who, in the days of the Maccabean revolution, were persecuted for their “zeal for your house.” Nevertheless, to John, it is a word not from his Torah, but from “their” Torah!

(459) The Hebrew word sanaˀ, “to hate,” covers a wide range of emotions; Lea “hates” Rachel because Lea “is hated” by Jacob and Rachel is his lover (Genesis 29:31; see the legal consequences for this case: Deuteronomy 21:15 ff.). The brothers “hate” Joseph; he is more than his brothers the beloved child of Jacob, Genesis 37:4 ff. The basic emotion here is envy and jealousy. Amnon raped Tamar, his half-sister; after this brutal and inhuman act “he hated her with very great hatred, greater was the hatred with which he hated her than the love with which he loved her,” 2 Samuel 13:15. Such emotions are eliminated in the interpretation of John 15:13 ff.

(460) Like Messianism affected these Galileans, the workers’ movement affected not a few bourgeois artists around 1900. The workers’ movement had a messianic effect on them, as Georg Lukács writes in Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. Studien über marxistische Dialektik, Berlin/Neuwied 1970, 5 ff. Many poems by the radical leftist opponent of Lenin, Herman Gorter, froth with messianic enthusiasm; the Russian poetry of the revolutionary period 1917 – 1930 also had messianic features. The workers’ movement had, so to speak, “chosen” these poets, but they had not chosen the workers’ movement.

(461) The passage is unexplainable. The LXX saves itself from the affair and writes: “Their prayer has become a sin.” According to Job 24:12, instead of thefilla (“prayer, praise”), one could perhaps read thifla (“dirt”), which is possible in consonant writing. Then we would have: “me—the piece of dirt!”

(462) TJ15, 118, STUMBLE: Scandalizesthai, related to skandalon, Hebrew mikhshol, moqesh, “trap” or “stumbling block.” The word always has to do with false gods, see note to 6:61.

(463) TJ15, 118, WORK OF PUBLIC SERVICE: Latreian prospherein, Hebrew ˁavad, ˁavoda. The “service” which is meant here, is always the service in the sanctuary, and the sanctuary was the central political institution of the Judean state. Six times latreia appears in the LXX, three times in connection with Pascha (Exodus 12:26-27; 13:5). Politically, exclusion means that the excluded must get along without the protection of the officially recognized ethnos of the Judeans, which in the worst case could be life-threatening.

(464) TJ15, 118, ACCORDING TO FIDELITY I SAY: Tēn alētheian legō. Of course, Yeshua also tells the “truth,” he is not lying. But in the Gospel, alētheia has the scope of ˀemeth, of fidelity. Adverbial use of derivatives of the root ˀaman (ˀaman, ˀomna, ˀumnam, ˀomnam) is reproduced in the LXX with ep’ alētheias, alētheia. But you can also think of the Greek accusativus respectus.

(465) For details see Shimon Applebaum, The Legal Status of the Jewish Communities in the Diaspora, in: S. Safrai/M. Stern (Hgg.), The Jewish People in the First Century (CRINT I/1), Assen 1974, 420-463, here 420ff.

(466) Luke reports of an attempt by the synagogue in Corinth to turn the dispute with the Messianist Paul into a political affair. The governor Gallio declared himself not to be in charge and the affair ended in the presence of Gallio with a spanking for Sosthenes the head of the synagogue and Gallio did not care, Acts 18:12 ff. Such brawls were not latreia!

(467) The Jewish philosopher Jakob Taubes said about Paul in 1987, “Not the Nomos, but the one who was crucified by the Nomos is the Emperor. That is outrageous, and against it, all little revolutionaries are nevertheless void! This revaluation turns Jewish-Roman-Hellenistic upper-class theology upside down, the whole mishmash of Hellenism” (Jakob Taubes, Die politische Theologie des Paulus, München 1993, 38).

(468) In late antiquity, more than a few copyists of the text of John asked themselves how it was supposed to happen that their hour—namely, that of the words about persecution—was to come? His hour, yes—but theirs? So they omit the pronoun. These manuscripts were written after Constantine, after the persecutions, under the impression that their hour was over, the hour of those words announcing the persecution. The omission is more than a lapse. The omission says that the Messiah Christ, Messianism, Christianity, and the Church—which no longer suffer under the authority—have become authority themselves.

(469) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 430, “They do not ask where he is going—the answer would, of course, be: to the Father; and thus the riddle would be solved . . . The lypē of the disciples is based on a misunderstanding . . .” We wonder how Bultmann—when writing his famous comment, 1941—could not see that the concentration camps were full of those to whom the unspeakably agonizing end was the only perspective, and how he could speak of “misunderstanding.”

(470) TJ15, 118, The construction of vv.9-11 runs over the particles men . . . de . . . de, “admittedly . . . but . . . but.” The aberration is the negation of reliability. The lack of trust in the Messiah makes it impossible to come to a final reckoning with the ruling world order; this is the one level of conflict. The other level is that the advocate represents the disciples at the court by acting as a prosecutor against the ruler of the world order. The disciples have to prove themselves as reliable because the Messiah can no longer be an element of their “theory”—they can no longer “observe” him, theōreite—(because he is going away); the life of the Messianic community is the life without the Messiah and lives only from the inspiration of the fidelity that comes from the FATHER and the Messiah (vv.13-15), that is, from the Messianic inspiration. Finally, the Messiah’s reliability will show itself in the annihilating judgment on Rome, see Daniel 7:12. Thus, you must not suppress these three particles in the translation. This reliability, in contrast to the aberration of the Perushim and in contrast to the judgment of the court on Rome, becomes, so to speak, “known to the court.” It is the suspension of both levels of conflict.

(471) The basic meaning of the Semitic root chataˀ, “to err.” The Arabic verb chattiˀa means “to make an error”; the causative form achtaˀa “to cause an error, to miss the goal”; the nouns chit or chata therefore “aberration, error.”
HS (content comment): However, I am reluctant to accept the radical alternative that TV presents here. Is hamartia, in fact, only political aberration and not also personal misconduct? Can we expect an ancient Jew to separate thus religion and politics, collective and individual?

(472) All comments consulted by me are seeing the “devil” here. Evidence is missing; where evidence is given, it does not refer to the “devil.” Barrett, too, on 12:31 sees that the Rabbinical sar ha-ˁolam “does not refer to Satan.” Nevertheless, archōn tou kosmou toutou from 16,11 is the devil for him as well. Siegfried Schulz writes about 16:11, “It was not the Nazarene who was judged on the cross of Jerusalem, that is, of the world, and of Rome, but precisely in his death on the cross the supposedly judged and murdered man triumphed over the world and its actual ruler, the devil.” The simple reversal would have been: not Rome had judged the Messiah, but the Messiah had judged Rome. But for centuries the concept of the devil is so firmly rusted-in that everybody looks at that imaginary devil, but of course never at the factual “worldly authority,” the only true physical “devil.”

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

(474) TJ15, 118, LEAD YOU ON THE WAY: See Psalm 25:5, also 143:10; often hidrikh and nacha (Greek hodēgein), “to lead on the way” and “to guide,” respectively, are associated with limad, “to teach.” The inspiration makes new the Torah and the path of life (halakha). It is the tale (angelia) of what is to come, and what is to come is the age which is coming from the Messiah Yeshua. This inspiration from the God of Israel and the Messiah binds both testaments, Tanakh and Gospel, indissolubly together. Church dogmatics actually means nothing else, “FATHER (Tanakh) and SON (Gospel), indissolubly united in the HOLY SPIRIT.”

(475) TJ15, 120: This whole verse is omitted by P66, Codex Sinaiticus, and some Coptic manuscripts. Of course, the verse is not a mere repetition. This inspiration brings nothing new; the Messiah does the work of the God of Israel; this inspiration incites nothing but the restoration of Israel. The verse serves as an explanation of 16:14 because some have seen early on with the “Holy Spirit” the announcement of a new “historical” epoch, a new religion. The unity FATHER-MESSIAH-INSPIRATION is the unity of all the way of Israel, from Genesis to Chronicles, and the walk of the Messianic community under the world order.

(476) Under these circumstances, what is the unity of FATHER and SON and HOLY SPIRIT? That the Scriptures of Israel are not by chance the Scriptures of the Ecclesia is also what the Dogma of Nicaea tries to clarify. But the unity here is not an ontic unity carried out in the reality of the people of God, but an ontological unity, a unity formulated using the categories of being of the scientific language of late Hellenism. No Jew then or now—not even a heretical child of Israel from the days of Emperors Domitian or Trajan—could ever have understood such a thing. Under the prevailing circumstances of compromise with the system of exploitation of the colonate of the new empire (Constantine and his successors), nothing better had been possible. Nicaea and Chalcedon were the best the Church could have decided not to cut the ribbon with Israel, even theoretically, for good. Practically, the result was a tritheism Father, Son, Holy Spirit, even tesseratheism, plus the Theotokos Mary, and Judaism had to go to the ghetto. The “Trinity” of the 1st letter of John, “Water, Blood, Inspiration” had a different point (Ton Veerkamp, Weltordnung und Solidarität oder Dekonstruktion christlicher Theologie. Auslegung und Kommentar (= Texte & Kontexte 71/72 (1996)), 109ff.).

(477) Jakob Taubes, Die politische Theologie des Paulus, München 1993, 37.

(478) In writing Matthew 5:18, and orally, 23:2-3.

(479) To us, the dispute between the Orthodox Churches and the Churches of the West about the filioque {“and the Son”} is bizarre. In John, the dispute has long since been settled. The inspiration (“Spirit”) proceeds from the Messiah (“Son”); “everything that belongs to the FATHER belongs to the Messiah,” consequently the inspiration proceeds from both: from the Messiah and from God. Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt shows the relevance of the old controversy very clearly in the second volume of his Christology, “According to Eastern theologian tradition, the Holy Spirit does not blow from the Son, not from Jesus to us, but as direct God-power from the eternal Father, which does not need any historical mediation.” (Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Das christliche Bekenntnis zu Jesus, dem Juden. Eine Christologie II, München 1991, 49.) That is why the dispute with the Orthodox Churches is not without importance—especially not for the fighting anti-Judaism in their area.

(480) TJ15, 120, A LITTLE WHILE: Micron, 13:33. The background is Isaiah 54, the song rani, ˁaqara, “rejoice, barren woman.” The verses 54:7-8 have the same style as John 16:16, “For a little while (regaˁ qaton, LXX: chronon mikron) I have left you, with great mercy (be-rachamim gedolim) I will bring you back.”

(481) TJ15, 120, IN CONTRAST: Palin, “back, again, in contrast,” 45 times in John. In the LXX the word stands for shuv, “return,” combined with a verbal form; but rarely for hosif with an infinitive or for ˁod; the latter words give a continuity, “so, and so forth.” In this sense, John also uses the word, for instance, 1:35; 4:3, etc. In other cases it means “in contrast,” 6:15; 16:28; there the discontinuity is in the foreground. This also applies to 16:16 ff. The birth of a child, which puts an end to pain, is not a repetition and not a reunion, but something entirely new, therefore “in contrast.”

(482) TJ15, 122, IS A FRIEND / HAVE BECOME MY FRIENDS: Philei . . . pephilēkate. Since the disciples are no longer douloi, “slaves,” but philoi, “friends,” (Perfect, see 15:15), it is clear that God’s solidarity with Israel (agapē) towards the disciples as the core group of Israel is being raised to a new level, that of “friendship.”

(483) Ulrich Wilckens, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (NTD Band 4), Göttingen 2000, 254.

(484) TJ15, 122, SCATTERED: Skorpisthēte, Hebrew nefotzothem, a process related to the scattering of Israel (see 11:52).

(485) TJ15, 122, TRIBULATION: Thlipsis, Hebrew tzar, tzara. It is a word of the Psalms. In the LXX the word thlipsis occurs 124 times, 36 times in the Psalms, and means “to be constricted, to see no way out.” In the book of Nehemiah, the eight Levites in their great intercession for the people summarize the situation of Judea under the foreign rule as follows, “We are in an almost hopeless situation,” u-ve-tzara gedola ˀanachnu, en thlipsei megalē esmen, 2 Esdras 19:37 (= Nehemiah 9:37). This is more than “being afraid.” Under the prevailing conditions of the Roman world order, the disciples will be harassed, put under pressure, necessarily. Hence the call tharseite, ˀal thiraˀu, “do not be afraid.” The background is Exodus 14:13, Moshe’s word to the oppressed people in the face of Pharaoh’s army; he adds: ˀal thiraˀu . . . u-reˀu et yeshuˁath YHWH; LXX: tharseite . . . kai hōrate tēn sōtērian para tou theou; “you will see the liberation through the NAME.” This is factually identical with what Yeshua says, “I have conquered the world order.” It is the eve of liberation, the eve of the preparation day of the Passover Festival.

(486) TJ15, 124, Background: “To him, the bar enosh, the Human, was given power (Aramaic shaltan, Greek exousia or archē), honor and kingship, all peoples, communities, language groups shall serve him,” Daniel 7:14.

(487) TJ15, 124, OUT OF THE WORLD ORDER: Ek tou kosmou, “out of the world order,” belonging to it no more.

(488) TJ15, 124, SPOKEN WORDS: Rhēmata, not logous. See above, explanation of 5:47.

(489) TJ15, 124, FATHER, HOLY ONE: The background is the second part of the book of Leviticus; nine times we hear the word “holy” or “sanctifying” in connection with the NAME, the God of Israel; e.g. Leviticus 19:2: “Become holy, for holy am I, the NAME, your God.”

(490) HS: TV translates the Greek einai corresponding to a Hebrew haya into German as “zu einer Einheit werden, to become a unity,” instead of a simple equation “to be one.” I merely allude to the difference by “to become one” and “to be one.” Here is his explanation:
TJ15, 124, TJ15, 124, THAT THEY WILL BECOME A UNITY: Hina ōsin hen. We translate “to become a unity” because the Semitic haya is more powerful than the Greek einai. The subjunctive ōsin after the particle hina indicates that “to happen as a unity” is a state which the Messiah sets as his goal (11:52!). Here, of course, it is not, as Barrett and all the others would have us believe, about the unity of the church, because John did not know anything like church. Christians and Christianity were outside his field of vision. That the unity of the FATHER and the Messiah is a provocation we heard in 10:30 ff.

(491) HS: I don’t translate hyios tēs apōleias as “apostate” or the like because John 18:9 refers to this verse and he there—as almost always—understands apollymi as “to (let) be destroyed”; and unlike TV, I stick with the Semitic phrase “son of destruction.” Nevertheless, the meaning “son of destruction” may also be compatible with TV’s reference to Isaiah 57:4 (see below). The word field apollymi seems—at any rate in John—to denote both sides of an attitude rebelling against the God of liberation: both transgressing God’s commandments and the resulting perishing or being lost of the transgressor.
TJ15, 126, THE APOSTATE: Hyios tēs apōleias. In E. Nestle/K. Aland, Novum Testamentum Graecum 27th ed., Stuttgart 2001, you will find the reference “Isaiah 57:4.” If this is indeed the background, then hyios tēs apōleias stands for yilde-feshaˁ, “sons of apostasy, rebellion, transgression,” i.e., “apostates, rebels, transgressors.” If the reference 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is pertinent, then it cannot be Judas Iscariot, but Rome, as soon as it clearly reveals itself as antigod (2:4). Here, in John 17:12, it is clearly about “one of the Twelve”; in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it is about the apostate in general. Judas is the henchman, the apostate in 2 Thessalonians is “the divine” (hoti estin theos, v.4) and so “anti-god” (antikeimenos, anti in the meaning “instead of”: the divine takes God’s place.

(492) TJ15, 126: Ek tou kosmou ouk eisin/eimi. Vv.14-16 have already given up many riddles. P66 simply omits the last two lines of 17:14, 17:15-16 is again omitted by other manuscripts: for them, the repetitions were simply too much; Bultmann had predecessors early on! Perhaps the staccato “not from the world order” is important after all, for it is precisely this that must be inculcated.

(493) TJ15, 126: “Sanctify them in the (through the) truth, your word is (the) truth,” is translated (Luther, Becker, Schulz, Wilckens, Zurich Bible, etc.). But just the almost hopeless situation of this tiny group from Israel under Roman conditions without the protection of the synagogue shows that it is less about the truth of God than about his fidelity to this Israel. “Sanctify them”: this imperative has as its background Leviticus 19:2 and the like. God is the meqadishkhem, “who sanctifies you,” and the disciples accordingly are mequdashim ve-ˀemeth, “sanctified by fidelity.” The combination qadosh, “holy,” and ˀemeth, “fidelity,” as far as I see, does not appear in the Scriptures in this way.

(494) TJ15, 126, ONE: Hen, according to the great codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi rescriptus and many other manuscripts; but no less convincing is the omission by P66, the Vaticanus, and the Codex Bezae, and some others. Nestle/Aland opts for omission because the addition seems to be an attempt at textual harmonization. However, thus a theological debate is being conducted. The makers of the Codex Vaticanus, for example, may have been reluctant to equate the “unity” between God and the Messiah with a “unity” of the disciples “and us.”

(495) TJ15, 126, AS WE ARE ONE: Kathōs hemeis hen. Here can be translated “to be” because the copula does not occur; only in a minority of the manuscripts appears esmen, “we are (become).”

(496) TJ15, 126, FATHER: I WANT: With some of the textual witnesses; the others have, “FATHER, what you have given me, I want . . . etc.”

(497) TJ15, 128, BEFORE THE REJECTION OF THE WORLD ORDER: Pro katabolēs kosmou.
1. Katabolē occurs 11 times in the Messianic writings. Of these, the phrase apo katabolēs kosmou accounts for six to seven occurrences (depending on whether one counts Matthew 13:35 or not); three times we find pro katabolēs kosmou here (namely, in addition to John 17:24, in Ephesians 1:4 and in 1 Peter 1:20). In Hebrews 11:11, katabolē has the special meaning of “outflow of the sperm [Abraham’s into Sarah].” In the LXX, katabolē is encountered only in 2 Maccabees 2:29 (without a preposition). There it means “downfall.”
2. The underlying verb kataballein occurs 44 times in the LXX; all passages have a background of violence. The nine Hebrew verbs translated kataballein are verbs of violence except for laqach (once). And even laqach can mean “to kill,” namely, “to take the soul” (Ezekiel 33:4). Therefore, it must be asked whether the 11 katabolē passages in the Messianic writings should not all be translated in such a way that the dark coloring of katabolē becomes clear.
3. Oriented to 2 Corinthians 4:9 and Hebrews 6:1-2, where kataballein means “to subdue” or “to reject,” one can work with the meaning “subjection, rejection” in katabolē.
4. Apo katabolēs kosmou then means “since the subjugation of thohu wa-bohu, the world order of war and ruin”; see Jeremiah 4:23 ff. Pro tēs katabolēs kosmou has a similar tendency. Thus, for John 17:24, the meaning is: Even before the human order—kosmos—was rejected, God is in solidarity with the bar enosh, with the Human, see Genesis 6-9!

HS: I largely agree with TV, except for his view of the passages Maccabees 2:29—which has more to do with laying the foundations of a house than with a downfall—and Hebrews 6:1-2—which, after all, is more about going beyond the basics of instruction to advanced instruction. John can be thought to have intended the word, in fact, not simply to refer neutrally to the “foundation” of the world; in other places, however, the word may yet have been “abraded” in meaning, even if it originally referred to the overcoming of the thohu wa-bohu” of Genesis 1 and Jeremiah 4.

(498) TJ15, 128, TRUTHFUL ONE: Dikaie, Hebrew tzadiq, “truthful.” The God of Israel proves himself, therefore he is a proven or truthful one.

(499) “Search for the peace of the city where I have carried you off, and pray to the ETERNAL for it, and with its peace, there will be peace for you also,” Jeremiah 29:7. This is not a contradiction of John 17:9. Jeremiah had quite definite views about peace, as we heard in the discussion of 14:27. May there be for you, Jeremiah said, a condition also in Babel worthy of the name peace.

(500) In the Scriptures, there is the name, no persons. Therefore I cannot follow Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt where he writes, “On the other hand, Christology should not be absorbed in soteriology: as if one may calmly forget the person behind his work and behind his social role . . . A human is not equal to his work” (Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Das christliche Bekenntnis zu Jesus, dem Juden. Eine Christologie II, 1991, 39). That a “bourgeois distinction” is made here, Marquardt himself says, and this may also be “an inalienable gain in humanity” (op. cit.). But the work of the Messiah and the works he expects from the disciples and from us are not comparable to the social achievements of individuals in bourgeois society. Otherwise, neither God nor the Messiah would be entitled to a judgment at the Day of Decision, according to which each person is compensated according to his practice, Matthew 16:27; the practice is the totality of his works, Matthew 25:31 ff. When we take care of the least of His brothers, we are who we should be and can be: this is the name by which God calls us, these works, this is us! Yeshua wanted to be known in his works. Melanchthon said, Christum cognoscere est beneficia eius cognoscere, non quod isti docent eius naturas, modos incarnationis contueri, “To know Christ is to know his benefits, not to consider what those teach, his natures, the modes of his incarnation” (Loc. Comm. I, Opera XXI, 85). In English: The doctrine of the Messiah is the doctrine of the works of the Messiah.

(501) A disciple of John attempted to describe the indissoluble link between the old and new commandments, 1 John 2:7-8.

(502) TJ15, 128, BEYOND THE BROOK KIDRON: This location differs from what we find in the Passion narratives of the other canonical Gospels. “Beyond the brook Kidron” is a fateful place. David had to leave his city after the coup of Absalom by crossing this brook, 2 Samuel 15:23; in the valley of Kidron, 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 23:4, kings Asa and Josiah burned wooden images of idols.
HS: I add 1 Kings 2:37, where we are told on what condition King Solomon will let live a man named Shimei who had pronounced a curse against Solomon’s father David: “On the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron—so know that you must die of death; your blood then come on your head!”

(503) TJ15, 130, TRIBUNE: Chiliarchos, “leader of a thousand men”; it is difficult to match Roman ranks with those in use today. “Colonel,” “captain,” etc. are therefore not appropriate.

(504) There are two forms of this surname, Nazarenos and Nazōraios. Matthew only knows the second form and does not think of the town of Nazareth, but of the Hebrew netzer, “sprout,” from Isaiah 11:1 (Matthew 2:23). Luke 18:37 also has this second form, thinking of nasir, “prince.” A blind man is told Iēsous Nazōraios is passing by, and the blind man calls out to him, “Son of David,” Luke 18:38. So the inscription on the cross (John 19:19) refers to that Yeshua, the prince, the king of the Judeans (Iēsous ho Nazōraios ho basileus tōn Ioudaiōn).

(505) TJ15, 130, I HAVE PUBLICLY SPOKEN ABOUT THE WORLD ORDER: Parrhēsia lelalēka tō kosmō; the translation “I have spoken publicly to (all) the world,” that is, to all kinds of people, is certainly permissible. But in the context of John’s argument, the high priest is interested in what Jesus spoke politically, what political teaching he proclaimed, see 11:47-50.
HS: I wonder if another alternative translation is not even closer. Shouldn’t tō kosmō be translated in a context with 7:4 and 14:22? But then a contradiction in content arises, for both of the earlier passages assume that Yeshua just did not address the world order. But can tō kosmō really be translated as “about the world order”?

(506) TJ15, 130, SLAPPED YESHUA IN THE FACE: Edōken rapisma, “gave him a blow in the face.” See note on 19:3.

(507) TJ15, 132, PRAETORIUM: Praitōrion; John leaves the Latin word praetorium untranslated. For his listeners apparently a well-known institute, the official seat of the governor in the province.

(508) HS: All common translations and commentators take it for granted that, at first, only the other disciple enters the courtyard and afterward comes out again for causing the doorkeeper to bring Peter into the courtyard as well. But it seems more consistent with an unbiased view of the Johannine text to assume that Peter also went into the courtyard “with Yeshua” and that afterward the other disciple wanted to take him into the courtroom itself, but this seemed too dangerous to Peter after the exchange of words with the doorkeeper. In TJ15, however, TV also returned to the usual assumption.

(509) HS: At this passage, however, the verb is ekderein, as in 2 Chronicles 35:11 and Micah 2:8; 3:3. Only in 2 Chronicles 29:34, the word deirein appears in the LXX.

(510) Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 2. Teilband: Kapitel 11-21 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2001, 213.

(511) Louis Althusser, Für Marx, Frankfurt/M. 1968.

(512) TJ15, 132: This verse provides a contrast intended by John to the political complicity with Roman authority at the end of the passage in 19:15.

(513) The Mishna passage Mishna Ohalot 18:7-10 confirms the uncleanness of the houses of the goyim but not the degree of uncleanness. A lesser degree of uncleanness could be removed by a cleansing ritual before evening. John does not dwell long on such subtleties.

(514) The earliest written reference comes from Paul, but he was not an eyewitness. That Yeshua was crucified cannot be doubted, but how the execution came about, we do not know and cannot know until some historical document on the subject appears. This, however, seems completely improbable.

(515) See above, 13.5. The farewell.

(516) TJ15, 134, TERRORIST: Lēstēs, a militant Zealot and freedom fighter. In the mouth of the authorities, the word has an incriminating connotation. Hence, “terrorist.” Barabbas, son of the father, a common name. In John, bar abbas is a contrast to bar enosh. John is an anti-Zealot text, see note on 10:1.

(517) TJ15, 134, A PURPLE ROBE: Himation porphyroun, Hebrew beged argaman. The purple robe is the emblem of royalty (Judges 8:26, etc.) and of the leading priests (Exodus 28:2 ff.; Numbers 4:14 [LXX], etc.).

(518) TJ15, 134: The scene is inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9, especially 50:6, where, in the LXX version, both words, “flogging” (mastigoun) and “slapping in the face” (didonai rapisma) occur: “My back I gave to those who flogged me, my cheeks to those who slapped me, my face I did not turn away when they mocked and spat on me.” This is the anti-Zealot “strategy” of the Messiah that John the Baptist already announced. See note on 1:29.

(519) TJ15, 136, THERE, THE HUMAN: This phrase is omitted by P66 and by some old Latin manuscripts. Barrett, for example, refers to Zechariah 6:12 as a reference. The priest there is Joshua [Ye(ho)shua]. He is given a wreath or crown of silver and gold (v.11) and told on God’s behalf, hinne-ish tzemach shmo, “there, a man, sprout his name.” Should this be the reference, Yeshua is the absolute contrast. To P66, the phrase interrupts the logical progression of the narrative.

(520) TJ15, 236, A DIVINE: Hyion theou. The article tou is missing. Theos without the article means “divine.”

(521) TJ15, 136: The verse is difficult. There are two text versions. First, echeis, present tense, “you have”; second, eiches, imperfect tense, “you would have.” If you choose the second version, as usual, you opt for the irrealis; you then have the problem of explaining the absence of the particle an. You then get, “You would have no authority against me at all if it were not given to you from above.” This amounts to God sanctioning the Roman power—against the Messiah! If you choose the first version, and this first version (א, A, D, L, N, Ψ, 054, 23, 565, 1241 al.) is better attested than the second (B, W, Θ, f1.13, al.), which is followed by the Latin versions), then you choose a main clause in the indicative, “You have no authority at all,” and a qualifying clause, “unless it had been given to you from above” (ei mē = Hebrew ki ˀim or bilti ˀim, see Genesis 32:27). Mentally you then have to add, “But you have no power,” because it has just not been given to him from above (anōthen). This very “above” is clear in John’s Gospel, 3:3.7.31 and especially 8:23, where the Messiah says, egō ek tōn anō eimi, “I am from above.” Pilate has no idea of what is really taking place. Nestle/Aland’s reference to Romans 13:1 is typical. They choose eiches and decide politically-theologically for the ordinance of state authority by God. This cannot be because of John 16:33 (“I have defeated the world order [of which Pilate is the representative]”), among other things. The conflict of the two versions is political in nature and has been carried on across textual groups since at least the 4th century. In the first version, Rome/Pilate is denied any claim to power; in the second version, Rome has at most a temporary (Romans 13:1) margin of power; this would be Augustine’s situation but by no means John’s. In both versions, human power is always aberration (hamartia). But more than Pilate, someone else transgresses against Yeshua. Not Judas Iscariot is meant here, but Caiaphas. Judas was a petty henchman; it was Caiaphas who handed Jesus over to the Romans, 18:28a.

(522) Flavius Josephus, Bell. 6. 5. 3.

(523) Gerhard Jankowski, Die große Hoffnung. Paulus an die Römer. Eine Auslegung, Berlin 1998, 275-276.

(524) Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des John (CEC), Göttingen 1941, 512. Klaus Wengst, Das Johannesevangelium. 2. Teilband: Kapitel 11-21 (ThKNT), Stuttgart 2001, 239 refers to a retractatio of Bultmann, who deleted the following sentence in 1957, “His [Jesus’] words prove that the authority of the state does not originate from the world, but is founded by God,” Bultmann 1941, 511. Wengst mentions, however, that Bultmann retained the distinction between state and world even there. Rather, Bultmann saw no reason to revise his view that “the Jews” committed the greater (and double!) sin. Meanwhile, we are beginning to see and combat the hostility of evangelical theology to the Jews. Lutheran state piety, however, is vitally alive in the churches—not only the Protestant ones!—more than sixty years later.

(525) Luther himself was a political man and anything but subservient to state authority; see the great Luther chapter in Ulrich Duchrow’s book, Christentum und Weltverantwortung. Traditionsgeschichte und systematische Struktur der Zweireichelehre, Stuttgart 2nd ed. 1983, 437-573. Just as most Christians have not understood the “Christ,” most Lutherans have not understood Luther.

(526) Aurelius Augustinus: De Civitate Dei Libri XXII. Recensuit et commentario critico instruxit Emanuel Hoffmann, CSEL Vol. XXXX, Wien 1899, I, 4:4.

(527) TJ15, 136, IN HEBREW GABBATHA: What John calls “Hebrew” is Aramaic, for Aramaic was spoken in Jerusalem at that time. The word itself cannot be satisfactorily explained.

(528) TJ15, 138, ˁEREB PASCHA: Paraskeuē tou pascha, Hebrew ˁerev ha-pessach (like ˁerev shabat), “eve of Pascha,” the time when the preparatory work for the festival or Shabbat was done.

(529) TJ15, 138, GOLGOTHA: Again, this is probably an Aramaic word. Gelal in Aramaic means “something that rolls,” i.e., a round stone; galgal is “wheel,” gulgalta (Hebrew gulgolet) “skull, head.”

(530) HS, TITLE: I do not think it is necessary to paraphrase the legal term “title” with “grounds for the judgment” as TV does in German:
TJ15, 138, JUDGMENT REASON: Titlon, titulum, from Latin court language. “Debt title” in German has to do mainly with monetary debt. We paraphrase it as “grounds for judgment.”

(531) TJ15, 138, KING AM I OF THE JUDEANS: Basileus eimi tōn Ioudaiōn. This is unusual; normal would be basileus tōn Ioudaiōn eimi, see 19:19 and first line of 19:21. The leading priests separate by eimi the word basileus from tōn Ioudaiōn. We attempt to reflect this linguistic conspicuousness in the translation.

(532) Jürgen Becker, Das Evangelium nach Johannes. II. Kapitel 11-21, Gütersloh 3rd ed. 1991, 664.

(533) “You shall appoint, appoint a king whom the NAME your God shall choose. From among your brothers, you may appoint a king over you. You shall not appoint over you [as king] a foreign man who is not your brother,” Deuteronomy 17:15.

(534) TJ15, 140, SHARE . . . LOTS: Psalm 22:19, the song that begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

(535) TJ05, 98 (101): MARIA: The sister of Lazaros is called “Mariam” in John, but the two women under the cross are called “Maria.” Both names are Aramaic forms of the Hebrew name Miryam. In the Qur’an, the mother of Yeshua is called Maryam (Sura 3:31 etc.). The naming of the Magdalene is not consistent, sometimes Maria, sometimes Mariam (20:16.18). Even within individual manuscripts, the form changes. We stay with Maria in her case.

(536) Or four women, if you distinguish “his mother’s sister” from “Mariam of Klōpas.”

(537) See Gerhard Jankowski, Und dann auch den Nichtjuden. Die Apostelgeschichte des Lukas. 2. Teil (9,32-21,14), in: Texte & Kontexte 98/99 (2003), 66 ff.

(538) According to Rudolf Bultmann, Das Evangelium des Johannes (KEK), Göttingen 1941, 369.521, the scene is symbolic; the mother represents Jewish Christianity, the beloved disciple Hellenistic Christianity. This view is to be filed in the folder “blooming imagination.”

(539) TJ15, 140, ACHIEVED THEIR GOAL: The verb telein occurs in John only here and in 19:30. For “to accomplish,” John uses the verb teleioun. This stands for the Hebrew root kalal (kala), see John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4: to complete the work that the FATHER instructed Jesus to do, further as a synonym for plēroun, “to fulfill,” in the third line of 19:18. But here, in the second line, John uses the unusual telein, to reflect the unique thing that happens at the cross. The goal is this end for this Messiah and the condition for the absolute beginning on “day one,” 20:1 ff.

(540) TJ15, 140, I AM THIRSTY: Psalm 69:21b-22, “I hoped for a nod—none! For a comforter—I did not find him. They put gall in my drink; for my thirst, they watered me with vinegar.” Like Psalm 22, this song is a lament of those children of Israel who were mocked, persecuted, and killed for their fidelity to the cause of God.

(541) TJ15, 140, HANDED OVER THE INSPIRATION: Paredōken to pneuma. The Synoptics have exepneusen (Mark, Luke) or aphēken to pneuma (Matthew) at this point, i.e., “despirited” or “gave away his spirit.” Paradidonai is used in John only for “to hand over to the enemies” (subjects: Judas Iscariot, the nation, the leading priests, Pilate). Pneuma we have always translated as “inspiration.” We have to translate, to be consistent, as “he handed over his inspiration.” The reference is certainly intentional on John’s part: the protagonists of this world order “hand over” a man to his enemies, Yeshua, on the other hand, gives his inspiration into the hands of his disciples (“hands it over”), which is the meaning of his departure, 16:7! Consistently we hear in 20:22, labete to pneuma hagion, “accept the inspiration of sanctification.” The “handing over of inspiration” finds its completion in the “accepting of inspiration.”
HS: Furthermore, since in German the word “ausliefern,” “to hand over” cannot mean both handing over to one’s enemies and handing over to one’s friends as it does in English, TV explains why he uses the German word “übergeben” here.
The translation of ekpnein in Mark 15:37 as “to despirit” goes back to Ton Veerkamp, Vom ersten Tag nach jenem Sabbat. Der Epilog des Markusevangeliums: 15,33-16,8. In: Texte & Kontexte 13 (1982), 5-34, here 16:

By this unusual word, Mark wants to represent the death of Jesus as a negation of his “spiriting” after the baptism. The spirit—the holy spirit!—is taken away from him. The translation: “he gave up the spirit” is therefore not good. It is not an elevated expression for “to die,” but the theological scope of this dying. Therefore the suggestion to say “to despirit” here, in order to draw attention to the completely unusual word.

(542) Charles K. Barrett (Das Evangelium nach Johannes [KEK], Göttingen 1990, 531.

(543) If we disregard the past participle teteleutēkotos, “the accomplished one” (Lazaros), 11:39. It comes from teleutan, which means “to accomplish through death.” This is precisely what is not meant to be said here.

(544) But there “to commit my spirit to your hand (paqad)” just does not mean to die.

(545) So you may say of a car engine, “It has given up the ghost.”

(546) TJ15, 142: Vv.32-34: The event is handed down only by John; later, some manuscripts (א, B, C, L, Γ, etc., plus the Vulgate) have added a phrase based on v.34 to Matthew 27:49. To John, the event has a decisive significance since he not only mentions it as a fulfillment of the Scriptures but takes it as an occasion to attribute the credibility of the event to the testimony of an eyewitness. In the text itself, there is a reference to 6:53-56 (blood) and 3:5.8; 4:10; 7:38 (water).

(547) TJ15, 142, HIS BONES WILL NOT BE BROKEN: The passage Exodus 12:46 reads, “You shall eat [the lamb for Passover] in one house, you shall not bring the meat out of the house into the street, and you shall not break its bones.”

(548) TJ15, 142: Zechariah 12:10. The quotation brings only keywords.

(549) This view of the Scriptures is and remains difficult. See the scholion on 5:46, “Christocentrism and disinheritance of Judaism.”

(550) Probably the place where the king Josiah was mortally wounded, 2 Chronicles 35:22 ff.

(551) TJ15, 142, ARIMATHEA: Arimathaia, Hebrew Ramatayim; the place was in the province of Samaria before the Maccabean period, later in Judea, on the border with Samaria.

(552) Other Semitic languages proceed similarly. Aramaic chad/qadmay, Arabic vahid/avval. In the order of those indicated by an ordinal number, “first” plays a special role. Compared to all others, the first has a prominent meaning. In Hebrew, the first is the “head,” in Aramaic the one who precedes, in Arabic the one who goes back, the original one.

(553) Thohu wa-bohu means “Irrsal und Wirrsal” in the ingenious translation by Martin Buber.

(554) See Salomo ben Isaak (Raschi), Pentateuch-Commentar benevens eene nederlandsche verklarende vertaling door A. S. Onderwijzer I-V, Amsterdam 1895 (Reprint 1985), 5.

(555) Also the Targum Onkelos, a widely accepted and very early translation into Aramaic. It has yoma chad (cardinal number) instead of yoma qadmaya (ordinal number).

(556) TJ15, 144, ON DAY ONE OF THE SHABBAT WEEK: Tē de mia tōn sabbatōn, Aramaic chad shabata. Like Mark, John uses an Aramaic expression, not so much because he had insufficient knowledge of the Greek language as to suggest a “first day” of an entirely new quality. Matthew, Mark, and Luke proceed in the same way. This Aramaism has been retained by the Latin translations (una sabbatorum). The plural indicates the “Shabbat period” (i.e. “week”). Therefore, you have to translate “unusually” because the “unusual” was intended here. The procedure is derived from Genesis 1:5, where a cardinal number is also used, yom ˀechad, “day one.” All other days of creation are designated by ordinal numbers.

(557) TJ15, 144, DARKNESS IS STILL: Skotias eti ousēs. “It was still dark” seems natural, but misses the meaning that “darkness” (skotia, Hebrew choshekh, Genesis 1:2) has in John, see John 1:5 (twice); 6:17; 8:12; 12:35 (twice); 12:46. To walk in darkness is to live without Messiah and without Messianic inspiration. Hence the unwieldy translation, “darkness is still.”

(558) The spelling varies: Maria in 19:25; 20:1.11; Mariam 20:16.18.

(559) Questionable: ˁashir = “rich man,” LXX plousious; conjecture: ˁosse raˁ = “evildoer” instead of ˁashir.

(560) TJ15, 146, The transition from direct to indirect speech is hardly elegant to translate. Some manuscripts—among them the Codex Bezae (D) from the 5th century—have improved, “‘I have seen the LORD,’ and what he had told her, she reported to them.”

(561) The F. A. Herbig Verlagsbuchhandlung had thought to publish the German translation under the improper title “Griechische Passion,” “Greek Passion.”
HS: The English title of the book is “Christ Recrucified.”

(562) HS: For the two different verbs apostellein and pempein, “to send,” TV uses the two German verbs “senden” and “schicken.” In English, I did not find a second word that would have been completely equivalent in meaning to the verb “to send.”

(563) TJ15, 148, FORGIVE . . . BE FORGIVEN: Aphēte, apheōntai (or aphientai, aphiontai, aphethēsetai in some manuscripts), alternating between present subjunctive and perfect subjunctive passive. Aphienai stands for Hebrew ssalach.” Ssalach in the Tanakh has only God or the NAME as a subject. That is why the majority of manuscripts write the subjunctive, “may they be forgiven [by God].”
HS: In his interpretation below, however, TV still refers to his earlier translation, in which he uses the difficult German word “aufheben” (see note 588):
TJ05, 102: “If ye take away their aberrations, they are taken away from them.”

(564) TJ15, 148, HARDENED: The verb kratein very often stands for the Hebrew chazaq. The background is Exodus 10:20: “The NAME hardened Pharaoh’s heart (YHWH yechazeq); he did not send the children of Israel free.” This is an alternation between hecheziq (causative) and chazaq (basic stem), which John renders in Greek by alternating between the present subjunctive and the perfect passive. The events in the struggle for Israel’s liberation, like the hardening of Egypt, are the result of an act of the NAME: the fronts necessarily harden because either Egypt must cease to be the house of slavery or Israel must give up the willingness to become children of freedom. The indicative perfect kekratēntai indicates, as always in John, a definite state.
HS: The LXX, however, doesn’t translate the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as kratein, but as sklērynein. In the surrounding context, on the other hand, the word krataia cheiri often refers to the “mighty hand,” bechozeq yad, with which the NAME leads the Israelites out of Egypt. Only in Exodus 9:2 is enkratein used for Pharaoh’s stopping of the Israelites.

(565) The technical term for this is the passive form (nisslach); we find it nine times in Leviticus 4 and 5 alone.

(566) HS: Literally here are only the words zōēn echēte en tō onomati autou, “you may have life in his name.” The word aiōnios is missing. But according to TV’s entire reading of the Gospel, the life promised here definitely means the eternal, fulfilled, this-worldly life of the age to come. And the name spoken of here is the liberating NAME of the God of Israel—fully embodied by the Messiah and Son of GOD, Yeshua, therefore written fully capitalized.

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