Galilee – Setting out to Follow the Messiah

In the end, John’s group, inspired by Yeshua, breaks out of its sectarian isolation “behind locked doors” for joining the Judeo-Messianic movement led by Peter, not without preserving a certain independence. Following the Messiah means “letting oneself be girded” to solidarity, like Yeshua in the washing of the feet.

A woodcut shows Yeshua washing the feet of his disciples. Two of them stand in the background in a friendly attitude, following the Messiah, showing solidarity.

The Messiah Yeshua had washed the feet of his disciples – ascending to the FATHER, he hands over to them the inspiration to follow his example – in the struggle of solidary love against the world order (Bild: Margret Hofheinz-Döring, Fußwaschung, Linolschnitt, 1932 (WV·Nr.419), CC BY-SA 3.0)

Part IV: GALILEE, 21:1-25

17 By the Sea of Tiberias, 21:1-25

The 21st chapter is not a corollary that was “added” for the sake of completeness and would contribute nothing essential to the argument. The question of who is supposed to have added it and when is beside the point. Linguistically, there are some indications that it could have been written by another hand, but still trained by “John,” yet this is not certain. The Gospel has never been handed down without this chapter; it is an integral part of the Gospel and makes it, so to speak, “catholic”—from kath’ holon: meant for the whole.

17.1. We also come with you, 21:1-14

21:1 After this, Yeshua let himself be seen again publicly by the disciples,
at the sea of Tiberias. (567)
He let himself be seen as follows:
21:2 There were together
Simon Peter, Thomas, called “Twin,” and Nathanael from Cana, Galilee,
the [sons] of Zebedee, and of his disciples two more.
21:3 Simon Peter says to them,
“I’m going fishing.”
They said to him,
“We also are coming with you.”
They went out and got into the boat,
and that night they caught nothing.
21:4 But when it already had become early morning, Yeshua stood on the beach, the disciples, however, did not know that it was Yeshua.
21:5 So Yeshua says to them,
“Lads, don’t you have anything to eat?” (568)
They answered him,
21:6 But he said to them,
“Throw in the net on the right side of the boat,
you will find.”
So they threw it in and were not able to pull it up,
because of the amount of fish.
21:7 Now that disciple Yeshua was attached to in solidarity says to Peter,
“It is the Lord!“
Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he girded himself with the outer garment, for he was naked,
and threw himself into the sea.
21:8 The other disciples came with the boat,
for they were not far from shore, about two hundred cubits,
dragging along the net with the fish.
21:9 Now when they went down ashore, they saw a charcoal fire burning,
side dish lying on it, and bread.
21:10 Yeshua says to them,
“Bring some of the side dish you have caught now.”
21:11 So Simon Peter went up and dragged the net ashore.
It was full of big fish, a hundred and fifty-three.
but even with so many, the net did not tear.
21:12 Yeshua said to them,
“Come, eat.”
None of the disciples dared to sound him out,
“Who are you,” knowing full well that it was the Lord.
21:13 Yeshua comes,
takes the bread,
gives it to them,
and the side dish likewise.
21:14 This was now the third time
that Yeshua was seen publicly by the disciples, (569)
raised from the dead.

The passage opens with a peculiar phrase. In the Gospel, the verb phaneroun has the meaning “to make known publicly.” In the resurrection narratives in John 20, the verb phaneroun, “to make public, to reveal,” does not occur. In the Gospel, the verb serves to denote the Messiah as a public and political figure, 1:31 and 7:4, the public glory of the Messiah, 2:11, and his works, 3:21; 9:3, and his name, 17:6. Everywhere the public is an essential element of the verb. So we would have to translate, “After this, Yeshua again allowed himself to be seen publicly by the disciples.” The traditional translations help themselves with “appear.” Spirits or ghosts appear, Yeshua is neither one nor the other. Here, again, the verb has the meaning “to make oneself known publicly” or “to be seen.”

In the 20th chapter, Yeshua just did not let himself be seen publicly. He was not recognized by Maria of Magdala, he made himself known as a teacher because he had pronounced her name. He was seen by the disciples only in the locked room. Now it is a matter of publicity. So we have to translate with “to be seen publicly.” But this, as far as we can see, is unique. (570) The use of the verb indicates that the group will be released into the Messianic public; the use of the particle palin in the meaning specific to John, “rather,” shows that something decisive will now happen. How and to which purpose is told in this final chapter.

Of the Twelve, seven are together. To our astonishment, we encounter the two sons of Zebedee, who play a prominent role in the Synoptics, but were not mentioned with a syllable in John. The two are portrayed on the level of the narrative as professional comrades of Simon Peter; in fact, on the level of the narrator, they are chief representatives of the Messianic movement—the one that originated in Judea. To Paul, “they were considered pillars,” Galatians 2:9, and this meaning must have been known to the narrator. They represent the Messianic public into which Yeshua releases the until then isolated group.

Simon Peter is there; it will be about him. Then Thomas, called the Twin, the solidary skeptic, and Nathanael, the Israelite, in whom there was no deceit. Then two others. One is the apprentice Yeshua was solidary with. He remains without a name, as does the other. This is a strange company. Neither Andrew nor Philipp are present; at least, we do not learn their names. Seven is a full number, but seven is not twelve. We have seven people. The week has seven days. The stranger on the beach is the eighth person. The eighth day is yoma chad, “day one.”

Simon now goes about his business, fishing. This, too, has not been mentioned so far. Simon takes the initiative; he is the protagonist in the narrative. “I’m going fishing”; the others join in, “We’re coming with you, too.” The seven go fishing; they are a professional collective here, not yet a Messianic community. They are a timid group of people who had once embarked on a Messianic adventure. Now they are going fishing again. People have to do something to eat; fishermen go fishing, they are not Messianists anymore, despite the “experience” in the locked room after the death of Yeshua.

The nightly venture is fruitless. Nothing goes on. On their return, the fishermen see Yeshua standing on the beach, not knowing that it is him. This is what Maria from Magdala also experienced. She also perceived a figure without knowing that it was Yeshua; she thought he was the gardener. The rising Messiah is not recognized; he makes himself known.

Yeshua addresses the disciples as paidia, something like “lads.” He had once called them teknia, “children,” 13:33. He asks for “food added to (bread),” pros-phagion, we translate “something to eat.” The word did not exist in the Greek language until then, the narrator invented it. The fishermen are literally monosyllabic: Ou, “no.” To them, the man is a stranger, an outsider.

The stranger advises them to cast the net on the right side of the boat. This they do. Why these professional fishermen take professional advice from a stranger is odd, especially since it doesn’t matter whether the net is cast to the right or left of the boat. If there are fish, they catch; if there are no fish, they don’t catch, whether to the left or the right. But they do what the man says, and that because he says it and not because the right side is supposed to be the lucky side. They would have thought of that on their own.

Now they catch, and the success is unheard of: they cannot drag the net because of the amount of fish. From this, the disciple “Yeshua was solidarily attached with” recognizes who it is, and says to Simon, “It is the Lord.” Yeshua is called “Lord” here. This is the confession of the Messianic community.

Simon reacted as if he was reminded of something he had forgotten or, better, repressed: when he “heard that it was the Lord,” he throws on his coat and goes into the water. In this final chapter, John makes up for what he had missed in the narrative about Yeshua walking on the water to meet the disciples. There, diverging from the Synoptic version of the narrative, he leaves Simon in the boat. Now Simon goes into the water.

He knew that he was naked, and he also knew that he had to cover his nakedness. Under non-paradise conditions, nakedness is a disgrace (Genesis 3) and a sign of extreme neediness. Therefore, it is a human duty to give clothing to the naked (Ezekiel 18:16; Matthew 25:36). Simon knows about his nakedness, about the isolation of the former disciples of the Messiah. “He put the outer garment around himself,” it says. The word (diezōsato, from zonnynaki, “to gird”) invokes the scene where Yeshua will announce to him that another will gird him (21:18). (571) Still, Simon can act and overcome his nakedness that isolates him. For isolation is isolation from the Messiah.

The disciples follow and do the hard work of bringing the catch to shore. The disciples come with the fish; Simon is already on shore. The disciples go down from the boat (apebēsan), Simon goes up on the boat (anebē), and he drags the net, full of big fish, 153 in number. The leader of the fishermen completes the heavy work. The number 153 is unexplained until today. John surely wanted to make something clear with it, but he does not tell us what. We also capitulate before this riddle and are in good theological company. (572)

Despite the amount, the net held. It is hardly due to an overflowing allegorical imagination if we interpret this net as the great assembly (ekklesia) of all Messianists. For this narrative undoubtedly has something to do with the unification of the Messianic movement under Simon Peter after its fragmentation in the years since the catastrophe of the Judean War. What is happening here, the unification of the Messianists, is hardly less of a miracle than what had happened at the feeding of the five thousand in the same place. But for the time being, we are not yet dealing with Messianists here, but with Galilean fishermen.

The Messiah stands at the charcoal fire. There is a charcoal fire in the Messianic scriptures only here and in the courtyard of the court of the great priest, John 18:18. The two fires have something to do with each other. Now Yeshua speaks the invitation, “Come, eat.” The odd verb aristan occurs twice in John (here and in v.15) and once in Luke. In the Septuagint, the word occurs four times. In 1 Kings 13:7, it stands for ssaˁad, “to fortify, strengthen,” in Genesis 43:25 it stands for “to eat bread.” The disconcerting expression wants to suggest that a very special meal is involved. (573)

The situation is admittedly uncomfortable. The disciples are aware that the stranger is the Lord. They do not dare to ask exactly, “You, who are you?” The knowledge that it is Yeshua does not cancel out his strangeness. Everyone knows about the charcoal fire in the courtyard of the great priest. At that time it was impossible to confess to the arrested Yeshua. Simon at that time, when asked if he was one of those who belonged to Yeshua, answered, Ouk eimi, “I am not.” This was, as we said, politically wise. And yet, that charcoal fire reminded Simon of his past. Everything was there again, the time with Messiah Yeshua, the impossibility of staying with him and professing him and his own Messianic expectations.

The silence of the disciples at the meal is speaking, “We were with you, we left you, we no longer observed you, (theōrein!), we are just back in a desolate present without a trace of the Messiah.” Could they now ask, “Is it really you? Beautiful! After everything that happened in Jerusalem, in the year 30, in the year 70.” When something like that goes through your mind, you are struck with dumbness.

All resurrection narratives testify to the hopelessness of these people after the destruction of Jerusalem. Paul had it easier, everything was still possible, but now? Yeshua, as the host, gives out the bread, also the side dish. The meal with Yeshua has become something completely different and new. No, it is not an ordinary meal, it is a Messianic meal, where the Messiah himself is the host, and the guests hesitantly get involved.

The whole seems to be an update of John 6:5-24. Between the narrative of the feeding of Israel, 6:5 ff, and the narrative of the Messianic meal, there is the connection of structural transformation. The bread and the side dish, indicated by the rare word opsarion, which occurs only in John and not in the Greek version of the Scriptures, connect both passages John 6 and John 21. At that time there were only two fish—“What is that for so many?” asks Andrew. Here Andrew, if he had been present, would have had no occasion for such a question: seven disciples, 153 fish! This is the contrast between the two narratives. There, in John 6, the abundance appeared only afterward (twelve baskets with the chunks of the five barley loaves), here there is an abundance from the beginning. There, in 6:11, Yeshua says the traditional prayer of thanksgiving of the Jews, “Blessed are You, our God, King of the world, who causes bread to spring up from the earth.” Here he distributes without this prayer because he himself has been made “King of the world” and “Bread of life” by the God of Israel.

“It was the third time that Yeshua allowed himself to be seen publicly by the disciples.” (574) Through the meal on the beach, the disciples knew that Yeshua is the Lord. Now, this awareness becomes a matter to the public, and thus, the two encounters between the disciples and Yeshua in the locked room also become public events. Initially, they were not. They had only led to the disciples having to go back to that profession from which Yeshua’s call of succession (1:35-51) had called them to their Messianic vocation. The events in the locked room had remained without consequence. Only by the interference of the initially unrecognized Messiah in their profession, they could find their way back to their vocation. They did not break their isolation; it was broken open for them by the Messiah. How this happened is told in the next section.

17.2 The shepherd, 21:15-19a

21:15 Now when they had eaten,
Yeshua says to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John,
are you solidary with me, more than these?” (575)
He says to him,
“Yes, Lord,
you know I am your friend.”
He says to him:
“Tend my lambs!”
21:16 He says to him again, the second time,
“Simon, son of John,
are you solidary with me?”
He says to him:
“Yes, Lord,
you know I am your friend.”
He says to him:
“Shepherd my sheep!” (576)
21:17 He says to him, the third time,
“Simon, son of John,
are you my friend?”
It pained Peter that he said to him a third time,
“Are you my friend?”
He said to him,
“Lord, you know everything.
You do recognize that I am your friend!”
He says to him,
“Tend my sheep!
21:18 Amen, amen, I say to you,
When you were younger, you girded yourself,
you walked your way where you wanted.
But when you will be older,
you will stretch out your hands.
Someone else will gird you and bring you where you do not want to go.”
21:19a He said this signifying by which death he will honor GOD.

In the question conversation between Yeshua and Simon Peter, we have a problem. For three phenomena John has two synonyms.

For what our translations call “to love,” John has agapan and philein. We have translated the former as “to be solidary with” and the latter as “to be friends with.” The second verb has a stronger emotional value than the first.

The second pair of synonyms is boskein and poimainein. Both verbs mean “the human leading of a herd of animals.” In the Synoptics, boskein occurs only as “herding pigs,” Mark 5:11.14 par. and Luke 15:15. Poimainein occurs eleven times in the Messianic writings. Only in two instances, the word has a livestock meaning, Luke 17:7 and 1 Corinthians 9:7. Otherwise, it has a political meaning; it means leading a people, the community of God, the nations (always in the Book of Revelation).

Finally, there are two different terms for the animals of the flock, arnia (“lambs”) and probata (“sheep”). The plural arnia is found only once in the Messianic writings, in John 21:15. The singular arnion is used only in the Book of Revelation, but there 28 times. It is the main word of this book: the slaughtered lamb is the victorious Messiah. The “sheep” (probata), as we know from the parable of the Good Shepherd, are the members of the people of Israel. In the Septuagint, arnia and probata occur, as it were, in the same breath, “When Israel went out of Egypt . . . the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like the lambs of the sheep (arnia probatōn),” Psalm 114:4.6 (LXX Psalm 113).

We compile the findings of 21:15-18 into a table.

Let’s put the findings of 21:15-18 together so that Question, Answer, Task, and Flock are each distinguished from one another in different colors:

1) Are you solidary with me, more than these?
I am your friend.
Tend the lambs.

2) Are you in solidary with me?
I am your friend.
Shepherd the sheep.

3) Are you my friend?
I am your friend.
Tend the sheep.

Let’s roll up the puzzle from behind. The lambs (arnia) are the young sheep (probata). So it is about the relationship between the young animals of the flock and the old ones. Simon Peter must shepherd and lead both groups.

“To tend” and “to be a shepherd” are two different things, “lambs” and “sheep” two different kinds of flock animals. Since our fragment is about the bringing together of John’s group with the Messianic movement under Simon Peter, the twofold suggestion of leadership activity in each case must have to do with the bringing together of two different groupings.

Suitability for leadership is associated with a very definite relationship to the Messiah Yeshua, being in solidarity and friendship with Messiah, and in fact—in the first question—“more than the others.” Simon answers the question by replacing “being in solidarity” with the emotionally stronger “being friends.” In doing so, he responds to the “more than the others.” Only being more in solidarity with the Messiah proves qualified for the office of leadership. The task then is “to tend my lambs,” to keep the group together with the newly arrived Messianists. It is about Simon’s relationship with Yeshua. The attitude of the disciples towards Yeshua must be a solidary one; they must know themselves to be one with the life task of the Messiah. But the one who is given the office of leadership must know himself to be one with the Messiah more than the others.

Yeshua repeats the question, this time without the addition, “more than these.” Simon repeats his answer. This time he is assigned the office of the shepherd. From John 10, we know what “being a shepherd” means. Not only must he keep the flock together (“to tend”), but he must go ahead as a shepherd, pointing the way, putting in “his soul” (psychēn) for the sheep, like the Messiah (10:11). On the evening of the washing of the feet, Simon Peter had said, “My soul I will put in for you” (13:37). At that time, this was not up for debate. At first, Simon has to deny the Messiah—he has to, do we say, because he has no other choice in the courtyard of the great priest. This time he must be the shepherd, and that means, ”to put his soul in.”

In the third question, Yeshua takes up the word “friend.” Now, with the special bond to the Messiah, he has to keep the whole flock together. Even those who lived their own lives in isolation for a long time, the group in the room with the locked doors.

He has to be asked three times now, with such urgency that it hurts. When Simon was one of the disciples, he had to deny three times that he belonged to the Messiah. Now he has to confess three times as a solidary friend of the Messiah. Three times he is assigned the office of leadership. Not until then, Simon can do what he first wanted to do: to follow, to put in his soul for Yeshua, 13:37.

In summary: The use of the triple pair of synonyms agapan/philein, boskein/poimainein, and arnia/probata signifies, on the one hand, the striving for unity in the Messianic movement and, on the other hand, the preservation of the identity of the group that does not belong to the Messianic mainstream but follows the Messiah on its own paths.

The following sentences carry great weight, for they are introduced thus, “Amen, amen, I say to you.” The sentences are interpreted by the narrator’s note: They indicate the death by which Simon Peter will honor God.

However, there are major problems with the traditional explanation of the statement that Peter, as long as he was young, could gird himself as he wished and go wherever he wished. But when he would be older, he would stretch out his hands, another one would gird him and carry him wherever he did not want to go.

So, they say, as an old man he would stretch out his hands to be nailed to the cross, and he would be carried where he did not want to go, namely by raising the cross to which he had been nailed. Now there is no mention of crucifixion, and a truly reliable document about the crucifixion of Peter has not yet been found.

“To stretch out the hands,” ekteinein tas cheiras, never means, “to stretch out the hands for bondage.” Usually, this is a sign of power, especially in the Book of Exodus. And in the Synoptics, when someone is asked to stretch out his hand, it was to heal them, Mark 3:5 par. Peripatein we always translate as “to walk one’s way.” What is meant by this verb is “to walk with the Messiah” or “with the light of the world,” John 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35.

The opposites are: “young” and “old” / “girding oneself” and “being girded by another one” / “walking the way” and “being carried by one” / “wanting” and “not wanting.” Only “to stretch out one’s hands” has no counterpart; the expression stands on its own. “To be old, to be girded, to be carried and not to want” means: no longer to be able to freely dispose of one’s actions.

You can, like Bultmann, treat this “prophecy”—without connection to the pastoral task—as an independent logion. This is always a more convenient way. We prefer to see a text as something structured and coherent in itself.

The shepherd can no longer walk his own way. He will be girded. The verb “to gird oneself” (zōnnynai, hagar) occurs 44 times in the Scriptures. The object is usually a sword or weapons, 16 times. Likewise, the expression “to stretch out one’s hands” often meant “to stretch out one’s hands for the sword,” especially in the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel. Not infrequently, the object of “girding” is a priestly girdle and priestly belt, eight times. To gird oneself with the penitential garment of sackcloth occurs six times. To gird oneself without object or to gird one’s loins means to make oneself ready to travel (six times). But nowhere is “to be girded by another one,” a synonym for “to be bound.”

When Simon was young, he walked his own Zealot way and “drew his sword,” 18:10. When he will be old, he will stretch out his hands, but not for the sword, let himself be girded, but not with the sword. Then there can be no question of his own freely chosen path. He will be carried by that “other.” This “other” is the Messiah. The Messiah is the shepherd who puts in his soul for the sheep, until the end, until death, as it is told. Now Simon Peter is the shepherd. He will walk the way of the Messianic shepherd, with the same consequence: until the end, until death, with which he will honor God, as the Messiah honored God through his death. Simon Peter will honor God through his death like the Messiah.

17.3. Follow me, 21:19b-23

21:19b When he had said this, he says to him,
“Follow me!”
21:20 Peter turned around,
he sees the disciple Yeshua was attached to in solidarity following,
the one who, during the meal, had leaned against his chest and said,
“Who is the one handing you over?”
21:21 Now seeing him, Peter says to Yeshua,
“Lord, what about him?” (577)
21:22 Yeshua says to him,
“If I want him to persevere until I am coming, what is it to you?
You, follow me!”
21:23 Therefore the word went around among the brothers
that disciple would not die.
However, Yeshua did not say to him he would not die,
rather, “If I want him to persevere until I am coming . . .” (578)

Now a last, in itself incidental, but troublesome question must be clarified. What happens to the independent and probably also quite a stubborn group around John within the unified Messianic movement? So it is about the relationship between a local Messianic group around “the disciple Yeshua was attached to in solidarity”—a group that clearly follows a deviant path—and the supra-regional Messianic movement under the leadership of Simon Peter.

The disciple in question is referred to here as the one who asked at the chest of Yeshua, “Lord, who is the one who will hand you over?” It is the disciple who ran to the tomb with Peter and “saw and trusted” at the open tomb. It is the disciple who had very special access to Yeshua and to whom Peter was very important.

If we take these two actors of the narrative as representatives of different Messianic groups or directions, the relationship is clear. Simon Peter is the definite leader of the whole Messianic movement; at the same time, he is dependent on the unity with that disciple, i.e. with the group around John. “John” understands himself here as an element of the great Messianic narrative, but he has a prominent significance to it. The narrator of John 21 thus wants to ensure two facts. The group has to see itself as part of an overall movement, but at the same time, it has to hold on to its own identity, which is different from the Messianic mainstream.

The question of Simon to Yeshua, “What about that disciple,” does not primarily concern the death of that disciple, but his relationship to him. The question then means, “Shall he continue to go his own way?” For the passage was introduced with the remark that Peter sees the disciple following Yeshua. So it is about the particular way in which the group follows the Messiah. The narrator, the spokesman of John’s group, has Yeshua reply harshly, “If I want him to persevere until I come, what is it to you? You follow me!” Unity is not to consist in dogmatic uniformity, but in following the Messiah.

The inclusion of the Johannine community, the opening of its isolation, is one thing, the independence of the group within a movement is another thing. In the worldwide Messianic movement, there should be different forms of discipleship. The Messianic movement is a political movement, but not a political party and consequently, there is no party discipline in the Messianic movement. The appendix of John 21 was read with great care by the ancient and later Roman Catholic church, but apparently only up to v.19. Had they read further, they would have used the anathema sit {„let him be accursed“} more sparsely.

Remain the words “until I am coming.” Actually, the Gospel of John is not very familiar with this thought. What is coming is the inspiration of sanctification. The idea of Yeshua coming actually only appears in 14:3, “I am going to found a place for you. Again, I am coming to accept you to myself.” We have interpreted this passage as a paraphrase of what 11:52 is “bringing together into one” the scattered children of Israel.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Messiah comes to finally and definitively establish justice. In the meantime, the group may have understood that although the Messiah has come and no other Messiah is to be expected, the work of the Messiah was just as incomplete as the creative work of the God of Israel, 5:17. The Messianists have freed themselves not only from spatial isolation but also from the prison of the pure Messianic present, they have a future; and the world also has a future, a future without the order that now oppresses it. This is what the group learns from the Messianic movement under Simon.

But the text remains restrained here as well. Too deep is the rejection of Zealotry, which wanted to force the coming of the Messiah on the clouds of heaven with the sword in the hand. The coming of the Messiah, in the context of the whole Gospel, means that the works of the FATHER and the Messiah are completed. The verb menein, as repeatedly shown, means “to withstand, to persevere, to stay firm.” The life of a person who follows Yeshua is nothing but persevere, endure, stay firm. “If I want this disciple to persevere until I come,” thus means: Until the disciple perseveres, until the work of the Messiah will be completed, the gathering together into one synagogue of the God-born who have been driven apart, 11:52. Nothing changes for Simon, he is to follow Yeshua.

The narrator or final editor refers to a rumor circulating in the Messianic community around John, namely that the leader of this community who was thought to be the disciple Yeshua was attached to in solidarity, will stay until the goal of the Messiah is achieved. The meaning of the statement, however, was that the community would go its own way, as Simon went his way. Even though the group around John accepts Simon’s leadership, it places importance on its own history and its own ideas. Apparently, the discussion in the group about its status in the Messianic movement of Messianists originating from Israel was still ongoing.

Signature: This is the disciple, 21:24-25

21:24 This is the disciple who is testifying about these things
and who has written them down.
And we know that his testimony is trustworthy.
21:25 There are also many other things Yeshua did,
but if they were all to be written, one by one,
I do not think the world itself could contain the books
that would have to be written!

The author of Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben des deutschen Tonkünstlers Adrian Leverkühn is in the story a Doctor Serenus Zeitblom. In the story, which is by Thomas Mann, Zeitblom is the author. (579)

In the narrative that we have interpreted, the beloved disciple is one of the seven who saw “the Lord” on the beach of the Sea of Galilee. The research may try to find behind Serenus Zeitblom the “Thomas Mann” of this Gospel. For the interpretation of the story about Yeshua ben Joseph from Nazareth, Galilee, the success or failure of such attempts is irrelevant. The Doctor Serenus Zeitblom of our narration, the beloved disciple, has given a truthful and trustworthy testimony about Yeshua ben Joseph.

“I am not lying to you,” he says, “you can rely on these written words.” The narration is a selection; we already heard that in 20:30-31. Also, that ancient “Zeitblom” knew that others brought their selection. Everything cannot be written down; the world is not big enough to contain all the books that could be written about it. So these 21 chapters will have to do.

In fact, they are enough to be able to understand the Messiah conception of that radical Messianic group, which is no longer isolated.


1 {The Gospel of John and anti-Semitism}

The work on the translation and interpretation, which was completed in 2007 with issue No. 113-115 of the journal Texte & Kontexte, began in the fall of 2000. But the systematic study of the Gospel of John began much earlier. In April 1989, the first attempt at interpretation appeared. John 18:28-19:16 was discussed under the title, Der Priester, der Büttel und der Narr. (580)

Another attempt two years later: Auf Leben und Tod. Eine Auslegung von Joh 10,40-11,54 (581) had an important occasion. In the journal Kirche und Israel (1989/2), the Jewish philosopher Prof. Micha Brumlik wrote, “We can—according to my thesis—do nothing, nothing at all with this book [the Gospel of John—TV] within the dialogue.” It is “a message of demarcation, fear, anxiety, and hatred . . . In the eighth chapter of the Gospel, religious primal motives and delusions, which can only be explained politically and socio-psychologically, merge into a consistent Satanology that no longer leaves the Jews the slightest chance in a doctrine, which cannot be otherwise described as proto-racist.” (582)

The editors of Texte & Kontexte at that time thought that the Gospel of John had to be dealt with more thoroughly, not so much to refute Brumlik’s thesis but rather to answer the question of whether we could still refer to this text at all after all that Christian anti-Judaism had brought about over the centuries, and even more so after the genocide of the Jews in the years 1939-1945.

That was almost twenty years ago, and since that time we have been struggling with John. To summarize the result following the reading of this interpretation: The Gospel is a satanology indeed. And the “Jews” of John 8:31-59 are indeed children of this Satan. However, Satan is not a figment of a morbid metaphysics of evil, but a very earthly figure: the emperor of Rome; the “Jews” are, in John’s eyes, those who carry out the desire of this Satan, the deus mortalis or the Leviathan—to speak with Thomas Hobbes—by seeking the historical compromise with Rome. Therefore, to John, they are collaborators with the Romans. This is exactly what John saw as treason.

We tried to demonstrate, especially in our discussion of John 16:1 ff, that John’s political accusation, while understandable, was nevertheless dishonest. Therefore, we tried not to be biased in our interpretation; we were not and are not a priori “pro Jesus” and “anti the Jews.” We tried to understand what was at stake and how serious the conflict was at that time—to both sides. The 1991 interpretation of John 11 mentioned above was a first, not very satisfactory, attempt to understand the conflicts in the Gospel.

Christianity made of the diabolos, Hebrew satan—Buber translates “hinderer”—a supernatural eternal evil spirit, consequently of the Jews “children of this father,” thus devil spawn. While to John that Satan or Rome was a “murderer of humans from the beginning” (or: “. . . on principle”), Christianity made of the Jews murderers of God.

Now no author can exclude from the outset that later his text is turned into something completely different from what he meant by it. Nietzsche cannot be accused of the misuse of his thought by German fascism; admittedly, Nietzsche furnished his contempt of the bourgeois-Christian society and morals with metaphors which the fascists could easily use for their delusions of “ubermensch and untermensch.” The Jew John attacked certain Jews—possibly defectors of the Messianists to Rabbinical Judaism (8:31)—with such immoderate aggressiveness that later Christian anti-Semitism had an easy job with such a model.

With John, Christianity produced a more than just proto-racist, but an original racist doctrine of anti-Semitism, which actually left the Jews no chance to survive as human beings. To interpret John means to be constantly aware of this history of impact. However, text and impact history are to be distinguished.

We have no choice but to make this distinction because otherwise, we cannot at all work on the text. We have to treat the text like any other historical text. We try to understand it as an intervention in the discourses of its time.

But to Christianity John is not only a historical text. The doctrine that it thinks to discover in it today, is understood as the word of God, as a commandment of God, to be involved in the discourses of our days in this way and not in any other way. The text is indissolubly linked to its history of impact, which consists in understanding it also as the word of God against the Jews.

If in our translation we write Judeans instead of Jews, Perushim instead of Pharisees, then we take into account the fact that the words Jews and Pharisees arouse anti-Semitic associations. If in any Christian service we have Jesus railing against the Jews and the Pharisees during the reading of a relevant text from John, then the anti-Semitic mechanism is set in motion against our will and against our political correctness. None of us can meet a Jewish person with the same impartiality that we show when meeting non-Jewish people.

Something similar is seen in the encounter with people of African origin. The reason here is colonialism. Anti-Semitism and racism are by no means stupid missteps of our “civilization,” they belong to the core of the occidental tradition. We must laboriously learn to free ourselves from anti-Semitism and racism. We will hardly become completely free from this mental deformation.

We cannot read John without encountering in ourselves traditional anti-Semitism. The text has become identical with its history of impact during two thousand years of Christianity and is, therefore, its history of impact. Our trick of saying Judeans instead of Jews, Perushim instead of Pharisees, may have the effect of a certain de-Christianization of the text in a meeting of a House of Study; (583) however, the fact that we have to take recourse to such tricks shows the fragility of the ice of our political correctness.

In our interpretation, we have to be abstract. We must first abstract from the history of the text’s impact and pretend that it is just a strange text from the periphery of 1st century Judaism. Knowing that the conflict in John’s Gospel was not determined by anti-Semitism is not a happy science; we are immediately caught up by its anti-Semitic impact history. Anti-Semitism is not the concern of a brutally dull residual society of so-called “die-hard Nazis”; with them, it is virulent, with us it is latent at best.

John as a Jewish figure is indeed not responsible for our later anti-Semitism, John as the basic text of Christianity very much is. Whether we can still preach John—i.e. proclaim him—is a question we cannot go into here. This much we can state: Many pastors are no longer able to do so, or they omit the objectionable passages and turn John into a quarry from which they extract lofty, Platonic-inspired, and quite unrealistic wisdom.

So Micha Brumlik is right: John is useless in Christian-Jewish dialogue. But perhaps the dialogue itself is an impossible undertaking, just as the currently popular interreligious dialogue, not to speak of interreligious services. (584) It may be doubted that these undertakings are conducive to the togetherness of people if the social gap between groups of people is widening and the ruling social order demands unconditional conformity to its so-called values.

To free oneself from Christianity does not help either. This is shown by some passages in the correspondence between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—just there, where they did not write for the public, but to each other! Engels said, “Marx was of stock Jewish blood . . . many of our best people were Jews.” (585) Such defense shows how the problem of anti-Semitism also played its role in the socialist workers’ movement, not only at that time in Vienna, but also later in the Soviet Union, in Poland, and so on.

Nevertheless, we have to undertake the distinction between text and history of impact in order to be able to deal with the conflict at all. This has nothing to do with “reparation.” There is no “reparation” and no forgiveness for what happened. We undertake the attempt to overcome anti-Semitism for ourselves because it is a mutilation of our souls. Precisely because we are deeply disfigured by anti-Semitism and racism, we are a danger to the Jews, to all humanity, and not least to ourselves. It is a matter of course that Christians, Jews, and others have to talk to each other about how to combat the plague of anti-Semitism and racism in our society. This dialogue is a sheer duty.

2 {Socialism and Messianic inspiration}

The author of this interpretation belonged—and still belongs—to those people who only can imagine the future of a human world as a socialist world. The difference between what the Gospels called the “kingship of God” and what those people called “socialism” was often not duly taken into account in the blind zeal of the 1970s’ heat of the moment. Nevertheless, socialism can be an anticipation of the Messiah.

Socialism as a state-capitalist dictatorship of modernization—the adjective was coined by none other than Lenin himself!—was possibly the only form it could have taken in the epoch 1921-1989. But perhaps, despite the adverse circumstances of the Cold War, it could and should have been different and more human. Modernization dictatorship and Stalinism are not congruent. Nevertheless, this deficient socialism was and is no more a refutation of socialism than the Christian church was and is a refutation of the Gospel.

As the anticipation of the Messiah, socialism can never be the wiping away of tears from the eyes of all people, the eradication of suffering and crying and pain (Revelation 21:4). It can, however, be the pushing back of all superfluous suffering, of all superfluous exploitation and neglect, of hunger, misery, and war to the very edge of the earth and beyond. In a humane life, there would still be enough of parting and suffering, and our eyes would not remain dry even then. But we would no longer have to weep for avoidable injustice. In 1989 those forms of socialism broke. With them, the anticipation of the Messiah did not come to an end.

The {original} German title of this interpretation, “The Farewell of the Messiah,” was initially, “The Farewell to the Messiah.” (586) The difference is anything but subtle. We projected our farewell to that anticipation of the Messiah, the failed state socialism, back into the Gospel of John, where the failure of the Messianic project was stated straightforwardly, 12:37 ff. John’s conclusion is not the farewell to the Messiah, but rather the farewell of the Messiah. “It is to your advantage that I go away,” Yeshua says to his disciples, 16:7.

The farewell to the Messiah would be nothing else than the admission that the disciples had been mistaken. If John had been of this opinion, he would have written something like Flavius Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews.” The farewell of the Messiah, however, says two things. It unmasks the Messianic illusions of the Messianists, whether they were disciples of Yeshua or Zealot militants who had their own view of the Messiah. No human policy can ever be Messianic; no human policy can definitively solve the problems of humankind.

If the Russian Bolsheviks had seen through their own messianism, their revolutionary project would not have become Stalinism so quickly and thoroughly. Every messianic policy inevitably becomes some form of Stalinism. The farewell of the Messiah liberates politics from any messianic pressure to perform; what is truly Messianic eludes all political efforts. This is the first aspect.

But the second is the Messianic inspiration, called by John Paraclete (Advocate), the inspiration of fidelity, classically translated as Spirit of Truth. This Messianic inspiration renders all politics tentative, at best consisting of temporary measures for the improvement of people’s living conditions.

In doing so, it is oriented by the life of the age to come (zōē aiōnios). Better living conditions are, at best, steps on the way to a goal that politics never achieve and never should achieve, but which constitutes our deepest longing. Without this goal, all life becomes pathless. Messianic inspiration is, as John says, what “leads us along the way” (hodēgēsei). The way does not lead to some afterlife, some heaven, some life after death, that would be religious distortion. It is not about eternal life after death in the otherworld of the earth, but about a Messianic life (zōē) in a coming era (aiōn) on this earth.

Messianic inspiration means in any case that the sentence, “There is no alternative to the factual and ruling world order,” is a hopeless, godless, evil sentence, a real “sin against the Holy Spirit.” Messianic inspiration means that something of the Messiah should appear in all politics. This “something” in John is the agapē, the solidarity among the members of the Messianic community.

3 {Messianism: origin, failure, preservation}

This solidarity may be too little for a political existence in the world. John’s Messianism, like all messianism, is political in nature, but at the same time, it is also a farewell to politics, because it did not want a gradual improvement of the world order, but a completely different one; it wanted to be an absolute counternarrative.

Messianism had a long history even then. It is rooted in the confrontation of the Judean people with Hellenism. The so-called apocalyptic texts are documents of consciousness that with Hellenism a completely new type of exploitation enters the political stage. The preliminary work had already been done by the Persians. By demanding the tribute that the conquered and annexed territories had to pay in monetary form, the individual farms had to sell a part of their products, and this meant that they had to orient their operations to the market mechanism. In the third century BCE, the collection of tribute was leased to private individuals by the Hellenistic kings. These tax lessees leased out parts of their tax territory to other private individuals. This not only meant that the tax burden became heavier due to the involvement of more and more intermediate authorities. Rather, the reification of social relations through the money form permeated the entire social body and depersonalized the lives of individuals.

Michel Foucault would call this “biopouvoir” (“biopower”), and the politics that organizes this power accordingly “biopolitique” (“biopolitics”): the control of the entire life of people—of all together and of each individual person for himself—not only concerning the body but also concerning the soul. Between the exploiting strata and the exploited strata slipped precisely this objective power. More than any direct and brutal intervention by the armed power, the objective power of the monetary form eroded the traditional life of the Judean society.

The militant resistance of Judah Maccabee was bound to fail. The Maccabean revolution, which sought to restore traditional life, had to have as its result a Hellenistic monarchy. Political, even military resistance has a chance of success only if the power to be defeated is territorially defined. It can be chased back from its own territory into the territory of the enemy. To be sure, the Hellenistic and Roman powers had locations and bases, but they were universal powers. They remained even when their armies were defeated and their occupation personnel was driven out. The traditionalist project of the Maccabees was bound to fail, and resistance carried out on the level and the terms of the system could produce nothing but a new edition of the system. Had the Messiah Yeshua ben Joseph prevailed as King after he entered into Jerusalem, he would have become nothing but a Hellenistic, Roman prince. The system cannot be overcome within the system.

This insight was where the specific Messianism of the Gospels and Paul’s letters came from. We have no Messianic texts from Judea and the adjacent Aramaic speaking areas from before the great war against Rome. Much evidence suggests that the Messianists of the land had hoped that the Messianic revolution would prevail through the travails of the final war. Instead, the place and the sanctuary were destroyed and the people massacred. No Messiah came. The war and its outcome were for many the end of all hopes of resistance, militant or “peaceful.”

The Gospel of John leads its Messianism into the dead end of the room with the locked doors, chapters 13-17 and 20. It is necessary to finally take this basic narrative figure of the Gospel seriously. The great works and the great speeches, the great controversy, the unbending of the Messiah before the representative of the world order in Judea—all this finds its end in this hermetically closed room. Closed for the disciples, also for Thomas, who spoke the anti-Roman confession, “My Lord and my God.” A confession to the four walls. No other Gospel text has presented the situation of its own group as unillusioned as John’s Gospel. The group, with its Messianism, is hopelessly isolated—and at an end. Their political goal was the gathering of all the children of Israel, in the land, in Samaria, and in the diaspora, “Flock: one; shepherd: ONE,” 10:16. Instead, fear of those who wanted to unite Israel worldwide isolates them. How can you let a narrative end like this? The same question must be asked after reading the Gospel of Mark. The last word there is, “For they were afraid,” Mark 16:8.

That is why these Messianists put the cross at the center of their political thinking. Their Messiah had to die from the system itself to be Messiah, “and that by death on the cross, thanatou de staurou” (Philippians 2:8), the cross of the Romans. Precisely this is the victory. We begin to understand how serious was the phrase John 16:33, “Fear not: I have conquered the world order.” If to Paul the cross is the beginning of peace between Israel and the nations, to John the cross is the beginning of the irresistible attraction of the “exalted Messiah,” 12:32. Both believed that no military or political strategy could solve the problem of a tradition-bound Israel among the nations; the solution had to come strictly from outside the system, from a Messiah who would not seize power according to the laws of the system. The gathering around this Messiah Yeshua is capable of overcoming the system, and this victory begins in the Messianic community. That is why John has the rising Messiah say, “I am going up,” present tense, and not, “I have gone up,” perfect tense, 20:18.

Instead, John’s group finds itself in a locked room; and the opponents who instilled so much fear in the group, the emerging Rabbinical Judaism, created what John wanted: the gathering of Israel, not around Yeshua and his commandment of solidarity, but around Moshe and the Torah.
All the projects of the Messianists have failed: Paul’s project of the Messianic community of Jews and Gentiles as the nucleus of world peace; the fulfillment of the prophetic hope of the eschatological gathering of Israel as proclaimed by John; the Messianists’ walk to the ends of the earth to teach all peoples the whole Torah, as Matthew wanted—none of this has even begun to be realized.

Instead, something came into being that nobody wanted, a new world religion without and consistently against the Jews. Christianity has not only spread illusions but has generally talked and acted in such a way that the religious faith has lost the world and the world has lost the believers. It had and has put aside (587) the Messianic inspiration in religion. But to put aside means above all “to preserve.” For the Messianists themselves, probably only an underground existence was possible in the stabilizing Roman Empire. Therefore, they were not allowed to see death as the end of life. Rather—according to a Pharisaic-Jewish tradition—death was seen as a repository for the earthly life of the age to come.

We have drawn attention to the precarious existence of Messianic communities in Anatolia. Pliny, the governor of the province of Bithynia, inquires in Rome around 110 what to do with the disciples of a certain Chrestos. The answer: establish guilt and punish accordingly with death. In light of the precariousness of Messianic existence, the so-called love commandment takes on the significance of a survival strategy. Politics is here reduced to the absolutely necessary—survival and preservation of hope! Often nothing else remained and remains possible. The solidarity of the members of such underground groups among themselves was vital. Around 200 Tertullian wrote:

Such a very great effect of love is known to us and has come to the knowledge of some. Look, they say, how much they love one another; but those [non-Christians—TV] hate one another. These are ready to die for one another, but those rather to kill one another. (588)

In the underground, the Christians live the absolute counter project to the world order of Rome, this is exactly what Tertullian wants to show. The appropriate political place of the Messianists was the catacombs of Rome. Or the locked room. Or the march from the locked room to the catacombs of Rome. John sensed that the great time of the empire was yet to come. And he suspected that the real area of his Messianism could only be a locked room.

The group wrote the 21st chapter of the Gospel and joined a larger Messianic movement. Nevertheless, like the other groups of that movement, it remained a phenomenon of a gentile subculture. Tertullian knew. The Messianists, now called Christians, were noticed but not taken seriously. Only since the epoch of the great persecutions under the emperor Decius (250-251), the empire began to take this subculture seriously as a sign of a great crisis—150 years after John. But the empire was already at its end then. De facto Christianity was allowed; Emperor Gallienus (259-267), a patron of the philosopher Plotinus, considered Christianity a popular edition of Neoplatonism. To be sure, Diocletian tried once again in the Great Persecution of 303-305 (589) to eradicate Christianity and replace it with a military cult. The attempt, which cost thousands of lives, failed miserably. His successors, Constantine and Licinius, officially allowed the underground religion as a permitted religion in 313.

Then, in the fourth century, Christianity displaced all other religions and became the only permitted religion under Emperor Theodosius (379-395). The Christian era began. One could conclude from this: The great counternarrative of Messianism against the ruling world order becomes a Christianity that functions as an ideology of the ruling world order.

To be sure, Christianity was for long stretches of time a religious sanctioning of the prevailing order. But deep within is hiding the Grand Narrative of Israel, which was the impetus of the Messianism of the Gospels and the apostolic writings. For the Book of the Grand Narrative, which the church passes on to each new generation, was again and again more powerful than any ecclesiastical attempt at discipline, than all religious counterfeits, and all attempts to domesticate the Grand Narrative of Israel. The “undoing” or “putting aside” of Messianism was and is specifically the preservation of the Grand Narrative of Israel. Thus, the inspiration of fidelity, or, classically, the Holy Spirit, worked and continues to work. This effect was made possible by the farewell of the Messiah. In the church. Not infrequently against the church.

4 {Liturgies of resistance against our world order}

We suspect and fear that the great time of global capitalism is still ahead of us. We have to live under the conditions of this prevailing world order, en tō kosmō. We have yet to write our 21st chapter because we do not have to live according to the conditions of the world order, ek tou kosmou, in other words, we have to join those who believe another world order is possible and therefore say “No” to the prevailing world order. The underground seems to be destined to them and to us, the underground of a ridiculed minority with its desperate liturgies of demonstrations, its defiant publications, its still powerless actions. It is a minority that, for the time being, they do not even intend to pursue resolutely, a minority in which “not many are wise according to the flesh, not many are powerful, not many are highborn,” but rather “are foolish in the eyes of the world order,” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27. This minority is guarding the anticipation of the Messiah.

We live under a world order against which there is currently nothing visible of a radical counter-power and a political strategy of radical world change. “For me, the moment, the kairos, has not come,” John has his Messiah say, 7:6. How difficult this was to endure is shown by the desperate discussions in John 14-16. How difficult this is to endure is shown by the bewilderingly many and contradictory actions and discussions of the opponents of the world order that rules over us. But in both cases, the goal was and is the “absolute antithesis of the spirit of imperial law”—as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri say in their book “Empire” about the emergence of Christianity. (590) The Messianists were dealing with the Imperium Romanum at that time, with the Roman Empire. We are likewise dealing with a world order that Hardt and Negri call Empire. They say,

We believe that in order to challenge and resist Empire and its world market, it is necessary to locate any alternative on an equally global level. Any proposal of an isolated, particular community, defined racially, religiously, or regionally, that “disconnects” from Empire and seeks to protect itself from its power through fixed borders, inevitably ends up in a kind of ghetto.

Resistance today is either running amok or liturgy. The liturgy of resistance may for the time being change little in the power relations of the prevailing world order, but the liturgies of the Messianists then kept alive the hope for the absolute alternative, and the liturgies of resistance today will do the same. Within the resistance of this minority beats the heart of the Messiah. John’s enemy, the world order, is still our enemy because a life according to the standard of the Human, bar enosh, is not possible in it. This is what John teaches us.

This teaching applies.

Lemgow- Schmarsau, March 2007
Ton Veerkamp

Glossary of key terms

—as far as they differ from the traditional translation

New TranslationTraditional Translation
Greek — Hebrew/Aramaic

hamartia — chataˀth

to achieve the goal (19:28.30)to finish, accomplish
telein — ˁasa (in Jes 55:11)

age to comeeternity, eternal
aiōn, aiōnos — ˁolam (ha-ba)

all the more (10:17-18; 16:22), in contrast (16:16.17.19)again
palin — shuv, hossif

to be friends with to love
philein — ˀahev

to be in solidarity with, solidarize with, be attached to in solidarityto love
agapan — ˀahev

to betrayto reject
athetein — bagad

to be there . . . as, to happen . . . asto be
einai — haya

born of God — children of God
tekna tou theou./. (ben Hosea 11:1)

to bow — to worship
proskynein — hishthachawa

courtyardsheep-pen (courtyard in 18:15)
aulē — chatzer

day laborerhired hand, hireling
misthōtos — sakhir

Day of the Final DecisionLast Day
ē eschatē hēmera — (ˀacharith ha-yamim)

day one (20:1)the first day
mia tōn sabbatōn — yom echad / jomaˀ chad / chad shabata

pseudos — sheqer

to degrade to dishonor
atimazein — qala

to denounce to inform, let know
mēnyein — ./.

to dignify to honor
timan — kibed

enemy, adversarydevil
diabolos — satan

to err, practice aberration, go astrayto sin
hamartanein — chataˀ

amnos — rachel

fidelity; trustworthy, faithful truth; true
alētheia, alēthinos — ˀemeth

to fight with hateto hate
misein — sanaˀ

to hand over to betray
paradidonai — nathan

doxa — kavod

to honor to glorify
doxazein — kibed; hikhbid

to infringe (the NAME)to blaspheme, commit blasphemy
blasphēmein — naqav (qalal)

pneuma — ruach

Ioudaioi — Yehudim

to liberateto save
sōzein — yashaˁ

sōtēr — moshiaˁ

to (make) manifest, be seen publicly to reveal, make known, appear
phaneroun — gila

nationnation [Volk]
ethnos — goy

to observe (consider, view) — to see, look
theōrein — chaza, raˀa

bar enosh, the HumanSon of Man
hyios tou anthrōpou — ben ˀadam / bar enosh

One like GOD, Son of GODSon of God
hyios tou theou — ben ˀelohim / bar elahin

PaschaPassover, Easter
pascha — pessach

person on duty (2:5); minister, servant (12:26)servant
diakonos — meshareth

Pharisaioi — perushim

public service (for God)service, worship (to God)
latreia — ./.

katabolē — ./.

reliability, probationrighteousness
dikaiosynē — tzedaqa

reliable just, right, righteous
dikaios — tzedeq

to remain hardening/hardenedto hold sins, withhold forgiveness
kratein — chazaq

to serve (12:26); host (12:3) to serve
diakonein — sharath

doulos — ˁeved

agapē — (chessed)

solidarity (in 1:14.16f.)grace
charis — chessed (chen)

someone elsestranger
allotrios — tzar

lēstēs — ./.
title (grounds for the judgment) — inscription, notice
titlos (from Lat. titulus) — ./.

to trustto believe
pisteuein — heˀemin

to view to see, look
theasthai — raˀa, chaza

to walk one’s way (Halakha) to walk, walk by, go about
peripatein — halakh

en — be- (ˁim)

word [speech]word
logos — davar

world (order)world
kosmos — (ˁolam)

Appendix: On translating and editing the text

How to find your way around this book online

Because of its large size, Ton Veerkamp’s text is divided into five posts.

The first one, titled Solidarity against the World Order, after the table of contents and two introductory chapters, deals with the prologue of John’s Gospel.

Four additional posts contain the main parts:

The Manifest Messiah,

The Hidden Messiah,

The Farewell of the Messiah,

Galilee – Setting out to Follow the Messiah.

The short last part—to which this appendix also belongs—furthermore includes an epilogue of the author, a list of alternatively translated terms from the Gospel of John, and an appendix with editorial notes by Helmut Schütz.

Clicking on the directory entries will take you to the respective chapters and sections (and back to the table of contents if you click on the ↑ up arrow ↑ there).

The Original Translated Texts

This book brings together the content of three issues of the German exegetical journal Texte & Kontexte and draws on the content from two other issues produced over a 14-year period, from 2002 to 2015. (591)

The main part is Ton Veerkamp’s interpretation of the Gospel of John, which was published in 2006 and 2007 without the translated text of John itself:

Ton Veerkamp, Der Abschied des Messias.
Eine Auslegung des Johannesevangeliums,
I. Teil: Johannes 1,1-10,21, in: Texte & Kontexte 109-111, 2006,
II. Teil: Johannes 10,22-21,25, in: Texte & Kontexte 113-115, 2007.

Originally, this interpretation referred to the following translation of the Gospel of John published the year before by the same author (abbreviated as TJ05):

Ton Veerkamp, Das Evangelium nach Johannes
in kolometrischer Übersetzung, in: Texte & Kontexte 106/107 (2005).

Since this translation was published again by the author himself ten years later in a revised form, I add the translated text of this issue—highlighted in yellow—to the interpretation by Ton Veerkamp:

Ton Veerkamp, Das Evangelium nach Johannes.
Übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen versehen,
2., grundlegend überarbeitete Auflage,
in: Texte & Kontexte Sonderheft Nr. 3 (2015).

From this issue, I also take over all explanations to the Gospel translation in notes marked with TJ15 (and highlighted in blue).

If there are changes compared to the translation from 2005 I also add parts of the explanations given at that time in notes marked with TJ05 (and highlighted in red).

Before everything else, I put the introduction to TJ15—exposing the political aim of TV’s reading of the Gospel of John and at the end—after TV’s epilogue—the glossary of key terms as far as they differ from the traditional translation, also from TJ15.

A first translation and interpretation of chapters 13 to 17 of the Gospel of John had already been published by TV in 2002:

Ton Veerkamp, Der Abschied des Messias. Johannes 13-17,
in: Texte & Kontexte 96/96 (2002).

From this issue, I take the introductory remarks on John’s language on pages 5-13 and preface them in the second place of this book before the continuous translation and interpretation of John’s Gospel.

As the two translations—TJ05 and TJ15—were originally published independently, the addition of their explanatory notes to the detailed interpretation naturally results in overlaps in content. Such redundancy seems justifiable to me; in my experience, it even facilitates understanding, since it allows insight into the conceptual process of dealing with particular problems. It also shows that this reading of John’s Gospel is not about views set in stone but the initiation of a learning process (592) to understand an ancient text that has been thoroughly misunderstood for almost two millennia.

It is worth noting what Veerkamp wrote in the preface to TJ15:

With all the changes, one thing has remained: the intention to definitively remove any legitimacy from the anti-Judaic misuse of John’s Gospel.

All quotations cited by Ton Veerkamp I translated into English myself, even if he took them from English works translated into German since these were not accessible to me in the original language.

Transliteration of Hebrew and Greek terms

To render ancient Hebrew terms, I use a simple transcription that does not distinguish between single and double consonants, nor does it indicate the different lengths of vowels (thus an e can stand for tzeire, segol, chataf segol, and shwa an).

The letters beth/veth, gimel, daleth, hei, zayin, tet, yud, kaf, lamed, mem, nun, pei/fei, quf, reish, and sin are rendered with their initial letter; in the case of cheth, tzadi, shin, and the soft khaf, the first two letters are necessary.

Unusual are the following transliterations: vav = w (to distinguish from veth), thav = th (to distinguish from tet), samech = ss (to distinguish from sin). Except for the two signs ˀ and ˁ for the glottal stops ˀalef and ˁayin, I do not use diacritics. Silent consonants at the ends of words (ˀalef, hei, vav, and yud) are omitted.

Ancient Greek letters are rendered with their English equivalents. The two t sounds are distinguished by t and th, and the long e and o vowels are marked with ē and ō.

English Translation of the Gospel of John

The translation of the Gospel of John into English presented here has no models known to me in this form. However, I am grateful that I am allowed to use the Complete Jewish Bible (Copyright Dr. David H. Stern. Used with Permission from Messianic Jewish Publishers, as a basis for this translation and to publish the result on my homepage without royalties (abbreviated CJB). With the CJB I share the concern to make clear in the translation of New Testament texts that they ultimately are writings which in their way of thinking and content can only be understood from the Tanakh of the Jews. Their language is Hebrew or Aramaic disguised in Greek words.

However, about one-third of the text and its typeface does not agree with the CJB, for the following reasons:


First of all—although that was the reason I became aware of this translation—I do not follow the CJB where it deliberately changes the text, for example, to make Greek names recognizable in their Hebrew or Aramaic original form instead. Just as John himself did not use this original form in order to facilitate the reading of his readers, some of whom do not know Aramaic or Hebrew, Ton Veerkamp in his translation of 2015 has also largely returned to the use of the names that are more familiar to a broad modern audience, in order not to unnecessarily complicate the text being read out aloud. (593) That’s why I use the common English names for biblical books, persons, and geographical details—but with four major exceptions, which are the names of Yeshua, Yochanan, Moshe, and the Perushim. Why these exceptions?

Because the concern is still important to me—which is also close to the heart of Ton Veerkamp and to the CJB—to make clear that the biblical persons are not simply old acquaintances about whom we know and whose faith we share. Thus I stick to referring to Jesus as Yeshua, to John the Baptist as Yochanan, and to Moses as Moshe—guided also by stylistic reasons: I don’t like genitives with an apostrophe at the end of the word; “Yeshua’s disciples” or “Moshe’s words” I find nicer than “Jesus’ disciples” or “Moses’ words.” In the case of the Baptist, on the other hand, it is easier to distinguish Yochanan from the author of John’s Gospel. Furthermore, I also use a Hebrew equivalent for the “Pharisees,” namely “Perushim,” because the word “Pharisee” is virtually loaded with prejudicial meanings.

In the case of the Greek word Ioudaios, I take—like TV in his introduction, section “Contradictions”—the slightly alienating literal translation as “Judean” because this word does not simply mean the same as we do when hearing the word “Jew.” To use the Hebraizing names Yehudim and Yehuda for Ioudaioi, Ioudaia, and Ioudas, respectively, would become strange at the latest when, for example, a Hebrew word like Yehude is also put into the mouth of a Pilate (John 18:35).

Finally—like TV and the CJB—I render the title Christos, used primarily in the Messianic writings for Jesus, not as “Christ,” but as “Messiah,” to emphasize that there is more to it than simply a surname.

Style and grammar

Second, I do not follow the CJB where it alters the Greek text for stylistic reasons to make it more pleasant to read in English or to approximate colloquial language, for example, to avoid repetition or to make it more vivid. That John had his reasons for repeating certain words monotonously (e.g., “Yeshua answered, he said”) and making other differences all the more prominent (which in the CJB are often just made unrecognizable by the use of the same words, as in the translation of philein and agapan as “to love”) may be evident from the text of the interpretation and annotations. Moreover, when the CJB renders an expression such as “Amen, amen, I say to you” as “Yes, indeed, I tell you,” it is being unfaithful to its own concern to allow a basic Hebrew word such as ˀaman to remain visible in Yeshua’s language.

I also refrained from smoothing out John’s jumping back and forth between different temporal verb forms. It is due to the fact that in Hebrew and Aramaic there are no temporal forms for past, present, and future, but modal verb forms, which denote, for example, the continuing course or the completion of an action or an event. The difference is easier to pick up in English than in German because the progressive forms make it possible to translate continuous forms in the Greek present or imperfect tense appropriately, while punctual actions in the present or past from the present or aorist were more likely to be translated with the normal present or past tense. And also the perfect tenses of Greek, by which John, as in the Semitic languages, designates an event as completed, are more clearly rendered by the perfect in English than in German. That means: Not all grammatical oddities of my translation must be due to my lack of English feeling as a non-native speaker! Nevertheless, I am grateful for any critical feedback and correction of my translation where it actually goes linguistically astray—and I am sure that there are many such places despite all the checking.

In a paper by Dr. Marco Ritter (594) I found Ton Veerkamp’s insight confirmed that the Koine Greek verb forms of the New Testament express verbal aspects more than tenses. In particular, he deals with the aorist, which in the New Testament (4) “is not a tense of the past! It is aspect! It is impossible to limit the aorist to a completed past.” And although the “aorist is also said to have a ‘perfective verbal aspect,’ i.e., the direction of view of the time word as completed . . . this very property of the aorist applies extremely rarely in the New Testament Koine Greek!” Quite the opposite is true (12): “in the Koine of the New Testament the aorist is used as an unfinished past tense . . .”

He particularly emphasizes that (4)

with the punctual aspect [of the aorist] no statement about the continuation or the persistence of an action or state is made yet, but only the punctual beginning of an action or a state is named.

I further found it interesting that Marco Ritter classifies the aorist in the New Testament as a narrative verb form that corresponds to Hebrew narrative forms in the Old Testament (4-5):

The aorist is by far the most frequently used tense in the eyewitness accounts of the Gospels. This corresponds as a “reporting tense” to the Hebrew form of narrative (see Latin narrare = to report, to tell) or vav-imperfect. Predominantly, the aorist is used to describe a single event that began in the past, even completed, but continuing into the present.

For these reasons, I wonder if it is appropriate, for example, to translate egeneto in John 1:3.10.14 as “began happening” rather than “is happening.”

As an instructive example of the use of the aorist in this sense as distinct from the present and imperfect tenses, he cites Acts 12:1-4 (7):

In Acts chap. 12 Luke reports about the oppression of the church by Herod, the imprisonment of Peter and his liberation as well as the end of Herod. All (!) actions describing the progress of the events are in the aorist tense. Only the background information such as ways of thinking, attitudes, and accompanying circumstances are in the present or imperfect tense and interrupt the narrative chains of the aorist . . .

In the few verses 1-4, the aorist is used ten times, but only twice the present tense and once the imperfect. The very nature of the tense words dictates the tenses: . . . “to be well pleased,” “to be,” “to intend”—these words do not describe actions, but circumstances for which the present or imperfect tense is the appropriate tense. In this short section, statistical analysis reveals the finding that approximately 77% of the report is in the aorist tense and only 13% is in the present or imperfect tense. The aorist is the main narrative tense!

Correspondences to Hebrew semantic fields

Third, the most important difference is that Ton Veerkamp learned from Martin Buber to trace the Greek terms John uses to their Hebrew models in the Torah. Actually, this is also a concern of the CJB, but in the interest of a more elegant or lively style of language in English, it does not go far enough in this.

Above all, much of what is meant is lost if no attention is paid to the fact that words like agapē or alētheia are not to be understood from their common meaning in Greek philosophy, but from the Tanakh. Martin Buber had been concerned to translate, if possible, every word of a particular Hebrew root by a corresponding word of a corresponding German root and did not shy away from new, sometimes seemingly absurd word creations. When Everett Fox presented a similar type of translation in English—“the text in English dress but with a Hebraic voice” (595)—for the Torah and the Books of Samuel, he proceeded more cautiously. Like Fox, I tried not to overdo it in this respect.


Fourth, and finally, in the typeface, I have adopted Veerkamp’s custom, following Martin Buber, of arranging the text in the form of lines that can be read aloud in one breath (this model has also been followed by Everett Fox).

English translation motivated by books of Adele Reinhartz

An essay by Micha Brumlik had been the most important occasion for Ton Veerkamp to translate and interpret the entire Gospel of John. Brumlik had described this writing as unsuitable for Jewish-Christian dialogue because of its anti-Semitism. (596)

In a very similar way, it was a series of books by the Canadian religious scholar Adele Reinhartz that motivated me to tackle with this translation. As a Jewish woman, she had repeatedly dealt with the Gospel of the Beloved Disciple throughout her life, but in her last book, she felt compelled to conclude with John once and for all. (597) In my eyes, however, her judgment about the Gospel of John as hopelessly anti-Semitic is based on its Gentile-Christian history of impact. To such a misunderstood Gospel of John, her assessment is true that it proclaims a cosmology of the hereafter where the unbelieving Jews must inevitably be assigned a place in hell. But Reinhartz does not seem to have encountered a Jewish messianic reading, combined with a political cosmology, such as that presented by Ton Veerkamp, in the academic world so far, and thus could not deal with it. She herself does not exclude further readings of the Gospel of John. At the end of her book “Befriending the Beloved Disciple,” she even wrote (retranslated from the German translation by Esther Kobel):

Despite the gap between our worldviews and ethical sensibilities, I look forward to future encounters with the Beloved Disciple and to further conversations.

I wonder if she could enter into a fruitful conversation with the disciple Jesus was attached to in solidarity as interpreted by Ton Veerkamp.

Ton Veerkamp’s ignored reading of the Gospel of John

Of course, I won’t go so far as to say that Ton Veerkamp’s reading is the only legitimate reading of the Gospel of John today. During my work as a pastor in a psychiatric clinic, I could also gain something from the depth-psychological interpretation of the Gospel presented by Eugen Drewermann. (598) And as recently as Christmas Eve 2020, I was presented with a translation of the Gospel of John by Elmar Rettelbach, which is strongly imbued with the spirit of mysticism, and, like Veerkamp, emphasizes the Hebrew-Aramaic background of the Johannine language but then goes a different way in its interpretation. (599)

By now, I think that such a focus on inwardness misses John’s original message intention in its essential core. Instead, I let Ton Veerkamp convince me that John can only be understood from his liberation-theological context: the Messiah Jesus proclaimed by John embodies the NAME of the God of Israel in a political struggle against the Roman world order, fought from the “inspiration of fidelity” with the means of “solidarity.”

However, I like the mentioned approaches of Drewermann and Rettelbach in the fact that they also see the Gospel of John anchored in the Jewish Holy Scripture and reject to trace it back to Hellenistic or even Gnostic time currents. In this, they meet with the efforts of the theologian Larry W. Hurtado, who in his book “Lord Jesus Christ” rejected the attempt of Wilhelm Bousset’s school of religious history (600) to attribute the divine worship of Jesus to Hellenistic influences instead of explaining it out of genuine Jewish-messianic origins.

In my view, Veerkamp’s reading is the only way to understand John’s sharp opposition to Rabbinical Judaism without interpreting his book as anti-Semitic from the beginning. Therefore, I consider it essential to take his political reading of the Gospel of John seriously at least as one of several possible alternative understandings of the Gospel of John. I can’t understand why Veerkamp’s interpretation did not find any academic resonance even in Germany, where it has been available for 14 years. Rather than good reasons being put forward to declare such a political reading anachronistic or to brand it as an unscientific work of art, no, it has just been ignored.
Is this because the author, as a former student pastor, does not have enough reputation in the scientific world for anyone to deal with him or even refer to him? In that case, my project of translation into English will certainly not be dealt with differently, since I, too, have neither a doctorate nor a habilitation and am “merely” a retired pastor with forty years of professional experience in parish and hospital ministry.

But maybe it is precisely the political direction of Ton Veerkamp’s reading of John’s Gospel that has so far prevented its reception. He views himself as a socialist in a sense that rejects all Stalinism and totalitarianism but considers today’s capitalism as no less hostile to life and contrary to the will of the God of Israel than the ancient oriental oppressor states from Egypt to Babylon and the first global exploitation machinery of Hellenism and the anything but peaceful “Pax Romana.” Who rejects Ton Veerkamp’s reading of John’s Gospel for such reasons, however, must allow himself to be asked whether he has ever taken the biblical Torah and the concern of the Jewish prophets and apocalypticists seriously, from which alone also the Messianic writings of the “New Testament” are to be understood adequately.

Gießen, February 2021
Helmut Schütz


(567) TJ15, 150: The whole chapter has only one theme, “Simon Peter.” This figure represents a particular type of Messianism represented by the three Synoptic Gospels, each in its own way, and distinct from the Pauline type. Luke documented this difference and attempted mediation between the two types. After the death of Simon Peter, John’s group (6:67-71; 13-17; 20:19-29), originally completely isolated, sought and found a connection with this Messianism. The “sons of Zebedee” appear in John’s Gospel only here. They play an important role in the Synoptic Gospels. The fact that they appear here of all places shows how the group found the connection to the synoptic Messianism. The document of this connection is this chapter; it is at the same time the document of the break out of the sectarian isolation. For dating purposes it is unsuitable; first, we do not know when Simon Peter was put to death; second, we do not know when chapter 21 was added to the Gospel. In any case, this chapter documents the process of how the group went from being a sect to being part of a comprehensive movement, but its text went from being a sect paper to being the basic document of a movement and then to being an “ecclesiastical” document. That there must have been heated discussions in the group around John about the future of the group is documented by the Epistles of John. John 21, therefore, became an integral part of this Gospel, because this chapter turned John’s gospel from a text of an isolated sect into the basic document of a Messianic movement.

(568) HS, ANYTHING TO EAT: Thus TV renders freely the seldom word prosphagion, “side dish.” Later on—in 21:9.10.13, referring back to 6:9.11—John will take the word opsarion. Both are normally translated as “fish” because the disciples caught fish as a side dish.

(569) TJ15, 152, WAS SEEN PUBLICLY: Here it says ephanerōthē, passively, and not ephanerōsen, as in 21:1, hence “was seen publicly.”

(570) If Paul reports such events in 1 Corinthians 15, he uses the passive ōphthē. Only in the so-called inauthentic ending of Mark, this use of phaneroun is documented, 16:12.14.

(571) HS: And it invokes the scene when Yeshua girded himself to wash the feet of his disciples, 13:4. Now, Peter seems to be ready to follow unreservedly the example of his Lord shown in the washing of the feet.

(572) Calvin, who revered Augustin, however, writes about Augustin’s interpretation of this number, “One should not look for a mysterious meaning in the number of the fish. Augustin very astutely associates it with ‘law and gospel’ [one God who first speaks in the five books of the Torah, then reveals himself in the gospel as a triune God]; but on closer reflection one will find that this is a childish gimmick” (Johannes Calvin, Auslegung des Johannesevangeliums [1553], übersetzt v. Martin Trebesius und Hand Christian Petersen, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1964, 488).

(573) Charles K. Barrett (Das Evangelium nach Johannes [KEK], Göttingen 1990, 556) notes here that the verb is used in late Greek for the first meal of the day. A common dictionary (Gemoll) provides aristan, “to have breakfast,” 3.11.

(574) In v.14 John chooses the passive ephanerōthe instead of the reflexive ephanerōsen heauton. There is no difference here since the passive also has reflexive meaning.

(575) TJ15, 152, SOLIDARY WITH ME: Here there is an alternation between agapan and philein. Jesus asks about the agapē of Simon, who responds with philō, “I am your friend.” Agapan aims at an attachment to a person for the sake of a common matter, hence “solidarity”; philein, on the other hand, aims at a person-to-person relationship. Yeshua gives Simon a functional task, that he should “become a shepherd,” that is, take on a political leadership function; we know what this entails from chapter 10:1 ff. Twice Yeshua asks about solidarity, twice the question is misunderstood, probably because of the triple denial. The third time Yeshua takes up the personal level in order to translate it into the functional sphere of the task. It is not about style here, because in these texts it is not about “lively” style, but of listening carefully. Any relationship with the Messiah is to be measured by the fulfillment of the Messianic task. With any “love for Jesus” the task would not be served. Therefore, taking into account the differences, we translate emphatically brittle.

(576) TJ15, 152, SHEPHERD: In vv.15 and 17 the verb is boskein, but here it is poimainein; both stand for the root raˁa. John has a reason to vary here. Boskein aims at the content of the task, “to tend, to pasture,” poimainein, on the other hand, at the function of the one who shepherds, “to shepherd.” The shepherd has to tend, but the tending can only happen if there is a shepherd. Peter now has to tend the whole flock, all the Messianic groups, lead the small group around John into the whole movement, and the group has to recognize Peter as the shepherd.

(577) TJ15, 154: In this section, the group asks itself, “What will become of us, of our group’s particular political orientation, of the group’s teacher, if we join the other groups?”

(578) TJ15, 154, UNTIL I AM COMING: Here, several manuscripts add again, ti pros se, “what is it to you.” Other important manuscripts, however, omit these words. The Nestle/Aland text edition varies. There, ti pros se is in the main text, but in square brackets.

(579) HS: Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus. Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde.

(580) Texte und Kontexte 41 (1989), 14-43.

(581) Texte und Kontexte 49 (1991), 16-44.

(582) Micha Brumlik, Johannes: Das judenfeindliche Evangelium, in: Kirche und Israel 4, 1989, 102-113, here 111.103.104.

(583) HS: TV alludes here to activities within the framework of the Verein für politische und theologische Bildung LEHRHAUS e. V., Dortmund (founded 1978 ), which also publishes the exegetical journal Texte & Kontexte.

(584) HS (comment on content): Based on my own experience in dialogue with Jews, Muslims, and members of other religions, I do not share this doubt about interreligious dialogue, including interfaith services in the “Nordstadt” of Giessen, which I helped to organize.

(585) Arbeiter Zeitung (Wien) Nr. 19 vom 9. Mai 1890, MEW 22, 49ff. 

(586) Thus in the article Der Sieg des Titus oder: der Abschied vom Messias, in: Texte & Kontexte 87 (2000), 3-17.
HS: For this publication—instead of “The Farewell of the Messiah”—I suggested to choose the title “Solidarity against the World Order” because it highlights the political objective of the interpretation from the outset.

(587) HS: TV here uses the German word “aufheben,” literally “to uplift,” its varied meanings ranging from “to rescind, to abrogate, to cancel,” to “to keep, to save, to put aside.” I take the latter word here because it best captures what TV means: doing away with Messianic inspiration not by throwing it away, but by locking it away well.

(588) Tertullianus, Apologeticum 39, in: J. P. Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Latina (ML) 1, Paris 1844 ff., 471.

(589) In the eastern part of the empire, the bloody persecution continued with brief interruptions until 311.

(590) Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire. Die neue Weltordnung, Frankfurt/M. 2003, 36. The next quote is on page 218 of this book.

(591) In consultation with TV, a number of errors from the original texts has been corrected.

(592) See Ton Veerkamp, Auf Leben und Tod. Eine Auslegung von Johannes 10,40 – 11,54, in T&K 49 (1991), 16-44, here 44,

Questions. If there is one thing we have to learn from Judaism as gathered and saved by the rabbis, it is this: there is no orthodoxy, but always only questions. And answers: rabbi A says this, rabbi B says that, rabbi C says that; and you have to know all these answers and not be satisfied with any of them, but keep asking, keep going, keep doing. Like those. In the House of Study.
Until the Messiah comes?
Who knows . . .

(593) TJ15, 3, Preface:

Most noticeable is the substitution of proper names for their traditional form: Yeshua became Jesus again, Yochanan became John again, etc. The reasons for using the original Aramaic/Hebrew proper names are still valid. We are not dealing with “old acquaintances.” On the other hand, I wrote, “I have endeavored to translate in such a way that the text can be read aloud.” But the reading aloud must be for listening. The use of the Aramaic-Hebrew forms of names makes—as my experience and that of others has shown—listening more difficult than necessary; a concession to the listening habits of the listeners seems justified to me. The translation itself demands enough readiness to renounce what is traditional and beloved, such as the “Lamb of God” in favor of the translation “the ewe coming from God.”

(594) Marco Ritter, Der Aorist im Neuen Testament. The following page numbers refer to this work.

(595) Thus Everett Fox in his translator’s preface, ix, of The Five Books of Moses. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Standard Edition, New York 1983-1995. About his own translation work in comparison with the rendering of the Scriptures into German by Buber and Rosenzweig he wrote (xxi-xxii):

. . . in the attempt to make the German translation mirror the Hebrew original Rosenzweig did not hesitate to either create new German words or reach back into the German literature of past ages to find forms suitable for rendering certain Hebrew expressions. To perform a corresponding feat in English would simply not work; the language is not flexible, and usages change so quickly that an artful appeal to the past seems futile except for the benefit of linguistic historians. While I have endeavored to produce an English text that reflects the style of biblical Hebrew, I have in the main shied away from pushing the language beyond reasonable and comprehensible limits.

Also, see Everett Fox, Give us a King! Samuel, Saul, and David. A new translation of Samuel I and II with an introduction and notes, New York 1999.

(596) See TV’s epilogue to his interpretation, section 1.

(597) I myself read their following three books on John: Adele Reinhartz, The Word in the World. The Cosmological Tale in the Fourth Gospel, Atlanta/Georgia 1992; Adele Reinhartz, Befriending the Beloved Disciple. A Jewish Reading of the Gospel of John, New York 2003; Adele Reinhartz, Cast Out of the Covenant. Jews and Anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John, Lanham 2018.

(598) Das Johannesevangelium in der Übersetzung von Eugen Drewermann, Zürich und Düsseldorf 1997. See however TV’s harsh criticism of such drafts in the essay cited in the last note, 43-44:

The . . . hype about the Messiah Jesus, you can spiritualize, psychologize, preferably with C. G. Jung, as in the case of Hannah Wolff, Drewermann & Co.—liberation for the dented soul of the German Protestant-Catholic educated bourgeoisie longing for “wholeness”—and thus perpetuate the Messiah. . . . John and his people, meanwhile, had other concerns. Actually, the world of Roman death should be changed, liberated, John 3:17. Is the ˁolam ha-baˀ perhaps only a trick: the passion for the final transformation, so that it comes at all now and then to some small changes, “a little more right for a little more people,” as Huub Oosterhuis said in an obituary of Salvador Allende? . . .

We must . . . ask how that can happen then, that the world will be liberated. We must ask what use is a Messiah if the world remains as it is—and it has remained as it was, murderous, a den of thieves. If we are asked, “How then, you are teachers of the Church and you do not know this?”, we are in good company, that very Nicodemos whom Jesus asked similar things (3:10).

(599) Evangelium nach Johannes, neu übersetzt und kommentiert von Elmar Rettelbach. Unter Berücksichtigung seiner hebräischen Denkstrukturen und Begriffsvorgaben, auf der Basis der griechischen Urtexte und aus der Erfahrung kontemplativ-meditativen Umgehens mit dem Text, Würzburg 4. Auflage 2015 (1. Auflage 1991). [Translation of this title: Gospel according to John, newly translated and commented by Elmar Rettelbach. Taking into account its Hebrew thought structures and conceptual specifications, on the basis of the Greek original texts and from the experience of contemplative-meditative handling of the text, Würzburg 42015 (1st ed. 1991).]

(600) Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, Grand Rapids/Michigan 2003; Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos. Geschichte des Christusglaubens von den Anfängen des Christentums bis Irenaeus, Göttingen 1913.

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