August 12: John 6:69

John 6:69

Verse 69 represents the second part of Peter’s confession (on the first part, v. 68, see the previous note), which forms the climactic point of the great Bread of Life Discourse-Narrative in chap. 6. It holds a place in the Johannine Gospel similar to that of the more famous confession in the Synoptics (Mk 8:29 par, cf. below). The two parts are related syntactically as comprising a single confessional statement:

    • “You hold (the) utterances of (the) Life of the Age(s) [i.e. eternal life]
    • we have trusted and have known that you are the holy (one) of God.”

The verbs pisteu/w (“trust”) and ginw/skw (“know”), though commonly used by early Christians (in a religious and theological sense), are especially prominent in the Gospel of John. The verb pisteu/w occurs 98 times (out of 241 in the entire NT), while ginw/skw is used somewhat less frequently (57 out of 222 NT occurrences). There is a special emphasis on knowing the truth (8:32, etc), which is defined in the Christological sense of trusting in Jesus (as the Son of God)—in this way, one “knows” the Son, and, through him, knows God the Father as well (7:28-29; 8:14ff, 19, 28; 10:14-15, 27, 38; 14:4-7ff, 20; 15:15; 17:3, 7-8, 23ff).

Peter’s confession of trust in Jesus is centered on the title “the holy (one) of God” (o( a%gio$ tou= qeou=). In the Old Testament Scriptures, “holy (one)” (vodq*) is used almost exclusively as a title of YHWH (Job 6:10; Prov 9:10; Hos 11:9, 12; Hab 1:12; 3:3; Ezek 39:7), where it typically occurs within the expression “the Holy (One) of Israel” (2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Jer 50:29; 51:5). It is used most frequently in the book of Isaiah (1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6, et al.), while in later Jewish writings the substantive “Holy One” continues to be used almost entirely as a Divine title (e.g., Sirach 4:14; 23:29; 43:10; 47:8; 48:20; Baruch 4:22, 37; 5:5; 2 Macc 14:36; 1 Enoch 1:2; 93:11; 97:6). The title itself relates to the fundamental attribute of holiness (Josh 24:19; 1 Sam 2:2), which Israel, as God’s people, must maintain as well (Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Deut 7:6, etc).

Only on rare occasions in the Old Testament is the substantive “holy (one)” applied to a human being, in reference to the consecrated priests (Num 16:7; Psalm 106:16), while in Dan 8:13 vodq* refers to a heavenly (angelic) being. In Prayer of Azariah 12, the title “holy one” is applied to Israel. In Old Testament and Jewish tradition, it was common to refer to both heavenly beings and righteous Israelites as “holy ones”; the Qumran texts make a good deal of this parallelism, identifying the Community as the “holy ones” on earth, who act in consort with the “holy ones” in heaven—both groups functioning as end-time representatives of God.

The only Old Testament parallel to the specific title “the holy one of God” is found in Psalm 106:16— “(the) holy (one) of YHWH” (hwhy vodq=)—referring to the special status of the high priest Aaron. The adjective ryz]n`, which similarly denotes a consecrated individual, separated out for special service to God, has comparable meaning when used as a substantive “consecrated [i.e. holy] (one)”. In Judg 13:5, 7 and 16:17, we find the expression <yh!ýa$ ryz]n+ (“consecrated [i.e. holy] one of God”), which is quite close to the corresponding Greek here in Jn 6:69. Most English versions transliterate ryz]n` (i.e., “Nazir[ite]”) rather than translate it; on the Nazirite vow, cf. the regulations in Numbers 6 (cp. Amos 2:11-12).

Thus, for the historical background of the expression “holy one of God”, we find two lines of religious tradition: (a) the sanctified status of the (high) priest, and (b) those set apart for service by the Nazir(ite) vow. In the New Testament, the latter is related to John the Baptist, where, in the Lukan Infancy narrative, it refers to his eschatological/Messianic status, fulfilling the figure type of the prophet Elijah (Lk 1:15-17; cf. also vv. 76ff). In the Gospel of John, as elsewhere in the Gospel tradition, it is Jesus, rather than John the Baptist, who fulfills the Elijah figure-type (1:21, 25); for more on this subject, cf. Part 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Other occurrences of the title “holy (one)” in the New Testament confirm its significance as a Messianic designation that is applied to Jesus. It occurs once in the Synoptic Tradition (Mk 1:24 / Lk 4:34), in the context of Jesus’ miracle-working power—as a sign that he fulfills the role of Messianic Prophet (in the manner of Elijah, cf. the references in Lk 4:24-27, in the context of vv. 18ff). In Acts 2:27 and 13:35, the expression “holy one” in Psalm 16:10 (where the Hebrew adjective is dys!j* rather than vodq*) is clearly intended as a Messianic reference, applied specifically to the resurrection of Jesus (cf. vv. 24, 30-31ff, 36). The title also has a Messianic (Davidic) significance in Rev 3:7.

These factors, taken together, make it all but certain that here, in v. 69, Peter similarly uses the title “the holy one of God” in a Messianic sense—though it is not immediately clear which Messianic figure type is primarily in view. The immediate context of the Feeding Miracle (vv. 1-14) suggests a Messianic Prophet (like Elijah); however, the Bread of Life Discourse (as well as the wider literary context of the Johannine Gospel) indicates that a Prophet like Moses is intended. Yet the reference in verse 15 also raises the possibility that a royal (Davidic?) Messiah may be in view as well. In any case, the Messianic identity of Jesus is very much the focus of Peter’s confession in the Synoptic Gospels:

“You are the Anointed (One) [i.e. the Messiah]”
(Mk 8:29)

The Lukan version corresponds generally with the Johannine tradition here:

“You are the Anointed (One) of God” (Lk 9:20)
“You are the Holy (One) of God” (Jn 6:69)

From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, the title “holy (one)” also refers to Jesus’ identity as the (pre-existent) Son of God, sent to earth from heaven by God the Father. This gives to the Messianic title a deeper Christological significance, as is suggested by Jesus’ statement in 10:36:

“…(the one) whom the Father made holy [vb a(gia/zw, i.e. set apart, consecrated] and sent forth into the world”

This statement is connected with a more direct declaration of his essential identity as God’s (eternal) Son: “I am [e)gw\ ei)mi] (the) Son of God”. The Johannine theological and literary context (esp. in the Prologue) clearly connects this Divine Sonship with a strong pre-existence Christology, rather than the earlier Christology which explained the Sonship almost entirely in terms of Jesus’ exaltation (to God’s right hand in heaven) following his death and resurrection. In the Johannine writings, the confession of the true believer combines both titles— “Anointed One” and “Son of God” —with this distinctive Christological understanding, giving new meaning to the older forms.

In this regard, the main Johannine statement (in the Gospel) is not the confession by Peter, but the one by Martha in 11:27:

“I have trusted that you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God, the (one) coming into the world.”

The Gospel concludes with a similar confessional statement, in 20:31 (cp. 17:3; 1 Jn 1:3; 3:23; 5:20). The combination of titles, of course, also resembles the Matthean version of Peter’s confession, as representing a comparable (theological/Christological) development of the Synoptic tradition:

“You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16; cf. 26:63ff)

Finally, I would suggest that, from the Johannine theological standpoint, the title “holy one of God” also alludes to Jesus’ association (and identification) with God’s holy Spirit. In addition to the immediate context of the Spirit-saying in v. 63 (the Christological significance of which has been examined, in detail, in recent notes), there are other aspects of the Johannine writings (Gospel and First Letter) which seem to bear this out, including the intriguing use of the title “holy one” in 1 John 2:20. I will discuss this verse in the next daily note.

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Textual Note on Jn 6:69—There is some variation in the manuscripts (and versions) with regard to the text of title in Peter’s confession (cf. above). The text followed above, o( a%gio$ tou= qeou= (“the holy [one] of God”), would seem to have decisive manuscript support, representing the reading of Ë75 a B C* D L W al. In other witnesses, the title was expanded in various ways, most likely as a harmonization with the Matthean form (16:16) of the Synoptic version of Peter’s confession (cp. Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20), or with the local Johannine confessional statements in 1:49; 11:27. Cf. the brief note in the UBS/Metzger Textual Commentary (4th revised edition), p. 184, and in the various exegetical-critical commentaries (ad loc).

1 John 4:2-3 and the Opponents in 1 John (Pt 3)

In Parts 1 and 2 of this supplemental note, I surveyed and evaluated seven interpretative approaches that seek to explain or elucidate the Christology of the opponents in 1 John. Each approach, in particular, offers a comparative explanation regarding the statements in 2:22-23 in 4:2-3:

    • 2:22-23: Jesus is not the Christ
      “Yeshua is not the Anointed (One)”
    • 4:2-3: Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh
      “Yeshua (the) Anointed (as) {not} having come in (the) flesh” (cp. 2 Jn 7)

Here, in Part 3, I will offer a summary exposition, which may also, in its own way, form a working hypothesis for future study.

To begin with, in regard to the statement in 2:22-23, it is necessary to decide between two possibilities:

    • The title o( Xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”) is to be understood in terms of Jewish Messianic expectation(s), just as o( Xristo/$ is used throughout the Gospel of John; i.e., the denial means “Jesus is not the Messiah”.
    • The title is to be understood in a distinctly Christian (and Johannine Christian) sense, with the statement “Yeshua is the Anointed (One)” essentially as a shorthand for the confessional formula in Jn 11:27; 20:31: “Yeshua is the Anointed (One), the Son of God”.

I find the first option intriguing, and deserving of further study, particularly in terms of interpretive approach #2 (discussed in Parts 1 & 2). However, the weight of evidence in the Johannine Letters does, I think, favor the second option. The noun xristo/$ in the Letters occurs more frequently in the double-name Ihsou=$ Xristo/$ (“Yeshua [the] Anointed,” Jesus Christ)—1:3; 2:1; 3:23; 4:2; 5:6, 20; 2 Jn 3, 7—with the title o( Xristo/$ only here in 2:22 (par 5:1) and 2 Jn 9. It is perhaps noteworthy that o( Xristo/$ in 2 Jn 9 probably does not refer specifically to the Jewish Messiah, unless tou= Xristou= be regarded as an objective genitive—viz., teaching about Jesus as the Messiah. In the three key Christological references which divide and punctuate 1 John—beginning (1:3), middle (3:23), and end (5:20)—the name Jesus Christ (“Yeshua [the] Anointed”) is joined precisely with the title Son of God (“His Son, Yeshua [the] Anointed”).

With this point established, we may now relate 2:22-23 to 4:2-3, understanding the latter to represent, for the author, the essential Christological error of the opponents—viz., not confessing/acknowledging Jesus Christ (the Son of God) to have come in the flesh. Based on the analysis in Parts 1 & 2, there are now three main options from which to choose, regarding the significance of the phrase “having come in (the) flesh” (e)n sarki\ e)lhluqo/ta):

    • “come in the flesh” refers to the reality of Jesus’ human existence—as opposed to a docetic view of Jesus (i.e., he only seemed to be human)
    • “come in the flesh” refers to the incarnation of the (pre-existent) Son of God
    • “come in the flesh” signifies the means by which Jesus Christ acted during his mission on earth, specifically with reference to his sacrificial death.

There is some support for the first option based on the way that the author, in the prologue (1:1-4), emphasizes the actual seeing, hearing, and touching of Jesus by the first disciples. A parallel for this may be found in the Thomas-episode at the end of the Gospel (20:24-29). Moreover, a connection between 4:2-3 and an early docetic view of Jesus is confirmed by the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (esp. his letter to the Smyrneans). Given the proximity of time and (possibly) place between the Johannine and Ignatian letters, the opponents addressed in each could be related.

It is, however, somewhat more likely, in my view, that the Johannine opponents either: (a) denied the incarnation of the Son of God, or (b) denied certain aspects of the incarnation. In the first option (a), they held that the pre-existent Logos/Son of God came upon the man Jesus, through the Spirit, at his baptism, but did not “become flesh” or “come in the flesh”. In the second option (b), the opponents accepted, in general, that the Son of God was incarnate in Jesus, but only in a qualified sense—the principal issue seeming to be the reality of Jesus’ death (5:5-8). If Jesus did not truly suffer and die, as a mortal human being, then he did not fully “come in the flesh”.

The wording of 4:2-3 favors option (a), however, I suspect that option (b) is much closer to the mark. There are several reasons for this conclusion:

    1. The author’s polemic distortion and simplification of the opponents’ view in 2:22f suggests that he may be doing the same here in 4:2f; if so, then it is natural to look to what follows in 5:5-8 as an explanation and elaboration of what he has in mind.
    2. The parallel in wording between 4:2 and 5:6 likewise suggests that the two are conceptually related, and that “in water and blood” (“blood” specifically referring to Jesus’ death) is meant to clarify the expression “in (the) flesh”.
    3. The ‘docetism’ of the opponents of Ignatius is defined largely in terms of Jesus’ suffering and death. This is certainly true in regard to Ignatius’ use of the specific verb doke/w in Smyrneans 2:1 (cp. 4:2); Trallians 10:1. The earlier ‘docetism’ (as such) of the Johannine opponents is likely to have been even more narrowly expressed—that is, primarily, if not exclusively, in terms of Jesus’ death (“blood”).

Thus, while a more generalized docetism or denial of the incarnation cannot be ruled out entirely, I feel that the Christological error of the opponents, according to the author, rested primarily in a denial (in some fashion) of the reality of Jesus’ death—viz., that he did not truly suffer and die like an ordinary human being. Possibly, it was the meaning and importance of Jesus’ death which the opponents denied; however, the language used by the author, and the force of his rhetoric, suggests something even more serious (and fundamental) was at stake.

Once a pre-existence Christology had developed and taken root among believers, it was natural that many Christians would struggle with the idea that the Divine/eternal Son could suffer and die like a normal human being. Among various individuals and groups, in the second century, a number of Christological solutions to this problem developed. Docetic and separationist Christologies were among the earliest of these. In many ways a separationist approach accords much better with the New Testament (Gospel) evidence—i.e., the Divine Presence comes upon Jesus (through the Spirit) at his baptism (Jn 1:32-33 par), and then departs at the moment of his death (19:30 par). Commentators have variously identified the opponents as early docetists or separationists.

I do not know that the Christology of the opponents can be determined with any precision, beyond the author’s statements in 2:22-23, 4:2-3, and 5:5-8. I propose the following interpretation, in line with how I understand the logic of the author’s polemic (against the opponents); it can be outlined as follows:

    • 5:5-8. The opponents deny the reality of Jesus’ sacrificial death. They accept that the Son of God came as a human being, “in water” —referring either to Jesus’ birth or to his baptism—but deny that he came “in blood”. Nor do believers participate in the death of Jesus through the Spirit. Perhaps the thought was that the Spirit was released (for believers) prior to Jesus’ death (Jn 19:30).
    • 4:2-3. Because the opponents do not accept that the Son of God came “in water and blood”, they do not truly believe that the Jesus Christ the Son came “in the flesh” (v. 2); as such, they do not confess a true faith in Jesus.
    • 2:22-23. Because of this false view of the incarnation, the opponents do not affirm the fundamental confession that “Yeshua is the Anointed One(, the Son of God)”. By denying the true identity of the Son, they effectively deny the Father as well.

In the upcoming article on 5:5-8, I will develop this analysis further, including giving serious consideration to the question of how the role of the Spirit relates to the opponents’ Christology.

1 John 4:2-3 and the Opponents in 1 John (Pt 2)

In Part 1 of this supplemental note, I laid out 4 lines of interpretation, regarding the Christology of the Johannine opponents, according to the statements in 1 John 2:22-23 and 4:2-3:

    • 2:22-23: Jesus is not the Christ
      “Yeshua is not the Anointed (One)”
    • 4:2-3: Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh
      “Yeshua (the) Anointed (as) {not} having come in (the) flesh” (cp. 2 Jn 7)

Within the four lines, there are seven interpretive approaches. Here, I will offer my evaluation regarding each approach.

1. The Jewish Hypothesis maintains that the opponents are Jewish Christians who have abandoned their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. This approach is relatively new, but has some distinguished proponents. It remains a minority view, but has gained somewhat in acceptance with the increasing emphasis among scholars on the Jewish background and context of the Johannine writings. The strongest presentation (and defense) of the Jewish Hypothesis is the dissertation by Daniel R. Streett, published as a lengthy monograph (They went out from us: The Identity of the Opponents in First John [De Gruyter: 2011]). This approach has the major advantage of taking at face value the denial in 2:22-23 (“Yeshua is not the Anointed One”), treating the title o( Xristo/$ in its principal first-century context, viz., as referring to the Messianic expectation(s) of Israelites and Jews, just as, in fact, o( Xristo/$ is used throughout the Gospel of John (cf. the earlier note on 2:22-23).

However, while proponents (like Streett) of the Jewish Hypothesis make many fine points, I have to disagree entirely with the premise. In my view, it is most unlikely that the opponents are simply Jewish Christians who have flatly rejected their faith in Jesus. If this truly were the situation being addressed by the author, I would very much expect to find evidence of some harsh anti-Judaism, anti-Synagogue language, such as we see at various points in the Gospel and also in the book of Revelation (2:9; 3:9). Indeed, I see little or no indication of any Jewish or Judaistic emphasis in the Johannine Letters.

2. Christian rejection of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. I find a much stronger argument to be made that the opponents are non-Jewish (Gentile) believers who reject Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (of Jewish expectation), and who would thus deny (or be inclined not to accept) the title o( Xristo/$ (“the Anointed One”) for Jesus. There are a number of details in 1 John, not least of which being the warning against keeping away from ‘idols’ (at the end of the work, 5:21), which suggest that the author is writing to a primarily non-Jewish audience.

This approach shares the same advantage with the Jewish Hypothesis (1., above)—that of taking at face value the statement in 2:22-23, along with the ordinary meaning of the title o( Xristo/$ (including everywhere it occurs in the Gospel of John; cp. 2 John 9). At the same time, it preserves the correct (in my view) nature of the crisis, as representing a Christological conflict within the Johannine Community of believers. However, at the same time, this approach does not seem to do justice to the centrality of the statement in 4:2-3, nor to the force of the author’s polemic (and language) in the “antichrist” section of 2:18-27 as a whole.

3. A Separationist Christology. As previously noted, this refers to the idea that the man Jesus and the Divine Christ are two separate entities, which were joined together (at the baptism), and then separated again at the moment of Jesus’ death. This explanation of the opponents’ view finds some support in the tradition that associates the apostle John (trad. author of the Letters) with the arch-heretic Cerinthus (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.3.4)—a point I mentioned in a prior note. According to Irenaeus (Against Heresies I.26), Cerinthus affirmed an early separationist Christology. This could be taken as evidence that the Johannine Community (symbolized by John) was in conflict with members (symbolized by Cerinthus) who held a separationist view of Christ.

There might be even stronger support for this approach if one were to accept (as some commentators do) the variant reading in 4:3lu/ei to\n Ihsou=n (“looses Yeshua”) instead of mh\ o(mologei= to\n Ihsou=n (“does not give account as one [of] [i.e., does not confess/acknowledge] Yeshua”). I discussed this text-critical issue at length in an earlier note. The manuscript evidence in favor of mh\ o(mologei= is absolutely overwhelming, and it is unlikely that that the reading lu/ei is original.

Yet, if it were original, the use of lu/w (“loose[n]”) with a person (Jesus) as the object might naturally be understood in the sense of “separating” (loosing) Jesus. From what would he be “loosed” if not the bond of union with the Divine Christ (and Son)? The variant reading is, indeed, understood in this way by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.16.8), in opposition to the separationist Christology of the Valentinians (and other Gnostics). Origen and the historian Socrates (Church History 7:32), also cite the variant reading in a similar sense, in terms of dividing Jesus Christ; Socrates cites it in the specific context of the Nestorian controversy. The Latin witnesses that attest the reading lu/ei to\n Ihosu=n alternate between the translation solvit Iesum (“dissolves [i.e. destroys] Jesus”) and dividere Iesum (“divides Jesus”).

I find the separationist explanation, on the whole, to be rather unconvincing. If the idea of ‘dividing’ Jesus Christ truly were the point at issue, I would expect to find more evidence in 1 John arguing for a union between the man Jesus and the Divine Christ/Son. This does not seem at all to be the emphasis, though admittedly Christians in the 2nd-4th centuries may have understood 1 Jn 4:2-3 in this light (thus explaining the presence of the reading lu/ei in the margin of manuscripts, and its citation by theologians). However, Tertullian cites the same variant (Against Marcion V.16.4) in opposition to the docetic Christology of Marcion, claiming that such a Christology effectively “dissolves” (i.e. destroys) Jesus.

4. 2:22-23 as the author’s interpretation of 4:2-3. There is always the possibility that the statement in 2:22-23 does not actually represent the stated view of the opponents, but, rather, how the author, in his polemic, interprets it. According to this approach, the real point of Christological contention is given in 4:2-3—viz., the opponents denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (“Yeshua [the] Anointed [as] having come in [the] flesh”). By denying this, as the author understands the matter, the opponents demonstrate that they do not have true faith/trust in Jesus, thus effectively denying him as both the “Anointed One” (Christ) and the “Son of God”. That the author thinks in these terms is indicated by the extended logic in 2:22f:

    • denying Jesus as the Christ =>
      • denying him as the Son of God,
        and denying him as the Son =>

        • denying the Father as well

Just as the opponents surely would have affirmed belief in God (the Father), so almost certainly they also affirmed Jesus as the Son of God. By the same logic, as Johannine Christians (cf. 3:23; Jn 11:27; 20:31) they may well have also affirmed Jesus’ identity as the Christ; however, for the author, these points all hang together, and we might surmise his polemical logic to be as follows:

    • a false/erroneous view of Jesus Christ =>
      • they deny Jesus as the Christ =>
        • they also deny him as the Son =>
          • they actually deny the Father as well

Even if this assumption about the author’s presentation is correct, it is still necessary to define more clearly the Christological issue addressed in 4:2-3 (par 2 Jn 7). The remaining four approaches (4a-d) represent alternative explanations for this.

4a) A Docetic Christology.—that is, Jesus Christ was not really present on earth as a flesh-and-blood human being, but only seemed (vb doke/w) to be a human being. Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of this explanation of the opponents’ view comes from the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. As I discussed in a prior note, Ignatius probably wrote his letters not many years after 1 John was written, and to churches in Asia Minor (the region surrounding Ephesus), an area traditionally identified as the geographic locale of the Johannine congregations; indeed, many commentators today would be inclined to accept this identification. In several letters (most notably the letter to the Smyrneans) Ignatius seems rather clearly to be combatting a docetic view of Christ, and refers to 1 Jn 4:2-3 specifically in this context (Smyrneans 5:2). The evidence from Ignatius is convincing enough that numerous commentators have been willing to characterize (however broadly) the Christology of the Johannine opponents as “docetic”.

If one accepts the docetist explanation, it is probably best to construe it more narrowly, placing the emphasis primarily on the death of Jesus. In other words, the principal Christological error involved the denial that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would suffer and die like any other mortal (cf. Ignatius, Smyrneans 2:1, “he [only] seemed [dokei=n] to suffer”). The emphasis in 5:5-8, along with the parallel in wording between 4:2f and 5:6ff, suggests that the reality of Jesus’ death was primarily in view.

4b) Denying the Importance of Jesus’ Earthly Life. According to this view, the opponents did not deny the incarnation per se, but, rather, they denied (or devalued) the importance of Jesus’ earthly life (and, particularly, his death). The opponents, it would seem, were influenced by the high Christology of the Johannine Gospel, as well as by the Johannine spiritualistic emphasis. If Jesus truly is the pre-existent Son of God, and thus fundamentally of a spiritual nature (Jn 4:24), and, if he is continually present in and among believers through the Spirit, teaching them “all things” (2:20, 27; Jn 14:26), it would be natural for Johannine Christians to question the importance of Jesus’ teaching and activity during the limited scope of his earthly life.

Such an interpretation has the added advantage of allowing for harmonization between 2:22-23 and 4:2-3, according to the view of 2:22f outlined in approach #2 (above). If Jesus’ earthly life itself is of limited importance, then of what value is his identification as the Jewish Messiah? However, this approach overall is perhaps better suited to the idea that the author is giving a polemical distortion of 4:2f in 2:22f—viz., by denying the importance of Jesus’ earthly life (and death), the opponents are effectively denying him as the Christ. At issue is one’s understanding of the significance of what Jesus did while “in the flesh”, and, particularly, the saving efficacy and power of his death.

Taken generally, this approach is relatively popular among commentators, and can be found in the distinguished commentaries of Schnackenburg, R. E. Brown, Klauck, and von Wahlde, among others. The chief problem with this approach, as I see it, is that it does not take seriously enough the specific language used by the author in 4:2-3. In a previous note, I analyzed the Johannine use of the noun sa/rc (“flesh”), the particular expression “in [the] flesh” ([e)n th=|] sarki/), along with the contextual use of the verb e&rxomai. The emphasis very much seems to be on Jesus’ existence and life as a human being. This suggests that the incarnation of the Son of God is the principal point at issue; this would, of course, include the reality of his death “in the flesh” (5:6ff).

4c-d) Denial of the Johannine Pre-existence Christology. These two approaches share the basic premise that the opponents were Christians (probably Jewish believers) who denied, or would not affirm, the idea that Divine/eternal Son was incarnate in the person of Jesus. I would delineate two main versions of this approach:

    1. The opponents believed that the Spirit came upon Jesus (at his baptism), who, as God’s chosen representative and “Anointed One” (o( Xristo/$), was able to communicate to believers the things of God (including the Spirit). However, he was not a flesh-and-blood incarnation of the eternal Logos and Son of God.
    2. The opponents fully accepted the identity of Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, but in accordance with the exaltation Christology held by believers throughout the first century. That is, Jesus’ status and position as God’s Son was understood as being the transformative result of his resurrection, when he was exalted to God’s ‘right hand’ in heaven, to share in the Divine Spirit, with the ability of communicating it to believers. However, again, according to this view, Jesus was not an earthly incarnation (“come in the flesh”) of the Divine Son.

These two approaches have the advantage of conforming to the contours of first-century Christology, as opposed to docetism, for which there is almost no evidence prior to the second century. Indeed, during the years c. 60-100, there must have been many Christians who were forced to grapple with the developing pre-existence Christology (attested primarily in the Johannine Gospel and Hebrews), and who found it difficult to accept. The Gospel of John itself seems to illustrate something of this difficulty. In the chapter 6 “Bread of Life” Discourse, for example, what seems particularly to “trip up” Jesus’ disciples (vv. 60ff), no less than the rest of his Jewish audience, is the idea that (1) Jesus has come to earth from heaven, and (2) that one must join in his earthly life and death (by ‘eating and drinking’ his “flesh” and “blood”). The disciples who cannot accept this incarnation-teaching, and who thus depart from following Jesus, could well serve as a paradigm for the crisis surrounding the opponents, as described in 1-2 John.

Having thus given some evaluation of the major interpretive approaches which attempt to explain the Christological view of the opponents, in the final part of this supplemental note I will offer a final summary of my own thoughts on the matter. This summary will take the form of a practical working hypothesis.

June 17: 1 John 4:2-3 (5)

1 John 4:2-3, continued

“In this [i.e. by this] you (can) know the Spirit of God: every spirit that gives account as one (of) Yeshua (the) Anointed having come in (the) flesh is out of [i.e. from] God”

In the previous note (cf. also the note prior), I examined the emphasis in verse 2 on affirming/confessing one’s faith/trust in Jesus, focusing on the author’s use of the verb o(mologe/w (“give account as one”) and the double-name Ihsou=$ Xristo/$ (“Yeshua [the] Anointed,” Jesus Christ). As I discussed, the verb o(mologe/w implies agreement with the author’s understanding of Jesus (cf. verse 6), as reflecting the common belief of all true believers. According to the author, the opponents do not affirm this Christology, and thus show themselves to be false believers, and false prophets who speak from the evil “spirit of Antichrist,” rather than the holy Spirit of God.

To understand the nature of the Christological point of dispute, we must turn to the next two components of the statement here in v. 2.

e)n sarki\ | e)lhluqo/ta
“in (the) flesh | having come”

The position of the expression e)n sarki/ (“in [the] flesh”) allows one to read it as part of a larger expression (or concept)— “Yeshua (the) Anointed (One) in (the) flesh”. Other commentators would place the emphasis on the verbal phrase— “having come in the flesh”. Before deciding on the precise force of the phrase (as intended by the author), let us examine each component.

I begin with the expression “in (the) flesh” (e)n sarki/). The precise expression, without the definite article, occurs 16 times in the New Testament; to this must be added 7 instances where the definite article is specified (“in the flesh”), along with 7 instances of the dative sarki/ (with or without the definite article) where a preposition is implied. In all of these instances, the basic meaning or denotation is the same—viz., “in the flesh”.

In the New Testament, this expression is distinctively Pauline. Of the 30 occurrences, all but four are in the Pauline letters (including 3 times in Ephesians). The only non-Pauline occurrences are here in 1 Jn 4:2 (with the parallel in 2 Jn 7), and twice in 1 Peter (4:2, 6). The use in 1 Peter is general, referring simply to a person’s existence and life as a (mortal) human being. That is also the fundamental meaning in Paul’s letters (2 Cor 4:11; 10:3, etc), though he gives to the expression a further ethical-religious and theological significance, influenced by his distinctive use of the noun sa/rc (“flesh”)—with its decidedly negative connotation of the inclination to sin and opposition to the will of God. For the most part, the Johannine writings do not use the word in this negative (antithetical) sense, a sense which is expressed by the noun ko/smo$ (“world-order, world”) instead.

The noun sa/rc occurs 13 times in the Gospel, where it refers to human life and existence, in a general (and neutral) sense. The juxtaposition between flesh and Spirit is important (3:6; 6:63 [cf. in relation to vv. 51-56]), but the contrast is quite different from the ethical-religious contrast intended by Paul’s use of the same word-pair. In the Johannine writings the focus is spiritualistic, emphasizing the role and place of God’s Spirit for the (true) believer.

Interestingly, in the only other occurrence of sa/rc in the Letters (apart from here in 4:2 [par 2 Jn 7]), 2:16, the author approaches something like the Pauline (negative) ethical-religious use of the word. As I see it, this is the only such use of sa/rc in the Johannine writings. In 4:2 (also 2 Jn 7), the word has the more general meaning that we find in the Gospel, referring simply to the life and existence of a (mortal) human being (1:13; 3:6; 17:2; cf. also 8:15). In two places this usage is specifically applied to the person of Jesus:

    • In the Prologue (1:14), where it is stated that the Logos “came to be flesh” (sa\rc e)ge/neto)—that is, became a human being. The use of the verb of becoming (gi/nomai), like the related genna/w, is probably alluding to a human birth (cf. 3:3-8; 18:37).
    • In 6:51-58 (vv. 51-56), Jesus repeatedly uses sa/rc in reference to his death—that is, his sacrificial death as a mortal human being, presented (within the Gospel Discourse) in eucharistic language (cp. Mk 14:22-24 par). Commentators continue to debate the extent to which the word sa/rc in v. 63 relates to the usage in vv. 51ff; I have discussed the matter in prior notes and articles.

In my view, this pairing of the concepts of a human birth and death relates to the pairing of the motifs of “water” and “blood” in 5:6ff. This point will be discussed further in an upcoming note.

Thus, we can say with relative certainty that the expression “in (the) flesh” here refers to Jesus’ existence and life as a human being.

What of the verb form e)lhluqo/ta (“having come”)? It is a verbal noun (participle), in the perfect tense, and is the only such occurrence of this particular form in the New Testament. The parallel in 2 John 7 has a present participle (e)rxo/menon, “coming”); the present form is more in keeping with Johannine usage, being applied to Jesus in Jn 1:9, 15, 29-30; 3:31; 11:27 (cf. also 6:14; 12:13). The perfect tense specifically indicates a past event, the effect of which continues into the present.

As a related textual note, Codex Vaticanus (B) reads a perfect infinitive (e)lhluqe/nai, “to have come”), rather than a participle. This variant is explained as a grammatical ‘correction’ that more properly phrases the Christological point—i.e., confessing Jesus to have come in the flesh. Polycarp, in quoting 4:2 (Philippians 7:1), has the same reading. The same meaning can be expressed by the particple—viz., confessing Jesus as having coming in the flesh.

The common verb e&rxomai (“come/go”), has a special theological meaning in the Johannine writings, and functions as a distinct Johannine keyword. Of particular importance are the references to Jesus (the Son) coming to earth (from the Father), and also of his return to the Father. The noteworthy references in the Gospel are: 1:9, 11, 15; 3:31; 8:14; 9:39; 10:10ff; cf. also 4:25; 6:14; 7:27, 31, 41-42; 11:27, where the reference is to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus refers (or alludes) to his coming, using the perfect tense of e&rxomai (as here), in 3:19; 5:43; 7:28; 8:42; 12:46; 16:28; cf. also the specific references to his death and exaltation in 8:20; 12:23; 16:32; 17:1. Of particular importance is the declaration to Pilate in 18:37:

“Unto this [i.e. for this purpose] I have come to be (born) [gegennh/mai], and unto this I have come [e)lh/luqa] into the world…”

With this usage in mind, we can better determine the significance of the perfect participle of e&rxomai (here in v. 2), the present participle in 2 Jn 7, along with the aorist participle in 5:6—all of these instances carry the comparable idea of Jesus’ coming into the world (as a human being), and thus the participle has the same connotation as the expression “in (the) flesh” (on which, cf. above). In the next daily note, we will explore this point a bit further, along with a brief consideration of the final component of the statement in verse 2.

June 16: 1 John 4:2-3 (4)

1 John 4:2-3, continued

The confessional statement in verse 2 involves public affirmation of one’s trust in Jesus Christ. As discussed in the previous note, this is the fundamental religious context of the verb o(mologe/w as it is used by early Christians in much of the New Testament. For the author of 1 John, the prefixed element o(mou= (“as one”) alludes to the unity of believers in Christ. In particular, the author aligns himself (and his adherents) with the Community of true believers. I have translated o(mologei= here, quite literally, as “gives account as one”; but, from the author’s standpoint, we might fill this out as “gives account as one with us”.

Since the author’s view is meant to correspond with the Gospel tradition and the inspired belief/teaching of the Community of true believers, the reader, if he/she is also a true believer, will agree with the author’s position. This is made more or less explicit in verse 6. In other words, the true believer’s belief (and confession) regarding “Yeshua the Anointed” (Jesus Christ) will agree with the author’s Christology and view of Jesus.

In an earlier 3-part note (on 2:22; 1, 2, 3), I discussed the use of the title xristo/$ (“anointed [one]”) in the Johannine writings. In the Gospel, in the majority of instances (17 of 19), the noun occurs with the definite article, o( Xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”), or has a comparable definiteness (1:41; 9:22). In all of these cases, the title clearly refers to the Messiah (Heb j^yv!m*), according to the expectation(s) of Jews in the first century B.C./A.D.; this is made explicit by the Gospel writer in 1:41; 4:45. In 7:41-42 the Davidic/royal Messiah is in view; however, more likely it is a Messianic prophet figure-type that is intended in 1:20, 25 (also 4:25, 29). In any event, Jesus was identified by early Christians with all of the Messianic figure-types; first-century Jews were also capable of combining the figure-types (such as prophet and king, cf. Jn 6:15), reflecting a certain fluidity in their Messianic thought

In Jn 11:27 and 20:31, in what are to be regarded as fundamental Johannine confessional statements, the title o( xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”) is joined together with “the Son of God” (o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=). Jesus is to be identified by both titles. One cannot confess one without also confessing the other. Based on 1 Jn 2:22, it would seem that the opponents denied the title “Anointed (One)” (o( xristo/$), while (apparently) affirming/accepting the title “Son of God”. From the author’s standpoint, however, denying Jesus as the “Anointed (One),” also means denying him as God’s Son (2:22b-23).

On two occasions in the Gospel, xristo/$ is used in the double-name Ihsou=$ Xristo/$ (“Yeshua [the] Anointed,” Jesus Christ). In the Prologue (1:17), the double-name refers, in context, to the pre-existent Logos/Son of God, incarnate in the person of Jesus. This same Divine identity of the man Jesus (as God’s Son) is emphasized in the theological declaration in 17:3.

In the majority of instances (8 of 11) in the Letters, xristo/$ also occurs in the double-name, where it is fair to assume that Jesus’ identity as the Son of God the Father is likewise being emphasized. This is certainly the case in the prologue (1:3), and again in the definitive (and climactic) statement in 3:23, and (similarly) at the close of the work (5:20). From the author’s standpoint, anyone who would deny (or fail/refuse to confess) the Christological statements in 2:22 and 4:2, is a false believer, who does not truly have faith in Jesus (as God’s Son).

A further point must be made, in this regard, on the prophetic aspect of the believer’s confession of Jesus Christ. This aspect is emphasized by the author in v. 1, when he speaks of “spirits” (pneu/mata, “every spirit” [pa=n pneu=ma]), and refers to the opponents as “false prophets” (yeudoprofh=tai). Some commentators would understand this passage in light of 1 Corinthians (11:2-5ff; chaps. 12, 14), and Paul’s discussion of prophecy as a special gifting for certain individuals (cf. also Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:9-10; Eph 4:13). It is possible that the opponents (or some of their leaders/teachers) claimed special prophetic inspiration; but, if so, then they take a position which, in my view, runs counter to the spiritualistic tendencies of the Johannine Community. Indeed, I think that the author has a spiritualistic, rather than charismatic, focus in mind.

Every true believer possesses the Spirit of God, is taught by the Spirit, and speaks from the Spirit. In this regard, all believers function as prophets, just as the ideal expressed by the citation of Joel 2:28-29 in Acts 2:17-18 presents it, as a sign of the presence and activity of the Spirit among God’s people, in the New Age (of the New Covenant). This is the fundamental spiritual principle which the author affirms in 2:20, 27 [cp. Jer 31:34]; and cf. also in the Gospel, 6:45; 14:26; 16:13ff.

However, only the true believer is taught and speaks by the Spirit of God. The false believer speaks from a different spirit; in particular, the opponents, who the author regards as false believers, are inspired by the evil “spirit of Antichrist”, and thus hold to a false view of Jesus. Since all believers are prophets (cf. above), the false believers are false prophets. It was part of the eschatological worldview, of Jews and early Christians in the first-century, that, in the end-time period of distress, false prophets would increasingly appear, deceiving people everywhere and leading them astray. This is the significance of the author’s use of the verb plana/w (“go astray,” in the active/causative sense of “lead astray”), as well as the expression “the spirit of going/leading astray” (to\ pneu=ma th=$ pla/nh$, v. 6). There is a real danger that even believers might be led astray by these “false prophets” (2:26; cf. Matt 24:24).

Up to this point, it has not been made clear the precise point of contention, between the author and the opponents, with regard to their confession of Jesus. The remaining elements of the statement in v. 2 will elucidate the matter; though there are still difficulties of interpretation that need to be addressed. We will begin this process in the next daily note.

June 15: 1 John 4:2-3 (3)

1 John 4:2, continued

“In this [i.e. by this] you (can) know the Spirit of God: every spirit that gives account as one (of) Yeshua (the) Anointed having come in (the) flesh is out of [i.e. from] God”

The next two components of the confessional statement in v. 2 (cf. the previous note) will be discussed together. The true Spirit (of God) is that “spirit” which [o%]

gives account as one | (of) Yeshua (the) Anointed
o(mologei= | Ihsou=n Xristo/n

“Yeshua (the) Anointed” (Jesus Christ) is the object of the verb o(mologe/w. This compound verb is derived from the adverb o(mou= (“as one”) and the common verb le/gw (in the sense of “give account,” i.e., “say”), by way of the noun o(molo/go$. I have rendered it quite literally above as “give account as one”; in simpler English idiom, it could be rendered “say the same (thing)”. It implies being in agreement or accord with other people—in particular, it denotes agreeing to a statement, i.e., something that is said. The verb is frequently used in the technical (legal) sense of making (public) confession or affirmation to a statement. And this very much the meaning of o(mologe/w in the religious context of early Christian life and worship.

In particular, the verb is used in the context of confessing/affirming one’s faith in Jesus Christ, very much as we find it used here in v. 2[f]. It has this meaning in the Gospel tradition, where it occurs in one saying of Jesus (“Q” material, Matt 10:32 / Lk 12:8 [cp. Rev 3:5]), and Paul clearly confirms this usage in Rom 10:9-10 (cf. also 1 Tim 6:12). The verb occurs four times in the Gospel of John, notably in 9:22 where it refers to belief in Jesus as the Messiah (o( Xristo/$); this is also the context in 1:20 (twice), where John the Baptist confesses that he (John) is not the Messiah. Presumably, the same Messianic significance applies to reference in 12:42, though it is possible to understand the latter more generally in terms of faith/trust in the person of Jesus. The specific wording in 12:42, with the use of the negative particle, is particularly relevant for our passage:

“…even among the chief (men) [i.e. Jewish leaders] many trusted in him, but, through (fear) of the Pharisees, they did not [ou)x] give account as one [w(molo/goun], (so) that they might not come to be (removed) from the synagogue.”

In other words, these believers would not publicly affirm or confess their faith/trust in Jesus (as the Messiah). From the standpoint of the author of 1 John, this would make them false believers.

The verb o(mologe/w occurs five times in 1 John. In 1:9, the verb is used in the specific context of public acknowledgement and confession of sin; however, the remaining references relate to the fundamental religious aspect of the believer’s trust in Jesus. In 2:23 and 4:15, the confession/affirmation is in Jesus as the Son of God, as the author spells out in the latter statement:

“Who ever should give account as one [o(mologh/sh|] that Yeshua is the Son of God, God remains in him and he (remains) in God.”

As I have discussed repeatedly, the verb me/nw (“remain”) is a special Johannine keyword that signifies the union of the believer with God the Father and Jesus the Son, realized through the Spirit; it is a fundamental characteristic and religious dynamic that applies only to the true believer. Thus, the person who affirms that Jesus is the Son of God is a true believer, and is united with Father and Son through the abiding presence of the Spirit.

What is interesting for our purpose, in our examination of the Christological statements in 2:22-23 and 4:2-3, in relation to the crisis posed by the opponents, is how the title o( xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”) relates to the title “Son of God”. The issue in 2:22f was that the opponents denied—that is, would not confess/affirm—that Jesus is “the Anointed (One)” (o( Xristo/$). The implication in that reference seems to be that, by denying Jesus as the “Anointed (One)”, the opponents effectively deny his identity as the “Son of God”. At least, this is how the author would view the matter.

In the next daily note, we will examine two points as they apply to the author’s discussion here in vv. 1-2:

    • The Christological significance of the double-name “Yeshua (the) Anointed” (Jesus Christ) in v. 2, and
    • The idea of speaking the confessional statement, understood in terms of inspired prophecy and the activity of the indwelling Spirit.

1 John 2:22 and the Opponents in 1 John (Pt 3)

1 John 2:22, concluded

In this final portion of the supplemental note on 1 John 2:22 (cf. parts 1 & 2), I will attempt to apply the results of our study on the Johannine use of xristo/$ (“anointed [one]”) to the author’s claim regarding the belief(s) of his opponents. In verse 22, the author identifies the opponents (mentioned in vv. 18-19) as false believers (“the false [one]”, o( yeusth/$), implying that they deny (vb a)rne/omai) that Jesus “is the Anointed (One) [o( Xristo/$]”. This makes them, not believers in Jesus at all, but “antichrists” (a)nti/xristoi, “[those] against the Anointed”, v. 18; cf. also 4:3; 2 John 7).

As discussed in part 2, the use of the title (with the definite article), o( xristo/$ (“the anointed [one]”), in the Gospel refers specifically to the Jewish Messiah (Heb j^yv!m*)—the Davidic royal Messiah (7:41-42), but possibly also the Messianic prophet figure-type[s] (cf. 1:20, 25). Thus, taken at face value, the author would be saying that the opponents deny that Jesus is the Messiah. As this would seem to be the most straightforward explanation, a number of commentators have posited that the opponents are Jewish Christians who have, indeed, rejected their faith in Jesus (as the Messiah), returning to the fold of non-Christian Judaism.

We may call this line of interpretation the Jewish theory. It has been argued for most strongly by Daniel R. Streett in his monograph They went out from us: The Identity of the Opponents in First John (De Gruyter: 2010). The proponents of the Jewish theory (like Streett) make some fine points, but I would disagree thoroughly with their proposal. If the crisis surrounding the opponents really did involve Christians abandoning their faith in Jesus, in favor of non-Christian Judaism, one would expect to find some real evidence of strong anti-Jewish, anti-synagogue rhetoric in 1 John, such as we see at various points in the Gospel, and in the Book of Revelation (2:9; 3:9). For my part, I do not see any indication of this in the Johannine letters.

A second option is that denying Jesus as the Christ serves as a shorthand for the Christology indicated in 4:2—viz., denying Jesus Christ as “having come in the flesh”. This has been explained as an early form of a docetic Christology (to be discussed further), though it could also be understood, through the lens of the author’s polemic, in terms of devaluing or denying the importance of Jesus’ earthly life (and death). According to this line of interpretation, the view of the opponents in 2:22 must be understood in relation to 4:2 (and also 5:6-10).

While I generally agree with this interpretation, it is not entirely satisfactory as an explanation of the author’s use of o( xristo/$ in 2:22 (and 5:1). The proponents of the ‘Jewish theory’ (cf. above) are correct, I think, in maintaining the Jewish significance of the title xristo/$, and in emphasizing the Jewish background of the Johannine Community (at least in its origins).

It may, however, be possible to preserve the Johannine usage of o( xristo/$ (as referring to the Jewish Messiah), without adopting the ‘Jewish theory’ regarding the opponents. I would propose, as a possible solution, that the opponents, while holding a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, denied his identification as the Jewish Messiah (o( xristo/$). This phenomenon, apparently unique among New Testament Christians, could be explained on the basis of two factors:

    • First, we have the “high” Christology of the Johannine Gospel, in which Jesus is identified as the eternal, pre-existent Son (and Word/Wisdom) of God. As the Divine Son, Jesus was sent to earth from heaven by God the Father, and then, following his death, returned to his heavenly origins. With this strong emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God, a Johannine Christian might well ask why it was important that Jesus should also be recognized as the Jewish Messiah.
    • Second, there is the historical background, evidenced at numerous points in the Gospel, of conflict between the (Johannine) Christians and Judaism, leading to their expulsion from the Synagogue (9:22; 12:42, etc). In light of this apparent legacy of opposition and hostility, still in evidence at the end of the first-century (e.g., Rev 2:9; 3:9), some Johannine Christians might well have refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the (Jewish) Messiah. In any case, why would this historical heritage (regarding Jesus as the Messiah) be important for believers in Jesus as the Son of God?

A third factor, I believe, is Johannine spiritualism, with the emphasis on Jesus’ abiding presence, in and among believers, through the Spirit. Such spiritualism could result in the tendency to downplay or devalue the details of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. Why should one focus on Jesus’ presence on earth in the historical past, when he has a continuing (and eternal) presence with believers now in the present (and in the future)? For more on verse 22 in the context of Johannine spiritualism, cf. the current article on 2:18-27 in the series “Spiritualism and the New Testament”.

If the theory I have outlined above is correct, then the opponents considered themselves as true believers in Jesus, recognizing him as the eternal and pre-existent Son of God, present now in believers through the Spirit, but they denied his identification as the Jewish Messiah—or, perhaps, simply refused to consider such an identification as having any importance. From the author’s standpoint, the two titles— “Anointed [One]” and “Son of God” —go together, and cannot be separated (cf. the confessional statements in Jn 11:27 and 20:31, discussed in part 2).

The true believer will affirm both titles of Jesus, while anyone who would refuse to acknowledge either title is shown to be a false believer. Ironically, from the author’s standpoint, the opponents, in denying Jesus as the Messiah, also are (without realizing it) denying him as the Son of God; and, as a result, effectively deny God as his Father. The opponents surely would reject such a line of reasoning, but it is very much the way the author of 1 John presents the matter:

“Who is the false (one), if not the (one) denying (by saying) that ‘Yeshua is not the Anointed’? This is the (one) against the Anointed, the (one) denying (both) the Father and the Son!”

1 John 2:22 and the Opponents in 1 John (Pt 2)

1 John 2:22, continued

As discussed in part 1 of this supplemental note, most commentators regard 2:22 as characterizing a group of ‘opponents,’ whom the author considers to be false believers. That activity of these persons, called by the author “antichrists” (a)nti/xristoi, “[those] against the Anointed”), had created a crisis, of sorts, within the Johannine churches, at least as the matter was viewed by the author. He warns his readers against these “antichrists” and their false belief in Jesus (see esp. 2 John 7-8ff).

However, if verse 22 is meant to encapsulate the opponents’ view of Jesus, this creates a problem of interpretation. For, how could any Christian claim that Jesus is not the Christ? There can be little doubt that the opponents considered themselves to be (true) believers; what, then, are to we make of the author’s claim? He describes the false believer (o( yeusth/$) as:

“the (one) denying (by saying) that
‘Yeshua is not the Anointed (One)’
[ )Ihsou=$ ou)k e&stin o( Xristo/$]”

In order to gain a clearer sense of what the author has in mind, it is necessary to examine carefully the use of the title xristo/$ (“anointed [one]”) in the Johannine writings.

The use of xristo/$

The noun xristo/$ occurs 30 times in the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters)—19 times in the Gospel, 8 times in 1 John, and 3 times in 2 John. The word (as a title) is used two ways:

    1. Together with the name   )Ihsou=$ (Yeshua/Jesus) to form the double-name   )Ihsou=$ Xristo/$ (“Yeshua [the] Anointed,” i.e., Jesus Christ), following the common practice of early Christians.
    2. On its own, with the definite article—o( Xristo/$, “the Anointed (One),” the Christ.

Of the 19 occurrences of xristo/$ in the Gospel, the vast majority (17) are the arthrous title (2. above), o( Xristo/$; only twice is it used in the double name (1.). The first occurrence of the double-name is at the end of the Prologue (1:17); the second is in the Prayer-Discourse (17:3), where it is part of a fundamental Johannine theological declaration regarding Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.

Elsewhere, it is quite clear that the title o( Xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”) refers specifically to the Messiah (Heb j^yv!m*) of Jewish expectation; indeed, the Gospel writer makes this explicit in 1:41. Probably the Davidic royal Messiah is intended in most, if not all, instances (this is certainly the case in 7:4142), though the figure-type of a Messianic prophet would be more appropriate in relation to John the Baptist (1:20, 25; 3:28; cf. also 7:31). The Messianic expectation of Jews (and also of Samaritans) is clearly in view in 4:25, 29; 7:26-27ff; 10:24; cf. also 9:22; 12:34.

Of special importance are the confessional statements in 11:27 and 20:31. The confession by Martha in 11:27 holds much the same place in the Gospel of John as Peter’s famous confession does in the Synoptics (Mark 8:29 par). The significance of the Martha-confession is seen clearly by its similarity with the statement in 20:31, at the very close of the (original) Gospel, where the author states his very purpose in writing:

    • “I have trusted that you are the Anointed (One), the Son of God, the (one) coming into the world” (11:27)
    • “I have written these (thing)s (so) that you might trust that Yeshua is the Anointed (One), the Son of God, and that, trusting, you might hold life in his name.” (20:31)

In both instances, the title “the Anointed (One)” (o( xristo/$) is combined with “the Son of God” (o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=). The two titles are set in apposition, implying that there is a certain equivalence between them. At the same time, the sequence suggests that the second title (“Son of God”) follows upon the first (“Anointed”/Messiah). In other words, Jesus is the Messiah, but he is also the eternal Son of God. From a Johannine theological standpoint, the true believer will affirm (and confess) both titles of Jesus.

With these results in mind, we may turn to the occurrences of xristo/$ in the Johannine Letters. In contrast with the Gospel, where the double-name occurs just twice (out of the 19 occurrences, cf. above), it is much more common in 1 John—of the 8 occurrences of xristo/$, 6 are in the double name. Based on the usage in the Gospel, this would suggest that the overriding idea of belief in Jesus as the Son of God is primarily in view (cf. above on 1:17; 17:3, especially in light of the confessional statements in 11:27; 20:31). The usage in 1 John tends to confirm this (1:3; 2:1; 3:23; 4:2 [2 John 7]; 5:6, 20; cf. also 2 John 3). Indeed, the double-name in 3:23 is unquestionably fundamental to the Johannine theology, and for what it means to be a true believer in Christ.

The analysis of the Gospel usage strongly suggests that the arthrous title o( xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”) refers specifically to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Does this apply as well to the usage in 1 John? The use of o( xristo/$ in 2 John 9 might argue against this, since, in that reference, it seems simply to be another way of referring to the person of Jesus (i.e., “the teaching of the Anointed” = “the teaching of Jesus”). This would be a valid objection if tou= xristou= (“of the Anointed”) is understood as a subjective genitive, i.e. the teaching that Jesus gives. However, it is also possible to read tou= xristou= as an objective genitive (i.e., about the Anointed); if so, then one might understand the expression “the teaching of the Anointed” as a shorthand for “the teaching regarding Jesus’ identity as the Anointed”.

Apart from the statement in 2:22, the only other occurrence of o( xristo/$ in 1 John is at 5:1; however, the context in 5:1 is essentially identical with that of 2:22 (with o( xristo/$ used in an equivalent confessional formula), so the two occurrences must be judged together, as reflecting a single usage.

The Johannine usage of the noun xristo/$ (“anointed [one]”) leaves us with two plausible explanations for how the author of 1 John intends its use in 2:22/5:1:

    • The identification of Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish expectation, or
    • As a shorthand for the idea expressed in the confessional statements in Jn 11:27; 17:3; 20:31 (cf. above)—that Jesus the Messiah is also the Son of God

One might combine both of these options, based on the observation (made above) on the confessional statements in Jn 11:27 and 20:31. It may be summarized this way: the true believer will affirm (and confess) that Jesus is both the Messiah and the Son of God; anyone who would deny Jesus’ identification with either title is not a true believer.

With this conclusion in mind, let us return to the specific context of the author’s claim, regarding the distinction between true and false believers (i.e., the opponents) in 2:22. This we will do in part 3 of this supplemental note.

For a comparable study on the word xristo/$ in the Johannine writings, with additional insights to what I have provided above, cf. M. de Jonge, “The Use of the Word xristo/$ in the Johannine Epistles,” in Studies in John Presented to Professor Dr. J. N. Sevenster, Supplements to Novum Testamentum Vol. XXIV (Brill: 1970), pp. 66-74.

The Spirit and the Death of Jesus: Introduction

Following the celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, during this past Holy Week and Resurrection (Easter) Sunday, I will be presenting a series of notes on the relation of the Holy Spirit to the death of Jesus. It is a challenging and provocative subject, since the Spirit tends to be associated more with Jesus’ resurrection than his death. And yet, I would maintain that the connection of the Spirit to his death is one of the most profoundly distinctive features of Christian belief. It is also one which many Christians have not considered to any great extent. Through these notes, I hope to open new vistas for theological and spiritual exploration, and to encourage further study and meditation on the subject.

The first point to note is that there is no indication of any connection between Jesus’ death and the Spirit in the early/core Gospel Tradition. There is scarcely a trace of such a connection, either in the Synoptic Tradition, nor in the early Gospel preaching recorded in the book of Acts (and preserved elsewhere in the New Testament). The Spirit is not mentioned (nor alluded to) even once in the Synoptic Passion narratives; nor, for that matter, is it mentioned in the Resurrection narratives. It is important to understand this, for it illustrates how the view of the Spirit, in relation to the person of Christ, developed among Christians during the first century.

What of the early Gospel tradition in this regard? Let us consider three key aspects of the association between Jesus and the Spirit:

    • The presence of the Spirit upon Jesus, as the Messiah, during his earthly life and ministry
    • The idea that Jesus (as the Messiah) is able to communicate or transmit the Spirit to God’s people
    • The prophetic tradition that, in the New Age of Israel’s restoration, marked by the presence of the Messiah, the Spirit will be ‘poured out’ upon all of God’s people

1. The first point is evident in the Gospels primarily through the tradition of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism. This is clearly an old and well-established tradition, found in both the Synoptics (Mark 1:10ff par) and the Gospel of John (1:32ff), and mentioned also (possibly by way of a separate tradition) in the book of Acts (10:38). The context of the Synoptic narrative makes clear that it is the abiding presence of the Spirit that empowered Jesus in his preaching and working of miracles (Mk 1:12ff, 21-28; 3:22-30 par). This comes across most clearly in the Gospel of Luke (4:1ff, 14, 18ff), but we also see a certain emphasis along these lines in Matthew as well (4:1; 12:18, 28ff [cp Lk 11:20]).

Several passages in Isaiah, given a Messianic interpretation, were applied to Jesus in the early Gospel tradition. Most notable are Isa 42:1ff and 61:1ff, which specifically refer to God placing His Spirit upon a chosen individual (cf. also 11:2ff). It would seem that Isa 42:1 was influential in shaping the view of Jesus (as the Messiah) expressed in the Baptism-tradition (cf. my earlier article in the series “The Old Testament and the Gospel Tradition”). The Gospel of Matthew specifically cites 42:1-3, in connection with the Galilean ministry of Jesus, at a later point in the narrative (12:18ff). As for Isa 61:1, it is quoted by Jesus in the famous Lukan version of the Nazareth episode (4:16-30, v. 18), which, in Luke’s Gospel, marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus identifies himself with the anointed herald of 61:1ff, as a Messianic prophet, and the same connection is attested, independently, in the Q-tradition (7:22f par). Cf. my earlier article on Isa 61:1, and note a comparable use of the passage (as a Messianic scripture) in the Qumran text 4Q521.

2. Another early Gospel tradition associated with the baptism of Jesus, the saying by the Baptist in Mark 1:8 par, establishes the idea that Jesus, as the Messiah, will give the Spirit to God’s people. This communication of the Spirit is expressed in terms of the baptism-motif:

“I dunked [vb bapti/zw] you in water, but he will dunk you in (the) holy Spirit.”

The association of water and the Spirit is well-established in Old Testament tradition, especially in the Prophetic writings, where the idea is expressed that, in the New Age of Israel’s restoration, God will “pour” (like water) His Spirit upon His people—cf. Joel 2:28-29; Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29. In this regard, there can be no doubt that, in its original context, the saying by the Baptist is eschatological in orientation. The Messiah, as God’s representative, will usher in the New Age, bringing deliverance and restoration to the righteous, and judgment upon the wicked. Matthew (3:11) and Luke (3:16) each draw upon a separate (Q) version of the Baptist-saying:

“I dunk you in water…but he will dunk you in (the) holy Spirit and fire.”

The added motif of fire is parallel to water, in that both fire and water can be used as means of cleansing and purification (including the refining of metals, etc). But fire also alludes quite clearly to the end-time Judgment (Lk 3:17 par; cf. Mal 3:2-3; cp. Isa 4:4-5).

The Gospel of John also incorporates the Baptist saying, with its contrast between water and the Spirit; interestingly, the two parts of the saying are separated in the Johannine version (1:26, 33). This almost certainly was intentional by the author, as a way to give greater emphasis to the Baptist as a witness to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. The Johannine dualistic contrast between ordinary water and the Spirit (3:5-8; 4:10-15, etc) may also explain this unique handling of the tradition.

3. The coming of the Messiah marks the end of the current Age, and the onset of the (Messianic) New Age. According to a well-established line of tradition in the Prophetic writings (of the exilic and post-exilic period), the New Age will be a time of restoration for Israel, in which God will “pour out” His Spirit upon all of the people. This abiding presence of His Holy Spirit will allow the people to fulfill the covenant (and the Torah obligations) completely, in a new way, because they will be given a new “heart”; thus, one can speak of a “new covenant” in this New Age. The key passages (cf. the notes in the series “The Spirit in the Old Testament”) are:

Joel 2:28-29 is central to the Pentecost scene in Acts 2, being cited specifically by Peter in his great sermon-speech (vv. 16-21), indicating that the coming the Spirit upon believers is a clear sign that the New Age has arrived.

The Gospel portrait of Jesus would have been quite straightforward in this regard: the Spirit descends upon him at his baptism, anointing him (as the Messiah), and empowering him to act as God’s representative on earth; he both purifies God’s people and ushers in the time of Judgment for the wicked; possessing God’s Spirit he is means by which the Spirit will be given to God’s people in the New Age. The death of Jesus, however, complicates this picture, since there is no evidence that there was any expectation that the Messiah—any of the Messianic figure-types—would suffer and die; on this point, cf. the article in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Early Christians were forced to explain how Jesus could be the Messiah, considering his death and (in particular) the manner in which he died. The narrative Luke-Acts alludes to this problem repeatedly, emphasizing the importance of providing Scriptural (prophetic) support for the death (and resurrection) of Jesus—cf. Luke 24:25-27, 44-49; Acts 1:16, 20; 3:18-24; 8:32-35; 10:39-43; 13:29-37; 17:2-3; 26:22-23.

There were a range of questions that early Christians themselves likely would have asked, regarding the death of Jesus, in relation to the Spirit. If God’s Spirit was upon Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, what happened to it when he died? How does this relate to the role of the Spirit in the resurrection of Jesus, and of Jesus’ subsequent ability/authority to give the Spirit to believers?

The Lukan Gospel re-establishes the connection with the Spirit at the close of the Gospel, alluding to it in 24:49, to be picked up again in Acts 1:5, 8; and yet very little is actually said regarding the role of the Spirit in the resurrection, to say nothing of any connection of the Spirit with Jesus’ death.

It may be possible, however, to find some slight indication of how the earliest Christians might have understood the matter. This can be done by piecing together two bits of evidence from the early preaching in the book of Acts. We begin with the kerygma from Peter’s speech to the household of Cornelius:

“…Yeshua from Nazaret, how God anointed him with (the) holy Spirit and with power, th(is one) who went throughout working (for) good and healing all the (one)s being under the power of the Diabolos {Devil} (for it was) that God was with him.” (10:38)

Particular attention should be paid to a juxtaposition of the two phrases in bold above. The first repeats the basic Gospel tradition (cf. above) that Jesus was ‘anointed’ by God’s Spirit at his baptism. The second implies that God Himself was personally present with Jesus, through His Spirit. Both phrases have Messianic import, as several key Scriptures, recognized as Messianic prophecies by early Christians, make clear (Isa 7:14 [cf. 8:8, 10]; 61:1; Psalm 2:7).

Now we turn to Peter’s Pentecost speech and the citation of Psalm 16:8-11 in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. my recent Easter Sunday article for more on this); in particular, note the wording of verse 11 of the Psalm (in 2:27):

“…[in] that you will not leave down behind my soul in (the) Unseen (realm) [i.e. of the dead], and you will not give the holy (one) to see complete decay.”

This could be explained in the sense that the abiding presence of God’s Spirit remained with Jesus, even in his death (and burial); God’s Spirit does not leave him behind (vb e)gkatalei/pw) to decay in the grave. The problem with this view is that seems to be flatly contradicted by Jesus’ famous ‘cry of dereliction’ (quoting from Psalm 22:1) on the cross in the Synoptic Passion narrative (Mark 15:34 par). Luke’s Gospel, it is to be noted, does not contain this particular tradition; or, one may say, the author has adapted and modified the Synoptic tradition at this point (23:46).

In the first note of this series, we will examine the cry-tradition, in connection with the description of the moment of Jesus’ death, particular as this is recorded in the Gospel of Luke and in John (19:30). These two versions will be compared with the Synoptic tradition in Matthew/Mark. Such an exegetical (and expository) comparison will shed some significant light on how the Spirit came to be connected with the death of Jesus, and the important theological meaning this carries for the Johannine writings.

The Passion Narrative: Episode 6 (Lk 23:26-49)

Episode 6: The DEath of Jesus

Luke 23:26-49

While Luke’s account of the Death of Jesus follows the basic Synoptic tradition (see part 1 of this study), there are significant differences, as well as signs of development in the tradition, which must be examined. To begin with, there is a substantial difference in the overall tone of the episode, in terms of Jesus’ Passion. In the earlier Gethsemane scene, we previously noted that, if one regards 22:43-44 as secondary to the original text (a view that is probably correct), then Luke has eliminated the sense of Jesus’ distress and anguish which is otherwise found in the Synoptic version of the Prayer scene (compare Lk 22:39-46 [omitting 43-44] with Mark 14:32-42 par). In a similar fashion, Luke seems to have removed (or at least downplays) the suffering of Jesus in the crucifixion episode. Consider that there is no reference to Jesus’ being whipped/scourged (to be inferred only from v. 22). Jesus’ great cry to God (Mk 15:34f par, citing Psalm 22:1), with its sense of anguish and despair, is also omitted. Throughout the episode Jesus appears to be calm and in control, offering instruction, exhortation and comfort to others, even as he hangs from the cross (see below). Luke retains the loud cry of Jesus at the moment of death, but without the parallel to the first cry of anguish, it comes across as more of a forceful command or declaration, all the more considering the words which Luke records.

In terms of the structure of the narrative, the Gospel writer has expanded the core episode with additional material, and, as a result, it is comprised of three distinct parts:

    1. The Way to the Cross—vv. 26-31
    2. Jesus on the Cross—vv. 32-43, which can also be divided into three portions:
      a. The scene of the crucifixion (vv. 32-34)
      b. The mocking of the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers (vv. 35-38)
      c. The dialogue of the two criminals with Jesus (vv. 39-43)
    3. The Death of Jesus—vv. 44-49

Each of these scenes has been modified in some way, compared with the Synoptic version in Mark/Matthew.

1. The Way to the Cross (Lk 23:26-31)

In the main Synoptic version, this is limited to the (historical) traditions surrounding Simon the Cyrenian who carries Jesus’ cross-piece to the place of execution (Mk 15:21), and the reference to the name of the location (“Golgotha, (the) Skull”, Mk 15:22). Luke includes both details, with little modification (vv. 26, 33), but adds a separate tradition involving the crowd of onlookers as Jesus proceeds on the way to the Cross (vv. 27-31). Among the crowd are specified certain women who were “cutting/beating [i.e. their breasts] and wailing” —apparently according to the manner of professional mourners. Their actions prompt a response by Jesus:

“Daughters of Yerushalaim, you must not weep upon [i.e. for] me—(all the) more upon yourselves you should weep, and upon your offspring” (v. 28)

Their apparent concern over his fate is directed away, back to their own situation as “daughters of Jerusalem”. This expression, derived from Old Testament tradition (2 Kings 19:21; Isa 4:4; 10:32; 37:22; 52:2; Lam 2:10, 13, 15; Mic 4:8; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9, also Song of Songs 1:5; 2:7, etc), is a poetic figure for the city, the land (and its people) as a whole. In other words, the women represent the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judea. This is clear from the prophecy which follows in verses 29-30, echoing the eschatological suffering and distress announced by Jesus in Mark 13 par (especially verses 14-20). For women and children, such suffering will be particularly acute; indeed, frequently the suffering of women and children (especially women in labor) is used to symbolize the experience of a people’s collective suffering. One of the most difficult aspects of New Testament interpretation is the question of whether the terrible events predicted by Jesus in Mark 13 (par Luke 21) should be understood in terms of the Jewish war (66-70 A.D.), distant future events, or both. Luke specifically sets Jesus’ prediction of suffering (corresponding to Mk 13:14-20) in the context of the siege of Jerusalem (21:20ff). A similar siege description is part of Jesus’ prophecy-lament for Jerusalem in 19:41-44. If the Gospel of Luke is to be dated c. 70 A.D., as believed by many commentators, then it is likely that these 1st century events are foremost in the Gospel writer’s mind.

The precise meaning of the illustration in verse 31 is not entirely clear. Most likely the sense would be—if people do these things when conditions are not so bad (as they will be soon in the future), how will they act during the dry/severe time of tribulation that is to come?

2. Jesus on the Cross (Lk 23:32-43)

Several distinct Lukan features and details in this scene should be discussed.

The saying of Jesus in v. 34—Among the details of the crucifixion scene in Luke is a saying by Jesus, presumably just after he has been put upon the cross:

o( de )Ihsou=$ e&legen: pa/ter, a&fe$ au)toi=$, ou) gar oi&dasin ti/ poiou=sin.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, release [i.e. forgive] them, for they know not what they are doing.'”

This verse is absent in a wide range of manuscripts and versions (Ë75, ac, B, D*, W, Q, 0124, 579, 1241, and some Syriac and Coptic translations), including the early Bodmer papyrus (Ë75). At the same time, it is found in the majority text, including both family 1 & 13 MSS, and the entire later Koine text tradition, along with key early manuscripts (a*, C, Dc, L, G, D, 0117) and many early translations. Thus the manuscript evidence is fairly evenly divided, perhaps with a slight edge to the shorter reading. Even if secondary, the verse may well represent an authentic saying by Jesus that was inserted in this location by early scribes; certainly it is accord with the teaching and example of Jesus expressed elsewhere in the Gospels. I disagree with scholars who claim that it is easier to explain the omission of this saying than its insertion. Orthodox scribes, on the whole, appear to have been reluctant to delete Christologically significant sayings or details, and were more likely to add or preserve them.

The context of the narrative indicates that this prayer by Jesus—whether original or secondary to the Gospel—refers to the Jewish leaders who were primarily responsible for arranging his death. On this motif of ignorance, cf. Acts 3:17; 13:27; 17:30). Note also the similar prayer by Stephen in Acts 7:60b.

The Mocking of Jesus (vv. 36-38)—In Mark 15:29-32, first the people passing by generally (vv. 29-30), and then the Chief Priests and Scribes specifically (vv. 31-32), mock Jesus, taunting him to “come down” from the cross if he is the miracle-working “Anointed One, King of Israel”. As I discussed in part 1 of this study, this parallels the Sanhedrin interrogation scene closely (see Mk 14:57-61ff par). Luke would seem to have modified this considerably. First, while people do pass by, it is only the religious leaders (“the chief [ruler]s”) who mock Jesus this way (v. 35). Second, they are joined in the taunts by Roman soldiers (vv. 36-37), a detail unique to Luke’s account. Both modifications would appear to be intentional and with a distinct narrative (and theological) purpose. This is confirmed by the fact that there is a similar modification in the earlier Roman “trial” scene. In Mark/Matthew, a crowd of the (Jewish) people demands Jesus’ death, while in Luke, it is only the group of Jewish leaders presenting the case to Pilate who are involved. The entire Roman trial scene in Luke has been composed in relation to Psalm 2:1-2 (see Acts 4:25-28). The Jewish and Roman leaders—i.e. Herod and Pilate, the Chief Priests etc and Roman soldiers—are the ones arranging and carrying out Jesus’ death. While they represent the people, it is not the people (as a whole) who are directly responsible.

Luke thus has a different sort of parallelism in this scene, which comes out especially when we examine the taunts directed at Jesus by the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers, respectively:

    • Jewish leaders (v. 35): “He saved others—(so) let him save himself, if this (man) is the Anointed (One) of God, the (One) gathered out [i.e. Chosen One]!”
    • Roman soldiers (v. 37): “If you are the King of the Yehudeans {Jews}, save yourself!”

These two titles “Anointed One” (Messiah) and “King of the Jews” were combined together in Mk 15:31 par, as they also are in the charge against Jesus presented to Pilate in Luke 23:2. They reflect the Messianic figure-type of the coming (end-time) ruler from the line of David (cf. Parts 6-8 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). It is the latter title (“King of the Jews”), with its more obvious political implications, which features in the Trial and Crucifixion scenes, as emphasized in the inscription on the cross (v. 38 par).

The title “Chosen One” (eklektós, lit. “[one] gathered out”) is a different sort of Messianic title, being drawn primarily from Isaiah 42:1ff. The substantive adjective, along with the related verb (eklégomai), only rarely occurs in the New Testament as a title or description of Jesus. Most often it is used as a title for believers. However, there is an important occurrence of the title in Luke 9:35, uttered by the heavenly voice at the Transfiguration scene: “This is my Son, the One (I have) gathered out [i.e. my Chosen One]” (compare Mark 9:7 par). The same substantive adjective form used here in v. 35 is also uttered by John the Baptist (in relation to the Baptism of Jesus) in Jn 1:34 v.l.

The Dialogue with the Two Criminals (vv. 39-43)—In the Synoptic tradition, both of the criminals being crucified on either side of Jesus join in the taunts (Mk 15:32b). In Luke’s version, however, only one of the criminals acts this way, his words being recorded in v. 39. The other criminal rebukes him, and offers a declaration (confession) of Jesus’ innocence: “…this man has performed [i.e. done] nothing out of place” (v. 41). The entire dialogue is unique to Luke’s version, and concludes with the famous and moving exchange between the “good thief” and Jesus:

    • “Yeshua, remember me when you should come into your kingdom” (v. 42)
    • “Amen, I say to you (that) today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43)

On the textual issue in verse 42, see the critical discussion in a prior article.

This is a good example of the way that a simple historical tradition (Mk 15:27, 32b) is expanded and developed.

3. The Death of Jesus (Lk 23:44-49)

In this portion, Luke follows the Synoptic tradition in Mark/Matthew more closely, but with a number of small (yet significant) differences:

    • Jesus’ “cry of dereliction” (citing Psalm 22:1) is omitted
    • The darkness over the land is described in terms of an eclipse(?) of the sun (v. 45a)
    • The splitting of the Temple curtain takes place prior to Jesus’ death (v. 45b)
    • The final cry of Jesus before death is accompanied by the words: “Father, into your hands I set along my spirit” (v. 46)
    • The climactic declaration by the centurion is entirely different (v. 47, see below)
    • The action of the onlookers in v. 48 parallels that of the women following Jesus in v. 27 (see above); note also the reference to women followers of Jesus in v. 49 (compare 8:2-3).

On the omission of the Synoptic cry of distress, see the discussion above. Instead of the quotation from Psalm 22:1, there is a different Scriptural quotation by Jesus in the cry prior to his death—from Psalm 31:5. It is possible that v. 45a is a creative reworking, in some fashion, of the tradition in Mk 15:34 par; note the points of similarity:

    • Elwiegkate/lipe/$ me
      elœiengkatelipes me
      “Eloi [My God]…(why have) you left me down (behind)?
    • tou\ h(li/ou e)klipo/nto$
      tou ¢liou eklipontos
      “at the sun’s being left out…”

If wordplay of this sort was intended, later scribes, unable to understand it, would have found the expression strange and been inclined to modify it to something like “and the sun was darkened,” which we see in a number of manuscripts. It is possible that, in terms of the natural phenomenon involved, Luke is referring to the occurrence of a solar eclipse.

Luke’s location of the Temple curtain event is curious, setting it prior to Jesus’ death. He may simply wish to connect it directly with the darkness over the land; as I discussed in part 1 of this study, both events are symbols of God’s Judgment upon the land (and its people). The reordering also has the effect of setting Jesus’ cry to the Father in a more climactic position.

Most difficult of all is the confession of the centurion, which has a form in Luke so very different from that of Mark/Matthew:

    • “Truly this man was (the) Son of God” (Mk)
    • “This man really was just/righteous [díkaios]” (Lk)

The different in formula—and also emphasis—is striking indeed, so much so that is necessary to address the issue briefly in a separate note.