April 11: Mark 10:32-34 (continued)

Mark 10:32-34, continued

Component 2—the betrayal of Jesus

“…and the Son of Man will be given along to the top sacred officials and to the writers”

As discussed in the previous note, the third Passion-prediction (Mk 10:33-34) is comprised of five components that effectively summarize the Passion narrative in the Gospels. The first component announces the approach to the city of Jerusalem. The second component describes the betrayal of Jesus. In this regard, the third Passion-prediction represents a combination (or conflation) of the first two:

    • “the Son of Man  to suffer…under the elders and the top sacred officials and the writers” (Mk 8:31)
    • “the Son of Man is given along into the hands of men” (Mk 9:31)

The same verb paradi/dwmi (“give along, give over”) is used here, while the expression “the hands of men” is clarified by identifying the “men” as the members of the Jewish ruling Council (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem. Two of the same three groups are mentioned: “top sacred officials” (i.e., chief priests) and “writers” (i.e., the literate men [scribes] who are also considered to be experts in the sacred Writings). The betrayal of Jesus will lead to his being handed over to the Jewish authorities, just as is narrated in the Synoptic Passion account.

Matthew’s version of the prediction (20:18) is identical to Mark here, while Luke has combined the second and third components (cf. below).

Component 3—the judgment by the Council

“…and they will bring judgment against him for death, and they will give him along to the nations”

The authorities in the Jerusalem Council will bring down judgment against Jesus (vb katakri/nw), and this judgment will be that Jesus is deserving of death (qana/tw|, “for death, to death”). After this decision is rendered, Jesus will be “given along” (same verb, paradi/dwmi), i.e., handed over, to the Roman authorities—here generalized as “the nations” (Gentiles, non-Jews). Again, all of this represents a clear summary of the sequence of events in the Passion narrative.

Matthew’s wording here, too, is identical to Mark. Luke (18:32) has combined the two components of the Synoptic prediction, effectively eliminating any reference to the interrogation of Jesus by the Jerusalem Council:

“for he will be given along to the nations”

This probably represents a Lukan adaptation of the Synoptic tradition, possibly intended to emphasize Jesus’ Passion as a fulfillment of Psalm 2:1: “for what [i.e. why] do the nations throng (together) [LXX rage]…?” This Scripture certainly frames the kerygma in Acts 4:25-30, and also reflects the pattern for Lukan version of the Passion narrative—i.e., “nations / peoples” = the interrogations before Pilate and Herod (together with the Sanhedrin), respectively.

April 6: Mark 9:31-32 (concluded)

Mark 9:31-32, concluded

“…and they will kill him off, and, (hav)ing been killed off, after three days, he will stand up (again).”

This is the second part of the second Passion-prediction (Mk 9:31). The first part (cf. the previous note) emphasized the betrayal of Jesus (the Son of Man), by which he is “given along” into the custody of the authorities (“into the hands of men”). Here, in the second part, Jesus tells his disciples what will happen once he “given over” to the authorities. The declaration restates the climactic portion of the first prediction (8:31), presenting, in summary form, a message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Lukan version omits this portion, but the Matthean version includes it (17:23a), utilizing the same wording as in the first prediction, and differing slightly from Mark:

“…and they will kill him off, and, on the third day, he will rise (up again).”

The context of this second Passion-prediction makes clear that the ruling authorities (“hands of men”) will be responsible for putting Jesus to death (vb a)poketei/nw, “kill off”). A comparison with the first prediction indicates that it is primarily the Jewish authorities (the Council in Jerusalem) who are in view here. Jesus will be “given over” (by Judas) into their hands, and it is they who will make the principal determination that he is deserving of death.

All three Gospels record the disciples’ reaction to this announcement, and the considerable variation in how this is expressed suggests that this portion of the tradition was not so well-fixed as the saying itself. The basic Synoptic form is probably best represented by Mark:

“And they did not know the (meaning of his) utterance, and they were afraid to ask him about (it).” (Mk 9:32)

Luke follows this, expanding the Markan/Synoptic wording somewhat (additions in italics below):

“But they did not know the (meaning of) this utterance, and it had been covered along (away) from them, (so) that they could not perceive it, and they were afraid to ask him about this utterance.” (9:45)

Luke uses the perfect passive participle parakekalumme/non, which is rather difficult to translate literally in English. The compound verb parakalu/ptw means “cover along[side]”, or (more simply) “cover over”. The perfect passive participle, in literal translation, would be “it had been being covered over”, but this is quite awkward in English, and requires a simpler rendering, “it had been covered over”. The passive here is best explained as an example of the “divine passive” (passivum divinum), in which God is the implied actor. God has intentionally “covered over” the meaning of Jesus’ words for the disciples, so that they cannot perceive (vb ai)sqa/nomai) it clearly.

How should we interpret the disciples’ lack of understanding? It is hard to see how they could have misunderstood the basic prediction—viz., that Jesus would be handed over the authorities and put to death. Peter’s reaction (omitted by Luke) to the first prediction suggests that he it understood its meaning well enough. This leaves several possibilities:

    • They did not understand why Jesus, as the Messiah, would have to suffer and die
    • They did not understand the true significance of his suffering and death
    • It was the idea of his death and resurrection, in particular, that was kept hidden (by God) from their understanding; cp. a similar sort of misunderstanding in the Johannine Lazarus episode (11:11-16), and, with regard to Jesus’ own death and resurrection, cf. Jn 2:19-22.

Keep in mind that Luke has omitted mention of the resurrection in his version of the prediction, so it is effectively hidden from the disciples here (though it is included in his version of the first prediction). The shortened version of this prediction, if original, would have been rather difficult to understand.

Interestingly, Matthew records a different, and very simple reaction by the disciples:

“And they were extremely sorrowful” (Matt 17:23b)

This suggests that their focus was on Jesus’ impending death, and they seem not to have grasped the significance of his subsequent resurrection.

In the next note, we will turn our attention to the third (and final) Passion-prediction.

April 5: Mark 9:31-32 (continued)

Mark 9:31-32, continued

“…the Son of Man is being given along into (the) hands of men”

The first portion of Jesus’ second Passion-prediction (Mk 9:31 par) is centered on the verb paradi/dwmi, “give along, give over”. Here, the specific meaning relates to giving someone over to the authorities (as an accused criminal, etc). In the first prediction, the emphasis was on Jesus’ suffering (he will “suffer many things”). An important aspect of this suffering, and the moment that will instigate Jesus’ Passion, is his betrayal (by Judas), when he will, quite literally, be “given over” into the hands of the Jewish authorities. In turn, following the interrogation before the Sanhedrin, he will be “given over” again, to the Roman authorities.

The verb paradi/dwmi is used in the Gospels almost exclusively in reference to the betrayal of Jesus. It features prominently in the Passion narrative itself (Mk 14:18, 21, 41ff par; Jn 13:2; 18:2, etc), and, in the Eschatological Discourse, Jesus tells his disciples that they will be “given over” to the authorities as well (Mk 13:9-12 par), following his own example. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the verb tends to be used in the more general (and positive) sense of the Gospel message and early Christian tradition that is “given along” from one generation to the next.

As in the first Passion-prediction, Jesus uses the title (or expression) “Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou) as a self-reference. The significance of this was discussed in a prior note (cf. also my earlier set of notes and the article in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). Of special importance is how the title relates to the human condition, in a basic sense, but specifically to human mortality. In these (and other) “Son of Man sayings,” Jesus effectively identifies himself with the human condition, especially in its experience of suffering and death. The background of the expression “son of man” (in Old Testament poetry, etc) frequently emphasizes the limited dimension of human (mortal) life, in comparison with the Divine/Eternal life of God.

The predicate of this primary statement in the prediction is the prepositional phrase “into (the) hands of men” (ei)$ xei=ra$ a)nqrw/pwn). The expression “hands of men” simply refers to the power/control wielded by human authority. In other words, the expression is another way of saying that Jesus will be handed over to the Jewish government, the ruling authorities, in Jerusalem. The first Passion-prediction clearly refers to the interrogation of Jesus before the ruling Council (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem, and that is the primary point of reference here as well. The betrayal by Judas led to Jesus being taken into custody by the Jewish authorities, after which his interrogation before the Sanhedrin would follow.

In Matthew and Luke (Matt 17:22; Lk 9:44), the form of this part of the prediction is:

“the Son of Man is about to be given along into (the) hands of men”

The modal verb me/llei (“about to [be]”) + infinitive more accurately reflects the context of the Gospel narrative—that is, the betrayal will occur soon, but it is not happening right now. It represents a minor agreement between Matthew and Luke (against Mark), but is of the sort that could easily have been introduced independently. Curiously Luke omits (or otherwise does not include) the second part of the prediction (regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus). This means that the Lukan form of the prediction consists entirely of the portion cited above. The author also introduces the prediction in a distinctive (and rather dramatic) manner:

“…and all of them were knocked out upon (witnessing) the greatness of God. And, (as they) were wondering upon all the (thing)s which he did, he said to his learners [i.e. disciples], ‘You must put these words into your ears: for the Son of Man is about to be given along into (the) hands of men’.” (9:43-44)

In some ways, the Lukan version of the saying itself cuts to the heart of the message: the betrayal of Jesus, and how strikingly this contrasts with his identity as the Messiah, etc. Instead of judging and subduing the wicked in Jerusalem, Jesus (the Messiah) will be taken captive and judged by them. The betrayal marks the beginning of a great suffering and humiliation that he would face. Being given over “into the hands of men” is, by any measure, a most humiliating fate to befall the Messiah.

However, in the Passion-predictions, Jesus identifies himself, not as the Anointed One (Messiah), by as the “Son of Man”, emphasizing his connection with the human condition–and the weakness, suffering, and death which that condition entails (cf. above). The parallelism of the statement is clear enough:

    • “Son of Man”
      • given over into the
    • “hands of men”

Jesus’ suffering at the “hands of men” (i.e., by human authority) is essential to his identity as the “Son of Man”.

In the next daily note, we will turn to the second part of the prediction, which focuses on what will happen once the Son of Man (Jesus) is taken into the “hands of men”.

April 4: Mark 9:31-32

Mark 9:31-32

Verse 31

“for he taught his learners [i.e. disciples] and said/related to them…”

The second Passion-prediction by Jesus, as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark (9:31), is comprised of three parts:

    • A simple narrative introduction (v. 31a)
    • Prediction of his Betrayal (v. 31b)
    • Prediction of his Death and Resurrection (v. 31c)

Before proceeding with an exegesis of these three parts, it is worth considering how this Passion-prediction fits in the structure of the Synoptic (Markan) narrative. As I discussed previously, the three Passion-predictions provide a framework for the opening section of the second half of the Gospel narrative (the Judean/Jerusalem period). This opening section is centered on the journey of Jesus to Jesus to Jerusalem (covered by chapter 10 of Mark). The Passion-predictions are rather evenly divided within the section, marking the beginning, middle, and end. The second prediction marks the mid-point of the section, dividing it into two distinct parts. We may outline this as follows:

    • First Passion-Prediction (and the disciples’ reaction)—8:30-32
    • PART 1 (Preparation: Teaching the Disciples):
      • Teaching/sayings on Discipleship, with an eschatological theme (8:33-9:1)
      • The Transfiguration: Revelation to the Disciples (9:2-8)
      • Teaching the Disciples, with an eschatological theme (9:9-13)
      • Exorcism miracle episode, in the context of teaching the Disciples (9:14-29)
    • Second Passion-Prediction (and disciples’ reaction)—9:30-32
    • PART 2 (The Journey to Jerusalem):
      • Teaching his disciples: theme of ‘entering the Kingdom of God’ (9:33-50)
      • Teaching the crowds: focus on a discussion with Pharisees on a point of Law (10:1-12)
      • Teaching his disciples: theme of ‘entering the Kingdom of God’ (10:13-31)
    • Third Passion-Prediction (and disciples’ reaction)—10:32-34

The first part of this section centers on Jesus’ teaching his close disciples, in a manner that we may say is in preparation for the journey to Jerusalem. The Transfiguration episode effectively brings his Galilean ministry period to a close, and marks an end to his primary Messianic role during this period—as an Anointed Prophet, fulfilling the type-patterns of Moses and Elijah. Following this episode, Jesus once again alludes to his coming suffering and death (9:9-13). All of the teaching in this section has a strong eschatological emphasis, indicating quite clearly that his death and resurrection also has a profound eschatological significance (something many Christians today are unable or unwilling to recognize).

At verse 30, the narrative transitions into the second Passion-prediction, with an echo of Jesus’ earlier prohibition on revealing his identity as the Messiah (8:30):

“And from that (place), going out, they traveled along through the Galîl, and he did not wish that anyone should know (it)…”

Here, however, the sense of prohibition is rather different. Jesus simply wishes to avoid the crowds, keeping his presence hidden from the surrounding populace while he travels (south) through Galilee. The reason for avoiding any crowds is made clear in the opening words of verse 31:

“…for he taught his learners [i.e. disciples]”

Again, this echoes the context of the first Passion-prediction (“And he began to teach them…”). The teaching he was doing with his (close) disciples was of such importance, that Jesus wished to avoid attracting crowds around him that might distract from his work. And what is the subject, the focus of this teaching? It is the message of his coming suffering and death in Jerusalem. That the Passion-prediction fundamentally represents the substance of his teaching here is indicated by the wording of v. 31a:

“for he taught his learners [i.e. disciples] and said to them…”

What Jesus “said to them” is the Passion-prediction proper. As noted above, the statement of the prediction can be divided into two parts. The first predicts Jesus’ betrayal (an aspect of his Passion not specified in the first prediction), while the second restates the message of his coming death and resurrection. We will examine the first part (v. 31b) in the next daily note.

April 2: Mark 8:31 (concluded)

Mark 8:31, concluded

“…and to be killed off, and, after three days, to stand up (again).”

The last two components of the Passion-prediction in Mk 8:31 par should be treated together; indeed, this portion of the verse consists simply of the two infinitives, separated by a temporal phrase (“after three days”). Note how the two actions are joined:

    • to be killed off [a)poktanqh=nai]
      • and after three days
    • to stand up (again) [a)nasth=nai]

This simple syntactical structure provides a basic paradigm for the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The verb ktei/nw is a common verb meaning “slay, kill,” but can also be used more generally for putting someone to death (in any manner). The prefix a)po/ (parallel to the prefix on the second infinitive, cf. the previous note), functions as an intensive, i.e., kill completely, kill outright. I have translated it rather literally above as “kill off”.

The last infinitive, of the prefixed verb a)ni/sthmi (lit. “stand up”), refers to the resurrection of Jesus, after he has been put to death in Jerusalem. Indeed, this came to be the regular verb in Greek to express the idea of resurrection (“stand up [again]”), along with the derived noun a)na/stasi$ (“standing up,” i.e., “resurrection”). Both verb and noun came to be a standard part of the early Christian vocabulary; however, they were in use among Greek-speaking Jews even prior to Jesus’ resurrection, and there is no reason why Jesus himself would not have made use of it (or its Aramaic equivalent).

The Matthean and Lukan versions (Matt 16:21; Lk 9:22) here follow the Markan form, except that they each use the phrase “on the third day” (th=| tri/th| h(me/ra|) instead of “after three days” (meta\ trei=$ h(me/ra$) as the temporal indicator. This probably reflects the more familiar early Christian way of phrasing the matter (cf. Acts 10:40; 1 Cor 15:4; Lk 24:7, 46), and Matthew and Luke repeat it in the subsequent Passion-predictions (Matt 17:23; 20:19; Lk 18:33). It is possible that, in this, early Christians were influenced by Hosea 6:2 [LXX]. At the same time, the Markan phrasing (“after three days”) would provide a better fit for applying the resurrection of Jesus to the pattern of the Jonah tradition (Jon 1:17, cf. Matt 12:40, and my recent note).

There is also a minor agreement between Matthew and Luke here in using the verb e)gei/rw (“raise [up]”) instead of a)ni/sthmi. In this case, the infinitive is in the passive (e)gerqh=nai, “to be raised [up]”), which is more precise theologically, since it emphasizes that Jesus was raised by God (His Spirit/Power). It is an example of the “divine passive” (passivum divinum), in which God is the implied actor. The Markan verb (a)ni/sqhmi), by contrast, emphasizes the basic action of Jesus in the resurrection—he “stood up” (that is, came back to life) from the dead.

In both Mark and Matthew (the core Synoptic Tradition), the prediction by Jesus is followed by Peter’s reaction to it. Mark describes it this way (v. 32):

“And he spoke th(is) account speaking with all (candor). And the Rock {Peter}, taking him to (himself), began to lay a charge upon him.”

We do not know precisely what Peter said to Jesus, but, it probably was along the lines of, “Lord, you must not allow this to happen,” “do not let this happen”. The same verb (e)pitima/w) was used by Jesus in v. 30, when he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. In other words, it takes the form of a prohibition, a strong urging that things must not, or should not, be a certain way. In the case of Peter, almost certainly this strong reaction is rooted in the current expectations regarding the Davidic Messiah. It would seem to contradict his very confession, regarding Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (Anointed One), if Jesus were to meet with suffering and death in Jerusalem. Surely the sort of thing described by Jesus could not happen to the Messiah, to God’s Anointed One.

Jesus’ response to Peter, in turn, is even more forceful:

“But (Yeshua), turning about and seeing his learners [i.e. disciples], laid a charge upon the Rock {Peter} and said (to him): ‘Lead (yourself) under, in back of me, Satan! (For it is) that you do not have (your) mind (on) the (thing)s of God, but (on) the (thing)s of men!'” (v. 33)

The ‘charge’ placed on Peter this time takes the form of a harsh rebuke, indicating that Peter has spoken under the influence of the Satan. By the mid-first century A.D., the Semitic title Satan (Heb /f*c*) signified the great evil Adversary (Devil, etc) who stood in opposition to God. Effectively, anyone who similarly stood in opposition to the will of God could be described as acting (however unwittingly) on behalf of the Satan. Peter had failed to grasp the way that Jesus’ identity as the Messiah would be expressed in Jerusalem—not through victory over the nations and establishment of an earthly Kingdom, but through a path of suffering and death (followed by resurrection). As noted above, such an idea was completely out of character with Messianic expectations of the time.

Luke has omitted entirely the exchange between Peter and Jesus. This may be seen as part of a general early Christian tendency to avoid statements or traditions which cast the disciples in a negative light. The tradition of Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus in the Passion narrative was too well-fixed to be altered or omitted; but other Gospel passages could be (and were) modified and adapted in certain ways. On occasion, they could also be left out altogether, as in Luke’s apparent omission of Mk 8:32-33 par.

In the next daily note, we will turn to the second of the three Passion-predictions (Mk 9:31-32 par), beginning with an examination of its place and setting within the Synoptic narrative.

April 1: Mark 8:31 (continued)

Mark 8:31, continued

“…and to be removed from consideration under [i.e. by] the elders and the top sacred officials and the writers”

This is the second of the four components of the Passion-prediction in Mark 8:31 par. Like the first component (cf. the previous note), it is governed by a verbal infinitive that summarizes what will take place in Jerusalem. The conjunctive particle kai/ (“and”) connects this statement (and its verb) to the one preceding: “to suffer” => “and to be removed from consideration”. The second verb develops and further defines the action of the first. That is to say, Jesus’ suffering will involve his being “removed from consideration” by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.

I have attempted to translate the compound verb a)podokima/zw in a literal manner above. The primary verb dokima/zw refers to the recognition of the value of something by examining and testing it. The prefixed preposition a)po (“from”) then adds the idea of removing something from consideration (as being unworthy, of no value, etc). In simpler and more conventional English, we might translate the compound verb as “disapprove [of], reject”. It is relatively rare in the New Testament, its usage being essentially limited to the Passion-prediction(s) by Jesus and to citations of Psalm 118:22 [LXX].

The three groups of people who will do this removing/rejecting of Jesus are: (1) the Elders (presbu/teroi), (2) the Chief Priests (lit. “top sacred officials,” a)rxierei=$), and (3) the “Writers” (grammatei=$). I have translated grammateu/$ according to its simple meaning (“writer”); however, here the plural would perhaps be better rendered “literate men”. Yet even that translation is misleading, since the main point is not simple literacy, but knowledge of writings—especially of the Scriptures.

These three groups comprise the Jewish ruling Council (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem. In other words, they represent the leading Jewish authorities—those who will be in a position (and with the authority) to examine Jesus, and to reject him (as unworthy), removing him from consideration (vb a)podokima/zw, cf. above). Josephus, in War 2.411, includes as part of the triad of Jewish leadership “knowledgeable Pharisees” —that is, with knowledge of the Scriptures (and other writings). This would be an apt description of the “Writers” (grammatei=$), as the term is used here (and throughout the Gospels). These “Writers” (or ‘Scribes’), men with knowledge of the Scriptures, etc, are closely connected with the Pharisees in the Gospel tradition, and should be seen as more or less equivalent with the ‘learned Pharisees’ (Pharisees with knowledge of the Writings) mentioned by Josephus.

Clearly, this statement in the Passion-prediction is meant to foreshadow the interrogation (or ‘trial’) of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. At the literary level of the Gospel, it thus connects the reader with the upcoming Passion narrative, with its central episode of Jesus’ interrogation before the Sanhedrin (which would result in his mistreatment and ultimate condemnation). However, at the historical level of the early tradition, it also reflects the experience of Jesus during his time of ministry in Galilee.

The Synoptic tradition records a number of conflicts and disputes Jesus had with the Jewish religious authorities, usually represented as Scribes (lit. “Writers”) or Pharisees, or, on occasion, by the specific pairing ‘Scribes and Pharisees’. These men were considered to be experts in the Scriptures (and the Old Testament Law [Torah]), and it was they who discussed and disputed with Jesus (on the fine points of the Torah regulations, etc). If we use the Gospel of Mark as representative of the core Synoptic tradition, these disputes were relatively frequent during the Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry, and make up a significant portion of the first half of the Gospel narrative—cf. 2:6-10, 15-17, [18ff], 23-28; 3:1-6, 22-23ff; 7:1-13ff; 8:11-12, 15ff.

Some of these episodes are located toward the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, though the sequence in the Gospel may be literary as much as historical/chronological. In any case, the idea is that, from a relatively early point, long before his climactic journey to Jerusalem, Jesus had come into conflict (repeatedly) with the religious leaders. According to the Synoptic narrative, it was the Sabbath-controversy episodes (Mk 2:23-3:6 par) that ignited this conflict, to the point that even some of the authorities in Galilee became fiercely opposed to Jesus and sought to ‘destroy’ him (3:6 par). It was the ‘learned Pharisees’ (i.e., the Writers/Scribes) who seem to have taken the initiative in this regard.

The Lukan version of the Passion-prediction (9:22) here is identical to Mark, with the exception of the preposition a)po/ (“from”) instead of u(po/ (“under”). The Markan wording essentially means that the rejection of Jesus will occur “under” the authority of the Sanhedrin (i.e., by their power and judgment), whereas in Luke the doubling of the preposition a)po/ (which is also prefixed to the verb) may perhaps emphasize the action of the rejection itself. Jesus will be cast out from the Council, where he will then be led off to the Roman authorities to be tried as a criminal.

Matthew’s version (16:21) also uses the preposition a)po/, but simplifies the statement by eliminating/omitting the preceding verb, and joining together the first two components of the Passion to form a single statement: “it is necessary for him to suffer many things from the Elders…” . The point is thus emphasized that Jesus’ suffering comes primarily from the Jewish leaders (i.e., at their hands).

March 31: Mark 8:31 (continued)

Mark 8:31, continued

“…that it is necessary (for) the Son of Man to suffer many (thing)s”

As discussed in the previous note, this first Passion-prediction by Jesus marks the beginning of the second half of the Synoptic Gospel narrative. The first main section of the second half of the narrative (the Judean/Jerusalem period) focused on the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. In the Gospel of Mark, this extends from the Passion-prediction in 8:31 to the end of chapter 10. The three Passion-predictions serve as a structuring framework for this section, with the three predictions spaced more or less an equal distance apart. The massive expansion of the Jerusalem journey section in Luke greatly distorts this literary structure; in the Lukan narrative there are nine full chapters between the second and third predictions (9:43b-44; 18:31-34).

The form of this first Passion-prediction is quite close between the Synoptic Gospels. This relative lack of variation suggests that the statement had been well-established and fixed within the Tradition, to the point that there was little opportunity (or reason) for the individual Gospel writers to adapt or modify the wording. There are four components to the prediction, four statements by Jesus regarding the things that will take place in Jerusalem. Our focus here is on the first statement, as Jesus tells his disciples that (o%ti)

“it is necessary (for) the Son of Man to suffer many (thing)s”
dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou polla\ paqei=n

The principal action that will take place is indicated by the verbal infinitive paqei=n (“to suffer“)—that is, there will be considerable suffering for Jesus in Jerusalem. The extent (and severity) of this suffering is suggested by the substantive adjective polla/ (“many [thing]s”).

On the surface, this prediction of suffering is completely at odds with Peter’s confession identifying Jesus as the “Anointed One” (presumably the royal Messiah of the Davidic Ruler figure-type). It was certainly not thought that the Davidic Messiah would experience intense suffering when he arrived in Jerusalem; rather, he was expected to subdue the nations and establish a new (Messianic) kingdom on earth, centered at Jerusalem. The context in Luke 17:20-21 and 19:11ff suggests that at some of Jesus’ followers and observers expected the establishment of this Messianic kingdom when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. The entire Triumphal Entry scene reflects this same expectation.

With regard to the Passion-prediction, there may be an intentional distinction being made (by Jesus) between the title “Anointed (One)” and “Son of Man”. Peter’s confession emphasizes Jesus’ identity as the Davidic Messiah (who was to appear in victory and glory), while the Passion-prediction, emphasizing Jesus’ impending suffering, focuses on his identity as “Son of Man”.

I have discussed this title at length in earlier notes and articles. The expression “son of man” (Hebrew <d*a* /B#, ben-°¹d¹m), which occurs more than 100 times in the Old Testament, fundamentally refers to a human being. In ancient Semitic idiom, /B# ben (“son”) in the construct state (“son of…”) often has the meaning of belonging to a particular group or category, and of possessing such characteristics. In this instance, “son of man” simply means “a human being”, i.e. belonging to the human race. The parallel, synonymous expression vona$ /B# (ben °§nôš), “son of (hu)mankind” occurs once (Ps 144:3); the corresponding Aramaic is vn`a$ rB^ (bar °§n¹š), only at Dan 7:13 in the OT, along with the variant forms vn rb, avn rb (as well as <da rb) attested in later Aramaic. The Biblical (and contemporary) usage of the expression can be summarized as follows:

    1. Generally (or indefinitely) of a human being (“a[ny] man”), in poetic language—with <da /b (ben °¹d¹m, “son of man”) set parallel to <da (°¹d¹m, “man”), cf. Num 23:19; Job 16:21; 25:6; 35:8; Psalm 8:4; 80:17; 144:3; 146:3; Isa 51:12; 56:2; Jer 50:40; 51:43. The dual-expression (“man…son of man…”) often is set in contrast to God [YHWH] and His nature.
    2. In divine/heavenly address to a human being (a Prophet), in Ezekiel (more than 90 times) and Daniel (Dan 8:17). The sense is something like “(as for) you, O mortal…”, again distinguishing a human being from the divine/heavenly being who addresses him.
    3. The apparently unique instance of Daniel 7:13—here “son of man” is used to describe a divine/heavenly/angelic(?) being who resembles a human.

Primarily, then, the expression refers to the possession of human characteristics or qualities (especially mortality), often contrasted with a heavenly or divine being (including God [YHWH] himself). It is used frequently by Jesus, and we can be certain (on entirely objective grounds) that this usage is authentic and reflects Jesus’ actual manner of speaking/teaching. The expression “son of man” (in Greek, [o(] ui(o\$ [tou=] a)nqrw/pou) is virtually non-existent in the New Testament outside of the Gospels. Moreover, every occurrence in the Gospels comes either from Jesus’ own lips or in response to his words (for the latter, cf. Lk 24:7; Jn 12:34). Outside of the Gospels it is only found in Acts 7:56 (as part of the Gospel tradition); Heb 2:8 (quoting Ps 8:4); and Rev 1:13; 14:14 (alluding to Dan 7:13, also 10:5, 16). It was only rarely used by early Christians as a title for Jesus, with other titles (“Son of God”, “Lord”, and “Christ/Messiah”) being far preferred.

There are two main categories of “Son of Man” sayings by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels—one of which relates to his Passion (suffering and death), and the other being eschatological (heavily influenced by Dan 7:13). The Passion-predictions, of course, belong to the first category. In virtually all of the “Son of Man” sayings, Jesus seems to be using the expression “son of man” as a self-reference—a circumlocution for the pronoun “I”. While the Aramaic expression did come to be used in this manner, there is little evidence for such customary usage before the time of Jesus.

There can be no doubt that “Son of Man” in the Passion-prediction is a self-reference by Jesus. In other words, for Jesus to say “it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer”, this is much as if he had said “it is necessary for me to suffer” (cf. the Matthean version of prediction, below). At the same time, “Son of Man” here also functions as a kind of title, especially insofar as the Passion-prediction represents a response to Peter’s confession identifying Jesus as the “Anointed One” (Messiah). While Jesus affirms Peter’s confession, he also, at the same time, points the disciples in a different direction, emphasizing his suffering as the “Son of Man”.

Even as there was no expectation of a “suffering Messiah” in Judaism at this time (for more on this, cf. my article in the series “Yeshua the Messiah”), so also there is no evidence for the idea of a “suffering Son of Man”. Conceivably, the idea could have developed from reflection on the famous ‘Suffering Servant’ passage in Isa 52:13-53:12, which early Christians did apply to Jesus’ suffering and death (Lk 22:37; Acts 3:13; 8:32-33, etc); but it hard to see how this passage would have related to the specific title “Son of Man”, prior to its application to Jesus.

In my view, a better explanation for Jesus’ usage here in the Passion-prediction involves the fundamental significance of the expression (cf. above)—as relating to the human condition, especially in its limitation, weakness, and mortality. By applying the title “Son of Man” to himself in the context of his Passion, Jesus is identifying with the human condition, particularly with regard to the experience of weakness, suffering and death. For an objective statement to this same effect, cf. the wording in the famous Christ-hymn in Philippians (2:6-11).

The use of the modal verbal form dei= (“it is necessary”) to introduce this announcement of the Son of Man’s suffering is also significant. It is relatively rare in the core Synoptic tradition, occurring only several times in the words of Jesus. The verb is more frequent in Luke, including several important instances in the Passion and Resurrection narratives, where the necessity of Jesus’ suffering is predicated upon the fact that it was prophesied in the Scriptures (22:37; 24:7, 44). This idea, however, was scarcely a Lukan invention; it reflects early Christian belief, and is stated equally clearly (by Jesus) in the Matthean Passion narrative (26:54). Indeed, it seems likely that the force of dei= in the Passion-prediction relates to the same prophetic mandate, and that this is how Jesus intended it to be understood.

As I noted above, the form of the Passion-prediction is relatively fixed within the Gospel Tradition. There are some notable differences, however. Matthew’s version (16:21) at the point we are examining here reads:

“…that it is necessary (for) him to go away into Yerushalaim and to suffer many (thing)s”

The italicized portion marks the variation from the (shorter) Markan version. Since the prediction is couched within the Synoptic narration, the Gospel writer has a bit more freedom to add explanatory detail, such as the phrase “go away into Jerusalem”, which also serves to emphasize the location where these events will take place (and the goal of the coming journey). Also noteworthy is the way that the author essentially explains the title/expression “Son of Man” as a self-reference by Jesus (on which, cf. above).

Luke’s version (9:22) here, by contrast, is identical to Mark.

March 30: Mark 8:31

For the daily notes leading up to Holy Week, I will be presenting an in-depth exegetical and expository study of the Synoptic Passion-predictions by Jesus. These three predictions are part of the “Triple Tradition” —that is, sayings and narrative episodes found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels.

The starting point for this study will be the Gospel of Mark. That is to say, I will be focusing on the Gospel of Mark as representing the core Synoptic Tradition. It is the Markan version of the Passion predictions that will form the basis for these notes, to be supplemented by the significant variations and differences in the Matthean and Lukan versions.

Mark 8:31

The first of the Passion predictions occurs at Mark 8:31, immediately following the episode of Peter’s confession (8:27-30). In my view, this represents a clear transition point between the first and second halves of the Synoptic narrative. This division is best expressed in the Gospel of Mark, where the first half of the narrative (the Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry) and the second half (the Judean/Jerusalem period) are roughly equal in length. This narrative structure has been distorted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, effected by the inclusion of a significant amount of additional material. In particular, the journey to Jerusalem, covered by a single chapter in Mark (chap. 10), has been greatly expanded in Luke to the point where it effectively spans more than ten full chapters (9:51-19:27).

“And he began to teach them…”
Kai\ h&rcato dida/skein au)tou\$

The second half of the Markan Gospel begins with these words (8:31). It follows directly upon the climactic moment of the first half—the confession by Peter regarding the Messianic identity of Jesus (vv. 29-30):

“And he inquired of them, ‘But who do you count [i.e. consider] me to be?’ The Rock {Peter} gave forth (an answer): ‘You are the Anointed (One)’. And he laid a charge upon them, that they should recount [i.e. tell] (this) about him to no one.”

The entire Galilean period of Jesus’ ministry (i.e., the first half of the Synoptic narrative) has led to this dramatic moment—the revelation (by Peter) of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (“Anointed [One]”). As I have discussed at length in prior notes and articles, in the Galilean period, Jesus’ Messianic identity relates primarily to the Prophetic figure-types: Moses, Elijah, and the Anointed Herald of Isa 61:1ff (cf. Parts 23 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). However, by the time the Gospels were written, the specific title “Anointed (One)” (Xristo/$), as it is applied to Jesus, had come to be defined largely by the Davidic Ruler figure-type. And it is this figure-type—the royal Messiah from the line of David (cf. Parts 6-8 of “Yeshua the Anointed”)—that dominates the second half of the Synoptic narrative.

What precisely does Peter mean by the title in the original tradition (as expressed in Mk 8:29)? Most likely he would have in mind the Davidic Ruler figure-type; indeed, this would help to explain his reaction in v. 32. It was definitely not expected that a Messiah would suffer and die, and certainly not the Messianic Ruler of the kingdom that was to be established (on earth) in the New Age. The Lukan form (9:20) of Peter’s confession (a slightly expanded version) may be intended to convey a more precise identification with this royal figure-type: “(You are) the Anointed (One) of God” (to\n xristo\n tou= qeou=). This echoes the wording from the Infancy narrative (“the Anointed [One] of the Lord,” to\n xristo\n kuri/ou, 2:26), where  the royal/Davidic associations are abundantly clear. The Matthean form of the confession is even more expansive, reflecting, it seems, an attempt by the Gospel writer to expound the statement more squarely in terms of the early Christian understanding of Jesus’ identity: “You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God” (16:16; cp. the Johannine confession [by Martha] in 11:27).

“And he began to teach —This marks the beginning of the second half of the narrative. So also in the first half (the Galilean period), Jesus’ ministry begins with teaching, as summarized by three traditional components:

    • His proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mk 1:14-15 par)
    • His call of the first disciples (lit. “learners,” those whom he would teach, Mk 1:16-20 par)
    • His practice of teaching in the Synagogues of Galilee (Mk 1:21ff par; cp. Lk 4:14-16ff)

Now, however, his teaching (vb dida/skw) is directed at his close disciples, and the message deals specifically with his impending suffering and death in Jerusalem. In the context of the Gospel narrative, it must also be seen as a response to Peter’s confession. Indeed, he is the Anointed One of God, but this is not to be manifested in the way that Peter and the disciples (and other Jews of the time) would have anticipated. The Davidic Messiah was expected to subdue and judge the nations, not to suffer and die at their hands. Peter’s reaction in verse 32f demonstrates rather clearly how incongruous this idea was in terms of the Messianic expectation. Jesus’ teaching is meant to prepare his disciples for the fact that his Messianic identity (as the coming Davidic Ruler) would be realized in a very different way.

The Matthean version (at 16:21) generally follows Mark at this point, and essentially preserves the dividing line between the two ‘halves’ of the Gospel narrative. The wording does, however, differ slightly:

“From then (on), Yeshua began to show [vb deiknu/w] to his learners [i.e. disciples]…”

Luke, by contrast, has blurred this division, making the Passion prediction (syntactically) part of the same tradition-unit as Peter’s confession:

“…'(You are) the Anointed (One) of God.’ And, laying a charge upon them, he gave along (the) message (that they are) to recount (this) to no one, saying that ‘It is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many (thing)s…’ ” (9:20-22)

In the next note, we will begin examining the Passion prediction itself.

April 12 (1): Luke 24:6-7

Luke 24:6-7

The last occurrence of the expression “the Son of Man” in the Gospel of Luke is found in the Resurrection narrative (Luke 24), as part of the Angelic announcement (vv. 5-7) to the women on Easter morning. Luke follows the early Gospel tradition of women (including Mary Magdalene) being the first to witness the empty tomb, and the authenticity of this tradition would seem to be quite secure (on entirely objective grounds). The Synoptics also record the presence of Angels at the tomb who announce the resurrection, but here the specific details vary considerably between the three accounts. Most notable is the difference in the announcement itself (cp. with Mark 16:6-7), which includes similar points of reference (in italics):

“Do not be astonished! You seek Yeshua the Nazarean, the (one) put to the stake [i.e. crucified], but he has been raised—he is not here!” (Mk 16:6)
“(For) what [i.e. why] do you seek the living (one) with the dead (ones)? [He is not here, but has been raised!]” (Lk 24:5b-6a)

So also in the second half of the declaration:

“but go under [i.e. go back] and say to his learners [i.e. disciples] and to ‘Rock’ {Peter} that he goes before you into the Galîl {Galilee}—there you will see him, even as he said to you” (Mk 16:7)
“remember how he spoke to you while he was yet in the Galîl {Galilee}, saying… (Lk 24:6)

In Luke, the context and direction of the Angelic announcement has changed significantly—instead of referring ahead to the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in Galilee (cf. Matt 28:16-20), it refers back to the Passion predictions by Jesus (Lk 9:22, 43-45; 18:31-34 par) while he and his disciples were still in Galilee. As discussed in previous notes, these Passion predictions all involve the identification of Jesus as the “Son of Man”. Let us compare the formula here in verse 7 with the three earlier statements by Jesus:

Lk 24:7

“saying (of) the Son of Man that it is necessary (for him) to be given along into the hands of sinful men and to be put to the stake [i.e. crucified], and to stand up [i.e. rise] (again) on the third day”

Lk 9:22

it is necessary (for) the Son of Man to suffer many (thing)s and to be removed from examination [i.e. rejected] from [i.e. by] the Elders and Chief Sacred-officials [i.e. Priests] and Writers [i.e. Scribes], and to be killed off [i.e. put to death], and to be raised on the third day

Lk 9:44

“For the Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men

Lk 18:31b-33

“…and all the (thing)s written through the Foretellers [i.e. Prophets] about the Son of Man will be completed: for he will be given along into (the hands of) the nations, and he will be treated in a childish (way) and will be abused and will be spat on, and whipping (him) they kill him off [i.e. put him to death], and he will stand up [i.e. rise] (again) on the third day.

The formulation in Luke 24:7 blends elements from all three predictions, as indicated by the italicized portions above. The phrase “into the hands of sinful men” comes from the second prediction (Lk 9:44), but without the qualifying adjective “sinful” (cf. Mark 14:41 par). The phrase “be put to the stake” simply specifies the manner in which he is to be “killed off”, i.e. put to death (cf. Matt 20:19). The Lukan version of the third prediction (Lk 18:31-33) includes the detail that the suffering, death and resurrection of the Son of Man (Jesus) is a fulfillment of Scripture (“the things written by the Prophets”). This becomes an important point of emphasis in the remainder of Luke 24, and subsequently throughout the book of Acts. Indeed, each of the three episodes in the Resurrection narrative includes a comparable statement regarding Jesus’ Passion in this manner:

    • Lk 24:1-12: The Disciples at the empty tomb — the Angels’ announcement (v. 7, cf. above)
    • Lk 24:13-35: The Appearance to Disciples on the road to Emmaus (v. 26)
    • Lk 24:36-49: The Appearance to the Disciples in Jerusalem (v. 46)

As discussed above, the first statement (echoing the Passion predictions) uses “Son of Man”, while the last two (by Jesus) instead use “the Anointed (One)” (o( xristo/$):

    • Lk 24:26: “Was it not necessary for the Anointed (One) to suffer these (thing)s and to come into his glory?”—Jesus is said to demonstrate this, explaining the Scripture passages in “Moses and all the Prophets” (v. 27)
    • Lk 24:46: “…thus it has been written (that it is necessary) for the Anointed (One) to suffer and to stand up out of the dead on the third day”—this also was explained to his disciples from passages “in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms” (vv. 44-45)

The last of these statements, in particular, echoes verses 6-7 and the earlier Passion predictions, especially if we include Jesus’ words from v. 44:

“These are the words which I spoke to you, being yet [i.e. while I was] with you, that it is necessary to be fulfilled all the (thing)s written about me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms….”

The declarations by Jesus in 24:26 and 44-46 make two points which are fundamental to the early Christian Gospel preaching (as recorded in the book of Acts):

    1. That Jesus is the Anointed One (o( Xristo/$), and in a sense rather different from the type-figure of Anointed Davidic Ruler (as typically understood in Messianic thought of the period). Cf. my current series “Yeshua the Anointed”, esp. Parts 68.
    2. That the suffering and death (and resurrection) of Jesus—that is, of the Anointed One—was prefigured and foretold in the Scriptures. This means that it can be demonstrated by a study and exposition of the relevant Scripture passages; Luke never indicates just what these are, but for a list of likely candidates, cf. the article “He opened to us the Scriptures“.

Of the numerous references in the narrative of Acts which indicate the importance of this theme, cf. especially Acts 1:16; 2:31ff; 3:18, 20; 8:32-35; 9:22; 10:43; 13:27; 17:2-3, 11; 18:5, 28; 26:22-23; 28:23.

April 8 (2): John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32

At the close of the previous day’s note, I presented the three passages in the Gospel of John which are, in some respects, parallel to the three Passion predictions by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. Today I will examine them in more detail.

The passages are: John 3:13; 8:28; 12:32. They all involve the “Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou), as do the Synoptic predictions (see the prior note for more on the expression “Son of Man”). They also each use the verb u(yo/w (hupsóœ, “lift/raise high”). In the Gospels, this verb primarily appears in two contexts: (1) as a contrast with “making low[ly]”, i.e., humbling oneself, the ideal of humility expressed by Jesus in the Synoptics (Lk 14:11; 18:14; Matt 23:12; cf. also Matt 11:23 par. and Lk 1:52); and (2) in the context of these three passages in John. In the fourth Gospel, the references to “the Son of Man” usually have to do with the heavenly nature or exaltation/glorification of Jesus, often involving ascent/descent (Jn 1:51; 3:13-14; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). Only in Jn 5:27 and (probably) 9:35 is the expression used in the way it commonly is in the Synoptics. The three verses to be discussed below are each embedded in one of the famous discourses of Jesus which make up the bulk of the Gospel. Generally, these discourses follow a pattern: (a) Jesus makes a provocative statement, (b) those who hear him respond with a question which reflects misunderstanding and a failure to grasp the deeper sense of Jesus’ words, (c) Jesus responds in turn with an exposition of profound theological/christological significance. Often two or more sets of question-response are involved. Critical scholars continue to debate the origin, nature, and composition of these great discourses, which are not quite like anything we find in the Synoptic Gospels, and contain language and expressions often similar to that of, for example, the Johannine Epistles.

John 3:14

Kai\ kaqw\$ Mwu+sh=$ u%ywsen to\n o&fin e)n th=| e)rh/mw|, ou%tw$ u(ywqh=nai dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou
“And according as [i.e. just as] Moses lifted high the serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary (that) the Son of Man be lifted high”

This is part of the discourse with Nicodemus which comprises John 3:1-21. I would outline it as follows:

    • Narrative introduction (Jn 3:1-2)
    • Statement by Jesus: “If one does not come to be (born) from above, he is not able [lit. powered] to see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3)
    • First question by Nicodemus: “How is a man able to come to be (born when) he is aged? he is not able to go into his mother’s belly and be (born) a second (time, is he)?” (Jn 3:4)
      • Jesus’ Response—regarding coming to be born out of [i.e. from] the Spirit (Jn 3:5-8)
    • Second question by Nicodemus: “How are these (things) able to come to be [i.e. how are these things possible]?” (Jn 3:9)
      • Jesus’ Response—regarding the witness of the Son of Man (Jn 3:10-15)
    • Further teaching by Jesus—regarding the Son of God sent into the world (Jn 3:16-21)

The saying under consideration here is part of the response by Jesus to Nicodemus’ second question, which may be divided in this way, according to a kind of step-parallelism:

  • The witness of what we have seen and known (which people do not accept)—v. 11
    • Contrast between witness of earthly and heavenly things—v. 12
      • Only the Son of Man ascends/descends to/from heaven (to give witness concerning heavenly things)—v. 13
        • The Son of Man will be lifted high (so people can see his witness)—v. 14
          • Those who see him and trust/believe have Life of-the-Ages [i.e. eternal life]—v. 15

We see embedded in this sequence examples of the well-known dualistic imagery in the Gospel of John: earthly/heavenly, above/below, etc. The verbs used in verse 13 for ascent/descent are a)nabai/nw and katabai/nw, literally “step up” and “step down”; they are common narrative verbs (Jesus and others “step up”, that is, “go up” to Jerusalem for the feasts, etc.), but have a deeper significance in the Gospel—they relate to Jesus’ heavenly/Divine nature, and the nature of his mission: to his being sent from, and returning to, the Father. As such, they are closely tied to the verb u(yo/w (“lift high”) in verse 14, which leads to a second sort of dualism, or two-fold aspect to Jesus as the Son of Man—namely, to his suffering and glorification (or, to put it in classical theological terms, his humiliation and exaltation). Being “lifted up” foreshadows Jesus’ death on the stake [i.e. his crucifixion], but it also suggests his ascension and exaltation: his return (“stepping up”) to the Father in Heaven.

The parallel to the symbolism of Moses lifting up the serpent in the desert is noteworthy, for it relates to a range of Exodus/Passover motifs in the Gospel. The episode referred to in Numbers 21:4-9 is a curious one: when the Israelites had complained of the lack of food and water, in response God sent poisonous snakes among them and many died; Moses interceded and prayed to God for the people, and was instructed to fashion a snake-image and set it upon a pole, so that all who looked upon it would be healed and live. Underlying the symbolic action is an ancient pattern of thought which might be described as therapeutic and sympathetic magic: the image represents the ailment and serves to draw it away in hope of healing. That God in the Old Testament frequently works through many apparently (from our viewpoint today) superstitious elements of the ancient world is an important principle of Biblical theology. However, already by the time of the New Testament, this passage was being interpreted at a deeper theological level. The book of Wisdom (16:6-7) makes the point that the saving symbol (the serpent-image) served to direct people’s attention to the person of the Savior (God). The Jewish Targums, too, interpret the looking on the serpent-image as turning (one’s heart) to the living and dynamic (hypostatic) Word/Name (Memra) of God. Cf. Brown, John (Anchor Bible 29), p. 133.

John 8:28

o%tan u(yw/shte to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou, to/te gnw/sesqe o%ti e)gw/ ei)mi, kai\ a)p’ e)mautou= poiw= ou)de/n, a)lla\ kaqw\$ e)di/dace/n me o( path\r tau=ta lalw=
“When you should lift high the Son of Man, then you will know that ‘I Am’, and from myself I do nothing, but (rather) according as the Father taught me, these (things) I speak”

This saying is part of the long, multi-faceted discourse (or series of discourses) set during Jesus’ appearance in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles, Sukkoth), covering chapters 7 and 8 (excluding 7:53-8:11). The specific discourse here involves Jn 8:21-30, which I outline this way, according to the pattern indicated above:

    • {There is no narrative introduction; just a connecting phrase “therefore he said again to them…”}
    • Statement by Jesus: “I go under [i.e. away] and you will seek me, and (yet) you will die away in your sins; (the place) where I go under, you are not able to come” (Jn 8:21)
    • First question of the Jews: “He will not some(how) kill himself(, will he)?” failing to understand “where I go…you are not able to come” (Jn 8:22)
      • Jesus’ Response—emphasizing the nature of their unbelief; dualistic contrast (“above/below”, “not of this world / of this world”) highlights Jesus own identity (Jn 8:23-24)
    • Second question of the Jews: “Who are you?” (Jn 8:25a)
      • Jesus’ Response—emphasizing his identity and witness in two main aspects: (1) judgment, and (2) representing the one who sent him (the Father). (Jn 8:25b-26) There is also here an interesting wordplay in the difficult phrase in v. 25b which begins the response, and which I render literally “(from) the beginning that which even I have spoken to you”—cf. Jn 1:1-2; 8:43.
    • Further teaching by Jesus—clarification of Jesus’ relationship (and identity) with the Father (Jn 8:28-29)

The saying under consideration comes from this final pair of verses, which I arrange (and translate) together:

    • “When you should lift high the Son of Man then you will know that ‘I Am’
      • and from myself I do nothing, but according as the Father taught me, these (things) I speak”
    • “And the (one) sending me is with me [cf. Jn 1:1-2], he did not leave me alone
      • (in) that I always do the (things) pleasing to Him”

The first portion of each verse emphasizes the ontological/existential relationship; the second portion reflects the familiar Johannine theme of the Son (Jesus) doing and saying just those things he sees and hears the Father doing.

In Jn 3:14, lifting up the Son of Man was a sign and symbol of the salvation God would bring about through the Son; now in Jn 8:28, lifting up the Son of Man reveals God the Father himself. This, too, is a common refrain by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (cf. especially Jn 14:8-14). For the identification of Jesus with God the Father (YHWH) as “I Am”, see the culmination of the last discourse in this series, Jn 8:52-59.

John 12:32

ka)gw\ e)a\n u(ywqw= e)k th=$ gh=$, pa/nta$ e(lku/sw pro\$ e)mauto/n
“And I, if I should be lifted high out of the earth, I will drag all (people) toward myself”

This third and final passage comes from a discourse (Jn 12:20-36) that is set following Jesus Entry into Jerusalem. It does not follow the same pattern as the previous two discourses examined above. Here is an outline:

  • Narrative introduction (Jn 12:20-22)
  • Statement by Jesus (Jn 12:23-28a)—there are several portions to it:
    • “The hour has come so that the Son of Man should be glorified” (v. 23)
    • Parable of the kernel of wheat, illustrating the generative power of Jesus’ impending death (v. 24)
    • A saying on discipleship, similar to Mark 8:35 and pars. (v. 25)
    • A saying reflecting the familiar theme in the Gospel of the relationship Disciple-Jesus-Father (v. 26)
    • “Now my soul is troubled…” (v. 27)—another statement on the coming of the “hour” which serves as a parallel and inclusio with verse 23.
    • “Father, glorify your name!” (v. 28a)—the climax and conclusion to his words.
  • Voice from Heaven: “I have glorified (it) and again I will glorify” (Jn 12:28b)
    • Reaction by the Crowd: they heard the voice as thunder, and did not understand it (v. 29); note the apparent allusion to the Sinai Theophany (cf. Exodus 20:18-21)
    • Jesus’ Response (Jn 12:30-32)—he expounds and explains the voice with two sayings:
      (1) “Now is the judgment of this world, now the chief of this world will be cast out outside” (v. 31)
      (2) “And I, if I should be lifted high, will drag all (people/things) toward myself” (v. 32)
    • Additional narrative explanation (Jn 12:33)
  • Question from the crowd: “Who is this Son of Man?”—expressing confusion between the Anointed One (Messiah) and the “Son of Man”, apparently understanding “being lifted up” as related to death or going away.
    • Jesus’ Response—teaching using dualistic imagery of light/darkness: trust/believe in the light while it is here (Jn 12:35-36)

This is probably the most complex and difficult of the three discourses presented here, with wide-ranging and dramatic shifts in emphasis, as the Gospel narrative as a whole builds toward the Passion. The discourse begins with a powerful declaration regarding the Son of Man (v. 23), emphasizing his glorification. Underlying this statement is the teaching on the purpose and effect of Jesus’ impending death (v. 24), and the way in which it connects with the one who follows and believes in him (v. 25-26). The saying in verse 32 does not specifically mention “Son of Man”, but it is clearly implied in Jesus’ use of the pronoun “I” (e)gw). Indeed, the question by the crowd (v. 34) could be understood to relate to all three of the sayings being discussed here (Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32). Even for believers today, the challenge remains to grapple with these two aspects of the incarnate Christ’s identity, his revelatory message and saving work, as expressed in the Gospel: suffering and glorification, brought together in one extraordinary symbol of the Son of Man being “lifted high”. The power of this symbol is so great that it will draw [literally, “drag”] all people (or all things) to him.

Wednesday of Holy Week is traditionally associated with Mary Magdalene and the Anointing of Jesus at Bethany. Three different figures came to be united in Christian tradition: (1) the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany some days before his death (Mark 14:3-9; Matt 26:6-13; John 12:1-8), identified in John as Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus; (2) the ‘sinful’ woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7:36-50; and (3) Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus exorcised seven demons (according to Lk 8:2). In popular tradition, Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute who repented upon encountering Jesus, her repentance being demonstrated in the anointing scene. It is doubtless her presence in the Resurrection narratives which served to strengthen her association with the anointing scene in Holy Week.