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The Curious Incident of the BD On the Night... and John 21:20.

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  • Bill Bullin
    For what it is worth, I have suggested that the BD was to Jesus as Benjamin was to Joseph either in fact or in the mind of the evangelist. I am neither saying
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2004
      For what it is worth, I have suggested that the BD was to Jesus as Benjamin
      was to Joseph either in fact or in the mind of the evangelist. I am neither
      saying that the whole Last Supper account is therefore a Christian symbolic
      myth nor that everything must be taken at face value. I am certainly saying
      that equally competent scholars can read much of John in these two ways and
      that this in itself surely tells us something about this Gospel, and its
      strangely paradoxical form. It is as if history and theological symbol are
      deliberately combined in a hall of mirrors in order that we should see
      ourselves and meet the Johannine Jesus eye to eye. On the other hand it is
      curious too that the Josephian typology I postulate appears not to be
      confined to one Gospel but only becomes apparent when the Gospels are
      compared and contrasted. It is not so much that they are borrowing from each
      other in this respect but that they each mention a piece of an underlying
      jigsaw whether of not it is symbolic or historical or something that is more
      than the sum of these parts.

      I recognise that I may be highlighting a tissue of mere coincidences but may
      I be permitted to add two more?

      (a) We are no doubt all familiar with explanations of how the meal known as
      the last supper would have been taken which is significantly highlighted in
      John 21:20, no doubt referring back to John 13:23. But if we begin first
      with the four lists of the twelve Apostles, (Mark; Matthew, Luke and Acts),
      provided in the New Testament it is full of curiosities which may have a

      "So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James
      son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name
      Boanerges, that is Sons of Thunder); and Andrew and Phillip, and Bartholomew
      and Matthew, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thadaeus, and Simon the
      Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him", (Mark 3:16-19).

      "These are the names of the twelve Apostles: first, Simon, also known as
      Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee and his brother, John;
      Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James son of
      Alphaeus, and Thaddaueus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot the one
      who betrayed him," (Matthew 10: 2-4).

      The list in Luke (6:14-16) is set out differently: "Simon who he named
      Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James and John, and Philip and
      Bartholomew, and Matthew and Thomas, and James son of Alpaeus, and Simon who
      was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became
      a traitor."

      In Acts 1:13ff the order has changed again: "Peter, and John, and James, and
      Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus,
      and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James."

      Simon Peter heads up each list and Judas Iscariot is always last when
      mentioned. Matthew explicitly states Peter was first but he then appears to
      pair the Apostles; so does Mark but it is as if Mark set out pairs with
      Peter and Judas forming an incluso pair and with James and John forming the
      second pair. There is a little evidence that John trained and used his
      disciples in pairs, (Luke 7:18), and Jesus may have emulated him, (Mark
      13:13, Luke 10:1). Depending on one's approach to the synoptic problem, it
      might be argued that the Marcan order is adapted by Matthew and Luke but
      that Mark retains the detail that Peter and Judas originally formed a pair
      with James and John as close rivals. This in turn may throw light on rivalry
      amongst the twelve at the supper and before, Peter and Judas seeking
      precedence over James and John and vice versa. At the supper Peter and Judas
      take the places of honour much to the annoyance of James and John, with or
      without Salome intervening on behalf of her sons on this or on a previous
      occasion. After the foot-washing the BD takes the place of Peter while Judas
      retains his seat but is handed the sop and told to go. There 'but for the
      grace of God' might have gone Peter.

      Barclay (II) 168-9:

      "First, there was the seating arrangement at the meal. The Jews did not sit
      at table; they reclined at table. The table was a low solid block, with
      couches round about it. It was shaped like a U and the place of honour, the
      place of the host, was in the centre of the single side. They reclined on
      the left side, resting on the left elbow, thus leaving the right hand free
      deal with the food. Sitting in such a way a man's head was literally in the
      breast of the man who was reclining on his left. Jesus would be sitting in
      the place of the host, at the centre of the single side of the low table.
      The disciple whom Jesus loved must have been sitting on Jesus' right, for as
      he lent on his elbow at the table, his head was in Jesus breast. The
      disciple whom Jesus loved is never named. Some people have thought that he
      was Lazarus, for it is said Jesus loved Lazarus (John 11:36). Some people
      have thought he was the rich young ruler. It is said that Jesus loved him
      (Mark 10:21); and it has been imagined that in the end the young man did
      decide to stake everything on Jesus. Some people have thought that he was
      some otherwise unknown young disciple near and dear to Jesus, like a son.
      Some people have thought that he was not a real flesh and blood person at
      all, but only an ideal picture of what a perfect disciple ought to be. But
      through the years the general opinion has always been that the beloved
      disciple was none other than John himself; and we may well believe that this
      is so."
      Barclay then goes on to suggest Judas had the place of honour on the left
      of Jesus.

      My first curious Josephian type note then, perhaps no more than another mere
      coincidence, is this:

      "Rachel was in childbirth and she had a difficult labour. When she was in
      her difficult labour the midwife said to her, 'do not be afraid for now you
      will have another son' [a breach birth?]. As her soul was departing (for she
      died), she named him BEN ONI But his father called him BEN JAMIN." Genesis
      35:16b-18; BEN ONI: Son of my Sorrow, BEN JAMIN: Son of my Right Hand. It is
      as if Jesus facing treachery and denial amongst other ordeals was a man of
      sorrows, acquainted with grief and yet the Beloved Disciple was a comforter
      at his right hand; (there may or may not be a connection with casting the
      net on the right of the boat, (21:6).
      It is at least worth considering that before the
      footwashing and Judas' exit, Peter and Judas had sat either side of Jesus.

      (b) My second curious note is this. 4G places emphasis of Jesus in relation
      to the Temple, particularly but by no means exclusively the Temple
      cleansing. If Jesus is seen in Messianic terms surely this relates to the
      Great Angel of the Covenant coming suddenly to cleanse the Temple. Like
      Malachi, 4G and all the Gospels emphasise the role of John the Baptist,
      Malachi also emphasises the importance of being respectful sons of the
      Father and dwelling on / meditating on the Name of the Father, the theme of
      the Prodigal that brings us closest to Jesus understanding of his own
      sonship and that of the Father, (Malachi 1:4-6; 3:1 and 3:16). Malachi also
      emphasises the bringing of tithes to the Temple whereas Jesus accuses the
      Temple rulers of turning the Temple into a den of thieves (full of
      idolatrous Tyrian silver, a stable monetary currency instead of corn,
      Galilean bread is sold to the dogs while the Galilean peasants go without).
      Here Jesus is a Joseph type seeking to feed the people. Indeed, as some
      scholars argue, the Sabbatical laws and the Jubilee may reflect the Joseph
      saga, and these agricultural food laws and the Year of Jubilee is recalled
      in the Lucan 'Sermon in Nazareth' where Jesus announces the Isaianic
      favourable year of liberty. It is as if Jesus is a wise Joseph preparing the
      way for a Kingdom or else a New Exodus. As Luke reminds us, when Jesus was
      about thirty years old he began his ministry just like Joseph who we are
      told was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, (Genesis
      41:46) and had authority over the whole land. Indeed this Josephian type
      emphasis is found in what Q scholars call Luke's source, L and in John,
      documents often associated with the Palestinian Hellenists.

      We know that the 'Our Father' begins with a meditation on the divine Name,
      YHWH, which I think should be read in the light of Malachi 3:16 and its
      whole context of the Temple, preparation for the coming of the great Angel,
      an almost Josephian emphasis on the Temple as a granary (not a den of
      thieves), and on the correct approach to sonship, (Malachi 1:6-7, note
      Paul's allusion to this passage in 1 Cor.15:22). Now consider the Great
      Angel as Wisdom Incarnate, as the earthly vision of the Invisible God, the
      Holy Spirit or the Shekinah Glory of YHWH in the context of the following
      passages, one rabbinical and the other from Matthew:

      "R. Hanninah b. Teradion said: If two sit together and no words of the law
      [Torah] are spoken between them, there is the seat of the scornful. But if
      two sit together and the words of the law are spoken between them, the
      divine presence, [the Shekinah] rests between them, as it is written, Then
      they that feared the Lord spoke one with another: and the Lord hearkened and
      heard, and a book or remembrance was written before him, for them that
      feared the Lord and thought on [ I argue that the Hebrew can mean meditated
      on] his Name."

      "Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you
      ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three
      gather in my Name, I am there among them."

      My view is that the Name referred to is YHWH and that Jesus shares this Name
      with the Father. The presence referred to is the Shekinah, the visible glory
      of the invisible realm; in this prayer heaven and earth meet it is a kind of
      Jacob's ladder. Also note that in the Temple's Holy of Holies, the divine
      Presence is located between the cherubim or between the two Ark Angels, just
      as the Shekinah appears betwen the two who discuss the Torah according to R.
      ben Teradion or between those who pray in the Name awarded to Jesus in
      Matthean tradition. Now the rabbis appear to have domesticated this Temple
      mysticism to the Torah but Jesus or 'Matthew' relates it to the Shekinah
      presence, that is to a Temple not made with hands, a human Temple of
      believers. In this regard it is noteworthy that Matthew refers specifically
      to a prayer context and to the Name of Jesus; a Name through which
      everything meaningful is done throughout the New Testament, and a name that
      plays a pivotal role in the Johannine Prologue, (John 1:12).

      Meditation on the Merkavah passages of Ezekiel was restricted by the rabbis
      because it was dangerous. Was this because of a link between the Lord's
      Prayer, the Shekinah Glory, the cry "Abba, Father", and the chariot throne
      mysticism of 2 Kings 2: 12, where Elisha cries out either "father, father!"
      to Elijah or else Father, Father to the charioteer King? We are reminded of
      the variant to the Lucan version of the Lord's Prayer, "May your Holy Spirit
      come upon us", so often thought to be a late variant used in baptism (but
      see J. C. O'Neill), but which might go back to the 'Prayer John the Baptist
      had taught his disciples', (Luke 11:1), perhaps a prayer of preparation and
      expectation linked to Malachi and which might better explain why the
      Matthean and Lucan prayers are so different and yet so puzzling to critics
      who take such a wide range of views on who follows who, who expands and
      contracts etc etc.

      All this may have a great deal of relevance to the interpretation of 4G as a
      whole and its possible relation to the Apocalypse of John. Richard Bauckham,
      The Theology of the Book of Revelation, (1993), 40 wrote: The whole of
      Revelation could be regarded as a vision of the fulfilment of the first
      three petitions of the Lord's Prayer and Chris Rowland has expressed similar
      views. Perhaps 4G could be seen as themed around the Lucan version of the
      Lord's Prayer with the variant, May your Holy Spirit come upon us', filled
      as it is with the Father, true sonship, glory, the Name, bread, the Temple
      and the True Temple of oneness and love, the 'Another Menahem = Comforter //
      Parakletos', and mystical references to ascents and descents; not to mention
      the similarities between John 17 and the Lord's Prayer together with its
      word count and six vocative Pater's A=1, B =2, B=2, A =1, total 6). I
      propose that 4G reflects Jewish creation Bereshith mysticism (Genesis 1 and
      the Prologue +), Merkavah Mysticism and also letter / number mysticism
      associated in particular with the divine Name; Messianic titles and its high
      christology, ancient traditions better preserved amongst the Jewish
      Hellenists, Enochian Essenes and the Samaritans than amongst the Torah
      orientated Second Temple establishment.

      John Ashton reminds us that with Loisy, the question of authorship was
      detached from the question of origins (Understanding, 1991, 17), and C. K.
      Barrett reminds us that: "The right question is not whether the Gospel is
      Hellenistic or Jewish. The question is rather where exactly we are able to
      locate the Jewish element which is present alongside the Hellenist and how
      the Semitic element is combined with the Hellenistic or Gnostic. This
      question can be considered linguistically as well as theologically." It can
      also be considered historically; indeed we may be in a position to return to
      the temporary detachment question as to who the author was, if the BD was a
      young man with a scholarly and mystical priestly background, (either
      Enochian or not), perhaps named John Mark. Both John Mark and Jesus probably
      had widowed mothers and this may have added to any bond between them,
      particularly at the cross.

      Bill Bullin (Private Student, East Sussex).

      PS I have long wondered if 'the Jews' of John was a quasi -political term
      referring to Judah or Judahism and if 'Hebrews' referred to an alternative
      sectarian vision and Messianic movement seeking to re-incorporate the 12
      tribes; a theme indicated not only by the choice of twelve apostles but
      central to the Apocalyptic vision or Revelation.
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