1986, Serial No. 00477

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Saint John




First, to review a little bit what we were doing last time, we were talking about the structure of John, if you remember, and we started out with the simple proposals for the structure of John, whereby it's mainly just two great parts, the Book of Signs and then the Book of Glory, or the Book of the Hour of Jesus, and the Gospel very obviously divides itself into those parts, setting aside the prologue in the beginning and what's called sometimes the epilogue, Chapter 21 at the end. Then we looked at Ellis' chiasm, or symmetrical structure for John, which really is very convincing to me, and yet in ways it's not very satisfying, so it leads you to go further. It leads you to look for more meaning, because it seems to impose rather a rigid structure on the Gospel. I think the meaning is there to be found, especially if we use a little geometrical imagination, sort of, and put it on a cross form, and put it in the form of a mandolin, when we see other


symmetries that don't appear right away, and where the theological power of the whole begins to kind of bloom out at you, especially when you put stress on the center, which is that creative word. Jesus, the creative word in the center of the Gospel, in a moment which is both a genesis moment, a creation moment, as the first moment of creation, the moment of the self-identification of God, I am, and an exodus moment, the moment of crossing over. And so the selection of that center for Ellis' chiastic arrangement begins to justify itself. We begin to see how it does have the power to hold up, because at first it doesn't. At first you say, well, how can the center be in John 6? And then finally we imposed the seven days of creation on that pattern, and that's pretty convincing for me, which brings up, suggests a kind of order in the whole thing, and that the creative power of this word, which is Jesus, is gradually being manifested in these different ways as we move along the


axes of that diagram. Now we'll have to see. I'll have that kind of present as we go through the Gospel, and we can see whether it checks out for us, whether it verifies itself or not. When we speak about structure, we should speak immediately about meaning, because structure is not worth much if it doesn't lead us to meaning. And with this way that we finally lined the structure up, or proposed it to you, the meaning is all centered in the center, in the I am, at the center of the chiasm, at the center of the manifestation, where creation and exodus, genesis and exodus, somehow come together. Now genesis is creation, and cosmos and universe, and center and origin, and circle, as it were. Whereas exodus is history, is redemption, is salvation through some act of God, and is something within the creation


that then transforms the creation, and then works upon the creation. And I'm proposing that John brings these two together at the center. So all kinds of things intersect here at this center, and this is indicated in a symbolic form by those two geometries that we brought together, the circle and the cross, or square, which in a way contain all dualisms within them as they come together, including once again that of the feminine and the masculine. Then we talked about why... I'm putting the focus on the center here when we talk about meaning. We'll see where the rest of the meaning comes out as we go through the Gospel, but this is something very concentrated and simple to grasp. Why, another reason, why should John put the center in, say, John 6, and in that lake crossing, that sea crossing, instead of, say, at the Last Supper, or at the cross, or at the resurrection? Those are three points where we would expect to find the center. There's the paschal mystery, which happens


along the upper number of our diagram, in which things really turn over at that point. See, that's the genuine pivot, when everything changes. Either the moment of the cross, with its obvious centering symbolism of the cross itself, the body of Jesus on the cross, the heart of Jesus opened on the cross. Jesus is between the two thieves, the whole thing. Or, the Last Supper, where Jesus pours out his teaching in an unsurpassed manner. He never does that the same way anywhere else in the Gospel. That's the full pouring out. Then he says, I've told you everything I heard from the Father, you're not servants anymore, but you're friends. Or the moment of the resurrection, when he appears, and this is the center, as it were, for the epistolic preaching, and when he breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples. But no, he's putting it in John 6. I think it's similar to the kind of place of the transfiguration. The transfiguration is a glimpse of the glorified Jesus, which nobody ever has, really, after his resurrection, except maybe St. Paul, as far as we know.


It's the Jesus risen after the resurrection, but given before the resurrection. Now, why is that? I think it's to bring it back into our own minds, you see. Just as the transfiguration for the disciples, as the Fathers say, was an experience given to them so that they would be able to bear the passion of Jesus, so that they would go through the horror of that time, and of his destruction, as far as visible things were concerned. In a similar way, this center and this fullness of the creative word is put into the middle of that troubled episode on the sea, when they're crossing the sea in the boat, in order that we can find it in the middle of our own lives, that is, in ordinary existence, and in the tension and struggle of ordinary existence, rather than in the peak moment, the Last Supper or the Resurrection. Okay. And I think what John is up to is to initiate us into a new consciousness. Now, this is a very big thing, and it goes far beyond scholarship


in a sense. It goes far beyond exegesis. It's a very existential thing. It's a contemplative thing, and that's why we favor a kind of sapiential treatment of John's Gospel. He's trying to lead us to a kind of enlightenment, I believe, but an enlightenment which is impossible without water and the Holy Spirit, without the gift of the indwelling Christ. But it's an enlightenment, an opening of the eyes of the heart, as St. Paul says, to what's within us. Okay, today I'd like to do something else. It's an alternative approach, and you have a Xerox there of some pages from Culpeper, from The Anatomy of John's Gospel by R. Alan Culpepper. He's a very interesting writer, actually. He does an interesting job. At first I thought it was going to be a superficial kind of literary treatment, but rather he gets pretty deep. And at first I was disappointed because he didn't give me a structure of John's Gospel like Ellis does. Okay, I thought he'd give me a map, but he didn't. There's no fold-out map.


R. Alan Culpepper. Sounds like he teaches in some southern institution of learning. Associate Professor of New Testament Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. Author of the Johannine School. Now, he's the guy also who wrote the pivot of the prologue of John, where he located that center very precisely and nicely. I got that article, by the way, if anybody wants to read it. I did some... The machine didn't break down this time I went to Berkeley. So let's take that Xerox of Culpepper and take a look at it. Now, plot is obviously related to structure, isn't it? Even though it's an alternative, it's a kind of structure. It's a very loose kind of structure. See, it's not a geometrical structure that you sort of impose, but it's a structure of events. It's a structure of happenings, a dramatic structure. Now, it also has to yield meaning for us, and we're


going to find out that it does. First of all, I'll give you a little chunk of his general treatment of plot here before he gets into John's Gospel, okay? On page 84, 85, 86. And what is a plot? I got a definition from earlier on in the book. He's got a collection of definitions of a plot on page 80 here. This is from M. H. Abrams, that Glossary of Literary Terms that Victor had. The plot in a dramatic or narrative work is the structure of its actions as these are ordered and rendered toward achieving particular emotional and artistic effects. So the structure of its actions, as they're laid out for a particular purpose, and his purpose is, he says, emotional and artistic. Well, we may feel it and fall short of what's happening in John, and it's true. We can speak also of meaning, not only emotional and artistic effects, whatever they are. Aristotle gives four, oh no, this is Culpeper, deducing four


features of a plot, the central features of a plot—sequence, causality, unity, and affective power of a narrative. You'll find that he picks that up in the Xerox pages that I gave you, but we won't go in detail into those four characteristics. It would become too technical. Does the Gospel have a plot? Well, see, there's a problem here, because when you think of plot, you're thinking of fiction. Does the evangelist have the liberty or take the liberty with history to impose a plot on him? See, is that fair? Should he do that? Can history have a plot? Well, Culpeper points out that whenever you write about something, you're going to write about it in terms of the meaning that you understood in it, if you understood it at all. So you're going to write it according to a kind of plot, because you're going to highlight the things which, for you, indicate the meaning of that event. This is true even with a joke, you know, or with any story that you tell. You highlight the things that kind of lead it along the dramatic track to the meaning which you wanted


to convey, or at least the total impression you wanted to convey. So we always do that. In order to have a plot, you have to impose a meaning on the events, and convince the reader that this meaning was implicit in the events all along. Well, that sounds kind of treacherous, doesn't it? It sounds kind of deceptive, but it's inevitable in writing. Events in a narrative, as distinguished from events that just happened to us, have a definite meaning because they're part of a story which has an ending, and the ending somehow defines, puts the stamp on the meaning. The plot with its ending gives the events what somebody calls the odour of the ideal. This is why the plot of a historical narrative is always an embarrassment, because it seems like an artificial thing that's been put in there, that is not true to the actual historical sequence and so on. The plot, therefore, interprets events by placing them in a sequence, a context, a narrative world which defines their meaning.


The events are then secondary to the story or message which gives them meaning. Now, this is very evident in John, because we find that John really moves things around, changes things, in order to get across his meaning. What happens is that such events in history generated the message, but the message then shapes the telling of the events, so there's kind of a circle. You've heard of the hermeneutic circle. This is another one. This is the plot circle, compositional circle. Then he talks about the four Gospels, which he says tell the same story, but the plots and the emphases differ. Now, I don't want to go into detail there, he's got it on those pages, because we want to spend our time on John, but you can see that if you compare John with Matthew, Mark and Luke. Not only do the Gospels have plots, but the plot is in a sense the evangelist interpretation of the story, and none of them could avoid interpreting it. Now, here it's theology, you see, that comes and reshapes history. It's a scandal for us at first, because we've been so trained into kind of


a historical scrupulosity. They wrote precisely in order to propound their interpretations of the Gospel story, and plot and characterization are the two means by which they do it. So Culpepper has a chapter on plot, the one we have here, and a chapter on characterization. What is John's plot? First of all, he has to give you some evidence that John has a plot in this Gospel, that he's really imposed an order and thereby tried to communicate a meaning through this Gospel. And he gives you several evidences of that on page 86 at the bottom and 87, and we've already done that, actually, when we looked at the distinctiveness of John's Gospel. We saw the way that he seems to shape things for his own reason, for his own message. What then is the plot of the fourth Gospel? And he zeroes in right away on Jesus' task, the work that Jesus is trying to do, as John portrays it. And this is over on 87, the clues


that we have. The prologue not only introduces Jesus as the Divine Logos, the Word, but also provides clues to the Gospel's plot. And here he's going back to his own work, remember, on the prologue of the Gospel. But to all who received him or believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. Okay, that's the purpose, because it's in the center. So here he's combining two methods, the chiastic method and the narrative method, two methods of literary study of the Gospel. Verse 14 characterizes the significance of Jesus' ministry. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. We have beheld his glory. Now he picks out several other verses which, for him, tell what Jesus has to do. And objectively, you know, it's obvious that that's what these verses are talking about. First from the prologue, the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. Then something that contrasts with this, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That's John the Baptist's words. I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do.


That's a more vague and not so informative statement. I have manifested thy name, that's the Father's name, to the man whom he gave me out of the world. For this I was born, this is the trial, remember, before Pilate. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. We seem to get several lines. The glorification of the Father is certainly a work of Jesus. But how does he do that? What does he do in order to glorify the Father? Well, he takes away the sins of mankind. Okay, that's in all of the Gospels, that Jesus came to take away the sin of the world. There's something further in John, and we find it in this emphasis on the truth, that he's come to bear witness to the truth and to reveal the name of the Father. And it comes out in several other statements which he doesn't quote here. But we're going to find the whole tendency of John is in that. Just read the first verses of chapter 17, for instance, all of chapter 17. I've revealed your name to them so that they know.


I've given them the words which you gave me. And this is eternal life, that they know you and Jesus Christ whom you sent into the world. So he's here to somehow save, to take away sin through revelation, through revealing what? Well, we can say revealing the Father, but there's, in a sense, more to it than that. That doesn't say it all. There are two sides to this thing. One, Jesus comes to save by revealing, to take away sin by bringing the truth. The other side is that this is against resistance. It's against an opposition. And these two poles give you the plot of John's Gospel, the way Culpa perceives it. And I think he's exactly right. Jesus' task is multifaceted. In the face of opposition of cosmic proportions, his task is to reveal the Father by bearing witness to the truth, which ultimately is personal. The truth is himself, and take away the sin of the world. The revelation of the Father seems to be the distinctive Johannine contribution.


But when we say the revelation of the Father, we have to be careful, because it's the revelation of Jesus, too. The distinctive thing here is partly that Jesus, the only thing he reveals is himself, is his own identity. His identity is his relationship with the Father. His relationship with the Father and his identity is communicable to us. So it's an open identity, an open relationship. And what he's up to is to introduce us into that same relationship with the Father, which is to be in him. Now, all of this can be called revelation, but you see it's a very broad sense of revelation. It's a revelation which opens up and draws us into itself. Sin is taken away when one recognizes the logos. And recognition comes only to those who believe. And the opposition. The more Jesus announces his redemption, his mission, the more clearly his identity is revealed, and the more intense the hostility toward him becomes. Here, let me recur to our diaphragm again. Remember, here is the question of the beginning of revelation.


We go out here, and it's a question of a rather open faith in Jesus, the Samaritan woman, the official. The people out here are pretty open. These are also the people who are not at the core of Judaism. They're way out in the high field. Then we move towards here, and we begin to encounter this opposition and this kind of conflict between Jesus and the Jews, which intensifies, intensifies, intensifies through chapter 7, 8, and one line, remember that, blindness of the Pharisees and so on, through the death of Lazarus, when Jesus raising somebody from the dead is the core of his own being put to death. So the hostility reaches its absolute pitch right there. And then here is the death, the hour of Jesus. So it really does define, as it were, the shape of the Gospel. Starting out with here the revelation, here open faith, here opposition, here opposition leading to the transformation, opposition actually killing Jesus and inconsolating him in that hour of his opening up in our creation.


So when he says resistance of cosmic proportions, it's also an effect of cosmic proportions through overcoming the resistance and the death of Jesus in his resurrection. It's a cosmic event within our creation. Do you mind if I ask a question? Sure. I don't want to be interrupted. No. I think all of a sudden it occurs to me, all the way through Scripture, it seems like it's being told to us that opposition is necessary. Yes, that's right. And that there's no way of coming to the truth or transformation without that opposition. Almost as if, like in Jesus Christ Superstar, it's set up that our destiny is that Judas had to become a traitor and all that. It's kind of hard sometimes to reconcile that with freedom. You mean, people are free to oppose or not to oppose. Yes, yes.


But somebody even says in Scripture, Scandal has to come. That's right. We have to believe that Judas was free. We have to believe that even though someone had to do it in a way that he didn't have to do it, there was some freedom there. Otherwise we make God into a beast. So it's this, not predestination, but God knowing ahead of time that this is the way it was going to be. That's right. And therefore the way Scripture is written, it is, you know, this has to be fulfilled. That's right. Often you hear this phrase, you know, it's written there. I think it would be wrong to interpret that in too strict a sense so that this particular person had to be the betrayer, or this particular person was predetermined to be the opponent and therefore was not free, okay, that kind of thing. But the plan has to be fulfilled, the opposition, the struggle, the death, the cross has to be gone through. Once sin evidently exists, then that's the only plot.


So then in our lives, practically speaking, I mean, we shouldn't at all be surprised when things continue... We always get surprised because we feel it's supposed to unfold according to a smooth plan, you know, but it ain't that way. It's strange how it happens every day, we don't learn. Some people, I guess, grit their teeth and they accept life as a struggle, but sometimes they can't ungrit their teeth so they have a problem too. But I mean, some people are much more realistic than others. John's Gospel, see, if we read it the wrong way, can lead to a kind of Gnostic bliss consciousness, you know, in which we think because it opens itself to Gnosticism, if you neglect this opposition thing, you see, if you neglect the cross that Jesus has to carry and the opposition he necessarily has to encounter before he can come to the resurrection, because he begins by being the Logos, by containing the fullness of God, we can get the illusion that all you have to do is to hook into that and you can kind of bypass all of the troubles, but it ain't so.


It comes out in John 12 where he says, anybody who wants to follow me has to take up his cross and follow me, has to follow the same way as he has to fall on the ground, remember? In John 12. But he doesn't say it often in John's Gospel, not nearly as much as in the other Gospels. It's there, it's built into human nature as it is now, just like death is. It's the same thing really, because it's always a taste of death, right? All of the troubles and oppositions are, as it were, encounters, pre-encounters with the one great enemy which is death, you can put it that way. So evil then, in that sense, is necessary. Yeah, evil is necessary because evil exists, okay? Because the evil of sin exists, the evil of death is necessary, and hence all the struggles are necessary which are part of death, and he would put it that way. Although John doesn't enter into these things, his approach is another one. He doesn't enter into those questions very much. He doesn't suggest them as much as the other Gospels do. But he emphasizes that if you're going to be a witness to the truth,


and you're going to reveal your Father, I mean, if you're going to believe in Jesus, all these things are bound to happen. That's right, that's right. There's no way of avoiding that. He's very strong in terms of saying, Like you mentioned, the end defines the mystery of the heart. That's right, only when you get to the end can you understand it. In other words, you can't understand the problem of evil until you've gone through death and resurrection. Even then it's still a mystery. It's still a mystery, but somehow it's written into you. I think in coming through it, just like when you reach the end of a good movie or something like that, you understand it because you've gone through the crisis, the struggle, the doubt, and then come out, like on the waterfront or something like that. You understand it, in a sense, because you've suffered it, and then you've kind of come out into the liberation. The movie's not the best example. The plot of the Gospel of John, however, revolves around


Jesus' fulfillment of his mission to reveal the Father and thus authorize the children of God. Now, what does he mean by authorize? He means that he gave them power to become sons of God, power to become children of God. Excuse me, I remember David asked a question about that word, and you can interpret that in terms of authority. Plot development in John, then, is a matter of how Jesus' identity comes to be recognized and how it fails to be recognized. And that's what distinguishes our two members here. This one, where the identity of Jesus is recognized over here in the light, the identity of Jesus is not recognized, is rejected over here in the darkness. Each episode has essentially the same plot as the story as a whole. Now, here we're getting something like Ellis in another sphere, because Ellis gives you a chiasmic structure, that formal structure, then he says, this is the structure of the Gospel as a whole, and this is reproduced in each episode.


He gives you all these little bitty chiasms and then the big chiasm, remember? Now he's saying the same thing about the plot, that just as the plot of the Gospel as a whole is this revelation against resistance, so the plot of each little episode in it, of each story in it, is going to be the same. So we check that out as we go along, see if it's true. By and large, I think it is true. It's always Jesus will do something, he'll do a sign, he'll say something, then it's the challenge to believe or disbelieve, and you get kind of both sides. Sometimes you only see the ones who disbelieve. Sometimes you only see the ones who believe. It's always the same dynamism. Then he goes into an analysis of the various parts of the Gospel, and we don't want to spend a lot of time on it, but I think you'll find that it holds up pretty well, and that he succeeded, really, in telling us what's happening in John's Gospel in terms of John, in terms of plot or conflict. The prologue introduces Jesus,


also establishes the antithetical norms which will be in conflict throughout the narrative. Light and darkness, belief and unbelief, grace and truth and the law. Grace and truth versus the law. And notice how the law tends to fall on the side of darkness and of unbelief, because this is where you have the people of the law. As Jesus moves towards Jerusalem, an account is ascribed to the Pharisees, the chief priests, the big wheels in the Jewish religious structure, that's the law, as it were, in terms of St. Paul. He doesn't talk much about the law. They'll say, we have a law, and it says that this man must die because he said that he's the son of God. Or they'll say, well, you've broken the Sabbath by healing that man, and you've broken the law, okay? So the law is used as an instrument, as it were, to reject Jesus. Now, notice word and law. Jesus comes to replace the law by the word, by the life-giving word, the creative word. The terms are different here than they are in Paul, in John's Gospel, but the conflict is very much the same.


The second chapter of John, on page 90, clarifies and complicates the narrative. The plot emerges more clearly with Jesus' dramatic opposition to the abuse of the temple. So here you get Jesus aggressively initiating a conflict. He barges in there and throws the dealers out of the temple. I mean, that's a pretty brash action. And we saw before that John has put this at the beginning of the Gospel instead of the end. Well, this is part of the section we're going to review if we get to it today, so we'll see why. In John 3, there's still... But they're puzzled, they challenge him, they ask him why he does it, but they don't stop him, and they don't really come out strongly against him yet. In John 3, there's still no real opposition to Jesus. This is the Nicodemus thing. Nicodemus is puzzled, he's obtuse, but he's not really hardened against Jesus at all. And Nicodemus turns up at the end too, doesn't he, at the burial of Jesus, so he seems to have hung on. John 4, that's the Samaritan woman, there's very little opposition to Jesus. In fact, people are falling over in their eagerness to receive him in Samaria.


Once he gets over the defensive systems of the Samaritan woman. There's therefore no more than token opposition in the first four chapters and a foreshadowing of more to come. John 5 brings a fresh development. There's more conflict. The Jews become important for the first time. This is the paralytic at the pool. The basis of the conflict is explained. Jesus heals on the Sabbath, okay? He does this twice. The paralytic and the man born blind. And those are parallel episodes as we saw. And the dramatic power of the rest of the gospel is built around this conflict that comes out for the first time in John 5. This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his own father, making himself equal with God. It escalates in chapter 6, the conflict with unbelief. After the multiplication of the bread, that is, the bread of life discourse


when Jesus says, I am the bread which comes down from heaven. And finally it reaches its maximum pitch when Jesus says, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you can't have life, okay? And remember they say, even his own disciples start turning away from him at that point. So it's that word that begins to turn him away. And the decision is between belief and unbelief of these impossible words of Jesus about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. So that's another reason why we consider this in the center of the gospel. It's a kind of watershed. A watershed in which the time of easy popularity is over for Jesus. A lot of disciples turn away. The opposition of some becomes absolutized and he heads towards Jerusalem for his death. Besides which, it's around, it seems, the chronological center of the ministry of Jesus in the gospels as a whole. And in John it's the second Passover. I'm still justifying that figure of him. There are no other significant conflicts in John.


No conflict with demons or nature. You've got Jesus expelling demons in the other gospels. No conflict with himself. And little sustained conflict with the disciples. Even with Peter there. He doesn't go through that reproach of Peter. But he does reproach them for their misunderstanding. That theme is throughout John. This is the bottom of 91. But we're skipping rather rapidly. The walking on the water, which Ellis puts at the center of the gospel and which we follow there. He says it's not a conflict with nature. It lies in its reenactment of the exodus and its character as an epiphany. And I think he's right. The manifestation of Jesus as a word divinity. The I am statement. And then he goes on in some length about how people begin to turn away from Jesus and turn against him in John 6. The bread of life discourse. They ask the question which becomes typical of earthly literal superficial understanding. How?


Remember, this occurs throughout. You can go, I did one time, go through the gospel and pick out all the how questions that people ask Jesus. Nicodemus says, how can a man be born again? Can he enter again into his mother's womb? How, how, how, how? They keep asking him that, you see. And that's the kind of expression of that. It's not always malicious. With Nicodemus it's just kind of helpless. But it's the failure to see. That seems to be the question you shouldn't ask. Even Mary. Yeah. Yeah, she got an answer too, right? Yeah, he got newt. So I guess it depends on who you are. How can he give us his flesh to eat? Yeah, well there are two ways of asking that question.


One way is probably the way that Mary asked it. When she said, well, how is this going to happen? How are we going to do this? I'd like to know more about God's plan because it's a difficult thing. The other, how can he give us his flesh to eat? One is the expression of disbelief. How can there already be an expression of disbelief and scorn, scoffing? Or it can be simply a question with fundamental acceptance of what's been said. So many of the disciples dissociate themselves from the movement, signaling a sharp change in Jesus' fortunes. The optimism of the early chapters collapses. The optimism at Cana, you know, and even when Jesus comes into the temple boldly and throws out the money changers, and with the Samaritans and so on, and the string of signs of miracles of Jesus is increasing popularity. The optimism of the early chapters collapses and there's cause for real doubt as to whether Jesus will be able to execute his mission successfully.


And then he goes on about how the prologue, however, in the early chapters have given us an advance, strengthened us in the ability to credit him so that he can come through it all. In John 7, the opposition hardens and begins to mobilize itself. The Judean Jews seek to kill Jesus. So here we are. And here we've gotten over to the right side here where things are really getting thick. In John 8, the verbal exchange between Jesus and the Jews reaches its most hostile and strident tones. That's really something. Remember, better than midway through Lent when we begin to get those readings from the latter chapters of John, but it starts around John 7 or 8. And wow, you are sons of the devil. You know, you call yourselves sons of Abraham. You're children of the devil. Why do you try to kill me? Did they try to kill you? Isn't it true that you're a Samaritan and have a demon? It goes on that way. Bitter clashes. Until finally the condemnation of Jesus happens. So it leads us right into Holy Week. In many respects, chapter 9.


Chapter 9 is the one on the man born blind. You know, wait a minute. John 8 is just that dispute. John 9 is the man born blind, but it's still bitter. And they throw the man born blind out of the synagogue, remember. First part of chapter 10. Chapter 10 is the one on the sheep, and the sheepfold, and the shepherd, and the questioning at the dedication of the temple. Chapter 11 is Lazarus. And there's a real challenge to faith there. And then there's the hardening of the sentence against Jesus, of the decision against Jesus, because of the raising of Lazarus. They wanted to put both of them to death. Chapter 12 is that transitional chapter where Jesus' seat has to fall on the ground. It's like on a stage where the actor turns aside and makes a speech about what's going to happen.


And then the remaining of it, the rest of it, is the moving into the passion and death of Jesus, in his actual hour. And the resurrection scene. And remember that even the resurrection scene culminates in Thomas' confession of faith. In other words, the absolute breakthrough of faith, my Lord and my God, after the terrific crisis and challenge of the crucifixion of Jesus, and against all of Thomas' own resistance. Okay, let's go to the conclusion here, 97, in the following page. See what he makes out of all this. There's a lot of richness in the way he's treated this. The plot of the gospel is propelled by conflict between belief and unbelief as responses to Jesus. Almost half of the occurrences of the word believe in the New Testament are found in John. Also, somebody else notes, I think it's Ellis, that the noun belief is never found in John. Faith and belief, you don't find those nouns in John. You find the verb, to believe.


And he goes through those four features of the plot. And then finally, the effect of this narrative structure on the top of 98, with its prologue followed by episodic repetition of the conflict between belief and unbelief. Each episode of the conflict between belief and unbelief is to enclose the reader in the company of faith. Now here he's talking in terms of literary criticism, okay? He shows you the kind of thing that can be brought out by this form of literary study. To enclose the reader in the company of faith. The gospel plot there is controlled by thematic development, that is, the crisis, belief-unbelief, the opposition, and the revelation. And a strategy for wooing readers to accept its interpretation of Jesus, which is very powerful. I mean, people who don't believe in Jesus believe in the Jesus of John sometimes, I think. People who can accept, in a way, you know, the cosmic Christ especially, but can't accept the historical actuality of the Church and some of the Christianity. Any comments or questions about that before we go on?


Just a further question about the disbelief in Jesus' power in John's gospel. Yes. In which gospel, I'm not clear on that, this morning where, you know, they said the subject was altogether too much. We had Mark this morning, but Mark. Okay. I was wondering if in John 2, that whole question of people not being able to take him as feeding us with his body and blood, whether that could be true that some really anguished over that. It wasn't just a question of disbelieving in his power to be able to do it. It was really too much for them in the sense that they would turn away because he was asking more than they could really take. Almost like asking the rich to give up everything. But notice how it's different, okay?


Yeah, that's what I want to know. It's a different thing because in John he's asking for a conversion of the mind. He's asking for a revolution in consciousness. Whereas in the case of the rich man, he's asking for something much more down to earth. He's asking for a sacrifice of his possessions. You call it a revolution in the heart rather than a revolution in the mind, but in John it's very much a revolution in the mind, a revolution of consciousness, I think. That's what I'm going to try to persuade you of as we go on. It's a conversion of heart. It's a conversion of heart, but it's heart also in the sense of understanding. In fact, primarily in the sense of understanding. Just as we've said the essential thing in John is faith, and is the choice between belief and unbelief. So the revolution, the transformation that he asks for is first of all a transformation in consciousness. And what John is up to, I believe, is to invite us to that kind of enlightenment. Is it a transformation in consciousness where we're asked to believe something


we don't even understand? Yes and no. Yes and no. In other words, as we're asked to believe something which is beyond our habitual understanding and beyond the present structures of our consciousness, we are also given a light which verifies and an experience of the reality of Jesus and of the identity of Jesus and of the presence of God in him which justifies the walking out of and beyond our own mental structures. So it's yes and no. It's blind faith and it's not blind faith because it's illuminated by who Jesus is and by what he gives us to see. In other words, it's like sacrificing the letters on the page for the light which reveals the letters on the page and which in some way reveals itself to be superior to those particular letters, those particular convictions and mental structures. In other words, Jesus comes along as in John, Jesus comes along with all of the light of God inside of him.


Not shining out yet in glorified form, but it's there. And he comes into this whole structure of the religious things that they've been given which have become absolute, like the law and the temple and all those things. We're going to see that in these first chapters. And the challenge is do you hang on to those things or do you accept the God who walks into those things and reveals his own transcendence of them, okay? Do you fall in love with the one who proves and who proves to you by the light that comes out of him and by what he does and by what he says that he is superior to these things and somehow holds them all in the palm of his hand or do you hang on to those things? It's always the gift of the giver, you know. That kind of thing. But it's faith that bores through that barrier. It's a thing of consciousness and of the will to believe. Faith which is centered in love after all, okay? Faith which is centered in a kind of falling in love with the Christ who comes in that way. So the relation of mind and heart


or of feeling or of eros and understanding is a little different in John than it is perhaps in the other Gospels. Because the emphasis on intellect and understanding and truth and light and word is stronger in John. So that love is inside of it. We're going to find out that that comes out in the end of chapter 2 and also in John 21. If anyone loves me, he'll keep my word, okay? So you move back and forth between the two. And his letters keep emphasizing love. That's right. Partly in reaction to people who took the Gnostic tract from the Gospel, yes. That's right. Okay, pursuing this idea of John's Gospel as in the line of truth or revelation or understanding, I'd like to read you some points, a kind of brief synthesis of John's theology. It becomes a spirituality as well, which underlines this. And this is just a kind of a preliminary sketch. We'll get back to this later.


In fact, we're going to be laboring with it continually. A lot of these points are from Schneider's. Before I do that, let me read you something from T.W. Manson, a book called On Paul and John, which is in the same line. Now he's asking himself, what is John up to? What's the Gospel of John about? The Johannite theology is primarily a theology of revelation. Revelation means the unveiling of a truth, does it not? The communicating, the bringing, the unveiling of a truth. Especially unveiling, because when you say bringing a truth, you maybe think of something kind of appropriate. But this is the unveiling of a truth, which is somehow the ground of everything. The very word revelation, or apocalypse in the Greek, that's what it means, to unveil. The essence of the Gospel is that it is a full and complete revelation of the truth. Now this is much stronger in John than it is in any of the other Gospels, even though the other Gospels are meant to bring you to believe, yet other emphases tend to take over. Other things tend to take over


and push this out of sight at certain times. For instance, the idea of the cross, the idea of sacrifice, or the idea of morality, as in the Gospel of Matthew, where the important thing is that you do it. But here the important thing is, the thing in first view is not that you do it, but that you believe it. And then the doing will sort of be inside of that believing. Consequently, you don't get all those commandments in John. You only get one commandment, which turns into two, to believe in Jesus and then to love. Two, by truth is meant the knowledge of God as he really is, and to the full extent that his nature can be known to finite human beings. Well, okay, that's a little abstract. Actually, in John, Jesus is revealing himself in a way in which we're invited to come into him and to live inside this truth, this light, this word which he is, and thereby be enlightened. Three, knowledge is not merely knowledge about God, it is knowledge of God. God in Jesus reveals not propositions, not doctrines,


not statements, not affirmations, not points, not a system, but himself. And this revelation is made in Jesus himself. He gets on to that in the next point. Since the revelation is a revelation of God, it must be in terms of the highest category we know. Now, this is very good. What is that highest category we know? Personality, the human person. In other words, the human person is the word of God, the human person is the expression of God, because that's the thing we know most deeply, because we know ourselves and because we know one another. The revelation of God's nature takes place in the person of Jesus, not merely in certain theological statements, but in his whole life and death. I think that's pretty good. It's leading in the direction we're talking about. He goes on to several other statements which go off a little in another direction, so I won't read them to you. So here's a string of points. First of all, this is salvation by revelation. Secondly, the revelation is simply the identity of Jesus.


You can call it the Christological center of the Gospel. That Jesus is the Son of God in such a way that he is God. That Jesus is the word of God in such a way that his divine life and identity is communicable. That means it can be passed to us, we can receive it because he's word. The word is meant to be heard, at least in our language, on God's side. To believe in Jesus is to share in his being, and thus to have an immediate relationship with the Father, as Jesus does. So Jesus is not the mediator between us and God, but he's the mediator into whom we come in order to relate immediately to God, to the Father. To believe is to enter into the light, participating in the light which is the divine life. This light is love. Now this comes out in the first letter of John particularly, much more explicitly than it does in the Gospel. If you read the first chapter of John's first letter,


you find that first God is light, and toward the end God is love. But in between, to be in the light is to be in love, is to be in the koinonia, the communion, the mutual love of the community. And if you're out of love, then you're out of the light, then you're in the darkness. And this light and this love are the very life of God. So life and light and love, like three intercommunicating terms. But the life is the life of God. The work of Jesus is to witness, and we saw that the work is to witness to the truth, but this witness, its content is the identity of Jesus once again, which is the truth. He says, I am the truth. The identity of Jesus, and here I'm going in circles, coming over the same ground, but bringing in other things. The identity of Jesus is the same as his relationship to the Father. The identity of Jesus is his relationship to the Father, is his being Son, and everything that means. Now in the words of Jesus in John's Gospel, you get a whole exegesis of what that relationship to the Father is.


A relationship of being, identity of being, I am the Father of one, a relationship of thought and of knowledge, all that is the Father is mine, and whatever I have heard from the Father, and so on. And it's always a question of identity. A relationship of action. I can do nothing but what I hear from the Father, what is commanded me by the Father, and so on. A relation, affiliation, sonship of identity. The work, on the other hand, of the human person is to believe in Jesus, which is simply to believe in his divine identity and in his mission. Jesus gives two kinds of witness, or two kinds of work really, and one is signs, which are more usually called works, and the other is words, the signs and the words. And the words are especially the discourses following the signs. So you have a tendency for Jesus to do something, and then to interpret what he does. Classic case is the multiplication of the bread in chapter 6, where Jesus multiplies the loaves,


and then afterwards gives you more than an interpretation of that act, but points out that the act was just a kind of beginning indication of who he is, because he is the bread of life, and the way that he relates to humanity, to mankind. To believe is to enter into the light, and this is Revelation. The life of, this is Schneider saying, the life of God, which is love, becomes light. You may remember the prologue, how does it go? In him was life, and the life was the light of man, and the light shined in the darkness, darkness did come around. She's putting something else, she's joining something else to that, which is that the life of God is love. Now, I think you have to be careful. I'm not sure that love exhausts the life of God, okay? Love we tend to be able to know more about than the life of God. To say that the life of God is love is true, and yet I think it has a danger of too easily circumscribing the life of God,


or too easily circumscribing God. To say that God is just love, is nearly to squeeze God into our own notion of love, so we have to be very careful, okay? Remembering that he transcends all of our categories, all of our language. Is truth interchangeable with light? Yes, yeah. Here, when we're talking in this language, truth is interchangeable with light, and in John's language, you know. And then knowledge and belief, or knowledge and enlightenment? Same thing. Knowledge and enlightenment are the same thing, and belief is the opening of oneself to that knowledge, the truth. So the life of God, which is love, becomes light, and this is Revelation. And the role of the Son of Jesus is to make this life, which is love, become light, available. Those who enter into the light participate in the life which is love. Now, this is much more clear in the first letter than it is in the Gospel. It's as if in the first letter, John, in a metaphysical moment,


had boiled down what he says through the whole Gospel, and put it into a very few key concepts, which keep kind of merging and interacting with one another. These few concepts of light and love and life. The letter is like a metaphysical distillation of the whole narrative and exposition and discourse of Jesus, which is John's Gospel. It's a little like the prologue in that way, and it would be interesting to compare the first letter of John to the prologue of John. God is love, in the first letter of John, is a description of what life, that is, true life, is. This is the will of the Father, that he who sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life. That's from John 6.40. This is eternal life, that they know you, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. So, the knowing and the having eternal life are immediately joined by the same thing.


Now, a new phase in this. Still following Schneider's and getting a little ahead of ourselves. Everything comes from God, and God is the giver of everything. So, God gives Jesus to the world, he gives his Son to the world, but he gives the world to his Son at the same time. When Jesus says, only those, nobody can come to me unless the Father draw him. And all of those that the Father gives me are mine. And Schneider puts it in terms of this great marriage. Remember the parable of the marriage banquet in the other Gospels? Where the king is arranging a marriage for his son, and so he arranges this big marriage banquet and then calls it, invites all the guests. So, Jesus is given to the bride. That is, Jesus is given to mankind, and mankind is given to Jesus, and God the Father is the giver on both sides. He gives Jesus his revelation, and he gives us to Jesus through the gift of faith that he gives us. And thus happens the marriage of God with mankind, or with the creation.


Jesus is the covenant. Jesus is the bridegroom, as God. God is the bridegroom in the Old Testament, but the bridegroom of Jesus is the Word in the New Testament. And this points to all of the nuptial imagery in John, which we'll have a tendency to forget from time to time, but which is a key to John's Gospel, I believe. If one theme is the knowledge theme in John, the other theme, you could call it the theme of eros, or the theme of marriage, or of espousals, or whatever. And these two together comprise what I would call the sapiential approach, which we find in John. Kind of connected with that is the way that you find two things together in the mystical theology tradition in Christianity. One is the Word, and the other is the marriage. Remember how in the interpretations of the Song of Songs in our Christian tradition, from Origen through John on the cross, it's a matter of a marriage of the soul with the Word, marriage of the soul with wisdom.


So, you can say the sexual dimension and the cognitive dimension, or intellectual dimension, somehow are brought together. And here we begin to glimpse a kind of integration, a horizontal integration in the human being, which goes along with this vertical union between God and the Creator of God and mankind. It's as if the one kind of psychological integration of marriage within us is the sign, just as human marriage is the sign for that one great marriage which is happening, the marriage of God and creation through the human person. The theology in John, not of sacrificial expiation, not of substitution in sacrifice, but of communication of God's life through revelation. Once again, this is Schneider's, and that's been said by many, however. It's rather obvious. Which is not to say that the sacrificial motif is absent in John, because it's there.


Even, see, the Lamb of God theme, but you feel that it's not so much what John put in there as what he inherited. And then John, on top of that, and embracing that, gives you his own view, which is this view of salvation through revelation, through the light coming. And it's characteristic of the way Jesus walks through his Passion, you know, almost unbent in comparison with the other Gospels. And then, what I would like to do is do a kind of sapiential expansion of this afterwards. But I've got a lot of notes on that, but I won't belabor you with it now. I think we've done enough this morning, probably. But what it involves, essentially, is the notion of turning over a consciousness that is moving from one kind of mind to another kind of mind. And this new kind of mind is the one which is centered in the Word, and embraced by the Word. The idea of God's consciousness somehow, God's mind, God's Word,


being able to become the center of our own consciousness, and gradually, not absorb it, I wouldn't say, but recreate it. That is, the new creation would begin in our consciousness. And so you can call it a kind of Copernican revolution. And the trouble that I find in all of the talk about John being a Gospel of Revelation is the tendency, immediately, to think that that revelation can be kind of broken down into words. In other words, do you translate John's Gospel into our own language, or is John's Gospel an initiation into the language of God, which is his one Word? Translation or initiation? Translation into our language, a kind of hermeneutic which would bring John's Gospel and the words of Jesus, and the actions of Jesus, into our own language, modernize it, contemporize it. Or is John's Gospel, essentially, a mystagogy?


That is, an initiation into a mystery, which simply remains there as the center. And of course, what I'm preaching is that it is the latter, that it's really an initiation into that mystery. And so, if we try too hard to contemporize, and to translate, and to do this kind of hermeneutic into our own categories, we're going to miss the message. Because it's essentially a conversion of consciousness, which terminates not in some kind of language, not in any kind of thoughts of our own, any kind of word system, structures, theology, or whatever, but in that immediate contact with the Word, which is the fullness of God. That's what John is about. If you look at this structure here, you notice the bottom member, we've encompassed within John the Baptist, as it were. Next time we'll do that. Where the top member is the beloved disciple. If you keep chapter 21 in there, it's obvious that the beloved disciple appears at the beginning and the end of that top arm. Whereas the bottom arm is encompassed by two appearances of John the Baptist,


one in chapter 1 and one in chapter 3. So you would see then the whole movement of the Gospel being between John the Baptist and the beloved disciple. We're going to find that the first, the bottom arm, is taken up very much with this idea of replacement. Of the old religious observances, the temple, the teaching and the teacher, and John the Baptist himself, and so on. And the water for the purification replaced by the wine. Replacement. The knowledge which is represented, the wisdom and the religion, and the religious observance, and let me put it this way, the knowledge of God, which is symbolized by John the Baptist, and which is this whole lower member, is being replaced by the knowledge of God, which is symbolized by the beloved disciple, the author of the Gospel. That fullness of knowledge of God, which is symbolized by him. And which is up here, okay? And that's what he's trying to initiate us into. That which has been given to him.


Now, symbolically, at least in John's Gospel, we don't know how the author of the Gospel looks up with the beloved disciple and so on, but symbolically in John's Gospel, that's the disciple who leaned his head on the breast of Jesus, remember? The disciple whom Jesus loved, who had this kind of intimate, who could listen, as it were, into the heart of the Word. Listen into the depths. And then he's also the disciple to whom Jesus gives his mother on the cross. So those two symbolic points there indicate this transmission of the fullness of the wisdom to the beloved disciple. Because Mary in some way, the mother of Jesus, also is a wisdom symbol, a Sophia symbol. She may be a lot of other things as well, but she's that. As, I think, are all the women in the Gospel of John. Yes. That's what the beloved disciple is for. It's so that each of us can identify with the beloved disciple. Yes. Since I am, listen to me.


That's right. Communicate with me. That's right. Remember in the other Gospels, when the voice of the Father sounds at that central moment, which is the transfiguration, this is my beloved Son, listen to Him. Now what does John do? He doesn't have the transfiguration, but he says in the beginning was the Word. Now the Word is what you listen to, right? The Word of God is that of God to which you must listen. So John is saying the same thing, very simply and very kind of slyly, by calling Jesus the Word of God. It seems like that John is trying to share here what Jesus will give to the disciple by the disciple just being with him through a communication. That's right. In chapter 14 to 16 there, I think you'll find there's about eight times where it goes like,


If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me and keep my commandments, I shall ask the Father. There's about eight different ways that it expresses itself by asking. That's right. If you ask anything in my name, whatever I command you, it is well done. Of course John 17 is simply his asking, right? His prayer to the Father. That's all asking there. I tell you so, anything you ask for the Father, you will grant in my name. Until now you have not asked. Ask and you shall receive. He's trying to... There's another dimension in us besides just being in the presence that we have a faculty that will help to increase this consciousness of God. Yeah, that asking is very important. The asking is like the expression of the faith.


Like prayer is faith which is most alive, I think. Prayer is faith which is kind of on fire with want, with desire, with asking, with a sense that it has to expand, with an eagerness to grow. Yeah, they say if you pray, or what we used to do, if you pray the office and don't move your lips, that's not really praying the office. It's supposed to be some kind of effort, I guess you might say. Well, that was a kind of practical, down-to-earth way of ensuring that people would really, trying to ensure that people would be more into it, kind of just letting their eyes wander over the page. But it doesn't really guarantee it. There's a progression there, we'll find out when we get to those chapters, that Jesus is gradually inviting them to stand in his own place. So he'll say, I don't have to ask my Father for you, you ask him, because you're where I am. He nearly says, you are who I am, at the end there, in chapter 16.


And, of course, that has to be handled very delicately. Okay, then, let's move on. I think we've talked about this chapter, but is it too late? No, go ahead. Yeah, I meant to go through chapters 1 to 3 today, so we didn't quite make it, did we? We didn't quite get started. Go ahead. No. Bring it up now, a little concrete. Well, no, I mean, there's so much, it's so rich. Well, okay, we'll do it next time. Next time we'll certainly, irrevocably, go through chapters 1 through 3. All right.