2009-06-28

The Mystical Return of Jesus to “Many Mansions”

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

There is nothing like this statement in the synoptic gospels. Many interpret this passage in John to mean that Jesus is going to prepare a room in a heavenly palace for each believer who will eventually get there. But the author of the gospel appears to explain what he means here just a few verses later, and it has nothing to do with a believer going to heaven and finding a nice apartment room there with their name on the door. Rather, the room is the body of the individual believer, and that Jesus and the Father will descend to earth to make their mystical union with each believer.

The larger house or mansion that contains all of these many rooms or abodes or homes is the “church” or wider community of the Johannine Christians.

This is another snippet from John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 2nd ed. He begins with Hoskyns suggesting that the starting point for interpreting this verse is the fulfilment of a prophecy found in both canonical and noncanonical Jewish writings:

Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8; c.f. Exod. 29:45; Lev. 26:11-12)

And I will set my sanctuary in their midst for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them . . . (Ezekiel 37:26-27)

For behold! I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says the Lord. (Zechariah 2:10)

And I will build my sanctuary in their midst, and I will dwell with them and be their God, and they shall be my people . . . (Jubilees 1:17)

This suggestion is plausible and attractive. If Hoskyns is right, then the μοναι (AV “mansions”) of 14:2, individual rooms or apartments in the house of God, are reinterpreted in 14:23 as places on earth, localized in the community, where not only Jesus but God himself, coming in a cultic or mystical manner, can find a welcome. (Understanding, p.441)

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:22-23)

Another scholar (David Aune) is cited by Ashton as suggesting that the term for “house” in 14:2 and 8:35 was probably used by the Johannine community of Christians to refer to themselves. For this reason, Aune also interprets “mansions” as a reference to each individual believer in whom dwells the spirit of the Father and the Son.

That is, according to the Gospel of John, the “coming of Jesus Christ” is not a “parousia” at a climactic “end of the age” event, nor is it the resurrection, nor is it the sending of the Holy Spirit. Rather,

[i]t presages a mystical union of awesome intimacy, one that indicates the profoundly contemplative character of the Johannine community.

Ashton is aware that many Protestant writers don’t like to use words like “mysticism”, but that the above interpretation of Jesus and the Father making their home with believers in their “rooms” (bodies, minds) is a much more coherent and obvious explanation than the “going to heaven” idea preferred by many believers today.

How could I resist including this pic (The Mansions) that Zemanta [now defunct] threw up for me while typing the above post. I never knew I grew up and lived so many years so close to heaven — my old hometown, Brisbane, Australia.
The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)



If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!


0 thoughts on “The Mystical Return of Jesus to “Many Mansions””

  1. Hi! I found your blog thanks to Gavin. I have a few questions about this post.

    The early “Johannine Christians” were the Mandaeans, who venerated the baptismal figure, instead of the christological one, whom they viewed as a “pretender to the throne”. (The Sethians viewed both of these mythical figures as demonic, so there’s that, as well.)

    “For this reason, Aune also interpret’s “mansions” as a reference to each individual believer in whom dwells the spirit of the Father and the Son.

    “That is, according to the Gospel of John, the “coming of Jesus Christ” is not a “parousia” at a climactic “end of the age” event, nor is it the resurrection, nor is it the sending of the Holy Spirit.”

    I haven’t seen any such theory referenced on the Johannite website or the individual AJC clergy-members’ blogs. Unless Aune means that this was how the verses were interpreted by the Mandaeans? That part’s a bit confusing.

    I’m still not convinced the above hypothesis is a correct “blanket interpretation” of the verses selected. Catholics and Protestants believe this refers to some kind of life after death heaven, don’t they?

    Although, given the discord amongst Christianities that has always existed, and likely always will exist, perhaps a set of separate, isolated “rooms” from each other IS the correct interpretation, since no one group ever agrees with every other group.

    So maybe the analogy is correct…….

  2. The Gospel of John is not related to the Mandaeans — it seems you might be confusing two different Johns here. The Mandaeans do not believe Jesus was the Messiah, and do not accept the Gospel of John. They follow John the Baptist, but he has nothing to do with the either the authorship of this gospel or the Christians who we refer to as the Johannine Christians.

    Johannine Christians are represented by this gospel and the other Johannine writings in the New Testament. The Mandaeans on the other hand are not Christians and originally taught that Jesus was a false Messiah who perverted the teachings of John.

    The Johannine website you referenced is a church site, and does not offer a scholarly study of the Gospel. John Ashton’s book (2007) that I am discussing here is widely recognized as a major contribution to scholarly Johannine studies. That doesn’t mean everything he writes is beyond question, but it does suggest that much of what he says is the product of extensive study and worthy of serious consideration.

    Hope that makes sense and clarifies a few points 🙂

  3. “Hope that makes sense and clarifies a few points. :-)”

    Yup, thanks! I wasn’t too clear myself either. 🙂 It gets confusing sometimes to try and sort through what’s Mandaean, what’s “Johannine” and what the current Johannites (very small sect) believe.

    I realize the site I referenced doesn’t offer anything in the way of scholarship (or objectivity), but I find Aune’s interpretation of the “mansions” verse, quoted by Ashton, to be interesting, as it is not one that I have come across, WRT traditional Christian religion, and as I said, I haven’t seen any of the modern Johannites espouse anything along those lines, either.

    My question is this, what do you personally think of this interpretation of that verse? Did you post this as a counterpoint to the adventist interpretation WCG always held? Or does Aune’s interpretation seem accurate to you?

    Just curious, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. 🙂 I will keep an eye peeled for Ashton’s book, thanks!

    1. My question is this, what do you personally think of this interpretation of that verse? Did you post this as a counterpoint to the adventist interpretation WCG always held? Or does Aune’s interpretation seem accurate to you?

      I find the explanation plausible. It makes sense of otherwise apparently contradictory verses. I’m fascinated in the topic from a historical perspective. I’m interested in understanding the origins and nature of early Christianity. This includes how various schools of Christian thought coalesced into what became orthodoxy, and how others were lost sight of. So I’m always open, I like to think, to wherever the evidence leads me, though I am also very aware that the evidence I follow will itself depend on the questions I ask. If a better or more comprehensive answer to the meaning of John 14:2-3, 23 emerges then that’s fine, too. Knowledge is always advancing, hopefully.

      I have not the slightest vestige of interest in rebutting whatever any of the Millerite-Adventist offshoots might teach. Their views and doctrines have lost all relevance to me. I am no longer interested in the WCG or its offshoots, except by way of occasionally observing a shrivelled corpse, with a few limbs apparently still twitching, that was once the destroyer of so many lives. Good riddance to it and all similar cults. One of the very few good legacies it has left me with is the ability to see through and comment (by way of warning or education) from experience on similar cults.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.