The First Edition of the Gospel of John (1)

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by Neil Godfrey

The Gospel of John is notorious for its several awkward transitions and these have led a number of scholars to argue that the present Gospel we know is quite different from what must have been its first edition. A recent discussion led to the question of what scholarly publications there are on the original version of the Gospel of John. That sent me back scrambling to dig out what I was sure I must have read a few years ago in a work commended as a must-read to anyone interested in serious studies of the Gospel of John.

A leading scholar on the Gospel of John, John Ashton, has proposed the passages I list below were not part of the original work. Ashton is not suggesting that a later edition had a different author — at least not in its entirety. The stylistic argument indicates that in several instances the same author returned at a later date and under different circumstances to his work to add additional material.

Most interesting is the proposal that the “Cleansing of the Temple” scene was originally in the same place as it is found in the Gospel of Mark — just prior to the Passion of Jesus — and that it was later moved to its present location (chapter 2) to make way for the later addition of the Raising of Lazarus.

At the end of the list of passages that did not belong to the author’s original draft I set out a scholarly reconstruction of the sequence from chapter 10 on. A future post will hopefully complete what I begin here. (Quotations are from John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel.)

Remove chapter 21

Ashton acknowledges four modern scholars (Thyen, Minear, Frey and Keener) who do defend the authenticity of this chapter but sides with the majority to dispute it.

Chapter 21:

[1] After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself.

[2] There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.

[3] Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

[4] But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

[5] Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No.

[6] And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

[7] Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.

[8] And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes.

[9] As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

[10] Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught.

[11] Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, and hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

[12] Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

[13] Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise.

[14] This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

[15] So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

[16] He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

[17] He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

[18] Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

[19] This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

[20] Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

[21] Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

[22] Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

[23] Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

[24] This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

[25] And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Remove chapters 15, 16, 17

Wellhausen argued in 1907 that the original farewell discourse ended at chapter 14 and his arguments have continued to garner support, says Ashton. Chapters 15 to 16 presuppose a very different situation: “the community has become a ghetto, and the commandment of faith in chapter 14 . . . has been replaced by a love commandment that is markedly less universal than the ‘love your enemies’ of the Sermon on the Mount.” Chapter 17 was probably added by the original author at a later period.


[1] I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

[2] Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

[3] Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

[4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

[5] I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

[6] If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

[7] If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

[8] Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

[9] As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

[10] If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

[11] These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

[12] This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

[13] Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

[14] Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

[15] Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

[16] Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

[17] These things I command you, that ye love one another.

[18] If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

[19] If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

[20] Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

[21] But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

[22] If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

[23] He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

[24] If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

[25] But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

[26] But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

[27] And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.


[1] These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

[2] They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

[3] And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

[4] But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

[5] But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?

[6] But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

[7] Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

[8] And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

[9] Of sin, because they believe not on me;

[10] Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

[11] Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

[12] I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

[13] Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

[14] He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

[15] All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

[16] A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

[17] Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?

[18] They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.

[19] Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?

[20] Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

[21] A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

[22] And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

[23] And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

[24] Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

[25] These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.

[26] At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:

[27] For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

[28] I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.

[29] His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

[30] Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

[31] Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?

[32] Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

[33] These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


[1] These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

[2] As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

[3] And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

[4] I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

[5] And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

[6] I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

[7] Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

[8] For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

[9] I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

[10] And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

[11] And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

[12] While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

[13] And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

[14] I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

[15] I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

[16] They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

[17] Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

[18] As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

[19] And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

[24] Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

[25] O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

[26] And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Remove chapter 6

This chapter has been added subsequently to the first composition.

“Elsewhere in his Gospel, when Jesus moves from one place to another the evangelist says so [e.g. 2:2, 12, 13; 3:22; 4:3, 43, 46; 5:1; 7:10; 10:22, 40; 11:54; 12:1, 12-14]. Why not here? The Gospel records in 6:1 that Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, but says not a word about how he got to Galilee in the first place. Why not? Lindars’s answer, elegant and economic . . . is surely the best of many solutions on offer. . . . It should be observed that the relationship between Jesus and ‘the Jews’ is very different in the two chapters [5 & 6]. As happens so often, internal dissension is accompanied by a slackening of hostility towards enemies from without. The implacably resentful persecutors of the previous chapter have given way to groups of people divided among themselves. Jesus’ interlocutors, though often referred to by the vague term ‘crowd’, continue nevertheless to be called [the Jews] (6:4, 41, 520. In this chapter however their ‘grumbling’ (. . . v.41) is prompted more by bewilderment than by a real antagonism. The best explanation of this change of attitude is that the two chapters represent different stages of the community’s relationship with ‘the Jews’. (pp. 47-8)


[1] After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

[2] And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

[3] And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

[4] And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

[5] When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

[6] And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

[7] Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

[8] One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

[9] There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

[10] And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

[11] And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

[12] When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

[13] Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

[14] Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

[15] When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

[16] And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,

[17] And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.

[18] And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.

[19] So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

[20] But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

[21] Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

[22] The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;

[23] (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

[24] When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

[25] And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

[26] Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

[27] Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

[28] Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

[29] Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

[30] They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

[31] Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

[32] Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

[33] For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

[34] Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

[35] And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

[36] But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

[37] All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

[38] For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

[39] And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

[40] And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

[41] The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

[42] And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

[43] Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

[44] No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

[45] It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

[46] Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

[47] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

[48] I am that bread of life.

[49] Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

[50] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

[51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

[52] The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

[53] Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

[54] Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

[55] For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

[56] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

[57] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

[58] This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

[59] These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

[60] Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

[61] When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

[62] What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

[63] It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

[64] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

[65] And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

[66] From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

[67] Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

[68] Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

[69] And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

[70] Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

[71] He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

Remove chapter 11 (mostly)

“Compared with what precedes and what follows, the attitude of ‘the Jews’ in chapter 11 is relatively relaxed and unthreatening, a fact that Lindars recognized when he alludes to Brown’s telling observation that here and in 12:9. 11 ‘the Jews’ are ‘the people of Jerusalem who are favourably disposed to Jesus.’ THis feature is an additional argument in support of Lindars’s proposal that chapter 11 too should be classed among the supplementary material that did not figure in the first edition.” (p. 127)

There is more to the argument here but I cover much of this in the section at the end of this post addressing the original order of the episodes in the Gospel of John.


[1] Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

[2] (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

[3] Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

[4] When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

[5] Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

[6] When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

[7] Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.

[8] His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

[9] Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

[10] But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

[11] These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

[12] Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

[13] Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

[14] Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

[15] And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

[16] Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

[17] Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

[18] Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

[19] And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

[20] Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

[21] Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

[22] But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

[23] Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

[24] Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

[25] Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

[26] And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

[27] She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

[28] And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

[29] As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.

[30] Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.

[31] The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

[32] Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

[33] When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

[34] And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

[35] Jesus wept.

[36] Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

[37] And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

[38] Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

[39] Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

[40] Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

[41] Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

[42] And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

[43] And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

[44] And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

[45] Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

[46] But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. . . . .

[54] Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.

[55] And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.

[56] Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?

[57] Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.

But not 12?

Ashton disagrees with Brown that chapter 12 was also (entirely) a later addition. It is improbable, Ashton reasons, that any edition of the gospel lacked some transition between the public ministry and the Passion episode — i.e. chapter 12.

Remove also 3:31-36 and 10:1-18

These belong to later, more reflective stages of the life of the community.

Bultmann was surely right, says Ashton, that 10:19-21 belong to the context of chapter 9. Between the end of chapter 9 and the beginning of chapter 10 the situation has changed. The story of the blind man represents a turning point in the history of the Johannine community. No longer a fringe group with an uneasy but real relationship with the centre, they now become an entirely new community, a church. Their enemies are no longer the bad shepherds from within (c.f. Ezekiel’s parable) but the robbers from without.

Chapter 3

 [31] He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

[32] And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

[33] He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

[34] For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

[35] The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

[36] He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


[1] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

[2] But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

[3] To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

[4] And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

[5] And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

[6] This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

[7] Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

[8] All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

[9] I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

[10] The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

[11] I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

[12] But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

[13] The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

[14] I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

[15] As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

[16] And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

[17] Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

[18] No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Don’t even mention chapter 8:1-11

This is the woman taken in adultery section. This does not even feature in the index of John Ashton’s study of the Gospel of John.


[1] Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

[2] And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

[3] And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

[4] They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

[5] Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

[6] This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

[7] So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

[8] And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

[9] And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

[10] When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

[11] She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

The Original Order from chapter 10 to the Passion scenes

Ashton finds Lindars’s argument for the original order of John’s chapters persuasive. Lindars says that the evangelist rearranged some of his original work to accommodate new material such as the raising of Lazarus. It is to this new material that the sequel of 11:54-7 and the comment of 12:9-11 belong. The original order according to Lindars from chapter 10 on is:

1. Chapter 10:19-39

[19] There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.

[20] And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?

[21] Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

[22] And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.

[23] And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.

[24] Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

[25] Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.

[26] But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

[28] And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

[29] My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

[30] I and my Father are one.

[31] Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

[32] Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?

[33] The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

[34] Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

[35] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;

[36] Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

[37] If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

[38] But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

[39] Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,

2. Chapter 12:12-19 – The Triumphal Entry

[12] On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

[13] Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

[14] And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,

[15] Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

[16] These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

[17] The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

[18] For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

[19] The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.

3.  Chapter 2:13-22 – The Cleansing of the Temple

[13] And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,

[14] And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

[15] And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

[16] And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

[17] And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

[18] Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?

[19] Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

[20] Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

[21] But he spake of the temple of his body.

[22] When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

4. Chapter 11:47-53 – The Priests’ Plot

[47] Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

[48] If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

[49] And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

[50] Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

[51] And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

[52] And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

[53] Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

5. Chapter 12:20-26 – The Story of the Greeks

[20] And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

[21] The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

[22] Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

[23] And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

[24] Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

[25] He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

[26] If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

6. Chapter 12:27-36a – Sayings associated with the Last Passion Prediction

[27] Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

[28] Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

[29] The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

[30] Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

[31] Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

[32] And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

[33] This he said, signifying what death he should die.

[34] The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

[35] Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

[36] While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. . . .

7. Chapter 12:1-8 – Anointing at Bethany

[1] Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

[2] There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

[3] Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

[4] Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

[5] Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

[6] This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

[7] Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

[8] For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

8. Chapter 12:37-43 – First of the two epilogues

[37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

[38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

[39] Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

[40] He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

[41] These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

[42] Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

[43] For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Chapter 12:44-50 – Lindars thinks this second epilogue is a subsequent edition.

[44] Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

[45] And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

[46] I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

[47] And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

[48] He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

[49] For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

[50] And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

The suggestion that the Temple episode has been moved to allow room for the later insertion of the Lazarus miracle is not new and Ashton adds W. Wilkens name to Lindars as an advocate for it as part of a second edition of the gospel. If the Lazarus episode is later, then something has to account for the next few verses where the priests hurriedly hold a meeting to determine to execute Jesus. The Temple episode, placed where it was originally in Mark’s Gospel (Ashton regularly writes as if the author of the Gospel of John knew the Gospel of Mark) would explain these verses. Further, the raising of Lazarus is not an overtly political act that would account for the need to remove Jesus. The current position of the Temple cleansing (in chapter 2) does suit John’s purpose well, but is unlikely to have been located here in John’s source.

There is more to this but the argument is more complex and I will continue it once I dig up the trick for creating tables in wordpress once again — they will make it easier to present the rest of Ashton’s discussion.

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13 thoughts on “The First Edition of the Gospel of John (1)”

  1. In my own blog I wrote an article
    in which I explain why the temple-cleansing story is placed at the beginning of John.

    To summarize that article here, I explain that the first part of John is a meditation about various methods of purification — by light, by water, by the spirit, by breezes, by visions, etc. This meditation leads into the discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus about the methods that suffice for the rebirth of a person. The best method is purification by a spirit, which comes down from heaven like a breeze.

    This spiritual method is superior because it is part of the cosmic interaction between Heaven and Earth. When Jesus first addresses his first disciples, he tells them: “You will see greater proofs than this. You will even see Heaven open and the angels of God coming back and forth to me, the Messiah”. So, the best understanding and purification comes from engaging oneself into that spiritual interaction that goes up and down between Earth and Heaven.

    This remark about angels shuttling back and forth between Heaven and Earth is followed immediately by the story of changing lustral water into wine, which is followed immediately by the story of the cleansing of the Temple, which is followed immediately by the discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus.

    So, John’s Chapter 1 is about the superior, spiritual, abstract methods of purification (words, light, breezes and angels from Heaven), and then Chapter 2 is about the inferior, physical, objective methods (washing with lustral water, sacrificing animals at a Temple), and then Chapter 3 is about Nicodemus asking Jesus to clarify these various purification methods with regard to a person being reborn and living eternally. (Read my article for elaboration.)

    In other words, the story of the cleansing of the Temple is in its early place in John for a valid reason — this story is part of a logical sequence of meditations about various, superior and inferior methods of purification. Sacrificing animals is an example of an inferior method, because it has become a mercantile, monetary business.

    Therefore, the Temple-cleansing story never was at the end of John.

  2. I find this subject fascinating. Reading this on first pass, I was tempted to review what passages were included in Heracleon’s commentary on the Gospel of John. It is unfortunate we only have fragments remaining, but his commentary is important in that it is the first known commentary (by way of Origin later) of this gospel.

    The Heracleon fragments coincide with passages that John Ashton would retain as originals. Of course, we cannot come to any definite conclusions as to what might be missing. What struck me, though, was this archive note on the online page of Heracleon’s commentary:

    (To make the readings more intelligible, the text from the Gospel of John receiving commentary is supplied in brackets when it has been omitted in the original fragment.)

    Even though all the text is supplied in brackets with a modern designation of Chapter 2 for the “cleansing of the temple” scene, we would be remiss in making an assumption one way or another whether Heracleon was referring to an early scene in the gospel. What is Ashton’s reasoning for an originally later scene location? Just because of the Gospel of Mark?

    Actually, an early scene makes sense in Heracleon’s commentary as we see him describe a progression through material, psychic, and spiritual realms. In Fragment 11 “Capernaum, means these farthest-out parts of the world, the material realm into which he descended.” (John 2:12). Then in Fragment 13, “the ascent to Jerusalem signifies the ascent of the Lord from material realm things to the animate (psychic) place, which is an image of Jerusalem.” (John 2:13-16). And by the time we get to Fragment 17, John 4:12-15, we see spiritual references and that “living water”.

    That brings up a question as to dating. Does Ashton provide ideas for original dating, in addition to dates of later possible revisions?
    From a Wace introduction, Heracleon’s commentary on John’s gospel was probably written around 170 C.E.:

    The date of Heracleon is of interest on account of his use of St. John’s Gospel, which clearly had attained high authority when he wrote. The mere fact, however, that a book was held in equal honour by the Valentinians and the orthodox seems to prove that it must have attained its position before the separation of the Valentinians from the church; and, if so, it is of less importance to determine the exact date of Heracleon. The decade 170-180 may probably be fixed for the centre of his activity. This would not be inconsistent with his having been personally instructed by Valentinus, who continued to teach as late as 160, and would allow time for Heracleon to have gained celebrity before Clement wrote, one of whose references to Heracleon is in what was probably one of his earliest works. He had evidently long passed from the scene when Origen wrote. (Neander, Gen. Entwick. 143, and Ch. Hist. ii. 135; Heinrici, Val. Gnosis, 127; Westcott, N. T. Canon. 299.) The Gk. text of The Fragments of Heracleon has been ed. with intro. and notes by A. E. Brooke (Camb. Univ. Press).

  3. As for the reason Ashton believes the Gospel of John originally had the Temple scene late and not early is that the reaction of the priests — wanting Jesus killed for fear the Romans would suspect them of tolerating sedition — makes more sense as a response to the Temple action than it does to the non-political act of the raising of Lazarus. The Lazarus episode has other indications in it that locate it at a later time, too. Will address these in next post.

    John is written in the style of a “gospel” and its formal similarities to this format make best sense if John knew one of the synoptics.

    As for dating, I don’t see a discussion of the date in Ashton. He does not seem to depart from the commonly accepted view that it is around late first century.

    He does stress, however, that the later second edition of the Gospel was by the same author as the first. Other smaller redactions were made by others still later.

    1. What’s your take on the way everyone after Mark has a problem with Jesus saying “…a house of prayer for all nations?” It seems clear the the whole point of Isaiah 56:6-7 is to say that nobody who follows the law will be excluded:

      6. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

      7. Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

      So what’s Luke and Matthew’s problem with it? And if you think John followed Mark (which I do), why did he change the quote altogether? For that matter, why did John change “den of thieves” into a “house of merchandise”?

      For John the defilement of the Temple is not specifically that the money-changers and animal vendors are cheating the people, but the fact that they’re present at all. That doesn’t make sense. You couldn’t buy animals for sacrifice with Roman coins, and nobody would expect a pilgrim to travel across country, toting his own sacrificial animals. Is John simply naive?

      I suspect I’m missing some big theological ramifications that would make sense of these edits.

      1. I don’t have an answer but I do have speculative guesses that are free, deletable or debatable, but nonreturnable.

        Mark’s gospel explained how Jesus united Jews and Gentiles. Mark’s Jesus criss-crossed the “sea” of Galilee to perfor a miracle and deliver a message to the Jews on one side, and then to perform and deliver a comparable set on the other side where Gentiles lived. This idea is lifted straight from Kelber. I go one step further and suggest that Galilee was chosen as the locale for Jesus’ appearance for this very reason: Isaiah 9 speaks of it as the place “of nations” where the Divine Light is to appear.

        So why wouldn’t “Mark” jump at the chance to include a quotation from Isaiah that likewise testifies to Jews and Gentiles all praying to The One True God © at the temple?

        Matthew on the other hand, as I have tried to show a few times now, adapts Mark’s stories in a way to make them sound a little less symbolic and a little more realistic. He also has a strict timetable. None of Mark’s Jew-Gentile “one loaf” business is found anywhere in Matthew. The gentiles are only allowed in the door after Jesus finally sees the light when he returns from the dead. Till then it is strictly “go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” only. The pre-deceased Jesus will only accept a gentile if she first demonstrates a willingness to compare her genetic heritage to that of the dogs eating scraps beneath the table.

        Besides, let’s get real here. The Temple was destroyed — long dead and gone — when Matthew wrote. How could any realistic tale have Jesus predict it would become a place for ecumenical worship?

        Then we have John who hasn’t the slightest interest in any physical — least of all Jewish (uggh!) — Temple. For John Jesus himself is The Temple. What interest can he have in any Jewish (uggh!) temple being a place for contact with God?

        Then we finally come to Luke who had all those sources before him and that he needed to put into some sort of (catholicizing and anti-Marcionite) order. He also had Acts in mind and that was where he planned the gentile ministry to start. And again, the temple was long gone by the time he wrote. No plausible narrative could have readers expect to see gentiles come along and worship with Jews at the site that was destroyed so thoroughly in the year 70 (and doubly thoroughly ca 135). The Temple was a significant backdrop in Luke-Acts in order to trounce Marcion. But its doors were finally shut (Acts 21:31) when Paul was arrested and was about to set on his journey to Rome.

        As for John changing den of thieves for house of merchandise, it looks to me like he has jumped from Jeremiah’s den of thieves to Zechariah’s “Canaanite” (=”merchant”). That’s another speculative guess. I’m sure I’ve read the definitive answer somewhere but will need to take time to recall where . . . .

      2. “For that matter, why did John change ‘den of thieves’ into a ‘house of merchandise’? … I suspect I’m missing some big theological ramifications that would make sense of these edits” – (Tim Widowfield)


        If you are interested, I have proposed elsewhere (see the last few posts in “The Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius of Antioch”) that John’s Gospel may be a reworked proto-orthodox version of the Gospel of Apelles (the “Manifestations”). If so, this could explain why its author considered the Jewish Temple to be nothing more than a “house of merchandise.” Apelles claimed that Judaism was largely based on fables and falsehoods. So, in line with this, he likely viewed as false the Jewish claim that the Temple was “the Father’s house.” For the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel the “Father’s house” was in heaven: “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:2). Apelleans may have blamed the false and fabulous Jewish Scriptures for trying to pass off a house of merchandise as being the Father’s house. And that may be why in the Fourth Gospel Jesus uses the imperative: “Destroy this temple.”

        The early record says that Apelles, to defend his picking-and-choosing of which texts were authentic Scripture, appealed to the words of Jesus: “Become trustworthy money-changers.” If these words were part of the original text the most obvious place for them to be located would be here in the Cleansing of the Temple scene. Did Jesus reproach the money-changers for their service of a bogus religion? The words “Become trustworthy money-changers” did not survive the proto-orthodox transformation of Apelles’ text into the Gospel of John. The proto-orthodox did not want people picking-and-choosing on their own; they would do any picking-and-choosing of texts for them.

        One last note: the text as it currently stands shows another sign of tampering. When the passage begins the word “kermatistes” is used for “money-changers” (Jn. 2:14). But in the very next verse a switchover occurs to the word that the Synoptics Matthew and Mark use for them (“kollubistes”).

    2. We can discern two questions as separate:

      1. Where is the Temple-cleansing incident supposed to be in the sequence of events?

      2. Where is the Temple-cleansing incident supposed to be in the presentation of concepts?

      Even if the Temple-cleansing incident was supposed to be late in the sequence of events, the author might have placed it early in his presentation of concepts. John includes a lot of meditations, musings, metaphors among his narratives. I think that the author’s train of thought was not governed as strongly by the narrative sequence as by a sequence of mystical concepts, and this latter sequence is difficult for mere readers to grasp. I imagine that originally the work was supposed to be read with the guidance of a mystical master who used the text to guide the readers through the sequence of mystical concepts.

      The water-into-wine story is followed immediately by the Temple-cleansing story. This sequence does not mean that the events happened thus, but rather that show how Jesus Christ rejected two ancient purification methods — lustral water and animal sacrifice. He appropriated a household’s large reserve of lustral water and turned it into wine for a wedding. And he attacked the vulnerable money-changing element right outside the huge animal-sacrificing Temple.

      Those two rejections prompt Nicodemus to ask Jesus what are Jesus’s alternatives for purifying ones’ self, for being born again. Jesus responds that a person should use spirits as the purification method.

      For me, therefore, it seems quite reasonable that the Temple-cleansing story is where the author originally placed it in his work.

      1. Just two points for now:

        (1) John 2 does not mention animal sacrifice but dwells heavily on details of purchasing, marketing, buying, selling. That is the conclusion: “You have made the Temple into a merchantdise store!” Of course the reader knows that the animals are for sacrifice, but that concept is not part of the narrative. Let’s stick to the evidence of what we read in the narrative. That is our best clue to the meaning the author wanted to convey.

        (2) Nicodemus does not follow on from this temple incident. Nicodemus speaks of the performance of miracles. Jesus performed no miracle at the temple.

        1. (1) John’s mentioning the purpose of the animals marketed here might have seemed unnecessary since they were only purchased for sacrifice in this circumstance. That’s an implicit part of the story, even though not explicitly stated. One possibility could be that there are different layers of meaning intended by John, theologically. At least Origen, another early commentator on John, seemed to provide various ideas — obvious ones, starting with “the merchandise store”, and then going deeper in “Commentary on John (Book X), 16. The Story of the Purging of the Temple Spiritualized. Taken Literally, It Presents Some Very Difficult and Unlikely Features.”

          He found in the temple, certainly, which is said to be the house of the Father of the Saviour, that is, in the church or in the preaching of the ecclesiastical and sound word, some who were making His Father’s house a house of merchandise. And at all times Jesus finds some of this sort in the temple. For in that which is called the church, which is the house of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, when are there not some money-changers sitting who need the strokes of the scourge Jesus made of small cords, and dealers in small coin who require to have their money poured out and their tables overturned? When are there not those who are inclined to merchandise, but need to be held to the plough and the oxen, that having put their hand to it and not turning round to the things behind them, they may be fit for the kingdom of God? When are there not those who prefer the mammon of unrighteousness to the sheep which give them the material for their true adornment? And there are always many who look down on what is sincere and pure and unmixed with any bitterness or gall, and who, for the sake of miserable gain, betray the care of those tropically called doves. When, therefore, the Saviour finds in the temple, the house of His Father, those who are selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting, He drives them out, using the scourge of small cords which He has made, along with the sheep and oxen of their trade, and pours out their stock of coin, as not deserving to be kept together, so little is it worth. He also overturns the tables in the souls of such as love money, saying even to those who sell doves, “Take these things hence,” that they may no longer traffic in the house of God. But I believe that in these words He indicated also a deeper truth, and that we may regard these occurrences as a symbol of the fact that the service of that temple was not any longer to be carried on by the priests in the way of material sacrifices, and that the time was coming when the law could no longer be observed, however much the Jews according to the flesh desired it…


          But it may also be the case that the natural temple is the soul skilled in reason, which, because of its inborn reason, is higher than the body; to which Jesus ascends from Capernaum, the lower-lying place of less dignity, and in which, before Jesus’ discipline is applied to it, are found tendencies which are earthly and senseless and dangerous, and things which have the name but not the reality of beauty, and which are driven away by Jesus with His word plaited out of doctrines of demonstration and of rebuke, to the end that His Father’s house may no longer be a house of merchandize but may receive, for its own salvation and that of others, that service of God which is performed in accordance with heavenly and spiritual laws.

          (2) Both Origen and Heracleon, who I mentioned earlier, made sense of Jesus going “up” to Jerusalem at the beginning of the cleansing scene. Without this scene and this explicit reference to “up”, Jesus would have gone down to Capernaum for a few days and then just shown up in Jerusalem during the Passover (John 2:23), at most providing a vague allusion to an upward direction, if at all. If John 2:13-22 were inserted as a later revision preceding John 2:23 , there was a conveniently common Passover reference. And whether or not originally placed early in John’s gospel, the cleansing scene became a piece of strong connecting tissue for the recurring down and then up motif that also encased the whole gospel with Jesus Christ coming down in the beginning to live “among us” and then ultimately being raised after crucifixion.

          In Cana Jesus performed the “first of his signs” followed by Jesus going down to Capernaum and then up to Jerusalem, where he responded in symbolic fashion to a request about showing a sign in the temple cleansing scene. It might matter more functionally that Jesus talked about a sign instead of performing a miracle at some times when he was talking about himself. So, yes, even though the cleansing scene did not provide miracle performance, it was not necessary to show Jesus’s continuing sign activity because John 2:23 that followed mentioned signs that he had been doing in Jerusalem. And this preceded Nicodemus speaking of signs performed by Jesus. However, Jesus’s response to the sign question back in the temple did illustrate the fact that the Jews did not understand Jesus’s meaning when he talked about destroying the temple (of his body) and raising it up. Then, after Jesus’s rather cryptic public discussion at the temple (only later did even the disciples figure it out), Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. It was here that Jesus developed in greater detail his role (again talking, not performing), this time in secret, not publicly, and there was baptism reference with mention of “water and spirit” to enter the kingdom. In the cleansing scene, as Jesus had talked about destroying the temple (his body) and then raising it up, so in the later scene with Nicodemus did he talk about the importance of being born from above in order to see the kingdom of god and that no one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven.

          Down and then back up.

            1. You are very kind, Tim. Thank you.

              Neil, who is so well-read, has graciously offered a forum where we can throw out our ideas when the mood strikes – “free, deletable or debatable,” as Neil says. (By the way, the first time I saw that in Neil’s comment, I thought it read “delectable”.)

              I likewise enjoy your independent thinking reflected in your comments, Tim. I’ve learned a lot here and continue to learn from all the contributors who freely share their time and thoughts.

              “Cakemix”. Oh, my. lol

  4. OOps, first time on Vridar,
    I spent considerable time doing my own independant studies on gJohn and yes, I found many later additions and even reshuffling on the original text (possibly written as early as 75). However my work in many cases does not seem to agree with Ashton, except for the placement of Jesus’ tantrum in the temple.
    Among my conlusions, at first the author had gMark to work with, then added up a lot at a time after gLuke got known, then a bit more some time after Acts appeared, then finally right after John the presbyter (not the fisherman) died. Each time the ending got extended, from 20:10 (the original one), then to 20:23, then to 20:31, and finally to 21:25.
    I did not look for theological reasons for this reconstruction, but for discontinuities and textual oddities.
    All fits and gives a very embarrassing view of the development of Johannine Christianity (and a certain gospel in particular).
    For the ones interested, here is my intro webpage:

  5. What is the thought on the parallels between the resurrection of Lazarus story and Osiris. My understanding is in Hebrew , the name Lazarus is almost the same as Osiris, and more. Im just interested in the myth connection give the recent discussions about Jesus.

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