The Prologue of the Gospel of John as Jewish Midrash

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by Neil Godfrey

While writing a post relating the Logos, Word, of the Gospel of John’s Prologue to hitherto longstanding Jewish ideas I came across the following explanation of “the formal characteristics of Midrash as a mode of reading Scripture” that requires a separate post or full quotation. It is a portion of an article by Daniel Boyarin that is based on an article by David Stern in The Jewish New Testament, “Midrash and Parables in the New Testament“.

One of the most characteristic forms of Midrash is a homily on a scriptural passage or extract from the Pentateuch that invokes, explicitly or implicitly, texts from either the Prophets or the Hagiographa (Gk “holy writings”: specifically, very frequently Psalms, Song of Songs, or Wisdom literature) as the framework of ideas and language that is used to interpret and expand the Pentateuchal text being preached. This interpretive practice is founded on a theological notion of the oneness of Scripture as a self-interpreting text, especially on the notion that the laer books are a form of interpretation of the Five Books of Moses. Gaps are not filled with philosophical ideas but with allusions to or citations of other texts.

The first five verses of the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel fit this form nearly perfectly. The verses being preached are the opening verses of Genesis, and the text that lies in the background as interpretive framework is Proverbs 8.22–31. The primacy of Genesis as text being interpreted explains why we have here Logos and not “Wisdom.” In an intertextual interpretive practice such as a midrash, imagery and language may be drawn from a text other than the one under interpretation, but the controlling language of the discourse is naturally the text that is being interpreted and preached. The preacher of the Prologue to John had to speak of Logos here, because his homiletical effort is directed at the opening verses of Genesis, with their majestic: “And God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” It is the “saying” of God that produces the light, and indeed through this saying, every thing was made that was made.

Philo, like others, identifies Sophia and the Logos as a single entity. Consequently, nothing could be more natural than for a preacher, such as the composer of John 1, to draw from the book of Proverbs the figure, epithets, and qualities of the second God (second person), the companion of God and agent of God in creation; for the purposes of interpreting Genesis, however, the preacher would need to focus on the linguistic side of the coin, the Logos, which is alone mentioned explicitly in that text. In other words, the text being interpreted is Genesis, therefore the Word; the text from which the interpretive material is drawn is Proverbs, hence the characteristics of Wisdom:

1. In the beginning was the Word,
      And the Word was with God,
2. And the Word was God.
      He was in the beginning with God.
3. All things were made through him,
      and without him was not anything made that
        was made.
4. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
      did not receive it.

The assertion that the Word was with God is easily related to Proverbs 8.30, “Then I [wisdom] was beside him,” and even to Wisdom of Solomon 9.9, “With thee is wisdom.” As is frequently the case in rabbinic midrash, the gloss on the verse being interpreted is dependent on a later biblical text that is alluded to but not explicitly cited. The Wisdom texts, especially Proverbs 8, had become commonplaces in the Jewish interpretive tradition of Genesis 1. Although, paradoxically, John 1.1–5 is our earliest example of this, the form is so abundant in late antique Jewish writing that it can best be read as the product of a common tradition shared by (some) messianic Jews and (some) non-messianic Jews. Thus the operation of John 1.1 can be compared with the Palestinian Targum to this very verse, which translates “In the beginning” by “With Wisdom God created,” clearly also alluding to the Proverbs passage. “Beginning” is read in the Targumim sometimes as Wisdom, and sometimes as the Logos, Memra: By a Beginning—Wisdom—God created.

In light of this evidence, the Fourth Gospel is not a new departure in the history of Judaism in its use of Logos theology, but only, if even this, in its incarnational Christology. John 1.1–5 is not a hymn, but a midrash, that is, it is not a poem but a homily on Genesis 1.1–5. The very phrase that opens the Gospel, “In the beginning,” shows that creation is the focus of the text. The rest of the Prologue shows that the midrash of the Logos is applied to the appearance of Jesus. Only from John 1.14, which announces that the “Word became flesh,” does the Christian narrative begins to diverge from synagogue teaching. Until v. 14, the Johannine prologue is a piece of perfectly unexceptional non-Christian Jewish thoughtthat has been seamlessly woven into the Christological narrative of the Johannine community.

I need to update my series on the meaning of midrash. There are major implications here for the gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark.

Boyarin, Daniel. 2011. “Logos, a Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash.” In The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, 546–49. New York: Oxford University Press.


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35 thoughts on “The Prologue of the Gospel of John as Jewish Midrash”

  1. I offer here my own translation of John 1:1ff. I do not think the text is saying Jesus was in the beginning with god, but that the logos was in the beginning with god.

    In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was present to god, and the logos was god. This logos was in the beginning present to god. All things came into being through it, and without it not even one thing came to be—whatever has already come to be.

    In it was life, and the life was the light given to men. And the light continues shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not lay hold of it.

    A man appeared, having been sent from god.His name was John. This man came to bear personal testimony, so that he might bear personal testimony about this light, so that everyone might believe through him.

    That man was not the light, but only that he might bear personal testimony connected witthis light. It was the true light , which enlightens every man who comes into the world. It was in the world, and through it the world came into being, yet the world did not recognize it.

    It came to is very own domain of men, but its very own did not receive it. But as many as those who did receive the Logos , it gave authoritative power to become children of god, to those who believe in its/his name. These are the ones who are born, not from various blood lines, neither out of the intent of the flesh, nor by the will of a man, but from god.

    And the logos made a transition to flesh and tabernacled among us, and we gazed at the glory of it/him , glory as an only begotten one from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    I will skip vss. 15-17 here. Then there is 1:18

    Absolutely no one has seen god at any time whatsoever. The only begotten son of god, the one who is actively present in the deepest parts of the father has taken the lead to disclose him.

    In my own study of JohnG over the years I have taken the prologue to be a setup for the whole book. One should note all the other places where logos and logoi occur and you will see much more than you could have imagined if tied to the prologue and even the ending, which I think ends with John 20:30ff and not Jn. 21 (a later composition) to save face for Peter’s apostasy.

    And note, throughout the entire gospel a collocation is made between the word or words of Jesus and his works or the father’s works

    Thanks Neil for these studies on JohnG which is so radical it causes lots of charlie horses between the ears when you read it. I find Jesus in this gospel dissing the earlier carriers of the word and only Jesus knows god because he is in the father’s kolia / the father’s womb, the belly of the father, where Jesus was born, and no one else knows god, especially the Jews!!! A full blown Jewish “gnostic” in my view .

  2. Our good rabbi Boyarin makes a fairly good case that the Johannaian “word”
    or Greek “logos,” and “light” – and indeed all wisdom – are entirely and absolutely Jewish in nature and origin.

    However, it is well known to scholars that Wisdom literature itself in particular, like Ecclesiastes especially, often questions, doubts Jewish religion. And often therefore seems to come from not from fastidiously Jewish sayings. Solomon is the personification of wisdom; but some Jews warned he had many too foreign wives. And in effect, influences.

    Then too, to claim John as entirely Jewish, we have to ignore the fact that logos is a major Greek word, and one very deeply central to Greek philosophy well before John, and likely before most and possibly all Jewish usages.

    To be sure there was “wisdom” and “light” in ancient Jewish lit. But the case has been made in Vridar that even Genesis (and its light, we add) show say, Greek influences.

    So however much we admire Boyarin, some might feel this is not his strongest work. Though to be sure, no doubt Jewish thought had its own versions of many ideas found throughout the ANE, we might question whether Jews were the origin of all of them; or borrowed nothing from earlier pagan sources. Or whether Christianity might be said to have come entirely from the Jewish god, and no other gods before him, as apologists insist.

    1. Wisdom being at the side of god from the beginning like you find in the Hebrew scriptures is found in ancient Egyptian religion too. Probably originates from there, unless the Jews and Egyptians came up with the same concept separately.

      The Invention of God by Thomas Romer

      Another way of compensating for the disappearance of the goddess is the personification of wisdom… In Proverbs 8, Wisdom herself speaks, presenting herself as a goddess who was at the side of Yhwh even before the creation of the world… Wisdom appears here as a daughter of Yhwh, begotten by him during the creation of the universe; to some extant she is a mediatrix between Yhwh and men

      Compare the Hebrew ‘Wisdom’ to the Egyptian goddess ‘Maat’:

      The Oxford Companion to World Mythology By David Leeming

      Maat might be seen as a principle analogous to the Logos, divine reason and order. As Christians are told “In the beginning the Word[Logos] already was”(John 1:1), Atum announces that before creation, “when the heavens were asleep, my daughter Maat lived within me and around me.”

  3. One thing to consider, the Jews are on a yearly reading schedule at this time. There is good evidence that in the first century they were following a Triennial Torah cycle, which rolled in the Septennial Torah cycle. If John was following that cycle then as he was writing his gospel then not only would he have used a portion from the Torah but also the psalms/ prophets.(the general practice). From memory I think this Torah portion(Gen 1:1-) would placed this around Passover.

    “we may reasonably assume that Jesus’ synagogue sermons would be remembered, not as isolated units, but against the background of particular seasons or festivals of the Jewish Liturgical year”……….. “not only would the sermon be traditionally associated with a particular season of the year, but also the very themes of that sermon would be drawn from the old testament lessons read on the Sabbath when Jesus preached it.” page 53, – The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship, Aileen Guilding. Oxford Press 1960.

    PS : very good Martin, excellent translation!

  4. …My translation of John here is a piece of my new translation which I am hoping to publish in a year or two called “SCRIBE”

    I wanted to reflect in my translation that it is not Jesus who is “pre-existent” but the Logos. We end up taking the term Jesus in vs. 14 and end up reading it all back into the first 13 verses… Also, it is interesting to note that in this poem or better “proem” there is clearly a polemic..JohnB is not this or that…only Jesus is…

    Again, the gospel dismisses all other lights, truths, shepherds, laws, etc. etc. and sets up Jesus as absolute. It is a highly anti_Jewish gospel…even Moses (etc, ) never saw God!!!!!! contrary to the OT.

    It must be noted as well that Philo spoke of the logos as being present to god (that is God’s dabar (hebrew–God’s word or “speech” or “word”) was with God to create all things) from what I can determine Philo perceived or interpreted this logos as an “angel” or “messenger” who reveals the the things of god to those “seeking” him. BTW at the beginning of John there is this most interesting statement that there were some who were seeking to “see” Jesus.

    And there is a lot in John about “blindness” and those who can’t see, including the disciples..eg. In fact the healing of the blind man becomes the main reason why they want to kill Jesus…way different than the synoptics…!!!!

    Show us the father..(John 14) and Jesus says…don’t you see him when you “see” me…sounds almost heretical…Patripasianism..so much for the Trinity!

    John is simple Greek but one can drown in its shallows… The deeper you go the more you will drown…!!! In every kind of theology you thought you had down pat…You are in trouble…..I would also encourage to watch the debate between Craig Evans and Ehrman on John’s gospel…(see UTube) Evans is demolished by Ehrman and you can see Evans squirming in his seat!!! John is not historical. And Evans has to concede despite his evangelical stance. John’s Gospel is highly theological, parabolical, allegorical..etc. You have no clear how weird it is!! Read in Greek and it is even worse!!

    Jesus’ father is not the father of the Jews…and he himself is a Jew….at least in John’s Gospel.
    Just plain weird..don’t you think.

    I also agree there are clear Hellenistic influences re Logos as “reason, purpose, etc. It is not always easy to indicate the distinctions since Jewish culture assimiliated to Greek thought and culture.

    When I engaged in reading John myself I decided to try on various paradigms and tools..Whenever it said “Jesus”,, I inserted the word Logos instead,and things started to come to surface I had never thought about…

    My two favorite gospels are Mark and John…and there is some things surely in common between the two…

    I would encourage all to note the essays by Neil re Brodies’ thoughts on John, etc.

    If more people could examine Neil’s resources here we would all be better off in determining some very important things in this debate instead of putting forth one piece of biblical bullshit to smell and get sick about… I have been studying this stuff for over 45 years now…and I can’t believe how bad the issues of biblical and theological illiteracy that exist..

    Ps. thanks Mr. Marty for your compliments about my translation… I am not absolutely finished or necessarily totally correct about translation or interpretation of the the greek of John’s Gospel.

    I would also check out the translation of John’s Gospel by my former Ph.D advisor Dr. Julian Hills (Harvard) who has a translation of John’s Gospel in the text The Complete Gospels (edited by Robert J. Miller. )where he translates word as the divine word and wisdom…

    Here is a sample…

    “In the beginning there was the divine word and wisdom.
    The divine word and wisdom was there with God, and it was what God was.

    and the rest is quite interesting as well….

    You will be rewarded beyond your present blessings ….

    Here is a very important aspect of all your deliberations…You must work on the texts themselves rather than reading a lot of secondary literature….you end up putting everything through the filter of secondary lit. Do your own work and then do everything you can to defend your readings… that is true scholarship…

    Thanks again Neil…

    Anyone here…Get ready to have your head spin reading John if you have read the Synoptics…you are going to get a lot of headaches….

    1. “Jesus’ father is not the father of the Jews…and he himself is a Jew….at least in John’s Gospel.”

      I don’t know Martin! I agree with the first statement: “Jesus’ father is not the father of the Jews…”
      But the second? “and he himself is a Jew” I dont know…

      I think that when Jesus says, “before Abraham was born (‘became’ in Hungarian translation), I am!” this is an indication that Jesus is not a descendant of Abraham.

      1. This part (John8:58) anyway, a clear reference for 2Cor10: 12 and Mark 13:6. Paul’s opponents, whos says to themself: “I am”:-) or “measure themselves by themselves”, or who commend themselves, and compare themselves with themselves. Against them Paul and Mark warns. Jesus applies it to himself: “I am.”

    2. John and Mark — yes, they are indeed two sides of the same coin. The author of GJohn has certainly grasped the “ambiguities” and parabolic character of GMark better than anyone since who imagines they see in the GMark something close to mundane history.

      What interests me most about GMark is something that is equally mysterious in GJohn: where does this man Jesus come from? He just appears, like Adam, fully formed and without background except as what is later introduced in order to convey another parable or “prophetic fulfilment”.

  5. Hi Balivi

    Your query is a help for me to clarify…

    I said what I said there to shorten a clear observation that many audiences would perceive Jesus being a Jew…even his own audiences after the audacious things Jesus “the Jew” said..and encapsulated in a highly edited gospel of John by those who would want to claim the gospel for themselves. Ireaneus would have none of it. All the gospels are accidents of history. but look at the treasure we have in trying to recover history and non-history in this gospel is no simple exercise and most apologists (a former one myself) get all tongue-tied when it comes to explicating this gospel…. especially when it comes to John 8-10… Jesus is clear…
    the Jews do not know god…What!!!!!! could a Jew even say such a thing!!! If he wasnt’ a Jew how could he claim such things…. that is a big indicator the stuff is not historical and it may be mystical with all the “I am ” statements that you have expressed….

    It is dangerous to confuse historical and mystical meanings…..

    We must try to stick close to the texts as they have come down to us by accidental history regardless of theological commitments of any kind.

    Over the years I have studied these texts they keep “changing” mysteriously based on all kinds of theologies or lack of them that appear in the text we as “historians” of this kind of such literature attempt to examine on a regular basis. We must do our best with historical-critical methods and must not assume outside what we presently know. Sure you can posit this or that but we must verify such “posit-ions”. Not always easy to do so we need the help of many to do so….. I am just one voice amid all these blogs.

    Bottom line: the NT clearly teaches that Jesus was not your “ordinary” Jew or believer in God..I am not surprised the Jewish followers of Jesus were called a “heresy” and Jesus and Paul were “the leaders”. There is another Charlie Horse for you and the rest of us who seek to really understand these very enigmatical texts… but I love them…not for the same reasons that others might…

    It is all fascinating to those of us here that we can even think and talk about such “scriptures”!! like never before…

    So the Gospel of John is highly subversive of the Synoptics….cool!!!! I think. Too bad for the all the Christian apologists who try to argue otherwise….

    I can see already the prophetic fulfillment of my comments about the Gospel… you are having one of those charlie horses…I mentioned earlier…. about getting in deeper to John’s gospel
    I mean this all with good heart my friend!

    Good swimming in John’s “watery words” (a key to his gospel as well — to reflect Ezekiel, etc in the most incredible midrash on the synoptics and early Jewish-Hellenistic Lit!!

    good luck my friend with all the wild things John’s Gospel conjures up!!!

    1. “that is a big indicator the stuff is not historical and it may be mystical with all the “I am ” statements that you have expressed….”
      Yes I agree. It’s symbolism.

      “It is dangerous to confuse historical and mystical meanings.”
      Yes I agree. But it is just as dangerous to think, about Paul’s Christ, he (Paul) speak of Jesus (as an spiritual, or living entity). Because then we don’t understand the symbolism either.

      I still claim, in the symbolism of Paul, the Christ is the incarnated ‘son’, given to death by God. According to Paul, the incarnation of the ‘son’ happened, when God gave his ‘son’ to death (“…on that night, when…”). Before that, the ‘son’ was a spiritual being. The ‘son’, in his death, became the christ. And this is true, for ALL sons of God 🙂

      That’s why Paul waited for the resurrection of the dead 🙂

      In this consciousness, perhaps John’s symbolism is better understood.

      1. Let me do that, in the Gospel of John Jesus makes signs, and doesn’t do miracles. His acts are the signs, and not the miracles his acts.

        I think this is a deep symbolism.

  6. I should comment here Balivi that whether the words and works of Jesus were taken literally or parabolically or symbolically(john calls them pariomiais -dark sayings or side-sayings) I do not believe them as to their literal or theological import.

    I am not a Christian in any Biblical sense, even if such could be determined what that would entail. There is no call to believe the Bible as a whole in JohnG . One doesn’t even need to believe the synoptics.

    John wants his readers, not some others, to “believe” his stuff re Jesus. The writer is making this quite clear in John 20. That is his agenda. John is a fideist to the core. Worship is in spirit, not in flesh in any building or mountain (Jn 4). John’s gospel is highly absolutistic . Note all the “I ams” These are all absolute claims. There is nothing like this in the Synoptics.

    It must be pointed out too that John’s gospel thinks the glory of God and the lifting up of this god-man in John is not the resurrection but the “death” of Jesus on the cross. Now that is interesting. That is why he can change the day of the crucifixion as well! In major contradiction to the synoptics as well.

    As for resurrection JohnG has no “future” resurrection. He corrects Lazarus’ family who think the resurrection is going to happen in the future. Jesus says it is happening now! In that context, not in some by and by in the future.

    It is all happening “now” for Jesus. Even “now” the ruler of the world” is being cast out.
    John’s eschatology is a highly “realized” eschatology.

    As for Paul’s connection to JohnGos. well, I am aware of shared motifs. What is more interesting is whether or not John 14-16 speaks of the paraclete figure who is like Jesus or another “Jesus” who will come after he is gone. Could this be Paul? Paul the Paraclete? Some interpreters have thought so….

    In any case, it is a mistake to think that John’s gospel is simple to understand. Even John 3:16 is problematic. eg. It is often translated…”God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son… etc. I translate it.. “God loved the world in this manner, that he gave his only begotten son to the world…what world? The world of the Jews!!

    So John’s gospel despite its gnostic and evangelical flavor shows numeous hands trying to get their theologies heard in this gospel. Ireneaus made sure the gnostics would not get to say everything in the gospel.

    Paul speaks of a glorious body of Jesus in the resurrection. There is no such thing in John. John’s Jesus, even after the resurrection bears a wounded body…scared no doubt so the Johannine community can “identify” their particular Jesus!!

    1. I’m not christian, especially not a Calvinist, I don’t think the Sacra Scriptura Sui Ipsius Interpres principle right. Certainly there are contradictions in the Bible, which in this case, you are exactly pointed out. I appreciate your knowledge, I don’t want to teach you. I just want to say that symbols also have meaning.

      good luck

        1. “John’s Jesus, even after the resurrection bears a wounded body…scared no doubt so the Johannine community can “identify” their particular Jesus!!”

          exactly!! very important comment. could these be those who proclaimed another kind of Jesus, in 2Cor11:4? this is possible.

  7. I have thought for sometime that Paul’s “another Jesus” or “another spirit” language which he uses refers to the the christology of the “pillars” who focus extensively as the gospels show on the “physical-flesh based Jesus”.

    Please note that Paul in that context 2 Cor. 11-13 speaks of those who are disguising themselves (and so the satan!!)who is also concerned about righteousness (an issue I will defend in my book called The Deep Things of the satan: Deconstructing the Devil in the Christian Bible.) I do not want to go too far afield here.. so just a bit about that…

    In the OT the satan (collective or singular) works as God’s spy on earth (eg. Job, Zech. etc. who is concerned about supporting and executing God’s righteousness on earth and so his function as “the tester” of all of God’s sons. But he is not “evil” and against God,,,which as I see is simply years and years of anachronistic reading of texts connected with the term or figure(s)…The NT no doubt starts to get real weird in numerous places regarding the satan..
    God is the ultimate tester of Israel and uses others, whether celestial or terrestial to “test” his sons… note also the book of Hebrews… where Israel (ie. Jesus represents them) is tested as God’s son…

    Also note that there is no testing narrative in John.Gos. !! Such an important event is totally excluded from John.. Why? Who would neglect such? Also, there are no exorcisms in John’s gospel.. we actually have the exorcism of the ruler of the world himself.. Really….!!

    Paul seems to suggest that these ministers who have been polluting his congregations (cf. Galatians) are actually coming across as being concerned with righteousness but Paul is highly critical and polemically charged against them.

    The most important thing I have discovered re: changes and deconversion in my life is that the Bible was not written to me or any of us!!!

    The implications of this are so freeing once you give up the authority of the Bible in any way over life. Moreover, no one goes to hell or heaven for having the right “interpretation” of texts or the “wrong” reading!!!

    These texts have great influence. Nice to hear you are not hand-cuffed by the Bible.

    Are you Buddhist in your orientation? I don’t know.

    Also, I am discovering more and more that Paul is quite Stoic in his ethics, etc. BTW the Gospel of John regarding the spirit or pneuma is perceived as a substance — water!!!!

    Anyway, take care my friend and thanks for your respectful comments.


  8. I guess bottom line…

    All attempts at harmonizing John with the rest of the NT ends up in total failure. Give it up folks…not that we should ignore apparent parallels and connections, but overall it is a dead end game… John ends it himself with his own agenda…Believe what I have written here…John 20. It is a part of scholarship to deal with all holes in a text.. Let us be careful though of going too deep down the rabbit hole and getting lost….

    Here is a good tool for all readers of these so intriguing texts… If a writer tells you what he is doing or up to….take him seriously…rather than dissing his own statements in lieu of some other agenda… and then play it through to its possible or probable ends… work though on the probable… listen up Christian apologists.. Don’t appeal to a holy spirit or “another spirit” to make up for real bad hermeneutics, exegesis, philosophy, history, etc. that most of you express.

    I hate Christian apologetic attempts….They actually mess up the Bible again and again and they keeping digging the grave deeper for the inerrancy of the Bible… I hope this assumption will die before I die more and more…Just to see that happen might actually resurrect me from the dead when i get a glimpse of such joy!!

    Get your shit together apologists! Both apologetics and apologists are simply impotent!!!! to convince anyone they have “the truth, the way, and the life”…

    Here again we see the absolutistic apologetic of John’ Gospel..It too is a failure to “doubters” like Thomas…:) and those of us who consider to be his twin as doubters…

    And on that note the text never says Thomas touched him..!!! cool eh!? sorry for the Canadianism.

    1. Honesty demands honesty 🙂

      When I said I’m not a Christian, I also said I’m no longer. But I was. Believe me, I know exactly what it means to be in the Christ. It is actually a changed state of consciousness. I don’t know what caused it in my case, but it happened.
      An accident had to happen to get out of the Christ. A head injury. Strange, but I’m grateful that this has happened 🙂
      Life can bring strange things. The Apostle Paul is not my friend 🙂 The Bible is not my friend. But the John’s gospel helped me to deal with my trauma.
      Buddhist? The Nirvana is nothing more than, to be in the Christ:-) So I’m not a Buddhist, because I’m not in the Christ.
      All religions have the same root 🙂

      All the best, and thanx your words.

  9. Interesting comments and reflections balivi. Take care.

    I would encourage you and others here to find a copy of one of the best books I have read on Jesus Mythicism written long ago by William Benjamin Smith, The Birth of the Gospel, written in 1957… The entire book is incredible and worth hunting for . It contains a chapter called The Spirit of the Fourth Gospel..(pp.95 ff). Readers will be highly rewarded for doing so..

    His other book is Ecce Deus… fantastic read…

    This book is only available online as far as I can tell…It will take a bit to find it… but once you do you will find out so much it will spur you on to some really great ways to think about the nature of the Jesus myth….

    Good luck..

        1. Dear Martin! I was thinking a lot to write, allow one last comment please.

          At a certain point in history, (even if only symbolically, and only exclusively on paper also) the Christ was proclaimed. If we want it, if not. This had a far-reaching impact on history, what feel in today, in fact. The Christian Gnosticism has reappeared. I see people among the fundamentalists, and christians gnoticist, they started to go crazy. They fell so deep into the rabbit cavity, they can no longer go out. I’ve tried many times to help but to no avail. I always come up, against Christian spiritual abuse. So, the history with us.

          If we want to understand, wath was proclaimed Paul, (at the logic of madness, regardless of history, exclusively just looking at the text!!) it is enough, to accept that Jesus (like an antropos) is not the Christ, not son of god. You will know right away, that Paul (or anyone) in realy what is writing.
          Because at Paul, Jesus is not the Christ. Anyway, he doesn’t say this creed anywhere. Ehrman couldn’t tell me an example, in vain I asked.
          The purpose of Paul’s communication, was not to give this faith: Jesus is the Christ. Paul proclaimed the crucified Christ, to send their listeners, to faith in Son of God (like a spiritual person). You know: “from faith, for faith”, or from the visible, into the not visible. Namely Paul, never saw the his revalation’s son.

          But if not Jesus (like an antropos) is the Christ, the son of god, then who is the Christ? (regardless of history, exclusively just looking at the text!!)

          After the revalation of son, in him, Paul start to see the Christ. In the mirror. But after, Paul could never say again, whom he saw in the mirror: “I am.” He saw the christ, and not himself. Because of his faith.

          So thanks, I don’t ask for this 🙂 Then, I would rather think, Jesus is the Christ 🙂
          I’d rather be, who i am, whom I see, and whom you can see, if you are not blind 🙂

          with big respect

  10. Thanks Neil for posting those sources. BTW my position on Jesus as Myth is similar but very different than Carrier’s views. eg. I think the death and resurrection of Jesus are long extended midrash and other elements re “Israel’s” death and resurrection..not the death and resurrection of a single man. There are many more aspects that I won’t express here. This continuity has helped me work through the gospels with that paradigm in mind. I have taken Benjamin Smith further. I think his theses are very significant.

    Thanks again Neil for posting the resources.

    I don’t know whether you have read Smith… you may find it impressive. Even his chapter on the “son of God” as Israel is incredible. I have pretty well read everything he wrote except for a lost book on the symbolic aspects of Gospels.


    1. Hi Martin,
      re re “Israel’s death and resurrection” – ‘Israel’s’ expected ‘resurrection’? (I often wonder if the resurrection is a version of an anticipated ‘second coming’ of ‘Israel’).

    2. Yes, this [the idea that the gospels are about a death and resurrection of Israel] would cohere with Thomas L. Thompson’s point about the Hebrew Scriptures reiterating the same story throughout — the failure of the “old Israel” as a warning for the “new Israel”. The many stories are recyclings of that theme, from the Patriarchs after the destruction of the old world, through Joshua’s generation replacing Moses’, to Nehemiah’s lessons for the “new Israel” after their captivity….

      The Gospel of Mark reads to me like an extension of those Jewish Scriptures, serving to point to the “new Israel” (the spiritual one, of course) after the destruction of the old in 70 CE, or at least since its “proleptic destruction” from the moment it was supposedly prophesied by Jesus.

      1. In a similar, perhaps even central vein, Margaret Barker thinks

        Temple mysticism is the key to understanding Christian origins, but there is no single text or passage in the Bible that answers the question: ‘What is temple mysticism?’ We have to reconstruct it from the gaps in our understanding of Christian origins, rather like working out what part of the picture would have been on the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle [without] the picture on the lid of the jigsaw box ..

        The first source for temple mysticism is the temple itself and what it represented. There are several descriptions of the temple in the Bible (1 Kings 6—8; 1 Chron. 28.11–19; 2 Chron. 3—6) and the detailed accounts of building and erecting the desert tabernacle also include features from the temple (Exod. 25—40). Outside the Bible there are the writings of Josephus (Antiquities 3.102–207), who described the desert tabernacle (War 5.184–237) and the temple he knew in the first century CE; and those of Philo, his older contemporary, who often mentions the temple and its symbolism. There are also writings such as 1 Enoch, which the first Christians regarded as Scripture …
        Temple mysticism has been obscured at so many crucial phases in the history of Hebrew and Christian belief. First, there were the purges instigated by the Deuteronomists and their heirs, a movement akin to the Reformation …. The older faith did not die…the other voices were only heard as echoes.

        Second, as the Church defined itself, there was the need to distinguish between Christianity and Gnosis, even though teachers, who were later labelled ‘gnostic’, had played a major part in Christian communities. Some thought that Valentinus, teaching in Rome in the mid-second century, would be made bishop there. Early gnostic thought had much in common with temple mysticism, suggesting that pre-Christian Gnosticism had its roots in the older faith.

        Third, there was pressure in the Church for Christians not to practise Jewish customs or to revert to them …

        Barker, Margaret. Temple Mysticism: An Introduction (pp. 1, 14, 170). SPCK. Kindle edition.

  11. Mr. Horse

    What interesting comments you make.

    I can’t recall right now but there is a text in the OT where it speaks of Yahweh coming to his house again.. I think Zech. and so how that works out is that God’s “servant” Israel (Isa. 42-43 = Israel) , his “only begotten son” — will “rule” when he comes…ie. by his spirit to clean up the land and the temple!

    ya! Ya! about the “resurrection” as second coming… Since we are up to our eyeballs now with all the stimulating stuff Neil and Tim are putting out … there are those strange texts in John 14-16 —another advocate or comforter or messenger. etc. is coming after him..

    And then there is the Johannine “pentecost” John 20 where it is all happening NOW…not like Acts 2 Pentecost… He breathes his breath (the ruah of the Lord) right then and there on the disciples.. perhaps the paraclete is some collective entity… the spirit coming after me… ie. there is another spirit or prophet like me (by the way that is a Johannine idiom ..to call a person or a collective a “spirit”….

    This is all so very interesting.. thanks for mentioning what you did….

    Tough stuff eh.. my friend … but playful and responsible hermeneutics can go a long way..

    Let’s keep traveling with Hermes!!! I love him.! but he gets us all in trouble sometimes 🙂

  12. The upshot of many of my own responses here suggest that John’s gospel cannot be imprisoned within the Procrustean bed of the Synoptic view….it is so way out there that it illicits and inspires totally different “belief” reactions than the Gospels

    and even usurps Paul… one should not be surprised by this since “Johannine” lit polemicizes against Pauline teachings as well..wake up folks …there is a lot of “editing” going on in all these texts..(See the Johannine letters and the Apoc. ! Revelation 1-3!!! Almost all Jewish texts manifest some sort of war motif..and the NT is no different… Where you see war you see polemic and behind the polemic is piles of ideology!!!!! for this Jesus, that Jesus, another Jesus,and so on and so on.

    I think everyone knows what I am saying….

    Anyway, these are just some of my reflections on such diverse texts.and theologies…

    They are “relevant” to me since I have been an observer and participant in various aspects of various forms and cultic contexts of modern Christianity for a long time.. We are seeing a really twisted “history” of Christianity in front of our eyes, just like the NT, which most of the NT apologists today can’t seem to see. It is all honky dory..sorry can’t remember where I got that line but it sounds like a false conceptions of earliest christianity are afoot!!!

    I tell apologists and evangelists, or witnesses to Jesus who almost accost me daily when I go for coffee or whatever… and I simply ask them, why are you talking to me, trying to proselyte me… I am an agnostic-atheist on a sliding continuum depending on the issue..show me proof…Go and fight with your own kind which you have been doing for almost two thousand years. I think it is a most serious error to think that the term “unbeliever” in the NT means an “atheist”.. Simply stupid in my view and history’s view!!!!!! Read up on Ancient Atheism and you will be free from many conceptions and perceptions. Yes, free-thought is important. Paul thought so and that is why I have found all these fights so interesting….and illuminating for our own contexts today..

    When religions and peoples want their texts and traditions to live on (and so “resurrect” ) they will do everything they can to make them live on…even if they have to create fables and fictions to keep them and the human race going on, of which they are a part.

    So Apologists/Proselyters

    Please leave us alone with your so called divine judgments from god under the guise of scholarship.. Let us be, for goodness sake. You blast away and fight with your own “kind”,,and kill each other for “real” with words and works many times.

    How sad and sickening!!!

    Furthermore since the NT shows that the arguments therein are all between various forms of “theisms” whether mono or poly or whatever.. (Look at John 8!! My god!! Smuggle your way into that text imaginatively and you will see things you have never seen before, heard or felt before re: an orthodox Jew called Jesus…

    Jesus “seemed” to be an ungodly and strange man as well…hanging around Samaritans and meeting alleged prostitutes in secret gardens 🙂 Oh my..what kind of man or “god” would tell Mary who really wanted to touch him..mmm!!! and said to her..Don’t you touch me now! I have not reached my highest peak yet! I have not fully ascended yet… and readers should know that when he appeared to her he was bearing wounds of identity…no real glorified body — a scared man….. no perfect body!!!! Folks! Read the damn texts!!! The glory in John’s gospel is not the resurrection but the scared body and death of Jesus.!!!!! That is John’s reading!

    Then there is Thomas who is actually invited to “touch” Jesus, but never does!!!! What!!!???
    And then he is put down for his call for evidence…. real empirical evidence… by the writer who puts the words into Jesus’ mouth that the real blessed one is the one who only believes, without evidence!!!!! What!! Come on folks..

    No wonder so many scholars, regardless of faith or not , have fallen in love with the Gospel of John..It will turn you inside and out….

    A Good exercise for all lovers of John’s Gospel!!!!!!!!! An Assignment!

    …Make a list of the most important things that John excludes from the Synoptics and your observations about such…Then do the reverse…what does John include that the Gospels don’t… Get ready for lots of revelations if you do your own work on the texts…

    John is a brilliant piece of the best of historical fiction!!!!

    Just a confession though…in the NT I must say I am also partial to Mark as well, and R. G Price here on this site has done a good job in helping us all get a real feel for and responsible reading of Mark in his own research and writing, regardless of disagreements here and there.

    1. Hi Martin! On reading your initial comment I immediately thought of April DeConick and Jn 8.44, see “Why are the Heavens Closed? The Johanninne Revelation of the Father in the Catholic-Gnostic Debate” in John’s Gospel and Apocalyptic, ed. Catrin H. Williams and Christopher Rowlands, Bloombury T&T Clark, 2013.

      Her translation:


      blockquote>8.44a You are from the father of the Devil, 844b and you want to carry out the desires of your father. 844c That one was a murderer from the beginning, 8.44d and he did not stand by the truth, because there is no truth in him. 844.e when he lies he speaks from his own characteristics, 8.44f because he is a liar and so is his father.

      The whole article (Yes, I’m punning on a hinge of her argument; I’ve got this NT thing bad!) bears close attention. Like you I’m a proponent of reading what is in front of you absent reference anything else or anyone else’s interpretation. Traduttore, traditore, as the saying goes; it is amazing how so often folk in this game are not reading what is in front of them; but immediately transpose a received meaning from what they have been told, put it on top, and read that instead. Luther gave us Sola Scriptura, but it seems even he fell in the same ditch. We forget the Canon is a disparate collection of texts force fitted to a Procrustean theology and that the very ordering of it dictates much of its reading; I very much doubt that ANY of the NT texts, bar the undisputed Pauline epistles (perhaps?), share the same theology. In fact, I’m drawn to thinking that some of it can only be said to come from similar “churches” only if you squint! There is a lot here the eye ignores.

  13. Ya..Mr. Horse

    Great stuff you are sharing from the great Margaret Barker who all Mormons love too…

    and many more…

    Ya..the temple which some interpolator reinterprets in John 2!!!!

    Just a little sweet tool to use when you read the NT gospels (interestingly in John) when the word gar– is used keep your ears and eyes attuned for an interpolation…. The greek conjunction– gar —- “for” or “the reason for”..explanation…(meaning interpretation, etc.) Even in John 3:16 (Jesus may not have said that!!! believe it or not!) but the writer or editor of JohnG.Imagine preaching that! You wouldn’t last one Sunday mornin in Church after suggesting that!! But it is a highly viable position to hold… And the normal translation of John 3:16 is wrong as well.. It is not “for god so loved the world that he such and such..but that “for god loved the world in this way, that he gave his son…

    John is glorifying Jesus death again, an incredible noble death in the eyes of a Roman centurion!!!!!!!!!! who “believed” not because of the resurrection but because of the way Jesus dies, not the way he was raised… , !!!!! it was the way or how jesus gave up his “breath” ..wow!

    The one in John 2 regarding the temple which Jesus cleanses and also “says” (not Jesus but an interpolator) that he means he is going to destroy the temple, ie. his body… hold on there…. wow! really , someone is trying to divert misunderstanding somewhere….re the temple…I am trying to connect the dots like all of us here..An editor is attempting damage control!!!! No..no..no…i am not talking about the the literarl temple..and so on..
    so interesting….

    anyway Mr. Horse Thanks for some goodies to keep us thinking…


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