The Gospel of John

Jesus is crucified, though not animalistically in the text, and he seems to metaphorically reference Pronoia/Barbelo in GosJohn 19:27: “Then he said to the disciple “Here is your Mother [Pronoia?].” Then in an interesting twist: “Jesus knew that all was now finished. He said [in order to fulfill the scripture,] ‘I am thirsty’…. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” This is a fascinating element since at that precise moment, Christ (the Spirit) leaves the earthly body of Jesus (similar to the end of TriProt) just as Christ did not enter Jesus’ body until his baptism (GosJohn 1:32 “And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.’” This phenomenon is also portrayed in The Gospel of Mark (GosMark) 1:10 when “he [John] saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”) Therefore, Christ was not present for the gruesome details post crucifixion such as when his side was pierced by the spears, an act that allegedly fulfilled the scriptures (GosJohn 19:34-36)—just like how Jesus did not encapsulate Christ’s Spirit until his baptism. This close reading of GosJohn is actually similar to many of the Nag Hammadi treatises that have Christ’s Spirit looking on as Jesus is crucified; technically this viewpoint represents the concept of moderate doceticism. Christ’s Spirit is what is ultimately important.

More broadly, per Paul N. Anderson’s work Mark, John, and Answerability: Interfluentiality and Dialectic between the Second and Fourth Gospels, “Independently, John Ashton and I came to the same conclusion that the best way to explain John’s perplexities with a minimal amount of speculation builds on a modification of Barnabas Lindars’ composition theory. A first edition of John appears to have been gathered around 80-85 CE, about a decade after the finalization of Mark. It apparently began with the ministry of John the Baptist (as did Mark) and closed with John 20:31, declaring why the Gospel had been written. John 5 originally flowed into John 7, as the healing of the paralytic on the Sabbath is still being discussed, suggesting the likelihood that John 6 was inserted during a later edition of the Gospel. Likewise, John 15–17 appears to have been inserted in between John 14:31 and 18:1, and this material especially shows signs of being later material gathered around the question of how Christ continues to lead the church through the Holy Spirit. Chapter 21 then appears to have been added by the editor, along with Beloved Disciple motifs and some eyewitness-appeal material.”

He goes on: “Interestingly, the first-edition material contains virtually all the controversy material between Jesus and Jewish leaders (suggesting Jewish-Christian debates within the Johannine situation), and the supplementary material contains most of the incarnational material in John (suggesting debates with Gentile, Docetizing Christians within the Johannine situation). For these and other reasons, John’s tradition should be considered not as diachronic with relation to the sources of its material; but, it indeed appears diachronic intratraditionally, in that an earlier edition seems to be followed by a later and final edition, with the Johannine Epistles produced during the interim. John was likely finalized around 100 CE after the death of the Beloved Disciple, and the editor (plausibly the author of the Johannine Epistles) apparently prepared this work as a manifesto of Jesus’ original intentionality for the church. Rather than inferring a dialectical relationship between the Johannine evangelist and a Mark-like source (whose features had presumably been “de-Markified” and subsequently “re-Johannified”), the more likely inference is that the Johannine tradition itself was engaged in an intertextual dialogue with other Gospel traditions, and in particular, Mark. This dialogue between Johannine and Markan traditions can be plausibly inferred during the oral stages of John’s tradition, and likewise within John’s first edition and supplementary material. Conversely, engagements with John’s tradition may be inferred within the pre-Markan material, and likewise within The Gospel of Mark and its second ending.”

“John’s convergences-with-and-departures-from Mark might not imply either a simplistic dependence or independence between the two traditions, but a more dialectical engagement between them, allowing for John’s overall following of Mark’s project, while setting the record straight here and there correctively and also augmenting Mark in a non-duplicative way. Therefore, if a dialectical history of engagement indeed existed between the Markan and Johannine traditions – including corrective moves as well as complementary ones – John’s pervasive autonomy should not be taken for isolated independence.”

“Both in the Markan-Johannine similarities as well as the Markan-Johannine differences, aspects of interfluentiality and intertextuality may to some degree be inferred.” Essentially, “The relation of John’s tradition to Mark’s was interfluentialaugmentive, and corrective…if the Johannine evangelist sought to augment Mark’s narrative, many of the problematic aspects of John’s differences and similarities with Mark cease to be as troubling as they might have otherwise seemed. Whereas Matthew and Luke eventually built upon Mark, John appears to have built around Mark…John’s first edition as the “second gospel” is different from Mark on purpose.” I’ll discuss Mark in much more detail in a later Section. Later, Anderson adds: “The Fourth Gospel was probably 70 years in the making.”

As has been discussed in the scholarly community, there is much similarity between the entire TriProt and the Johannine Prologue, as well as some with the Pronoia Monologue in ApJohn-LR, though it’s not as striking. What is striking is Irenaeus’ statement regarding the notion that Jesus is united to Christ. Did he even read the Fourth Gospel? Furthermore, in order to be inline with what another Pistic (Orthodox) member remarked, he noted that Jesus lived to the age of 50, and he goes on to say that “Clearly the so-called Gnostics did think that Christ appears after his resurrection from the Dead!”

Ultimately, I agree with Karen King of Harvard that ApJohn is effectively Part II of John’s Gospel, and I’d go on to say that TriProt is effectively Part III. ApJohn in some sense is actually key to interpreting the Gospel (think back to the original Greek, “The father of the devil.”) Just like GosJohn can be construed as the most literal of the Orthodox Canon, in its own way ApJohn, and by extension TriProt, is literally (or at least plainly) written though many of the concepts relate to the mythologoumena.

As Dr. Karen King states on pp. 237-238 in her book, The Secret Revelation of John (SecJohn/ApJohn,) “another purpose might be exegetical. The fact that The Secret Revelation to John is framed as the return of Christ to complete his revelation and show the way back to the Divine Realm makes it possible to read it as the completion of Christ’s revelation in The Gospel of John, the fulfillment of his promise to return and show them the way back to the Father. ApJohn is filling in the gaps in Christ’s revelation in GosJohn, offering a fuller narrative of the Divine Realm [Pleroma,] the creation of the world and humanity; the condition of humanity in the world, and salvation. The ascription of the work to John overtly places ApJohn in the tradition of Johannine Christianity and it has the effect of asking readers to interpret GosJohn within the framework of Christ’s revelation.”

Lastly, and quite importantly, Verses 3:1-8 contain the key message to this Gospel, if not the whole body of Christianity itself. As Rudolf Bultmann states on pp. 133-142 of The Gospel of John: A Commentary: 

The Mystery of Rebirth: [Chapter 3]

“…it is hardly probable that Nicodemus is intended to represent one of the unreliable “believers.” Jesus’ miracles have, it is true, made an impression on him also, but this does not mean that they have moved him to “faith;” they have drawn his attention to Jesus and set him asking questions. Nicodemus himself is otherwise unknown. The description given of him is important, for in him Jesus is confronted by a representative of official Judaism. He is a Pharisee and a ruler and, as is suggested, a scribe. This then, is the kind of man on whom Jesus’ appearance has made an impression, and it comes to him by night.

The words which he addresses to Jesus have the form of a simple statement, but in fact they contain a question, as shown by Jesus’ reply. It would be wrong to give a psychological or individual interpretation of this question. Nicodemus comes with the one question which Judaism, of which he is a “teacher,” has to put to Jesus, and must put to him. It is the question of salvation (soteriology.) Jesus replies by giving the conditions for entry into the rule of God, and in doing so he proceeds on the self-evident assumption that for the Jews the question of salvation is identical with the question of participation in the rule of God. It is typical that Nicodemus should use the form of an indirect question, starting from what is safe ground. This much one could say with certainty on the basis of Jesus’ miracles; he is an accredited “teacher”–for this is the only title which the Scribes could have given him–and Nicodemus accordingly has addressed him as “Rabbi.”

If Nicodemus’ question has been based on an understanding of the matter formed in accordance with traditional standards of judgement, Jesus’ answer tears him away from his rational considerations and makes him listen to something which he cannot understand. He may well consider Jesus, a man accredited by miracles, to be a superior teacher to him; the Revealer, however, is not quantitatively, but qualitatively superior to the human teacher, and the criteria which the latter has at his disposal are not capable of providing an adequate basis for understanding him.

The reply in GosJohn 3:3 reads: “Unless a man be born anew, he cannot see God’s rule.” Thus right at the beginning it is stated uncompromisingly that man, as he is, is excluded from salvation, from the sphere of God; for man as he is, there is no possibility of it. Yet at the same time it is said in such a way that a hint is given that salvation may be a possibility for him, inasmuch as it is possible for him to become another man, a new man. The saying therefore also contains an injunction; not, however, of a moralistic sort, but rather the injunction to put oneself in question. This is emphasized and made clear by Nicodemus’ misunderstanding in 3:4; for the Evangelist chooses this grotesque way of making it abundantly clear that rebirth is in no sense a natural process, an event which can be set in motion by man himself. In the human sphere it is impossible for there to be anything like a rebirth. For rebirth means–and this is precisely the point made by Nicodemus’ misunderstanding–something more than an improvement in man; it means that man receives a new origin, and this is manifestly something which he cannot give himself. For everything which it lies within his power to do is determined from the start by his old origin, which was the point of departure for his present life, and by the person he has always been. For it is one of the basic ideas of Johannine anthropology–as was hinted in the Johannine Prologue (see later Section)–that man is determined by his origin, and determined in such a way that, as he now is, he has no control over his life, and that he cannot procure his salvation for himself, in the way that he is able to procure the things in this life. Moreover the goal of man’s life corresponds to his origin. If his way is to lead to salvation, it must start from another point, and man must be able to reverse his origin, and to exchange the old origin for a new one. He must be “reborn!” [Note the strong resemblance to ApJohn‘s Autogenes Process/Spirit of Light.]

Nicodemus cannot see that there is such a possibility, and Jesus’ reply in Verse 3:5, which is made with great emphasis, repeats agin the condition for participation in salvation; and yet he repeats it in a slightly different form, which suggests an answer to the riddle. In the first place this means that the condition can only be satisfied my a miracle since the root word refers to the power of a miraculous event. Secondly, however, it suggests to Nicodemus, and indeed to anyone who is prepared to entertain the possibility of the occurrence of a miraculous event, that such a miracle can come to pass…man is ultimately a stranger to his fate and to his own acts; that is, as he now is, he does not enjoy authentic existence, whether he makes himself aware of the fact of whether he conceals it from himself. The miracle of a mode of being in which man enjoys authentic existence, in which he understands himself and knows that he is no longer threatened by nothingness, [represents this state.]

Man stands, as it were, between these two possibilities of existence, in that he knows, or is able to know, that his proper place is in the other-worldly being, whereas in fact he has become entangled in the this-worldly. The statement in 3:6 is intended to make the man, who, like Nicodemus, is searching for salvation realize that these two possibilities of being are not open possibilities between which he can freely choose; that the alternatives by which man is confronted are not governed by choice, but by destiny. It is intended to make him aware that his goal is determined by his origin, and that his end will be nothingness, because it is nothingness that he has his origin. He must realize that everything that he can achieve, and everything that can happen within the sphere of life in which he has existed till now, will come to nothing. Nor will the sphere of this worldly, human life provide him with the miracle he is looking for. If he is to enjoy a miracle at all, his whole being from its very origin must be changed into a miraculous, other-worldly being. Once he has understood this, he will no longer be surprised by talk of rebirth (3:7.) For he will then understand that the attainment of authentic existence can for him be only a miracle–just as the “becoming like little children” which, according to the Dominical saying in the Synoptics, is the condition of salvation, cannot be achieved by deliberate action on the part of man, but can only be received by him as a divine gift.”