BRI International Internet Yeshiva Lectures On
“THE GOSPEL OF JOHN”
Overview & Introduction
Les Aron Gosling, Messianic Rebbe
Extracts from Yeshiva Forum Notes 2014 & 2015
CAUTION: BRI Yeshiva notes are not available to the general public. They are not for distribution. They are not for reproduction. The notes may also bear little or no resemblance to the actual audio or video recorded BRI/IMCF Yeshiva lecture.
Copyright © BRI/IMCF 2014, 2015 All Rights Reserved Worldwide by Les Aron Gosling, THE PURPOSE OF JOHN'S GOSPEL
Messianic Lecturer (BRI/IMCF)
My all favourite Gospel is that written by the priestly mystic, John. It was penned by a disciple of Yeshua to prove to the Jewish priesthood, once and for all, that his Teacher Yeshua – the Nazarene King of the Jews – was
the promised Mashiach. John's own words testify to this fact:
“But these [things that I have included in this Gospel] are written that you might believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God: and that believing you might have life through his name” (Jn 20.31
This is the stated purpose of the Gospel of John. The Synoptic Gospels, as I have taught for 40 years, follow a liturgical pattern based upon the annual Jewish festivals and fast days. But John is entirely different in his emphasis
and is bent on the self-revelation
of Yeshua as pertaining to Deity. Hence the “I AM” pronouncements found all throughout his Gospel.
I reject outright the persistent notion among academics that this Gospel is penned as a Gnostic work and that it was produced under the heavy influence of Hellenism. John's scroll is nothing of the kind. John's Gospel is entirely and thoroughly Jewish and I will illustrate this throughout this series of lectures as we journey together through this wonderful volume. This lecture is also concerned with a deliberate attempt by John – not at first perceived in a simple reading – to prove to the Jewish authorities
that Yeshua was (and is) the Jewish Messiah and Saviour of the world. How he does this has been overlooked by most scholars of the biblical text!THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: PRINCIPAL DIVISIONS
The principal divisions of the Gospel according to John are the following:PROLOGUE
: Jn 1.1-18BOOK OF SIGNS: Jn 1.19-12.50BOOK OF GLORY/EXALTATION: Jn 13.1-20.31EPILOGUE:
The resurrection appearance in Galilee. Jn 21.1-15A SHORT HISTORY OF JOHN
What do we know of John? Well, for one thing he was the brother of James and both brothers were the sons of someone called Zebedee – and both were called by Yeshua “the sons of thunder” (Mk 3.17
) mainly due to their excitable personalities. John's mother was Salome, the sister of Miriam the mother of Yeshua. I will establish this to be the case in a moment.
A simple perusal of incidents recorded in the Gospels which involved James and John reveal that they were both quite brash in their attitudes. They tended to be very angry young men, for whatever reason (Lk 9.54
). Indeed, it was no accident that John wrote the Revelation
! The theme of this scroll certainly suited John's personality: it's a book of judgment, blood and guts, punishment for all wrongdoers! From its contents he was most certainly in his element!
Recognising the nature of John's personality affords a rational reason why church authorities over the first few centuries found him, shall we say, “hard to handle.” There is little doubt that John made some harsh decisions that reflected his “passionate” volatile Mediterranean personality. Clearly, some religious folk were offended by what they may well have perceived was egocentric behaviour.
I must be honest with all my students when I share an understanding on the priestly apostle John. The Gospels show us plainly that there was no “give and take” with John. But do not take my word for it. Look at his own words as recorded in 2 Jn 10,11
– he taught that if any man came to a person's home and did not bring the exact teachings that John was relating then no one was permitted to speak with him. He made it an issue. They had to be rude and ignore the fellow. And, in no way were John's disciples permitted to say “Goodbye” (God be with you) in shutting the door in his face!
Further, consider his instructions to those of his personal assistants concerning accepting hospitality from the Gentiles. “It was in the name [of Messiah] that they went forth receiving NOTHING from the Gentile peoples” (3 Jn 7
In other words, the great apostle expected his traveling evangelists to stay with (and to be supported by) his own Jewish
adherents to the new Messianic Faith rather than by even loyal and trusted Gentile believers. How do we arrive at this conclusion?
Note this fact: Gaius is the recipient of this letter from John (3 Jn 1
). John has sent representatives on a tour of the Messianic Assemblies in the region, and Gaius has gone out of his way to be hospitable toward them (3 Jn 5,6
) – indeed John recognises in this letter his loyalty to his circle of faith. The reference to believing “Gentiles” in a negative way in verse 7
is without doubt the reason for treason.
Now, today we might assess that John had a race issue, and in my opinion he most certainly did. At least, I think this was the case very early in his ministry. (I am very much inclined to agree with J.A.T. Robinson's argument put forth in his Redating the New Testament
 that the letters of John were penned very early in the history of the church, certainly long prior to the Jewish/Roman war.) Later on in life it is evident that he became somewhat mellow. But to illustrate how volatile, disagreeable and racially conscious John was, take a look at his explosion when Yeshua (along with his disciples, which included John) was refused entry into a Gentile region.
“Yeshua resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there [the Gentile Samaritans] did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them as Elijah did?” (Lk 9.51-54
I might also say this about John's personality. While it left a great deal to be desired (and there can be little doubt that people in his day and age and also in the early centuries of the rise of the church were critical of him – authorities like Ignatius and Clement) in recent months I had to inform a young lady who visited with us not to reject our message because of the inadequacies of the messenger. If we learn nothing else from this from John's life, it's this: do not confuse personality with spirituality!
It's a big mistake. JOHN: REJECTED BY THE EARLY CHURCH
The apostle John was long associated with the city of Ephesus, in Asia Minor. At the turn of the century he was still residing there, a full distance of 300 miles from Corinth in Greece. What became of John remains a mystery, but I believe that this last surviving apostle of Christ never died. He just “up and disappeared.” He was in the habit of disappearing. He was presumed dead when he disappeared from Patmos, an island off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. He had been exiled there under the reign of Nero Caesar, and the people of Ephesus built a tomb for him. But he surprised everyone by reappearing and writing the first draft of his scroll known as “The Apocalypse
Later, during the reign of Domitian he again suddenly went missing – as an elderly man – and his students then proceeded to build a second mausoleum for him. He never returned from that extended “trip.” It was during this period that the Apocalypse
was redacted, perhaps by his disciples.
From the perspective of the Christian community John was ignored during the first few centuries of the rise of the church, and at the same time the synagogue distanced itself from the Messianic Movement. Was there a connection? I believe there was! It was as a consequence of the Roman-Jewish War, with the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, that John was considered to be a false prophet. The Apocalypse
seemed to suggest that Yeshua would return three and a half years from the time that the lower priesthood rose up against the Roman-appointed High Priesthood slaughtering them all. The sacrifice for Nero was stopped, and Rome declared war.
Many of the militant Christians joined in the revolt against Caesar believing that John had predicted the end of the age and the advent of the Messiah. They believed Yeshua would return in 70 CE. Instead, the Christians who remained to fight with their Jewish brethren were all slaughtered or sold into slavery. John's reputation therefore was in tatters and the Jewish priesthood distanced itself completely from the “Messianists” (mentioned by Josephus) who engineered the revolt against Rome.
Modern Christian scholars state that all the material of the last decade of the first century and well up into the second century – including the writings of the famous church father Ignatius – fails to mention John the apostle. Justin Martyr wrote extensively too, but mentioned John only once! Clement majored on ALL THE PROBLEMS already addressed by John in his own letters to the assemblies in his region. Yet, not once did Clement even mention John's letters – no, not even as references and he seemed to be totally ignorant concerning their existence. It seems as if John's authority was completely ignored or treated with disdain. This fact about the distancing of John by the primitive “church fathers” was elucidated on by the late Dr Ernest L. Martin, a friend of mine, but has been all but ignored by his contemporary scholarly colleagues. John's ruined reputation was a primary reason the Apocalypse
was treated with intense suspicion for years! Most church authorities finally forgot the reason why Revelation
was considered non-Scriptural.
Indeed, when it comes to his writings, one must question why it is that John mentions love 42 times in his Gospel and 46 occasions in his three short epistles. Clement instructs on this subject and refers to the Hebrew Scriptures over and over again but it was John who wrote all about brotherly love and had a Gospel based on it, yet again he is ignored by Clement and by others after him. We must ask, why?
Clement speaks of Paul and Peter as “the good apostles” (1 Clement 5.3-5
). Does this imply anything about the other apostles of Yeshua? This statement implies that John and others were not as “good” (whatever Clement meant by the term) as Peter and Paul. He even referred to them as “distinguished apostles” but did not dignify John with the distinction. The reason may very much have to do not only with failed prophecies but with John's temperament.
There can be little doubt that both James and John were highly ambitious men even desiring to rule over all the other apostles. Notice, however, that it is their mother
Salome who petitions the Lord Yeshua for seats of authority on either side of him (Mt 20.20
). That tells us something about their family upbringing!
Professor Riggs in his Dictionary of Christ & the Gospels
(Vol 1, 869) says: “It is commonly thought that John was of a gentle, contemplative nature, and almost effeminate in character. Contemplative he was, and his Gospel is but an expression of his profound meditation upon the character and work of his master, but a moment's reflexion upon some of the scenes of the Gospels... in correspondence with which are some of the legends regarding his later life, will show that this Apostle was, at least in earlier life, impetuous, intolerant, and ambitious. Doubtless he was effectively moulded by the Spirit of Christ during his long discipleship, but he was always stern and uncompromising in his [Jewish] hatred of evil and in his defense of truth.”WHAT ELSE DO WE KNOW ABOUT JOHN?
Apart from his personality issues, what else do we know about John?
John had been an Essene (review the evidence in my Fundamentals: The Spirit in Man
). I had previously covered the Essene and Pharisaic sympathies to the doctrine of reincarnation/transmigration and linked them to inferences in the Gospel of John. I spent time on this as revealed in my BRI Manual Is Man the Phoenix? A Study in the Doctrines of Mortality and Immortality.
The parallels that exist between the Gospel of John and the scrolls of the Dead Sea sectarians are striking. The ideas expressed by the monks of Qumran in their writings – mention in their scrolls of “life eternal,” “darkness and light,” “wrath of God,” “sons of light,” “light of life,” “truth and error,” “Spirit of Truth” among a whole list of other parallel phrases – find expression in John's writings.
That John could speak Greek is acknowledged by many modern scholars and a growing number of other authorities in different fields other than theology and biblical criticism are arriving at the very same conclusion. He could probably write in the Greek language as well. One only has to look at the verbatim conversations between Pilate (who spoke Greek) and Yeshua (who also spoke Greek – in any event, he understood Pilate as he was being questioned and he was able to respond: there is no mention of an interpreter and it is highly unlikely that Pontius Pilatus would have been educated in Aramaic or Hebrew) during his interrogation by the Roman authority (Jn 18 & 19
We also know John was a priest and intimately known to Kayafa the High Priest and that as such he was able to enter the Council Chambers and follow Yeshua right into the presence of Pilate in the fortress Antonia (Jn 19.25; 18.16,19,28
We also know from Luke that John was present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Lk 8.51
), and he was also present at the transfiguration (Mk 9.2
). He is also the only one of the original twelve disciples who is recorded to have been present at the crucifixion (Mk 14.33
Surprisingly, very few realise John was a first cousin
to Yeshua. We know this because it is stated clearly enough by Matthew Levy that his father was Zebedee (Mt 4.21
) and his mother was Salome (Mt 27.56; Mk 15.40
). Salome was the sister
of Miriam the Mother of Our Lord (Mk 15.40; Jn 19.25; Mt 27.56
), and Miriam was an Aaronite for her cousin
was Elisabeth or Elisheba and she was married to a priest, Zachariah (Lk 1.5,36
). As far as John is concerned he was Miriam's nephew
. In fact it was John who, as a priest and an intimate with Kayafa, who managed to surreptitiously enable Peter to enter the Temple courtyard of the High Priest just subsequent to Yeshua being arrested (Jn 18.15,16
). When it comes to those surrounding Yeshua – Miriam and Yosef, Joses, Simon, Jude, James the Just, Salome and Zebedee, James and John, Clopas (Cleopas) and Miriam, Simon (Simeon) and later Zoker and James – early “Christianity” was a family
John the apostle – in the late 90s – was the last bastion of spiritual sanity that linked the world to Yeshua. All the other emissaries of the Lord had already met their deaths and an entire generation that had been exposed to Yeshua had been swept away in the Roman conquest and destruction of Judaea. False Christians were establishing their own sects and many of them were Simonite Gnostics (followers of Simon the Magus). As such they were interpreting the Torah in an entirely abstract way and preaching a counterfeit “Gospel” of “love” which was really lawlessness.
They were the original antinomians. John's emphasis on true love as obedience to God's Torah and commandments makes sense when viewed in this light.
Remember, the command of Yeshua to “love one another” is utterly meaningless unless it is related to a standard of conduct – a fact many modern antinomian churches ignore.JOHN'S GOSPEL CONTRASTED WITH THE SYNOPTISTS
When we sit down to read the Gospel of John, what is striking is that in most of his book John describes Yeshua in a markedly different fashion than the Yeshua entertained by the Synopists – Matthew, Mark and Luke. (Synoptic
means “having a common view.”) In fact, John seems preoccupied to record Yeshua expostulating to his disciples with long exhaustive discourses that border (it appears) on the mystical.
Indeed, when one traces the sketchy life of Yeshua as presented by the Synoptists and compare these accounts with those of John we are surprised to find many important omissions such as the 40-day Temptation on the Mount, no reference to the Transfiguration (even though John was involved as a spectator of that event), and an absence of the institution of the Lord's Supper. But it is John, and John alone, who tells us of the humility of the foot washing procedure which is enjoined by Messiah upon each of us.
The Sermon on the Mount (or as in Luke “the plain”) and the so-called “Lord's Prayer” are also missing from John's record. Further, we locate no single instance of Yeshua casting out demons. Add to all these the fact that there are no inclusions of narrative parables given by Yeshua (and for which he was famous even amongst visiting Gentiles). I might just mention here that the teaching of the Vine and the Branches in Jn 15.1-8
is not in the strict sense a parable at all.
John also mentions events which are unknown to the Synoptists: Yeshua attacks the Jerusalem Temple early in his ministry leading some scholars to take the view that there were two incidents of this occurrence, one at the start of his ministry and a second incident at the end of his ministry.
This view is an absolute nonsense and to their credit many scholars distance themselves from it.
We come early to the introduction of Yeshua's cousin John the Immerser, but nowhere does John mention Yeshua's baptism. Instead we are treated to a dramatic testimony by John of the true identity of Yeshua as the Passover Lamb sent from God – in the language of universalism – “for the sins of the whole world.” Moreover, immediately after his presumed baptism, Yeshua is seen by John performing his first miracle at a wedding in Cana. By way of contrast the Synoptic Gospels have the Spirit driving Yeshua into the wilderness after his baptism to be tempted by the Dark Lord.
There is no awesome miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead in any Gospel – this incident occurs only in John's Gospel.
John concentrates on an early teaching ministry in Galilee, unknown to the other three Gospel writers. John also speaks of a ministry that lasts for over three years and possibly into a fourth, but the others have Yeshua having his ministry terminated after just a year or a little over a year (depending on the way we read the accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke). At the same time, John has Yeshua experiencing visits to Jerusalem on a number of occasions – but the Synoptics all speak of only one visit.
Then there is the question of Yeshua's Royal entry into Jerusalem, triumphantly proclaiming himself to be the long-anticipated Mashiach, riding on an unbroken colt in the expectation of the prophecy of Zechariah (Zech 9.9
– actually Jeremiah). The people of Jerusalem were rejoicing at the event and they cut down palm fronds spreading them along the road and crying out to be liberated. Problem is that event, according to John, occurred on the Sabbath day which would no doubt have constituted a violation of the laws covering the traditional rest day of the fourth commandment.
Mark informs us that “all
the disciples forsook him and fled” (Mk 14.50
) implying in that statement that Yeshua died alone, crucified by the Roman authorities. Fear and terror gripped Yeshua's disciples, yet in John they are utterly fearless – standing not only “afar” as spectators but right at the foot of the bloodied tree (in the case of his Mother, and the disciple whom Yeshua loved which presumably was John – others have speculated Miriam Magdalit, Judas Thomas, Nathaniel, Lazarus and a host of other possibilities. Its my guess – emphasis on guess – that this was John as it is John alone who hears the last words of his Lord and records them for posterity).
And so on and so forth. This differences between John and the Synoptics are not marginal; they are pronounced and dramatic and occur right through his Gospel. These differences and discrepancies have caused some scholars, even Christian scholars down through the centuries, to reject this Gospel as a forgery. 90% of the contents of John's Gospel are peculiar to him and cannot be located anywhere else.
There is a valid reason for the way John has approached the writing of his Gospel.John wrote his Gospel as a theological treatise
, and not as history. This can be demonstrated in the way he handles historic events but places them in a sequence that strains credulity
yet emphasises an historical fact. He does so with a dramatic flair of creativity.
It is this approach I wish to expand upon in this new series on the Gospel of John.
When we understand John's secret purpose for writing as a priest to other priests
“all bets” concerning the validation or invalidation relating to the authenticity of John's scroll “will be off.”
But I will leave all my students with a hint: but think for a moment. John's Gospel is a Jewish work, and is decidedly to be understood through the milieu of the Second Temple Period. The hint? Ezekiel
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