The Fourth Gospel /Turmel/ PART I.
The First Redaction of the Fourth Gospel.
1) The Johannine Christ denies Mary.
The Johannine Christ begins his public life in attendance at the wedding of Cana (2:1-12). In the course of the meal, Mary, who is also present, warns him of the wine shortage. And Jesus responds: "What is there between me and you, woman?" Of all time this strange response has troubled the faith of believers. One is asked how an incarnate God could have spoken as such to whom he owes his human nature. Various artificial explanations led all to confuse the question or to displace it. However, Faith couldn't fail but to have the final word. Here, as elsewhere, it triumphed over the difficulty. But it didn't obtain its triumph outside of taking refuge in the mystery. One closed their eyes; one renounced at an understanding. One has to say that God must have had his reasons for speaking as he did. And, for those reasons, one adored them without having any pretension of understanding them.
The believers are not alone in being disconcerted by this response of Christ. The critics, these also, were struck by it of a stupor they couldn't conceal. Perhaps they are no longer held by a God truly made man; they had none other issue than with a fictional deity. But it was necessary for them to justify this fiction. They had to explain how a writer begins with presenting to us the incarnate Word, then places in his mouth some words of repudiation against his mother. They themselves did not set forth in quest of new solutions: they adopted explanations accommodated to believers, explanations of which the principal consists in stating that, in the Christ, the divinity is independent of Mary and that the saying: "What is there in common between me and you?" proclaimed this independence.
So the critics found nothing better for believers to account for the response of the Johannine Christ to Mary. But, while believers, set in the presence of a solution that they know is insufficient, renounce at understanding and take refuge in a mystery, the critics don't have this convenient resource. They do not shelter themselves behind the impenetrable counsels of providence; they don't have the right to the shutting of their eyes; they always have had to keep them wide opened and to declare pitilessly everything that is mere juggling.
We notice three things there: the thought which is expressed , the turn given to this thought, the absence of the word "mother" at the position where the word "woman" is presented. The fundamental thought is that the Christ is nothing to Mary, that Mary is nothing to the Christ. The interrogative turn given to the sentence is the process to which one resorts when one carries a challenge; it has here the sense of a provacation; and, consequently, in the place of attenuating the thought, it accentuates it.
Free of the interrogation which encompasses, the retort means: "I owe nothing to you", or "there is nothing in common between us". With the interrogation the sense is: "Prove therefore, if you can, that I owe anything to you, that there is something in common between us!" And, to complete the defiance, Mary is apostrophized of the name of a woman which implies here: "One regards you as my mother, but you know well that you are not". I said that this word completes the challenge. This is one, indeed, which closes the retort. In the end it is the motive; and the sense of the sentence is this: "You pass as my mother, and my historian himself bestows this name to you to conform to the common opinion that "the mother of Jesus was there" ; but, in reality, you are not my mother; I owe nothing to you".
One will say that I lead myself to an exaggeration. I respond that in theological matters the only exaggerated ideas are those which cannot be situated in history. I will search later whether my interpretation is destitute of attestation during the period of Christian origins. For the moment I have my text without troubling myself with the knowledge where this leads me. I have this, that is to say I march behind this, and I allow myself to be guided by it, and I abstain to supervise myself in the will of my fantasy. The one formal denial, vivid of the divine maternity of Mary. I have to conclude, unless indicated otherwise, that this denial expresses the thought of the author.
Where are these indications? It arrives oftentimes to the speakers being betrayed by the intoxication of words, and to saying what they didn't want to say. But we make issue here to the style of a piece of long studied; we do not have before us an oratorical improvisation. We also see all the day the uncultivated minds and the tired old man led astray in a vocabulary which they never possessed or of which mastery they lost. But the author of the Fourth Gospel knows how to clothe the most elevated ideas in their most delicate nuances.
How can it be believed, when wanting to teach a doctrine, that he had taught something else entirely different than what he had in mind? For this is the result at which one arrives as soon as one departs from the letter of the text. The Johannine Christ, asserts one, teaches us at Cana that Mary contributed nothing to his divinity in the sense of his thaumaturgical power. Granted. But to express this truth so simply, he is served by a turn of phrase which has muddled everything; he didn't know how to say what he wanted to say.
Others assure us that the rebuke of Christ himself was not addressed to Mary but to the synagogue, to his forme r alliance. I concur here. But one will agree with me that the author was very unfortunate in the choice of his formulas, and that the most ill-mannered clod would have been less clumsy. But then, if he wanted to put into the mouth of Christ some words of condemnations against the synagogue, might he had done this without burdening Mary to represent this moment-- even the synagogue? Didn't the most elementary decorum forbid entering the mother of Christ into this odious symbolism? On the other hand, no man was insane enough to ask if the Christ owes his divinity or his thaumaturigal virtue to Mary. None needed to be set on this point. And the Christ also, as the critics pretend as well as the believers, declares not to have possessed from Mary his divinity and his supernatural powers.
In a few words, the saying "what do I have in common?", such that one understands it plainly, beyond measure that it offends the laws of language, contains more an indecency and an insupportable triviality.
2) The Johannine Christ reveals God to men.
The Johannine Christ came to "bear witness to the truth" (18:37), to make "known the truth" (8:32). The truth that he reveals "frees" men" (8:32), they are made to "pass from death to life" (5:24), preserving them forever from death (8:51). And this truth sums up the knowledge of the one who is "the only true God", since the knowledge of God procures and guarantees eternal life (17:3,5:24).
The Jews themselves do not make exception to the general law. The Johannine Christ tells them that they don't know God: "the one who sent me, you don't know him. I myself know him (7:29). You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would also know my Father"(8:19); "This is my Father who glorifies me, the one whom you say is your God and that you know not" (8:54-55); "They will do to you all these things because of my name, because they don't know the one who sent me" (15:21, the sequence of the text proving that the Jews are aim here:(v.25) "This came to pass that the word might be fulfilled written in their law..."). And these repeated assertions leave nothing to surprise. What does the author make consequently of the text: "is God known in Judea" (Ps76 :2)? What does he make of the texts in which the psalmist proclaims the fidelity of Israel to God (Ps44: 18,23): "We didn't violate your alliance; is not our heart roundabout... This is because of you that one massacres us all the days?" Since the return from the captivity the Jewish people turned away from the images; one adored God; one desired to bring all the pagans to worship God (Ps.17 :1): "Praise the Lord, all you nations; Celebrate him, all ye tribes of people" . One especially dreaded to see the pagans turn at God in derision (Ps.115:2): "Wherefore should the nations say, Pray where is their God?" The Johannine Christ inscribes in forgery against the numerous texts which testifies of this situation. He stands in opposition to the Old Testament.
3) The Johannine Christ rejects the Old Testament.
But he pays no heed to the Old Testament. Or, if he does make allusion there, it is in repulsion for it with contempt. In the course of his discussions with the Jews, he alleges sometimes in his favor the texts of the Old Testament. And here is his handling of those texts: "It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true" (8:17). The ordinance to which he refers here is written down in Deut. 19:15; it had been dictated by God himself to Moses. Its origin is sacred.
But not so to the Johannine Christ, who says scornfully: "Your law". Will one raise as an objection that the mosaic legislation had a transitory character, that with the sacrifice of martyrdom arrived its striking decline and that moreover the Jews alone were subject to it? Granted. But listen again to the Johannine Christ. He says (10:34) "It is written in your law: I said: you are gods"; and (15:25) "This came to pass that the word might be fulfilled written in their law: They hated me without a reason". In these two places his disdain is addressed not primarily to some prescriptions ritualistic or disciplinary; he attains some oracles emanated from the Psalms. The author of the Fourth Gospel mentions the Psalms as we would mention the books of the Illiad or the Aeneide, the maxims of which we exploit without us holding belief to their consideration with the least religious feeling. By means of a literary view he does the same with the Psalms. And because the Psalms and the mosaic legislation constitute the essential part of the Old Testament.
The assertions just made provide us the key to 5:36-37: "The Father who sent me bears witness of me. Ye have never heard his voice nor seen his shape". One often states that it is here an allusion to the prophecies from the Old Testament through which the Father would have bore witness to his Son. To where one concludes that these same prophecies are the "voice" of the Father, a voice which resonated in the ears of the Jews but which the Jews refused to hear, are precisely those which they refused to believe. Wrong. If the voice of the Father is caused to be heard with the Jews then one didn't hear it in the sense that they refused to look at it. Now the face of the Father is never shown to a person and, according to what one reads elsewhere in 1:18: "no one has ever seen God". The Jews didn't see the Father, not because they refused to see him, but because they never were allowed to even look at him. The voice of the Father, it neither ever resonated in the world. And the Jews didn't hear him, not because they refused to believe, but because they were not able to discern the accents. The Father never spoke. The testimony that he rendered to his Son doesn't consist therefore in the prophecies of the Old Testament being full of the oracles which God renders by the mouth of the prophets, of the theophanies agreed to the patriarchs and to Moses. Oracles and theophanies are no avenues for the Johannine Christ: "You have never heard his voice, you have never seen his shape". No avenue is likewise the ascension of the prophet Elijah to heaven in spite of the Books of Kings (2Kin2:1,11), for we read (3:13) "no one has ascended to heaven but the one who has descended from heaven".
4) The Johannine Christ rejects Moses and the Prophets.
But the Johannine Christ didn't yet provide his full measure. Continue to gather his oracles. He says in the allegory of the good shepherd (10:8) "All those who came before me are robbers and thieves". He says "all"; he doesn't exempt persons, not even the prophets, not even Moses. Terrified by this act of accusation, the Fathers, the apologists, the critics did there what firefighters do in the presence of a fire. They endeavored to isolate it.
One must absolutely preserve their Moses and prophets attained of the Old Testament. But how? Augustine (In Jo. tr.,XLV, 8) explained that the qualification of a robber and thief applied to those here who only came "from outside" of Christ. Now the prophets then are not thieves. I have to say that this advocacy so fanciful didn't convince the critics. They searched for something else. They searched and they found. What? They discovered that the word "all" means "some". For it is there that the critics enter when they relate to us that the Johannine Christ has in view the Jewish doctors of his time or to the false messiahs. So, in the allegory of the good shepherd, the author of the Fourth Gospel has in view some of those who preceded Jesus (in reality his contemporary or even some men who come after him). But if this is what he wanted to say, why is he served with the word "all"? Why hadn't he employed the word "some"? One pauses and one cautions me that in persisting to take on the letter of the 10:8 text, I stray into the domain of fantasy. I will examine this point later. For the moment I note that, in the interpretation of 10:8, the critics reissue, under a new form, the fantasies of Augustine.
5) The Johannine Christ fights the Prince of this World.
The Johannine Christ condemns Moses and the prophets. He bears his higher strikes; he attacks the "prince of this world", the "Devil". He came to the earth to reveal God, the "only true God", to men who didn't know him. But he came also to deliver a battle to the Devil. "The Son of God is manifested to annihilate the works of the Devil" we read in the first epistle (3:8). Before that fight even ended, we are informed of the outcome. The Devil is going to put to death the Son of God who accepts his fate; but he himself is going to be cast out. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (12:31); "the prince of this world is condemned" (16:11); "for the prince of this world cometh, and has nothing on me, but all the same he comes to put me to death so that the world may know that I love the Father and that I do according to what the Father ordained" (14:30).
What is the Devil in the Fourth Gospel? Who is he? What is he in regard to God and men? Considered by himself the Devil is evil or rather "the Evil One". We know him in the gospel where we encounter the Christ asking his father to "preserve from Evil" his disciples (17:15). We know him especially by the first epistle: "You overcame the Evil One" (2:13,14); "Cain was of the Evil One" (3:12); "the Evil One cannot touch him" (the Christian born of God) (1Jo 5:18). Being evil, he sins and he tells lies: "Since the beginning the Devil sins" (1Jo 3:8); "there is no truth in him; when he speaks a lie he speaks of his own" (Jn 8:44).
In regard to God, the Devil is "the Enemy", for such is the sense of the Greek word which designates the Devil. This enmity is attested to us of the Christ when it is stated that he came destroy the works of the Devil. It is moreover inevitable since God is good and t he Devil is evil.
That which the Devil is in relationship to the world, the Johannine Christ teaches us in two words when he calls him "the prince of this world". The world is his kingdom, he is the king of it. The same idea reappears under another form in the following text of the first epistle (5:19) "The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One".
As Master of the world, the Devil is the source from whence emanates all political authority. To Pilate who boasts of the power of his will to put to death or to deliver him, the Johannine Christ replies (19:11) "You could have no power against me except it were given to you from above". Then he adds: "This is why the one who delivers me to you commits a greater sin". This answer contains two assertions. The first, we learn that Pilate holds his authority "from above", which is from a Being superior to men, from a Being to which he is a lieutenant and to whom he must do obedience. According to the second assertion it is this superior Being, this Being "above" who delivered the Christ to Pilate his lieutenant; and "this is why" the responsibility of Pilate in the death of Christ is mitigated. The great culprit is this Being "above", who placed his proxy Pilate in an inextricable situation. This Being "above" who is fierce against the Christ to the point of delivering him to Pilate, is "the Enemy", the Devil. He appears to us here as the sovereign holder of political authority of which he gave a parcel to the Roman governor. And it is in the logic of things, since "the whole world is in the power of Evil One" and that this Evil One is the prince of this world.
The Son of God, who came to battle the Devil, must necessarily extract the empire of the world from him. It is this program that he formulates in 12:31: "The prince of this world is going to be cast out". And there again is that thought which is in the background of the following texts (3:17) "God sent not his Son into the world so that he would condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved by him"; (12:47) "I came, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved". The Johannine Christ saves the world by freeing it from the yoke of the Devil, and he achieves this emancipation by casting the Devil out.
However, this result doesn't have to be attained in the future. From the moment Christ is on the earth, the world contaminated by its master is evil. The one who came to overthrow the Devil has to begin by overthrowing the world; or in the words, (16:33): "You will have some tribulations in the world; but have confidence, I have overthrown the world". The triumph of Christ over the world is progressive. It consists of expelling little by little the Devil in the manner of restricting the domain of his empire. And this expulsion is accomplished through the creation of the children of God. One will see this further concerning those born the children of God. We note here that the children of God are out of the Devil's range: "Whoever was born of God does not sin; but the one who was born of God, he protects and the Evil One does not touch him" (1Jo5:18). To where it follows, insofar as the world is the property of the Devil, the children of God are not of the world: "Whoever is born of God has the victory over the world". (1Jo5:4); "If you were of the world, the world would love it's ow n; but because you are not of this world ...the world hates you" (15:19; see 17:14,16).
But the children of God, at least throughout the days of the earthly life of Christ, form only a very small herd. What is the condition of other men, which comprise the vast majority, closer to the general entirety of the human race? The Johannine Christ teaches us this in the words which follow (8:23-44) "You are from below, I myself am from above. You are of this world, I myself am not of this world ... I speak that which I see by my Father; and you, you do that which you see in your father. If God was your Father, you would love me, ... you are of the Devil and you will accomplish the desires of your father".
The Jews are "of the Devil"; the Devil is their "father"; they are his children. From whence comes this appalling blemish to them? By this they are those "from below", by this they are those "of the world". If one is "from above", if one "is not of this world", they would be the children of God; but being from below and of the world they are of necessity the children of the Devil.
Follow the reasoning why one is a child of God. These, our texts states, are the children of God who received the Light coming into the world (1:9-13), those who believed in the Son of God and who, for that reason, have the eternal life (6:27a, 29, 35-40). Elsewhere, one has to believe in the Son by reason of the miracles that he does (5:36; 10:25,37-38; 14:11); and nonetheless, the one here only comes to the Son and believes in him whom the Father draws (6:44) and who yielded himself to the Son (6:37;10:29;17:6). Don't look for how this attraction of the Father conciliates with the obligation which would have men believing in miracles; suppose, to the contrary, the problem resolved (our author is confused here, but the theologians are just as tangled in our day as he), and consider the children of God. They, they are not "of the world" (15:19; 17:14); they received the birth "from above" which Jesus speaks of in his discussion with Nicodemus (3:3-7); they are "born of God" (1:13; 1Jo2:29; 3:9); they are "of God" (8:47; 1Jo4:6;5:19).
But, to receive these privileges, they must first of all believe in the Son, and, to believe in the Son, they had to be drawn to the Father. How would they have been drawn to the Father and how, drawn of faith, would they have believed, if he had not already existed ? Therefore they existed. The birth from above which made them children of God, came only in the second place. Before obtaining it they received a first birth which made them of men. First men, then children of God: there is the succession.
We apprehend the first birth, the one that deals to men the human condition. If it was from above, it would appoint them children of God, which it doesn't do. We are thus constrained to conclude that the first birth is from below. Moreover we would not be receiving an illusion forbidden to us, since the 1:12,13 text opposes there the birth of children of God to the one by which the principle is in the blood, in the will of the flesh and in the will of man. This birth is accomplished by the flesh and by the blood and in which the human Will presides, and this is precisely the one through which we enter into the world, through which we are introduced into the vast human family. And it is this birth that 1:13 opposes to the birth of the children of God, to the one which, in 3:3,7, is called the birth from above.
Thus concludes that the first birth is from below. And, as there, whoever is from below comes from the Devil, resigns us to that other conclusion that the first birth comes from the Devil. It is necessary to arrive to this position. The Jews to whom the Johannine Christ reproaches as being the children of the Devil, are thus due to their human condition. The man, on account of the very constitution of his nature, has for his father the Devil. What is missing in the Johannine "Devil", in the "prince of this world", in the "Evil One" in the Fourth Gospel as being regarded the author of the human race? What separates him from the Creator of the universe, from the author of the work of six days? We attend a duel between the God of the creation- who is also the God of Moses- and a different God represented by the Christ. The Creator, from whom Pilate holds his authority, is going to deliver to his proxy the Son of God with the command to put him to death. He is going to kill the Christ, as he kills all men, for he is "since the beginning a slayer of men" (8:44). But, despite this ephemeral victory, he will be overthrown. "You are of God, you, children, and you overcame them (the agents of the devil) because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1Jo4:4).
6) The Johannine Christ rejects the resurrection of the flesh.
The Johannine Christ reveals to men God, the "only true God", because the knowledge of God is, for those who possess it, a principle of eternal life. He expels the God of the creation, because this perverse Being burdened upon men the cruel law of death followed by the condemnation to hell. In sum the final goal of the coming of Christ is to extract men from death, to procure for them eternal life. Such is the doctrine which emits from the following texts: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life" (3:16); "the one who believes has life eternal ...I am the bread which descends from heaven so that the one who eats shall never die ... the one who eats this bread shall live eternally" (6:29-58); "If any one keeps my word, he shall never see death" (8:51).
According to what rule is this kindness of eternal life dispensed? Does one possess it since now? Or do we not currently have the pledge of this goodness of which the possession is postponed to an ulterior date? One can draw nothing from the 17:3 text, where we read: "Eternal life is that they know you". But the following texts are decisive: "the one who ... believes in the one who sent me has the eternal life, *** he is passed from death to life" (5:24); "passed from death to life" (1Jo3:14). This death is the state of the soul which is ignorant of God, the God whose existence Christ came to reveal. This death ceases and makes room for the life as soon as the soul acquires the knowledge of God, or, those who return to the same, the faith in the Son. The Christian possesses from henceforth eternal life: "These things I have written to you that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God" (1Jo5:13). He died, he lives. And the life which he possesses is a real life produced through a veritable generation. Only this generation has nothing in common with the one that introduced us into this world. It is "from above" (3:3); it is "from God" (1:13, they are "born of God"); it is produced by "the seed of God" (1Jo3:9) "The seed of God abides" in the Christian. From henceforth the Christian is the child of God. All the privileges of faith are, for the moment, hidden, and are not manifested (1Jo3:2): "We are the children of God and it is not yet manifested what we shall be")
Since the resurrection is the transition from death to life, the Christian is, from henceforth, resurrected. The resurrection is an accomplished fact in him; but this resurrection is of a spiritual order. The author of the Fourth Gospel rejects the Jewish dogma of the resurrection of the body; he substitutes it with the resurrection of the soul which has its principle in the knowledge of God.
7)The Johannine Christ is a spiritual being.
During the feast of Tabernacles the Jews try to arrest Jesus to put him to death. But, declares the evangelist (7:30) "no one set their hand on him, because his hour had not come". After an interval of days, a second tentative arrest fails likewise. Two other times (8:59;10:31) Jesus escapes, without anyone knowing how, to the torment of their lapidation. Some days before the passover, new arrest measures made for him have no sequel (11:57; 12:36). The Johannine Christ is not submissive to the ordinary laws of location.
The law of suffering doesn't seem to reach him either. Some hours before the agony of Calvary he speaks of it with some lyrical strain: "Father, the hour is come, glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you" (17:1).
High on the cross, he dictates with quietude his final briefing to his beloved disciple and to Mary whom he avoids calling his mother (19:27). In addition, our physiological regime is foreign to him. To the disciples who invite him to eat he answers (4:32,34) "I have a food to eat that you know nothing of... My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to accomplish his work". He dies, but only because he wants to and when he wishes it. No one takes away his life from him (10:18); the prince of this world himself has no hold over him (14:30). He dies solely to obey the command of his Father (14:31). He doesn't give up the spirit until after noting that his mission is accomplished (19:28,30).
The Johannine Christ has only the appearance of a human body. And one understands now why he says to Mary: "What is there between I and you, woman"; why he says to the Jews: "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world; I am not of this world"; why the author of the gospel discreetly fights the common belief of the Davidic origin of Christ and the legend of Bethlehem (7:42); why he doesn't mention the virginal conception. The Johannine Christ owes nothing to David, owes nothing to Mary. He came directly from heaven into Galilee without passing through Bethlehem, without passing through Nazareth.