Thursday, November 7, 2013

Commentary On the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 5

After these things was a feast of the Yehudeans and Yeshua went up to Urishlim. Now there was there in Urishlim a certain place of baptism which is called, in Hebrew, "Beth Khisda", and there was in it five porches. And in these were many people laying who were sick, and the blind and the lame and crippled. And they were anticipating the stirring of the waters. For an angel from time to time would descend to the place of baptism and would stir the waters, and whoever would descend first after the movement of the waters would be healed [of] every pain which he had. – John 5:1-4
         
     I’m not sure what this feast is, but it seems to have happened shortly before Passover (John 6:4). This “place of baptizing” was most likely a mikveh pool, which was used for both conversion to Judaism and ritual cleansing.  “Hebrew” here is referring to the Judean dialect of Aramaic, as Beth-Khisda (0dsx tyb) is not a Hebrew phrase. “Hebrew” was used by the Church Fathers to describe the language in which the Apostle Matthew (Shlikha Mattai Ytm 0xyl4). Hebrew was not widely used among the common people of Christ’s day, this is evidenced by the fact that while the Hebrew scriptures were being read, they were “targummed” (or translated) into Aramaic. These were passed on orally until they were written down. They are loose translations and give us great insight into 1st century interpretation of the Tanakh. The existence of Bethesda was doubted until it was discovered in the 19th century.
            
  Verse 4 is not in several Greek manuscripts, but the Peshitta shows that it is an ancient reading, as the Peshitta can be dated to the 2nd century (at the latest).  Aramaic for “Angel” is malaka (0k0lm), which means “messenger”. The prophet Malachi’s name comes from the Hebrew cognate (Malak), and means “My Messenger”. The term “angel” comes from the Greek angelos (this also means “messenger”). A malaka can be a human, or a spiritual being like it is here.

And there was there a certain man who was thirty and eight years in sickness. Yeshua saw this [man], who was lying [there], and he knew that [for] a long time he had [this disease]. And he said to him, "Do you desire to be made whole?" That sick man answered and said, "Yes, my Lord. But I have no person that when the waters are stirred up to place me in the baptismal pool. Rather, before I come, another before me descends. Yeshua said to him, Arise. Take your pallet and walk." And at once that man was healed and arose, [and] took his pallet and walked. And that day was the sabbath day. – John 5:5-9
          
    Here is sign #3. Jesus is the master over illnesses if you desire to be healed. Asking a man who had been sick for 38 years if he wanted to be healed might sound like a strange thing, but Jesus was testing him to see if he had the faith to be healed. If I was paralyzed like this man had been for so long and a man told me to get up and walk, I would think he was either making a cruel joke or was crazy. This man did not question Jesus, he obeyed and was healed. He brought his faith into actions by getting up and walking. Notice the authority Jesus shows in this, He doesn’t plead for the illness to leave. He speaks in the name of His Father and commands the illness to go.

And the Yehudeans said to that [man] who was healed, "It is the sabbath! It is not lawful for you to carry your pallet." And he answered and said to them, "He who made me whole said to me, 'Take your pallet and walk.'" And they asked him, "Who is this man who said to you, 'Take your pallet and walk?'" But he who was healed did not know who Yeshua was, for he was pressed in by a large crowd which was in that place. – John 5:10-13
            
    There is a lot of debate as to whether or not what he did would be breaking the Sabbath. Those who believe that the sick man carrying the bed quote Jeremiah 17:21, which says, “Thus, saith Yahweh, Take heed unto your souls,—And do not bear any burden on the sabbath, day, Nor bring it in through the gates of Jerusalem…” Janet Magiera, translator of the Aramaic Peshitta New Testament Translation, believes that this only contradicted the Oral Law of the Pharisees (which they believed to be of equal authority with the Mosaic Torah), but not the Written Law of Moses. Either way, Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and has total authority over it.

After some time, Yeshua found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you [are] whole! Do not sin again, lest should happen to you something that is worse than before." And that man went and said to the Yehudeans that Yeshua is he who had made him whole. Because of this, the Yehudeans were persecuting Yeshua and were seeking to kill him because he would do these things on the sabbath.  – John 5:14-16
          
    The fact that Jesus warned him not to sin seems to imply that this man’s illness was brought upon him because of sin in his life. This does not mean that every illness is caused by sin. The Synoptic Gospels record several instances of Jesus being persecuted for healing on the Sabbath or doing other things on the Sabbath, but John records this one instance. This is very likely the first time they got onto Him for doing something on the Sabbath. The legalistic tendencies of the Pharisees were a major subject of contention between them and Jesus.

But he, Yeshua, said to them, "My Father until now works, I also work." Because of the this all the more were seeking the Yehudeans to kill him. Not only because he had broken the sabbath, but also that concerning God that he would say that he is his Father, and was equating himself with God. – John 5:17-18
         
     The fact that John tells us that Jesus’s calling Himself the Son of God puts Him on an equal plane of deity with God is clear proof that Jesus is God in the flesh. God tells us in the Book of Isaiah that He will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8). The unbelieving Pharisees clearly understood that Jesus was claiming deity, why can’t a lot of modern people who claim to be Christians? Jesus’s basic point on this verse is that God never ceases to work (even on the Sabbath), so Jesus, God’s Son (therefore God Himself in the flesh), must also do the same. If God can work on the Sabbath without breaking it, why can’t the Son of God do the same thing?

But Yeshua answered and said to them, "Truly, truly say I to you: that the Son is not able to do anything by his desire, but what he sees the things that he, the Father, does. For the Father that does these things, the Son likewise does. For the Father loves the Son and everything that he does shows to him, and greater than these works he will show him so that you will marvel. For as the Fathr raises the dead and gives life to them, likewise also the Son to those whom he desires, will make alive." – John 5:19-21
          
    This is the first of several lengthy but valuable discourses about Christ concerning Himself and His identity. This discourse clearly paints a picture of the hypostatic union (deity and humanity being united in Christ, who is God and man). Jesus, as God’s Son (God in flesh), depends on God and carries out His will. This also tells us that Jesus has a human consciousness. These words might seem to contradict John’s statement that Jesus claimed equality with God, but Jesus is telling us that He functions in subordination to God, but in His essence, He is God Himself made flesh. The Father loving His Son does not hint at a divine Trinity, but is genuine testimony of the humanity of Christ. Jesus, because His humanity, can be spoken of as distinct from God altogether. God loves all mankind, so God loves His Son Jesus also. The Father and the Son are two distinct manifestations of the one true God of Israel: YHWH. By telling us that Jesus can give life to whoever He wants, He is showing that He has divine authority. He is the giver of eternal life. I thought that was God’s department! If it’s God’s department, it’s Jesus’s department. The Father and Son are the very same Person.

"For the Father does not judge man, rather all judgment he has given to the Son, so that every man may honor the Son as he honors the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." – John 5:22-23
          
    Jesus has been given authority over all mankind. He is the Son of man and has been appointed as judge of the living and the dead. To reject Jesus, is to reject God. You cannot separate Jesus and God, as they are the same Person. If you have the Father, you have the Son (and in vice-versa).

Truly, truly say I to you: that whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has life that is eternal and into judgment does not come, but he has passed from death into life. Truly, truly say I do you: that the hour is coming, even now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as to the Father there is life in himself, likewise he gives also to the Son that there may be life in himself. And he gave him authority to execute also judgment because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming when all those who are in a grave will hear his voice, and will go forth those who have done good things to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil things to the resurrection of judgment. I am not able to do anything of my own desire, but as I hear I judge, and my judgment is just. For I seek not my will, rather the will of he who sent me." – John 5:24-30
         
     Paul Younan states that “Has passed” is more literally, “He has removed himself”. Jesus’s statement on the condemnation of the believer fits perfectly into Paul’s statement in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore no condemnation, to them who, in Jesus Messiah, walk not after the flesh.” That is a great promise for the redeemed to stand on. John 3:18 tells us that those who reject the message of the Gospel have already been condemned by God. We’ve removed ourselves from death to life eternal and are free of condemnation through faith in Jesus Christ. James Murdock states, ‘The Syriac punctuation here differs from the Greek, and greatly alters the sense. If the Greek punctuation were applied to the Syriac, this and the following verse might be rendered thus: “and hath moreover given him authority to execute judgment, as he is also the Son of man…’” Paul Younan translates as “And gave him authority also to execute judgment because he is the Son of man”. George Lamsa, John Wesley Etheridge, and others, agree with Younan. I think Paul Younan’s translation is the correct one and that James Murdock made a mistake.
         
     Several people were risen from the dead during Jesus’s ministry, but his statement about the dead hearing His voice and rising is primarily referring to the resurrection of the dead at Jesus’s second coming. The dead in Christ shall rise first, and then the wicked will rise also (I Thessalonians 4:16). Notice how Jesus mentions that believers will rise to eternal life immediately, while the lost will rise for the very purpose of judgment.
     
       Jesus tells us that He judges according to the Father’s command. Trinitarians are very selective in the roots of the distinctions between the Father and the Son. When Jesus says something like this, they will agree with me and state that this is a distinction that arose due to the incarnation (God the Son in the flesh and God the Son beyond the incarnation in the Trinitarian view), but when it says something like James does in 1:1 of his Epistle: “James, a servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus the Messiah…”, they will jump on it as proof of the Trinity. Notice though that this verse does not just distinguish Jesus from God the Father (Paul equates the one true God with the Father in I Corinthians 8:6), but from God altogether. This tells me that the distinction between the Father and Son is a distinction between God and man, God in the incarnation as the Son and beyond the incarnation as the Father.
             
       We should be like Jesus and do the things we do for the glory of God. Jesus did not seek out His own glory, and for His humility God gave Him glory and honor above all (Philippians 2:5-11). This shows that through the incarnation, God was not only able to die for our sins (which was the main purpose of it), but also could show us how we, as people, should live and think. Paul tells us to follow God’s example like beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). As Jesus said in Matthew 23:12, “For whoever shall exalt himself, will be abased: and whoever shall abase himself, will be exalted.”

"If  I witness concerning myself, my testimony is not true. Another is he who bears witness concerning me and I know that his testimony is true that he testifies concerning me. You sent to Yukhanan, and he testified concerning the truth, and I did not receive testimony from man. rather I say these things that you may live. That [man] was a lamp that shone and brought light, and you desired to boast for an hour in his light. But I have a testimony that is greater than [that] of Yukhanan, for the works that my Father has given to me to complete him, those works that I do testify concerning me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me testifies concerning me. His voice you have not ever heard, nor have you seen his appearance. And his word does not dwell in you because in him whom he sent you do not believe. Search the scriptures, because in them you think that you have life that is eternal, and they testify concerning me. And you are not desiring to to come to me that you may have life that is eternal." – John 5:31-40
          
    Jesus is following Moses’s teaching that two or three testimonies are necessary to establish truths (Deuteronomy 19:15). YHWH and John the Baptist testified that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Messiah that was promised by the prophets. The ones who did not believe in Jesus did not know God or have His Word in them because they rejected His Son (I John 2:23). The Greek of verse 39 can read as the Peshitta does, or say, “You search the Scriptures…” The Aramaic, unlike the Greek, is totally unambiguous. Jesus is telling them that if they study the Scriptures, they will realize that they testify that Jesus is the Messiah. Just knowing the Bible does not make you just in the eyes of God, you have to be in Christ in order to be accepted by God (Romans 8:8). Jesus gives three witnesses: God the Father, John the Baptist, and the Scriptures.

Praise from the sons of men I do not receive, but I know you, that there is not the love of God in you. I have come in the name of my Father and you have not received me, yet if another should come in his own name you will receive him. How are you able to believe, who receive praise from one to another, and [yet] the praise that is from the one God you do not seek?" – John 5:41-44
             
   The Pharisees did what they did in order to receive praise from men (Matthew 23:5). Unlike them, Jesus did everything for the glory of God and would only accept God’s approval. You cannot love God and reject Jesus, because to reject Jesus is to reject the God who sent Him.

"Why do you think that I will accuse you before the Father? There is one who accuses you: Moshe, he in whom you hope. For if only in Moshe you had believed, you also would be believers in me, for Moshe wrote concerning me. And if the writings of that [man] you do not believe, how will you believe my words?" – John 5:45-47

       Moses wrote about Jesus multiple times. I believe the verse this mainly fits in with is Deuteronomy 18:15-19, “A prophet out of thy midst, of thy brethren, like unto me, will Yahweh thy God, raise up unto thee—unto him, shall ye hearken:— according to all which thou didst ask of Yahweh thy God, in Horeb, in the day of the convocation, saying,—Let me no further hearken unto the voice of Yahweh my God, and, this great fire, let me not see any more, lest I die. And Yahweh said unto me: They have well said what they have spoken. A prophet, will I raise up unto them, out of the midst of their brethren, like unto thee,—and I will put my words in his mouth, so shall he speak unto them whatsoever I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that, the man who will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I, myself, will require it of him.” The Law clearly testifies about Jesus Christ, so what hope is there for you if you reject this simple truth?