Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Introduction To the Commentary on the Gospel of John From the Aramaic Peshitta- Dylan Downs

The fourth Gospel has traditionally be ascribed to the Apostle John, who was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus, and who wrote the three Epistles bearing his name, and possibly the Revelation. Internal and external evidence bear witness to this belief. The author of this Gospel only refers to Himself as talmida huw d'rakhak hwa Yeshua (Aramaic: "the disciple whom Jesus loved"). John is believed to have written this Gospel in Ephesus, an ancient city in Asia. This Gospel could have been written anytime shortly before 70 and 90 AD. The oldest copy we have of John's Gospel is a Greek fragment containing John 18:31-33, 37-38. This manuscript is referred to as Rylands Library Papyrus P52. This fragment is from around 125 AD, making it the oldest fragment of the New Testament. Before this, liberal scholars tried to say that the Gospel of John was written sometime in the 2nd century. J.S. Asseman (in his Bibliotheca), mentions an Assyrian Bishop seeing an Aramaic manuscript of the four Gospels written in Aramaic that was dated to 78 AD.

John, being a 1st century Jewish fisherman from Galilee, most likely wrote in Aramaic. The Greek version of John that is popularly seen as the original, seems like a translation. The grammar in the Greek version of John is very similar to the translational Greek of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament). The Aramaic Gospel of John also contains poetry and wordplays that are totally missed in the Greek version (see John 6:7, 8:10, and 8:28-30 for examples).

John, like the other three Gospel writers, had an agenda in writing this Gospel. John 20:31 (Murdock translation) says, "But these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that when ye believe, ye may have life eternal by his name." John proves Jesus's Messiahship (and therefore His Sonship to God) through seven miraculous signs that Jesus appeals to as signs that He is sent by God (John 10:37-38, 14:11). :

1. Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).

2. Healing a nobleman's son (John 4:46-54).
3. Healing a paralytic (John 5:1-18).
4. Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-14).
5. Walking on the water (John 6:16-24).
6. Giving sight to a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7).
7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). 

Jesus also claims divinity in a clearer fashion in this Gospel than in the other Gospels. John introduces Jesus as the Miltha (Aramaic: "Word", "Manifestation", "Instance", "Substance") and identifies the Miltha as being God (John 1:1). John then states that the Miltha became flesh and dwelt among mankind (John 1:14). Jesus Himself claims to have been in existence before Abraham (John 8:58) and claims a special Oneness with the Father God (John 10:30-39, 14:9-11) because He is God in the flesh. Jesus also uses the Aramaic phrase ena 'na (Aramaic: "I am") quite frequently, which is regarded as a divine utterance by Aramaic speakers (97% of the time it is used in the Peshitta Tanakh, it is used by God). Jesus makes seven primary "I am" statements:


1. The Bread of life (John 6:35).
2. The Light of the world (John 8:12).
3. The Door (John 10:9).
4. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
5. The Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).
6. The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
7. The True Vine (John 15:1).

John also refers to Jesus as "the only Son of God" (Aramaic: Ekhidiya Breh d'Alaha). This points to the Virgin Birth of Christ, but not only that. This phrase also points to Jesus as having a unique relationship with God that no other man has. Jesus's close relationship with the Father is one of the primary reasons why Jesus is able to reveal the Father to us (John 1:18). Calling Jesus the Son of God is also an expression of His deity (John 5:18). Jesus, as the only begotten Son of God, is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Jesus's function as the Messiah and His relationship to God are revealed in several discourses:

1. John 5:17-47
2. John 6:26-59
3. John 14-16

Jesus is pictured not only as God, but also as a true human being. Jesus experiences anger (John 2:13-22), fatigue (John 4:6), sadness (John 11:35), and fear (John 12:27-28). Jesus is also shown praying (John 6:11, 11:41-42, 17). The title "Messiah" or "Christ" (Aramaic: Meshikha, Hebrew: Mashiyach, Greek: Christos) means "the Anointed One". God does not need to be anointed or to pray. This does not mean that Jesus is not God. All of these things show that Jesus is truly God in the flesh, living as a genuine human being. The distinctions made between the Father and the Son are shown to be a distinction between God's existence as a man (Son) and His existence as the transcendent and unlimited Spirit (Father).

John's Gospel is notably very different from the other three Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as "the Synoptic Gospels". The word "synoptic" means "similar". The Synoptic Gospels paint similar portraits of Christ and even record many of the same events. Out of the seven signs in John's Gospel, only two recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Jesus feeding the 5,000 and walking on the water). Unlike the Synoptics, Jesus is not recorded as speaking in parables or performing exorcisms. The Synoptic Gospels also take place primarily in Galilee, while John's Gospel takes place mainly in Judea. John also records Jesus going to Jerusalem multiple times (including for three Passovers, from which we can conclude that Jesus's ministry lasted for around three years), while the Synoptics only record Jesus's last journey to Jerusalem. The Gospel of John does not contradict the Synoptic Gospels, it complements them by tells us things that the other Gospels do not. The basic outline of the Gospel of John is the same as the Synoptics:

1. Jesus is revealed to Israel through the ministry of John the Baptist.
2. Jesus travels around Israel, preaching the Gospel and doing miracles.
3. Jesus clashes with the religious authorities.
4. Jesus is betrayed by Judas Iscariot.
5. Jesus is put on trial under the Jewish religious authorities and Pontius Pilate.
6. Jesus is crucified and dies on the cross for our sins.
7. Jesus rises from the dead and appears to His disciples.

This commentary is based on the Aramaic Peshitta text of the New Testament. The Peshitta is written in an Aramaic dialect called Syriac, which is very similar to the Galilean Aramaic dialect spoken by Jesus and most of His disciples. I hold the Peshitta to be authoritative and I believe that the Greek New Testament is translated from it. The translation used in this commentary is an English syntax version of Paul Younan's Aramaic-English Interlinear Gospels. My commentary can only be read on http://theoscholar.blogspot.com/. I do plan to publish the commentary after it is completed.

To read the Younan Interlinear online: http://www.peshitta.org
To purchase Paul Younan's Interlinear: http://www.aramaicbooks.com/product_info.php?products_id=47&osCsid=bjam58bo65hanjime5bm6pi1n3

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