Thursday, January 23, 2014

Commentary On the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 8

8:1-11 (known as the Periscope Adulterae) is omitted in the original Eastern Peshitta and in older Greek manuscripts, but is included in later Aramaic (this passage being translated from the Greek John) and Greek manuscripts (but not always in this part of the Gospel, or even in this particular Gospel). The Diatessaron of Tatian (finished around 175 AD) and the Old Syriac’s Sinaitic and Curetonian Gospels from the 4th and 5th centuries omit this passage also (though some think the Curetonian and Sinaitic texts themselves might be from the 2nd century). This still could have been a true event, as it fits in with the character of Jesus Christ. I believe it is most likely true, but I don’t believe it was originally a part of the New Testament or, more specifically, the Gospel of John. You can read my commentary on the Periscope Adulterae at the end of the Gospel of John, using James Murdock's translation of the text as a base.

Now again Yeshua spoke with them and said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but he will find for himself the light of life." – John 8:12

     See John 1:9-13 for a discussion on the Aramaic word for light (nohra hrhwn). In I John 1:5-10, the author (who is also the author of this Gospel), uses the phrase “walk in darkness” in reference to sin and in order to demonstrate the righteousness of God, he says that God “is in the light”. The Aramaic word that is translated as “the world” here is alma (0ml9), which can be translated also as “age” or even “universe”. The Greek uses the word cosmos. Both should be taken as referring to this worldly society that walks in darkness. “Life” here is khaye (0yx). This is speaking about eternal life and not just normal life, as can be seen by it being used in the plural form. This Light of righteousness and truth is the source of eternal life, and Jesus, the Son of God, is that Light.

The Pharisees said to him, "Concerning yourself you do testify. Your testimony is not true!" Yeshua answered and said to them, Even if I do testify concerning myself, my testimony is true because I know from where I have come and to where I go. But you do not know from where I have come nor to where I go." - John 8:13-14
     
   The Pharisees are making reference to a statement that Jesus made in John 5:31: “If I should bear testimony respecting myself, my testimony would not be valid.” The Law testifies that two or three witnesses are necessary to convict a person in a trial, therefore this became the standard for establishing truth in society (Deuteronomy 19:15). The Pharisees, in their hyper-literal interpretation, stated that this means that Jesus’s statement could not possibly be true (as He seemed to be testifying on His own). Jesus replies by saying that even if they don’t regard His testimony as true, He knows that it is. The Pharisees were willingly ignorant of who Jesus was. He told them repeatedly that He was the Messiah, the Son of God (meaning the He is their God incarnate), but they rejected His testimony.

"You judge carnally, I do not judge anyone. Yet if I do judge, my judgment is true because it is not I alone, rather I and my father who sent me. In your own law it is written that the witnesses of two men is true. It is I that testify concerning myself, yet my Father who sent me testifies concerning me." – John 8:15-18
      
     Judging according to the flesh is definitely not righteous judgment. Jesus, however is appointed to judge all men by the Father, and because the Father bears witness of His Son (who obeys everything His Father says and pleases Him) the testimony of the Son is confirmable according to the Holy Torah of Moses. This distinction does not mean that the Father and the Son are two different Persons, but it is referring to the distinction between the human Christ (who is the divine Person incarnate) and the divine Spirit (the divine Person existing beyond the incarnation). Because of the incarnation, Christ is genuinely distinct from the Father, but not distinct in Person. The distinction between the Father and the Son is not a distinction between two Persons of the Godhead, but between two ways in which God is in existence: as the man Christ Jesus within the incarnation, and as the unlimited Spirit of God that continues to exist beyond the incarnation.

They said to him, "Where is your Father?" Yeshua answered and said to them, "Neither me do you know, nor my Father. If only you would have known me, you would have also known my Father." These words he spoke in the treasury while he taught in the temple, and no man seized him, for not yet had come his hour. – John 8:19-20

      One cannot know the Father without knowing the Son. This is another way in which the New Covenant writings show how inseparable the Father and the Son are. The Son, because of His sinless humanity, shares a unique relationship with God the Father, but is also God Himself. Anyone that believes the Gospel has both the Father and the Son (the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son). This is another idea that John states in his first Epistle (I John 2:21-25): “I have not written to you, because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no falsehood is of the truth. Who is false, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Messiah? And that person is a false Messiah. He that denieth the Father, denieth also the Son. And he that denieth the Son, also believeth not the Father. He that confesseth the Son, confesseth also the Father. And what ye heard from the first, let that remain with you. For if that, which ye heard from the first, remaineth with you, ye also will remain in the Father and in the Son. And this is the promise, which he hath promised us, [even] life eternal.”

Again Yeshua said to them, "I go and you will seek me, and you will die in your sins. And where I go you are not able to come." The Yehudeans said to him, "Will he indeed kill himself, that he says that 'Where I go, you are not able to come'? – John 8:21-22

      Jesus was speaking about how hard the hearts of these particular Pharisees were. They hardened their hearts, blinded their eyes, and deafened their ears. They had no love of God, or else they would have loved the Son of God. Jesus told the Pharisees plainly that they could not go to Heaven where He was going. Rather than following Jesus to the Father, the Pharisees would die in their sins. In contrast, Jesus later tells His disciples (John 13:33-36): “My children, a little longer I am with you; and ye will seek for me; and, as I said to the Jews, Whither I go ye cannot come, so I now say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that ye be affectionate to each other. As I have loved you, do ye also love one another. By this will every one know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love for each other. Simon Cephas said to him: Our Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered, and said to him: Whither I go, thou canst not now come after me; but thou wilt at last come.”

And he said to them, "You are from below and I am from above. You are from this world, I am not from this world. I have told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins." – John 8:23-24

      This is clear testimony to the deity of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus came down from heaven in order to save us. In contrast, we sinners are in this world and (unless we repent) are of this world. Jesus came to bring His people out from among the world and to walk in a newness of life. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote in II Corinthians 6:14-18, “And be ye not yoke-fellows with them that believe not: for what fellowship hath righteousness with iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? or what concord hath the Messiah with Satan? or what part hath a believer with an unbeliever? or what agreement hath the temple of God with that of demons? For ye are the temple of the living God; as it is said, I will dwell among them, and walk among them, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come ye out from among them, and be ye separate from them, saith the Lord; and come not near the unclean thing, and I will receive you; and will be to you a Father, and ye shall be sons and daughters to me, saith the Lord Almighty.”
"I am" is ena ‘na (0n0 0n0). In The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English and The Aramaic-English Interlinear New Testament, David Bauscher translates ena ‘na as “I AM THE LIVING GOD” when used by God (and Jesus is most certainly God). Paul Younan states, “In Semitic thought, the phrase ‘Ena-na’ (I am) conveys a thought of eternal existence reserved only for God. This naturally leads to the following question in verse 14.” Based on the fact that Jesus states, “If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins,” I think it is safe to say that belief in the deity of Jesus Christ is essential for salvation.

The Yehudeans said to him, "Who are you?" Yeshua said to them, "Even if I should begin to speak with you, much I have against you to say and to judge, but He who sent me is true, and I, those things which I heard from him, these things I speak in the world." And they knew not that concerning the Father he spoke to them. – John 8:25-27

     Jesus only speaks what the Father tells Him to speak, but the Pharisees reject the message of the Father.  Notice how Jesus says that He has a lot to condemn them for, but He doesn’t state anything more because the Father did not tell Him to do so.

Yeshua said to them again, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am and I do not from my own will, but as my Father has taught me, that likewise I speak. And He who sent me is with me and my Father does not leave me alone, because things that are pleasing to him I do at all times." While he was speaking these things, many believed in him. – John 8:28-30
     
     “Lifting up” refers the physical “lifting up” which occurred on the cross, and also the exaltation that He would receive because of His obedience to the Father and His humility. Jesus is the perfect Son of God and we should pattern our lives after him by trying to do the things that please the Father to the best of our ability.

And Yeshua said to those Yehudeans who believe in him, "If you should abide by my words, truly my disciples you [are], and you will know the truth and that truth will set you free." – John 8:31-32
     
    This is another instance of people who believed in Jesus forsaking Him. Jesus opens this discourse by stating that in order to be a disciple, you must persevere and submit yourself to Him and His teachings. As long as you are in rebellion, you are not acting as a disciple. I believe that “the truth” refers to the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and to Jesus Himself, who says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Andrew Gabriel Roth interprets “the truth” to be referring to the “applied truth” of obeying God’s Law. This is clearly not talking about some Gnostic secret, but to knowledge given by the Spirit of God that leads to salvation through faith in the Messiah Jesus.

They said to him, "We [are] the seed of Awraham, and not ever has been served to anyone bondage by us. How do you say that you will be free men?" Yeshua said to them, "Truly, truly say I to you: that anyone who commits is the servant of sin. And a servant does not remain forever in the house, but the Son remains forever. If therefore, the Son should free you, truly you will be free men." – John 8:33-36
   
      “Servitude” in this verse is not referring to slavery like that which was served by the Hebrews in Egypt, but indentured servitude. This verse makes me think of what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:7-10, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees, who came to be baptized, he said to them: Generation of vipers, who hath taught you to flee from the wrath that cometh? Bring forth the fruits therefore, that accord with repentance. And do not think, and say within yourselves, that Abraham is our father: for I say to you, that God is able of these tones to raise up children to Abraham. And lo, the ax is put to the root of trees. Every tree, therefore,  which beareth not good fruit, is felled, and falleth into the fire.”

      The word “servant” here is simply a more polite word for a slave. He who commits sin is a slave of sin and the Son came to liberate us from sin and to give us true freedom in Him. It does not matter if your daddy was a prophet or an apostle, you must work out your own salvation. Your heritage does not grant you the privilege of salvation, only faith in Jesus. When you put your faith in God, He will set you free of sin and save your soul.

And the Yehudeans answered and said to him, "Did we not say well that a Samaritan you [are] and a devil you have?" Yeshua said to them, "There is no devil in me, but my father I do honor and you curse me!"- John 8:37-38

    To be called a Samaritan and a demoniac in the same breath was quite a cutting insult. Most people would probably not only react by saying that they weren't possessed, but they would also say that they were not Samaritans either (if they weren't, of course). Unlike the religious elite of Jesus's day, Jesus was not against the Samaritans and he sought to restore them to the house of Israel by reaching out to them with the love of God. Through speaking the truth, Jesus brought glory to God the Father and when the Jewish authorities blasphemed against Christ, they also blasphemed against the Father who sent Him.

"And I do not seek my glory. There is He who seeks and judges. Truly, truly say I to you: that he who keeps my words, he will not see death forever." The Yehudeans said to him, "Now we know that a devil you have! Awraham died, and the prophets. And you say that "He who keeps my word will not taste death forever.' Why are you greater than our father Awraham who died, and the prophets who died? Who do you make yourself?"- John 8:39-42

    Because they refused to accept Jesus's claims to be the Messiah, they could not see that He was indeed greater than any man who had ever appeared on earth. They behaved as if Jesus was exalting Himself.

Yeshua said to them, "If I glorify myself, my praise is not anything. My Father, who glorifies me, He whom you said, 'That is our God.' And you do not know him, but I know Him, and if I say that I do not know Him I would be a liar like yourselves. But I know Him, and His Word I keep."- John 8:43-44

    Jesus tells them that He is not exalting Himself. He is telling them that His Father, the God who they believe they know, is the one who is exalting Him. Knowing God and keeping His commandments are joined at the hip, as these unbelieving Jews were not keeping the commandments of the Father, therefore they did not know Him. Jesus and those who accepted His Gospel were keeping the commandments of God through submitting themselves to the teachings of Christ and were fulfilling the Law of Moses as well.

"Awraham, your father, did long to see my day and he saw [it] and rejoiced." The Yehudeans said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, yet Awraham you have seen?" Yeshua said to them, "Truly, truly, say I to you: that before Awraham existed, I was." And they took up rocks to stone him, and Yeshua hid and departed from the temple, and passed through their midst and left.- John 8:45-48

   I find it interesting that Jesus refers to Abraham as their father and does not say "our father". In the Synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44) Jesus implies that the Messiah is more than a man since He is referred to by David as "my Lord" (Peshitta Matthew says "Lord Yahweh"). The Jewish people understand that their ancestors are greater than they are, so in that context it is very strange indeed that the son of David, the Messiah, is said to be David's Lord (Lordship shows superiority). Jesus is saying that He is greater than Abraham here because He existed before Abraham, preexisting the incarnation as the God who created Abraham: Yahweh. The Greek manuscripts say "I AM", pointing back to the Divine Name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. By saying that Abraham saw His day, He is saying that Abraham foresaw His coming. This was most likely in Genesis 22, when God told him that He would bless Abraham through his Seed (this Seed was Christ, as stated by Paul in Galatians 3:16) because he did not withhold his only begotten son Isaac. Abraham offering up his only son Isaac types out God offering His only Son Jesus. In this account, Isaac is not stated to protest to what Abraham was about to do. Jesus offered Himself freely as well. Abraham also knew that God was able to raise his son from the dead since he was the one through whom the promised Seed would come. Jesus also knew that God would raise Him from the dead and glorify Him for what He was going to do on the cross (John 2:18-22).