Friday, December 6, 2013

Commentary on the Gospel of John According to the Aramaic Peshitta: Chapter 7

After these things Yeshua was walking in Galeela, for he did not desire to walk in Yehuda because the Yehudeans were seeking to kill him. And drawing near was the Feast of Tabernacles of the Yehudeans, and his brothers said to Yeshua, "Depart from here and go to Yehuda that your disciples may see the works that you do. For there is no man who does anything secretly, yet desires that he may be in the open. If it be that you do these things, show yourself to the people." For not even had his brothers believed in Yeshua. - John 7:1-5

      Based on the Scriptures, we know that James and Jude at least came to faith in their brother Jesus. Jesus had one more brother named Joses (Jose), who we know nothing about. He also had an unknown amount of sisters. Acts 1:14 tells us that Jesus’s mother Mary and His brothers were among those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Jude and James wrote the Epistles bearing their names. Jesus also appeared to James after His resurrection (I Corinthians 15:7). Jesus’s brothers didn’t realize that Jesus did not come to make a name for Himself, He came to die for our sins and to reveal the Father to us. Many people, such as the 5,000 disciples who were fed in the last chapter, seemed to think that Jesus intended to build a kingdom on earth during this time.

     The Feast of Tabernacles is one of the feasts that God commanded the people of Israel to celebrate. In Hebrew it is referred to as Sukkot. During this feast, people are to build booths (or tabernacles) and eat in them for seven days. Some people believe that Jesus was likely to have been born during this feast. This feast was established for the people of Israel to remember the Exodus, and it also points toward Jesus Christ redeeming us from sin.

Yeshua said to them, "My time up until not is not arrived, but your time at all moments is here. The world is not able to hate you, but [it] hates me, because I witness against it that its works are evil. You go up to this feast, I will not go up now to this feast, because this, my time, is not yet finished." He said these things and he remained in Galeela, but when his brothers went up to the feast, then even he went up (not openly, but as in secret). – John 7:6-10
      Jesus was not denying that He would come to the feast, He was merely waiting for the Father’s timing. Notice He said he would not go up to the feast at that moment because the time had not one. Jesus went up secretly in order to not cause an uproar among the people, both those who wanted to crown Him king and those who wanted to kill Him.

But the Yehudeans were looking [for] him at the feast and saying, "Where is he?" and there was murmuring much because of him among the crowds, for there were those who said that, "He is good!" and others were saying, "No, he only deceives the people!" But no man openly was speaking concerning him because of the fear of the Yehudeans. – John 7:10-13

        The fact that John noted this division among the people is more evidence that Jesus had a reasonably large following still. The “Jews”, as in most translations, refers to the Jewish authorities (like the Sanhedrin). Many people departed from Jesus at the end of Jesus’s discourse in the last chapter, but this was just the people in Capernaum and likely some of the 5,000 people who ate from the bread. Remember, Judea was where most of Jesus’s opposition was. Later in this chapter, they express doubts about the Messiah being a Galilean (being unaware that Jesus was born in Judea).

Now when were divided the days of the feast, Yeshua went up to the temple and he was teaching. And marveling were the Yehudeans and saying, "How does this [man] know the scrolls, since he has not learn [them]?" – John 7:14-15

        After a few days, Jesus openly revealed His presence at the feast. He used His time to teach the people the Word of God. The Jewish authorities were amazed at Jesus’s knowledge of the Scriptures, since He was not apparently formerly educated. Most of the big rabbis from that time were schooled under great teachers like Gamaliel or Hillel. Jesus could have very well been educated and the Jews were merely acting on a stereotype about the Galileans. Jesus’s twelve primary disciples were primarily uneducated people like Peter, Andrew, James, and John (who were fishermen).

Yeshua answered and said, "My teaching is not mine, rather [it is] of he who has sent me. He who desires to do his will can comprehend my teaching if from God it is or [if] from my own will I speak. He who from his own mind speaks, glory for himself seeks. But he who the glory of he who sent him seeks is true, and there is no iniquity in his heart." – John 7:16-18
        Jesus taught and spoke as the Father directed and taught Him. Jesus was teaching the truth, as His doctrine came directly from God. Since Jesus speaks the truth and does the will of the Father, those who truly want to do God’s will also will believe in His doctrine. This remark about those who want to do their own will seems to be directed at the Pharisees, as they did not receive the glory that comes only from God (see John 5:44). Since they sought to do their own will and to glorify themselves, they did not accept the glory of God and Jesus’s message. Humility and submission is essential to do the will of God. Jesus the Messiah is the very perfect example of how humble and submitted we should be. The Father is pleased with His Son, since the Son always does His Father’s will.

"Did not Moshe give to you the law? Yet not a man among you kept the law. Why do you want to kill me?" The crowd answered and said, "A devil you have! Who wants to kill you?" Yeshua answered and said to them, "One work I have done, and all of you marvel. Because of this Moshe gave to you circumcision, not because it is from Moshe, but it is from the patriarchs. Yet on the sabbath you circumcize a man; if a man is circumcized on the day of the sabbath so that law of Moshe not be loosed, [why] do you murmur against me because the whole man I have made whole on the day of the sabbath? Do not judge by hypocrisy, rather [with] a jugment just judge."– John 7:19-24

     The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees upheld their own doctrine and their own tradition, even if it meant disregarding God’s Word. Sadly, many people are like that today. We claim to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet we don’t do His will. They had no just reason to want to kill Jesus, as He did nothing wrong. He spoke nothing but the truth about Himself and about His Father.
      They frequently accused Jesus of having a demon because He was not the Messiah that they accepted. They wanted someone who upheld their teaching and that would overthrow the Romans. They were all against Jesus for one miracle (healing the paralyzed man in John 5). Jesus did this work on the Sabbath under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus uses the rite of circumcision as something that has to be done on the Sabbath, much like His miracle had to be done so that He wouldn’t be guilty of violating the commandment of God. George Lamsa states this in his translation (footnote on 7:23), which fits another aspect of Jesus’s words perfectly:

    “Circumcision affected only one part of the body. Jesus here healed the whole body; and so his work on the Sabbath was more important than circumcision.”

      Jesus also doesn’t tell the Pharisees to not to judge at all, but to judge righteously. "Hypocrisy" in the Aramaic is literally “Acceptance of faces”. This refers to partiality (which is hypocrisy). The “faces” they were accepting were their own. They would condemn someone else when they sinned (and Jesus never sinned), when they were doing the same thing or something worse (Matthew 7:4). Sometimes we have to judge to tell if someone is saved or is from God. We do this by examining their deeds (Luke 6:44). Jesus did nothing wrong, so there is nothing that they could have possibly used against Him in order to convict Him of sin.

And men from Urishlim were saying, "Is this this man that they want to kill? And behold, openly he speaks and they do not say anything to him. Do our elders know that this is truly the Messiah? But this man, we know from where he is. But the Messiah, when he comes, no man will know from where he is. – John 7:25-27

       The Jewish authorities couldn’t beat Jesus in a debate, because Jesus spoke the truth and they spoke lies from their own hearts. It’s interesting that the people were theorizing that the elders knew that Jesus was the Messiah (some clearly did, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea). If they rejected Jesus and knew that He was truly the Messiah, they were obviously guilty of grave sin. The Jewish people traditionally believed that the Messiah would, so to speak, come out of nowhere. This is one way that the popular image of the Messiah clashed with the reality: Jesus was raised in Nazareth, which was public knowledge.

And Yeshua lifted up his voice while he taught in the temple and said, "Both me you know and from where I [am] you know, and from my own will I did not come, but true is he who sent me: he who you do not know him, but I know him, because from his presence I [am] and he has sent me. And they wanted to seize him, yet no man placed upon him hands because not yet had come his time. – John 7:28-30
      Jesus did not come to preach just because He wanted to or for His own glory, He did it at the command of the Father. Jesus’s pleasure was to do the will of God. This attests to the truth of Jesus’s claims to be the Messiah of God. Again, the religious authorities couldn’t put out the Light of the world. He was just going to keep on shining until it was His time to go back to the Father.

And many from the crowds believed in him and said, "The Messiah, when he comes, more than these miracles that this man does will he do?" And the Pharisees heard the crowds who said concerning him these things, and they and the chief priests sent guards that they might seize him. And Yeshua said, "A little time with you I [am], and will go I to him who sent me. And you will seek me and you will not find me, and where I am you are not able to come. The Yehudeans said among themselves, "Where is this man about to go that we cannot find him? Indeed, to the country of the Gentiles is he about to go and teach the pagans? What is this teaching that he said that, 'You will seek me and you will not find me, and where I am you are not able to come?'" – John 7:31-36

       The message of Christ was quickly spreading among the people and the religious establishment did not like it. Jesus told them that soon He would be going back the Father, and they would not be able to find Him. The Pharisees, who were absolute literalists, could not see that Jesus was going back to Heaven. They couldn’t believe it either, as that would mean that Jesus truly came from God!

Now on the day which is great, the last day of the feast, standing was Yeshua and he cried out and said, "If a man thirsts, let him come to me and drink! Anyone who believes in me, as the scriptures have said, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his belly.'" And this he said concerning the Spirit that they were about to receive, those who believed in him, for not yet was the Spirit given, because not yet was Yeshua glorified. – John 7:37-39

      The last day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah. A hoshana is done for these patriarches: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. The Jews also read the entire Book of Psalms on this day and the pray for the speedy coming of the Messiah and beat five willow branches on the ground in order to symbolize sin being eliminated.  Jesus lets them known that He is the Messiah by telling them to come to Him, from whom the Holy Spirit would flow for salvation at the point of His glorification. Jesus is not quoting any specific verse of the Old Testament, but most likely referencing several (notice the plural “scriptures”, which only appears in the Aramaic New Testament). Suggestions of His points of reference are Isaiah 44:3, 55:1, 58:11; Zechariah 14:8; and Jeremiah 2:13. Jesus is the one who baptizes us in His Holy Spirit, and He is the source of all holiness.

 And many from the crowds who heard his words were saying, "This is truly a prophet!" Others were saying, "This is the Messiah!" And others said, "From Galeela does the Messiah come? Does not the scripture say that from the seed of Dawid and from Beth-Lekhem, the village of Dawid, comes the Messiah?"– John 7:40-43
       Some people understood His message and that He was the Messiah, becoming believers. Others cited that Jesus was a Galilean and the Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2). They were not aware that Jesus was truly born in Bethlehem (as said in the nativity narratives of Matthew and Luke) and He was only raised in Nazareth of Galilee. Galileans were viewed with a great amount of contempt, because of many of them not being concerned with Judaism. Yohanan ben Zakkai, a Pharisee, is recorded by the Talmud as saying, “O Galilee, O Galilee, in the end you shall be filled with wrongdoers!” (Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 16:7, 15d). He was placed in Galilee while being trained and was asked only two questions about the Jewish law during an 18-year period. Galileans also had a very peculiar Aramaic accent, which resulted in them being mocked by the Judeans.  Rabbinical teaching forbade Galileans from reading the Tanakh, in fear that they might mispronounce a word and pronounce a curse upon the people of Israel.

And division was occurring in the crowd because of him. And there were some among them who had wanted to seize him, but no man placed on him hands. And those guards returned to the chief priests and Pharisees and said to them the priests, "Why did you not bring him?" The guards said to them, "Not ever has spoken a man thus as speaks this man!" The Pharisees said to them, "Even you are deceived? Has anyone from the leaders or from the Pharisees believed in him, except this people who do not know the law [and] are accursed? – John 7:44-49

      The reaction from the guards about Jesus’s teaching is much like the reaction of the Galilean people to Jesus’s teaching. Matthew 6:28-29 says, “And so it was, that when Jesus had ended these discourses, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority; and not as their Scribes and Pharisees.” They accused the people essentially of being stupid for believing in Jesus, when in reality, it was the Pharisees who were being foolish. The Law testifies totally of Jesus Christ. They found it impossible for anyone among their ranks to believe that this Galilean teacher could be the Messiah and King of Israel.

One of them, Niqodemus, he who had come to Yeshua at night, said, "Why? Does our law condemn a man except it hears from him first and knows what he has done?" They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galeela? Search and see: the Prophet from Galeela will not rise." – John 7:50-53

     Nicodemus was one of the few Pharisees at that time who knew that Jesus was the Messiah, so He stuck up for Him. They were ready to condemn Jesus without even giving Him a fair trial. The Pharisees calling Nicodemus a Galilean is another example of the contempt the Judeans had for the Galilean Jews. If the traditional translation is correct (the Aramaic phrase for “no prophet ariseth from Galilee” can also be translated as “The Prophet will not rise from Galilee.”), this shows that the Pharisees were unaware or were simply ignoring that Jonah was a prophet from Galilee (II Kings 14:25). They could also be saying the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 could not come from Galilee. Either way, they are completely and utterly wrong. The 53rd verse is not in the Peshitta, but appears in some late Greek manuscripts. I hold the Peshitta to be authoritative, so I don’t believe this verse was likely to be original. The Diatessaron by Tatian (which was written in Aramaic and seems to use the Peshitta as a base text) is from the 2nd century and is missing this verse, as well as other important manuscripts. Verse 53 and the following verses (8:1-11) are included and commentated on at the end of the Gospel, using James Murdock's translation. 

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