SBL 1999
Papers Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature
Boston, MA - November 20-23, 1999

‘Ethical’ Dualism of Food in The Gospel of John

Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges

[Revised version of a paper first presented to the SBL's "Johannine Literature Section"]
[Copyright 1999-2001, by Horace Jeffery Hodges. All rights reserved. Please do not copy or cite anything from this paper without explicit permission of the author.]

[Note: the Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac terms below are in the Athenian, Estrangela, and SuperHebrew fonts, respectively]

A lot of the debate over the significance of food in John’s Gospel has focused upon the literal versus figurative meaning of its passages on nourishment. For example, scholars disagree—often vehemently—about how to interpret the John 6:51c–58 passage exhorting us to eat Jesus’s flesh and drink his blood. Did the evangelist (or redactor[1]) expect us to take this literally—we should really gnaw on Jesus’s flesh and guzzle his blood?[2] Or did he expect us to understand these strange words figuratively—we should ‘devour’ their message of life? Rather than immediately confronting this difficult passage head-on, I would like to look more broadly at the Johannine use of food.

Let us begin very broadly. The fourth evangelist seems to presuppose some sort of dualism, but what kind? Are we dealing with a Gnostic type, as Bultmann thought? Or some other variety?[3] The evangelist divides everything into flesh and spirit[4], earthly and heavenly[5], darkness and light[6], death and life[7], below and above[8], respectively. It seems that he likes binary oppositions. Such oppositions, of course, characterize all sorts of dualisms, so noting these particular binarisms does not take us very far.

Suppose that Gnostic substance dualism[9] characterizes The Gospel of John. What would one then expect in the encounter between Jesus and the world? Based upon what we know of Gnosticism, the world would attempt to gain control over Jesus in order to obtain his spiritual power, but Jesus would attempt to avoid falling captive to the world.[10] How would the world attempt to gain control? By trying to mix matter with spirit.[11] Gnostic texts often describe this mixing in terms of eating, perhaps the most appropriate means of conceptualizing the mixing of matter and spirit, given that eating effects a boundary transgression resulting in a mixing of the most immediate, intimate, and recognizable kind. The Acta Archelai, for instance, recounts the Manichaean pre-cosmic myth describing how matter consumed the spiritual substance from the realm of light and thereby trapped it.[12] Being eaten—or, more characteristically, eating[13]—would thus constitute a grave threat that the Gnostic revealer must constantly guard himself against.

A Mandaean Gnostic story from the Ginza shows the Gnostic revealer Hibil-Ziwa refusing food offered by the children of darkness:

Sie rühren ei&en Brei ein, bringen ihn vor mich, halten ihn und sprechen: “Herr, iß und trink Wein”…. Ich sprach zu ihnen: “Fürwahr, ich habe gegessen und getrunken.”[14]

They prepare a brew, bring it to me, hold it (out), and speak: “Sir, eat, and drink wine”…. I spoke to them: “Indeed, I have eaten and drunk.”[15]

Hibil-Ziwa uses the pretext of having already eaten in order to decline the food offered.

The Hymn of the Pearl tells a similar story about a ‘princely’ Gnostic revealer offered food by the inhabitants of the world—but a story with a different ending:

They perceived that I was not one of them,
And they mingled with me in their guile.
Moreover, they made me eat of their food.

And by the weight of their food,
I fell into a deep sleep (vv. 31-36).

This Gnostic revealer here makes the mistake of accepting the food offered, and he falls into the ‘deep sleep’ of death.

Interestingly, John 4:31–34 and John 19:28–30 provide intriguing parallels to the passages from the Ginza and The Hymn of the Pearl, respectively. In John 4:31–34, the disciples, bearing food from a nearby Samaritan village, confront Jesus shortly after he has revealed his messianic role to a Samaritan woman:

4:31 In the meantime, the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know.” 33 Therefore, the disciples said to one another, “Surely, no one has brought food to him.” 34 Jesus says to them, “My food is that I might do the will of the one who sent me and (that I might) complete his work.”

In John 19:28–30, Jesus has just relinquished his responsibility for his mother to the beloved disciple and now readies himself for death:

19:28 After this, Jesus—knowing that everything had now been completed—in order that scripture might be fulfilled, says, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar was standing (there) full of vinegar. Thus having put a sponge full of the vinegar on a hyssop, they brought (it) to his mouth. 30 Then, when Jesus received the vinegar, he said, “It has been completed,” and bowing (his) head, he handed over the spirit.

In 4:31–34, Jesus resembles Hibil-Ziwa in declining food; in 19:28–30, he resembles the prince in accepting food and dying.

The resemblances, however, are superficial for two reasons. First, by resembling both Hibil-Ziwa and the prince, Jesus actually resembles neither. Second, and more significantly, Jesus willingly accepts the vinegar during his crucifixion, unlike the prince, whom the ‘guileful’ denizens of the world trick into accepting worldly food and drink. Consider this from a Gnostic perspective: Jesus does not try to avoid falling captive to the world but intentionally seeks to mix himself with it! No Gnostic revealer would do such a thing.[18] The fourth evangelist is therefore not presenting Jesus as a Gnostic revealer and is not presupposing a substance dualism.

Nevertheless, something odd is going on with food in John’s Gospel. The Johannine Jesus rejects food in 4:31–34 with the explanation that he receives nourishment by doing God’s will and completing God’s works. Consistent with this, nowhere in John’s Gospel does Jesus explicitly accept physical nourishment[19]—with one exception. He expresses thirst in 19:28–30, and he does so there even though he is clearly doing God’s will and completing God’s work. Moreover, upon receiving vinegar for his thirst, he dies. Why does Jesus refuse nourishment in the former case but accept it in the latter? In both cases, by doing God’s will and completing God’s work, he should be receiving the same non-worldly nourishment that precludes his requiring any physical food.

I think that the answers lies in this: By accepting the vinegar, Jesus is accepting death. Two things suggest such an interpretation. First, the narrative sequence in 19:28–30 suggests that Jesus’s acceptance of the vinegar occasions his death: Jesus thirsts; he accepts vinegar; he dies. Second, the scripture referred to as being fulfulled by Jesus’s action, Psalm 69:22, uses Semitic parallelism to identify vinegar with poison:

varo=                    y˝ti¢Wrb;˝B]                    Wn§T]YI˝w"
.≈m,joê                    ynI˝Wqèv]y"                    y˝ai%m;x]˝li˝w“€

69:22               And               they gave as my food               poison[20],
      and to my thirst,               they gave me to drink               vinegar.

Taken together, John 19:28–30 and Psalm 69:22 imply that the fourth evangelist intended to make a theological point signified by the vinegar that Jesus accepts immediately prior to his death. This theological point will require a bit of unpacking.

Before beginning to unpack it, one might find interesting a brief excusion into a few early Jewish references—some figurative, some literal—to vinegar. One finds evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls that pre-Johannine Jewish tradition used “vinegar” to signify corruption. In the closest parallel to John’s use of Psalm 69:22, the Hodayot scroll chooses this same verse to symbolize the conflict between a leader of the Essene community, perhaps the Teacher of Righteousness himself,[21] and those Jewish authorities leading the people astray:

rymhl l[ylb yl[ wmmz 10
ybblb htnnv rva hktrwt
wrwx[yw hkm[l 11 twqljb
µamxlw µyamxm t[d hqvm
fbh ?
i.e., ˆ[ml¿ [ml ≈mwj µwqvy
µhyd[wmb llwhthl µtw[t 12 la
hta yk µtwdwxmb cpthl
[22]....l[ylb 13 tbvjm lk ≈ant la

4:10 [D]evilry they have devised against me, to exchange Thy law, which Thou hast impressed upon mine heart, for hypocrisy 11 unto Thy people; and they withhold the drink of knowledge from them that thirst, and for their thirst they give them vinegar to drink, to look upon 12 their error, behaving madly at their festivals, that they be caught in their nets. But Thou, O God, scornest all the plans 13 of devilry.[23]

This pre-Johannine, Essene psalmist accuses his Jewish enemies of giving God’s people vinegar to assuage their thirst rather than the drink of knowledge (i.e., the Torah). In this sense, then, he means that the corrupt Jewish leaders have distorted the Torah and altered the sacred festivals in order to ensnare the people.

Interestingly, early rabbinical tradition considered vinegar a “cursed” substance. According to the Mishna[24], a late-second-century-C.E. compilation of earlier traditions, the important rabbinical hermeneut Rabbi Judah held that one does not say a blessing over anything “cursed,” and he includes “vinegar” among these things:

hdwhy ybr...≈mjh l[
hllq ˆym awhvAlk rmwa
wyl[ ˆykrbm ˆya

Over vinegar....R. Judah says, Anything which is in the nature of a curse: one does not say a Blessing over it.[25]

Rabbi Judah considered vinegar “cursed,” “as if the wine had been ‘cursed’ to turn sour.”[26] Rabbi Judah seems to have understood vinegar as a corrupted form of wine.

An interesting figurative use of vinegar also occurs in the Babylonian Talmud, which presents the story of Rabbi Eleazar, son of Rabbi Simeon, who came to work for the Roman authorities in the late second century (193-4 C.E.) arresting thieves.[27] According to Baba Mez!i‘a 83b,

he proceeded to arrest the thieves. Thereupon R. Joshua, son of K!arh!ah, sent word to him, ‘Vinegar, son of wine! How long will you deliver up the people of our God for slaughter!’

Somewhat later in the same story, a fuller applies the same terms of abuse, calling Rabbi Eleazar “‘Vinegar, son of wine.’”[28] Since the phrase means something like “degenerate son of a righteous father,”[29] then one can only understand vinegar as a negative symbol here.

Indeed, since most vinegar in the ancient world came from wine that had gone sour or had inadvertently overfermented,[30] then one can also readily understand the proverb’s origin. Consistent with this, Numbers Rabbah 2:3 tells the parable of a rich man who owned a storehouse filled with wine and who, upon inspecting his wares, discovered it had all changed to vinegar—outside of one good barrel of wine. In like manner, the Lord created 70 nations, but only found pleasure in one, Israel.[31] And according to the Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 84b, the rabbis considered vinegar and wine as two different kinds—at least for commercial transactions.[32] And the Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 5b, tells of how 400 jars of wine belonging to Rabbi Huna turned to vinegar. Several other rabbis and scholars then visit him and advise him to examine his actions, suggesting that God is punishing him for something, vinegar being of less value than wine.[33] On this point, Genesis Rabbah 39.11 agrees, stating that “vinegar cheapens wine.”[34]

Perhaps the most interesting of all of the Jewish figurative uses of vinager occurs in a rabbinical text in the Ruth Rabbah. In a midrash upon the vinegar that Ruth dips her bread into, Rabbi Jonathan explains that this refers to the Messiah:

 [I]t refer[s] to the Messiah. Come hither [Ruth 2:14]: approach to royal state. And eat of the bread [Ruth 2:14] refers to the bread of royalty; And dip thy morsel in the vinegar [Ruth 2:14] refers to his sufferings, as it is said, But he was wounded because of our transgression (Is. 53:5).[35]

Although this occurs in a relatively late source, it sounds as though it relates an early tradition. Given close connections between Christians and Jews even up to the fourth century C.E.[36], then rabbis surely knew Christian messianic prooftexts and would likely have avoided using them to refer to the messiah. The above midrash links the messiah not only to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 but also to the symbol of vinegar, a symbol occurring in the crucifixion scenes of all four gospels. One wonders, therefore, if this midrash perhaps predates Christianity. If so, it could have influenced the fourth evangelist’s own thinking about the role the vinegar played in Jesus’s execution. At the very least, the midrash suggests the possibility of using vinegar to symbolize something negative, in this case, physical suffering.

To return from our excursion, let us focus again upon the evangelist. What does the vinegar signify for him? If he is drawing upon Psalm 69:22, then one must understand those giving Jesus vinegar to drink as enemies[37]. In Johannine terms, this means that the world is providing the vinegar. The vinegar therefore symbolizes the world and that which the world can offer, namely, death. It serves as an appropriate symbol for the world because as wine that has gone bad, it readily signifies a world that has gone bad—much as in the Essene Hodayot scroll, vinager signified the corruption of the Torah.

I suggest, however, that the vinegar in John 19:28–30 acts as more than a mere symbol of the world. As a part of the world that it signifies, the vinegar is a part that stands for the whole, i.e., synecdoche. Consequently, the world’s corruption entails vinegar’s corruption, and in whatever way that the evangelist understands the corruption of the former, he also understands the corruption of the latter. If an originally good world has gone bad, then everything in it has also gone bad. The evangelist understands this ‘badness’, in the manner that he shows the Baptist phrasing it, as “the sin of the world” (John 1:29).[38] Since the evangelist uses “world” not only in the sense of people (and demons) opposed to God[39] but also in its more basic sense of the physical cosmos[40], then one should understand the physical cosmos itself as having received the taint of sin. This should not surprise us since early Christianity developed within a Jewish context that grouped sin under the broader category of impurity and understood impurity as a dynamic force tending to contaminate things within the physical world.[41]

Given this understanding of sin and the world, the evangelist is portraying Jesus as accepting the vinegar in order to take up—and thereby take away—the sin of the world.[42] The Johannine Jesus thus acts as a redeemer concerned both for sinners and a sin-tainted world, and this places him within a different thought-world from the Gnostic one, which betrays no concern for the physical cosmos. Nevertheless, a parallel to Gnosticism is intriguing enough to warrant emphasis here. The fourth evangelist has presented an ethical dualism so far-reaching in its consequences that the impurity of sin has contaminated everything in the world, thereby setting the entirety of the world in fierce opposition to the realm of the spirit.

With this in mind, we can understand why the evangelist shows Jesus declining food in John 4:31–34 and never explicitly eating it elsewhere in the Gospel until the crucifixion scene. For Jesus to accept the food of the world would mean for him to accept death, but this, he cannot do until the coming of “his hour”[43], i.e., the divinely appointed time of his crucifixion. When his hour does come—the moment when everything has reached its fulfillment (cf. John 19:28–30)—Jesus accepts food from the world. In a previously unrecognized Johannine irony that I have already alluded to above, Jesus’s acceptance of physical food from the world implies that he is also obtaining the nonphysical nourishment that he receives by doing the will of the one who sent him and completing his work.[44] This means that a border is being transgressed in two directions as both physical food and nonphysical food enter into Jesus and mix there. This two-way transgression enables Jesus to provide food for the world, as promised in John 6:33–35, where the evangelist has Jesus proclaim himself the bread of God coming down from heaven to give life to the world.

How does this work? The evangelist provides no details of the mechanics, but I would guess that he understood the worldly impurity conveyed by the vinegar to be coming into contact with Jesus’s holiness, a holiness reinforced by Jesus’s having received (and continuously receiving) nonphysical nourishment. Since holiness trumps impurity, holiness wins—ultimately. The Jewish background to early Christianity shows the ambiguous character of such an encounter, for there, the conflict between the holy and the impure can also result in the impure overpowering and driving out the holy. According to the Hebrew scriptures, an aggravated encroachment of the impure on the temple (i.e., the site of the holy), inexorably results in withdrawal of the holy from the temple.[45] In closest proximity, however, holiness also destroys impurity. This sheds an interesting light upon the Johannine Jesus, for John 2:19–22 identifies Jesus as the (new) temple[46], and John 6:69 identifies him as the Holy One of God. Let us spell it out: As impurity enters into Jesus, it encounters holiness, which overcomes the impurity but withdraws from Jesus.

As John 2:19–22 implies, holiness returns to Jesus after three days, resanctifying the temple of his body and allowing him to convey the holy spirit to others[47]—and thereby to the world itself. In so doing, the Johannine Jesus begins the process of returning the world to its prelapsarian goodness, a process finding its ultimate fulfillment in the eschatological fullness of the future messianic age. In that age, God will remove from the earth the curse upon it that had resulted from Adam and Eve’s sin.[48] Following the lifting of the curse, the earth will generate copious amounts of agricultural products—a time of plenty symbolized, especially, by bounteous amounts of grapes and wheat.[49]

Many scholars have argued that the Johannine wine and bread miracles foreshadow the messianic age[50], and this seems reasonable to me. The enormous quantities of wine at Cana[51] and bread (and fish) at the Sea of Galilee[52] support the hypothesis. Both miracles also foreshadow Jesus’s crucifixion. In the Cana story, Jesus initially seems to decline the opportunity to work the miracle on the grounds that “his hour” had not yet come (John 2:4); in the Sea of Tiberias story, Jesus interprets his miracle in terms of offering himself as the bread from heaven that gives life to the world (John 6:33, 35; cf. 6:71; 3:14–15). It seems that the evangelist wishes to connect these two miracles of nourishment to both the eschaton and the crucifixion.

In fact, this suggests that he is linking the miraculous wine and bread to the eschaton by means of the crucifixion. The wine and bread thus function not as food of this world but as proleptic eschatological meals—repasts of realized eschatology. John 6:27, reflecting back upon the bread and fish miracle, makes a similar distinction between between two kinds of food:

6:27 Labor (§rgãzesye) not (for) the perishing (i.e., “perishable”) (épollum°nhn) food, but (labor for) the food enduring to eternal life, which the Son of Man gives to you.

Note that §rgãzesye means not only “labor for,” but also “digest[53], and this probably constitutes the meaning here since in the context, the food seems not so much a thing earned as a free gift from the Son of Man. Such a meaning suggests that the verse refers to actual food that one really can digest.

Scholars have generally understood this verse as drawing a distinction between the persishable food provided in the feeding miracle and the spiritual food that Jesus provides, but this ignores the force of the word “perishing” (épollum°nhn), which also occurs in John 6:12, where Jesus orders his disciples to gather up the remaining fragments so that none might “perish” (épÒlhtai). It also misses the significance of John 6:26, which—in my opinion—scholars have always misread. I supply here my own translation:

6:26 Jesus answered them (i.e., the people who had sought him after the miracle) and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, seek (zhte›t°) me not because you saw signs but because you ate of the bread and were satisfied.

Reading zhte›t° as imperative rather than indicative illustrates the very close parallelism of verses 26 and 27 and provides a more fitting translation for the context. The people who have sought Jesus out after the feeding miracle are seeking him precisely because they saw signs, as John 6:14 (cf. verses 1–2) makes clear. Despite the emphasis upon “signs” in John’s Gospel, the Gospel portrays Jesus as skeptical of the belief engendered by signs.[54] By diminishing the significance of the “sign,” John’s Jesus is here focusing the people’s attention upon the bread itself.

This strongly suggests that the miraculously provided bread conveys eternal life to the one eating it. As such, one should understand this bread as eucharistic.[55] This should not surprise us too greatly, for early Christians understood the eucharist as a proleptic eschatological meal. Consequently, one has reason to think that the eucharistic passage John 6:51c–58 belongs to John’s Gospel and that one should understand its words quite literally. Consequently, they reflect back upon the bread at the Sea of Galilee the wine at Cana, identifying them as the flesh and blood of Jesus, the eating and drinking of which bring eternal life.

One has a few other reasons to consider John 6:51c–58 original to the Gospel. First, as Eugen Ruckstuhl has rigorously argued, this passage does not differ from the usual Johannine literary style.[56] Second, those scholars who think that a later redactor inserted the passage need to find an explanation for why the redactor placed it in chapter 6 rather than in chapter 13, where it ‘belongs’. Third, the anti-docetic character of the passage fits both the incarnational theology presented in the Johannine prologue and Jesus’s acceptance of the vinegar in the crucifixion scene. Fourth, the passage’s emphasis upon eating and drinking coheres with the emphasis upon food throughout the Gospel and resolves a tension lingering due to the rigorous Johannine dualism.

This fourth point requires some explanation. As argued above, the ethical dualism pervading John’s Gospel verges upon a substance dualism because the impurity of sin has pervaded the entire physical realm and thereby contaminated the whole world. This makes physical food problematic not just for an otherworldly figure such as Jesus but for those who follow him as well. The Johannine Jesus solves this problem by purging the physical realm of its impurity and imbuing it with holiness—in the eschaton, anyway, for he does not entirely do so yet. In the meantime, he provides eschatological food through the eucharist, a food purged of impurity and imbued with holiness. This follows not only from the apriori point that purity and holiness necessarily characterize the eucharist but also from the emphasis in John 6:52c–58 upon Jesus’s flesh and blood as food and drink, for as we have seen, John 6:69 identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God, and purity necessarily characterizes holiness.[57] Thus, his flesh and blood constitute pure, holy nourishment.

We should also consider the implications of point number two. While a redactor would very likely have placed the eucharistic passage in chapter 13, where it ‘belongs’, why did the evangelist place it in chapter 6? I suggest that he could not place it in chapter 13 because the prophecy introduced in John 13:18 precludes this:

13:18 The one gnawing (tr≈gvn) my bread has lifted his heal against me.

For the prophecy to have sufficient specificity for readers, the evangelist can explicitly show only Judas eating bread. Since the evangelist uses the term “gnawing” (tr≈gvn)[58] both here and in John 6:51c–58, then the bread that the betrayer will eat must constitute eucharistic bread. The fulfillment of this prophecy occurs a few verses later, in John 13:26–30, where Judas accepts the morsel offered him. We know from John 13:10–11 that Judas alone of the inner disciples does not stand in a state of purity requisite for having a part in Jesus.[59] Consequently, his acceptance of the morsel contradicts his impure state, and the holiness inhering in the eucharistic morsel results in his own destruction[60]—as shown by the fact that Satan then enters into him, after which, he leaves the pure, inner group and exits into the night.[61]

Although John’s Gospel presents a rigorous dualism verging upon a Gnostic dualism of substances, Johannine dualism belongs to the family of ethical dualisms. The evangelist inherits the Jewish view[62] of the world as the in principle neutral ground upon which the conflict between holiness and impurity takes place, but he radicalizes this view by presupposing that the impurity of sin has pervaded the entirety of the world. Given its impure status, the world of John’s Gospel constitutes a problematic physical realm for holiness to enter, for the holy and the impure exist in dynamic opposition to one another. Paradoxically, this very conflict provides the solution, for holiness—despite the danger posed to it by impurity—ultimately triumphs over impurity, purging it from the world. To do so, the spirit of holiness must, ultimately, mix with the physical realm. The evangelist presents this as occuring—or beginning to occur—when Jesus accepts the vinegar, for his acceptance of it transgresses the boundary between the spirit and the world. Such a boundary transgression would make no sense in Gnosticism because for Gnostics, the world’s impurity derives from the ontologically impure status of matter, and transgressing the boundary would merely result in further mixing of holy spirit with inexpurgably impure matter, a mixing that constitutes the Gnostic problem rather than a possible Gnostic solution. The Johannine Jesus confronts no such ontological problem in mixing his spirit with the physical realm; rather, this mixing provides the solution to the dualistic problem effected by the pervasiveness of sin in the originally pure world.

[1] Cf. Helmet Koester, Ancient Christian Texts, Their History and Development (Philadelphia, Trinity Press International: 1990), pp. 247–248; Günther Bornkamm, “Die eucharistische Rede im Johannesevangelium,” ZNW 47 (1956), pp. 161–169; Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (i–xii) (Garden City, Doubleday & Company, Inc.: 1966), pp. 281–294 and 303–304.

[2] I use these crude terms to make a point clear—namely, that the wording in this portion of the Gospel of John is intentionally provocative. The Greek term tr≈gvn literally means “gnaw”, and the thought of drinking blood would have been particularly abhorent to Jews (on the prohibition against drinking blood, cf., e.g., Leviticus 7:26–27).

[3] Cf. Nicholas Thomas Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis, Fortress Press: 1992), pp. 253–254 for 10 types of “dualities.” Although I have not adopted his terminology in this article, his distinctions among the various dualisms provide a useful reference.

[4] John 3:6.

[5] John 3:12.

[6] John 3:19.

[7] John 5:24.

[8] John 8:23.

[9] Wright, New Testament, p. 253, considers Gnostic dualism as constituted by a “theological/moral duality.” I would say, rather, that Gnostic dualism generally makes a prior appeal to a duality of subtances, i.e., spirit and matter, from which derives a thing’s good or evil, respectively. A radicalized version of what Wright calls “cosmological duality” would better fit Gnostic views.

[10] Cf. Majella Franzmann, Jesus in the Nag Hammadi Writings (Edinburgh, T&T Clark LTD: 1996), pp. 131–133 and 135–161. On this issue in Manichaeism, cf.

[11] Cf. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity (Boston, Beacon Press: 1963), pp. 58–59. Cf. also Samuel N. C. Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China (Tübingen, J. C. B. Mohr: 1992), p. 14.

[12] Hegemonius, Acta Archelai (7,?), ed. Charles Henry Beeson (Leipzig, Hinrichs: 1906), Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 16. Cf. also Lieu, Manichaeism, p. 14, who cites Theodorus bar Koni, Liber Scholiorum, edited by A. Scher, CSCO LV (1910) and LXIX (1912), transs. R. Hespel and R.Draguet, CSCO CCCCXXXI (Syr. 187) and CCCCXXXII (Syr. 188) (1981–82). Cf. also Epiphanius, Panarion 46.9,6 (cf. 46.25,6), who states that Mani taught that the Light trapped in the world “is the food of the archons who have seized it and <eaten it as*> a source of strength for themselves, and parceled it out among bodies,” “Against Manichaeans. 46, but 66 of the series” in The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47–80, De Fide), translator Frank Williams (Leiden, E. J. Brill: 1994), p. 229. Cf. also Ephrem’s Prose Refutations (Ephr H 32.8–23; 75.34–47; 80.26–32; 81.43–82.7; 101.5–24; 112.15–23), cited by John C. Reeves, “Manichaean Citations from the Prose Refutations of Ephrem,” in Emerging from Darkness: Studies in the Recovery of Manichaean Sources, edited by Paul Mirecki and Jason BeDuhn (Leiden, Brill: 1997), pp. 234–236.

[13] Eating posed the same problem for Gnostics themselves: cf. Carl Schmidt and Violet MacDermot, Pistis Sophia (Leiden, E. J. Brill: 1978), pp. 501 and 503, for one Gnostic text’s explicit statement of this problem.

[14] Mark Lidzbarski, tr., Ginza: Der Schatz, Oder Das Grosse Buch der Mandäer, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Göttingen: 1925), p. 161,1-8; parentheses mine—to distinguish more clearly where Hibil-Ziwa speaks to himself from where he speaks to the children of darkness.

[15] My translation from Lidzbarski’s German translation.

[16] Perhaps one should also compare the fallen redeemer’s fate here with that of the fallen Sophia as described in the Pistis Sophia 50,2-5 and 54,22-23.

[17] Here, the Syriac text, though surely using the Greek term for food (trofÆ), reads as the Sryiac term Nwhyprwf—“their troubles, vexations”; perhaps it should read Nwhypwrf—“their foods,” but note also the possibilty of a wordplay here similar to the one often found in Greek: trofÆ/trufÆ [“food”/“luxury” {in the negative sense of ‘luxury’—‘indulgence’ or ‘revelling’}], for the context fits—their ‘food’ constitutes ‘trouble’—and such a pun would reinforce the synecdochical use of food one finds in Gnostic texts); cf. “Das Lied von der Erlösung,” in Zwei Gnostische Hymnen, E. Preuschen, J. Ricker’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung [Alfred Töpelmann (Giessen: 1904)], p. 35, n, 35a; for evidence that the primary reference refers to “food,” see also the Greek parallels to this in E codice parisino graeco 1516, collatis codicibus Collegii novi Oxoniensis C 149, Bibliothecae publicae leningradensis 95 et Athonense Pantocatoris 21, Hymn of the Pearl, O 73 v 45 (32)-—-S 197 v 50 (35), and in E codice Bibliothecae Vallicellanae Romanae B35, Hymn of the Pearl 124ra: 32-35, both of which use Greek words for “food,” the former using br«siw, the latter using trofÆ.

[18] The Nag Hammadi tractate “Melchizedek,” often considered a Gnostic text, also has Jesus eating and drinking (in 5,2ff.), but I wonder how Gnostic this tractate is. Birger A. Pearson argues for the tractate’s originally having been a non-Gnostic text that underwent a degree of Gnostic editing (Birger A. Pearson, “Melchizedek,” in The Nag Hammadi Library in English (Leiden, Brill: 1988), p.439). Note also that one variant of the Manichaean myth of the Primal Man has him voluntarily mixing his soul with matter, but this appears to me to be a later, somewhat forced (albeit ingenious) interpretation of the Primal Man’s catastrophic defeat at the hands of the demons of the realm of darkness.

[19] Compare this with passages in the synoptic gospels explicitly showing Jesus eating physical food: Mt 11:19/Mk 2:15–16/Lk 7:34/ 24:41–43 (cf. Mt 21:18–19/26:29/Mk 3:20/6:31/11:12–14/14:12–14/14:25/Lk 4:2/7:36/14:1/22:7–11/22:15–18)

[20] The LXX translates MT’s varo (poison) as xolØn (gall). According to William F. Arndt and F. Wilber Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press: 1979), p. 883b, the term xolÆ means “lit., of a substance w. an unpleasant taste (the LXX uses xolÆ to translate…varo=poison Dt 29:17; Ps 68:22).” Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, At the Clarendon Press: 1968), p. 1997a, define xolÆ: “in LXX=Hebr. rôsh, a poisonous plant, variously called hemlock or poppy, Ps. 68(69).22, Je. 8.14.”

[21] Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 2nd ed. (New York: 1975) 149.

[22] Cf. Die Texte aus Qumran, Loblieder (Hodayot) I QH IV,10-13, ed. Eduard Lohse (Darmstadt: 1971) 124.

[23] Hodayot—Psalms from Qumran, Psalm 8. Column 4:10-13, tr. Svend Holm-Nielsen (Aarhus: 1960) 76-77.

[24] One finds Rabbi Judah’s words recorded also in the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud: Bab. Talmud, Seder Zera‘im I, Berakoth 40b, pp. 250-252; cf. 252, n. 1; The Talmud of the Land of Israel, Vol 1,  Berakhot 6:3, tr. Tzvee Zahavy (Chicago, 1989) 238. Although later rabbis generally disregard Rabbi Judah’s injunction here on pronouncing blessings, they do not dispute the ‘cursed’ nature of vinegar.

[25] Mishnayoth, Vol. I, Order Zeraim, Berachoth 6, Mishna 3, tr. Philip Blackman (London, 1951) 57.

[26] Ibid, 57-58, n. 5.

[27] Bab. Talmud, Seder Nezik¡in II, Baba Mez¡i‘a 83b, tr. H. Freedman (London 1935) 477, n. 8.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid, 478, n. 5.

[30] The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, eds. George Arthur Buttrick et al. (New York, 1962), Vol. 4, “Vinegar,” J. F. Ross, 786b.

[31] Mid. Rah., Numbers II. 3, Vol. I, tr. Judah J. Slotki, 23.

[32] Bab. Talmud, Seder Nezik¡in, Baba Bathra I 84a-b, tr. Israel W. Slotki (London, 1935) 343, cf. n. 5.

[33] Bab. Talmud, Seder Zera‘im I, Berakoth 5b, tr. Maurice Simon (London, 1948) 22.

[34] Mid. Rab. I, Genesis I, 39.11,  322.

[35] Mid. Rab., Ruth V. 6, tr. L. Rabinowitz, 64.

[36] On Christian-Jewish relations in the second century C.E., cf. Judith Lieu, Image and Reality. The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996). For relations up to the fourth century C.E., cf. William Horbury, Jews and Christians in Contact and Controversy (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998).

[37] Cf. Psalm 69:4 and 19.

[38] On the fourth evangelist’s Jewish understanding of a divinely created world that has become characterized by “iniquity” and therefore stands in need of redemption, see Wright, New Testament, pp. 415–417.

[39] For rather clear references to “world” as meaning those opposed to God, cf. John 7:4, 7; 8:26; 12:19; 14:17, 19, 27, 31; 15:18–19; 16:20; 17:9, 14, 18, 21, 23, 25; and 18:20. Some of these references to “world” as those opposed to God occur in contexts where “world” also refers to the physical world.

[40] For rather clear references to the physical world, cf. John 1:9–10; 3:16–17, 19; 6:14; 8:23; 9:5, 39; 10:36; 11:9, 27; 12:25, 46; 13:1; 16:21, 28; 17:5, 15, 18, 24; and 18:37. Some of these references to the physical world occur in contexts where “world” also refers to unbelievers.

[41] On the intimate connection of sin and impurity, cf. Nicholas Thomas Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2: Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, Fortress Press: 1996), pp. 407–411. On impurity as a dynamic force, cf. Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 616–617 and 731–732. Note that the fourth evangelist presupposes the problem of impurity in John 13:10–11, where Jesus assures Peter and the other disciples of their purity—except for one of them, namely, Judas. His impurity stems from his being “a devil” (John 6:70–71) at the command of “the Devil” (John 13:2) and, ultimately, completely possessed by Satan (John 13:27). This understanding of impurity conforms to the Jewish view of impurity as a dynamic force. In Johannine thought, such dynamism entails its power to enslave human beings (cf. John 8:34 on enslavement to sin). Note that John 1:5 presupposes ‘darkness’ (sin-impurity) as a dynamic force opposed to ‘light’ (holiness).

[42] Cf. the double sense of a‡rvn in John 1:29.

[43] Cf. references to Jesus’s “hour” in John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; and 17:1.

[44] As one can infer from reading John 4:31–34 and 19:28–30 together.

[45] Cf. also Milgrom, Leviticus, p. 258, citing Ezekiel 11:22 and Lamentations 2:7.

[46] On Jesus as temple in John’s Gospel, cf. Anthony Tyrrell Hanson, The New Testament Interpretation of Scripture (London, SPCK: 1980), pp. 110–121. On Jesus as “temple” in early Christianity, cf. Wright, New Testament, p. 366, and Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, pp. 426 and 523; also: Gottlob Schrenk, “flerÒn (E.1.d),” in Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 1965), translator Geoffrey W. Bromiley, pp. 244–245. Cf. also Mark 14:58 and 15:29.

[47] Cf. John 1:33 and 20:22; also 7:39.

[48] Cf. H. Freedman and M. Simon, editors, Midrash Rabbah (London: 1951): Genesis Rabbah XII. 6, pp. 92–93, and Numbers Rabbah XIII. 12, pp. 523–524; J. T. Townsend, Midrash Tanhuma (Hoboken, 1989) 1.18, Gen. 2:4ff., Pt. VII, pp. 12–13.

[49] On eschatological fullness, see the following Tanakh citations. Explicitly eschatological: Isaiah 25:6; 30:23-26; 62:8-9 (cf. 63:1-6); Jeremiah 31:5, 12; Ezekiel 34:23-31; 36:29-30, 34-35; Hosea 2:23-25; 14:8-9; Joel 2:19, 21-26; 3:18; Amos 9:13-14; and Zechariah 8:12; 9:17. Eschatologically interpreted: Genesis 27:28 (cf. v. 37); 49:11-12; Leviticus 26:5; and Deuteronomy 28:3-5 (cf. 11-12); cf. 30:9; (cf. even Song of Solomon 1:2; 2:4; et al.). Cf. also E. Isaac, translator, “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” Chapter 10:19, in James H. Charlesworth, editor, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Garden City, Doubleday & Company, Inc.: 1983), p. 18; J. J. Collins, translator, “The Sibylline Oracles,” Book 2, 313–320, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1, p. 353; and A. F. J. Klijn, translator, “2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch,” Chapter 29:5–8, in Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1, p. 630.

[50] Cf. et al., M.-E. Boismard, Du Baptême A Cana (Paris: 1956), p. 138; A. Feuillet, Études Johanniques (Paris: 1962) 26; Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to John, Volume One: Introduction and Commentary on Chapters 1–4, translator Kevin Smyth (Tunbridge Wells, Burns & Oates: 1968), p. 338; Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (i-xii) (New York: 1966), p. 105; F.-M. Braun, Jean Le Théologien, Sa Théologie: Le Christ, Notre Seigneur (Paris, 1972), p. 95; Birger Olsson, Structure and Meaning in the Fourth Gospel: A Text-Linguistic Analysis of John 2:1-11 and 4:1-42 (Lund: 1974), pp. 19, 34; C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John (London: 1978), p. 189; Ernst Haenchen, John 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of John Chapters 1–6, translator Robert W. Funk (Philadephia, Fortress Press: 1984), p. 276ab; Martin Hengel, “The Interpretation of the Wine Miracle at Cana: John 2:1-11,” in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament: Studies in Christology, eds. L. D. Hurst and N. T. Wright (Oxford: 1987), pp. 100–102; Bernd Kollmann, Ursprung und Gestalten der frühchristlichen Mahlfeier (Göttingen: 1990), pp. 207-208; Edmund Little, Echoes of the Old Testament in The Wine of Cana in Galilee (John 2:1–11) and The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish (John 6:1–11): Towards an Appreciation (Paris, J. Gabalda et Cie Éditeurs: 1998), pp. 23–24, 44–45, and 161–162.

[51] John 2:6 specifies six stone jars, each one holding “two or three measures” (metrhtåw dÊo µ tre›w). According to Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome, Biblical Studies Press: 1981), p. 290, a measure equals about 39 to 40 liters. With each jar containing from 78/80 to 117/120 liters, times 6 jars, this means an amount totaling somewhere in the range from 468/480 to 702/720 liters. Cf. also Haenchen, John 1, p. 173b.

[52] According to John 6:10–13, enough for 5000 men to eat their fill and still have 12 baskets full of fragments left over.

[53] Arndt and Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 307a. Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (London, 1987) 238-239, notes a similar pun by Valentinus in his Epistle to Agathoupas.

[54] Cf. John 2:23–25; 3:2ff.; and, especially, 4:48.

[55] Note John 6:11 and 23, which use eÈxaristÆsaw and eÈxaristÆsantow, respectively. Scholars have cautiously asked if this term’s use with respect to the feeding miracle signals a eucharistic allusion (but have generally remained undecided): See, e.g., C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text (London,The Camelot Press Ltd.: 1955), pp. 230–231; J. N. Sanders, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St John (London, Adam & Charles Black: 1968), pp. 178–179; Haenchen, John 1, pp. 272a and 280b–281a; Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St John, Volume Two: Commentary on Chapters 5–12 (London, Burns & Oates: 1980), pp. 16–17. Note that already soon after the writing of The Gospel of John, Christians were using the term “eucharitst” for their sacred meal, e.g., in Didache 9:1-5 and 10:1-2 as well as in three letters of Ignatius (Ephesians 13:1, Philadephians 4, and Smyrnaeans 8:1).

[56] Eugen Ruckstuhl, Die Literarische Einheit des Johannesevangeliums (Freiburg in der Schweiz, 1951), pp. 243–245 and 266. Ruckstuhl counters the arguments of scholars such as Eduard Lohse, “Wort und Sakrament im Johannesevangelium,” New Testament Studies (NTS), 1960-61, 118-120. Even Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Philadelphia, 1971) 234, who rejected Johannine authorship upon theological grounds, nevertheless accepted that the style and language used follow that of the evangelist.

[57] Cf. the purity of the disciples (John 13:10–11 [cf. Ezekiel 36:24–26] and 15:3) and their obtaining the Holy Spirit (John 20:22 [cf. Ezekiel 36:24–36]).

[58] Note that the evangelist could have used §sy€vn, for he is quoting LXX Psalm 41:10 as a prophecy. That he here in John 13:18 uses the same verb (tr≈gvn) as the one employed in John 6:51c–58 demonstrates his intention of establishing a link to that eucharistic discourse. The parallelism of the sentences also supports this. Consider the following:

6:54            ÑO                   tr≈gvn                   mou                tØn sãrka
6:54            The                   one gnawing      of me              the flesh

13:18          ÑO                   tr≈gvn                   mou                tÚn êrton
13:18          The                   one gnawing      of me              the bread

 The exact parallelism demonstrates an intentional echo of the eucharistic discourse in John 13:18.

[59] Cf. John 13:8.

[60] Cf. I Corinthians 11:27-32, where Paul describes the dire consequences of eating the Lord’s Supper unworthily.

[61] Cf. the following scholars, among others, who propose eucharistic or magical interpretations of the morsel: Wilhelm Martin Lebrecht de Wette, Kurzgef. exeg. Hdb. z. N. T., Bd. 3, Evang. und die Briefe des Johannes (4. v. 5 Ausg. bearbeitet u. verbessert von Bruno Brückner 1852 u. 1863) (Leipzig, 1837) 155-157; Alfred Loisy, Le Quatrième Evangile (Paris, 1903) 728-730; William Wrede, Charakter und Tendenze des Johannesevangeliums (Tübingen, 1903) 52; William Wrede, Vorträge und Studien (Tübingen, 1907) 135-136; Julius Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Johannis (Berlin, 1908) 60-61; Friedrich Karl Feigel, Der Einfluss des Weissagungsbeweises und anderer Motive aus die Leidengeschichte (Tübingen, 1910) 95; Walter Bauer, Johannes, in Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, Vol. II, Die Evangelien (Tübingen, 1919 [Part II, Tübingen, 1912]) 132; Wilhelm Heitmüller, Das Johannes-Evangelium, die Johannes-Briefe und die Offenbarung des Johannes. Sachregister zum ganzen Werke, in Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments, eds. Wilhelm Bousset and Wilhelm Heitmüller (Göttingen, 1918) 146; Marie-Joseph Lagrange, Évangile selon Saint Jean (Paris, 1925) 362; Walter Bauer, Das Johannesevangelium (Tübingen, 1933) 175; Kurt Lüthi, “Das Problem des Judas Iskariot—neu untersucht,” in Evangelische Theologie 16, 1956, p. 110; Ernst Haenchen, Das Johannesevangelium: Ein Kommentar (Tübingen, 1980) 462-463; and Yves Simoens, La gloire d’aimer: Structures stylistiques et interprétatives dans le Discours de la Cène (Jn 13—17)  (Rome, 1981) 91-92 and 95-96.

[62] On the ‘Jewishness’, generally, of The Gospel of John, see Stephen Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861–1961 (Oxford, Oxford University Press: 1964), pp. 313–324. Richard A. Burridge, What are the Gospels: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1992), also notes the scholarly evaluation of the ‘Jewishness’ of John’s Gospel, remarking that through the influence of Bultmann, especially, scholars had earlier grown accustomed to “seeing John as influenced by Hellenistic, especially Gnostic, ideas; then the pendulum swung back, placing it within the fuller understanding of Judaism brought by the Qumran material” (pp. 234–235) Burridge himself holds to the view that John’s Gospel stems from a broadly syncretistic environment but one that makes links “with the Jewish world of the Old Testament, Rabbinic arguments and the ideas of heterodox or ‘non-conformist’ Judaism” (p. 235). Slightly more recently, Wright, New Testament, pp. 410–417, has argued for the profound Jewishness of John’s Gospel.


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