Wednesday, January 30, 2008


We begin a long section in John's book. It covers to the end of the first table and a fifth of the second table. As I consider the whole, I will I think include some of the later sections of the other three among these beginnings of John. Each section is a cutting such as can be rearranged now that I have had them severed from the codices.

These are the section titles as I have formed them in your tongue:

SectionA title
21 Primi discipuli

1.35 1
22 Nuptiae in Cana factae ( this happened on a Tuesday)

2.1 1
33 In Nazareth praedicat

34 Vocatio discipulorum 1.16
35 In synagoga Capharnaum docet 1.21 4.31

36 Daimoniacus in synagoga 1.23 4.33

23 In Capharnaum manet

2.12 1
24 Primum iter in Jerusalem

2.13 1
271 Jesus in Jerusalem, Bethaniam redit 11.11
272 Ficulnea maledicta 11.12
25 Purgatio templi (April 28)

2.14 2
275 Filculnea arefacta 11.20
276 De potestate Jesu et baptismo Ioannis 11.27 20.1 21.23
26 Ministerium in Jerusalem

2.23 2
27 Colloquium cum Nicodemo

3.1 2
253 Benedictio parvulorum 10.13 18.15 19.13
280 De censu Caesaris 12.13 20.20 22.15
28 Ministerium in Iudaea

3.22 2
29 Testimonium Ioannis Baptistae

3.23 2
17 Ioannes in carcerum mittitur (in the 16th year of Tiberius)

109 Patri confitetur

45 Quaestio ieiunii 2.18 5.33


John is unique among the writers. He measures his phrases in careful balance, reasoning in circles from the outside edge to the center and then back to the circumference. Every section has such circles. I hope I will be able to show you some of these as we proceed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


My hands are tied in knots and the threads are all over the floor.

And I see I omitted section 11. Birth, division between joy and lament, passage of time, the requirements of the Law, but real boys like me, children in a place, John a Nazirite; Jesus a Nazarene, and so we were named for a while.

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness

- this way

- alone is good

I was going to leave this section till later in the story - I don't remember why. I am getting old. Note about each table: after Mark, whom we knew best and studied first, we always put Luke, and then Matthew, and John last.

What is temptation? Does it ever cease? Is it only for a moment? Or does our temptation reveal who we really are?

How shall we know, Beloved, which spirit to be driven by? To what will we subject ourselves? According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was subject to three temptations, like those that were from the beginning: a need for food, the attractiveness of power, a certainty of safety. Why does Mark leave these out? It is a consequence of his leaving out the introductions of Matthew and Luke. We do not yet know who Jesus is. It is sufficient to know for the moment that the Spirit drove him. There is action in God that is exercised in tension of relationship. How will it be resolved? Have you ever been driven by love?

- Draw me after thee

- I will

So it was that Jesus is drawn into the desert. Luke and Matthew use a term that is not so easily associated with violence, but even the word Mark uses can be meant without violence. In this desert experience, Jesus is to normal eyes alone, but Mark notes the three that accompany him: the accuser, the wild beasts, and the angels.

- what will open eyes?
- a spectacle is no use to the blind

- what will unstop ears?
- thunder will not awaken the deaf

- what will release the fearful and restrain the arrogant?

- consider the pet Leviathan.

What does the accuser want with love? Denial of desire seeking what is not and refusing the only reality. This is the potential for failure even in reality itself. But the Beloved does not fail. The wild beasts know love without knowing about it and they are moved to worship. The Seraphim sing the threefold Sanctus in Love's presence.

Mark could have written as Luke and Matthew did. It was sufficient for him to suggest through the beasts that Jesus is like the first child of the dust. He did not need detail of the second Adam's spirit.

John wrote nothing explicit about temptation.

- alone? not good

- it is not yourself that you feed but all those who are needy
- the child of dust does not live by bread alone

- show yourself and relieve the uncertainty and doubt

- the child of wisdom will delight in ambiguity

- worship me and I will deliver you to glory

- the child of glory does not need extortion

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nanos writes again

Thanks to Loren Rosson for pointing out this new essay by Mark Nanos - on 1 Corinthians. I really like having my preconceptions unhitched - such freedom for the gallop.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Image

There are a few images that image the truth of the crucifixion. The crucifix in the header is by Michelangelo. This image of the Trinity by Andrea del Castagno has always struck me also as true.

Given that the Gospel interpreter, Secundus of Corinth, is constructing a story supposedly in the year 117, I felt I had to hold up an image also - though St Jerome had not yet lived.

I have to tell you that I do not know where this story will lead. I do know what story I am following. My intent is similar to that of my work on the psalms and I hope that besides incorporating insights that NT scholars have blessed me with, I will also bring in some understanding of the Psalter.

These similar 'intents' are to find words to portray the loveliness of what I seem to have found in both TNK and NT. Perhaps it might help in the battle for peace - if I must use a warrior image. Perhaps also it will help me to see the greater ecclesial structure that I am looking for. Secundus himself is telling me that there are things he does not like in what he sees emerging in the second century.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Baptismus Jesu

You will see that we have passed over section 17. Later, says Mark, we will deal with it. Now to section 18.

The spring, Beloved, is a beautiful time at the Jordan, not yet too hot for comfort. Jesus goes to John with all Judea, to implicate himself in the state of this world, to fulfill all righteousness.

The one who baptizes is also baptized. The Holy One comes to us who can only immerse ourselves in water. He becomes one with us completely by being baptized in water. (So we being one with him are instructed to be baptized in this present age into his death. We will see this pattern later.) Jesus identifies with the repentance called for by John, his messenger. Spirit baptizer is one with the water baptized.

This, Beloved, is the Beloved who baptizes with the Spirit and with fire. We need the fire, and we need not fear it for it refines. This is the fire on the earth that Luke speaks of later, but I get ahead of myself. This is the fire subsumed by love in the crucifixion, but again I get ahead of myself. Notice too how the Spirit is like a dove descending - all four witnesses agree as our colours show. The fire is gentle as a dove to the one who needs no refining. As Isaiah says, the Spirit rests on him. God finds his rest in this man. For Jesus, his unity with the Spirit in the Father is never in doubt.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

And I am a minister of that reconciliation on your behalf, Beloved. It is the same rest into which we are invited. The joy at the feet of the Most High is unspeakable and too little known in the Spirit on this earth where the fire has been set. Let no one imagine that the fire is of no consequence. Let no one imagine that it justifies violence. It absorbs the violent by love.

And the heavens are opened. Who saw the heavens opened? Do you think this is imagination? What could it mean?

I read what I have written, and I see that it cannot say what needs to be known. I fear that it will be drawn into the lust for power that is so clear in recent letters I have seen. As around goat's cheese, sweet though it is, a crust forms to protect the sweetness, so it is with the sweetness of the Gospel, that a crust of human authority forms around the sweetness, implying that nothing outside has such sweetness. But as with goat's cheese, encrusted sweetness will sour and rot on its own, for the life is not in it by virtue of human authority.

An opened Heaven does not require the permission of the Bishop of Antioch or the Bishop of Rome, nor is the sweetness of the Spirit subject to the presence of a bishop. And how they go on concerning sacred vessels and touching or not touching.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

Ioannes Christum evangelizat

When there is good news to proclaim, Mark's voice is heard - in fact all three agree as you can see on the first table in section 16.

We simply don't have a sufficient variety of coloured threads.
We will have to be satisfied with the gray for John and the occasional yellow and blue to highlight common sections with the ones who see with a similar eye.
– Sometimes he seems older, sometimes younger than the others.

The Spirit burns chaff away, refines as in a fire the one who is baptized. Mark focuses on the baptism and the true Baptist, who immerses us in Spirit. We can be in expectation, ready, but it is not by our own efforts that we bring the Spirit onto ourselves.

– Tertius, my shoes!
– Immediately, Master
– That's better. Leave them over there. Bring some water to me.

Gaius' father - even Gaius himself, nor Paul, nor my father, Tertius, not even me. None of us is the one who baptizes with Spirit. How will we anoint our care if we have no anointing?

Who is worthy? As with all Israel who came out to be baptized, we must confess our sins, for we are implicated in the state of the world even if we are perfect. In our day, Beloved, do we not share in the bickering that pervades our civil structure? Is there a slave that is beaten and I do not benefit? It is not a matter of our own assessment of good or not good. This one, who is mightier - we might say by definition, even though he was more worthy than John, he too implicated himself in weakness in the state of this world.

– Every one of you is to repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.

Luke reminds us that the John who is not the Christ and is not the Evangelist nevertheless is the bearer of Good News.

So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

Ioannes interrogantibus respondet,

And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?"

What shall we do, Beloved? Gaius pondered how to be righteous with the gifts of the estate. Is not his history recorded in our earlier book? How he was schooled in Rome. How he lost his child and wife, the one to a brawl at the springs of Pirene and the other from excess of the vine of the estate. How he traded in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus - even to the inland sea as far as Pontus. How he was baptized by Paul and freed his slaves. How he regarded Tertius as his heir and Prima and me as his grandchildren. How he died thirteen years after the destruction in a Corinthian prison. So I have come into this inheritance.

How do we use this wealth? There is both give and take. The estate's fortunes wax and wane depending on the crops, on the success of the sea crossings, on the taxes and brokerage costs, and so many other factors. As we can, we take on other workers. It has not changed these past forty years, as far back as I remember before Gaius' death in the Roman prison.

But set down this. Do we do our work only for work? Note this one thing only. This one thing is necessary and sufficient. Things changed on the estate since the baptism of Gaius. And Tertius and his successors did not change them back to the brutality of the past. We have remembered the lessons the owner of the estate taught us.

We too have to escape our fear and resentment. Anoint your every care. Our success requires a certain unpredictability so that we learn how to respond to the needs of the moment: deliveries, demands, regulations, requirements of the guild of potters and presses, or whatever we might encounter - even unhappy customers or lost shipments.

So we learn to support each other in the work and to learn to bear with each other's limitations, to regroup when things go awry as they do, and to rejoice together when the work is successful and the harvest plentiful. And we work with many in the fields and in the presses, in the vineyards and in the caves, in our suppliers and our clients, Jew, Greek, Macedonian, Italian, Asian, and African - some foreigners, some citizens of the New Corinth (not so new any more) and some knowing the Anointing and some unaware but all its agents.

Gaius and Tertius assembled both for the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. My pattern changed. Leaders in Antioch, Rome, and even here in Corinth take charge of the assembly on the Lord's Day so that it is no longer as free as it was in my youth. I keep a lower profile than Gaius did. My sister and I did not conform to expectations among some. They should learn to mind their own house. I foresee that women will be excluded and their creative roles suppressed. Prima was among the best of scholars of the old tongues as Prisca had been. I wonder if such freedom will be seen again.

Will you allow the knowledge to disperse and remain hidden?
– I will not leave you comfortless.
Collect no more than is appointed you.
Rob no one by violence or by false accusation,
and be content with your wages.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ioannes paenitentiam praedicat

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Mark is silent in this fourteenth section. According to Mark, there is no condemnation of the people. Luke lets the accusation fall to the multitudes that came out to be baptized so as to encourage the most excellent Theophilus, himself a Sadducee. Mark omits the accusation altogether. The time will come for understanding limitations, but for this author it is not yet and his criticism will not be directed against the unknown masses but against us, the disciples of Jesus - so slow to understand the promises of God. If love is known first, repentance finds the severe words easier to apprehend.

Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

It is early in the story, Beloved, and I don't think we begin, or presume, to use Matthew's word, that we have any claim on God's blessing by virtue of our birth. I am from among the stones, the child of a slave.

your birth has some value, little brother. If you burn, even fuel gives light and warmth to others.
note the extra kai that the copyists added. Really! You have to watch every move they make!
if I can put up with your marginalia, you can remember Gaius, so tender hearted with his workers.

How does a stone bear fruit? Little by little, piece by piece, a life emerges.

every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

His Dark Materials

I have been learning a bit about story telling - I just finished the Phil Pullman trilogy. I think it has some profoundly beautiful writing but I wondered if it weren't a bit spotty in places. Now and then he told me what to think instead of letting me figure it out - but what a fabulous descriptive technique he has and how gripping is the first reading!

I think his description of the place of the dead is as good as Tolkein (the paths of the dead) or Lewis (the Great Divorce). Perhaps when I read these inklings, I was not so critical. The conceit of the daemons is among the best extended metaphors. Only occasionally did I feel he let me down: once with what I think were unnecessary intimations of modesty in the terms of this world when his own created world had sufficient scope for it, and more importantly, the extensive quotation of Genesis in the first volume assuming a definition for original sin that the story will not hold - at least not how I read it. The worst I would accuse him of is a momentary lapse of voice.

He uses very well many allusions to Scripture and creates his own male and female composite Christ for the harrowing of Hell. There is next to no mention of Jesus or Glory, but his tale is about that same Gospel - though I expect the unimaginative and the hyper-protective will not read it so.

My wife and I also saw the first film, The Golden Compass, this weekend. It is slight compared to the first book (1996) and the second and third books (2001) improve considerably. All our local acquaintances appear to be reading these books this year - is it popular among any of you?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Quote of the Week



Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Spaghetti in Coronado

I am remiss in not publishing my pictures. Most of the trip, my wife had the camera so the pictures were sight seeing - such as the lovely hotel in the Coronado area and surrounding beaches, residences, and the view of the host hotel (above). On the Sunday night, at the invitation of John Hobbins and at the home of his hosts - Jim and Virginia Lamendola, and with the superb cooking of his daughter, Elizabetha, several co-bloggers were feasted to four varieties of pasta and homemade tira misu. Here are some more pictures. Before dinner 1, 2 - and at dinner. There you will find Duane Smith and Ken Penner, and others. Fellow bloggers - please help me out by pointing to your blogs in the comments.