Yohanan Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. “Don’t let yourselves be disturbed. Trust in God and trust in me.
2. In my Father’s house are many places to live. If there weren’t, I would have told you; because I am going there to prepare a place for you.
3. Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also.
4. Furthermore, you know where I’m going; and you know the way there.”
5. T’oma said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going; so how can we know the way?”
T'oma, who trusts only what he can see (11:16, 20:24-29), picks up the challenge of the preceding verse, "You know the way."
6. Yeshua said, “I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.
Yeshua said, "I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me." This challenge strikes at the heart of non-Messianic Judaism's denial of Yeshua as Messianic mediator. Some try to ignore this challenge by denying its authenticity: either the Gospel of Yochanan is historically untrustworthy or the words are not Yeshua's but placed in his mouth by early church theologians. This view, of course, denies the divine inspiration of the New Testament.
More interesting is Two-Covenant theology, originated by Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon ("The RaMBaM'' Maimonides, 1135-1204), pioneered in this century by the non-Messianic Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929), and since elaborated by such liberal Christian theologians as Reinhold Niebuhr and James Parkes. This theory holds that the Jewish people were brought close to God by means of the covenant with Avraham and the Torah of Moshe, so that they have no need to "come" to the Father through Yeshua or anyone else, because they are already with him. Accordingly. Yeshua's word is not for Jews but for Gentiles and is to be understood thusly: "I am the way, the truth and the life; and no Gentile comes to the Father except through me."
The Two-Covenant theory may be understood as a modem variant of the Talmudic doctrine stating that Jews are bound by the Torah of Moshe, but Gentiles share in the world to come if they obey the seven "Noachide laws" given after the flood to Noah for all mankind — prohibitions against idolatry, murder, incest, theft, blasphemy and eating the flesh of a living animal; and the positive command to promote justice, i.e., to institute government (Sanhedrin 56a, cited and discussed in Ac 15:20N).
The Two-Covenant theory enables the Jewish Community to live in apparent peace (from its own point of view) with its Christian neighbors by alleviating the pressure on Judaism to downgrade Jesus, the New Testament and Christianity; for a non-Messianic Jew can say, "We Jews have our way, Judaism; and you Gentiles have your way, Christianity. We will each serve God best by following the way provided for us. It is a manifestation of God's grace that he has provided Jesus for you Gentiles and Torah for us Jews." Thus Jesus can be held in high regard, because his claims are not taken as posing any threat to the structure of non-Messianic Judaism.
Unfortunately for this theory, it does not fit the New Testament facts at all. The "tolerance for Christianity" that it produces is not tolerance of what the New Testament states is true. For Yeshua was a Jew who presented himself to Jews, and these Jews remained Jewish after they came to trust in him. He rarely presented the Gospel to Gentiles; indeed, it was only with difficulty and supernatural intervention that his Jewish disciples came to realize that Gentiles could join God's people through trusting Yeshua without converting to Judaism (see Acts 10-11, 15). In the book of Acts Kefa's initial sermons presented Yeshua to Jews as the Jewish Messiah (Ac 2:14-40, 3:12-26; especially Ac 2:36&N, 3:25-26), as did Sha'ul's (Ac 9:20-22, 13:16-43). In his letter to the Romans Sha'ul states that salvation through Yeshua is God's Good News "to the Jew especially": however, since he is stressing that Gentiles too may be part of the people of God. he immediately adds, "but equally to the Gentile" (Ro 1:16). In sum, replacing Yeshua's "No one comes to the Father except through me" with "No Gentile comes..." does unacceptable violence to the plain sense of the text and to the whole New Testament.
Actually Rosenzweig's theory reflects his own personal history. A German Jew raised in an assimilated family, he seriously considered the claims of Christianity, particularly in an exchange of letters with a Jewish Christian named Eugen Rosenslock. He was on the verge of "converting to Christianity" — I put the phrase in quotation marks to emphasize that conversion in Europe, with its slate churches, could never have been perceived as a Jewish ihing to do — when he decided to give traditional Judaism one last chance. He went to a synagogue on Yom-Kippur. experienced the resonant depths of meaning in the liturgy of the Machzor (prayer book for the High Holy Days), and decided to cast his lot with his ancient heritage and with his own people. A noble sentiment, but what a pity that there did not exist in his society a vibrant Messianic Judaism which he could have perceived as being just as Jewish as what he did participate in, while being coupled with the efficacious spiritual power that God gives only through Yeshua, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!
If the words of this verse are authentically Yeshua's, and if the Two-Covenant theory does nol fit the facts, then we are left with a statement whose audacity, breadth, apparent arrogance and sheer chutzpah pose a serious problem. What exclusivity, what intolerance for a religion to accept Yeshua's claim to be the only way to God! It requires a decision either to acknowledge Yeshua's position as the Messiah, the Son of God, or о reject him as a madman or a fraud and to reject religion centering on him as deceptive it best. There is no tertium quid (see 5:17-18N). For if one holds that Yeshua was a 'great teacher," the unavoidable question is, "Then why don't you believe and act on his 'great teaching,' 'I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one conies to the Father except through me'?"
Messianic Judaism and Christianity, which accept this teaching, are indeed in a sense exclusive, for they deny that there are other men. other religious leaders, who have come from God and paid the death penalty for mankind's sins. In this sense, then, Yeshua is the way; and it is not true that "on the mountaintop all paths meet," for only Yeshua's path arrives there. Nevertheless this exclusivity is tempered by three factors:
(1) The path is open to everyone (Ro 10:9-13).
(2) Yeshua's path sets no precondition except turning from sin to the one true God. In particular it does not require Gentiles to stop being Gentiles or Jews to stop being Jews.
(3) It is God's one true path; it exists. This simply means that, rather than complaining about exclusivity, one should be profoundly grateful to God for providing a way out of the sinful condition that besets every human being.
True exclusivity would be either God's providing no path whatsoever, instead of one which suffices for all, or providing it for some but not for everyone. To want some way other than that which God has offered is simply to want to play God, to design one's own remedy for sin, and ultimately not to take the evil of sin seriously (on the New Testament's remedy for sin, see Ro 5:12-21&N). This is true arrogance and chutzpah.
Messianic Judaism and Christianity, properly taught and practiced, are intolerant of sin and of the just mentioned varieties of arrogance and chutzpah, but not of other religions, in the sense usually meant. Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians acknowledge not only the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitutions of nations but also the de facto right and capacity each individual has to seek the truth as best he can. Other religions have the right, within the framework of law, to communicate their views, to seek, gain and hold adherents, and to minister to them. This is tolerance. But tolerance does not and cannot mean agreeing that other religions are true.
The positive message of this verse is available to everyone. Yeshua is the Way by which everyone comes to the Father: his work and his very person both show us and give us all we need to be in a right personal relationship with God. More than that, he is not merely a way, a path, but the goal itself — Truth and eternal Life. And all this is conditioned only on our holding to our trust in him, so that we keep God's commands. For more see the pamphlet by the Messianic Jew Louis Goldberg, Are There Two Ways of Atonement? (Baltimore: Lederer Publications, 1990).
7. Because you have known me, you will also know my Father; from now on, you do know him — in fact, you have seen him.”
8. Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.”
9. Yeshua replied to him, “Have I been with you so long without your knowing me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. This apparently contradicts 1:18 ("No one has ever seen God") and 5:17-30, which focuses on the distinctions between the Father and the Son. The paradox is resolved by Co 2:9: "In him," Yeshua, "bodily, lives the fullness of all that God is." The human mind is stretched beyond its limits in trying to cope with the idea that the Creator of the universe and one of his creations, a human being named Yeshua, are to be identified with each other. The language of the New Testament, as it treats this issue, shows that God has great respect for our difficulty in apprehending this. The New Testament never says, directly, "Yeshua is God." Nor does it say, "Yeshua is only a man and not God," except in the mouths of his opponents. The New Testament adds insights in one place and another, "line on line, precept on precept, here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:10. 13).
10. Don’t you believe that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with me? What I am telling you, I am not saying on my own initiative; the Father living in me is doing his own works.
11. Trust me, that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with me. But if you can’t, then trust because of the works themselves.
I am united with the Father and the Father united with me. This adds to what v. 9 has taughl; see 17:21-23&N.
12. Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father.
Whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do. in fact even greater ones. What follows explains how this astounding promise is to be fulfilled.
13. In fact, whatever you ask for in my name, I will do; so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14. If you ask me for something in my name, I will do it.
If you ask me for something in my name, I will do it. The word "me" is missing in the first three editions of the Jewish New Testament, but the textual evidence for including it is convincing, even though a number of later manuscripts, among them those underlying KJV, omit it. Including it creates a "Jewish problem," because it makes it appear that the New Testament teaches people to "pray to Jesus and not to God," in denial of Judaism's correct doctrine that prayer should be to God alone.
However, there is no contradiction. Elsewhere Yeshua instructs his followers to pray to the Father (16:23, Mt 6:9). But here Yeshua has just taught that he is one with the Father, who is living in him and doing his own works through him (vv. 10-11; also 10:30, 17:21-23); we also know that Yeshua does just what the Father tells him to do (5:17-30). So petitioning Yeshua is tantamount to petitioning the Father. Yeshua the divine Son is the divine agent of the Father, no less God than the Father, and therefore justifiably addressed in prayer.
We are to make our requests in Yeshua's name, that is, as his followers, on his authority. This is necessary because he alone is sinless (Ro 3:23); and, except for prayers of repentance, God does not obligate himself to hear the prayers of sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2, quoted in Ro 3:23N). Finally, we know from 1 Yn 5:14 that in order to expect our prayers to be answered the something we ask for must accord with God's will. Thus the sense of the verse in toto is that Yeshua tells his disciples: You are my followers; and the Father has given me authority to receive your requests, which are at once communicated to him. He has also given me authority to grant your requests without presenting them to him formally. Asking me is the same as asking him. If your requests are godly, in accord with God's plan, I need no further grant of authority from the Father to fulfill them, and I will fulfill them.
In order to justify from this verse the Christian pattern of praying to Jesus, one must understand that the moment Jesus, the eternal Son of God and "part of Adonai, hears the prayer, the Father, who is also "part of" Adonai. hears it too. In this way the verse is consistent with the Jewish idea that prayer must be to Adonai alone.
But perhaps the whole question is moot now, because below, at 16:23, Yeshua says a day will come when talmidim will no longer ask Yeshua but the Father, as he earber taught in the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9&N). One can argue that that day came when Yeshua rose from the dead, or when he sent the Holy Spirit (see 16:20-22, 14:26, 15:25-26). If so, then praying to Yeshua is already out of date, and the "Jewish problem" of this verse is no longer so pressing. Perhaps one should construe the behavior of those who still pray to Jesus as demonstrating their belief that that day has not come yet.
15. “If you love me, you will keep my commands;
If you love me, you will keep my commands, my mitzvot. It is wrong to think of Messianic Judaism or Christianity as "easy," requiring only pleasant feelings of love but no actions to prove it. Dake's Annotated Reference Bible lists 1,050 New Testament commands which, according to this verse, are to be obeyed by those who love Yeshua. The distinction drawn between Old Testament Judaism as a religion of law and New Testament faith as a religion of love is unfounded. In both the Tanakh and the В 'rit Chadashah biblical religion is based on both love and law, both mercy and justice; it has always been so and always will be.
16. and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever.
Another comforting Counselor. Greek parakletos means "counselor, comforter, exhorter." or, literally, "one called alongside." There are two words in Greek for "another" — "allos" ("another of the same kind"), and "eteros" ("another, of a different kind"). Here the word is "allos": a comforting counselor just like Yeshua, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh (vv. 17,26).
Compare the Talmud:
"What is [the Messiah's] name?... [Some] say: His name is Menachem the son of Hezekiah, since it is written. 'Because Menachem [a comforter] that could relieve my soul, is far from me' (Lamentations 1:16)." (Sanhedrin 98b)
17. The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him, because he is staying with you and will be united with you.
The Spirit of Truth, God's Spirit, the Holy Spirit,... will be in you. This is an amazing promise for a Jewish person to read, because the Tanakh speaks of only a few persons as having the Holy Spirit "with" or "upon" them (among them Moshe and the seventy elders (Numbers 11:17—29), Gid'on (Judges 6:34), Yiftach (Judges 11:29), Shimshon (Judges 14:6), Sha'ul (1 Samuel 11:6), David (1 Samuel 16:13, Psalm 51:13 (11)), and Sha'ul's messengers (1 Samuel 19:20)), and even fewer as having the Holy Spirit "in" them (Yosef (Genesis 41:38) and Betzal'el (Exodus 31:3)).
18. I will not leave you orphans — I am coming to you.
19. In just a little while, the world will no longer see me; but you will see me. Because I live, you too will live.
20. When that day comes, you will know that I am united with my Father, and you with me, and I with you.
21. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
22. Y’hudah (not the one from K’riot) said to him, “What has happened, Lord, that you are about to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”
23. Yeshua answered him, “If someone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
24. Someone who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words — and the word you are hearing is not my own but that of the Father who sent me.
25. “I have told you these things while I am still with you.
26. But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything; that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you.
The Father will send the Holy Spirit in my [Yeshua's] name. At 15:26 we read. "I [Yeshua] will send you [the Holy Spirit] from the Father." Whether the Ruach HaKodesh proceeds from the Father and the Son jointly or from the Father акте seems an issue rather removed from everyday life. Nevertheless it was over this point of doctrine that the Greek Orthodox Church, headquartered in Constantinople, and the Roman Catholic Church, headquartered in Rome, finally split apart in the year 1054. See 17:21—23N on the scandal of denominationalism.
27. “What I am leaving with you is shalom — I am giving you my shalom. I don’t give the way the world gives. Don’t let yourselves be upset or frightened.
I am giving you my shalom, my peace. "If Jesus is the Messiah, where is world peace?" The question is often asked as if the implied negative answer proves that Yeshua's claim to Messiahship is false. For it is true (hat the swords have not yet been beaten into plowshares, and nations still learn war (Isaiah 2:4). The answer is that Yeshua is indeed fulfilling his promise, but not all at once. Peace does not come to those who refuse it, to those who, as it were, fight peace, but to those who gladly receive it.
Within every believer is a shalom (which means not only "peace" but also "health, wholeness, integrity"; see Me 10:12N) that comes from God himself. It is not a self-satisfied false peace that ignores suffering, but a compassionate peace that longs for God's shalom to be present with everyone and motivates action to help bring it about.
When the Messiah returns to rule with a staff of iron (Rv 12:5, 19:15) he will compel cessation of hostilities between nations. Meanwhile, where is world peace? In the lives of believers; so that in Yeshua blacks and whites, Israeli Jews and Palestinians, indeed members of any groups at enmity can experience in themselves and in each other Yeshua's shalom.
28. You heard me tell you, ‘I am leaving, and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would have been glad that I am going to the Father; because the Father is greater than I.
The Father is greater than I. Yeshua here is speaking of himself in his limited capacity as a human being. For as the Word he had glory equal to the Father's (17:5), but as a human being he humbled himself (Pp 2:6-8) — there were times when he grew tired (4:6) and things he did not know (Mk 13:32). Yet in his essence, he and the Father are One (1:1-3, 5:23,6:62. 10:30, 14:9).
29. “Also, I have said it to you now, before it happens; so that when it does happen, you will trust.
30. “I won’t be talking with you much longer, because the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me;
The ruler of this world. See 12:31N.
31. rather, this is happening so that the world may know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me. “Get up! Let’s get going!
Get up! Let's get going! It's time to leave the Passover meal and go to the Gat-Sh'mantm garden (Mt 26:36).
- chapter 1
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- chapter 6
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- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
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- chapter 19
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- chapter 21