Fourth Gospel /turmel/p47. Part II..
Second Redaction of the Fourth Gospel.
It enriches one. The new acquires a home without at first seeing the advantage. Then, little by little, some shortcomings are unfolded, of inconveniences, of gaps which require some retouches, some complements. At it's convention, several weak points appeared in the fourth gospel. One perceived that its discourses of such high inspiration and its narrations of such majestic pace not only defended wrongdoing against the marcionite heresy, but appeared here and there to actually be favorable to it. It was necessary to remedy this troublesome situation. From there, some interpolations destined toward explaining the primitive text, struggle with it, illuminate with it, but which, in reality, pervert it.
1) The carnal body of Christ.
The Johannine epistles denounce with horror men who refused to believe in the flesh of Jesus. These people here admitted that Jesus possessed divinity; but they claimed that this divinity did not take on flesh to enter into our midst. It is in this negation of the flesh that consists of their crime. A monstrous crime: "many seducers came into the world who do not confess that Jesus came in the flesh. The one (who thinks thus) is the seducer and the antichrist" (2Joh 7); "Any spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God; and any spirit who does not confess Jesus (as having come in the flesh) is not of God; this one is of the antichrist which you have heard that he comes and who is already present in the world" (1Joh4:2,3); "This is he, Jesus Christ, who came by the water and the blood"; "not in the water only but in the water and the blood" (1Joh 5:6); the targeted culprits acknowledge that Jesus received the baptism, but they didn't admit that he had actually died; the water designates the baptism of Jesus by John, the blood designating his actual death. Thus one is an antichrist when one confines to admitting Jesus' divinity and rejecting his incarnation.
How could an author so anxious to setting into relief the human nature of Christ, elsewhere leave it in the shadow? One will say that he was not constrained to always repeating everywhere the same thing. Okay. But one must at least supervise his formulas and take guard in providing some ammunition against the "antichrists", against the "seducers" that he denounces here with so much vehemence. Now the following professions of the faith, that one reads in other places, could they only be welcome against the disputers of the incarnation, for all those who had believed in the rule of the faith, when they had proclaimed the divinity of Jesus: "the one who confesses that Jesus is the son of God, God abides in him and he in God" (1Joh4:15); "the one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in himself *** These things I have written to you that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believes in the name of the Son of God" (1Joh5:10,13). How could the apostle of Christ's incarnation not see that he borrowed here from his adversaries their own language? But it is precisely not him who speaks in large part to us now, but rather the spokesman on behalf of the "antichrists".
He preaches the marcionite Christ, the Christ who is not incarnate; and the partisan of the incarnation is a Catholic who endeavors to neutralize this doctrine but who doesn't dare to entirely suppress the formulas.
I have just interrogated the Johannine epistles. I pass now to the gospel. It says (19:34) that a Roman soldier, seeing that Jesus had died, pierced his side with a lance, and out from him poured blood and water. This entirely natural fact appears to us banal. Also one is surprised at hearing the narrator make a solemn guarantee of the reality by this formula, the equivalent which does not reappear anywhere else except in the final remark: "the one who saw this bares witness and his witness is true; and he knows that he tells the truth so that you also believed".
Why does he consequently attach so much significance to a detail which has none for us? The text of 1Joh5:6, that we have just encountered, allows us to catch a glimpse into the solution behind this enigma. The blood and the water that the piercing of the lance caused to gush is the corroboration from the history of the didactic teaching given by the epistle. This last one professes that Jesus didn't come only with the water, but also with the blood; that he was not limited to receiving John's baptism, but that he also shed his blood, that he really died for us. The gospel exposes that which is past. When the Roman soldier approached the cross, Jesus had died already. However one would raise objection that he had died as phantoms die, that he had died only in appearance. The piercing of the spear dissipates this suspicion. The side of Jesus was pierced by the lance, blood flowed out with water. There was a blood flow: evidence that Jesus had a carnal body like that of our own, for an ethereal body would not have had blood. But was this blood of his possibly artificial? No, for had it been artificial, it would have had a vermilion color. Now, with the blood it became decomposed by death; thus evidence that this blood was of the same quality as ours and that Jesus possessed very much a human nature that was in every respect equal to that of our own.
The piercing of the spear, with what ensues, is therefore an apologetic history, a history destined toward confirming the incarnation of Jesus the Son of God. But what becomes of the witness with the certificate of high integrity that is delivered of him? This is the expedient to which one resorts when one has reservations to battle, and mistrusts to uproot. The author is taken up with some Christians who preached the doctrine of the spiritual Christ and who, if they did not already devote their adherence there, is on the verge of giving it. He says to them:
"There was the blood flow from the side of Christ pierced by the lance; blood mixed with water. This is well certain, for the witness to this fact is above all suspicion. Believe not thus in the phantom Christ, and hasten yourself to withdrawing your faith in him if you had the misfortune of agreeing with him. Do not let yourself become beguiled by this doctrine of delusion. Stay faithful to the incarnate Christ. Return to him if you left him ". He goes to war with docetism.
He battles with it. He has not thus been able to encourage it. It is not he who would have desired to yield to Christ the perception of a phantom. Well we know about some texts in which the Christ speaks, as an alien to the laws of humanity: "What is there between I and you, woman?" "You are from below; I myself am from above; you are of this world, I myself am not of this world "; "I have a food to eat that you know not"; "Father, the hour has come, glorify your son". Among these texts and the history of the piercing of the lance there is an abyss, -- an abyss which separates the marcionite christology from the catholic christology.
2)The Bread of Life.
We now pause before the speech on the bread of life (in chapter 6) to leaving aside the promises on the resurrection that one finds there and which I will occupy in the notes. Jesus, seeing the Jews in quest of material bread, exhorts them to procure "the food which subsists for the eternal life", the "true bread from heaven", to which the manna was only the shadow. The Jews exclaim: "Lord, give us always this bread". Jesus answers: "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never hunger and the one who believes in me will never thirst *** (40) The will of my Father, is that whoever sees the Son and believes in him has the life eternal *** (47) Verily, verily, I tell you this, the one who believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they died. This is here the bread that descends from the heaven so that the one who eats it will never die. (51) I am the living bread who is descended from the heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live eternally *** (60) Several of his disciples, after having heard this, said: This saying is hard; who can hear it?" Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples murmured on this subject, tells them: It is the spirit who vivifies, the flesh serves to nothing. The words that I told you are spirit and life. This discourse proclaims the virtue of faith, as he would later do in the discourse on the communion. Then Jesus says (17:3) "The eternal life is this, that they may know you, the only true God, and the one that you sent, the Christ". Today he says: "the one who comes to me will never hunger, and the one who believes in me will never thirst *** The will of my Father is that whoever sees the Son and believes has in him the eternal life". The faith is "the food that subsists for eternal life". And, since this faith has for the objective the Son of God (thus that of the Father; but the Father is only One with his Son, 10:30) , and whoever sees the Son sees the Father (14:7-9), it ensues that the Son of God is "the bread of life", the bread that one must eat to live eternally.
But how does one eat the Son of God? One eats him as soon as one believes in him, since, as soon as one believes in him, one has eternal life. And the words of Augustine are true (In Jo, XXV, 12) " This has nothing to do here with the teeth, the belly. Believe in him - this is to eat the living bread. The one who eats ".
To this spiritual manducation at the time there was moreover an explanation that Augustine didn't see, that his catholic convictions forbade him to see, but which the Johannine Christ deals to us through his frequent discretion. "The flesh serves to nothing". It wouldn't serve toward anything for the Son of God to accomplish his life-imparting mission. It is not by the flesh that he must nourish us; it is by the spirit. The Christ in the discourse on the bread of life is a spiritual Christ. But I omitted one entire section to this discourse on the bread of life. And this section, which goes from 6:51b to 6:57, seems to reduce to nought my conclusions, that one may determine from there. After having declared that he is the bread descended from heaven and that the one who eats of this bread will live eternally, the Christ adds:
(51b) "And the bread that I will give, this is my flesh that I will give for the life of the world", thereof the Jews disputed among themselves, saying: "How can he give to us his flesh to eat?" Jesus tells them:
"Verily, verily I say to you, that if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of the man and if you do not drink his blood, you will not have the life in you. The one who eats my flesh and who drinks my blood has eternal life and I will revive him on the last day. For my flesh is truly a drink. The one who eats my flesh and who drinks my blood abides in me and I abide in him. As the Father who is living has sent me and that I live by the Father, thus the one who eats me will live through me ".
There the flesh sets forth the first plan. But, at the same stroke, here the maxim "the flesh serves to nothing" becomes forgotten. Because between this and that there is an absolute contradiction. Not for the theologians, naturally. They never are short of explanations. To conciliate the dogma of hell with some perplexing texts they distinguished a fire that burns and a fire that doesn't burn, of pains that inflict punishment and of pains that don't punish. By the same they distinguish a carnal flesh to which applies the aforesaid maxim and a flesh not carnal, objective of the precept: "If you don't eat the flesh of the Son of the man ***". Leave aside this childishness and end it. It is apparent that, if the flesh serves to nothing, one does not have to preoccupy oneself with eating the flesh of Christ. It is just as apparent that the flesh has a capital significance, if in order to have the eternal life, one has to eat the flesh of Christ. Between "if you don't eat" and "the flesh serves to nothing", the opposition is truly irreducible.
To this first observation some append another. One recognizes generally that the relative declarations on the mastication of the flesh causes a certain contrast with the remainder of the discourse on the bread of life. But one assures that this contrast is in the precision of reflection and not in their opposition. Look at it closer. Believe in the divinity of Christ and eat his flesh- which this or the sense of the last statement- expresses two different ideas. One could believe that the Christ possesses divinity without eating his flesh; reciprocally one could eat- in the sense that one would please- the flesh of Christ without believing in his divinity. Now each of these two acts are presented to us successively as necessary and sufficient. At a place in the discourse the eternal life is guaranteed to all those who accept the divinity of Christ. Then, a little further, we are required to eat his flesh. If this last operation is indispensable, faith in the Son of God is thus insufficient. And if faith is sufficient, then the mastication of the flesh is superfluous. For the second time we have before us an irreducible opposition.
The discourse on the bread of life is not consistent. Two authors collaborated there. The first said: "The bread of life, this is the Son of God. This celestial bread feeds the soul who believes in him; and the food that he gives guarantees to the soul immortality. But, in this feeding there is nothing carnal; for the Christ is spirit and the flesh serves to nothing ". The second said: "The Christ procured the eternal life to men by pouring out his blood. It is his immolated flesh which is the bread of life because it is that which gave salvation to the world. Believe thus in the flesh and in the blood of Christ; for if we believe in a phantom Christ, we will not possess the eternal life that Christ obtained for us by his flesh and blood ".
We have before us two authors. And, as each sets their doctrine in this plugging of Christ, we have before us two Christs. Either two agrees with us on the question of faith, declaring to us that, without faith, we do not have eternal life (though the second adds the resurrection). Only they differ on the object of faith. The one is not occupied with his divinity: this is the marcionite Christ. The other thinks only of his incarnation: this is the catholic Christ. If we believe in the Son of God, we will be in line with the first. To satisfy the second it will be necessary for us to believe that the Christ had flesh and was not a phantom.
Herein a question becomes inevitably posed. If the catholic Christ simply demands us to believe in the reality of his flesh, why does he tell us to eat it? One saw that the marcionite Christ systematically shunned the light too oft supposed and moreover wrapped a light in a veil for fear of startling the conscience. But the catholic Christ doesn't have the same susceptibilities in this respect. Why therefore is the Catholic Christ so obscure? He was strained to obscurity by professional duty. What role does he boast here? He pretends to interpret. Interpret the words of the marcionite Christ. In reality he suppresses them; but he suppresses them by way of commentary. An elegant process, but one which is not without imposing an intention. The dissertation on the flesh must adjust to the oracle that it was supposed to explain; it had to give the illusion that this prolonged it. Now the marcionite Christ had presented the faith under the symbol of the bread which feeds the soul and procures eternal life to it.
This symbol became utilized by the catholic Christ which was then cast into the mold of his dissertation. The flesh became a bread of immortality: "The bread that I will give, this is my flesh that I will give for the life of the world". Transformed into bread, the flesh became the food for the soul which eats it. Then the blood, reclaimed by the symmetry, intervened to play the role of a drink. There is how the necessity of the faith in the incarnation of Christ became translated into the necessity of eating the flesh and drinking the blood out of that situation. The author was far in foreseeing the enormous mystery which his makeshift would become as cause for posterity.