In last Sunday’s post, I wrote about the beginning of the gospel according to John (after the opening prologue), namely, chapter 1 verses 19-51. I wrote that it corresponds to the seventh day of creation as also does chapter 20 verses 19-31. The seventh day is the holy Shabbat, the day for resting. I pointed out the recurrance in chapter one of the word μένω, to “abide,” or dwell, remain, stay, etc. Later, Jesus invites us to “abide” in him, and explains that we will be able to do this because he will “abide” in us through the Holy Spirit whom he will somehow become when he is glorified by his death. This is fulfilled when, in chapter 20, Jesus breathes himself as the Holy Spirit into his disciples, his students. The Holy Spirit is accordingly introduced to us in chapter 1 when we are told she “abided” on Jesus at his baptism and he it is who will immerse us in the Holy Spirit. Chapter 21 follows this event in chapter 20 and corresponds to the eighth day, the first day of a new creation (when we experience the world in a new way).

Chapter 1:19-51
7th Day: Sabbath
the Holy Spirit
μένειν ἐπί, μένειν παρά (to remain on or stay with)

Chapter 20:19-31
7th Day: Sabbath
the Holy Spirit
μένειν ἐν (to dwell in)

Some rabbis speak of Shabbat as a queen and bride, a female presence who abiding with us for the day prepares us for the coming week. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the female presence of the Divine who “rested” on Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove, possibly an allusion to the Divine bride in the Song of Songs, the Goddess (חָכְמָה, Wisdom) who courts and weds and woos the human king. I read the king as standing in for all who are anointed with the fragrant oil of the Holy of Holies (see 1 John 2:20). The Goddess woos us.

Notice that when we take a step further into the gospel we come to a wedding feast in Cana (2:1-12). The woman who is central to this story is Mary, Jesus’ mother. Likewise, on the other end of the Gospel, preceding 20:19-31 where Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into his disciples, is the story of Mary the Magdalene (or, the Tower) whom Jesus waits to greet in the garden on the day of his resurrection before he sees any of his male disciples (or allows them to see him).

(to see what follows the way I intend, you need to view it on a wider screen than your phone’s)

Spirit, abiding ❖ Jesus with Mary ← ✧ → Jesus with Mary ❖ abiding, Spirit

There are two other stories in which woman are central (not counting the story of Lazarus in which Martha and Mary are also key). After the wedding in Cana is the story about the anonymous Samaritan woman at the well where Jacob met his sweetheart Rachel (4:4-45). The other story is when Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus’ feet (12:1-11).

For me, these four stories ―

❀ Mary at the wedding feast in Cana
❀ the Samaritan woman at Rachel’s well
❀ Mary anointing Jesus’ feet in Bethany
❀ Mary embracing Jesus in the garden

― correspond to the sixth day of creation when the Divine created all the land animals (including humans) and made the human female and male according to the Divine image. In each of these Gospel stories, Jesus is face-to-face with a woman and in each of these stories there are unmistakeable nuptual allusions.

I am not saying that Jesus is romantically involved with any of these woman, rather, that the allusions are present on a metaphorical level. In the first story, the woman is his mother. In the last, it is Mary the Magdalene who in the early Syrian churches was also understood to be his mother. (This is a possibility but not by any means certain.) The name Magdalene, however, very likely was a title, “the Tower,” an expression which sometimes refers to the Temple or even the Holy of Holies. In the second story that takes place at Rachel’s well, Jesus just met the woman though he knew intimate details about her life. Mary of Bethany in the third story, on the other hand, was someone to whom we can see that Jesus was close; this was already intimated in chapter 11, but how close they were is not disclosed.

Samaritan woman

Mary of Nazareth ← ✧ → Mary Magdalene.

Mary of Bethany

There are possibilities in these four stories for contemplation, which we would have to take up one by one before we can see them together as a single layer.

So, after the prelude, from the seventh day we move to the sixth day (figuratively speaking), and at the end of the Gospel we move from the sixth day to the seventh day, and then on to the eighth and unending day (all figuratively speaking).

As if the Gospel were a labyrinth, there are three stories that take us in between the wedding feast at Cana and the woman at the well, and three much longer stories that correspond to these that take us out between the anointing at Bethany and the scene at the garden.
❀ 2:13-23a (purifying the Temple) corresponds to chapters 18 and 19 (the Passion), and the fifth day of creation.
❀ 2:23b―3:21 (Jesus’ teaching conversation with Nicodemus) corresponds to chapters 13-17 (the long teaching section), and the fourth day of creation.
❀ 3:22―4:3 (a testimony of John the baptizer to Jesus) corresponds to 12:12-50 (Palm Sunday), the third day of creation.
Each of these correlations constitutes a layer. There are three more sections going in from the story of the Samaritan woman and three more going out to the story of the anointing in Bethany. Finally there is a nugget in the center (that corresponds to the first day of creation) bracketed on either side by a story that corresponds to the second day of creation.

From the wedding of Cana, therefore, we head in for three days (or three layers). Then we come out and begin again with the woman at the well, heading in again for three more days. The other end is the same but in the opposite direction. Three days take us to the story of Mary anointing Jesus in Bethany, and after Mary anoints Jesus, we begin again and head out for three more days until we come to Mary in the garden. These four stories ― which occupy the same sixth layer ― form a square, like the golden walls of the Holy of Holies reflecting inward the light of the tree of life within, or a diamond, suggesting the portal to a womb.

Day Six
Prologue, Sabbath, Day Six, 5, 4, 3 ← ✧ → 3, 4, 5, Day Six, Sabbath, Day Eight
Day Six

(This way of looking at John’s gospel is not original with me. However, I do not now have my library on hand and cannot reference it. For this I apologize, and will correct this omission as soon as I can.)

Once I begin to dwell with this, it becomes more and more difficult not to recognize how gynocentric this Gospel is and how the Divine with which the Gospel is preoccupied is a feminine presence throughout, despite the maleness of Jesus (for Jesus is the romancer of the Divine) and all his references to the “Father.” Even with his repetition of “Father.” The “Father,” though, is never quite a father, for he is introduced as a “father” who gives birth (1:13), and the μονογενὴς θεός (1:18) is ever present in the “Father’s” womb (κόλπος). This is either an example of males appropriating to themselves (or their male god) what is in fact female in order to arrogate to themselves everything and denigrate the value of actual females, or it means the image of a father has been inverted and obscured because the one who is being coded by the term is actually the divine Mother (the Asherah). The Gospel, in any case, though, is about the Holy Spirit rather than the Father, and about bringing us to the realization of her. This is not an argument that I can or would want to prove. I am only attempting to show here what I see. It is a perception and intuition based on how I have been personally “dwelling with” and meditating on the text.

The structure of the Gospel might lead us to the realization that the Gospel itself is a temple of words, modeled on the tabernacle and Temple of old, just as the six days of creation replicate the stages of building the tabernacle in the desert: the Holy of Holies, then the veil, the table, the candlelabra, the altar, and the high priesthood. The Λόγος, we are told in 1:14, tabernacled among us, and now somehow tabernacles in the Gospel before us (20:29, 31). Only, like the former Temple, our eyelids must be anointed so they can see the Lady whose habitation among us the Gospel is. The μονογενὴς son, whom she anointed, herein ἐξηγήσατο ― “exegeted” ― her.

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