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On the Gospel of John, Part 11: Bride and Bridegroom
This is the fourth and, for now, the final presentation of our commentary on John chapter 3. In the three previous portions of this series we hope to have discussed adequately the conversation between Yahshua Christ and Nicodemus, the faithful but puzzled pharisee. We also hope to have established the Scriptural basis for what is “born from above”, which is the establishment by Yahweh of the ancient children of Israel into a peculiar and separate people living under His law. We saw that this was stated explicitly in the words of Solomon, in Wisdom chapter 19. However we also hope to have established that in the spiritual sense, the term is applicable to the wider Adamic race by the nature of their original creation, while Solomon used language that invokes the Genesis creation account to describe the establishment of Israel under the law at Sinai as a new aspect of God’s creation. So he wrote, as we may translate the Greek, “6 For the whole creation in its proper kind was fashioned again from above, serving the peculiar commandments that were given to them, that thy children might be kept without hurt.”
Furthermore, we hope to have established that the “world” which Christ had come to save was that very same thing: the once-present and then-future world which had been, and which still is, promised to come of those very same children of Israel. As Solomon had also described in Wisdom chapter 18, the twelve tribes of Israel represented on the breastplate of the high priest are indeed the “world” of our Scriptures. They alone are also “that which was lost”, which Christ had explained that He had come to save at diverse times during His ministry, as it is recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The one statement in John 3:16-17 where Christ said that “God so loved the world” and that “the world through him might be saved” cannot be interpreted in a manner which conflicts with the other statement which He made where He said that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” But any seeming conflict is immediately dissolved once we take note of Solomon’s Wisdom where he attested in chapter 18 that “24 … in the long garment was the whole world, and in the four rows of the stones was the glory of the fathers graven….” The stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and they are the “whole world” of the Scriptures.
With this understanding, we should revisit John chapter 1 and the declaration of John the Baptist where he spoke concerning Yahshua Christ and said “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The same apostle John, in chapter 3 of his first epistle, explained that sin is transgression of the law, where he wrote that “4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” So one must have been given the law in order to commit sin, or as Paul of Tarsus had written, then sin is not imputed, in Romans chapter 5 where he wrote that “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” So if sin is not imputed to anyone who had not been given the law, then there would be no need to take away such sin, as it was not imputed. So as Paul had said in Galatians chapter 4, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law,” and He came for no other people, as He Himself also proclaimed (i.e. Matthew 15:24).
This is evident because, as the Scriptures also attest, only the children of Israel were ever given the law. Therefore only the children of Israel could possibly have been under the penalty of sin, and required forgiveness. We read in the 147th Psalm, in the words of David, “19 He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. 20 He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” David rejoiced that only the children of Israel were ever given the law, and that it was not intended for any other people. Therefore Christ, who came to take away the sins of the world, could only have intended to take sin from the children of Israel, as sin could only have been imputed to them. These statements are fully reconciled once we see that only those same children of Israel are the “world” with which the Scriptures are concerned, in both New Covenant and Old, as we now hope to have fully demonstrated from the Wisdom of Solomon and from the prophets of the Old Testament.
Bringing these things to light, we had discussed many passages from the prophets, especially from Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which support our interpretation of these Scriptures in reference to the children of Israel. For example, in Isaiah chapter 27 the greater purpose of Yahweh is revealed, where it says “6 He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” That this purpose has not changed is evident in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, in the description of the City of God with the names of the tribes of Israel upon each of its twelve gates, where we read: “1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Ostensibly, those nations are the nations of Israel, since the twelve fruits are the people of Israel prophesied in Isaiah to fill the face of the world with fruit. What Solomon had explained rather explicitly, we can also see revealed in the prophets and in the words of Yahshua Christ in His Revelation. But the Wisdom of Solomon has become despised and rejected by men, and consigned to the status of an apocryphal work.
There are many opinions that the book of the Wisdom of Solomon is not authentic, and that it is a late Alexandrian work, and even that it was written by the hands of many authors. These are all based upon conjecture and supposition, in spite of the fact that no known Hebrew copy is now extant. We do not wonder, that the Jews did not preserve a copy of this book. But it is cited or alluded to dozens of times in the New Testament, according to Nestle-Aland, and it was considered to be a part of the canon by at least several early and notable Christian writers as early as the 2nd century, as well as by Roman Church councils up to the middle of the 16th century. It was preserved in the Codices Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus, and it appears immediately after the Book of Job in Rahlf’s edition of the Septuagint. Considering all of the evidence both external and within the work itself, we see no valid reason to exclude it from our reckoning of the Scriptures, and no valid reason to even doubt that it was originally a work of Solomon.
Now with the words of John the baptist, as they are recorded here in the final portion of this chapter of the Gospel of John the apostle, we shall see one other aspect of the promises which Yahweh had made to the ancient children of Israel which are fulfilled in Christ, and an even greater proof that our interpretation of these things is correct.
22 After these things Yahshua and His students went into the Judaean land and He spent time there with them and He immersed.
From the end of John chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3, it is certainly apparent that the encounter between Christ and Nicodemus had occurred in Jerusalem. So perhaps here John intended to describe for us the departure of Christ from Jerusalem itself into other parts of Judaea.
The impression here is that Christ Himself was baptizing people, however John offers a clarification a few lines later which should also apply here, where at the beginning of chapter 4 he made a parenthetical remark and said “even though Yahshua Himself has not immersed, but His students”. The context is not broken merely because of the chapter division, so that remark certainly applies here.
We should also recall from John chapter 1 that some of the disciples of Christ, namely Andrew and John himself, the writer of this gospel, were initially disciples of John the Baptist, and that is how they first encountered Yahshua Christ, having approached Him shortly after He had been baptized by John. It is possible that Simon Peter was also a disciple of John the Baptist, since he was close by them at the time, although he evidently did not see the baptism of Christ as Andrew and John had witnessed it (John 1:29-43).
23 And Iohannes was immersing [or baptizing] in Ainon near Saleim, seeing that many waters were there, and they came by and were immersed 24 (for not yet was Iohannes cast into the prison).
This location, “Aenon near to Salim”, as it appears in the King James Version, is only mentioned here in the Gospels. The word ainon is apparently only a transliteration into Greek of the Hebrew word for a spring or fountain. So it may have only been a spring near a place called Salim, or it may have been a village which was so labeled because it was noted for such a feature. Joseph Thayer, at the entry for Σαλείμ in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, wrote that “according to Eusebius and Jerome … [it] was eight miles south of Scythopolis….” Other commentators thought that Saleim was the same as Salem, and was therefore a reference to Jerusalem, after what they esteem to be the ancient name for Jerusalem, which is evident from Genesis 14:18 and from the explanations by Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities 1:180 and 7:67, and in Wars, 6:438. But there is no evidence that John would ever have called Jerusalem after that ancient name.
Still other commentators equate this Salim to the Shalim of 1 Samuel 9:4, which was apparently in the land of Ephraim near to that of Benjamin. That may have been within the bounds of Judaea as it was in the first century, but we would rather believe that Salim and Aenon were by the river Jordan, as the text of verse 26 here and the circumstance of there being “many waters” both seem to suggest.
Another proposed location for this place is found on the Madaba Map, a mosaic of the 6th century discovered in an ancient Byzantine church in what is now Madaba in Jordan. There is listed a place named Ainon on the east bank of the Jordan opposite Bethabara, and close to the Sea of Galilee. However there may well have been more than one such place called Ainon, even though it is believed by some commentators that the description provided by John here, together with a comparison of the Madaba Map supports the reading of Bethabara, rather than Bethany, for the place where Christ was first baptized as it is described in John 1:28.
We mentioned this alternate reading of Bethabara for Bethany briefly in Part 4 of this series, and we discussed it at greater length in Part 6, where we provided a copy of the map. However we do not accept that proposition either, and the text here does not at all support it. In John chapter 4, just a few verses below this one and upon the conclusion of the testimony of John the Baptist which is recorded here, speaking of Christ John wrote that “3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.” The Aenon which is near Bethabara on the Madaba Map is in Galilee, and not in Judaea, so Christ could not have been there for the events which are recorded here, and therefore neither could Christ have been baptized there.
Agreeing with what is found in Thayer’s definition of Salim, there is another modern map which is found in both the 27th and 28th editions of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, which suggests that Ainon and Saleim were near Scythopolis. At the time Scythopolis was neither in Galilee nor in Samareia, and it was far from the Sea of Galilee and the Ainon of the Madaba Map. In the first century and throughout the period of the Gospel, Scythopolis was in a portion of the tetrarchy of Trachonitis which lay west of the Jordan and between Galilee and Samaria.
So we do not accept any of these explanations for this location. First, we believe that John would have named Jerusalem in this context if that were what he had meant to describe, and would certainly have not called it Salem, or Saleim. But more importantly, John had already indicated that Christ had departed from Jerusalem, that being the place of His discussion with Nicodemus, but also indicated that He had remained in the land of Judaea, not going into Trachonitis, Samaria or Galilee. John would never have confused the regions of Trachonitis, Samaria or Galilee with Judaea. After this event, John explicitly states in chapter 4 that Yahshua had left Judaea and departed for Galilee.
As we had proposed in Part 6 of our commentary on this Gospel that there may well have been other places named Bethania, which only means “house of figs”, there may also have been other places named Aenon, which only means “spring”, and one of them may have been in Judaea and near to the river Jordan. The circumstances of John chapter 10 fully support the assertion that Christ was baptized not far from Jerusalem, and across the Jordan from the border of Judaea, where Christ is embroiled in controversy in Jerusalem and escapes from the Judaeans. There we read: “39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, 40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.” Christ went from Jerusalem to the place where John was originally baptizing by crossing the river Jordan, but not by going through Samaria to Trachonitis or to Galilee. So the Bethany where John had baptized was across the Jordan from Judaea, and the Aenon and Salim where this account is situated is in Judaea and near to that place across the river Jordan.
We cannot tell exactly when it was during the ministry of Christ that John the Baptist was imprisoned and then executed. In the sequence of events given in Matthew, in chapter 4, Christ first heard that John was cast into prison. Then there was an exchange between Christ and disciples of John the Baptist recorded in chapter 9, and in chapter 11 John is still in prison, where he had sent his disciples to inquire of Christ. Then in Matthew chapter 14 John had already been executed, and there we have an account of why and how that had happened. Mark and Luke each repeat some of these things, but not all of them. However this account of John testifying of Christ, which is not in the other three gospels, was certainly even earlier than any of those events recorded in the synoptic gospels, as John had not yet been imprisoned.
But as we had also discussed in Part 6 of this series, where we discussed the Wedding Feast at Cana, it seems that when we compare this Gospel of John to the Synoptic Gospels, the temptation in the desert which John had neglected to record had actually occurred between the wedding feast at Cana and the time when Christ had departed again for Galilee which is recorded in John 2:12. The temptation did indeed bring Christ to Jerusalem from Galilee. Of that departure, John said that Christ “abode there not many days”, and shortly thereafter He is found going to Jerusalem again, this time for the Passover, where He overturned the tables of the bankers and later spoke with Nicodemus. So there must have been a much more significant amount of time between Matthew 4:11 and where Christ heard of John’s arrest in Matthew 4:12 than the record in Matthew indicates.
On the surface, the text here also seems to imply in verse 24 that Christ and His disciples, who were themselves baptizing people, were also baptized by John as they encountered him here. In the King James Version we read “22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” The pronoun, they, may seem to refer to “Jesus and His disciples”. However, it must instead refer only to people in general, to the people of Judaea who were being baptized by John, since in verse 26 John’s disciples had to point out to him that Christ and His own disciples were baptizing people nearby, rather than having just been baptized or waiting to be baptized by John. So of these people coming to John’s baptism, the apostle writes:
25 Then there came a dispute among some of the students of Iohannes with the Judaeans concerning purification.
The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, in both the 27th and 28th editions (and even in the 4th edition), has “with a Judaean” here, having the word in the singular and evidently following manuscripts which it does not list. The text follows the 3rd century papyrus P66 and the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus (א). The Vulgate and some other early versions, as well as the King James Version, have the word in the plural.
Preferring to accept the plural reading, these Judaeans are most likely among the subjects of John’s statement in the preceding verse where he wrote “and they came by and were immersed”. There is no pronoun in the text of that passage, but only a 3rd person plural verb. In the other Gospels, in both Luke chapter 3 and Matthew chapter 3, we see that certain Pharisees and Sadducees, and even the high priests, had earlier come to John to inquire as to his baptizing. Then where Luke wrote later, in chapter 7 of his gospel, that “ 30 … the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him”, we learn that they came to inquire of John’s authority to baptize, but not to be baptized by him, and it was concerning John’s authority to baptize that Christ later questioned His adversaries, which we see in Luke chapter 20.
While we do not know the details of the dispute which is described here, the baptizing of people is not found in the law, except for the ritual washing required for the priests at particular times before the offering of sacrifices, or a washing which may be required in the event that a person is contaminated with something unclean. But as we had discussed where Christ was baptized, in Part 4 of this series, the custom was used by the Judaeans along with circumcision in their ritual conversions of outsiders to Judaism. For that reason the Pharisees and lawyers had questioned the authority of John to baptize.
But Christians should understand that John’s baptism was indeed in the fulfillment of prophecy. First, his baptism of Christ was a symbolic fulfillment of the law regarding the cleansing of the Passover Lamb, so upon being baptized John had also declared Him to be the Lamb of God. Then John’s baptizing of the people fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi concerning the role which John had fulfilled, where it says in Malachi chapter 3 “1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.” So John’s baptism fulfilled both the washing of the Lamb and the purifying of the sons of Levi, as the priests were required to wash before the sacrifices. It is immaterial if anyone who was not a Levite was washed, because the prophecy was nevertheless fulfilled in that manner.
Ostensibly, while the students of John were arguing with the Judaeans:
26 And they came to Iohannes and said to him: “Rabbi, He who was with you across the Jordan, for whom you testified, look: He immerses [or baptizes] and they all come to Him!”
The appearance in the Greek manuscripts of the Hebrew word, rabbi, rather than a translation of the word, helps to establish that the original was written in Greek. Rabbi was a term of respect for a teacher, although now in modern times it is a title used by Jewish criminals.
In John chapter 1, it is evident that both Andrew and John, the writer of this gospel, were at first followers of John the Baptist. Since Peter was also in Judaea with them, and they soon introduced him to Christ, he was probably also among the followers of John the Baptist. After John had baptized Christ and had given the declaration he made concerning Him, these men decided to break away from John and follow Christ instead. Here we see, however, that other followers of John did not make that same decision, even if they later remembered both John’s testimony and the man for whom he had made it.
27 Iohannes replied and said: “A man is not able to receive anything if it has not been given to him from heaven.
The words not and anything are from a Greek term, or in some manuscripts a short phrase, which means not even one thing. The 6th century uncial codex 086 has “nothing for himself”.
Here it seems that John’s answer is meant to resolve two different contentions at the same time, the first being the quarrel of the Judaeans in reference to baptism, and the second being the consternation which his followers had when they saw the baptizing being conducted by the disciples of Christ. When at a later time Christ had challenged the Pharisees concerning the authority of John to baptize, He asked them, as it is recorded in all three synoptic gospels, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” But now John makes a greater confession, which indicates that his primary subject was the activity of Yahshua and His disciples:
28 You yourselves bear testimony for me [P75 and א want “for me”] that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I am being sent before Him!
Here the word ἔμπροσθεν (Strong’s # 1715) must bear the sense of before, meaning ahead of or in front of. But where it appears in contrast to πρῶτος (Strong’s # 4413) in John 1:15 and 1:30, it must mean preferred over, where πρῶτος is before, as we have translated the two words in those passages. Those other passages also indicate that John had believed that Christ was Yahweh incarnate, because John was clearly the older of the two men by order of birth, according to the records of the Gospel, and John clearly began his ministry at an earlier time.
The people of Judaea were expecting a Messiah at this time, which is at first evident in the account of the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem recorded in Matthew chapter 2, and later in the words of Andrew upon his announcement to Simon Peter, as it is recorded in John 1:41, and again in the profession of the Samaritan woman at the well, which is recorded in John 4:25. The literature of the Qumran sect found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is also from the first century, also indicates the expectation of a Messiah for Israel at that time. So John’s denying to be the Christ is not extraordinary, but it was rather in keeping with the expectation of the times.
There were other occasions where John had denied being the Christ, as it is recorded in John 1:20, Matthew 3:11-12 and Luke 3:15-16. But here John professed that he himself was fulfilling the role of the messenger which was prophesied to precede the coming of the Messiah, or Christ, in both Malachi chapter 3 and Isaiah chapter 40.
Now John makes another statement which asserts that the expected Messiah is indeed present, and which once again reveals for us the very purpose of the Christ in direct relation to the ancient children of Israel:
29 He having the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices in joy because of the voice of the bridegroom! Therefore this, my joy, is fulfilled.
Here we must ask: Why would John even make such a statement in relation to the expected Messiah, or Christ? What has the expected Messiah, or Christ, to do with the role of a bridegroom? How does the image of a bride and bridegroom fit into the prophetic context of an expected Messiah, or Savior? Once this question is answered, it should be without doubt that Christ had come only for the descendants of the “lost sheep”, the sheep which had already been lost, which are the people of the twelve tribes of the ancient children of Israel.
The pattern of events commencing in Exodus chapter 19, with the giving of the law to Israel at Mount Sinai, was the same as that of a traditional Medieval English wedding ceremony. A man courting a woman makes the prospective wife cognizant of his expectations and the customs of his household, and for the vows to love, honor and obey the husband, the wife was promised in exchange to be loved and cared for by the husband. In our modern feminist society, the requirement for a wife to obey the husband has actually been written out of popular ceremony transcripts, but for many centuries it was a firm part of Christian Anglo-Saxon wedding tradition.
The marriage relationship of Yahweh to the nation of Israel was depicted in the Song of Solomon, and thinly disguised as a love song between a young Solomon and his own wife, the princess of Egypt. The bride of Yahweh, which are the collective children of Israel, were also taken from the Pharaoh of Egypt, and with that, it becomes evident that the circumstances of Solomon’s life are beyond coincidence. Much later, in Isaiah chapter 54, we see a comparison of the “children of the desolate” with the “children of the married wife”, which compares the divorced and deported children of Israel with the remnant remaining in Judah at Jerusalem. When the children of Israel went off into the Assyrian captivity, it was likened to a wife’s being put out of the house of her husband in divorce, because she refused to be obedient to the laws of the husband. So we see a challenge in Isaiah chapter 50, where the Word of Yahweh says “1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.” The mother in that passage is the nation, depicted as the mother of the people. In the prophecy of Hosea, Israel and Judah are likewise depicted as two sisters married to the same husband, which is Yahweh.
Even later, in Jeremiah chapter 3, we read the testimony of the prophet which says: “11 And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. 12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north [where Israel had gone off into captivity], and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Here Yahweh promised the children of Israel that He would not remain angry with them forever, but in spite of His having put them off, would somehow once again be married to them.
Later, Judah would also be divorced. This is evident in Ezekiel chapter 23 where the Word of Yahweh explains the transgressions of Judah and says: “So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister.” The reference to “her sister” was an allegorical reference to the kingdom of Israel, as opposed to Judah, and Israel was already divorced. Then further on in that same chapter: “31 Thou hast walked in the way of thy sister; therefore will I give her cup into thine hand.” So Ezekiel chapter 23 is a declaration of Yahweh’s divorce of Judah, and we see that Judah suffered the same fate as Israel: as Israel was put off in divorce, Judah would also be put off, which happened in the Babylonian captivity.
In Jeremiah chapter 31 there is the promise of a New Covenant for both the houses of Judah and Israel, and a further promise that Israel would always be a nation. Then in Jeremiah chapter 33, we read an allegorical question attributed to the enemies of Israel where it says “24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them.” So we see in these passages in several of the prophets, that Yahweh was alienated from and had cast off both Israel and Judah, so both kingdoms were divorced, having drank from the same cup.
The return and preservation of the remnant 70-Weeks Kingdom at Jerusalem, the kingdom which ultimately became the Roman province of Judaea, is a separate matter entirely. By it, what we may interpret as a transcendental prophecy which is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 is fulfilled: “17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem… 20… O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” And of course, the people of Judaea did exactly that: most of them stood by and did nothing, or were even in agreement, while those who sought to kill Christ had their way with Him, and they ultimately received their salvation by that very deed.
Along with the captivities and the divorce of both Israel and Judah, there was always a promise of reconciliation and remarriage. Somehow, as we may see in Jeremiah chapter 33, Yahweh would again be married to Israel, as later in the same prophecy He invokes language from the promises of the new covenant made in chapter 31, and then He concludes “for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.” This is in spite of the fact that in the law, when a divorced wife had another husband, and as Israel had worshiped many false gods, it was an abomination for the original husband to take her back. This is found in Deuteronomy chapter 24: “1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
So the only way by which Yahweh could truly be married once again to the children of Israel, was to die Himself in order to fulfill the law. Paul of Tarsus described this very thing in Romans chapter 7, where he wrote in reference to Christ: “1 Are you ignorant, brethren (I speak to those who know the law,) that the law lords over the man for as long a time as he should live? 2 For a woman married to a living husband is bound by law; but if the husband should die, she is discharged from the law of the husband: 3 so then as the husband is living, she would be labeled an adulteress if she were found with another man; but if the husband should die, she is free from the law, she is not an adulteress being found with another man. 4 Consequently, my brethren, you also are put to death in the law through the body of Christ; for you to be found with another, who from the dead was raised in order that we should bear fruit for Yahweh.” Paul was explaining to a portion of the “lost sheep”, among which were the Romans, the laws governing marriage and divorce in the framework of their relationship to Christ. As the disobedient wife of Yahweh the children of Israel were worthy of death, but instead, Yahweh chose to die for them, releasing them from the penalty of the law in the person of Yahshua Christ. This is how the death of Yahshua Christ saved the children of Israel. Thus could Yahweh marry Israel once again, as Paul also asserted, except that by then the children of Israel were long scattered abroad and had become many other nations, called by many other names, in accordance with many other prophecies.
An explicit promise that Yahweh would again marry the children of Israel is found in the prophecy of Hosea. The prophet Hosea was also a prophet of the time of the Assyrian captivities, like his contemporary Isaiah. The opening chapters of his prophecy are a poetic description of the divorce by Yahweh of Israel, and also of a promised reconciliation. So we see near the beginning of chapter 2: “2 Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; 3 Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” Then after a warning of the wife’s impending punishment and some of the things that would happen to her as she was punished, we read of her eventual reconciliation: “17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 22 And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel [or God sows]. 23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” This same prophecy is expressed again in different language in the closing chapters of the Revelation of Yahshua Christ.
We should certainly imagine that John the Baptist understood what he had said when he declared that he himself was not the Christ, but that “He having the bride is the bridegroom” in reference to the Christ. So if John understood his own declaration, he must have understood it on these very terms which are described in the Scriptures of the Old Testament: that Yahweh had promised to preserve, redeem and remarry the people of the divorced children of Israel. Properly, the Christian church is not some institution defined by men and consisting of whosoever. Rather, the true Christian church is the people of the children of Israel who have been called to reconciliation with Yahweh their God in Christ, so that He may be married to them once again, as it was before He divorced them in their punishment. This message is consistent throughout the prophets, the gospels, the epistles of the apostles and the Revelation, and any contrary message is a false gospel, especially if it is a universalist message.
This is why Yahshua Christ is called the bridegroom by John the Baptist, and it is the only reason which may possibly be imagined within the context of John’s life. John, a prophet who was born into a family of Levitical priests and who must have known the Scriptures, certainly did know that Yahshua Christ was Yahweh Himself, who was come to reconcile Himself to His people Israel, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Hosea – betrothing them once again. In all of the Scriptures, there is no other purpose stated for a Redeemer who would also be a bridegroom, and Christ also likened Himself to a bridegroom throughout His parables, and in several explicit statements. One example is found in His answer to the disciples of John recorded in Matthew chapter 9 where we read: “15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”
Likewise, we read in Isaiah chapter 62, where Yahweh God is depicted as a bridegroom rejoicing over the people of Israel His wife: “1 For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the Nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. [A wife is called by the name of her husband.] 3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [or my delight is in her], and thy land Beulah [possessed, or married]: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee [the children of Israel chall cleave to their own nation]: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God [which is Christ as the bridegroom] rejoice over thee.”
For this same reason, in Revelation chapter 21 the City of God is described as “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”, and on its gates are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Ostensibly, one won’t be able to enter that city unless one is from of those twelve tribes. Ostensibly, the city is an analogy for the people of Israel, who themselves are also “born from above”, or otherwise they would not be able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. So John, recognizing that he himself was only a messenger to declare the Christ, and that Yahshua was both Christ and bridegroom, expresses the conclusion that:
30 It is necessary for Him to be augmented, and for me to be diminished.
The messenger who would announce the coming of Christ is not as great as the Christ Himself. So once the Christ is manifest, it is natural that the role of the messenger is diminished. John, being humble, understood that it was time for him to step aside once the Christ became known to the people. So he continues:
31 He coming from above is above all. He being from the earth is of the earth and speaks from of the earth. He coming from heaven is above all.
The papyrus P75 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Bezae (D) want the last occurrence of the phrase “is above all”, whereby we would have to render the words “He coming from heaven” in a way that they open the sentence found in verse 32 which follows. So the result would be: “31 He coming from above is above all. He being from the earth is of the earth and speaks from of the earth. He coming from heaven, 32 that which He has seen and heard, this He attests, and no one receives His testimony.” The text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the papyri P36 and P66, the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B), 086, and the Majority Text.
Here once again John professes for the Christ to be God Himself, as the prophets of the Old Testament had also declared. In this regard, we read in Isaiah chapter 43: “11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. ” Then in Isaiah chapter 44: “6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Then in Isaiah chapter 45, where the reference to the “ends of the earth” can only be a reference to the children of Israel who were prophesied to be scattered to the ends of the earth as early as Genesis chapter 49: “21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Similar declarations were made in the prophet Hosea, such as in Hosea chapter 13, addressing the sinful and ruined people of Israel: “4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.”
But Christ had earlier declared that Nicodemus was born from above, and that if a man is not born from above, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. So on the surface, it may seem that these statements are in conflict, but there certainly is no conflict. As all of the children of Adam are born from above by nature of their origin and their spirit, they are nevertheless born on the earth first. Christ Himself, being Yahweh God in the flesh, is the only man who actually came down from above, having come from heaven. Paul of Tarsus explains this where he uses an analogy of Adam and Christ, whom he calls the last or second Adam, in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where he wrote: “45 And just as it is written, the first man Adam ‘came into a living soul,’ the last Adam into a life producing Spirit. 46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural, then the spiritual: 47 the first man from out of earth, of soil; the second man from out of heaven. 48 As he of soil, such as those also who are of soil; and as He in heaven, such as those also who are in heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of that of soil, we shall also bear the likeness of that of heaven.” Paul’s analogy of the two Adams, which are Adam and then Christ, is meant to describe the two natures of the Adamic man, the earthly and the heavenly, but as he also said a little earlier in that chapter, speaking of the resurrection of the dead, “43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in honor. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual.” Even the first man Adam was created on earth, but his spiritual nature is a heavenly nature, which is only later revealed, is after the image of God. So only God Himself, in the person of Christ, had actually come down from heaven.
John continues to speak in reference to Christ:
32 That [A and the MT have “And that”; the text follows P66, P75, א, B, D and 086] which He has seen and heard, this [א and D want “this”; the text follows P36, P66, P75, A, B, 086 and the MT] He attests, and no one receives His testimony. 33 He receiving His testimony has assured that Yahweh is true!
This is precisely, in somewhat different words, what Christ was telling Nicodemus at the beginning of the chapter, that “Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God”, ostensibly because unless one is of the authentic children of Israel, one cannot possibly understand and accept the Word of God. So those who do understand and accept His Word prove that God is true by that alone. So we read in the 95th Psalm, which Paul had also cited in his epistle to the Hebrews, “7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.” In this same regard Christ Himself had said, in John chapter 10, “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
The obedience of the people to Christ is a subject of prophecy in Isaiah chapter 32: “1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. 2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. 3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. 4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.” It is prophesied again in Isaiah chapter 55, which is addressed to Israel in captivity: “1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. 5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. 6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return [only the children of Israel could ‘return’] unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon [only the children of Israel had sinned and needed to be pardoned].” The nations that “thou knowest not” are the descendants of Israel in captivity which had forgotten from whence they had come, which is how Israel would ultimately return, be pardoned, and be glorified. When the intended bride, the scattered and “lost sheep” of the children of Israel, turn in obedience to their Lord in the person of Christ the bridegroom, then it proves that God is true, because God had prophesied these very things.
34 For He whom Yahweh has sent speaks the words of Yahweh, indeed He [A, D, 086 and the MT have “God”; the text follows P66, P75, א, and C] does not give the Spirit [B wants “the Spirit”; the text follows P66, P75, א, A, C, D, 086 and the MT] by measure.
Still speaking of the Christ, John informs us that He is not a part-time prophet, but that everything which He would say are the words of God Himself.
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.
John the Baptist must have also understood that the words of David in the 2nd Psalm were truly uttered as a prophecy for the future Messiah, where it says “ 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee… 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” The apostles also cited this passage in reference to Christ. In Acts chapter 13, where Paul of Tarsus referred to the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Christ, and also cited some of the same passages in relation to John’s statements that we have cited here, we read that Paul had said: “22 And when he had removed him [referring to King Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. 23 Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: 24 When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. 26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30 But God raised him from the dead: 31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. 32 And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Paul’s reference to the “sure mercies of David” had to have been a citation of Isaiah 55:3, which we have also just cited in relation to John’s testimony here. But from Paul’s speech recorded in Acts chapter 13, it is also fully evident that Paul understood that the promises in Christ were only for the children of Israel, which he had stated explicitly. So both Paul and John understood that the Messiah which had been promised would also be distinguished as a son.
John now concludes his testimony:
36 He believing in the Son has eternal life. But [א wants “but”] he disobeying [literally “he being disobedient to”] the Son does not see life. Rather the wrath of Yahweh waits for [or “abides upon”] him!
Here we see that belief is not set in opposition to disbelief, but rather to disobedience. That is because, as we explained in reference to John 3:16, true belief requires obedience and is not merely an empty profession. As Christ had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 14, “15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Then in John chapter 15: “10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.”
However we have already also explained that today, people “disobeying the Son” have not necessarily ever heard the Son in order to disobey Him. Since so many of the modern denominational churches have long departed from the true Gospel of Christ to preach a false gospel, by which they are deceived. Rejecting the false gospels of the modern denominations cannot be considered a rejection of Christ Himself.
If we were to make the chapter divisions for the Gospel of John, if chapter divisions are necessary at all, the following passage would certainly belong to this chapter:
4 1 Therefore as Yahshua had become aware that the Pharisees heard that “Yahshua makes and immerses more students than Iohannes” 2 (even though Yahshua Himself has not immersed, but His students), 3 He left Judaea, and departed again for Galilaia.
So we see that these things happened in Judaea, and the place where Christ was originally baptized by John must have been across the Jordan from Judaea, noting the statements at John 3:26 and John 10:40 which we have already cited, and He was not baptized in Scythopolis in Trachonitis, or near to Samaria or Galilee, as so many other commentators frequently assert.
This concludes our commentary On the Gospel of John, chapter 3.